convertible bag

Old Oct 26, 09, 11:32 am
  #1  
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convertible bag

Yes, yet another question that will be similar to others but I still haven't found the 'perfect' answer in checking the forums.

I want to do the single bag carryon thing. But I want the option of a backpack strap. I want the maximum carryon size with the minimum weight.

The TB Aeronaut seems to be the highest space to weight ratio of what I've looked at. I know that Till doesn't like it a lot and prefers the BR but the 224 isn't large enough (I think) and it is a pound heavier.

I would prefer something that looks a bit decent (the BR is the nicest looking but the Aeronaut is fine as well). I think the Patagonia MLC might not make it on that criteria.

Any ideas and thoughts? I would like the maximum volume for external dimensions in a lighter type of bag. But it must have the possibility of backpacking it.

thanks
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Old Oct 26, 09, 12:30 pm
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Did you check the Rick Steves bags? What about the ebags weekender? They are all very lightweight and they are all better engineered for functionality (in my humble opinion) than the Aeronaut. They also cost less than half.

Did you read the convertible bag thread at Obow? Check the Mei Voyageur and Executive Overnighter? The Tough Traveler Tri-zip is a very cool bag. Basically an Airboss with straps. That might be my other choice if I wanted something to carry back pack style.

http://www.1bag1world.com/obow-light...um/post/891510


Here is the Tri-zip:
http://www.toughtraveler.com/lug/travel.asp

Check out the interior pics, too. It weighs just 350g more than the Aeronaut and has a much better layout. Downside is that it is a bit smaller. However, the space is more usable. It is also more expensive even though that almost evens out if you add a shoulder strap to the Aeronaut.


Just because I don't like the Aeronaut doesn't mean it can't work for a lot of people. There are a lot of users that swear by it. The question is how much of that is hype and how much of that is lack of experience and analytical/critical capacity combined with denial of admitting that it is just not a great design. I actually own a very similar bag so I know about the design limitations and the Aeronaut sure is worse than my bag even, at least in my eyes. Had I known about bags then what I know now, I would have not bought it.

I think the new MLC looks actually slicker than the old one but the old one was more practical in my eyes. I really like the Rick Steves in grey. It's quite a nice bag. Also check the Eagle Industries Alpha bag. Very understated design and superb capacity. Great material, yet light and cheap price. I think this is definitely on my list. Weighs less than the Aeronaut, costs one third, comes with a lifetime warranty, is also made in USA (if that's of any importance), and has 3000 cubic inch of volume compared to 2700.
http://www.eagleindustries.com/produ...&cat=63&page=1

Not as fancy and "boutique" though.

Till
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Old Oct 26, 09, 1:01 pm
  #3  
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Till, where do you put RedOxx SkyTrain bag in all this? I'm thinking of SkyTrain for my next purchase.
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Old Oct 26, 09, 1:44 pm
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Till
Very thoughtful reply.

By the way, I would be travelling casually and not taking jackets, dress pants, etc.

By the way, the rated capacities of some of these bags is a bit misleading. If you multiply out the external dimensions, it usually adds up to less than the manufacturer's rating, so they are including the full capacity of the little pockets on the outside--which may have little value.

I looked at the website for the Trizip: it's capacity is less than the Aeronaut. The price is the same. The shoulder straps appears less well shaped. It is arranged as 3 divisions horizontally as opposed to the Aeronaut but I'm not sure that makes a big difference. I didn't see a picture of the internals but there are no more helpful divisions that I could tell.

The ebags weekender: looks more like a traditional back pack to me. It is rated larger than the Tristar and is much cheaper. The straps look much more comfortable. But, I must say, it is really just one large compartment with a zippered front pocket from what I can see.

The MEI voyageur suffers from the same issues at the ebags. Check out this review: http://onebagger.squarespace.com/blo...ck-review.html

It turned me off the MEI. I'm not keen on a bag that has no 'shape' to it and collapses when being loaded.

The MEI Executive Overnighter is larger than the Voyageur is larger (good), better organized, and 3 compartments.
This bag seems like the Air Boss equivalent with backpack straps. Although it is less well made than the Air Boss.

