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Thread: Can't choose between the Aeronaut and Tri-Star. Any advice?

  1. #1
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    Can't choose between the Aeronaut and Tri-Star. Any advice?

    I'm interested in buying my first Tom Bihn bag.

    While I was walking around Shinjuku in Tokyo during a sunny winter afternoon, trying to kill time before heading to Narita airport to fly home, one of the wheels on my 15 year old, 2-wheeled Samsonite suitcase broke. I had to hand carry 22 kg for ~3-4 hours. In quirky American units, that translates into 50 lbs. I consider myself a fit person, but that's impossible to carry for a long time. Anyway, I have decided to replace my old Samsonites. It's time to go modern.

    I replaced my large suitcase with an older version of the [B]Crumpler Dry Red No. 4[ /B] that I was thrilled to find! It's perfect because it's medium-sized and only has 2 wheels (i.e. not a "spinner"). I will use it if I'm packing for winter trips and need more capacity!


    Now, I want a wheel-free carry-on. I'm looking to replace my 52x35x23 cm suitcase with either a Tri-Star or Aeronaut. The Aeronaut would hold an extra 15 litres (~33%), and the Tri-Star has the same carrying capacity as my suitcase.


    My travel needs: I'm not a frequent traveller anymore, but I do travel enough that I want good luggage. I'm 33 years old, pretty fit, 5'10", no back problems, and my clothes will be size S or M. I'll be using this bag for some infrequent 2-3 day trips, but I'm more concerned about those 1-2 week vacations in warmer climates.

    I'm going on a 2 week vacation soon. I'm generally a light packer, but for this trip, I'll need to carry:


    • 8 small/medium t-shirts

    • 4 pairs of shorts

    • 4 x socks

    • 7 x underpants

    • personal hygiene products (toothbrush, toothpaste, hair product, deodorant)

    • an extra pair of shoes (work shoes or runners)

    • a spare backpack or bag

    • some documents

    • water


    Things I could stuff into my spare extra backpack and carry onboard separately:

    • 11.6" Macbook Air

    • iPad Mini

    • a camera (Fuji X100 or X-Pro 1, no additional lenses)

    • cables and chargers

    • water


    I may also choose to bring an additional "proper" backpack (my favourite: Osprey Raptor 14) or man-bag ("murse"), but I suppose I could learn to live with one of those TB packing cube backpacks, or the Crumpler Squid (sorry Tom Bihn!).



    The Tri-Star: The 33 litre capacity is perfect.

    One of the big advantages of the Tri-star is that it's the size I want. If I don't want to hobble around with a massive bag on my shoulder unless I need the space! Sure, the Aeronaut is light weight, but its size and shape means that it'll be the most annoying to shoulder-carry, even if it's only half full. Also, the Tri-Star's 4 organizing pockets on the front look incredibly useful. The bag looks beautiful.

    The disadvantage is the 3 narrower compartments, and how I'll need to pack to make it work. Do I just shove clothes into the laptop compartment to utilise the full 33 litres?



    The Aeronaut: It's the perfect "too-big" travel bag. I really want to love it. For most risks, it'll usually be way too large for me, but it's not rigid, and offers flexibility if my needs change. Not everything in this world is thin and flat, which means the Tri-Star is only perfect if you carry clothes, laptops, books, documents, and random pizza boxes.

    And what about things like camping? The Aeronaut would be perfect. The Tri-Star would be weird.

    However, I have a problem that's more mental than physical. I'm a bit of a bag nut, and I really like the idea of getting bags that I believe are the most suitable for the task. The Aeronaut will be too large, and it bothers me that it's not ~35 litres. :O


    What do you think? I'm actually leaning towards the Aeronaut (and maybe some external compression straps to keep this beast in check), but sometimes I feel like I should get the Tri-Star because that's the one I was originally eyeballing.



    Any wise words?
    Last edited by Nawksi; 07-03-2013 at 07:37 AM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Fat Crip's Avatar
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    I have both (and a Western Flyer). When ever anyone asks which TB, I always say, if I could only have one bag, it would be a ballistic nylon Aeronaut. That's not to say that I don't love the Western Flyer, Tri-Star or even the Dyneema Aeronaut, it's just just that I see the Ballistic Aeronaut as the most flexible and robust travel bag I've ever had. It works just as well part full or stuffed to the gills.

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    I agree with Eric. The BN Aeronaut. I like all my Tom Bihn bags but in a perfect world where airlines didn't limit weight, I'd choose the BN Aeronaut. It's the most versatile for my style of packing.

    The idea of thinking I'm only taking "x" amount, so my bag shouldn't hold more than that is limiting yourself. Packing lists change and so do the amount of things you take. It's better to have extra room than not enough.

    BTW, you talk about carrying three bags? Too many. Take no more than two. Whatever bag you want to use as you're daily bag when out and about should also be the one that carries your electronics while between destinations. (You do realize the Raptor 14 is almost as big as the Tri-Star?)

