Sunday, April 05, 2009
A True Carry-on Bag: Tom Bihn Aeronaut
If you've ever stood in a line of people in the connector between the airplane and the airport, waiting for your gate-checked bag to arrive from the luggage hold, you know that the phrase "carry-on bag" is not a strict one. The Eagle Creek 22-inch Hovercraft bag I reviewed earlier, for example, is technically a carry-on, but only for the largest jets. And if a gate agent ever made me stick it into one of those frames by the gate, no way it would fit.
This Aeronaut bag from Tom Bihn is a different story, as you can see from the airport gate photo I shot above after it was fully packed. It fits easily and it even "meets Heathrow requirements." I used this bag on a four-day trip to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, which it turns out is not a very warm place to be right now, so I had to pack some warm things.
Amazingly though, it holds 45 liters (2700 cubic inches). I packed all I needed for a four-day trip and still had room to spare. I'm talking a pair of shoes, a fleece jacket, four shirts, three t-shirts, three pairs of pants, a bathing suit, two hats, underwear and hiking socks, an extra belt, a deck of cards, a thin nylon daypack, and chargers for my gadgets. It holds far more than I expected when I first loked at it.
It weighs about two and a half pounds empty, which is less than half what any "lightweight" carry-on with wheels weighs. You can pay an extra $20 for a shoulder strap if you don't have one already, but it has regular handles and zip-away straps that make it work as a backpack.
This is one tough bag I expect to put through its paces for many years to come. The best zippers, the toughest ripstop nylon, and made in the USA on top of it. It also works with the Tom Bihn packing cubes I reviewed a few posts back. One size of those fits exactly in the rectangular side pockets that are on both ends of this bag, so you can stuff a lot into those and then pull them out and be organized at your hotel.
This Aeronaut bag is not the cheapest one you'll find, but $180 is still a good value considering the workmanship and quality materials. If you're a road warrior that needs to pack a lot for short trips or you just hate handing money to airlines for rapacious extra baggage fees, this can be your "one bag" you can use for every trip. It comes in three colors and you can buy it in Tom Bihn's Seattle store or direct from the Tom Bihn site. Highly recommended.
[Editor note - changed purchase text per comment below: Seattle-only retail availability. Buy online.]