Posts Tagged bags
The new Eagle Creek FlipSwitch is a very fun and useful hybrid wheeled carry-on / backpack. It does, however, take some playing around with and trial and error to fully ‘get’ it. Before I tried it out, I wondered whether it was going to score high on novelty points in the double duty gear category, but low on practicality points. I’m happy to say that’s not the case.
First, here’s what it is and how it works: At first glance, the FlipSwitch looks like your standard wheeled carry-on. It comes in two sizes, 22″ for the carry-on version and 28″ for the larger or checked bag version. It’s soft-sized with ripstop fabric under a lifetime warranty, has reinforced sections where bags are subject to the most abuse, and two-sided, lockable zippers in two compartments. There’s also a zippered water bottle holder, two reinforced handles (one on the side and one at the top), and nice, easy to roll wheels (with a pull handle, of course).
However, unzip the outside compartment, and you’ll find a full suspension backpack system. This includes a fully padded, vented back, padded shoulder straps, a fully adjustable waist belt, and even a chest strap. Within the back pad is a small zippered compartment, and behind the whole system is an extra, roomy pocket. It takes about one minute for a newbie to switch the bag from carry-on to backpack and be on the go again, but I imagine I’ll get my time down to under 30 seconds as I get more familiar with the bag.
Do you need it? This was my first question once I’d become familiar with how the FlipSwitch works. The fact is, the backpack system does take a substantial amount of space in the bag, and we all know how precious space is in our wheeled carry-ons. That said, the backpack system is removable. You could absolutely leave it at home and use the space for more storage. Of course, I know the minute I do that, I’ll encounter a situation in which I need the backpack.
Whether having this nifty backpack option is worth the space it takes depends entirely on your mode of travel and preferred method of carrying your bag. For standard air travel, I’ve found I haven’t used the backpack once. The next time I’m flying, I’ll remove it from the pack before leaving. However, for road trip travel and trips when I need to carry my bag long distances in cities, I have used the backpack every time.
If you opt to keep the backpack system attached, but not used, you basically lose the storage space of the outer compartment. This leaves you with the interior compartment, which is small by carry-on standards (35L). You do also have a small zippered pocket on the lid of the inner compartment, good for storage smaller items, toiletries, or power cords. There’s also reflective striping and an ID pocket.
What it comes down to: is the FlipSwitch a quality bag? Yes. And I’m not surprised; I’ve always been able to trust the Eagle Creek name. But for $275 for the 22″ model, you’re paying for both a bag and a backpack. If you need both, this is a great value. If not, the FlipSwitch is probably more than you need. Pick one up in light blue or black at Eagle Creek or Backcountry for $275, or find one for around $250 at Amazon.
Where are you supposed to put all that cycling gear when you’re not using it in transit? This Mountainsmith Bike Cube Deluxe is the bag meant to hold it all.
If you’re like most cyclists, you often get your bike to where it needs to go by car first. You put it on a bike rack, ride to the starting point, then get all of your gear out of the car before taking off.
This bag is the one that keeps all that stuff together: helmet, gloves, tools, shoes, glasses, lights, and whatever else you usually need. The general idea is that you keep everything bike-related in this one catch-all and then you just grab and go when it’s time to ride. If you’re the type who loves Mountainsmith’s Modular Hauler system or K-9 Cube, this is another organization aid to keep your car camping or road tripping auto from getting trashed.
Speaking of trashed, this thing even includes a mat for you to lay out for changing from regular shoes to cycling shoes if you’re the type that brings separate shoes. Or just to change out of your muddy ones into something else after mountain biking, for the ride home. The mat then goes in a separate pouch on the outside of the bag.
It also comes with a nice tool organizer for tune-ups and plenty of pockets of different sizes in three sections, some of them mesh and some not, plus a Velcro organizer flap you can move around. I like how the middle section is vented so if damp things are in there some air can circulate.
There’s a handle on the top that secures with Velcro plus a shoulder strap in case you need to walk a ways with it. The only downside of all this storage space is…it’s not going with you on the bike. It’s meant to stay behind in a vehicle, house, or hotel.
The Mountainsmith Bike Cube Deluxe lists for $80, but right it’s going for under $50 at Amazon. That’s a fantastic value for something designed this well that holds so much. You can also check prices at Rock Creek and eBags.
A year ago when a lot of people left the Outdoor Retailer show raving about some new technical fleece or stay-dry sleeping bag, one thing that really grabbed me was a new line of luggage Eagle Creek was putting out that could be stored in a tiny corner of a closet. It wasn’t even on the floor or a shelf—it was hanging on a display rack. Yeah I know, for most Americans living in oversized houses filled with overflowing stuff, finding a place in the garage for suitcases isn’t a big deal. But if you live in a small apartment in New York, San Francisco, or Europe, space is at a premium.
I recently got my hands on one of these No Matter What rolling duffel bags from Eagle Creek and if I still lived in my old 480-square-foot condo across the river from Manhattan, I’d be ready to give some designer at the company a kiss.
