A Post-Travel Gear Review…

I wanted to share a Gear Review for those who may be thinking of traveling long and light in the distant or not too distant future.  Just a note:  these are not paid or endorsed advertisements – just my personal experience and opinions.

I spent some months prior to the trip researching and trying out all manner of carry-on bags, shoulder bags, packing cubes, alternatives to minimize the liquids limit, shoes, outerwear, etc.  The shoes and shoulder bag search in particular was extensive but – overall – I am happy I spent as much time as I did finding the perfect solutions for my travel needs.  Know that I am a recovering Type A  Analyst Perfectionist so no stone was left unturned in this pursuit.  If you can use my reviews to assist and/or minimize your time spent in this endeavor – all the better! 

eBag’s Mother Lode TLS Convertible Carry-on –

eBag Mother Lode TLS new

eBag after 3 mos travel

I truly can’t say enough about this bag!  In the side by side comparison photos you see what it was like brand new and what it’s like today after being thrown in boat holds, trashed around buses, trains and stations, drug occasionally, rained on a lot, tossed in trunks of cars and generally treated like Cinderella way before Prince Charming showed up.  I could pack an amazing amount of stuff in it and the internal straps kept the load balanced rather than compressing to the bottom with gravity.  This helped immensely when I had to walk miles with about 25lbs on my back. I found it comfortable for extended periods and the shoulder straps distributed the weight evenly.  I did notice that my shoulders were sore if I had to carry all that weight for more than about 2 hours but I think I can attribute that to an aging kinda out of shape body. The chest strap helped as well.  The expandable zipout came in handy and – with the external compression straps – I could still reef it down tight enough to pass all the myriad airport’s carry-on dimension regs.  The design is top notch for organization and access.  I was in and out of many places and being able to pack this bag well (packing cubes employed) in about 10 minutes was a godsend.  The only wear I’ve noticed is a very tiny pull on the stitching of the left shoulder strap but not separating.  This I can probably attribute to slinging just one strap on my shoulder – again – fully loaded.  The three well placed external handles came in very handy for getting it easily in and out of overhead compartments, trunks, etc.  The rear compartment was handy for stuffing my empty shoulder bag in for those flights that allowed only one bag.  Will was so impressed – he bought one as well and is of the same opinion after his ‘sea trials’.  All this and – at $99 – the price was incredibly reasonable for the value.  In retrospect it allows me to feel better about the 13 euro/ea. French coffees in Paris… I doubt I will ever use my wheeled bag again.  http://www.ebags.com/product/ebags/mother-lode-tls-weekender-convertible/143101?productid=1370034

Bagallini Big Sydney Shoulder Bag –

Big Sydney after 3 mos travel

The search for the perfect shoulder bag took me everywhere on the web and all over Seattle and Portland.   I had so many very sepecific  requirements.  Not the least of which was I did NOT want a daypack that screamed ‘tourist’ – a bit for safety and mostly about vanity.  My iPad2 had to fit easily into some accessible pocket as well as convenient places for other travel paraphernalia.  It had to lend itself to easy organization, have only one shoulder strap that could be lengthened to allow carrying cross-body, the design had to make pickpocketing near impossible, the zips and pulls had to be heavy duty, it had to be big enough to carry a sweater, scarf, water bottle and other incidentals for a day of meandering (but it had to be small enough not to feel like I was carrying a suitcase).  It had to be light but of durable fabric and be able to flatten to fit into my carry-on for flights that allowed only one bag.  Oh, and it absolutely had to be stylish – very important.  The Bagallini Big Sydney was perfect – no complaints and no drawbacks for me.  It held up well even after being stuffed in the rear compartment of the carry-on for extended periods.  http://www.baggallini.com/product1.asp?collection=’intl’&product=’BSYS498′

Exofficio Urban Travel Jacket-

Exoffcio urban travel jacket

Very lightweight, stylish and pockets everywhere!  The deep inner ones were perfect for stuffing most of the contents of the shoulderbag when it I couldn’t carry it on a flight.  I liked that it came down mid thigh for warmth.  Virtually wrinkle free even after being packed tightly for long periods of time. Dust and dirt cleaned up easily by just wiping the area.  My only complaint is that it is not wind resistant at all.  It’s not water resistant either but unless I was in a complete downpour – it was sufficient.  Will bought their travel slacks and was impressed.  http://www.exofficio.com/

Naots Footwear – the Believe Sandal –

Naots Believe after 3 mos travel

Because I was committed to one carry-on bag

Naots Believe new

– I had to have one pair of shoes that could to it all.  They had to be comfortable walking all day on varied surfaces, work in different climate zones  and be sturdy enough to take a beating and last the entire 3 months and beyond.  Oh, and dress up and dress down as situations dictated.  The Naots Believe sandal was selected because it has ample toe room and could double as shoes or sandals depending on where I found myself.  The cork footbed molded to my foot well.  They got thoroughly soaked on numerous occasions and never swelled – even when I removed them to dry out.  I walked 6 to 8 hours for days on end and my only complaint was – due to my long stride and heavy heel strike – I had sore heels.  The elastic on the heel strap got a bit stretched over time and the leather stretched due to my feet swelling in the hotter climates.  I would not recommend these shoes for women with narrow feet or a high arch.  I have neither so they were perfect.  Overall – other than a bit of color fade – they held up really well considering all I put them through.  In my opinion they were worth the considerable expense.

eBag Packing Cubes –

Rick Steves and eBag Packing Cube comparison

In all my previous traveling I never used packing cubes.  I will always use them now.  They were so handy for organization and very quick unpacking and re-packing.  If customs had to see something – I didn’t have to unload everything in the bag to satisfy their curiosity.  I bought both Rick Steves and eBag cubes.  Having used both  – I prefer the eBag model.  They have handles which I found convenient if I wanted to use the cube for toting stuff to a shower or laundry.  They are of sturdier mesh and material and the zipper and pulls were of better quality. The medium sized cube’s capacity was on par with the Rick Steves model.  They are similarly prices so I feel the eBag packing cubes are a better value.   www.ebags.com

Misc. Gear –
Solid Shampoo and Conditioner – Nice idea in theory to cut down on the population in the liquids bag.  In practice they basically dissolved after only two uses even though their containers had drainage. 
Collapsible Water Bottle – It worked, weighed nothing and – when empty – took up very little space.  I probably wouldn’t buy another one simply because it was way too hard to clean and sanitize.
3 oz. Liquids Containers –  Tried the Go Toobs and was very disappointed.  The lids popped off and they leaked.  The plastic seemed to be porous depending on the liquid/gel inside so I found they also ‘bled’ contents occasionally.  The best containers  I found were old sample size hotel containers with screw down lids.

One response to “A Post-Travel Gear Review…

  1. Great info. I am trying to decide which ebag back pack to get as a personal item/ carry on, the mother lode jr, the macroloader or the etech jr. I am glad to hear your bag worked so well for u. And thankful that u spared me the go toob experience 🙂

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