I recently started a new job that requires frequent, short trips for work. Because of the nature of my job, I have to bring a laptop with me even though I'd really prefer not to. I have also learned over the last few years as a recreational traveler that I prefer to fly carry-on only AND I prefer luggage that doesn't roll.
After a false start with a really nice but totally wrong-for-my-travel Brain Bag, I discovered that my travel needs were better served by two smaller bags instead of one mammoth bag. After some emailing back and forth with fellow bag and craft beer connoisseur, lotuseater, I felt like he had the right idea.
So I stole his ideal business travel double-threat and finally pulled the trigger on the Western Flyer (black and wasabi) and Cadet 13/15 (black and wasabi) that I'd been eyeballing and repeatedly adding to and removing from my TB Shopping Cart.
I'd been lukewarm on the WF throughout the process of choosing my luggage because I feared it would not hold my size 12 Brooks Pure Flow 2 running shoes. Spoiler alert: It does.
My first outing with my new kit was a one-nighter to SLC last week. Unsurprisingly, the WF/Cadet combo fared well. But I was very curious how the pair would hold up this week on a 3-night trip to rural Idaho that involves two flights on CRJ200 jets and one short hop on a EMB 120 (the latter being a teeny, 30-passenger prop plane in which overhead bin space is practically non-existent). This was a bit of an outlier for me as most of my travel is for 1-2 nights and on larger jets like 737s.
Here is a shot of almost everything that eventually made its way into my WF:
- In the Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder: three dress shirts, two pairs Eddie Bauer dress chinos, two ties
- 3 undershirts
- 3 pairs of casual socks, 1 pair running socks
- 4 pairs underwear
- 2 t-shirts (overpacked - probably could've been OK with one)
- 1 polo shirt (overpacked - shouldn't have brought this)
- aforementioned size 12 Brooks Pure Flow 2 running shoes
- 1 pair Under Armour running shorts
- 1 REI t-shirt for running (technical fabric)
- 3D organizer (clear) as my 3-1-1
- 3D organizer (mesh) with my other personal items (deodorant, toothbrush...)
- Mophie Helium for iPhone 5 (again... I didn't need this...)
This was in addition to what I was wearing which, if you're reading this thread, you probably wouldn't hate knowing...
- BÝrn loafers, size 12
- long-sleeve button down
My Cadet carries everything it normally carries and nothing "special" for travel. I won't bore you with the contents here, but basically a MacBook Air 13", two iPad minis, a MiFi and various and sundry other items in pouches and pockets.
To say I was shocked at how much fit into the Western Flyer would put it mildly. I am so pleased that I opted for the WF even as I sat poised to buy a TriStar instead. I can't say there was an abundance of room leftover in the WF after packing all this, but it also didn't appear to be a bag bursting at the seams.
I packed the Eagle Creek folder in the large pocket. The folder isn't quite a perfect fit, leaving a few inches of space around it which I filled with socks. I was still able to lay my two t-shirts and polo shirt on top of the folder and had no problem closing the zipper.
My running shoes with running socks stuffed inside went into one the small compartment behind the water bottle pocket (I can still squeeze a smaller 16-20 oz bottle into that pocket with the shoes inside). Also in the same pocket with my running shoes I was able to squeeze my rolled up running shorts and shirt. This was very unexpected.
In the other small, front pocket I was able to fit undershirts and underwear (rolled, naturally). Again, it was definitely a tight fit but nothing I'd consider to be outside what the WF was designed for.
In the larger of the two outside front pockets, the two 3D organizers fit perfectly. The Mophie and my car keys fit in the smaller.
I was admittedly nervous while making the epic trek to the commuter plane gates at Terminal B of DIA. As they boarded the CRJ200 from Denver to SLC, almost everyone else gate checked their carry-ons prior to boarding as I walked right by. Shockingly, while it required a little massaging from me, my WF fit into the overhead bin.
Unfortunately for this review (although fortunately for me...) the short flight on the EMB120 wasn't overly booked so I didn't get a chance to test the ability of the WF to fit up top or under my seat. The kind flight attendant literally just seat-belted it into an empty seat for the duration of the flight.
What I'd still like to tweak for my travels:
[*] Get a mesh and an all-fabric packing cube for each of the front pockets. I don't really feel like I need one for the larger, rear pocket because the Pack-It Folder is an integral part of my set up.[*] Solve my shoe problem. As the weather warms up, I find myself wanting to travel with shorts for evenings at my destinations. Because my running shoes are not exactly "casual wear," nor do I want to wear them casually, this means a third pair of shoes (sandals, maybe?). I have been trying to compromise and find a pair of "traveling running shoes" (for lack of a better term) that I can wear out and about in the evenings and also to run. The Reebok Crossfit 2.0 line has impressed as they look good enough to wear around and are also designed for working out and easier runs.
Thanks to all who helped out in my epic quest for the perfect travel kit. I think with this combo, I'm set for a long time.