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  1. #1
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    RTW Trip | BRAIN BAG vs TRISTAR | WESTERN FLYER vs EGO vs SMART ALEC

    Hi all,

    I am a woman and slowly getting ready to travel the world for few to many years.

    I would appreciate help to pick the right bags
    and advices from people who have travelled with 2 TB bags at a time


    Please be aware that i read countless travel blogs, spent hours reading this forum and site, checked all images tagged Tom Bihn on flicker and find many many Tom Bihn bag so attractive-but need to stay practical.
    I also shopped the usual backpacks and dont see myself with one huge 50-60-70liter bag on my back

    Keeping the details below in mind:

    - Will still be working 3-4 days/week from my virtual office
    - Travel at slow pace - moving city/country - once/twice a week max.
    - Will stay for weeks/months in same location and do 2-3 days trips often.
    - Will try to minimize walks with my bag by reserving hostel/hotel in advance
    for at least first night (critical to have access to internet too)
    - Prefer to have 2 medium main bags to keep enough content with me on bus/train ride and on the many budget flights i will be taking and have a dedicated bag for my 2-3 days trip


    BRAIN BAG vs TRISTAR as main bag on a RTW

    -Would you guys recommend taking one of these bag as main bag on RTW trip ?
    -Can someone comment on the max weight they can carry in these bags and still be comfortable?


    The Brain Bag seems perfect as low profile bag and able to swallow so much
    but the Tristar design is awesome and capacity close from the Brain Bag - i just worry it wont be as comfortable when i have to carry it as backpack when at full capacity.

    Need help to pick one of these bags!!!

    For the first part of my trip - i strongly believe one of these along with the IMAGO will be more than enough.

    --

    WESTERN FLYER vs EGO vs SMART ALEC (or Synapse)

    For the 2nd part of my very extended trip, Im thinking to add one of these 3 bags. They all have similar capacity or almost....

    It would be the bag i carry with me on plane and would use
    for 2-3 days trip.

    (I see myself storing the Imago in one of the 2 bags i carry when moving from a location to another)

    I am thinking of one of the combination below

    -Brain Bag + Western Flyer or
    -Brain Bag + EGO or
    -Tristar + EGO or
    -Tristar + SMART Alec (or Synapse)



    Anybody can comment on how great the EGO is to carry clothes?
    Anybody has travelled with one of the combined bags above?
    Any thoughts on which 2 bags i should be taking with me?


    Like i said i absolutely love the design of the Tristar and Western Flyer, think they would be perfect too for the occasional classy hotels i will be staying at
    but still need to be practical.

    I also will have some business meeting and conferences to attend at some point...

    Long post but any help would be appreciated. There are also many accessories by Tom Bihn that i am thinking to be ordering


    Thank you!
    Last edited by anomad; 11-25-2010 at 09:29 PM. Reason: French is my first language - trying to fix some spelling

  2. #2
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    Melbourne Australia
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    You mention budget flights. Many of them won't allow you to take two bags, and many won't allow a large bag, as defined by them, meaning nothing larger than a Tristar or the Western Flyer!

    I have a Tristar and my husband has a Brain Bag. The Brain Bag does get very thick when packed and may not meet the the size requirements. Also, the design is not suitable for checked luggage if it's not allowed as carry on.

    The Tristar on the other hand would survive being checked without any problems. I've often carried it heavily packed and it's comfortable up to 10 kg.

    I marvel that you can travel for so long with so little luggage! I wish I could do that! How do you plan to carry your virtual office? Carrying a laptop has been my biggest annoyance when travelling. What about backups of your laptop? Since you are working I'd see this as a critical issue.

    Audrey

  3. #3
    Registered User Moose's Avatar
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    Hi anomad,
    I have to agree with falconea about the Brain Bag. While its a great everyday bag for me, I can quickly and easily get more in it that I want to pick up let alone carry. I don't think it would make the best carry on and its design does not lend itself to being checked.

    If I were in your place I'd take a look at the Synapse. I've traveled comfortably for a week with a Western Flyer and Synapse but I didn't have a computer and assorted bits to carry with me. I love this combination of bags, it works really well for me.

    I've not traveled with a Tri Star but my best guess is that a Tri Star and Synapse would be a better choice for you. I'm sure someone that has a Tri Star can give you better information.

    This is quite a trip you're undertaking. If I had a hat, it'd be off to you. I'd love to know what you finally settle on and how the choice works out for you.
    Happy travels,
    Moose
    Last edited by Moose; 11-26-2010 at 02:38 PM.
    List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!

  4. #4
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    Thank you Audrey & Moose for your advices-will be considering the synapse+tri-star combo.

