First, the (un-)packing photos:
Sorry, but I'm going to have to post about the trip in pieces. The kids are awake and I only get a few minutes at a time to do mom stuff!
Details #1: Contents of Smart Alec
I packed my clothes in PCSBs and stuffed them in my Smart Alec.
The UV one contained 2 pairs of jeans.
The Iberian one contained 4 shirts.
The Wasabi one contained undies and socks (4 panties, 4 pairs of socks, 3 bras).
It wasn't a tight fit. I could have packed more, but I'm glad I didn't because I didn't need all the clothes I brought and I did need extra room to bring back loot from my conference and from shopping!
A pair of flipflops that I stashed in one of the side pockets.
Not shown: big yellow waterproof bag that I used at my destination as a laundry bag, 20L SeaToSummit.
Details #2: Contents of Pilot
Steel/Wasabi SE with my wallet, 2 Field Notes notebooks, lip balm, and a Small Iberian OP with a few momentos from home.
MBA13 in a vertical cache. I wish I had a horizontal cache on rails, but I slummed it with a vertical railless one.
Large Steel OP for documents and receipts. This pouch is actually a little tall for the Pilot, but I folded the zipper edge over and tucked it in anyway.
Medium Iberian OP with folded paper products (napkins, tissues).
Small Solar OP with business cards.
Nano Olive Parapack pouch with headphones.
Mnemosyne notebook (I love these!)
Jackery battery and phone cable.
Ultrasuede screen cloth.
Bottle of water, purchased after security checkpoint.
Gum, floss, and a small plastic case that holds cotton swabs, tweezers, nail clippers.
3DCO with toiletries.
Everything fit well with a bit of room to spare.
Details #3: The Trip
From Lexington KY to Las Vegas NV for a 2.5-day conference. Was anyone else here at PBS TechCon?
Details #4: Observations on the Pilot
OH MY GOOGLE, I love my Pilot. It fit very well under the seat in front of me on all 4 legs of my journey. It went with to all my conference sessions. It was comfortable to carry (even though I lost my Absolute Shoulder Strap and used an Ultrasuede Strap Wrap on the regular strap instead) cross-body or over one shoulder. And the size is perfect! I can fit everything I need in it and still have room for extras.
I have issues with Ballistic fabric. It's stiff. My natural inclination when pulling items from the front side pockets is to unzip them fully and bend the fabric away from the contents. This does not work. A much better approach is to unzip the top of the pocket, leaving the side still zipped, and reaching in with my hand to pull out what I need. After the first half-day of the conference, I just left the side pockets half-zipped this way and used them like slip pockets. It worked out pretty well.
During the flights, I had my SE tethered in one front pocket and my 3DCO in another. This was fine for the checkpoint, where you take your stuff out once and then put it back in. I tried leaving the SE in the front pouch while shopping and that was a bit frustrating. The Ultrasuede layers catch on the SE and provide resistance when you try to slide the SE in and out. It worked much better to keep the SE in one of the large pockets inside the main compartment when I knew I would be using my wallet every once in a while. Then I could pull out the SE and get to my wallet quickly, and stow them away just as quickly.
Next time I will probably just slip my wallet into the Pilot and leave the SE at home, and use a PCSB as a PLO when required. I did bring PCSBs, but I didn't use them as PLOs at my destination.
Details #5: Observations about the Smart Alec
For a short trip, the Smart Alec was great for carrying clothing. The PCSBs worked well for segregating my clothing and made packing and unpacking easy. The Smart Alec also fit easily in the overhead bins of the planes. It was comfortable to carry, both lightly loaded on the way there and completely overstuffed on the way back. It was also comfortable to carry both the Smart Alec on my shoulders while also carrying the Pilot crossbody...and doing so while running through the Dallas airport to catch my connecting flight.
I would have rather taken an Aeronaut, but I sold my Indigo one prior to this trip and haven't figured out what new color to buy. (If you have a gently used one you'd like to rehome, let me know!) I was holding out for an Aeronaut Jr, but it appears that we'll be waiting a while longer on that bag. The Aeronaut suits my packing style a bit better than the TS/WF or a true backpack like the Smart Alec.
