Western Flyer - Long Haul Carry On
I make 3-4 domestic trips a month and 2-3 trips to Australia every year on business and a few leisure trips. My EDC briefcase is a Cadet 15/13 (which I love) but its just too small for those long hauls. 14 hours over water just requires more reading material and gear than I can carry in the Cadet. My Smart Alec is my go to leisure travel carry on and is great for this, but I needed a more "business friendly" option.
So I read all the reviews and considered the decision but eventual went for the Western Flyer (backpack). Here are my first impressions after 2 cross country domestic flights and 1 long haul to Australia using this bag for long haul business travel.
Capacity -everything fits!
14" Laptop ( in brain cell)
Full size iPad (in cache)
Laptop Cords & Accessories (power cord, AC adapter, mouse, headset)
Small Electronics Accessories ( chargers, cords, etc.)
A few documents in hard copy ( just can't get ride of the last 20 pages )
Thick socks ( for the plane)
Noise Canceling Headphones
Travel Wallet & Docs
On board toiletries (tooth brush & paste, wash cloth, soap, comb, nasal spray)
2 magazines, 1 book
I use backpack straps in transit and then lighten the load for the business days and just use a shoulder strap while at my destination. Wonderful to have a smart looking briefcase but not have to lug it over the shoulder through all the transitions in transit ( car, shuttle, plane, train, ferry, walk).
Organization is pretty good in the main compartments. I use a single small cube on one side for clothing and leave other items loose on the other side of the divider. It's nice to be able to zip open that divider when necessary, but I haven't really needed too.
Slash pockets on the front are not really my favorite. They are a little tight when the bag is full and this makes it more difficult to see what I am after. I'm pretty religious about where I put things, so I generally just grab things by feel, but pulling something large out catches and drags on the piping and zipper. I wish this was more like the front of the Cadet which kind of half opens/folds down if you need it too but isn't "poofy".
The vertical pocket is really too small for a proper water bottle which is really a bummer. I do carry a 16oz bottle there, but it is tighter than I'd like and It pokes out and makes the bag look bulkier than it is. I usually end up with another bottle ( disposable, ugh) to carry or shove in the main compartment. I have used this pocket for a very compact umbrella and that works well. However, I would prefer bury the umbrella in the main compartment because it is rarely used in contrast to the often used water bottle. My vote is to turn this pocket into a really good organizer pocket that half fold open with L-shaped zipper and some pen pockets. I would then just re-arrange the main compartment to carry a proper water bottle. This would also help me de-clutter the slash pockets.
Another suggestion about pockets is to make the large slash pocket a little bit bigger and add some thin padding to hold an iPad where it can be retrieved quickly. It would still be versatile for "analog" people ( books would fit nicely) and would free up main compartment space and let me dump the iPad Cache. It would be much quicker to get to than when you have to open the main compartment which is more difficult when holding the bag by the handle or when using the shoulder strap. My two cents.
Handles are great! The top handle is comfortable enough to carry a reasonable load for a distance if you need to without being really bulky. End handles are very nice for under seat or overhead storage bins. I like they are pretty unobtrusive and don't look "cargo".
Shoulder strap hardware is well placed and I love the Absolute Strap.
Zippers are the usual great quality and the splash resistance is a nice feature when I get caught out in the rain briefly. I added cord pulls to the main compartment zippers and left the rest alone for a cleaner look. This arrangement seems to work well.
I usually carry my laptop in a cache in other bags because I am pretty careful with my bag. In this setup I opted for a Brain Cell for a little more structure and protection. It has worked out very well on both fronts. A damaged laptop on a long trip in a foreign country really complicates matters. A little extra piece of mind is worth the bulk. Testimonial- some careless person dislodged my bag from an overhead bin and it bounced off the top of a seat and hit the floor with a thud. I was horrified about what I would find. Turned out there was no damage at all to the laptop. GPS ( in a padded pouch) had a cracked screen. Score one save for the Brain Cell.
Build quality - it's a Tom Bihn, enough said. :)
Overall I would say this bag is pretty close to fitting the long haul business travel use case. A few of the changes above would make it ideal ( for me). I should have said that I use a Victorinox roll-on-board for clothing. I simply don't see how people do a week of business travel with suits and shoes, etc. in a single bag like an Aeronaut. I am seriously considering one for leisure travel because I really like one-bagging, but I'm not lugging that thing into business meetings as a briefcase (call my vain).
If you are on the fence about this one for a similar use case I'd say go for it. You probably need to rearrange your packing scheme, but as usually after a number of trips you will find an optimal setup. I'm still working on mine for this bag.