Travel with the Aeronaut isn't like travel with wheeled luggage: you won't ever hesitate to make your way through the crowd, down a cobblestone alley, across the grass, or up the trail. With the load on your back, you can navigate through not just airports, train stations, and bus depots, but through airplanes, trains, and buses. Hard to categorize, the Aeronaut is at once soft luggage, a duffel bag, and a backpack. It takes the best of all those bags and combines them into what many people have found to be their most versatile travel bag yet.
Designed to qualify as a maximum-size airline carry-on bag (the smaller Aeronaut 30, great for intra-European flights or über-minimalist packers, is also available), the Aeronaut can be carried as a backpack (with its zip-away backpack straps), or with its padded handle can be carried on-edge as one would a traditional suitcase. Of course you can add our Absolute Shoulder Strap so you can carry it on your shoulder as well (almost any other shoulder strap will work too).
The downside to most duffel bags is their lack of compartmentalization: we think we've answered that quite successfully with the Aeronaut. The main body of the bag is divided into three significant compartments: a large center compartment is flanked on both ends by substantial end pockets. These end pockets can easily accommodate size 12 running shoes (now maybe you can finally take all the shoes you need with you). The end pockets also are great for segregating the clean from the unclean, or perhaps socks and underwear, from everything else.
The main compartment is accessed through a curved zipper opening and swallows a substantial stack of folded shirts/blouses/trousers/dresses; as you pack the Aeronaut, the end pockets act like bookends, keeping everything in the center compartment relatively flat and folded. The inside of the opening "hatch" features a convenient zippered mesh pocket for small items.
We make a variety of Packing Cubes sized specifically to most efficiently utilize space inside the Aeronaut. Inside the main compartment of the Aeronaut, you can fit two Large Aeronaut Packing Cubes, one Large and two Small, or four Small. In either end compartment of the Aeronaut, you can fit an End Pocket Packing Cube in either Fabric/Mesh or All Fabric. Also available are the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag and the Packing Cube Backpack (Aeronaut): use them as packing cubes inside the Aeronaut and once you reach your destination, unpack them for use as lightweight shoulder bags or backpacks as you explore your destination.
If Packing Cubes are not your style, you can avail yourself of a pair of tie-down straps inside the main compartment of the Aeronaut. Theses straps can be handy for securing pants/slacks or a carefully folded sports coat. If you find they are in your way you can save a bit of weight by removing them.
The Aeronaut converts easily to and carries comfortably as a backpack: the shoulder straps are contoured and the upper part is padded, and they feature a removable/adjustable sternum strap; the back panel is padded with closed-cell foam as well. An optional 1" / 25 mm waist strap attaches to the bottom of the lower (unpadded) part of the shoulder straps. The waist strap is meant not so much as a weight-bearing "hip belt" but rather a simple way to further secure the Aeronaut on your body. With both the backpack straps and waist strap tucked away inside, the Aeronaut becomes a sophisticated soft-luggage piece, free of extraneous straps and geegaws and entirely presentable. Because it is carry-on size, you usually won't be checking the Aeronaut as luggage, but tucking away the shoulder straps (and waist strap) also greatly reduces the possibility of the bag being caught in a conveyor belt if you must check it.
The grab handles at either end of the Aeronaut were designed to be in the right place at the right time. Specifically, they provide an inviting and obvious place to grab the Aeronaut and give it a yank to extract it from an overhead compartment of a plane or other tight spot. They’re reinforced, so if you need to pull hard, go ahead, and because they’re padded, the whole process will be as comfortable for your hands as possible.
On one end of the Aeronaut, an exterior zippered pocket has a key snap and is large enough for the Guide Michelin and a boarding pass. The other end of the Aeronaut features an open-top pocket for quick access: think brochures, city guides, etc.