The first photo you see here is what this large capacity 105-liter rolling bag looks like when it’s full. And believe me, it’s hard for a guy like me to even make this thing full. I packed it with anything and everything I thought I would need for a one-week vacation and still had plenty of room to spare. Even with three pairs of shoes, a couple books, a sweater, and a coat. I wasn’t too worried about the weight though because I was in my own car and hey, it has wheels! As with all Eagle Creek bags, they’re good wheels too—ones that aren’t going to blow out on you at just the wrong time.
This being a duffel, it’s not all that complicated. One big zipper with two lockable zip tabs runs the length of the bag and inside is a big open space to stuff with your belongings. If you want to be organized, you can use Eagle Creek’s packing cubes, folders, and sacks. There’s a handle on the top where two loops join, a handle on the end opposite the wheels, and a shoulder strap you can take or leave behind. Compression buckles keep everything reigned in. The fabric is tough water-resistant dual ripstop nylon.
The pouch that the bag stuffs into doubles as a laundry bag you can bring along, with mesh on the sides. When you get back home (or when in a tiny hotel room), after unpacking you can stuff this whole shebang into that small pouch, which you can see from this photo next to a size 10 shoe, is not going to be a space hog in your closet or under the bed.
There are not many rolling bags of any kind out there that can compress to this size when not in use, so if your living quarters are nothing like those in sprawling suburbia, this compacting duffel could be the ticket. The one I tried out is the large size, but you can also get one in XL: three feet long and holding 128 liters of capacity (7,800 cubic inches). Both of these weigh less than four pounds, but if you stuff the latter to capacity you might run into a weight limit issue with the airline. Have a luggage scale handy while packing.
These packable rolling duffel bags come in blue or black and retail for $130 (large) and $140 (XL). What takes them from “decent deal” to “great deal!” is Eagle Creek’s No Matter What warranty, the kind of promise you usually have to pay three times this much to receive: whatever happens, they’ll fix it or replace it, for the life of the product. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Lightweight luggage is a prerequisite for me. My travels take me on long two to three week jaunts extending over continents and hemispheres that require multiple styles of clothing. With carry-on only as my travel prerogative, I have no choice but to drag along heavy electronic cords and accessories in my travels. This means that I must limit the rest of my accessories to lightweight gear including clothing and normal purchases.
The benefit of the eBags Mother Lodge wheeled duffel is that I can tack on extra poundage in purchases since the bag weighs less than traditional carry-ons. Its soft-shell exterior is an extreme departure from my normal hard-shell bags, which means I should be careful what I include inside the ebags suitcase (no expensive electronics or liquid duty free items unless very carefully padded).
It is a spacious bag with a soft exterior meaning that I can overstuff it to my heart’s content. One reason why it does not perform to the same standards as hard-shell bags is that it can tend to bulge in corners when full, but it can also squeeze more easily into tight spaces this way since it has more flexibility. Compression straps are a perfect way to constrict the overall volume of the bag so that it can fit into small spaces.
Its exterior pockets are a tremendous benefit since stowing items at a moment’s notice is common for frequent travelers and hard-shell suitcases make it a more cumbersome process. Inside, an adjustable middle divider keeps items separated, which is helpful for dress shirts or blazers that you want to keep wrinkle-free.
As it is, it fits easily into standard airline overhead bins and poses no problems with domestic airlines although international travelers may want to be aware that some foreign airlines will weigh baggage at check-in so remove heavy items before being weighed at the counter (and add them again after you leave the counter since foreign airlines have ridiculously low carry-on limits).
Without a handle to grab it on its side, some bellhops may flinch, but experienced business travelers will find this to be a convenient alternative to the more traditional, heavy carry-ons. The retractable and sturdy handle that pulls from the back and two thick wheels that sit at the bag’s base make this a solid road warrior’s companion. Sure, it may not look like a CEO’s briefcase, but it is flexible and lightweight making it ideal for travelers on a long haul. It is available from eBags’ website for just over $189.
What was the best travel gear of the year? Which were the most interesting travel clothing items, shoes, gadgets, and bags?
We review a useful piece of travel gear or outdoor clothing each weekday. Taking out a few holidays here and there, that’s close to 250 items in the course of a year. We keep on using a lot of them after we’ve posted the review, seeing how well they hold up and how useful they are in our frequent jaunts around the country and the globe. Here’s what stood out for us in 2012, in the writers’ own words.
Ramsey Qubein’s Business Travel Gear Favorites
I love my Able Planet Clear Harmony noise-reducing headphones. They are affordable, lightweight, and come in a great, sturdy carrying case with an airplane adapter. When used to plug into audio channels or for watching videos on an airplane or with my laptop, the sound quality is impeccable proving they were worth taking up the valuable space in my carry-on.
Dressing up and dressing down is often a challenge too, but my Bostonian travel shoes from Clarks make that task easy. The loafers are easy to slip on and off at security and on the plane, and pounding the big-city pavement in these shoes is very comfortable.
