In case you haven't realized it yet, my plan isn't just to spend a year traveling. It's to spend a year traveling with just a single carry-on sized bag. Therefore the choice of bag is, to put it mildly, somewhat important. The best website out there for packing light is that of the one-bag guru Doug Dyment. If you're looking for great information on what to pack, how to pack, and what to pack it all in, you can't go wrong at that site.
Here are my basic criteria for an RTW bag (RTW is short for 'Round The World, and is what all the Cool Kids say). My bag must be:
- Soft-sided - No wheels! They add weight and take away interior space. Also, they're Hell on cobblestones, dirt, grass, gravel... really anything that isn't a smooth airport concourse or featureless sidewalk. I know there will be times I wish I could roll along, but I think overall the extra weight and bulk would be too much.
- Convertible - meaning it can be carried with a handle like a suitcase, or with a shoulder strap, or with stow-away backpack straps. Note that the backpack straps on convertibles aren't nearly as ergonomically designed as those on REAL trekking backpacks, but I'm not climbing Everest here.
- Carry-on sized - Every airline has slightly different rules which makes this is a slippery concept, but most people seem to agree that about 9" x 14" x 22" is a reasonable size (about 45 litres). A bag this size will end up being too big to carry on with a few airlines, but anything small enough for all contingencies might be, well, too small. (For a look at a bag that would probably pass anywhere, check out the Tom Bihn Westen Flyer and imagine living out of 26 litres for a year.)
- Tough - This bag has to last me through a year of packing and unpacking almost every day. While my eBags Weekender Convertible was a steal at $69.99, I really don't think it would last.
Here's what the Aeronaut looks like:It's pricey, especially when you add in things like the Absolute Shoulder Strap, and the Convertible Packing Cube, but I have a feeling this is an area where I really shouldn't cheap out.
Here's what I like about the bag:
- It's got a few compartments which will help with organization, but it doesn't have so many pockets that I'll forget where I put things.
- I think the end pockets will be big enough to hold two pairs of shoes in one end and a day pack with Eee PC, guidebook, MP3 player, and snack in the other end. This would make for easy extraction of the day pack before stowing the main bag and sitting down in a plane, train, bus, rickshaw, donkey cart etc...
- I like that it's got lots of places to grab - both ends and the top, plus the straps.
- Most reviewers say that they were able to fit lots more into the bag than they expected, and found it more comfortable to carry than they thought they would, despite the weight.
- It's expensive, and there's really no way I can get a look at one without shelling out the money up front.
- It only comes in red, black and grey. Though the red is flashy, I'm leaning towards grey.
- There's no obvious place for a water bottle, unlike the Rick Steves bag, which is also a contender (though the decided underdog) in my One Bag Smackdown.
- The square-shaped centre compartment looks like it might be kind of awkward to pack.