25 days, 10 flights, 4 countries, 1 Aeronaut
I travel a lot for work-- 5-8 international trips per year, each typically running about a week, sometimes longer. Mainly to Latin America, but also to Europe. After an experience this Fall where Air France lost my bag for 3 days (during which I had to attend a work conference without proper clothing), I made up my mind to never willingly check a bag again. I knew I needed a new carry-on bag for this plan to work, and so I started doing some internet research. As may sound familiar, my discovery of the world of one-bag-travel quickly became a full blown obsession. I spent hours and hours reading about different suitcase designs. Eventually I decided that the best fit for me was the Aeronaut.
My maiden voyage with the Aeronaut would challenge my packing skills and go far beyond my normal travel routine: 25 days total on the road, of which 10 days would be personal vacation in Ecuador, and 15 days would be work travel, through Mexico, Costa Rica and Honduras. I needed casual clothes for my vacation, business casual for work, and would see everything from full blown tropical to cool temperate weather. Unfortunately, I also needed to bring along a heavyish IBM work laptop, and 4 folders worth of presentation materials, which quickly made me realize that a true one-bag situation was a pipe dream.
So I decided I would pair the Aeronaut with my leather briefcase, which would hold the computer, papers and some random odds and ends (earphones, mints, power cables, camera, etc.). The Aeronaut held somewhere around 18-20 pounds including clothing, some tech gear and those folders. My full clothes list (including what I wore the day of travel): 2 pairs slacks, 1 pair jeans, 3 button down shirts, 4 pairs underwear, 4 pairs socks, 3 undershirts, 2 casual t-shirts, 1 polo shirt,1 long sleeve thermal shirt, 2 sweaters, 1 blazer, 1 light jacket, exercise shirt, swim shorts, 1 pair sweatpants, 1 pair each of sneakers, dress shoes, flip flops, and finally toiletries. It would have been SO much easier to pack if I could have done all casual vacation, or all business casual for work, or only 1 type of weather-- needing to pack for all of the above made things heavier than I would have liked.
Over those 25 days I took a total of 10 flights, ranging from midsize jets to small prop planes with just 2 seats on either side of the aisle. I never once got gate-checked, and always found it easy to fit the bag in the overhead. On the smallest plane of them all (from San Jose, Costa Rica to Tegucigalpa, Honduras on LACSA), every single roller bag got gate-checked, while I just waltzed aboard with my Aeronaut over my shoulder. I also loved being able to walk into the airport late, and leave as soon as I got off the plane, avoiding all those long lines and luggage carrousels. I loved the maneuverability and hands-free nature of a non-roller bag.
The number one downside was definitely weight. Its heavy to carry this much on your shoulder or in your hand, even with the Absolute strap. Your muscles tighten, you get tired, and you start to second-guess any possible additions (i.e. my desire to buy gifts went WAY down). If I could have gotten this all down to 15 pounds or less, I think it would have been pretty comfortable, but the nature of my travel made that unrealistic (or at least undesirable given the tradeoffs). The backpack straps definitely help in this regard, but I didn't want to wear it as a backpack during the work portions of my trip.
Despite the weight limitations, the actual physical dimensions of the bag could almost always fit more. I had to carry a replacement computer part for a friend for one leg of the trip, and some bags of coffee as gifts in another, and there was always, surprisingly, just enough room to slide these in. That was key, as the last thing I wanted was to have to hold an additional plastic bag of stuff.
I'm excited that my next work trip (to Spain) will be just 9 days, with a single climate to prepare for. I'm also going to leave the work computer behind and bring my iPad as a replacement. I'm predicting that it will be MUCH easier to pack light and that I'll enjoy the Aeronaut even more as a result. :-)
I used the Aeronaut all the time when I traveled a lot to Singapore in 2009 and 2010, staying there for 2-4 weeks at a time for work. The bag was very convenient and solid with the absolute shoulder strap, but I also found the Aeronaut easy to overpack so it got a bit heavy to carry around everywhere. Have experienced the same with the Tri-Star, so I now mainly use the Smart Alec or the Western Flyer for my 1-2 weeks vacations. I have just received the Synapse so I might try that as my main bag for my upcoming trip to Madrid-Toledo-Xativa in mid-April. :)
Jostber -- question for you. Do you ever find yourself traveling with JUST your Smart Alec? I've looked around online, and most of the reviews refer to it as a great laptop bag... but it's just one cavernous bag on the inside, isn't it? So theoretically, you could pack it with all sorts of organizer bags and pouches.
The thing that caught my eye... it has the same capacity as a Western Flyer. But without the structure. So when you just wanna toss a bunch of things in there, I thought it might be a great duffle bag-type bag for traveling with.
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