I’ve been taking more long-haul trips lately (which I define as anything over 4-5 hours) and was finding myself frustrated by the lack of any convenient carryon solution on the plane or at my destination. For the last few years I’ve just used my backpack, a somewhat excessive North Face hand-me-down I got from Megan after she graduated and I upgraded to a 15″ MacBook Pro that no longer fit in my old bag. The backpack made me look even younger compared to everyone else in the first class cabin when I got upgraded, and I would really stick out as a tourist if I took it with me around town.
Then I took a trip to Spain last August and lost 150 euros on my first day. They likely fell out of my pocket as I was fishing around for a map or something in my sleep-deprived state after an early morning arrival. That’s a big chunk of change for a student, and after hearing about it my dad gave me a Pacsafe shoulder bag for my birthday in September. He had used a similar one during a recent trip to Tuscany, and it really is an almost perfect travel bag. I think he also really likes the turtle on the front. I’m not getting any kind of compensation for this review, but I encourage you to check out Pacsafe’s products on their website.
The primary marketing appeal of Pacsafe bags is their anti-theft security features. I own a Metrosafe 200 model, which retails for about $70. In addition to being a great bag, it has steel mesh fabric in the bag lining and the shoulder strap, as well as a key chain clip that’s long enough to reach the top zipper. All of these features help prevent you from losing your bag or its contents if someone tries to come from behind with a box cutter and slash your bag. The strap won’t break, and the bottom won’t fall out, frustrating your would-be assailant.
However, I’m not particularly paranoid about theft when I travel. What I really like about the bag is how well it holds just about everything I need without bulging or looking like I’m packing for a days-long expedition. It’s slightly bigger than an iPad, so it will hold that just fine, but it also has enough pockets and general roominess to hold a lot of other stuff, too. And I mean A LOT! Here are some pictures of the bag with everything I could possibly want already inside it. (The wine bottle is just for a size reference, but I wish I could take that onboard, too!)
And here’s what all that stuff looks like outside the bag:
- iPad 2
- Canon Digital Rebel XSi SLR camera
- Magazine and book (for times when I can’t or don’t want to use an e-reader)
- Power supply for my MacBook Pro
- Power supply for my iPhone and iPad
- Small in-flight toiletries
- Earbud headphones and splitter (I bring a cheap Skullcandy model for Megan and a much nicer Apple model with a hard case for me since I hate pouches)
- Pens, paper, and boarding passes
I managed to fit quite a few things in there. I don’t normally need to carry a water bottle with me, so I use the side pockets for a pack of tissues, some hand lotion, and eyedrops (the last two are already in the baggie). If it were an overnight trip, I would also include my contact lenses in a case, a sleeping mask, some earplugs, and a toothbrush. I could also fit an international power adaptor in there. There is still plenty of room.
Inside the front pocket I can fit most of my electronic accessories, pens, keys (which I won’t need while traveling), and various notes or drink vouchers. The top compartment is where I put my iPad and any other large items. Boarding passes go in the zippered pocket in the back by themselves so I never lose them.
I rarely need to bring the camera except for bigger trips like Maui, but I’m very glad the bag is big enough to hold it. It’s bulky but still fits pretty well when I detach the lens. I can assemble the camera when I need it and avoid looking like a dorky tourist everywhere I walk. The camera also tends to get in the way when it’s around my neck. Keeping it in the bag is a great solution.
Similarly, I don’t really need the laptop power supply. If I end up bringing a carryon, my computer can go in its front pocket along with the power supply. But it is nice to know it will still fit in my Pacsafe bag. Although the computer will not fit in the Pacsafe bag, I can carry it separately in its padded case if I have no other bag.
That’s pretty much my entire collection of travel tech. My needs are not so great, and I generally prefer to spend my time in the air reading, not doing stuff on my computer. The iPad is convenient only because I can easily read The Wall Street Journal and The Economist on the road without being forced to use my tiny iPhone screen or buy larger paper copies. The camera is unnecessary most of the time, but the bag is a great way to carry it when I do need it. And all the other stuff fits nicely in one or two pockets so I don’t have to fish through a giant backpack. I’m pretty sure I could get a MacBook Air 11″ in there, too, if I took out the camera or iPad.
One day I’ll get a real job and will probably have to find a more suitable replacement that includes space for a computer, but in the meantime I’m pretty happy. Readers, what do you find is essential to keep you happy and occupied in the air? Do you try to use the same bag on the ground, or do you keep things separate?