This is part of a series of short interviews with individual members of the Forum.
Forum name: Miking
Profession: Entertainment Rigger
Forum member since: 2012
Favorite TOM BIHN bag: Aeronaut 45 for business; Synapse 25 for pleasure
Q: Your job takes you great distances, and often on short notice. Do you have a system in place that helps you get out of town quickly and with your sanity intact?
A: In my opinion, the key is to have most of your kit already packed. I have separate toiletries and charging cables that never leave my bag. When I get back from a trip I will unpack and repack immediately. I will wash my laundry and replace things like floss and shampoo that get used up. Extra consumables are kept together in a box at home under the sink. There are a couple different types of gigs I do and that will affect how I pack. Sometimes it is tours with bands, sometimes it is an extended installation at a theatre, museum or mall, and other times it is a quick one night event with an aerial acrobat.
If at all possible, I will FedEx my heavy equipment ahead of time. It is far easier and usually much cheaper than trying to bring it on an airplane. It also saves a bunch of hassle at the airport: no trying to find a baggage cart, no waiting at oversized baggage claim, etc.... The most I like to bring with me through the airport is an Aeronaut 45 and maybe a smaller personal item.
I will usually check in as early as possible online and enter my flights into a flight tracker app so I will get notifications if the flight is delayed or cancelled. I keep a passport sized notebook with a page dedicated to each trip. At the top of the page is the name of the job, venue address, contact person at the destination, flight confirmation number, hotel address (essential—a big metropolitan area can have a dozen or more Best Westerns), phone number and confirmation number as well as any other essential information. I am a big fan of smartphones, e-boarding passes, and TripIt, but if your phone dies at the worst possible moment you are pretty much screwed.
Once I get to the airport it is very much into autopilot mode. After you have done it enough times it gets easier. I try my best to get there early, and I know my way around the airports I hub out of pretty well. I highly recommend getting one of the Global Entry/Nexus cards as it makes security screening so much easier! Figure out which airline you will fly on the most and get their credit card. Having preferred status has made the difference between getting on board or missing a flight. I fly enough to have a preflight routine that would put George Clooney's character from Up in the Air to shame; I also fly enough to make watching that movie with me intolerable! (It's Detroit, not Chicago, and American Airlines doesn't even fly out of that terminal!)
Q: Being on the road constantly, what are the most important things you do that help you live out of a suitcase?
A: I can't overemphasize the impact technology has had in making life on the road easier. The first tours I did as a musician in the days before cellphones were very much kiss your girlfriend goodbye and hopefully see her again in two months. Maybe if you are lucky you will catch her at home if you have the time and a pocket full of change to blast off a call from a payphone and I am sure my mother has been close to reporting me as a missing person a few times.
Nowadays, thanks to the advances of portable technology I don't have to miss the latest episode of my favourite TV shows—I can even watch them at 33,000 feet. I keep in touch with my family and friends via FaceTime and iMessage. Being on the road this much can still be taxing: you are pretty much guaranteed to miss holidays, weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, but being able to have a video chat with someone on the other side of the continent or world definitely helps to stop you from feeling so isolated.
It is little things you take for granted that start to wear on you after a while. For instance, I haven't been to the same doctor twice since I have been 11, I have forgotten what my house looks like a few times, and even simple things like getting mail or UPS packages turn into huge ordeals.
Q: Since you’ve joined the forum, you’ve become pretty well-known for the creative Bihn-related how-to posts you’ve done (like this, and this). Of all your many cool ideas, of which are you most proud?
Probably the DIY travel clothesline. I was quite surprised by the positive feedback from that—it's great that such a cheap and easy thing can completely change someone's outlook on travel. Once you get to the point that you can travel with three or fewer outfits, it completely opens up a different world of travel. It isn't a race to get to the hotel so you can ditch your bags.
Other ones I like and use quite often are the tutorials for folding collared shirts and the DIY flip-folder sized for packing cubes as well as the concealing organizer pouches with a handle strap. One that I really like that wasn't really given a fair chance was the DIY washboard laundry bag—I think mainly because I went into too much detail with the instructions and made it seem harder than it actually was.
Q: Your forum posts show that despite your crazy work schedule, you prioritize your other interests. How do you achieve this balance, especially when you’re traveling? Are there products, practices, or mindsets you find particularly helpful?
A: When I am home I make a point to get out to the mountains. I am lucky that I live in the shadow of the Rockies. When I have friends who want to meet up for drinks, I will do my best to change it into a hike and drinks in Banff or a bit of climbing and drinks.
When I am on the road it gets a bit tougher; for the first week of a tour, it is normally very long days getting everything ready with no chance to do anything but get a quick meal and crash. As the show settles in we have the occasional day off that isn't spent traveling. On show days I can normally get away for a few hours in the middle of the day to explore the city I am in. The Packing Cube Backpack for the Aeronaut and Tri-Star and the Packing Cube Shoulder Bags are amazing for that sort of trip.
Another gadget I don't know how I did without is my Sony RX100M2 camera. I like exploring and photographing abandoned places and belong to a couple urban exploration groups online, so whenever possible I will try to meet up or get information about local attractions and go and take some pictures of abandoned factories and other buildings. I love having a pocketable camera that takes better pictures than my old full-sized DSLR, and I take it everywhere. Before with the big interchangeable lens camera, I didn't take it anywhere because it was too bulky and I always felt like an idiot lugging it around and using it in public, so I missed all the good shots.
Q: At about this time last year, you reported that you spent around 200 days on the road. If you had 200 days to go anywhere and do whatever you wanted, what would you choose?
A: I really like the idea of riding a dual-sport touring motorcycle from Alaska to the southern tip of Argentina, heading out in the fall and racing the cold weather. Taking my time, getting lost, no schedule, no expense report, no confirmation numbers. Just me, the bike and whatever clothes and camping gear I can fit in the saddlebags.