    The Brain Bag is that big!!! ...
    Do you guys think the Brain Bag and his content in a soft packable duffel bag would be more suitable for checked luggage or it still would be oversized? I will be using cubes and such... and it wont be overpacked when in transit... I prefer to double check

    RE budget flights - sorry i meant keeping one medium bag with me and to check the other one.

    I will also bring a Scottevest to be able to carry gadgets in the numerous pockets while in transit.

    RE virtual office. All i need really is my laptop+skype+internet connection+international phone
    .
    I currently have a macbook pro 13 and will be switching to a macbook air 11... I will carry it in a case in the Imago most of the time-found some great tool in order to try to protect it from theft....

    I agree backup is critical. Portable hard drive are getting smaller and smaller - i will be carrying 1 or 2 of theses + 1 or 2 lacie usb key with the most used contracts and document templates + am currently already using various online back up and systems. Trying to keep all in the cloud.

    Thanks for the wishes! I have been working really hard for the past years to create my own" job" and then build the correct team around it to reduce my hours and keep it virtual... to travel the world!

  5. #5
    Registered User Moose's Avatar
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    Hi anomad,
    I do believe if you put the Brain bag in a duffle/fold up tote it would fall within check in guidelines without any trouble. I've never done it but someone here on the forum may be able to share their experiences.

    If you end up with a Tri Star you could probably carry your computer in it and along with a Synapse it might be enough space. Again, someone with Tri Star experience would be better suited to lend insight on this point.

    Its great to see you've reached your goal and now can spend time globe trotting.

    Happy travels,
    Moose
    Last edited by Moose; 11-26-2010 at 07:01 PM.
    List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!

  6. #6
    Volunteer Moderator
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    Hi anomad,

    I use the Synapse + Tristar combination, and agree that this might work for you. I also have a Western Flyer, but I find that I almost always use the Tristar in preference to that bag, for two reasons: (1) if I ever need to carry something that doesn't pack flat (e.g., non-clothes items that someone might give to me), the compartment layout of the Tristar accommodates that much more easily than the Western Flier and (2) the convenience of the center pocket, especially for accessing laptops, is a real plus. Even though I usually carry my laptop (13" MacBook) in the Synapse, the flexibility of moving this to the Tristar, or using another, slightly larger laptop (14.1" ThinkPad) in the center pocket of the Tristar is great. So for my travel, I'd carry an underfilled Tristar in preference to having to constantly shift from a Western Flyer when I need the extra flexibility.

    You can also fit an Imago (with or without laptop) into the center compartment of the Tristar. I find the backpack mode of carrying the Tristar very comfortable, but I also use the Absolute strap. Another thing I really like about the Synapse is it's amazing capacity for the deceptively small size. I've always been able to fit the Synapse under the seat in front of me, even in airplanes with AV boxes that take up large fractions of the space.

    HTH. Maybe others can chime in with advice.

    moriond
    Last edited by moriond; 11-27-2010 at 12:38 AM. Reason: Grammar

  7. #7
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    Moose - good to know vs duffle/fold up tote.

    Thanks moriond - really like the possibility to fit an Imago into the Tristar...

    moriond/moose: Is it possible to secure the main compartment of the synapse with a lock?
    Last edited by anomad; 11-26-2010 at 08:58 PM.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by anomad View Post
    moriond/moose: Is it possible to secure the main compartment of the synapse with a lock?
    Yes, you can pass a lock through the two metal zippers that close the central compartment of the Tristar.

    You can also secure the Synapse as shown in the 'Locking' zippers on the Synapse thread. (I use the option 2 method, with split rings such as linked in my post at the end of that thread.)

    moriond

  9. #9
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    anomad,

    I approve of the Tristar + Synapse (+Imago) combination.

    I imagine you will travel with the Synapse (MacBook Air inside) on your back, and Tristar on your shoulder with an Absolute Strap.

    Whichever bag contains your laptop you'll want on your back - even if it is just 2.3 pounds. It's likely the heaviest item on your packing list. Without a laptop in the Tri-Star, it should be manageable on your shoulder.

    If you put the laptop in the Tri-Star, you'll likely want THAT on your back, and that leaves your Synapse to go on your front, which is often rather awkward - you'll want to loosen the backpack straps so that the bag doesn't hit you at your neck, and you'll look pretty funny with bags on both your back and front. Also, you will want to have your various electronics with you in case you take a cab and it would make a lot more sense to have the smaller bag sitting on your lap vs. the larger one (which would likely go in the boot).

    On the side trips, you should be fine with the laptop in your Imago and the rest of your gear in your Synapse.

    Happy travels!

  10. #10
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    For such a long trip with a lot of walking involved I think you should go for a backpack. A Brain Bag or a Smart Alec should cover your needs if you pack smart. I don't think you should have 2 large bags for your second trip, it will be too much to carry around. Carrying a bag on your shoulder for longer walks is not convenient, and trips with many destinations means a lot of walking.

