There is often something slightly disappointing about the first time you do something. Usually it's not the thing itself but your efforts at it. (Sniggering aside, this applies to a lot of things).
That defines my first time using my new Tri-Star. 3 days, 2 nights, 2 hotels and overpacked. Wow, it's heavy and bulky when loaded with every form of electronics you feel you might possibly need in the space of 3 days. Let's just say, I learned to adjust what I took and how I packed the second time.
So I wanted to review my second trip. The one where I actually did things right. A proper test of my new favourite travel bag.
Here's how it excels for me in one word (albeit a long one); compartmentalisation. Everything self contained in its place and just where I need it.
A quick breakdown of how I use it:
* Strapped back compartment - larger clothing such as shirts in an eagle creek spectre 18 with longer items such as trousers bundle wrapped around it to fill out the space into a large packing cube. I then put it into a backpack cube. I know I'm doubling up here but I like to be able to take out the clothes in a cube should I need to use the backpack whilst on the journey.
* Larger front - all underwear, t-shirts, folded TB travel tray (in Nordic, Yeah!) and very thin yoga mat in packing cube. Underneath, A4 papers (if really needed)
* Smaller front - dry washbag and laptop charger in packing cube. Liquids in small clear 3-1-1 bag at top for easy access.
* Middle compartment (see photo) - 14" Laptop in sleeve. Small yarn stuff sack with phone cables etc. Side Effect with passport, phones, iPad mini, earbud headphones, wallet etc.
* Nothing other than papers in the front pockets as I don't like the bag to 'bulk' out.
In case you are wondering, I don't take a second pair of shoes. My exercise when I travel is shoe free swimming and yoga.
All this comes in at 11.7kg (25.8pounds). This is actually feels lighter than you might expect when carrying short distances with an absolute shoulder strap. I had great advice from a recent post here which suggested carrying heavy items in a second bag. When I had to walk a little further I took out the backpack cube, removed the clothing cube which easily went straight back into the bag, and filled it with the heavy items from the middle compartment (Side Effect and Laptop) and any A4 papers. These separate items on this trip weighed about 4kg.
On the way out I did separated them and it was so easy to carry both. But as I fly Easyjet I had to repack into the Tri-Star at the boarding gate as they have a strict one bag rule. However, mission accomplished. Easy and effective.
When in country I just used the backpack cube each day for work. I have it in steel so feel the look is ok in most work environments (unless you have a very conservative company). I jazzed up the zip pulls with matching red cord which also stops the zips being quite so jangley.
What works well:
* Looks great (Black Ballistic with Steel internal highlighted with red zip pulls)
* Poron foam handles are super comfortable. I can't stress this enough
* Easy to carry in various ways with absolute strap and backpack straps
* Easy to pack and know where things are with the various cubes (everything neatly fits in combination with each other and fill all the small spaces)
* Bag fits the smaller 50x40x20cm (20x16x8inch) rule that you sometimes get in Europe (see photo) so easy to get overhead luggage space or under the seat (depending on size of plane of course. On an Airbus 320 (single aisle 6 seat), it fitted standing up in the overhead and also under the seat on its side.)
* Modular packing allows easy movement of elements between backpack packing cube and also use of Side Effect with double carabiners as single bag for in flight accessories.
* Stands up nicely when packed and therefore slides nicely along polished stone floors when waiting in security lines (who needs 4 wheels?). A small push with your feet is all it needs.
* When sitting in aircraft lounge chairs, it's the perfect height as a foot rest in order to comfortably recline. And it's it soft luggage, it moulds a bit to your feet. Nice.
These last two are a bit sacrilegious I'm sure but it's in Ballistic, it can handle it.
What doesn't work well:
* Can bulge if you pack too much
* Front pockets handy for thin things but can't see myself using them for anything thicker than a organiser pouch/wallet or ID tag. I did have a medium organiser pouch in the top front pocket for receipts and also a magazine which worked well.
* I wish the zips in the middle compartment went a little further down the side to make it easier to get out side effect which sits vertically at one side.
And what a difference from the last trip (despite it being double the time away). Other than some minor tweaking, this is the way I want to travel for business. I used a Patagonia MLC for all of last year. The Tri-Star has all of its strengths and fixes all of its weaknesses.
I love it.