One-bagger here looking for the ultimate travel bag. I'm not totally new to Tom Bihn; my husband has an Aeronaut and he once got me a Buzz laptop backpack. Seeing the travel bag in action and having owned a TB myself has left me convinced that TB should be my next purchase, and hopefully my last one for a good while.
I want the bag to work for nearly all my travel, both because I don't have the budget to buy multiple TB bags and because I don't like having a lot of bags at home to store. The type of travel I do really runs the gamut: I make a lot of weekend trips by train to my hometown (often taking my laptop so that I can do work on the train), occasional road trips, weeklong trips to Europe where I want to bring dressier clothing and accessories, weeklong adventure trips that are all about hiking clothes and practical gear. I don't do much business travel; about once a year I'll go to a conference, but as mentioned above I do sometimes like to take my laptop along on personal travel.
I've been one-bagging whenever possible for years, using unstructured, nonwheeled weekender and duffel bags with Eagle Creek packing cubes for organization. I feel this isn't the best use of space, and I am craving something with a bit more built-in organization, not to mention backpack straps for long security and passport control lines. That, and the fact that I sometimes carry a laptop, have me thinking Tri-Star is the way to go. I have a few questions about the bag before I decide.
Ballistic vs. Dyneema. Weight is pretty important to me. I'm a 5'8" woman, 145 pounds, so the conventional wisdom tells me to stay under 15 pounds for a shoulder-carried bag (10% of body weight). This isn't always going to be possible (laptop, souvenirs), but I'd like to get close. I far prefer the look of ballistic, but the 10-ounce weight difference makes Dyneema really tempting. I don't think I'm particularly hard on my bags, and I only travel about once a month. I feel like strength/durability is not the concern for me so much as aesthetics. Any opinions on the look/vibe of these fabrics would be welcome.
Packing accessories vs. built-in organization. I've read lots of advice to use packing cubes with the Tri-Star. I was wondering how necessary people feel this is. The reason I kind of rebel against this advice is that to me the draw of Tri-Star is that it has organization built into it, with the tradeoff being extra weight (such that it weighs more than the larger Aeronaut). I hesitate to add even more weight to the bag by using multiple packing cubes and other organizers. If I'm going to do that, I may as well get an unstructured Aeronaut and pack it my own way, right?
Adding three packing cubes (one each of small, medium, and large) adds 10 ounces in weight to the bag. Is it worth it?
Bulky items. The vast majority of the time, I pack items that are flat or can be packed flat -- clothes, toiletries, one or two extra pair of shoes, a day bag. However, once in a blue moon, I will want to take something bulky. For example, on a recent trip, I took hiking boots. I know I could wear them en route, but that can be really uncomfortable. Or I might want to bring toys and gifts when I visit family. How accommodating is the Tri-Star of the occasional odd-shaped item?
Fitting it all in. When you pack the Tri-Star, where do you tend to put smallish items that don't fill up the various sections? I'm especially interested in your 3-1-1 bag. I'm strongly considering getting the 3D clear cube so that I can tether it to one of the o-rings in the bag, but does it fit well on top of things in the center or divided compartment?
For a hypothetical cross-Atlantic flight, I feel like I would pack the Tri-Star like this:
- large compartment with tie-down straps: all clothing (including loose items like socks and underwear, laid out flat and sandwiched between larger items like pants). For years I've been fitting all my clothes in a single Eagle Creek packing cube (10 x 14 x 3), although the cube has been filled to bursting at times, so I feel that my clothes for a typical trip would fit perfectly in this compartment without overstuffing.
- center compartment: laptop in sleeve if traveling for business; compartment left empty for souvenirs if traveling for pleasure. Maybe this is where the 3-1-1 would go?
- divided compartment: extra pair of shoes on small side, handbag (I have a nylon tote that is practically the exact dimensions of the TS medium packing cube) containing miscellaneous items such as dry toiletries, camera and chargers, sunglasses, jewelry, magazines, etc., on larger side.
- exterior pockets: water bottle, travel wallet, keys, phone, earbuds.
Then, when I pass security, I would fill up the water bottle and move it along with my wallet, phone, earbuds, and other inflight items from the exterior pockets to my handbag. When boarding the plane I can just grab the handbag out of the medium compartment and stow the TS.
This makes sense to me in theory, but it's so hard to know what will work without having the bag. Another question is all those small items. I think of the bag as really having 4 compartments. In reality people seem to be able to pack a multitude of items, various cubes and stuff sacks and whatnot. It's so hard to visualize how it will all fit together!
Finally, weight distribution. If the center compartment is empty, is the bag awkward to carry as a backpack? Would it be better to fill the center compartment and leave the outermost compartment empty?
Thank you for any and all thoughts and advice, even on the questions I forgot to ask!