Western Flyer Part II: The Conference
My first travel trial for the bag was a 3 day 2 night conference trip to Washington, DC. With a mix of business formality (meeting with Congressmen and aides) and casual (seminars and sightseeing), and the usual obligation to exercise, it’s a great diverse trial. A flight to Baltimore followed by train to DC requiring some substantial flexibility and walking in between events, the modes of transit were equally diverse so one-bagging was important. After a test pack of what I “wanted” to bring, it was bringing the bag nearly to breaking point – I didn’t have the heart to test the Tom Bihn quality to that degree just yet. Realizing that I wasn’t going to be getting any production work done, I nixed my work laptop and behemoth adapter and took the tablet instead (which also means the Snake Charmer stayed behind, to be reviewed in round 3), which got me room for a more comfortable cold weather wardrobe and a much more comfortable profile for everything below:
Rear compartment: Backpack Packing Cube with:
• 2 button down dress shirts
• 2 ties
• 2 undershirts
• 1 pair wool slacks
• 2 pair athletic socks
• Exercise shorts
• T shirt
• Long sleeve undershirt/exercise shirt
• 2 pair underwear
• Small Packing Cube
o Running shoes (size 12)
o Electric razor
o Beard trimmer
o 2 pair dress socks
•Small Travelon Cube (from my original go-bag kit)
o First Aid Kit
o Pain relievers & Zicam
o Nail clippers
o Nyquil capsules
o Spare contacts
o Plier/screwdriver multitool
o Passport Photocopy
•Large Travelon Cube, the original go-bag kit
•3D Clear organizer Cube
• Asus Transformer tab-book w/ neoprene sleeve
• Inflatable hanger (great for suit coats even when you don’t plan to wash clothes)
• HDMI Cable & adapters
• Tablet charger
• Medium Travelon Cube
o MyCharge Peak 6000 backup battery multicharger
o Bluetooth headphones
o MoGo Bluetooth mouse & charging dongle
• Assorted pocket items and Platypus bottle in bottle pocket
And some magazines and folders in with the backpack straps. This was about as tight as I was comfortable packing, on the edge of usefulness. I was still able to access the pockets, but couldn’t fit any more into them. I honestly don’t know how I would have handled a Tri-Star under these circumstances, the Western Flyer was not yet unwieldy in weight, but I can’t imagine carrying much more before things got uncomfortable.
For TSA, I used a small carabineer on a key strap around the tablet case handle, as well as on the 3D cube. I dumped my pockets into the bottle pocket on the WF, and slid right through TSA, both regular and pre-check, no risk of leaving anything behind. Once on the plane (B737), it slipped underneath the seat short side with no issues.
Once I was in the air, I pulled it out and set it across the front of my seat to give myself some legroom and give myself access to the pockets, and I could do it without interrupting my neighbors (this is an important feature for tall guys in coach). When I was retrieving the travelon cube with my charger, part of the mesh tore…so much for that…now for a 3D mesh cube!
There was no such luck getting it to fit under the seat on the Amtrak, had to do the overhead bin. I don’t know if it would have fit even packed as a briefcase, it’s very skimpy.
When we arrived, the weather was chilly with a light, misty rain, and I left the umbrella at home. In walking the 5 blocks from Union Station to the hotel carrying as backpack, I arrived with plenty of water accumulated on the bag, and no intrusion through the zipper gaskets, or through the ballistic. Excellent.
Unpacking was fast and easy with all the cubes. While I didn’t get a chance to use the packing cube backpack for sightseeing, it works great as a packing cube. It would have been perfect for walking the congressional offices, I’m not sure why I left it behind.
The backpack straps were very useful for long hikes around the city, or meandering in tight spaces, I’m definitely glad I got the backpack version. With the Absolute Strap wrapped around the underside of the bag, it’s as convenient and nondescript as any other backpack.
Attachment 5831 Attachment 5835
Walking from the train, navigating the airport, being the tourist and walking around the city, all were substantially easier to navigate with the straps. On the last day of the conference, when everyone is inevitably hauling their rollerboards around after checking out, I switched to backpack straps to navigate tight spaces between tables. And sitting aside it was unobtrusive.
I noticed that while wearing a suit and carrying the bag with the Absolute Strap, it had a tendency to slip off by pulling on the jacket and slipping IT off the shoulder. Without the jacket it stuck like tar and didn’t go anywhere.
I was attending with a colleague who had a traditional spinner rollerboard with a briefcase. When the conference was over, with several hours left before the train, we decided to walk the mall. We didn’t have time to come back to the hotel to get our stuff, so we took it all with us. It was there that the backpack and sternum strap was exceptional. Over the gravelly dirt of mall path, aggregate sidewalks and muddy shortcuts, I felt pretty suave in comparison. No doubt this bag will make you feel like a professional traveler. Not only had I come with the super convenient backup charger to help his phone stay alive on our long work days, but I lent my key straps out to fasten his classy but inarticulate leather brief to the handle of his spinner while sightseeing. It’s like the MacGyver bag.
The only thing I didn’t bring was something like the shop bag to buy gifts to bring home. Now that I am one-bagging it, maybe it is time to think about that allowed personal item. Unfortunately, with only 2 days until round 3, there’s no time to re-equip. Just laundry.