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Thread: Which bags are right for me?

  1. #1
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    Which bags are right for me?

    I'm looking for some advice for what to buy. Here are the details:

    I'm a PhD student and travel to conferences somewhat frequently. I've been bringing a rolling carry-on bag (clothes for 2 - 5 days in packing cubes, a pair of shoes) and a backpack (13'' macbook air, ipad air, kindle paperwhite, travel tray filled with misc stuff, snacks) with me. I also visit my family for longer amounts of time (1 - 2 weeks), but have access to laundry and so still generally don't need more than 5 days worth of clothes. I really want to get rid of the rolling bag and replace it with a Tom Bihn carry-on sized bag, but am a little nervous about carrying a large bag. Getting to the airport often involves and walking and public transportation, and I'm 5'3''. I'm guessing that it would work better to wear my carry-on as a backpack at least some of the time.

    However, if I was wearing my carry-on as a backpack, I'd need my personal item to be a briefcase / messenger bag type thing and not a backpack. I really like having a backpack once I get to my destination - I use it to bring my laptop / ipad to the conference, take day trips to NYC, go hiking, etc. I really like that backpacks hold a laptop but aren't super flat - you can stuff in a sweatshirt or the travel tray.

    Any suggestions on what bags I should buy? Let me know if there's any other information about my travel habits that would be useful. Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
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    There are many people in the education field in this forum, since it is close to back to school, they might be quite busy and haven't seen your post.

    Given your packing requirement and body size, I would suggest the Western Flyer with a Dyneema Daylight Backpack used as a Packing Cube while travelling then a Backpack at your destination.

    Your "briefcase" personal item could be the Co-Pilot or Pilot depending on what you need to bring to the conference.

  3. #3
    Registered User scribe's Avatar
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    I would second backpack's suggestions - I'm 5'2", and I find I can easily pack 5-6 days' worth of clothes into a Western Flyer. I've not yet used the backpack straps on mine, as I find it perfectly easy to carry on my shoulder providing it's on an Absolute Strap.

    So, another option might be the WF plus a Synapse 19 backpack - I use an S19 as my EDC, and it's perfect for smaller laptops.

    Alternatively, if you tend to pack bulky items such as hiking boots you might be better off with an Aeronaut 30 instead of a Western Flyer. It all depends on what you usually carry and how you like to pack. Check out the videos on the main site!
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    black/aubergine + wasabi (WF, SA + UMP, CP, TT, TSSs, SE, Swift, QK, YSSs & KTPs)
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    olive/plum + steel/UV/wasabi (S19, SE, MCB, TSSs, SSBs, YSSs, LSS, 3DOCs, OPs)
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  4. #4
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    I'm 5'1" and received my A30 last week. I love it. It is really easy to carry as a backpack, which my reason for buying it. It was also pleasantly surprised by the easy of carry with a shoulder strap. I have an OP/Tech USA SOS mini strap, which is like the TB absolute strap, but fits my shorter frame better (cAn support up to 20 lbs). This shoulder strap is amazing and really does reduce the feel of the load.

    I also bought the DLBP that I will pack inside the A30 when I go to London for use as my day bag and as a backup personal item on the way back. I feel like the combination will work well. In the long run though, I prefer the larger bag on my back.

    I've also walked around my neighborhood was the A30 on my back with a messenger bag about the size of the MCB and that combo is great as well. This is my plan for my trains, planes, and automobile trip over thanksgiving.

    When I was a PhD student, I preferred a backpack as my EDC. If I had to do it over (my worst nightmare!), I would want the S19 like scribe suggests.


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  5. #5
    Registered User terayon's Avatar
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    There are some good reasons to choose the A30 or the WF, but I wouldn't discount the A45 right off. It's a big bag, no doubt about it, but I am 5'2" and manage it very comfortably. One thing I really like about it is that I can pack for a week in it but still have room to put in my day bag (S19, LCB, or Swift, depending on the trip), so no need to carry two bags on public transportation on the way to the airport. The WF/packing cube backpack is the same idea, but the A45 gives me the option to take along a more structured day bag, which I prefer when I get there.

    Having said that, depending on what airlines you're flying, the A45 may be too big to be carried on. I've never had a problem, but I've only flown within North America with mine.

  6. #6
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    I still use a rolling suitcase for a few reasons - I don't carry a backpack and prefer a shoulder bag or something I can pull. I am waiting for the WF to come back in a non-backpack strap model. I use a Pilot as my carry-on for laptop and books and it doubles as a great conference bag.

    If ever TB made a suitcase I would be very interested!

  7. #7
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    I am also a PhD student, female, not tall, almost exclusively travel by public transport, and have similar travel habits.

    After a great deal of trial and error, I have found that my best travel set up for conferences is by far using my A45 as my one bag. Yes, it is bigger than I would need for just clothes for a conference weekend, or even extended travel as I tend to wear merino wool-esque type clothes almost exclusively (expensive, yes, but all the clothes I own fit into a considerably small space--I live in a tiny house ). However, I have found that the number one factor in how pleasant my travel is, is how few things that I have to keep track of. And, like you, I love having a backpack for everything from laptop to reusable food containers (my lunchbots go with me every where--especially when I travel and use it for leftovers) to hiking when I travel.