The exterior of the Aeronaut is made of our 1050 denier, high tenacity ballistic
nylon fabric (made in U.S.A.), and it's lined with our ultralight Japanese
200 denier Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric. We use #10 YKK Coil Aquaguard®
The Aeronaut in 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop:
The Aeronaut is also available in ultralight 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop. This stellar fabric is made for us in Japan. Though one-third the weight of our U.S. made, high tenacity 1050 denier ballistic nylon, it has comparable tear strength and very good abrasion resistance. With 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop you'll save about 20% on the over-all weight of the Aeronaut. Note that 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop won't stand up to the all-out abuse that 1050 denier ballistic nylon can handle - you'll need to exercise care and not drag or otherwise mistreat your ultralight Aeronaut. It's a compromise many will feel worthwhile, but it's a compromise to consider.
|U.S. high tenacity 1050 denier ballistic nylon — or — ultralight 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop|
|200 denier Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric lining|
|Tough Duraflex® and Nexus buckles|
|#10 YKK Aquaguard® coil zippers on main compartment|
|Made in USA|
|100% finished seams|
|Dimensions: 22" x 14" x 9" / 555 x 355 x 230 mm|
1050d high tenacity ballistic nylon: 3 lb 1 oz / 1395 grams
400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop: 2 lb 7 oz / 1095 grams
|Volume: 2700 cubic in / 45 liters (ASTM Standard Measure)|
|Optional, removable 1" / 25 mm waist strap|
As reviewed by One Bag, One World:
"My trial run with the Aeronaut consisted of packing it to the gills with a little more than my normal list of clothing and accessories. I ended up with an 18-20 pound load which included a pair of dress/casual shoes, a variety of pants, shirts, and underclothes, rain jacket, guide book, toiletries (3-1-1 baggie), hair dryer, hangers and laundry accessories, camera and charger. My normal packed weight with this type of bag is 12-15 pounds. The Aeronaut, with the aid of four packing cubes handled the load very well." Read the full 2007 review and also read the updated 2012 OBOW review of the Aeronaut.
As reviewed by Practical Hacks:
"Overall I’m quite impressed by the Aeronaut. Its materials and craftsmanship are top notch, and the unusual configuration which concerned me at the outset has challenged my thinking about what’s really needed in a business travel bag. Viewed in the context of the other “one bag/maximum legal carry-on” bags in the marketplace, the Aeronaut stands apart: this is an innovative, well made, great bag." Read the full review.
As reviewed by Gadling:
"The Tom Bihn Aeronaut is one of the smartest bags I've come across - but the poor thing suffers from a bit of an identity crisis. The Aeronaut is a great duffel. But at the same time, it is also a very respectable backpack and an excellent shoulder bag. Many bags have a second way to carry them, but the Aeronaut takes this to a whole new level, because each of the carrying methods feels like it is the only, and best way to use the bag." Read the full review.
As reviewed by About.com Europe Travel:
"The Bottom Line: we carried the Tom Bihn Aeronaut all over Europe on our recent fall trip. The weather wasn't the greatest, but the bag worked as advertised through dry and wet for 10 weeks, and still looks new. It became our favorite bag on this trip." Read the full review.
As reviewed by Veritrope:
"When you browse around the Tom Bihn website, it won’t be long until you run into this Latin quote: “Siquid mantica non capit, domi relinquendum est.“, which translates into ‘If it doesn’t fit in your knapsack, leave it behind.’ Luckily for me, the Aeronaut was large enough to not have to leave behind anything important. Although I didn’t always carry everything in the Aeronaut, I was able to do so if I needed to. In all, it carried 10 days worth of clothes in two “packing cubes”, my laptop, a small shoulder bag for my iPad, a toiletry bag, a bag for all my many chargers and adapters, my jacket, beach shoes, some small souvenirs, a laundry bag, and various papers and documents." Read the full review.
As reviewed by National Parks Traveler:
"When I started packing for my recent trip to Saguaro National Park, I quickly came to appreciate this 2,700-cubic-inch bag. For starters, I could slip a pair of size 11 lightweight hiking shoes into one of the end compartments. By putting the shoes into a Packing Cube designed for the pocket, I could contain any dust or dirt inside the washable cube, not inside the end compartment. The other end pocket was big enough for underwear and socks for the five-day trek, while the main compartment gobbled up a pair of hiking pants, seven shirts, and toiletries. And there was some room left over, too, to handle at least another pair of pants or rain gear if need be." Read the full review.
