My current thoughts…..
- Form factor:
Wheelie bags are great for heavy loads but if it’s lighter, e.g.one overnight in London, or visiting friends for a weekend, they are not as good as either a duffel bag or a backpack.
Snags with the wheelie
- One arm is used up pulling it
- Slower walking
- Noisy over rough surfaces
- Heavy if you have to go up some stairs
The duffel is great to carry just from the car to someone’s front door, but any longer distance you’ll be using a shoulder strap, and then a rucksack/backpack is better. I have found that for one night in London it’s easier to sling a backpack over one shoulder, perhaps for getting on and off the tube, or even wear it fully if you’re walking half a mile across London to your hotel. Similarly in an airport, for carry-on luggage it’s great to sling a rucksack on one shoulder as you go to the gate or up the steps onto the plane, and you’ve still got both hands free. So generally I think the rucksack wins.
Lots of pockets and zips – I find if I have too many pockets I can’t find anything – “Which pocket is it in??” and once you discover packing cubes, you can use those for most of your stuff. So then you just need a quick access top pocket, a lap top pocket, large clamshell interior (full of packing cubes!), maybe a waterproof bottle pocket, and maybe a shoe pocket if you like to keep them separate.
Whatever shape it is, you need a bag that holds your laptop safely – ideally the laptop is quite near your back for good weight distribution when walking, and the sheath does not go right to the bottom of the bag in case you drop the back on a herd surface – and still gives quick access to it, maybe with a special side zip so you can get straight to it. All good bags do this, but worth checking.
…have particular extra needs – first, to get your laptop out and your washbag out for inspection (‘TSA’ as the Americans call it) so you need a quick access pocket for those. And you need to get your in-flight stuff (headphones, kindle, reading glasses, blindfold, chocolate, pillow etc) out from your bag before you stow it in the overhead, so maybe a sub-bag within your bag would be good for that?
This Gate8 bag has a piece that detaches, so you can board a plane with only one piece of luggage but you get a small section to use during the flight or at meetings at the far end – but it’s a wheelie bag rather than a back pack.
If you can get a duffel or a back-pack that opens clamshell like a suitcase, it’s much easier for packing – it’s very annoying when you have to reach down past other items to find something at the bottom of your rucksack. So a duffel or a rucksack that opens clamshell is a must. Examples of these are:
(there’s a female shaped version called the Fairview)
The other thing that’s great about the clamshell is that when you arrive somewhere you don’t really need to unpack, you can just open up the bag and there is everything you need, so you can live out of the bag.
There seem to be two main size ranges – the 15-20 litre “every day carry” pack, and the 30-40 litre size for going away for a week, or maximising your carry-on volume on an airplane. Sometimes called one bag travel, the idea is to
- avoid checking in your luggage, which saves the time (and often cost) of checking your luggage in,
- avoid the risk of it getting lost or delayed or things stolen from it,
- walking out of the airport first to the taxi line,
- walking easily and fast to your next place.
If you go for a 40L then it’ll be too large for everyday use, so you’ll need a small everyday bag inside your larger one – not ideal, but OK.
You can also travel with the maximum by going up to your maximum 20kg on your check-in luggage and then using a 40 litre carry on bag.
The Nomatic travel pack does expand from 20 to 40 with an extra zipper section which gives the best of both I think – though at 20L it’s still on the large size for a day-out bag.
To me there are five levels of availability –
- a) you can look at it in a shop,
- b) it’s on amazon,
- c) you can get it from their website,
- d) they ship it from America, …and
- e) it’s still in crowd funding and you can’t get it yet.
Forget (a), I can’t find anywhere that you can compare a number of different bags, the retail scene is hopeless and will soon be dead. Probably a shame but that’s how it is.
There is so much choice that I think we can go for (b).
Unfortunately at time of writing this the lovely-looking Bento bag is still at (e) but I gather it’ll be ready by Christmas 2018.
Everyone’s different, but I think the Nomatic Travel Pack wins it for me because it’s a rucksack, opens clamshell, has great laptop storage, enough fun pockets, and can expand from 20 to 40L. Also, it’s on amazon right now. But it does cost £200! The In Case EO Travel Backpack is also really nice – comparison here:
PS – confusing: Nomatic also make a “travel bag” and a “back pack” but the “travel pack” is the one to get, in my opinion.
- Summary table – Size and form factor combined
|20L||For visiting friends, just going in from your car to their front door, and maybe staying overnight. Could also be good for airplane carry on, though I think the rucksack wins because it’s both-hands-free.
The Bento, when it’s ready, will be great for visiting friends.
|For around town walking, going to work, holding a camera and coat if you’re on holiday, short trips by plane, and could also be used for an overnight bag. Doesn’t look quite as smart, but there are some very nice ones around, like the Aer.|
|40L||Although the Pakt One is a lovely thing, I think a full on rucksack is a better form fctor for larger bags – it would be quite hard work to carry any distance as a duffel, and the shoulder strap is just not as good as a backpack.||For a few days away, you could pack everything without needed to check luggage on a plane. If going by train a rucksack is also best, and you can fit a lot in 40L. Resist filling it with heavy stuff though! Lots to choose between – the Eagle Creek, the Osprey, and the Nomatic are just three that are really nice.|