View Full Version : Aeronaut dilemma

04-22-2016, 01:17 PM
As a recent Skookum Dog medium road duffel fan, I would love to purchase an Aeronaut, as I can see the advantages of this layout in backpack form. My dilemma is which material/size to consider given my size and intended uses, since my likely ideal size in the bag spectrum falls in between the A30 and A45.

I have a fair amount of work travel and I combine sightseeing/exercise when possible. In assessing what I generally take, I think I would likely be dealing with either an overstuffed A30 and a secondary bag like a Pilot or an underpacked A45 into which I could likely fit a secondary bag and one bag it. I am approximately 5’3”, but I am active and I intend to wear my Aeronaut in backpack mode. I am leaning towards the A45, but my question is whether a slightly underpacked A45 would tend to bulge out or be misshapen in dyneema or would ballistic maintain its rigidity better and be more comfortable if it is underpacked? I am a huge dyneema fan, but I do appreciate the look of ballistic, though overall carrying comfort will be my main concern in whichever bag selected.

I am also leaning towards the A45 as I already have a dyneema Smart Alec with UMP which I use often for travel, and the A30 is similar in size.

An example of travel I do is this coming week I will travel to Alaska for work. I am taking a 15 inch EC folder with a suit, 2 dress shirts, and a pair of dress slacks. I am also taking an EC packing cube containing 3 shirts, short sleeved running top and shorts, sports bra, underwear, socks. I will be wearing a Smartwool light jacket for travel https://www.rei.com/product/886477/smartwool-propulsion-60-jacket-womens and packing a Montbell puffy and gloves for evenings since it should be in the 30s then. I have to take nice shoes for my suit (these fit into an A30 aether end pocket cube) and my running shoes. I will wear Gore-tex hiking shoes in case I have time to fit in a possibly snowy hike. I generally fit my liquid items into a TB 311 bag and my non-liquid items into an SE sized bag. My secondary bag (which could go in the Aeronaut depending on which Aeronaut) generally has an ipad mini, possibly kindle paperwhite, compact charger, folder with work papers, water bottle, and miscellaneous wallet/purse stuff – this all usually fits in a Co-Pilot, Pilot, or equivalent.

While I *might* be able to squish everything into a dyneema A30 (forum reading indicates people can fit more in a dyneema A30 than ballistic), I believe it might still be difficult to fit everything because of the two pairs of shoes and the work attire combined with casual. What I want to take fits nicely into the SD duffel, but I don't want to carry a bag on my shoulder and prefer backpack mode for standing in airport lines, etc.

I found several threads discussing relative merits of dyneema versus ballistic durability, and I am not worried about durability with either fabric. My question is relative comfort for carrying – while I would use the internal straps to manage the load if underpacked – I imagine each material rides a bit differently when walking distances. I realize there is approximately a half pound weight difference between the ballistic/dyneema, but I am less concerned with that than the comfort/handling of the backpack when walking for periods of time.

Thank you for your patience and input in answering my question! There is no substitute for feedback from actual users who have traveled with these bags over periods of time.

04-22-2016, 01:48 PM
I just went through this! Packed everything in the A30 but it was over packed. So I switched to the A45. It was under packed but nothing shifted around. Both my bags are ballistic, and empty, the A45 is noticeably heavier than the A30. However, in this packing scenario, when done I swear the A45 felt lighter than the A30. Perhaps it was a relativity thing - over-packed is heavier than under-packed. Either way, I was very comfortable using the A45. My load was right around 22 lbs. but I was OK walking around or standing in line. It also wasn't too heavy to carry by the handle.

Hope I answered the question.

On a side note: One little quirky thing for short folks using the A45. The top of the bag, when worn in backpack mode, is around eye level. I'd see the corner of the bag in my peripheral vision and I'd spin my head around to see if it was a person. That happened quite a bit. It's not annoying or anything, just something you should be aware of, if you are on the short side.

04-22-2016, 03:45 PM
I would go with an under packed A45 in Ballistic. It will hold its shape beautifully and you can't overstuff it too much. My Halcyon A30 can get a little buldgy when I overpack it. The Ballistic bag always looks perfect in shape. If you buy extra goodies, you can always check it on the return trip.

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04-22-2016, 04:14 PM
I agree that the A30 will be overstuffed with what you plan to take. The A45 will be a better size and I also agree ballistic will hold the shape better.