As reviewed by The Gadgeteer:
"The beauty of the Aeronaut is that it can be configured to work in whatever way the owner needs. If it is needed as a piece of traditional luggage with clothing and shoes stored in its compartments, then it can be that; if it is called upon to hold a plethora of electronics along with other packed items, it will adapt. This bag can be personalized and customized to be exactly what the owner wants – even if the owner’s needs change upon a whim. The Aeronaut, in combination with its packing cubes and the other Tom Bihn accessories, is the ideal travel bag for anyone that wants a quality piece of luggage that will adapt to their travel needs." Read the full review.
Want to read more reviews? Here's our complete list of external bag reviews.
Aeronaut on regional jets
"The recent post on how well a Tri-Star fit into a plane's overhead compartment led me to think that some might find it useful to know about the Aeronaut. I mostly fly United and have now successfully and easy fit my loaded Aeronaut into the overhead bins on all versions of their Canadair 700 and 200's. The overheads are really small and to look at it you might not think it would work, but even with a full bag there's been no problem. All compartments of my bag have been full. The one time I really pushed it by overstuffing the bag I had to sweat a bit to make it fit, but when it's not overstuffed it fits perfectly." — posted by travis
Travels with my Aeronaut, Empire Builder, and Brain Cell
"The Aeronaut I arrived, and I was in love at first sight. I began looking at other Tom Bihn bags with envy, and quickly decided that with so many business trips approaching, I had to have an Empire Builder. And a Brain Cell. And some packing cubes. So was it worth it? Hell yes, it was worth it! I began with a 2 day trip to NY, perfect for the Aeronaut. The trips got longer, culminating with a 7 day conference in San Antonio, which included a recreational detour for hiking in the desert. Not only did I get everything I needed for the conference, but I also packed my hiking clothes for the desert! It all fit into the two bags, and I was thrilled to be able to go carry-on only with all this gear. The Aeronaut swallowed everything I could stuff into it, and the packing cubes made a huge difference. Although stuffed to the gills, it still fit into all overheads easily, and the Empire Builder carried everything that remained. The Absolute straps made carrying the bags a joy, and I never felt overloaded." — posted by ellismc
Aeronaut "one bag" fall trip success
"I had another successful "no checked luggage" trip with my Aeronaut as my main bag. This time I had to cope with colder weather so packing was difficult due to everything being heavier and bigger. This trip including running a race so I had to take my running gear. " — posted by pretzelb
One-bagging with the Aeronaut
"I ordered my Aeronaut in September and took it on a 5-day trip to Maine with my girlfriend. She liked so much that I ordered one for her a couple weeks later, and we have since made 2 more trips with the bags -- a 4-day trip to Colorado and a week-long visit to North Carolina. I also took mine on a 2-day business trip to western Minnesota. We've gone carry-on only on each trip, and so far it's worked out great. I usually take the Aeronaut and an Imago -- she takes her Aeronaut and another small bag. I typically take my laptop along, and with that and the 3-1-1 toiletries bag, going through security can be a little hectic. Still, it's worth a couple minutes of fumbling through security not to have to worry about late/missing/damaged baggage later on. And the one-bag method definitely forces you to prioritize and not over-pack." — posted by gmich
Tri Star - review and thoughts compared to the Aeronaut
"I've used an Aeronaut for travelling on planes the last few years and loved it - it's been pretty much perfect here in strict hand baggage Europe - I can squish down the ends if need be, for the stricter airlines (looking at you, RyanAir). I've never been asked to weigh the bag (and I've taken it with weight waaay over the allowed hand baggage limit) - it's longer shape and body moulding (and shoulder carry) means it looks like a underpacked, or at least not heavy bag." — posted by guydickins