I like the Rick Steve's but the zippers are less robust and the fabric is polyester rather than cordura. I would hate to have a breakdown while travelling and I think that rain resistant is an important feature.
I don't know why Steve's doesn't make an 'upgraded' bag for extra money. I'm sure there would be a market for that.

Any comments on my comments?
thanks
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Old Oct 26, 09, 2:11 pm
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I have had the Rick Steves convertible bag for quite a few years now, and highly recommend it. The fabric and zippers are very durable, and the bag itself is very light while being very roomy. I've used it several times a year for trips to Europe and Latin America, and to be honest the bag has no signs of wear at all.
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Old Oct 26, 09, 3:35 pm
  #6  
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Canadian bags

Have you looked at the MEC Shuttle II? It is 1.24 kg and claims to have 35L of capacity. It is slightly narrower than the maximum width allowed and had one of the most comfortable backpack straps I've tried on a convertible pack. The chest strap was also height adjustable so it could sit in just the right place. All hardware except for the actual zipper is black powder-coated metal. I tested this bag out in the store a few weeks ago and still have to post my brief impressions on it

The main compartment is 2/3 of the bag, while the front organization panel is 1/3 of the bag. The main compartment has elastic X-compression straps. The front compartment has an over-engineered organization panel you can cut out to reduce weight, and has extra room in front for the stashing of 3-1-1 bags, travel pillow, blanket, laptop and even more stuff. There is also a double zipper for this section so you can secure the front pocket if you have valuables inside. My only complaint is that the backpack straps when packed, does noticeably decrease the capacity of the main compartment but this is expected of all convertibles. BTW the back panel of the main compartment is also padded for comfort. MEC also sells nylon straps you can attach to the metal D-rings when in backpack mode to serve as a waist strap.

For comparison purposes, it is like a horizontal version of the ebags Weekender, but much higher quality.

Compared to the Patagonia MLC (which retails in Canada for CDN$200-ish @ Europe Bound & Sporting Life), the MEC Shuttle II is a good deal.

BTW I love that MEC has weight bags and pillows to simulate both weight and bulk of the bags. ^

However, for the best weight to capacity ratio, the Outdoor Products Essential Carry-on wins but after shipping and taxes may end up costing more than the MEC Shuttle II

Last edited by tcl; Oct 26, 09 at 3:38 pm Reason: add link
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Old Oct 26, 09, 3:51 pm
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Originally Posted by fredf1 View Post
Till
Very thoughtful reply.

By the way, I would be travelling casually and not taking jackets, dress pants, etc.

By the way, the rated capacities of some of these bags is a bit misleading. If you multiply out the external dimensions, it usually adds up to less than the manufacturer's rating, so they are including the full capacity of the little pockets on the outside--which may have little value.

I looked at the website for the Trizip: it's capacity is less than the Aeronaut. The price is the same. The shoulder straps appears less well shaped. It is arranged as 3 divisions horizontally as opposed to the Aeronaut but I'm not sure that makes a big difference. I didn't see a picture of the internals but there are no more helpful divisions that I could tell.

The ebags weekender: looks more like a traditional back pack to me. It is rated larger than the Tristar and is much cheaper. The straps look much more comfortable. But, I must say, it is really just one large compartment with a zippered front pocket from what I can see.

The MEI voyageur suffers from the same issues at the ebags. Check out this review: http://onebagger.squarespace.com/blo...ck-review.html

It turned me off the MEI. I'm not keen on a bag that has no 'shape' to it and collapses when being loaded.

The MEI Executive Overnighter is larger than the Voyageur is larger (good), better organized, and 3 compartments.
This bag seems like the Air Boss equivalent with backpack straps. Although it is less well made than the Air Boss.

I like the Rick Steve's but the zippers are less robust and the fabric is polyester rather than cordura. I would hate to have a breakdown while travelling and I think that rain resistant is an important feature.
I don't know why Steve's doesn't make an 'upgraded' bag for extra money. I'm sure there would be a market for that.

Any comments on my comments?
thanks
Ok, let's go one by one.

Traveling casually and no need to take dress clothes and jackets is a huge plus. Why? Because it allows for much easier packing, including bundle packing which saves space. It also means you don't need one large flat compartment to fit trousers and jackets with a minimum number of folds.