My Briggs & Riley carry-on bag expands when I overstuff it, but still fits easily into overhead bins of most planes (I still dread those regional jets as much as you). This Baseline suitcase is great for business travelers because it supports folded suits well while also providing easy-to-access pockets on the outside.
When I do get time off, the Sierra Designs Frequency jacket has surprisingly proven a sharp favorite because I can scrunch it up into a tight corner of my bag, wrap it around my waist, or wear it anytime I am in cool weather without it being too bulky. Plus, the stylish accent colors on the black, zip-up jacket are attractive in almost any setting.
Amy Whitley’s Best Outdoor and Family Gear Bests
The Osprey Aura-50 literally saved my neck on a four-day backpacking trek last July, earning it a place on my list of top travel gear for 2012. What sets the Aura-50 apart from other backpacks is its customization: with plenty of ways to adjust the pack and harness, it will fit you correctly, reducing neck and back pain as you hike with heavy loads.
I reach for the Aventura 2-in-1 dress more often than any other item of travel clothing. It’s a halter dress and a skirt, and can be dressed up or down. Put it over a swimsuit or take it out on the town.
I use my Haiki Hobo 2 bag every single day, and it shows literally no wear. Plus, it’s made of recycled materials, so I can feel good as well as look good.
Our whole family now wears Polarmax technical base layers. What I love: they’re high quality without the high price. These base layers are no-frills goodness.
Tim Leffel’s Globetrotting Traveler Gear Picks
It’s getting harder each year to find something truly unique and groundbreaking, so this Camelback All Clear stood out for solving a huge plastic bottle garbage problem in a unique way. Using a similar technology to the SteriPen (a perennial favorite), this water bottle purifies any tap water you put inside it. I’ve used it in five countries where you can’t drink the water normally, and everything was “all clear” in the health of me and my family.
The item I probably used the most this year was a simple one: the Eagle Creek packable daypack. The company gave these away at the Adventure Travel Summit last year and every well-traveled delegate I’ve met since is still using it and raving about it. It packs down tiny in any bag, but is strong enough to be a functional daypack for sightseeing.
I was thrilled to see more companies putting out lightweight, easy-to-pack travel shoes this year. I liked all of them and have used the Teva Mush Frio ones the most, but these Timberland Camp Shoes that zip in half win the innovation prize. The only ones all year that made my 12-year-old say “That’s so cool!” Honorable mention to Wolverine for their adjustable disk to customize rugged hiking shoes for different feet and situations.
It’s been hard to avoid hearing about P^Cubed Pants if you’re someone who reads travel blogs or magazines, or checks out the SkyMall catalog even. The Pick Pocket Proof Pants scream “backpacker” in the original style (fine for real adventures), but the business pants are nice enough to wear to meetings, while still making sure you won’t get pickpocketed walking from one place to the next in Rome.
The gadget I loved at first use has been with me on every long trip since: the Innergie 3-in-1 PocketCell Travel Charger pictured at the top of this post. I know I can get on a flight across an ocean and still have power when I arrive for my Android cell phone or fast-draining iPod Touch. And the same cord works for both.
Last, a shout-out to Microsoft for finally creating a mobile interface that doesn’t make people want to throw their devices across the room. Their tile system on Windows phones and the new Windows 8/RT operating system for tablets is terrific, making the home screen interactive and informative at a glance. And hey, you can surf Flash sites and use Windows Office programs to get real work done, meaning you don’t have to carry a tablet and a laptop on business.
Jill Robinson’s Outdoor and Active Gear Favorites
A lot of my travel this year has focused on outdoor adventures, and it’s not always easy for me to find clothing that I’d be happy to use on nearly every trip. But once I do, I’m a loyal girl. The ExOfficio Nomad Skirt is not only comfortable and stylish, it dries super quick—which is optimal when you pack so light that you rely on evening hotel room sink laundry sessions. Also, for those of us who abhor having to use an iron on a regular basis, it’s wrinkle resistant.
Similarly, the Isis Rim Rock Short is something that gets tossed in my bag almost every time. The shorts are lightweight, durable, wrinkle resistant, and rugged yet cute enough to wear on city streets without getting weird looks.
The Eddie Bauer BC-200 Hard Shell Jacket is my go-to storm jacket for my travels. It protects me from the wind and rain, but it doesn’t take up much of my valuable suitcase space.
I test wheeled, carry-on suitcases out all the time, and while I like many of them, I’ve used the Gregory Cache 22 Suitcase for most of my trips this year. The wide handle allows me to pack my clothing flat, and the oversize wheels help me manage a variety of terrain without the bag spinning out.
The item that’s made the cut into my everyday life is the LifeProof iPhone Case. Not just for travel, it keeps my phone dry and protected from falls without adding bulk. It’s great when I’m on the water, in the snow, in dusty places, and even when I’m around kids or other folks who spill a lot.
How about you? What did you pick up in the past year that you couldn’t bear to part with now?