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Thread: Bag for walking around DC

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    Bag for walking around DC

    I am taking a trip to Washington DC and want to get a carry on bag that I will also carry while touring. I would really like to replace my current edc swissgear backback for my 13" rMBP with the brain bag, but my wife is concerned about museums and such not allowing me to carry that bag in. She suggested the co-pilot instead, although I am also looking at the pilot. Since we will be doing a lot of walking, I like the idea of a backpack. I plan to carry a dslr and a couple lenses. Does anyone have the experience with DC to offer guidance?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dwschoon View Post
    I am taking a trip to Washington DC and want to get a carry on bag that I will also carry while touring. I would really like to replace my current edc swissgear backback for my 13" rMBP with the brain bag, but my wife is concerned about museums and such not allowing me to carry that bag in. She suggested the co-pilot instead, although I am also looking at the pilot. Since we will be doing a lot of walking, I like the idea of a backpack. I plan to carry a dslr and a couple lenses. Does anyone have the experience with DC to offer guidance?
    I carried a Tri-Star through a couple of the Smithsonian museums when I had a few hours to kill. I'd recommend something smaller, but it can be done.

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    Dear dwschoon,

    The Smithsonian museums around Washington, DC do conduct a bag check when you enter. They advise bringing a smaller pack to minimize the time required to go through security; but they do not prevent you from bringing in larger packs.

    We have visited area museums, as well as museums in New York with various Tom Bihn bags over time, and have never had problems bringing any of them in. I do recall on a recent visit to the Udvar Hazy that there was a line to enter for those with bags, and not so much of a line for those without bags.

    I like your idea of using a Brain Bag! One of the great things about the Brain Bag is that you can pack it fairly light, bringing just what you need for the day - the cinch straps can be used to deflate the profile on the Brain Bag. And it has the capacity to expand and hold a tremendous volume of stuff that you might pick up over the course of your day out.

    Please don't hesitate to ask if you have any other questions.

    With kind regards,
    Last edited by maverick; 03-26-2014 at 10:01 AM.
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    What about a Synapse 19? I use it to carry my 13" rMPB everyday. When you're walking around you could remove the cache/laptop and store your lenses in the side pockets, as well as the middle water bottle pocket. I can fit my Nikkor 70-200mm VR II 2.8 in the water bottle pocket if I don't have the hood on in reverse mode (it fits with the hood on reversed but it's tough to get out). I've read some threads where people buy the little padded camera inserts to put in the main compartment.

    My previous trip to DC I had a small Crumpler 4 Million Dollar Home that I brought with me so I'm not sure what the backpack policy is. You would have to check with the specific museums you are visiting.

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    Pretty much all museums won't let you wear a backpack in the galleries. You can carry it, or wear it frontwards. If you are allowed to wear one as a backpack, be prepared to have close scrutiny from the gallery guards. They will be worried about you backing into or knocking into things. (I work in a museum)

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    Quote Originally Posted by jlchau View Post
    What about a Synapse 19? I use it to carry my 13" rMPB everyday. When you're walking around you could remove the cache/laptop and store your lenses in the side pockets, as well as the middle water bottle pocket. I can fit my Nikkor 70-200mm VR II 2.8 in the water bottle pocket if I don't have the hood on in reverse mode (it fits with the hood on reversed but it's tough to get out). I've read some threads where people buy the little padded camera inserts to put in the main compartment.

    My previous trip to DC I had a small Crumpler 4 Million Dollar Home that I brought with me so I'm not sure what the backpack policy is. You would have to check with the specific museums you are visiting.
    I like the idea of the synapse, but I don't have a need for more than one backpack, and I want the brain bag to along with the mpb vertical cell and the camera insert. If I am going to get hassled, I may just get the pilot now and leave my current backpack at home. Depends if I can get everything in it. I have the laptop, iPad 2 and an 8 inch dell tablet. In that scenario I would have to check my camera.

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    I'd go with a co-pilot or pilot. I've mentioned this before in another thread but the co-pilot fits the Ona Roma Camera Insert Amazon.com: ONA The Roma Camera Insert and Bag Organizer - Black: Camera & Photo perfectly in the back section. The Ona Roma is perfect for a DSLR and a 2-3 lenses and is great for micro four thirds cameras too. I used that combo on my last trip and it worked out great. You won't be able to fit a laptop in there but I typically don't carry my laptop around with me when I'm walking around a new town anyway... usually just leave it in the hotel.

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    At the museums of the Smithsonian Institution, which are free:

    Security and Policies | Visit | Smithsonian


    From that page.

    " Bring only a small purse or "fanny-pack"-style bag
    Do not bring large daypacks, backpacks, or luggage into the museums, as they will be subject to a lengthy search in each building entered. Leave such items on the tour or school bus or in a hotel room.
    A reminder: bag lunches may not be eaten in the museums."

    It also says that some museums have lockers.

    "The Smithsonian permits still and video photography for noncommercial use only in its museums and exhibitions, unless otherwise posted. For safety reasons, tripods and monopods are not permitted at any time in any of the museums or gardens."



    What kind of luggage are you planning to take?


    The Brain Bag will fit your laptop and your camera in a Camera I/O Camera I-O - Camera Bag. Use it on its own or inside of our Brain Bag backpack. - TOM BIHN and a couple of other things



    The hotels in DC are always booked solid or overbooked, no matter what the "discount" websites say, before personal computers, they used to be called consolidators and they worked almost exclusively with travel agents.

