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Thread: The Western Flyer & Cadet: A Tale of Two Trips

  1. #1
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    The Western Flyer & Cadet: A Tale of Two Trips

    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:

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    • 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...)


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    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
    • jeans
    • long-sleeve button down
    • belt
    • watch


    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.

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    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.
    Active Duty: Synapse 25 (Black/Wasabi) & Western Flyer (Black/Wasabi) for me & Imago (Cardinal/Hemp/Steel) for my wife
    Reserves: Cadet 13/15 (Black/Wasabi), ID (Black/Steel/Wasabi), Ristretto for 11" MBAir (Black/Steel), Medium Cafe Bag (Olive/Wasabi)

  2. #2
    ceb
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    Nice review but I have a couple of comments and a question. The question first

    You pack three dress shirts, two pairs Eddie Bauer dress chinos, two ties and 4 pairs of undies for a one night trip to SLC?

    The Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder is available in several sizes and you may be able to find one in a size more suited for the WF.
    Be very careful packing ties in a EC folder. Even though I carefully packed them in between shirts, I still got one damaged from the velcro - Murphy's law is always lurking. Now I either use a tie case or roll them and put them in a two inch PVC pipe I bought at Home Depot that fits next to brain cell of my TriStar. I suspect that it would fit next to your folder.
    When in trouble, obfuscate.

  3. #3
    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    @ceb, the trip was for three nights:

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottE22 View Post
    I was very curious how the pair would hold up this week on a 3-night trip to rural Idaho that involves two flights[.]
    I've found that the EC size 18 folder fits well in the WF, and I've had success rolling ties into the 3D Dyneema organizing cube (although you have to watch out for the zipper).

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    Registered User blackfungi's Avatar
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    2 ipad minis. one as a gift perhaps?
    aeronaut[black/solar]tristar[black/red iberian]western flyer[black/steel]synapse[black/steel]side effect[black/wasabi]medium cafe bag[black/wasabi]large cafe bag[black/wasabi]shopping bag[steel].

  5. #5
    ceb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger View Post
    @ceb, the trip was for three nights:



    I've found that the EC size 18 folder fits well in the WF, and I've had success rolling ties into the 3D Dyneema organizing cube (although you have to watch out for the zipper).
    Reading skills sometimes degenerate when one is tired. Thanks
    When in trouble, obfuscate.

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    I usually use a zip plastic bag for ties but... after reading Badger's 3D Dyneema organizing cube solution, I just thought about the Travel Stuff Sack Size 1:
    External Dimensions - 5.2" tall x 3.8" x 2.7" / 130 x 100 x 70 mm; Weight: 0.7 oz / 20 grams; Volume: 40 cubic inches / 0.7 liters

    In addition, the ties color can be coordinated with the Travel Stuff Sacks for storage. One Travel Stuff Sack being permanently packed in the Western Flyer.

    I concur with ceb. velcro and ties don't mix.

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    Scott, thanks for sharing - I'm really pleased to hear that my favourite combination is working well for you so far. We still need to have that craft beer together, once our travel schedules co-incide :-)

    It's taken me a number of purchases and lots of trial and error to dial my regular travel combo down to the Western Flyer and Cadet. Early in my journey with Tom Bihn I became enamoured with the concept of one-bagging, for which the Tri-Star and Aeronaut worked well in different circumstances. But last year I finally had to pay the piper for a paragliding accident that happened in South Africa in December '95. I'd ignored the spinal compression for years, but increasingly couldn't sleep and had a drastically reduced range of motion. After months of rehab, my chiropractor told me to stop carrying so much weight over one shoulder. When I received the all-clear to start travelling again, I revisited my bag setup.

    Once I got over the 'need' to one-bag, I realized that the Western Flyer would easily carry all the clothes I need for regular 3-5 day domestic business trips. The other week I was the last person to board a flight on an airline that I have no status with, and I was still able to find space in a nearby overhead bin for the Western Flyer, whereas a number of people ahead of me had to gate check their rollaboards. And like Scott mentions above, it's great to be one of the few on an RJ flight that doesn't have to wait on the jetbridge to retrieve my 'carry on' bag :-)

    The bigger challenge was the laptop bag. I own an Empire Builder and it's far too big and overbuilt for what I need 90% of the time. Most of the other TB options weren't a fit, as I couldn't find an interchangeable laptop protector to fit my work laptop, a 14" Lenovo T410 that's unconventionally shaped thanks to its extended battery. The Brain Bag was deemed too big for my needs; the Synapse 19 too small; the Smart Alec had no compatible Brain Cell available; the Checkpoint Flyer MBP 15 case was too small, and its PC / MBP 17 cases were both massively oversized.

    The Zephyr and the 15/13 Cadet seemed to be the only options in the briefcase realm. Beau measured internal dimensions of both bags, plus various Caches for me when I called Customer Service one day. I instantly realized that the Zephyr wouldn't save me much weight or volume over the Empire Builder, and Beau confirmed that (thank you!). The Cadet with the MBP 15 Cache seemed tight but possible. I took the risk, ordered it, and it's been my EDLC (Every Day Laptop Carry) since. The Cache has more leeway than the equivalent sized Brain Cell, and so my laptop fits well enough to let me use it in checkpoint friendly mode going through airport security.

    What I enjoy about the Cadet is that I'm able to carry enough for trips to the office or through the airport without overloading my shoulder and putting my spine out of whack. Having to be disciplined about what goes into the laptop bag is a benefit to my back, and I don't feel like I'm missing out by leaving anything essential behind.