    One last thing, I looked at your packing list. I believe you could fit all of it, including the electronics, in the Aeronaut.
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    I went to Japan for a 2 week trip for both work and for fun. Went through a lot of Japan in one week going from one city to the next each day since I had a lot of ground to cover. (even went up to a buddhist ryokan which was like 2000 steps or so) While I think the Western Flyer is a great looking bag (though I can't comment on how useful since I don't have one) I like the flexibility and space of the Aeronaut and also the fact that I could stuff enough stuff for me for the 2 weeks I was traveling. (to be honest I pack way too much stuff which my Fiance keeps telling me- though in the end we didn't have time for laundry and really didn't have that much time to spend washing stuff in sinks and waiting for things to dry!). I have taken it with me for shorter trips as well.

    While you may not be packing much it will give you more room to put in those souvenirs that you may want to bring back with you. The side pockets I found to be great for shoes, and toiletry bags etc. If you do have extra room you can put other stuff in the main pocket.

    When I travel however I like to have a second bag just to put under the seat and keep my Aeronaut in the overhead.
    I also have the absolute shoulder strap which is really comfortable however I did use the back strap on the Aeronaut when I was traveling in Japan along with another backpack in the front (not a TB but I just put an order in for a Synapse 25! ) The one extra pitch is that if you are ever limited to one carryon the Aeronaut is fantastic since I have never had any problems fitting it overhead and it fits pretty much everything you need and more.

    I think in the end it will just depend on what you need in a bag the most and also what you travel with more. If you will usually bring a backpack with you then you may not need the space that the Aeronaut gives you. In the end if one bag calls out to you more then you should probably go for it since if you aren't happy with your bag then it will just make a for a bad experience in traveling. The one good thing is that (correct me if I am wrong TB) you could always purchase the western flyer, put all the stuff you were going to travel with in the bag (keep the tags on) see if you like it and if not then perhaps try and change it! .

  5. #5
    Registered User dorayme's Avatar
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    For your list, and knowing that FrankII and FC know what their talking about, I would also say BN Aeronaut. I am a shortish woman and have comfortably carried an Aeronaut loaded and less than loaded. It works well either way, especially with packing cubes, packing smartly and using the internal straps.

    If you were insistant on several bags, I would go Western Flyer and a backpack for electronics. You could put a Backpack packing cube into your WF and use that as a daypack at your destination. . .
    Best of luck!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank II View Post
    The idea of thinking I'm only taking "x" amount, so my bag shouldn't hold more than that is limiting yourself. Packing lists change and so do the amount of things you take. It's better to have extra room than not enough.
    That's so true.

    I thought to myself, "What if I have kids in a few years? What if my fiancé and I could take a single bag for both of us on short trips?!"

    The Tri-Star is the perfect size, looks great, seems very organised, but I haven't read a single review where the reviewer packed really basic stuff: 7-10 t-shirts, some shorts, socks, underpants, with some electronic cables and an iPad thrown in. Most reviews were directed more towards business travellers.

    The Aeronaut looks intimidating because of how large it looks hanging off of people's shoulders in Flickr photos. Maybe I'm just too accustomed to the "wheeled luggage" life. :O

    BTW, you talk about carrying three bags? Too many. Take no more than two. Whatever bag you want to use as you're daily bag when out and about should also be the one that carries your electronics while between destinations. (You do realize the Raptor 14 is almost as big as the Tri-Star?)
    Oh sorry, I meant I want to carry the Aeronaut/Tri-Star, and one small backpack. I'd always prefer to bring my Osprey backpack because it's just incredible, and for carrying electronics and my camera, I'd prefer a real backpack over those thin nylon back"sacks".

    However, on the way to and from the airport, how do you handle the Aeronaut and a separate backpack? Does the shoulder strap slide if you're already wearing a backpack?



    Also, my Raptor 14 is only 14 litres! Definitely not as big as the Tri-Star. I do have a Manhattan Portage "NY Pro Bike Messenger" bag, and it's basically the same size and carrying capacity as the Tri-Star. It's not comfortable when fully loaded, and things aren't accessible when the massive pocket is filled.



    Quote Originally Posted by ytmlee View Post
    I went to Japan for a 2 week trip for both work and for fun. Went through a lot of Japan in one week going from one city to the next each day since I had a lot of ground to cover. (even went up to a buddhist ryokan which was like 2000 steps or so) While I think the Western Flyer is a great looking bag (though I can't comment on how useful since I don't have one) I like the flexibility and space of the Aeronaut and also the fact that I could stuff enough stuff for me for the 2 weeks I was traveling. (to be honest I pack way too much stuff which my Fiance keeps telling me- though in the end we didn't have time for laundry and really didn't have that much time to spend washing stuff in sinks and waiting for things to dry!). I have taken it with me for shorter trips as well.
    Cool!! The next trip I mentioned in the 1st post is also to Japan. My fiancé is Japanese, and I'm Canadian-Chinese (and semi-Australian). It's a beautiful country. I've seen a lot of it, but it's almost always in the summer and winter. I've never been during a season with moderate temperature.