Also, I find the main compartment of the A45 is much easier to fit small 2nd bags into like a pilot, DLBC etc. That's much harder on the A30.

Best of luck

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04-22-2016, 04:33 PM
Hi, NWhikergal! I sympathise with your dilemma. I am 5'2", about 102 pounds, and I started out with a ballistic aubergine/wasabi A45 (which I am about to put on the auction block, gorgeous though it is). Packed full but not overfull it gave me a lot of pain (shoulder and neck) in both shoulder and backpack modes. One trip was enough to convince me that this was not going to work unless I wanted to start travelling with a chiropractor/masseuse...which would be nice, but... ANYWAY. I switched to a black dyneema/wasabi A30, although not believing for one hot second that I would be able to fit everything I "absolutely needed" in it. Happily, I was wrong! By diligent use of packing cubes and the like, I ended up with a bit of room to spare. And the A30 is much more comfortable to carry in backpack mode, at least for my slight frame. So there you have it. I'm just chiming in because I'm only an inch shorter than you and a person's height and build make a lot of difference in how any given bag fits. That said, I have autoimmune diseases and am on a very restricted healing diet. There is no way on earth that I can go anywhere without toting a lot of food with me. Also I play the fiddle, and I can't go anywhere without that either. This double whammy scenario makes it impossible to go completely carry-on. So in the A30 I carry on all my clothes and enough food to get me through my trip and any potential delays. I often wear my biggest/heaviest footwear, which is a bit inconvenient but not a deal breaker. Any overflow in the food category goes into my pockets or the pocket of my fiddle case cover. The fiddle case goes on as my "personal item" and I check a small wheeled bag with food. The first time I travelled this way I anticipated having some overflow from the A30 into the food bag, but it didn't happen. The A30 seems to fit almost as much as the A45 but in a much more comfortable and manageable package. Oh, and one more detail: while I'm not crazy about wasabi as a color, I love it as a lining because it's the lightest and therefore the brightest color available (at least in the post-solar, pre-zest days) and makes it a lot easier to see what's inside the bag. Just my three and a half cents worth. Good luck with your dilemma!

04-22-2016, 05:16 PM
This is why I've been hesitating to get an Aeronaut (either size) and why I decided to go with a Brain Bag and cubes. I'm sure the A30/45 is more accessible because of the duffle design, but I like the comfort of the carry on the BB so much that I'm okay with sliding cubes in and out. And volume wise, it's great having a little extra space. Now if only the zippers came down a wee bit farther and it was made in Halcyon....

P.S. I'm 5'3" on a good day.

04-22-2016, 05:40 PM
I suggest bringing the A30. Cabin baggage allowance are getting stricter these days. More and more flights are lowering their limits to 7kg which include both cabin baggage and personal item. Some don't even allow personal item.

I think A45 will be much heavier than 7kg when full. I don't know how much cabin baggage allowance you're getting for your flight, but again, I suggest getting A30 for future uses as well.

04-22-2016, 06:16 PM
I'm pretty sure all that will fit in a ballistic A30. That's very similar to a load I commonly carry in mine, and I'm 6'0", with big feet. Unzip the side compartments and it should be ok if you put the shoes on the sides, although you might have to move the 311 bag to the copilot.

04-22-2016, 07:53 PM
Thanks all for the input and suggestions. With serious elbow grease and no inch left unstuffed I can get all but the 311 bag in my dyneema SA, however, it is quite maxed out, and I would have to take the Pilot for overflow. And I would not have any room left for potential purchases. In most non-work travel situations I would just take my SA, as I would be able to eliminate things like suits and dress shoes, making for a more reasonable load. The SA is definitely what I would take for international travel or situations where I would be doing extensive walking/had to worry about weights limits, etc. Good point about weight limits, @cookiesnomore.

I am leaning towards the ballistic A45 based on the comments above, as it would retain its shape and not allow me to overstuff it like a dyneema model would. Thank you @sujo, @Pokilani, and @Perseffect for your feedback encouraging me in this direction. @sujo, I agree about that phenomenon you mentioned - there have been times when my lightly packed ballistic Pilot felt lighter than my overfull dyneema Co-Pilot when I tried out the same load.