    I also have the Western Flyer and TriStar, and the WF is the one I use the most for trips with few destinations. I like it's compactness and the fact that even the strictest budget airlines accepts this as carry-on. I believe I would use the Smart Alec for a trip with many destinations together with the Co-Pilot.

  11. #11
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    It would be helpful to know what you plan on carrying in term of clothing.


    For many years, my husband and I used to make a California, Florida, Canada, Midwest, California week and a half trip in the middle of winter. All 3 destinations required casual and dress clothes.

    Bags I used

    A folding garment bag for dress clothes (2 suits, 6 shirts, 2 pairs of dress shoes, dress socks)

    A bag the size of the Aeronaut for casual clothes, foundation garments and casual shoes.

    A bag the size of the Zephyr or Ego as carry on.

    A very large shopping bag for stuff we got on the trip.


    The trips took place before the luggage restrictions and the last few trips the
    Aeronaut size bag and the large shopping bag were replaced by a cheap duffel containing all my husband things minus his suit and dress shoes which went into the big garment bag.

    Both bags were checked..


    After the restrictions, we had to learned to pack light,

    Each of us use a Brain Bag and Large Cafe Bag combo.


    I love the Brain Bag as my main bag, it holds tons of stuff and still looks much smaller than any rollaboard out there.
    The compression straps are a really neat feature, when they are very tight the bag is flat: when they are expended the bag holds a week of clothes, tons of conference, class or business meeting necessities (books, notepads, brochures...)


    However, most budget airlines , particularly in Europe, have a very strict in cabin size luggage policy, I don't think a full Brain Bag is small enough.
    I hope other forum member will shime in


    In my experience, all U.S flagship airlines, randomly ask economy passengers to gate check bags especially when bins start to fill up before half of the economy passengers have boarded.

    In that case, a Western Flyer would be more appropriate as a cabin bag /dressy laptop and business paperwork holder.


    But Moriond noted that the Western Flyer is too small for most of his trips but the just slightly larger Tristar can hold the Imago as a second bag, (I wonder if it would hold a Large Cafe Bag?).

    The Tristar also makes a gorgeous briefcase.

    The Western Flyer and the Tristar can be carried as backpacks and checked without any problem.


    The purse-like Cafe Bags, Imago and Co-Pilot as well as the Synapse are perfect cabin bags.
    With the help of a Cache for Macbook Air or netbook or other laptops they make perfect computer bags as well.


    Sorry for the tome, I hope it helps and please share more about this exiting endeavor.

  12. #12
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    Hi Anomad:
    Good questions and feedback here. I am a small made person, and I prefer to carry two small bags rather than one big one.
    For most of my travels, I have been able to get away with the Western Flyer and the Synapse. The last holds a lot more than you would think; and cos it looks "tiny," most don't bother me. I also like the Medium Cafe bag for international travels cos it passes as a purse--and of course can hold quite a lot.
    I found the TriStar a trifle too big for me. The Smart Alec is great; I do have it, but it does tend to "look" bigger than a similarly stuffed Synapse. It does not have cinch straps; and the bottom part is quite deep. It does of course hold a lot more than the Synapse. When it comes down, "perception of size" sometimes is more determining than actual size--as many people have pointed out.
    I like WF as a backpack style; and then I carry either the Imago or the Synapse; and fold the Medium Cafe bag inside one of them.

    Hope this helps.

  13. #13
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    Clothes wise, the TriStar does a good job keeping your clothes organized and relatively unwrinkled, especially if used in conjunction with the full length packing cube in the back compartment. I've even been able to master bundle packing using the cube. 13" Laptop goes in the middle compartment. I always carry the TriStar as a backpack. I pair that with either an Imago with Q-AM strap (w/o stabilizer) or a medium Cafe bag. This way, I can wear the smaller bag cross body and still be hands free. Found that to be very important when getting on and off trains, etc.

    An absolute must for me no matter which bags I carry are the organizer pouches tethered to O rings in both bags. Keeps all those little items neat and easy to locate. I liked the size of the Smart Alec but it didn't have the right configuration for packing all my clothes and was happy to switch to the TriStar.

  14. #14
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    I love the Brain Bag and have used it in Europe and last week in the Caribbean with no problems. It is 18 x 14 x 8 vs. the Tristar which 19 x 13 x 8 which means it is about the same size. So, I don't see the difference. Yes, the Brain Bag can be "overstuffed" but so, too, can the Tristar.

  15. #15
    Doh
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    I don't own the smart alec, but I did spend some time with it, and one reason I decided not to buy it is because it seemed as though if it was fully packed it would not fit under an airline seat. It is (or at least appears to be ) significantly larger than I thought it was, and I think the rounded shape makes it awkward for use as a personal item for an aircraft. Also, it has limited internal organization/access.

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