    Therefore, I have found that a Dyneema Aeronaut 45, significantly under packed with clothes, can easily carry my S19 or S25 with all of my computing and conference needs. I usually use a PCSB for my in flight items (iPad mini, kindle, notebook, music, wipes, etc.) and just slip it in and out of the A45 after/before landing. I carry it using the backpack straps, and I have never had a problem, even in rush hour traffic on the subway or buses.

    FWIW, the A30 is tempting because of the smaller size, but at the end of the day, the actual size of the part of the bag that is touching your back when you carry it in backpack mode is similar to the A45 and it is not the case that everything plus a S25 could fit as nicely in a A30 as it does in a A45.

  8. #8
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    One other combination I would suggest is a Smart Alec with a messenger bag combo like the Pilot. If there is a chance that you might be walking around with a well laden backpack for an extended period of time, and you do not require the option of shoulder strap carry, the SA with its back panel, is more comfortable for carrying for long distances, IMHO. With the addition of an upper modular pocket, you are up to almost 30L. It is easy to hold the SA by its padded top handle when on transport if it is crowded, and if you are the sort who will wear a hip strap, I like the attachment point on the SA the best. Just my two cents, from a carrying perspective. The Aeronaut series probably has the most carry options if that is what you are seeking. As someone with a shorter torso, the A45 felt too long for me at 5'3", but others seem to like it, and it definitely would carry the most. Though it is then really tempting to overpack unless one is disciplined. The design upgrades in the A30 make it a superb option as well.
    tpnl and nsh like this.

  9. #9
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    When I was in this position (5'3" PhD student who exclusively used public transit), my go-to setup was a Smart Alec, Large Cafe Bag, and small Shop Bag. I would put everything in the Smart Alec, including the LCB, which I used as a packing cube for my computer and papers. The small Shop Bag was my overflow bag during plane travel for jacket, food, etc. Everything fit under the airplane seat. I used the LCB for the conferences. For travel to and from the airport on public transit, I'd have just the Smart Alec to worry about. If I had more stuff coming home than I had going there, I could use either the LCB or shop bag as additional space.

    Given your preference for a backpack as your conference bag, however, that setup won't work for you. I have neither the A30 or the DLBP but if I were in your position now, that combo would be the first one I'd try. I love my A45, and the only reason I don't use it for short trips by air is that I don't need the space, and it won't fit in the seat in front of me.

  10. #10
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    Thanks everyone!

    I really like the idea of the A45 with a backpack inside - traveling with one big bag + purse would be a lot easier.

    Does the S19 hold a 13'' macbook air in cache? How much room would that take up in an A45 (assuming that the S19 is underpacked)? For example, how many packing cubes would fit in the main compartment?

    Would the S19 also work as an overnight bag (without laptop or ipad, just clothes and toiletries)?

    I figure that I'll eventually replace the backpack with a briefcase like the cadet at least some of the time (like job interviews!), which also seems to work inside the A45.

  11. #11
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    I can't answer re the a45, but a synapse 19 can definitely hold a MacBook Air (it holds my non-air MacBook), and would definitely work as an overnight bag.

  12. #12
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    Concerning your question on the S19 fitting in an A45, here is a link that shows this (thanks to @PaulT00 for providing excellent pictures):

    Packing a Synapse into an Aeronaut

    As for packing cube fit, that would depend on how much you pack your S19. However, see everyone comments (especially @terayon's and @moriond's) in the link below on packing an S19 and some packing cubes in an Aeronaut

    Pack that backpack flat, Jack

    Also, for your reference as it might help with what packing cube to order, here is a hilarious link to some ideas for what TB bags fit in other TB bags:

    Going marsupial! TB Bags that fit inside other TB bags.

    Hope this helps

    Cheers!
    Zephyr/SA/BB/Co-Pilot (Black/Black/Steel), S25/WF/TS/A45/Pilot (Black/Iberian), DLBP (French Blue), CPF (Black/Indigo/Steel), Ego (Black/Black/Steel with Indigo Stripe), EB (Black/Steel/Steel), Vertical & Horizontal Brain Cells, Vertical and Horizontal FS, Camera I/O, PCBP/PCSB/TT (400d Nordic), SE (Black/Iberian), Lead's Pocket (Black), Tall YSS (Iberian)

  13. #13
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    One major suggestion I have is to get together more or less what you envision packing and see how much space it really takes (it's especially helpful if you already have packing cubes!). This will give you a sense of the size of bag you really need. Personally, I (a 5'4 female grad student) love love love my Synapse 25 which I use both as a bag for school and for traveling (with a purse). Since you're petite, you might want to consider that (or the Smart Alec - similar size but bigger main compartment better for awkwardly shaped items). Then just remove the packing cubes with clothes, and you're ready with your day bag. Just a thought!
    nsh and weirdguy like this.

  14. #14
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    Thinking about it even more... I don't think I really want to do one bag while traveling - I would probably want to have the backpack out of my A45 at security, at the gate, and during the flight (mostly because of my laptop).

    So now leaning towards Western Flyer + Smart Alec. WF because it's small enough to carry comfortably on my shoulder, has backpack straps, and would work really well for clothes and flat-lying things, and SA because of its expandable nature (love the modular pockets, bungee, and gate keeper straps!), ability to work with a cache, and ability to fit more bulky things. I think that the combination will give me a ton of flexibility during travel (short trip = just bring one or the other) and while at my destination.

    The SA is currently sold out, so I think I'll get the WF now, and wait a bit for the SA (my next long trip isn't until winter break).


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