Today marks the one year anniversary of receiving my Aeronaut. Let me preface this by saying I am not easy on luggage, since I have been a teenager I have traveled almost constantly. I have slowed down a bit this year and took a house gig but have still managed to put in over 200 days away from home, most of them using the Aeronaut as my dresser. In that time all the bag has to show for wear is a couple cosmetic scuffs and the water repellant zippers have been chewed up a bit with use.
First impressions: When you first receive the Aeronaut the first thing that sticks out is how sturdy and well put together it is, there is nothing to add and nothing left to take away, it is just perfect. The aeronaut looks sharp, I would have no problem walking into the fanciest hotel with this bag over my shoulder.
The cavernous main compartment opens wide, no digging in the dark searching for what you need, on the bottom there are two webbing tie-down straps for pants or jackets. It is flanked by two very useable side pockets big enough for sized 12 shoes and if you don't need the separate pockets their space can be allocated to the main compartment by undoing the snaps. The mesh lid pocket is brilliantly designed to drape over the side of the bag with the zipper on the top unlike any bag I have used making accessing the pocket a truly one handed operation without dumping your belongings. It is subtly bellowed on the sides with the same rip-stop dyneema nylon that the rest of the interior panels use and features a plastic O-ring for attaching keystraps or organizer pouches to. On one end of the bag there is a zippered slash pocket which I use for my travel organizer/passport holder and the other features a deep non-zippered pocket ideal for slipping in a rolled-up magazine, bottle of water or a boarding pass.
On either end is a pull handle, ideal for removing the bag from luggage racks, under seats and trunks of cars. The top has a 2 part handle that can be used to stow a coat while you traverse the airport.
All together the bag features six O-rings, one in the lid, two in the main compartment, one in each side pocket and one in the zippered slash pocket on the side. All of the exterior zippers are Aquaguard type from our good friends at Yoshida Kōgyō Kabushiki Gaisha AKA the Yoshida Manufacturing Corporation AKA YKK zippers. The zippers include metal pulls and have a bag of cord pulls with plastic ends included with the bag. I changed out the black cord with 3mm red reflective cord to make the pulls more visible in the dark.
The exterior is stout 1050 denier high tenacity ballistic nylon, while not literally bulletproof it is the closest any luggage fabric I have ever seen is to being indestructible. The interior is made up of a 200 denier ripstop nylon with the added reinforcement of dyneema-an ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene fibre so strong you could lift five Asian elephants from a single rope the diameter of a Sharpy marker! (Don't try this at home kids!) In addition to over the shoulder carry with the addition of the very comfortable absolute strap the bag has zip away backpack straps which are extremely comfortable, the bag hugs your back and evenly distributes the load. In humid climates you will likely get a sweaty back but that is true of most backpacks even the ones with mesh back panels.
In use: When I pack the Aeronaut I use packing cubes to simplify everything, I allocate one small one to shirts, another to socks and underwear, the packing cube backpack to pants, jackets and collared shirts. Anything else I decide to bring fits into whichever has space left over. Often if I am out long enough i will unpack the two smaller packing cubes into the main compartment and stash the empty cubes in the backpack straps compartment.
I use a packing cube shoulder bag for my shower stuff, for most trips that is a large pack towel just incase the venue doesn't provide one, lightweight shower flip flops in the front compartment. I throw in heavily used toiletries (electric toothbrush, toothy tabs, floss, contacts, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, razor, collapsible brush etc. in a mesh 3D organizer cube. I will also bring a clean change of shirt, socks and underwear inside the packing cube shoulder bag.
In the other side pocket resides my electronics, chargers etc.. Right now that is an iPad air and/or mini, Sony RX100 MKII camera in a Lowepro Santiago DV25 case, wireless media drive, Ultimate Ears custom molded in ear monitors in their own case, dual USB charger/external battery, compact travel power strip so I can share the last outlet at the airport and sometimes an old style apple airport express with a big chunk of neon flagging tape attached so I don't forget it plugged into the wall. I use the organizer wallet for USB cables, Sony battery and travel charger. Headphone to RCA cable, thin HDMI cable. iPad av connection kit, thumb drives. SD and SIM cards are stored in a pocket pouch like this, everything I have including toothbrush and beard trimmer charges via mini USB or lightning connector.
In the zippered slash pocket I carry a bulky North Face travel organizer with my passport, foreign cash, loyalty cards, nexus card, health insurance information if traveling out of Canada, boarding passes, itineraries, work permits/visas, assorted border paperwork junk and manifests if traveling with work equipment and tools etc... If the side pocket is packed it barely fits, the only good part is that it has a bottle opener built into it for when I am done dealing with customs.
Other things I have, that fit in wherever, sunglasses, custom molded musicians earplugs, modified Outdoor Research 25 liter lightweight Dry-bag for dirty laundry. If there won't be laundry facilities I will bring a braided shock cord clothesline I made as well as tide bar soap. If there is a chance I will get to workout I will bring some minimalist runners and some lightweight shorts. Depending on weather I will bring a thin down or primaloft jacket, gloves, touque (beanie eh?) long underwear and heavier socks
Overall in the year I have had it I couldn't be more impressed and I'm not sure how I lasted this long without it. Before Tom Bihn I would be ecstatic if a bag lasted me a year, not to mention looked pretty much brand new after a year. I have been through a lot of bags, everything from rugged outdoor backpacks to high end executive luggage to industrial hard cases but nothing matches up to Tom Bihn as far as quality of construction and materials, thoughtful design and customer service goes.
Another perk is the great community that exists around Tom Bihn. The forums are a constant source of inspiration, friendship, laughter and warmth as well as an outlet for creativity, frustration and boredom that really doesn't exist anywhere else on the Internet, and hey, it's nice to know I'm not the only nutcase who obsesses this much about luggage.....