This also opens you up to bags that are more duffle style like the Eagle Industries or even an Eagle Creek duffle or a BAD duffle. Duffles have traditionally the best volume to weight ratio and also have a great volume to footprint ratio. Moreover, because duffels are so common, your chances of getting through the gate agent's gaze undetected with a bag that is even bigger than max allowed size are very good. They always let me take me 48 linear inch Valoroso duffel. Search for my post on that here. It can still be had for around $150 and is one SERIOUS bag.

This also means that a single or two compartment bag can be considered which makes the aeronaut a more viable solution.

How much you can pack largely depends on how pack savvy you are. It usually takes a little while to figure out the optimal technique for each bag. For example in the Alpha bag you could probably put at least three rolled up boxers and three rolled up t's in one of the small side bags. They would compress nicely and fill the space completely. The other small side bag gets gadgets and the 311 baggie. The long side bag gets paperwork or pants. The main compartment can hold the bulky stuff.

I sorta agree with the ebags and Voyageur comments. The EO is probably preferable. However, I would not discount the 3000+ people who are quite happy with the weekender. That is a sampling size Redoxx and TB will never be able to match. I'd also say their opinion is a bit more objective because they haven't invested $200 in a bag and there is no hype, no cult status and no forums for this bag.

The Tri-zip interior pics are right there with the link I copied. Look under the main photo where it says interior pictures.

I think the RS is seriously underestimated. It has a very good layout. The construction seems to be robust enough. I haven't heard any horror stories at all. It even looks good. It is one of these things where the Veblen effect sets in. When something is really pricy it must be good. When something is rather cheap it can't be good. For rain resistant, treat with Nikwax or Teflon spray. Also, be realistic about how the bag gets used. If you are really into hiking and backpacking by all means, you should get a bag that is PU coated on the inside, with sealed seams and has DWI (nikwax) on the outside. If you occasionally travel in really rainy areas (India in monsoon) and just want to be sure your stuff doesn't get wet while the baggage handlers load it from the plane to the cart, it would probably be enough to line the bottom of the bag with grocery bags and top the load off with a grocery bag under the zipper. Or pack the fragile items in ziplocs or aloksaks. Cost, weight and volume added are totally negligible.

Oldpenny, I like the Skytrain. You could ask Gadgetfreak for his opinion, too. If you are ok with two compartments it should be a great bag. Since you said you are on the short side, I'd be perhaps concerned about the bag not being so comfortable or not being a good fit if your torso is short. But you can always try that out and send it back if you don't like it. I still wonder why they didn't make an Airboss with backpack straps. Would be easy enough.

Till
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Old Oct 26, 09, 4:33 pm
  #8  
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Originally Posted by tcl View Post
Have you looked at the MEC Shuttle II? It is 1.24 kg and claims to have 35L of capacity. It is slightly narrower than the maximum width allowed and had one of the most comfortable backpack straps I've tried on a convertible pack. The chest strap was also height adjustable so it could sit in just the right place. All hardware except for the actual zipper is black powder-coated metal. I tested this bag out in the store a few weeks ago and still have to post my brief impressions on it

The main compartment is 2/3 of the bag, while the front organization panel is 1/3 of the bag. The main compartment has elastic X-compression straps. The front compartment has an over-engineered organization panel you can cut out to reduce weight, and has extra room in front for the stashing of 3-1-1 bags, travel pillow, blanket, laptop and even more stuff. There is also a double zipper for this section so you can secure the front pocket if you have valuables inside. My only complaint is that the backpack straps when packed, does noticeably decrease the capacity of the main compartment but this is expected of all convertibles. BTW the back panel of the main compartment is also padded for comfort. MEC also sells nylon straps you can attach to the metal D-rings when in backpack mode to serve as a waist strap.

For comparison purposes, it is like a horizontal version of the ebags Weekender, but much higher quality.

Compared to the Patagonia MLC (which retails in Canada for CDN$200-ish @ Europe Bound & Sporting Life), the MEC Shuttle II is a good deal.