@fiddling.girl and @catherder, thank you for your encouragement about the A30. Perhaps if I decide to upgrade from my SA at some point, that will be the way to go. And @DeBru, when I tried the Brain Bag (which seemed like the perfect backpack on paper), I found that when I loaded up both main compartments, the outside section/front of the pack drooped down and felt unbalanced for me. I wanted a bit more rigidity in the backpanel or an internal frame to handle the load that I would be tempted to put in it.

I really appreciate all of your feedback, everyone!

04-22-2016, 11:44 PM
I think for that packing list I would prefer the 45. The two pairs of shoes alone would disqualify the 30. With my packing, I can do 2 business formal days plus accompanying casual clothing, wearing my running shoes and packing heels for work in the 30- and it's not stuffed by any means, but then I have room to put my jacket in it.

I originally bought a 45, returned it for a 30, and then re-purchased a 45. It fits 4-5 business days and two pairs of shoes :)

04-24-2016, 06:32 AM
Greetings NWhikergal,
Anchorage and the surrounding area has no snow at the moment. Barely had any all winter.

The caribou calves have arrived and they are so cute. Haven't seen any moose calves yet. Bears are becoming active, so be aware when hiking. I've got a set of bear-bells, if you want to borrow them. (If you want a set of your own, many souvenir shops have them, too.) elisa

04-25-2016, 04:43 PM
I totally favor the underpacked A45 (which is exactly how I travel).. but I'm 5"11. I like the spare space "just in case" and the bag expends/shrinks very well while keeping its form.
At 5"3 I could see how the A45 might feel a little big, plus its a little heavier. Heck in backpack mode the A45 feels like a monster-backpack on me already (though it fits fine)
I think if i were you I'd get the A30 due to that, and if you dont like it because its overpacked, just return it for exchange, TB is good/cool with that (https://www.tombihn.com/pages/contact-us)

04-25-2016, 05:21 PM
I purchased both the A45 and A30 and returned the A45 as I found it to be much bigger. I am 6"2 195 lbs yet to me the A45 was kinda heavy when packed. However the ability to have that extra room was better and I kinda regretted sending back the A45. I sold my A30 and decided it was too small for me and like someone else also noted that sometimes a full and stuffed A30 felt heavier than a slightly under packed A45. I just wish Tom Bihn would make a A38 or A40 as I think it would be the perfect bag. As much as I am a big fan of Tom bihn I now travel with a Osprey Farpoint 40, a TB Ristretto, and a DLBP in my main bag as my everyday backpack when I get to my destination.

04-28-2016, 03:32 PM
I had a similar concern. I'm 5'2 so I was leaning to the 30 since I knew it wouldn't fill an entire 45, and wanted dyneema since it would be lighter but someone on the forum recommended ballistic since it would hold up better if under filled. After ordering both (in ballistic) and test packing I opted for the 45 so I had extra room for souvenirs. I just used the bag for a 2.5 week trip to Indonesia where I had to pack for 1 day of work, snorkeling, and spending time in the mountains. I managed to pack everything I needed with room to spare. I can't recall the exact weight of my bag, but it was 20-25 pounds and I did not find it uncomfortable for the most part (except for one day when it was really hot and we had to wait a long time for our ride). I had enough room to pack my small down coat for the trip and bring back some souvenirs.

Despite my concerns about how it looked on me, it carried well and I had no problems bringing it on most of my flights. Where I had to check it (really small plane, I probably could have brought it on but they told everyone to just gate check), I didn't have to worry about it ripping because of the material. I was really happy with this bag, and glad I got the 45.

04-28-2016, 04:01 PM
I can only speak of Ballistic vs Cordura vs Dyneema in the A45 and the BB.

I got the Dyneema A45 because the airline had weight limit and I wanted to be carry on only.

Dyneema is always a great lightweight surprise, so much so that I switched almost all my TB bags to it.

Lightweight Packing Cubes organize everything and can be color coded. The strap keeps everything together in the Aeronaute, corners can be filled with things by themselves or in Travel Stuff Sacks.

However, I was really nervous, when the A45 or was it my TS in Dyneema, was checked at the end of the trip, fatigue and ease of moving around at the humongous and badly laid out airport and adding it to another checked bag made it easier on us.

Unless you are sure that you won't need to check it, Dyneema is better.