    It's pretty easy to wash your clothes, but I find that clothing doesn't dry because the hotel rooms are so small that they get humid quickly. In the winter, the clothing doesn't dry because it's too cold.

    If you can somehow dry your clothes outdoors, then you're set. Your clothes would dry in 5-10 minutes. However, I don't think I've ever stayed in a Japanese hotel with a balcony. I could be mistaken.....



    When I travel however I like to have a second bag just to put under the seat and keep my Aeronaut in the overhead.

    Unless I keep the small pack on the front, and the Aeronaut on the back, I can't envision myself carrying the Aeronaut and the backpack simultaneously. Wouldn't the shoulder strap slide if you're already wearing a backpack?

    Also, with two backpacks on my front and back, my body would probably shut down. :P I start sweating very easily.


    The one good thing is that (correct me if I am wrong TB) you could always purchase the western flyer, put all the stuff you were going to travel with in the bag (keep the tags on) see if you like it and if not then perhaps try and change it! .
    Great idea, except that I live in Australia, and the shipping cost is obscene!! If I want to exchange something, I'd probably have to pay for to ship a bag to the US, and another delivery fee for the replacement bag. I may as well fly to the US to personally check out the bag.
    Last edited by Nawksi; 07-03-2013 at 07:45 AM.

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    Yeah I was traveling around the winter time and then also it rained a whole bunch while I was in Japan. As to carrying both it wasn't ideal but my backpack wasn't too full. I was able to arrange the straps so things didn't slide around so much. I only really did that while I was going up multiple steps and needed my balance and full mobility. I haven't seen a balcony either while i was in Japan lol. I think the fact that Japan was cool enough that I didn't worry about sweating too much but yes going up those stairs was definitely hot!!

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    Nawski says:

    "The Tri-Star is the perfect size, looks great, seems very organised, but I haven't read a single review where the reviewer packed really basic stuff: 7-10 t-shirts, some shorts, socks, underpants, with some electronic cables and an iPad thrown in. Most reviews were directed more towards business travellers."




    This is exactly what I packed in our Dyneema Tristar for our trip to Europe in early Spring. The packing was for my husband and we used pants, including a spare pair of jeans, instead of shorts. He is 5'8" and wear medium.

    I used my Dyneema Aeronaute with Packing Cube which transformed it to a Tristar of sorts but with bigger capacity and those fabulous side pockets. I thought I needed the capacity because my clothes are not medium but I carried the Tristar most of the time.

    My husband carried the Aeronaute (around 7 kilos/15 pounds) on one shoulder and his very heavy backpack on the other.

    I carried the Tristar in my hand and the Synapse 19 on my shoulders with the electronics.

    If you carry only clothes in the Tristar you can switch handle and bag orientation very easily, it is handy to when you want to place the bag on the flat escalators or when you are in line. The Tristar weighted the same as the Aeronaute.


    I have an Aeronaute in Ballistic as well.

    While I think the Aeronaute is the best maximum capacity carry-on luggage and it is great for most people, in most travel circumstances; and I love it as a plane/car/hotel bag; I find it too much to carry when extended walking is needed, and public transport is used.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nawksi View Post

    However, on the way to and from the airport, how do you handle the Aeronaut and a separate backpack? Does the shoulder strap slide if you're already wearing a backpack?


    I don't carry a second backpack. I use messenger bag for my daily bag. That messenger bag is packed with the items I'll use on the plane, plus anything else of value, and placed INSIDE the Aeronaut. This way, I only have one bag to carry to and from the airport. When I get on the plane, I take that second bag out, store the Aeronaut in the overhead, and I'm set.

    I also use packing cubes to maximize my space. Currently, I'm using the Eagle Creek Specter Cubes because they are ultralightweight and can fit in smaller spaces. The Tom Bihn cubes are great but for my style of packing I find the EC Specter work a little better in the Aeronaut. (For the Tri-Star I use the TB cubes as I pack differently.)

    Regarding the drying of clothing.....I recommend getting clothing that are meant to be hand washed, dry quickly and with no wrinkles. These are usually blends. I rarely stay only one night in a hotel, so I will wash on my first night and this gives me more than a day for the clothes to dry even in the worst conditions.
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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nawksi View Post
    The Tri-Star is the perfect size, looks great, seems very organised, but I haven't read a single review where the reviewer packed really basic stuff: 7-10 t-shirts, some shorts, socks, underpants, with some electronic cables and an iPad thrown in. Most reviews were directed more towards business travellers.