BTW I love that MEC has weight bags and pillows to simulate both weight and bulk of the bags. ^

However, for the best weight to capacity ratio, the Outdoor Products Essential Carry-on wins but after shipping and taxes may end up costing more than the MEC Shuttle II
I will look at the MEC Shuttle but it seems like a duffel bag only. That is, it is one large compartment and another pocket. What I like about the Aeronaut is that it stays open when empty and has a couple of pockets and things for organization.
I will check out the MEC bag tomorrow, though.
thanks
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Old Oct 26, 09, 4:45 pm
  #9  
 
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If maximum volume is important, are you contemplating a heavy load? Will you be carrying it far? If so, you might want to consider something with serious load management. The MEC is good choice, as is the Spire Meta. It is larger and heavier than the Aeronaut but has a great suspension. It also packs much more than anyone ought to carry. Of course we are really sliding into the travel pack area and not the luggage zone. Something a little smaller but amazingly lightweight is the Patagonia Lightweight Backpack Duffle (36 liters and less than a pound). None of these are particularly suitcase-like but you've already wandered away from that with the Aeronaut.
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Old Oct 26, 09, 6:40 pm
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I'll check it out in person, but the MEC Shuttle is on the small side if you multiply out the numbers.
I really would like something that approaches 40L (the Aeronaut does).

I wish there were a Briggs and Riley bag in this category. Evex here near Toronto has great deals on BR stuff and they are a repair depot as well.

The MEI Executive Overnight sounds the best but they've got delivery issues (not that I'm in a rush but they do sound rather flaky).
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Old Oct 26, 09, 7:27 pm
  #11  
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Originally Posted by oldpenny16 View Post
Till, where do you put RedOxx SkyTrain bag in all this? I'm thinking of SkyTrain for my next purchase.
Originally Posted by fredf1 View Post
Till
Very thoughtful reply.

By the way, I would be travelling casually and not taking jackets, dress pants, etc.

By the way, the rated capacities of some of these bags is a bit misleading. If you multiply out the external dimensions, it usually adds up to less than the manufacturer's rating, so they are including the full capacity of the little pockets on the outside--which may have little value.

I looked at the website for the Trizip: it's capacity is less than the Aeronaut. The price is the same. The shoulder straps appears less well shaped. It is arranged as 3 divisions horizontally as opposed to the Aeronaut but I'm not sure that makes a big difference. I didn't see a picture of the internals but there are no more helpful divisions that I could tell.

The ebags weekender: looks more like a traditional back pack to me. It is rated larger than the Tristar and is much cheaper. The straps look much more comfortable. But, I must say, it is really just one large compartment with a zippered front pocket from what I can see.

The MEI voyageur suffers from the same issues at the ebags. Check out this review: http://onebagger.squarespace.com/blo...ck-review.html

It turned me off the MEI. I'm not keen on a bag that has no 'shape' to it and collapses when being loaded.

The MEI Executive Overnighter is larger than the Voyageur is larger (good), better organized, and 3 compartments.
This bag seems like the Air Boss equivalent with backpack straps. Although it is less well made than the Air Boss.

I like the Rick Steve's but the zippers are less robust and the fabric is polyester rather than cordura. I would hate to have a breakdown while travelling and I think that rain resistant is an important feature.
I don't know why Steve's doesn't make an 'upgraded' bag for extra money. I'm sure there would be a market for that.

Any comments on my comments?
thanks
Originally Posted by tfar View Post
Ok, let's go one by one.

Traveling casually and no need to take dress clothes and jackets is a huge plus. Why? Because it allows for much easier packing, including bundle packing which saves space. It also means you don't need one large flat compartment to fit trousers and jackets with a minimum number of folds.

This also opens you up to bags that are more duffle style like the Eagle Industries or even an Eagle Creek duffle or a BAD duffle. Duffles have traditionally the best volume to weight ratio and also have a great volume to footprint ratio. Moreover, because duffels are so common, your chances of getting through the gate agent's gaze undetected with a bag that is even bigger than max allowed size are very good. They always let me take me 48 linear inch Valoroso duffel. Search for my post on that here. It can still be had for around $150 and is one SERIOUS bag.

This also means that a single or two compartment bag can be considered which makes the aeronaut a more viable solution.

How much you can pack largely depends on how pack savvy you are. It usually takes a little while to figure out the optimal technique for each bag. For example in the Alpha bag you could probably put at least three rolled up boxers and three rolled up t's in one of the small side bags. They would compress nicely and fill the space completely. The other small side bag gets gadgets and the 311 baggie. The long side bag gets paperwork or pants. The main compartment can hold the bulky stuff.