But taking the Smart Alec on this trip rekindled my love for this pack. It is simple and effective and comfortable. It can be whatever I want it to be. It fits well. It looks slick. The uncluttered lines make it easy to stow.
Next time, though, I'll probably remove the stretch bungie and tuck it away in one of the internal pockets. That way I can rethread the bungie if I need to use it. The bungie got caught on things once or twice and I forgot that I could use it to compress the load! I also didn't need it's reflective qualities for safety on this trip.
You didn't use all your chonies??? But ... But ...
Anyway, thanks for the review and especially the commentary on what size OPs fit into the Pilot. I didn't think the Large would fit at all, so this is very exciting.
PS: where are the cashews you promised you'd get me?
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Details #6: About the capacity of the Smart Alec
Did I overpack? Of course. I am not an ultralight packer. I don't have high-performance lightweight sink-washable clothing. I am a regular person who wears jeans and t-shirts and likes the feeling of freshly-laundered fabric on her skin. I could have done with just one pair of jeans in my luggage, but I also could have easily needed that other pair if the Diet Coke my neighbor spilled on the first flight had gone the other way (on me rather than him, that is).
I actually wouldn't take much more than this for a longer trip. I would expect to do laundry in the middle. The Smart Alec, for me, would be a good size for carrying clothing for a Spring/Summer/Fall trip that lasted up to 7 days.
For a winter trip, I could probably do 4-5 days with the Smart Alec. I'd still be wearing jeans, but I'd have a sweatshirt or two with me and possibly flannel PJs.
And speaking of chonies, I am in love with Icebreaker's offerings. I got my husbanimal a pair of briefs and a pair of boxers for Valentine's Day and I covet them. In fact, I wore the briefs on the plane to Vegas. They are the most comfortable undies I have ever worn and they aren't even styled for my anatomy. Totally worth the price IMHO.
As for the cashews, Caesar's has some kind of crazy big brother thing going on. I moved two bottles of water in the mini fridge to make room for a box of Chinese takeout, and they *knew*. Two bottles of water showed up on my bill at checkout. They did not know that I replaced them, so their system is not complete, but still...it's creepytown. I was afraid to take the cashews!
They also watched you as you slept.
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Details #7: The TB Way
This has been mentioned many times on the forum already, but I want to add my own spin to it.
When I have had trouble adjusting to a TB bag, my problems are almost always solved by stepping back, trying to understand how the bag was meant to be used, and trying again. I think my observations about the Pilot support that notion. Example: bag-in-bag has caveats with the Pilot, but the Pilot's size is such that one probably doesn't need to also bring a PLO when carrying it. When I quit trying to use the Pilot my way and thought about what it was designed to do, the clouds parted and a beam of light shone down on me.
I think that also explains why I never warmed up to my various Co-Pilots. That bag didn't work the way I wanted it to, and I had better options already for doing the things a Co-Pilot was meant to do. It simply wasn't a good match for me. By upsizing to a Pilot, I filled a niche for a bag I needed but didn't already have. Once I figured out a better way to fill its pockets, our relationship bloomed from infatuation into deep love. In fact, we got married in Vegas. (Don't tell Dave.)
For those of you considering a Pilot (or any other bag, really) then I recommend approaching the selection from both directions: what you want the bag to do, and what the bag was designed to do. If there's an overlap, you'll probably be happy with the purchase. If there isn't an overlap, you probably won't.
The solution: I'll come with you and counter-stalk them. It will all work out in the end.
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Also, I got one of these as swag at the conference: Crazy cool Dopper water bottle. You should get one to put in your super-secret Ninja-stealthy counter-stalk utility kit. You can use it like a regular water bottle but it also has a second screw cap whose lid is a small stemmed cup. This solves my water bottle woes stylishly. I can get a bottle brush into the bottle to wash it, sip when I'm on the go, or drink from a cup when there is a table handy to hold everything. My only complaint is that the bottle's bottom is a little rounded and not as stable as I might like. But other than that...genius!
Ack, I hate those mini-bars with everything RF-tagged - you can't rearrange them to fit your own food in there. I avoid even opening the door!