    The Aeronaut looks intimidating because of how large it looks hanging off of people's shoulders in Flickr photos. Maybe I'm just too accustomed to the "wheeled luggage" life. :O
    The TS is great for business travel but I use it all the time for casual travel, too. It's especially handy because for short trips, two people can pack their clothes into the front and rear compartments, leaving the center free for toiletries and/or electronics.

    The Aeronaut can look HUGE in photos, but it's really not as gargantuan in real life. If I'm going to be booking it across a big airport, I typically wear it in backpack mode. Like Frank, I generally only carry the one bag.

  11. #11
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    I have both the TS and Aeronaut in black nylon. I mostly use my TS for work travel and my Aeronaut for personal travel. We like to go camping in our RV and the Aeronaut is perfect for that. I can pack extra shoes, sundries, etc. in it. I like the side compartments for packing my SCB/SE to use on excursions. Either bag works for either type of trip for me, I have personally found them to work for different purposes, plus it helps me help Tom stay in business!
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    I'm probably going for the Aeronaut in Navy, maybe with the "red" interior. The yellow interior isn't available.

    Thanks everybody. You've been helpful.

    Quote Originally Posted by backpack View Post
    Nawski says:

    "The Tri-Star is the perfect size, looks great, seems very organised, but I haven't read a single review where the reviewer packed really basic stuff: 7-10 t-shirts, some shorts, socks, underpants, with some electronic cables and an iPad thrown in. Most reviews were directed more towards business travellers."




    This is exactly what I packed in our Dyneema Tristar for our trip to Europe in early Spring. The packing was for my husband and we used pants, including a spare pair of jeans, instead of shorts. He is 5'8" and wear medium.
    Sounds great. I'm still undecided, but am still favouring the Aeronaut slightly due to the responses so far, and "gut feeling".


    My husband carried the Aeronaute (around 7 kilos/15 pounds) on one shoulder and his very heavy backpack on the other.

    I carried the Tristar in my hand and the Synapse 19 on my shoulders with the electronics.
    I wish I had the money to just buy both of them! That's the obvious solution to my 1st world problem.



    While I think the Aeronaute is the best maximum capacity carry-on luggage and it is great for most people, in most travel circumstances; and I love it as a plane/car/hotel bag; I find it too much to carry when extended walking is needed, and public transport is used.
    Even when both are packed with the same amount of stuff? That's what I thought initially, because even for the same weight, carrying any physically large object off your shoulder, or even in your hand, will be difficult to carry no matter what. The Tri-Star wins in that regard.

    However, based on other people's responses, it doesn't sound like a big deal, as long as you don't fill the 45 litres!

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    I have owned a Tri-Star pretty much since it was introduced and have used it for business and non-business travel. It works well in both settings. It will hold what you list in your packing list without any problems. The Tri-Star carries well using handles and the backpack straps. I used it once with the shoulder strap and that type of carrying was not for me - I have a bad shoulder and the backpack straps are more comfortable for me. I am going to be moving to an Aeronaut, not because of problems with the Tri-Star - it really is a great bag - but over the years I have found that I tend to prefer having a large open space to pack (and impose my own organization) instead of having the organization built in for me. It is, for me, just a personal preference.

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    I bought an Aeronaut in navy blue, with the red (i.e. "iberian") interior!

    I also bought the "Absolute Strap", a "packing cube backpack" in purple, as well as a smaller packing cube.

    I thought about buying another small packing cube, but I'm just going to dump stuff into that section like I normally would. Heck, I may never use those cubes. I'm really not sure.


    My 2.5 week vacation to Japan will be with my new Aeronaut. I just hope it arrives at my doorstep (in Australia) on time!!



    Thanks everybody.
    Last edited by Nawksi; 07-04-2013 at 07:54 AM.

  15. #15
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    So here is a dissenting opinion.

    I recently sold my Aeronaut because I never used it. Much depends on how you pack.

    The Aeronaut packs things on top of one another in a large compartment, while the TS packs things in their own compartment. Things are much easier find in a TS.

    I use a packing cube in the back compartment. The middle compartment hold an Eagle Creek folder , a size 4 brain cell with the chargers and other wiring in a small EC packing tube on one side of the brain cell with another packing tube on the other side with my "dry" toiletries.

    The front compartment holds the things I want on a plane - Blackberry Playbook, paperback, magazine and what-not. The other side holds a second pair of shoes (assuming I can't live without a second pair)

    The three front compartments are packed as follows - the bottom compartment holds my headphones and a spare cell phone charger. The middle compartment holds my wallet and ID when going through security. The top compartment is empty and holds my watch, keys, change, phones and other stuff in my pockets when I go through security.

    After security, I re-stow my wallet and ID and wait until I get to the gate to put the rest of the stuff into my pockets.
    When in trouble, obfuscate.

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