I sorta agree with the ebags and Voyageur comments. The EO is probably preferable. However, I would not discount the 3000+ people who are quite happy with the weekender. That is a sampling size Redoxx and TB will never be able to match. I'd also say their opinion is a bit more objective because they haven't invested $200 in a bag and there is no hype, no cult status and no forums for this bag.

The Tri-zip interior pics are right there with the link I copied. Look under the main photo where it says interior pictures.

I think the RS is seriously underestimated. It has a very good layout. The construction seems to be robust enough. I haven't heard any horror stories at all. It even looks good. It is one of these things where the Veblen effect sets in. When something is really pricy it must be good. When something is rather cheap it can't be good. For rain resistant, treat with Nikwax or Teflon spray. Also, be realistic about how the bag gets used. If you are really into hiking and backpacking by all means, you should get a bag that is PU coated on the inside, with sealed seams and has DWI (nikwax) on the outside. If you occasionally travel in really rainy areas (India in monsoon) and just want to be sure your stuff doesn't get wet while the baggage handlers load it from the plane to the cart, it would probably be enough to line the bottom of the bag with grocery bags and top the load off with a grocery bag under the zipper. Or pack the fragile items in ziplocs or aloksaks. Cost, weight and volume added are totally negligible.

Oldpenny, I like the Skytrain. You could ask Gadgetfreak for his opinion, too. If you are ok with two compartments it should be a great bag. Since you said you are on the short side, I'd be perhaps concerned about the bag not being so comfortable or not being a good fit if your torso is short. But you can always try that out and send it back if you don't like it. I still wonder why they didn't make an Airboss with backpack straps. Would be easy enough.

Till
I like the Skytrain a lot. Red Oxx is very high quality and seems very durable. I say seems, because I have only had my Skytrain for a year or so. But I have used it a lot in that time and it seems like new. I threw a Tom Bihn strap on it for carrying on shoulder initially but I like it more and more in back pack mode. The straps are well padded and comfortable to me. I do wonder why not three compartments, but if you can deal with the two compartments, and for some things it is an advantage, the Skytrain is first rate.
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Old Oct 26, 09, 7:50 pm
  #12  
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Two bags that almost do it for me are the Briggs-Riley Action Duffle 642--if only it had a backpack strap (http://www.briggs-riley.com/category...ion-Duffle_642). That is a very 'sophisticated' looking bag, it's about the right size (although they don't show a picture of the inside), and it weighs just under 4 lbs.

and

the BR Convertible Travel Tote 224 which DOES have the backpack straps and is under 4 lbs. My only worries with this are:
1. does it have the capacity of the Aeronaut or MEI Executive Overnighter
2. is it just a big open cavity or does it have some internal organization to aid packing.

Till, you seem to know an awful lot about BR bags. Can you answer these questions?

Re: the BR Convertible Tote 224: if you multiply out the dimensions (12.8 x 20 x 9") you get 2160 cubic inches. Yes, the BR website quotes 2571 cubic inches. So they are being very generous with their capacity estimate.

The TB Aeronaut (which I still find very attractive): is 22 x 14 x 9 or 2772 cubic inches. That is quite a bit larger.
But, these kinds of measurements can be deceiving. It depends on the intelligence behind these numbers... ie: where the pockets are, what subdivisions there are.

On the one hand, I know that one big pocket is the best way to achieve a large capacity but on the other hand dividing the space can allow for greater efficiency.

Unfortunately I have just been travelling with a large wide opening knapsack for years and don't have a lot of experience at evaluating these things.
I know that with what I have there are two main problems.
1. as there is no structure to it, when I open up my current knapsack, everything just falls out.
2. as it is just one big opening, it is hard to organize. Now maybe I just need to start using packing cubes (in fact I just picked up a couple of Eagle Creek cubes this week to use next time) but I still think that I'm getting tired of my knapsack.

So, tell me about the BR Convertible Tote. What is its capacity (compared to say the MEI or Aeronaut) and how well 'arranged' is it?

thanks and sorry for being so poorly informed
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Old Oct 26, 09, 8:14 pm
  #13  
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You folks really impress me!

