View Full Version : Smart Alec Makes the Final Cut for Haiti Trip

07-26-2012, 11:10 AM

After packing, wearing and re-packing a half-dozen times, I believe I’ve finally decided on my son’s Smart Alec and my medium Cafe Bag to make the trip to Port au Prince Haiti this coming Saturday. I’ve come to realize that my neck and shoulders don’t tolerate carrying a shoulder strap as well as backpack straps, even the Absolute strap, when I’m carrying a full travel bag. I’m barely 5 feet tall, so the Smart Alec just feels better to carry as a backpack than my Tristar or my husband’s Aeronaut.

This is my second medical mission trip to Haiti. I din’t even know Tom Bihn existed when I took my last trip in November of 2010. I took a big, check-through suitcase and had nowhere to put it in the guest house. My new setup will sit at the foot of my bed and still give me plenty of sleeping room. I’m indebted to Tom and the crew for making such beautiful, functional and practical pieces. I’m also indebted to the folks on this forum for such great advice and travel tips. I think it was Lani who told me about merino wool clothes (packed) and Tom’s laundry detergent (packed).

So, here’s what I’m taking for an eight day trip:

In/on Smart Alec:
4 sets of scrubs (Aeronaut packing cube)
In Trisar packing cube-
4 shirts (3 merino and 1 Ex Officio)
4 skirts/skorts
5 undies, bra, socks
Cliff bars in size 3 travel stuff sack
Keen sandals in size 4 travel stuff sack to bungie to outside of bag
hairdryer and odds and ends on travel tray
Travel towel in it’s bag
Vitamin water mixes in Ex Officio bag
Hand wipes in size 2 travel stuff sack
toiletries in 3D clear organizer (side water bottle pocket)
ball cap and light merino sweater for airport/airplain

In Medium Cafe Bag
Moleskine journal
Side Effect for camera and to be day bag
TB Clear Organizer Wallet
TB pouches with power cords and odds and ends.
Small Bible and (maybe) another paperback

It’s a tight fit, but it all does fit! I should have less on the return trip There is the chance that I could be persuaded to put everything in the Aeronaut and go with it. I’m open to suggestions.

Thanks again everyone!

07-26-2012, 11:18 AM
Sounds wonderful!! Glad I could help you with the tip about merino wool. It's nice stuff. :)

07-26-2012, 12:14 PM
Are you planning on doing sink laundry or sending it out? You might could cut out at list one shirt and one skirt/skort. The same for a set of scrubs. You'd have one to wear, one that is drying, and then another as back up in case the one you washed isn't quite dry enough the next morning. Same with undies. Up to you, but would give you a little more space and less weight. Especially since you'll still have whatever outfit you travel in. You didn't mention that in your list.

07-26-2012, 12:45 PM
This is such a timely post. I want an Aeronaut so badly! but like you, I'm just 5ft tall and can't tolerate carrying bags on one shoulder. I'm afraid the Aeronnaut worn backpack style would swallow me. I've been trying to decide between a Western Flyer and Smart Alec for one bag travel. Carrying comfort is a bigger consideration than anything. Thanks for the post and the pictures!

07-26-2012, 01:10 PM
I can't believe how much you were able to fit in there!

07-26-2012, 01:18 PM
Good luck with your trip to Haiti, that's a great thing that your doing out there. I often wish I had the skills that could make a real difference to folks lives.

07-26-2012, 01:33 PM
Thanks for that advice Darbs. I think I will pull out at least one of the sets of scrubs. I'm also reconsidering what I'll wear on the trip, long shorts, since I won't be able to wear them out while in country.
Rocks, The Smart Alec is quite a bit more comfortable backpack style than the Aeronaut or the Tristar and I like how it packs just fine considering I'm using packing cubes either way. However, it is smaller at 26 liters than the Aeronaut at 45 liters.

07-26-2012, 02:00 PM
This is such a timely post. I want an Aeronaut so badly! but like you, I'm just 5ft tall and can't tolerate carrying bags on one shoulder. I'm afraid the Aeronnaut worn backpack style would swallow me. I've been trying to decide between a Western Flyer and Smart Alec for one bag travel. Carrying comfort is a bigger consideration than anything. Thanks for the post and the pictures!

Rocks -- I'm 5'2.5" (the half inch counts when you're only yay tall!), and the Aeronaut is too big for me when it's packed full. It works great for my husband, but he's 6 feet tall.

When I have a dual-destination trip or dual-purpose trip, I will take a Tri-Star. It's still a bit on the big side for me, but not as long as the Aeronaut so it feels a little better. But my go-to bag is the Western Flyer, which I believe is sized perfectly for petite people. Next to that, in my opinion, is the Smart Alec (since the WF and SA have the same capacity)--if I'm only going to one place and I can just remove everything from the SA, or it's an extended weekend.

dmilem's strategy is really good, because she's also taking the Medium Cafe Bag as her purse. Add to that, she's even using the exterior bungy cord to strap on her footwear!

07-26-2012, 02:06 PM
Down to 2 sets of scrubs and 3 skorts. I'm on a role...What else can I shave.....

