January 15, 2015

Packing Style Interview: Chris vs. Daniel


If you're a regular visitor of the TOM BIHN website or blog, you've likely come to know the work of Chris and Daniel L.K. Caldwell. A filmmaker and composer, respectively, the Caldwell brothers, as part of Shep Films, create the atmospheric videos that showcase our bags and the ways people use them.

We thought that there was no better time than now to revisit two videos that premiered in August, 2013.  The first video in "Two Weeks in Japan" depicts Chris and Daniel packing up their Aeronaut 45s; the second video captures the sights, sounds, crowds, and open spaces as they traverse Japan with their family.

The packing video demonstrates how people with widely different packing styles can use the Aeronaut with ease: Daniel crammed as much as he could fit into his Aeronaut 45 and Synapse 19, whereas Chris packed carefully-curated items into his Aeronaut 45 and Co-Pilot. After they returned, we chatted with the Caldwells about how their respective packing strategies worked in practice.

The family flew on American Airlines, and were allowed a carry-on bag and a personal item. Within his Aeronaut 45, Daniel had utilized only two organizing accessories, the Large Aeronaut Packing Cube and the 3D Clear Organizer Cube. Most of his items were loose in his bags—was that was annoying? Daniel said, “It didn't seem to matter. Since it was pretty much all clothes, everything fit fine.” He did concede that “it may have been easier to access things at the bottom of the bag if more of my things were organized in packing cubes.”

Conversely, we wondered if Chris's myriad pouches, sacks, and cubes were worth the extra weight. He replied that the weight was negligible, especially given the benefits of being organized while on the move: “Compartmentalization gives you a more tactile sense of what you have and where it is so that you can access it, unpack it, move it to your daypack, and pack it back up with ease. Of course, balance is necessary, but to me having a packing system is preferable to digging through layers of shirts to get to the hard drive at the center.”

Chris used a highly-planned packing strategy and Daniel was a bit more fancy-free in his methodology. Did they use all or most of what they brought? Daniel said he did, but could have done with one fewer outfit, especially since he bought clothing as souvenirs. Chris’s video equipment and laptop required him to think carefully about the clothes he brought. Nonetheless, he said, “I think this is really a case by case issue and comes down to priorities For example, I packed three button-down thick cotton shirts. Not the most utilitarian choice, … but I decided I didn't want to look like a hiker in Shibuya, and I was glad I brought them.”

Speaking of video equipment, here are the details of Chris’s video and tech kit: “I used a Canon 7D with a 17-55mm f/2.8 lens. I kept it perpetually tethered to my Black Rapid R Strap, which is the best camera strap I've ever used. It is comfortable, distributes weight and the camera can slide up and down the strap, so you never have to adjust it on your shoulder.”

Chris also rented a small stabilizing rig, “but, in retrospect, I'm not sure it was worth the extra bulk. Careful handheld would've probably been fine.” Sometimes Chris carried his camera in his Co-Pilot, but “mostly I kept it slung at my side. This method isn't for everyone, and it's definitely a sacrifice for carrying a heftier camera setup. But capturing the trip was a priority to me and I always wanted the camera to be ready to shoot.”

Needless to say, Chris didn’t have room to buy much on his trip. “My philosophy was that the video is the best souvenir I could have, so that's what I invested my energy and resources into. If I removed all the camera gear, I might've had room to bring home some stuff, but again it depends on your priorities.”

We found it especially fun to rewatch the Japan videos now aware of this behind-the-scenes information, and figured you might find it interesting as well, so here you go:

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We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.