    Best of all, the weight is evenly distributed between my Western Flyer and Cadet, and my back's never been happier carrying a week's business trip load through airports. I am so happy I didn't have to resort to a rollaboard again!
    backpack and jea like this.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

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    Quote Originally Posted by lotuseater View Post
    Best of all, the weight is evenly distributed between my Western Flyer and Cadet, and my back's never been happier carrying a week's business trip load through airports. I am so happy I didn't have to resort to a rollaboard again!
    Just curious, how do you carry the two bags? Grab handles? Absolute straps? If straps, do you criss-cross the two?

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    Scott, I was in the same boat between the WF and The Tristar. I'm glad I got the WF it has worked great form me. Thanks for sharing your story with the WF.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rory View Post
    Just curious, how do you carry the two bags? Grab handles? Absolute straps? If straps, do you criss-cross the two?
    Rory, for short distances, I'll typically use the grab handles. For the airport hike, usually over the shoulder with an Absolute strap on each, although I have an older Terra-Grip strap that I prefer for the WF as it never slips off my shoulder. The straps are never criss-crossed, though. At ~9-10lb per bag fully loaded, they are plenty comfortable. Strap length is kept relatively short, and that helps keep the centre of balance close to my core.

    I have squeezed two laptops into the Cadet, and that will overload the padding in the handles, but the bag still carries well over the shoulder.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

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    Sorry for not responding sooner! I returned home from my Tour de Idaho last night and had meetings most of the day today...

    Quote Originally Posted by Badger View Post
    I've found that the EC size 18 folder fits well in the WF, and I've had success rolling ties into the 3D Dyneema organizing cube (although you have to watch out for the zipper).
    I think that's the size I have. I get enough space around the perimeter to fill in with a few pairs of socks. As a fringe benefit, I've found this to "flatten" the back pocket a bit.

    Quote Originally Posted by blackfungi View Post
    2 ipad minis. one as a gift perhaps?
    One is my personal mini and one is corporate issued with the image I need (apps and content) for the events I lead.

    Quote Originally Posted by ceb View Post
    You pack three dress shirts, two pairs Eddie Bauer dress chinos, two ties and 4 pairs of undies for a one night trip to SLC?
    I see this was addressed above, but it made me smile thinking that, if this were my style, I'd need a steamer trunk for a 3-night trip.

    Quote Originally Posted by ceb View Post
    Now I either use a tie case or roll them and put them in a two inch PVC pipe I bought at Home Depot that fits next to brain cell of my TriStar. I suspect that it would fit next to your folder.
    This is brilliant!

    Quote Originally Posted by lotuseater View Post
    I instantly realized that the Zephyr wouldn't save me much weight or volume over the Empire Builder, and Beau confirmed that (thank you!).
    Prior to settling on the WF and Cadet, I ordered both an EB and a Zephyr and can confirm, like many threads here do, that the size difference in terms of how big they "feel" is not so much that by getting the Zephyr you feel like you're going lighter than an Empire Builder. Both are quite spacious and, if you're in need of that much volume, great bags. It was very hard for me to pack them up and return them, but I knew I'd just end up overpacking them and regretting it.

    I ended up returning them both and buying the WF/Cadet combo.

    Quote Originally Posted by lotuseater View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Rory View Post
    Just curious, how do you carry the two bags? Grab handles? Absolute straps? If straps, do you criss-cross the two?
    Rory, for short distances, I'll typically use the grab handles. For the airport hike, usually over the shoulder with an Absolute strap on each, although I have an older Terra-Grip strap that I prefer for the WF as it never slips off my shoulder. The straps are never criss-crossed, though. At ~9-10lb per bag fully loaded, they are plenty comfortable. Strap length is kept relatively short, and that helps keep the centre of balance close to my core.

    I have squeezed two laptops into the Cadet, and that will overload the padding in the handles, but the bag still carries well over the shoulder.
    This week I tried various configurations and, depending on how far I had to go and whether I needed my hands free to enjoy, say, a TCBY waffle cone at DIA, I'd usually end up with one over each shoulder (thank you, Absolute Shoulder straps!) or, more commonly, the Western Flyer slung "messenger style" and the Cadet in my hand.
    jea likes this.
    Active Duty: Synapse 25 (Black/Wasabi) & Western Flyer (Black/Wasabi) for me & Imago (Cardinal/Hemp/Steel) for my wife
    Reserves: Cadet 13/15 (Black/Wasabi), ID (Black/Steel/Wasabi), Ristretto for 11" MBAir (Black/Steel), Medium Cafe Bag (Olive/Wasabi)

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    Thank You for sharing, it is a lovely and very detailed reviews.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottE22 View Post
    This week I tried various configurations and, depending on how far I had to go and whether I needed my hands free to enjoy, say, a TCBY waffle cone at DIA, I'd usually end up with one over each shoulder (thank you, Absolute Shoulder straps!) or, more commonly, the Western Flyer slung "messenger style" and the Cadet in my hand.
    I miss those TCBY cones. I don't know if there are any of those franchises left in my neck of the woods.

    Very informative thread, thanks for posting it.

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    Today, pursuing my endless quest for the perfect packing tools, i was checking out the eagle creek packing folders. They seemed really heavy so i checked the weight on the EC website. The 18" specter version is 8oz and the regular one is a full lb! The large TB packing cube for the WF is 4 oz and the backpack packing cube is 7 oz. Now, do i get the large packing cube or the backpack or both??? Needless to say i bought a few specter packing cubes.

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    I first bought the Packing Cube Backpack for Aeronaute and the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag in Steel.

    I then bought the Packing Cube Backpack for WF/Tristar in UV (even before I got the Tristar) then a UV set of the bags in the first line.

    One has never enough Packing Cubes, it change packing from the hunt of the Red October for garments, zip plastic bags which need to have air compressed from them, and grocery plastic bags for the laundry to a fun game of Tetris, made even more fun by all the Dyneema color.


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