Your attention to detail is amazing! I tend to underpack my bags but still could use something one step larger than my RedOxx Sun Chaser. SkyTrain may be too big for me.

I have a size advantage as I am short so my clothes and shoes are small. Now that my IPhone is doing so much for me, I don't have to haul around a computer and all that stuff.

I may go back to my RedOxx method of a couple years ago: Sun Chaser, Gator bag and a shopping bag. In a cunch I can put the Gator into the shopping bag for flights and then have to use of both at my destination.

Keep on thinking!
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Old Oct 26, 09, 11:53 pm
  #14  
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Originally Posted by fredf1 View Post
I will look at the MEC Shuttle but it seems like a duffel bag only. That is, it is one large compartment and another pocket. What I like about the Aeronaut is that it stays open when empty and has a couple of pockets and things for organization.
I will check out the MEC bag tomorrow, though.
thanks
The MEC Shuttle II is very much like the ebags weekender. It has a main compartment (2/3 of the total depth) and one large front compartment that is 1/3 the size of the total depth. In the front compartment there are a lot of organizational pockets. It has both a regular strap for using the bag as a suitcase/large briefcase and the attached backpack straps. The main selling point is that the organizational panel is horizontal for when using the bag as a briefcase rather than vertical like other Convertible bags on the market.

If you find that you like packing cubes, the Jansport Weekaway is divided into 2 halves with zippered mesh panels that essentially divide the bag into 2 large packing cubes. This bag is Max Sized plus the 2 front pockets that have a depth of an additional 2". Ebags will get more stock in, so do a search and it will pop up soon


Originally Posted by fredf1 View Post
I'll check it out in person, but the MEC Shuttle is on the small side if you multiply out the numbers.
I really would like something that approaches 40L (the Aeronaut does).
It is roughly the same total capacity as the Tom Bihn TriStar. However, the Shuttle II looks like it has more "give". It is the next size down from the Max Size.

Originally Posted by fredf1 View Post
Any ideas and thoughts? I would like the maximum volume for external dimensions in a lighter type of bag. But it must have the possibility of backpacking it.

thanks
The Tom Bihn Aeronaut will essentially function more as a duffle, the way it is set up. Underpacking the Aeronaut will cause the bag and its contents to flop about. A cheaper alternative to the Aeronaut is the Tactical Tailor & they even have the same style but slightly better (i.e. longer zippers on the side pockets) in some ways and not as good in others (no side handles).

If you are planning to actually backpack, I would advise against most of the bags mentioned here and go for a proper backpack and use packing cubes to help organize the space. These hybrid bags get sweaty and don't breath well when worn as a backpack for long periods of time and the weight doesn't sit in the right place, causing backache and sore shoulders. Real backpacks have breathable fabric on the back panel and the design is more ergonomic. If you must get a Convertible bag, then the MEI Voyageur is the best of the bunch for backpacking comfort because of the stays and the padded waistbelt.

Another thing to consider is the total weight of the packing cubes you are using and combining that with a lightweight but unstructured/partly structured bag. This might be the best option in terms of weight + organization, rather than starting with a triple pocket 5-lb+ monster of a bag and then adding another pound of accessories before clothes.

There is also the Tatonka Flight Case but unfortunately no one in the GTA carries this, but you can order online from a place in BC.

Last edited by tcl; Oct 27, 09 at 12:00 am Reason: added link
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Old Oct 27, 09, 12:42 am
  #15  
 
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Fred, tcl is right a soft bag with some accessories might be better than a more structured bag in certain cases.

The thing is you need to find out where your priorities are.

Max-size
backpack straps
good looks
best volume to weight ratio
features (which ones)

Giving your typical packing list will also help to evaluate your needs. As well as giving your style of traveling, types of planes taken, destinations.

If you do a forum search on the 224 you will see there are some here who own it. One lady among them recently posted a little review.

The 224 is basically one big compartment. There is a side compartment for shoes, a built in shoe sack so to say. You can either use that for anything you want or not use it. The sack will fold flat inside the bag and not use any extra space. Given that you travel for leisure, two Rick Steves packing cubes will do great and add minimal weight.

Did you check out the Valoroso VD25 four pocket duffel I was talking about?

Till
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