04-29-2016, 07:51 PM
I had pretty much decided that a black ballistic/fjord A45 would be the right combination for me, and then they just announced the black halcyon A45s are available...and there are some very nice new photos up on that page. This has not helped me to remain decisive at all! :)

04-29-2016, 10:52 PM
I had pretty much decided that a black ballistic/fjord A45 would be the right combination for me, and then they just announced the black halcyon A45s are available...and there are some very nice new photos up on that page. This has not helped me to remain decisive at all! :)

If you are underpacking, it will not bulge. And if you use cubes, it will hold its shape.

04-29-2016, 10:59 PM
If you are underpacking, it will not bulge. And if you use cubes, it will hold its shape.

Do you mean ballistic versus halcyon? If so, thank you for the input/reminder so I will not be lured by the beautiful black halcyon. :)

04-29-2016, 11:05 PM
Do you mean ballistic versus halcyon? If so, thank you for the input/reminder so I will not be lured by the beautiful black halcyon. :)

Oops! I meant to say that the halcyon will not bulge is you plan to underpack the bag and it will still hold its shape if you use cubes. I guess I was supporting your thoughts about getting halcyon. The best argument for the Ballistic is FJORD!

04-29-2016, 11:39 PM
I had pretty much decided that a black ballistic/fjord A45 would be the right combination for me, and then they just announced the black halcyon A45s are available...and there are some very nice new photos up on that page. This has not helped me to remain decisive at all! :)

You are close to the Mothership, so you can visit and try on both. Pictures for us, leaving far, would be really nice.

And you could check the snack table and send a report as well.

04-30-2016, 02:09 PM
Those new photos of the black halcyon A45 are really very tempting indeed! That's a seriously fine looking bag.

05-03-2016, 09:09 PM
Ok, so I wanted to post a follow up regarding the direction I decided to go with the halcyon versus ballistic aeronaut 45 dilemma. I could not make a definitive decision without handling both and test packing them, so I decided to order both and try that at home.

First off the fit and finish for each is spectacular. The black ballistic is so tough and professional looking, and it just feels so upscale and substantial. By contrast, the black halcyon is aesthetically so sharp, and it is amazingly thin and smooth and feels as if it has much more give in the fabric. The zippers on the halcyon are substantially easier to use, and I am not sure if the ballistic zippers will get easier with use. Each has its advantages - the halcyon would be easier for me to quickly access items when needed (pro), while the ballistic would make it more difficult for others to access my items if the bag is not locked (pro).

While they are both visually appealing, the most important aspect for this bag purchase for me was how comfortable the bag would be if I were carrying it for an extended period of time or distance. In order to do a mini simulation, I took turns loading the same things in each bag and then wearing the bags for approximately half an hour each as I walked around the house. I had an EC folder with business clothes, an EC packing cube with miscellaneous casual clothes and a workout outfit, cube with nightclothes/underwear, running shoes and dress shoes, a SE and 3DOC with toiletries, etc, and I even added some electronics in a PCSB. The bags each weighed approximately 15 pounds with all that, and there was spare room left over.

So how did each do? Interestingly, I could tell that the halcyon felt slightly lighter weightwise, and it did seem to comfortably contour to my body more. However, with the halcyon slightly underpacked I found that the contents seemed to shift more than the ballistic, even with all my clothes in packing cubes and the internal straps in use. Even though the ballistic weighs slightly more, I found that the rigidity of the ballistic compared to the halcyon offered more structure to the contents, and in my opinion, the bag carried better. While the halcyon seemed to sag downward slightly on my backside, the structure of the ballistic made the load seem more stable for me and the bag did not droop. If I had the choice of carrying either bag for a long period of time, I personally would go for the ballistic over the halcyon, despite the fact that it weighs a few ounces more. Note: even though it is not weight bearing, I felt wearing the waist strap made the bag feel much more stable than without it, especially as someone without super upper body strength.

The danger with either bag is overpacking, I think, since it would be easily tempting with all of that space. This is the bag I would consider for longer trips, winter trips, trips where I need a variety of clothes, or times when I wanted to be sure I have extra space for possible purchases. In other circumstances, I think the A30 would likely be the best choice, or for me, I will use my Smart Alec.

I am including a few photos in case they are helpful.





05-03-2016, 10:03 PM
I think if you are routinely slightly under packing, the Ballistic is definitely the way to go! And Fjord!

PS Congrats on your new bag! And yay for making an informed decision!

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