    Book an hotel, via the hotel website, outside of DC, in Maryland or Virginia and make use of public transportation.
    Metro - Home page

    In DC, traffic is always a nightmare because of the many one way streets, the very expensive parking and road detours for VIPs .

    The Side Effect would be perfect for sightseeing by bike and take a boat ride on the Potomac (not one of the free attraction).

    The Memorials are very poignant, don't miss them.


    Make sure to pace yourself, otherwise you will get very tired, don't forget to take breaks to eat and hydrate.


    Keep us posted!
    Last edited by backpack; 03-26-2014 at 01:35 PM.
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    You can bring plenty large bags into the Smithsonian. I regularly bring in a folding bike. In a bag. I've also brought in backpacks easily as big as the Brain Bag. The issue is that all Smithsonian museums, and the National Gallery, require bag searches on *entry*, not on exit, because 9/11. The bigger the bag, the longer the search (it's not very long). That's all.

    Just don't bring a pocket knife. You won't be allowed in with it.

    I think a big bag is overkill for walking around DC. But it's far from impossible.

    Hidden gem: when you come to DC, be sure not to miss the Udvar-Hazey Center out near Dulles Airport.
    Blue Parapack Brain Bag with Brain Cell

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    I wouldn't especially RECOMMEND a bag as large as a Tri-Star, but if you have an unexpected few hours free before your train leaves Union Station, the Mall isn't so far away and they will allow big bags.

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    Quote Originally Posted by feijai View Post
    I regularly bring in a folding bike. In a bag.
    I love it!

    I would do that, but only with a Brompton! ;-)

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    You can carry a backpack into the Smithsonian Museums; many do. There are many other museums in town that do not belong to the Smithsonian and different rules apply. I cut through Air & Space and the National Gallery today with an Osprey Momentum 34. I don't have a brain bag but they seem comparable in size. Two buildings that my organization lease are on either side of the Mall and I frequently cut through with a side trip or two. I carry the Osprey for my laptop, iPad and misc stuff. The guards used a stick to open it, scan the interior and let me pass on. Total time was less than ten seconds in each museum. They were only slightly interested in the fleece jacket I had stuffed inside (it was cold this AM.) My bet is that the Brain Bag is a nicer pack and wouldn't garner the attention that the flood of high school students with a myriad of different packs get. When the museums are crowded, the bag check lines do get long as Maverick says. Today, not so much. YMMV.

    Cameras and normal touristy stuff is pretty normal. As someone said, no knives, weapons and I would leave any odd liquids out. I would suggest not bringing in food either. Water bottles are common which always surprise me. I would use common sense on what to bring or not bring.

    Where are you staying/working and what would you like to see. The mall is very large and walking from end to end is tough. The museums are on the western half and the monuments on the eastern side. None of the museums are Louvre or Met sized but there is an amazing amount of exhibits. Best thing is they are free. You can sneak into one, see a few items of note them move on. One of my favorites is the T-Rex and Triceratops in the Natural History, but the Hope Diamond is upstairs, for example. Another fav is the tunnel between the east and west buildings of the National Gallery. There is also an arboretum close to the capital (not THE arboretum in DC but a large greenhouse structure which can have flowers galore. You didn't say when you would be in town but we are about two-three weeks behind normal on the weather. It snowed yesterday and was very cold this morning with a wind chill in the teens. This weekend the temps are scheduled back up in the 60s, so YMMV.

    Oh, and +1 on Udvar Hazy. It is out in Herndon at Dulles Airport, but the difference is night and day. A&S is tight, cramped and missing any large aircraft. Udvar Hazy has full size planes everywhere and a space shuttle. I haven't been since the Shuttle Enterprise left for NYC, but there is a SR-71, a Concorde airliner, and beaucoup more.

    If you have particular questions, please ask.

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    I'm sure I could look this up, but with so many knowledgeable people, it's better to ask: is there a decent way to get to Udvar-Hazy without driving? I usually take Amtrak to D.C.rather than driving. Also, how long does the trip take from either the Mall or Arlington? Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmoz View Post
    I'm sure I could look this up, but with so many knowledgeable people, it's better to ask: is there a decent way to get to Udvar-Hazy without driving? I usually take Amtrak to D.C.rather than driving. Also, how long does the trip take from either the Mall or Arlington? Thanks!
    While I generally take the subway going to the museums in Washington, DC, I have always driven to the Udvar-Hazy. However, the VRTA bus service will get you from Dulles Airport to the Udvar-Hazy.

    See the Public Transportation section of the Udvar-Hazy website.

    And also the Dulles to Dulles Route (route # 83) PDF on the VRTA website.

    The drive from North Arlington, once you get onto Route 66, should take about 30 minutes if there is no traffic. Note that Route 66 westbound is HOV 2 for the evening rush hour (15:30 - 18:30, I believe).

    From Washington, DC, or Rosslyn, you can take Metro Bus 5A (PDF) to Dulles Airport. Washington Flyer also operates a Coach from West Falls Church Metro (on the Orange line) to Dulles Airport, but charges a bit more.

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    Thanks for all the input and suggestions for activities in DC. I have settled on the Pilot with a cache for my rMPB. I may get a camera insert for walking about dc. Do you suggest upgrading to the ultimate shoulder strap?

    Edit: I don't plan to carry my laptop when sightseeing. I'll probably carry my dell venue 8 pro though, along with a usb battery for our phones, a filter water bottle, and some snacks. I read somewhere else about the bobble fitting.
    Last edited by dwschoon; 03-27-2014 at 07:43 AM.

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