07-26-2012, 04:34 PM
Lani, what is the story on Merino wool shirts?
Sounds qwonderful!! Glad I could help you with the tip about merino wool. It's nice stuff. :)

07-26-2012, 07:28 PM
I believe it was Lani who told me about merino wool clothing and its' benefits for travel. I've also see other travel and sport sites that tout it's amazing versatility. Since early this past Spring, I've discovered 3 main manufactures of wool products, Smartwool, ibex and Icebreker. They all have great products and I purchase whichever is on sale at the time. Much of Ibex's line is mad in the US. I'm taking 3 short sleeved shirts, a light sweater and a skirt to HOT, humid Haiti. I've been "practicing" by living in it in HOT humid Kentucky. Actually, it doesn't take much practice to fall in love with this stuff. It's soft and comfortable and cool and packs well. It also isn't supposed to retain odors and so is a good option if you have to re-wear it. It seems counterintuitive to think of wearing wool in oppressive heat, but it works. Might I dare say merino wool tee shirts are the Tom Bihn of clothing?!!!

07-26-2012, 08:26 PM
I'm the same height as Lani and I agree, the WF is an excellent bag for us petite peeps both in size and it's offerings. Especially if you can get away with traveling with an iPad vs. a laptop. I would like an Aeronaut, and plan to obtain one in the coming year. Mine would primarily be used for certain travel situations like; dh and I pack our things into one bag together, me packing my things with one of my children's things, packing multiple children's items together, or for extended trips via car with our Travel Trailer when I cannot access laundry facilities or have a variety of venues to attend. I doubt I would ever need to load up the Aeronaut for just me in most scenarios.

In general I'm much more comfortable with the WF and another bag alongside, like a Synapse, Swift or Co-Pilot. I can manage two smaller bags easier than one huge one, before, during and after travel. When I get where I'm going I have a nice sized bag for day trips and excursions.

07-26-2012, 09:06 PM
Hey dorayme,

I was considering the WF but wonder if the theoretical packing list I posted in my "TriStar or Aeronaut?" thread would work for a petite but not so "pleasingly plump" person like me. If it fits, yay, I'll buy it. If it won't, I'll grab the TS. The AN is going to be way too big, I think.

07-26-2012, 10:18 PM
I think with cubes for compression the WF would work depending on your shoe size, cardigan thickness and the dress, whether it's the kind that compresses well, or the kind that has a lot of fullness.

I could definitely pack your list for myself into my WF. I wear ladies M and size us 7.5/ European 38 shoes. My cardigan and dress choices would be on the thinner packable side, because that's mostly what I like. My bulkiest item would be my shoes.

If you think your list is typical for your travel ventures, I would try the WF. If you frequently have more, the TS would probably be a better fit. You can always have an understaffed bag, cubes and the internal compression straps will keep your contents from shifting too badly. It would not work as well to need a few more cubic inches and not have them.

When I saw the WF in person, I thought it must be too small to work for overnight and weekend travel (I was used to wheeled bags and satchel/duffle bags that were carry on size but way bigger feeling than the WF), but now that I've been using it for the last year, it's my preferred travel bag for most of my trips unless I'm traveling with one of those scenarios I describe above. I mostly bundle pack, but if I'm traveling with more clothing than my usual load, I roll. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to fly with it. It's so small it's going to be wonderful for negotiating airports, airplanes, etc. I too have back issues and I don't fear being able to handle my own bag with the WF.

07-27-2012, 12:09 AM
I have an ibex skirt and it's the most wonderful thing. I bought it from Rowgue, a rowing clothing company; they intended it to be worn over a uni (the spandex one-piece that rowers wear) for walking around regattas and suck. But it's basic black and is perfectly nice enough to wear to work. It's extremely comfortable, is just above my knee, and even has got a zip pocket!

I've also got a few merino shirts: one short-sleeve and light weight, the others long-sleeved and a bit heavier. I wear them mostly for rowing (which tells you about their comfort and their moisture and temperature management), but they look nice enough for casual wear as well.

11-24-2014, 05:29 PM
Dmelim, I'm headed to Haiti for a missions trip summer of 2015 hosted by my church. I'm super excited, and curious about your thoughts from your similar length trip. How did your packed items work out? Anything you wish you had brought? Any things you wish you had left behind? Cultural, custom, situational considerations that I may need to be aware of? Tips?
The leaders of our team have experience from one to 15 years doing these trips, and I will be picking their brains too, but they aren't aware of most of the goodies that I have found out about through this forum and I feel that I can probably receive some travel savy specific advice here I would not receive from them.
Dichroic recommended Macabi skirts and I have gotten one from Evilbay and plan to add at least one more. (She also tipped me off to their current sale). We will be staying at an un-airconditioned guest house at a church so we will need to be skirted (below the knee) when we leave our dorm. Cotton skirts and tops historically had difficulty drying in a timely manner. Laundry service will be available if I choose to use it.
We are also required to wear modest necklines and sleeved shirts. I now own a few short sleeve REI tactile nylon camp shirts. I'm hoping to remain within their cultural expectations from these tops and bottoms.
Our "project" will be caring for, teaching, running a VBS for the 14 girls that live at the orphanage. We may also assist in constructing a part of the next wing of the orphanage.
My team leaders have advised that I won't be able to "prepare" myself for the differences in what I will experience and what I am used to, but I'm hoping to be prepared for what I bring/wear/carry.
I was considering my Aeronaut as my travel bag, but after seeing how light and compact the macabi skirts and REI tops are, am considering my S25 or even S19. I guess once I am closer to knowing exactly what I'm bringing, I can figure that out. In addition to my carry-on personal bag, the team will require us to each bring 2-50 pound checked bags with our team supplies. Evidently it's more reliable and affordable to bring them on the flight vs. ship them.
Sorry for the long post, but after having read that, any tips? Thanks in advance. I value the advice of the forum members. It is so helpful to have a wealth of knowledge on travel in one place.