Spending a great deal of time working remote and traveling will give you a healthy appreciation for at least two things: airports and luggage.
You’ll also probably like things like Macbook Air’s and a good pair of ear buds (pss – if you’re serious about great audio and mic quality in an affordable package, go for the Klipsch S4′s – amazing) but for an aspiring minimilist, nothing captures the imagination like spending 6 hours in a tin can flying 600 miles per hour.
It’s like taking a subset of everything you own and saying, actually, this is all I REALLY need for 2 weeks… And as you cut down more and more stuff and make your list smaller and smaller, you begin to really care about the things on that list.
I remember I was reading an article about Andrew Hyde’s 15 things list one time, and the blogger commented on the tendency of minimilists to mention brand names for each entry. Trust me – I understand this completely. Curating your possessions to the point where you have only a few things in each category is a deeply personal experience. The items that you have left are like cherished friends that you just couldn’t bear to give up. And when choosing between items, the brand itself becomes part of the story, part of the personality of each item. It’s hard to explain without sounding a little crazy =) But I digress…
The other side effect of caring deeply for the possessions that you do have is that you end up really, really caring about what bag you use to PUT all that stuff in. Since I was going to be doing some traveling in Fall, 2012 and Spring, 2013 I thought this would be the perfect time to throw out this ugly, black, rolling duffle I had bought years ago and start over and do things right.
But where to start?
Well, I looked up all the other names in adventure minimalism (I think I just made that up). Andrew uses a Mei Voyageur (bright orange in fact). I took a look at it, and then I thought “yeah, no.. not going to happen”. When going for 1 or 2 week consulting trips, you’re requirements are a bit different then adventure traveling for 9 months.
And then I came across the “One Bag, One World” movement… Well, actually that’s a blog, but the idea is that if you are going on a trip, to have a bag that you can fit EVERYTHING you need into this carry on bag and be self-sufficient for weeks (if not months). That sounded interesting, and when you explore the rabbit hole of Google pursuing this line of thinking, there are clearly two distinct leaders in the “business/professional carry on” space. The Red Oxx Air Boss and the Tom Bihn Aeronaut.
I suppose I should thank these guys for splitting the market (at least on discussion forums all over the web). The nice thing about this is that the two bags could not be more different. Each has its own distinct pros and cons and which mesh neatly with a set of desired requirements. Let’s post some pictures so we can see just how different these two bags are in both look and functionality.
“Perfect! I thought. I just need to decide what I want to use this bag for, and then the clear winner will emerge!”… again, not so fast. Here is the quick list of pros and cons I came up with:
Air Boss (pros)
- Seemed to be more of the professional businessmans choice due to the full full zippers (better for suits, blazers and shirts)
- Seriously heavy duty YKK zippers
- Bold colors and design
- Central interior pocket where you could put another Red Oxx laptop case (ie. metro)
Air Boss (cons)
- Heavier material than the Aeronaut
- No backpack straps
- Slightly funky design
- The Red Oxx “claw” straps got consistently worse reviews than the TB shoulder straps
- I prefer rolling my clothes, not folding
- Personal taste, but I preferred the Aeronaut design – classier
- Lighter material
- Had backpack straps
- Had a much better internal system to attach smaller pouches for passports, airline tickets etc…
- To stay organized in the center compartment, you’d need to buy additional packing cubes from Tom Bihn, at $20 each
- To get the better carry strap, it’s another $30
I think I trawled the forum and discussion boards for two days weighing in on all the comparative articles and personal stories… It’s actually very common for someone to end up getting both bags, as they both serve different use cases. Here are some of the articles and reviews for both bags.
- One Bag – Red Oxx Air Boss bag – full user review
- Practical Hacks – Review: Red Oxx Air Boss – bulletproof “one bag” workhorse!
- Kiledjian – My review of the Red Oxx AirBoss carry-on luggage
- Robstrants – My Red Oxx Air Boss Review (five part series)
- Gadgeteer – Tom Bihn Aeronaut Maximum Carry On Bag & Accessories
- Survival Review -Tom Bihn Aeronaut Review Video
- Bagging the Bag – Tom Bihn Aeronaut
- Gadling – 5 days 5 bags – Day 5: Tom Bihn Aeronaut
Ultimately, it came down to three factors only:
- How important was it to have the OPTION to have backpack straps to me… this is less relevant for professional travel, of course, and more relevant for adventure traveling… (ie. Aeronaut)
- How important was it stick to my preferred way of packing (rolling) vs needing to adopt folding… (ie. Aeronaut)
- How important was it to be able to fit in a Red Oxx laptop Metro case and seriously ONE BAG it on my trips… (ie. Air Boss)
The bags both performed above and beyond on every other criteria of a premier carry on luggage (at least, for one in the $200 – $300 range) so it came down to those three issues. Ultimately, I did want backpack straps, and I did want to go with a packing cube/rolling methadology, so the Tom Bihn bag came out ahead by a hair.
Now that I have actually owned the bag for almost 1 month now, I can say with confidence that it was the right choice, hands down for actually another reason that I didn’t even think of at the time or weigh into my requirements. The Tom Bihn bag makes an excellent CASUAL bag… I’ve taken this bag on bike rides (backpack straps, mind you) and to picknicks and to trips to the coffee shop and even to the grocery store when I have a large amount of groceries to buy. I use it as a gym bag and a laundry bag perhaps once or twice a week. So what you end up getting in the Aeronaut (with one central, large compartment rather than three separate compartments) is a level of versatility that the Air Boss can’t match.
Similarly, I prefer the Tom Bihn material substantially more than the Red Oxx material. It has this quality about it that’s hard to describe.. a particular sheen that just looks and feels great.
For the unique, and specific requirement of professional travel, for less than 2 weeks, with mostly professional clothes – suits, ties, blazers – I think the Air Boss would be better, but for edge cases and ever day usability, the Aeronaut wins hands down.
Here’s what my set up looks like now:
There are a few pieces to the puzzle that make everything work.
First, the two LARGE sized packing cubes – one for shirts, one for pants.
Second, the MEDIUM sized packing cube – underwear and socks for one week.
Third, a toiletries bag I picked up on Amazon that’s just the right size for the end pocket.
Fourth, the extra-comfortable Tom Bihn carry strap… I’ve compared it to the claw, and it is definitely more comfortable.
There’s only one thing missing, which is that I still don’t have a good laptop case that’s only 3-4 inches wide (I’m using a sleeve, but that’s non-optimal). I’m still on the lookout, so if you have any suggestions let me know!