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Thread: Western Flyer - Long Haul Carry On

  1. #1
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    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.)
    GPS
    A few documents in hard copy ( just can't get ride of the last 20 pages )
    Travel pillow
    Thick socks ( for the plane)
    Sweater
    Water bottle
    Noise Canceling Headphones
    Business cards
    Pens
    Flashlight
    Keys
    Travel Wallet & Docs
    On board toiletries (tooth brush & paste, wash cloth, soap, comb, nasal spray)
    2 magazines, 1 book
    Snacks

    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.

    Safe travels!

  2. #2
    Registered User CallaVandy's Avatar
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    I don't have Western Flyer, but I have read many positive reviews about it. Next time if I need to buy a travel bag, I will try WF. Hope it will meet my expectations.

  3. #3
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    Great review. I tend to stuff my WF because it's my clothing bag for the trip, so I have the same issues with the front zipper pockets. My suggestion for those pockets is to use a 3D organizer cube or pouch for those pockets and attach them with a strap. That works great for me to pull out all the contents of the pocket without spilling the contents. On the water bottle pocket, I use a collapsible Platypus water bottle for the plane that fits in that pocket perfectly, completely zipped up. That might be an option you'd like to try as well as you figure out your optimum "pack" for the bag. Glad the WF worked out!
    eWalker likes this.
    Indigo/Solar Western Flyer, Aubergine/Steel Tri Star, Nordic/Steel Aeronaut, Indigo/Solar Synapse, Cocoa/Wasabi Small Cafe Bag, Black/Wasabi Small Cafe Bag, Black/Steel Co-Pilot, Aubergine/Hemp/Steel Imago, Wasabi Dyneema and Nordic Dyneema Small Shop Bags, Solar Dyneema and Nordic Dyneema Large Shop Bags, Indigo, Wasabi Dyneema, and Plum 3D Organizer Cubes, Wasabi Dyneema Travel Tray, Wasabi Dyneema Large Yarn Stuff Sack, Small, Mini and Pen/Pencil Pouches, an assortment of key straps

  4. #4
    JLE
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    Great review. I sometimes use my WF for this purpose too. I have the luggage sleeve version which makes it a great companion bag for wheeled luggage. The extra internal pockets in the rear compartment are really useful. The water bottle pocket is ideal if you want to carry a small folding umbrella in an accessible place. I also agree about the other front pockets though. I haven't found an ideal use for these and they tend to end up as the repository for old papers like used boarding passes etc.
    eWalker likes this.

  5. #5
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    Update:

    I did another trip to Australia 2 weeks ago and this time I used the "water bottle pocket" to store my SideEffect. It's a bit of a cram, but it makes in packing and repacking at my seat a simple affair. This is actually a pretty good setup in the WF.

    I keep the items I need at hand during the flight in the SideEffect and strap it to the tray table with the waist strap backwards. Makes a nice pocket that doesn't kill leg room.

    SideEffect Contents
    wallet, passport, phone, flashlight, chapstick, pen, notepad, bluetooth earphone, bandana, and anything loose in my pockets.

    Nice to have easy access to those things during the flight and have a quick way to gather everything at the other end when I'm practically brain dead from not sleeping

    I hope I never have to do it, but if a rapid exit of the plane is necessary, I'm grabbing that SideEffect, strapping it around my waist and bailing out.

  6. #6
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    I agree, I use my WF more often as a long-haul carry-on bag than as a suitcase (Though I do use it for that, too, on short trips. I love being able to unpack the cloths and just use it as a brifecase at my destination.).
    Nothing else I have is big enough to carry the set of spare clothes I carry on the plane when I check a suitcase, and yet small enough to be a relatively unobtrusive briefcase when I arrive.

    I put my headphones in the bottle pocket, but agree that an organizer pouch would be more useful and would allow the front pockets to be just bit wider.

    I tend to put magazines and a plastic folder with my itinerary and travel documents in the rear shoulder-strap compartment. this is less than ideal, and would love to be able to have both the shoulder strap and the rolling bag sleeve/vertical pockets options at the same time.

    I also like the main handle for carrying, but first wished it were split, since I often carry a sweater or jacket between the split handles of my carry-on bag, whereas the WF has only a single, unsplit handle (unlike the Aeronaut, for example). But then I strung some black elastic cord from a camping store between the two shoulder-strap attachment points, to make a garment holder. that works well, and cost very little to make.

    In short, I agree that the WF is a great carry-on bag when I check luggage.
    eWalker likes this.

  7. #7
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    I agree, I use my WF more often as a long-haul carry-on bag than as a suitcase (Though I do use it for that, too, on short trips. I love being able to unpack the cloths and just use it as a brifecase at my destination.).
    Nothing else I have is big enough to carry the set of spare clothes I carry on the plane when I check a suitcase, and yet small enough to be a relatively unobtrusive briefcase when I arrive.

    I put my headphones in the bottle pocket, but agree that an organizer pouch would be more useful and would allow the front pockets to be just bit wider.

    I tend to put magazines and a plastic folder with my itinerary and travel documents in the rear shoulder-strap compartment. this is less than ideal, and would love to be able to have both the shoulder strap and the rolling bag sleeve/vertical pockets options at the same time.

    I also like the main handle for carrying, but first wished it were split, since I often carry a sweater or jacket between the split handles of my carry-on bag, whereas the WF has only a single, unsplit handle (unlike the Aeronaut, for example). But then I strung some black elastic cord from a camping store between the two shoulder-strap attachment points, to make a garment holder. that works well, and cost very little to make.

    In short, I agree that the WF is a great carry-on bag when I check luggage.
    eWalker likes this.

  8. #8
    Gee
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    Drobinson, Thank you so much for such a thorough review. I actually missed your review when looking for a Western Flyer, but it hits home with me and matches my needs almost exactly. My bag is already on the way but just wanted to say Thank You.
    eWalker likes this.

  9. #9
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    Quick question. Does it have the strap that allows this to be slid over a carry on? thanks

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by rohitf View Post
    Quick question. Does it have the strap that allows this to be slid over a carry on? thanks
    There are 2 versions, you can choose either the slide over carry on version, or the backpack straps version.
    ETA: the slide over carry on version actually has a back pocket, there's a zipper at the bottom of this pocket you can open for the slide over function.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by rohitf View Post
    Quick question. Does it have the strap that allows this to be slid over a carry on? thanks
    Quote Originally Posted by icebeng View Post
    There are 2 versions, you can choose either the slide over carry on version, or the backpack straps version.
    ETA: the slide over carry on version actually has a back pocket, there's a zipper at the bottom of this pocket you can open for the slide over function.
    @rohitf To see the design of the Western Flyer with the rolling luggage pocket take a look at the Need a bag recommendation for a client thread. That has a picture of the back pocket. I'll also copy my post with links to the Practical Hacks review that has pictures of how that version of the WF fits over a rolling luggage handle.
    Quote Originally Posted by moriond View Post
    For some more views of the luggage handle pouch back check the article reporting on this updated Western Flyer option on Practical Hacks
    Note that at present only the version of the WF with backpack straps is available for order on the product page.

    HTH. moriond


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