View Full Version : Wickaninnish Aeronauts

07-28-2012, 12:10 AM
Wickaninnish Aeronauts

Bought a pair of Aeronauts and a variety of tickets to get us from San Diego, California to the Wickaninnish Inn just south of Tofino British Columbia to celebrate my lovely wife's 50th birthday.
Photo of two Aeronaut bags (note compass on steel colored bag) and two roll top day packs.

Trip was 8 days long and we packed enough clothes for 8 weeks. The packed Aeronauts weighed just under 18 pounds each and we could have easily packed more clothes. We traveled by plane, train, car, boat and by foot. The Aeronauts excelled at all modes of transportation by quickly converting from suitcase to backpack or shoulder bag with the Absolute strap. We each brought an additional small roll top daypack bag sewn by me.
Photo of the birthday girl wearing her Aeronaut in backpack mode in downtown Vancouver.

First night was spent in downtown Vancouver with beautiful warm sunny weather and we hiked the perimeter of the city including Stanley Park returning at about 11pm. Jumped into the rental car at 7am and took the ferry to Naniamo on Vancouver Island. After a spectacular drive across the island, we checked into the Wickaninnish Inn at 4pm. Birthday dinner reservations were at 6:30pm and we watched bald eagles catch fish while enjoying an exquisite 3 hour tasting dinner of regional foods paired with local and European wines. We spent 4 unforgettable nights at the Wickaninnish Inn. The hotel location, staff friendliness, rooms, regional decor and art collection make it one of the worlds greatest hotels and it's currently rated as Canada's best hotel.
Photo of the restaurant and the Wickaninnish Inn entry.

Started each day with a bike ride down the bike path to the surfing town of Tofino to get a fresh juice and healthy baked goodie from Jupiter. We then pedaled back and packed a picnic, hopped in the rental car and spent the rest of each day exploring and hiking the rain forests and beaches of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. This has got to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
Photo of the trail to Florencia Bay and beach, Pacific Rim National Park and Reserve, BC Canada

Returned to Granville Island in Vancouver city for 2 more nights with a bus trip and short hike to the newly renovated University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology being the highlight. This is one of the world's best museums with over 10,000 jaw dropping objects on display.
The Wickaninnish Inn and Pacific Rim National Park Reserve should be on everyones must-do-before-I-die list. If you think that the Wickaninnish Inn is expensive look at the math this way; It's about twice as expensive as a medium hotel in this part of the world but this hotel is easily 10 times better than anything you've ever stayed in - so it's a bargain. You can tell yourself you'll save money by eating in the bar.
Photo of bald eagle taken from our Wickaninnish Inn room balcony. The glass visible on the left side are the restaurant windows. On the right side is a pic of wolf tracks we found on a remote beach north of Schooner Cove. Those wolf tracks and our own footprints were the only mammal tracks on that entire beach.

If you are reading this because you are thinking about buying an Aeronaut bag - you should buy one. It's the world's greatest travel bag and a bargain when you consider design, craftsmanship, country of origin, materials and lifespan of the object. Traveling with the Aeronaut bag is very liberating for those accustomed to traveling with rolling luggage as it easily navigates through narrow airplane aisles and slips effortlessly into the smallest of commuter jet overhead bins. Backpack mode with the Aeronaut is super comfortable leaving your hands free to take pictures or hold onto hand railings on slippery boat docks or better yet - just hold hands with your partner.

I'm all unpacked but I'm leaving my Aeronaut sitting out in full view to savor this last trip and to start planning the next trip.


07-28-2012, 03:08 AM
Fantastic photos!!!!!!!!!

The photos of 'the birthday girl' are great as a few people have asked for photos showing the Aeronaut on people. If you don't mind me asking, how tall is your wife?

07-28-2012, 08:21 AM
wow! That looks like the trip of a lifetime! Thanks for sharing the pictures.

07-28-2012, 08:59 AM
I heart this on so many levels!

07-28-2012, 10:12 AM
Fantastic photos!!!!!!!!!

The photos of 'the birthday girl' are great as a few people have asked for photos showing the Aeronaut on people. If you don't mind me asking, how tall is your wife?

The Birthday Girl is 5'4" and wears a size small for most garments. The Aeronaut in backpack mode is a good fit for people with medium to shorter torsos. Super comfy even when fully loaded.

07-28-2012, 12:51 PM
So beautiful! Thanks for posting those gorgeous photos!

07-28-2012, 03:49 PM
Wow! I thought the Aeronaut would be way too big for someone your wife's size. It looks great on her. A B.C. vacation sounds/looks like one I would savor. I like your bags that you made; would love to see and hear more about them.

07-28-2012, 06:20 PM
Great pictures...and haunting spaces. What are the roll top day bags?

07-29-2012, 11:12 AM
Great pictures...and haunting spaces. What are the roll top day bags?
Thanks for the photo compliments everyone. It's a beautiful place.

The roll top day bags are designed and sewn by me just for fun. I think of them as a "Packsket" as they are styled after the old split ash canoe pack baskets. I swapped out the split ash for Cordura and added a Nylon pack cloth roll top with a side release buckle closure. The roll top closure keeps things dry and dust free and also allow the pack capacity to expand if you find a new Italian cashmere blanket at a thrift store. Once the roll top is closed you can do cartwheels down a steep mountain without losing anything and the the pack floats if you end up in the creek after the cartwheels. I try and make sure all of my materials including the thread and foam padding for the straps are made in USA (it's hard to verify country of origin when buying from surplus suppliers). I love bags and I make about 100 in a good year and I own lots of bags from Filson, Duluth Pack, Frost River, Gregory and now Tom Bihn. The Tom Bihn Aeronaut wins the gold medal.

07-29-2012, 05:36 PM
Very cool! Do you have an industrial quality sewing machine? Do you make your own patterns, or do you have a good source to recommend? I haven't tried sewing a bag since I made a faux-medium cafe bag. It really is fun, though.

07-30-2012, 11:10 AM
Very cool! Do you have an industrial quality sewing machine? Do you make your own patterns, or do you have a good source to recommend? I haven't tried sewing a bag since I made a faux-medium cafe bag. It really is fun, though.

I do have two Pfaff 138 industrial zig-zag machines. I also have a small Pfaff 130 table top machine that can sew through just about anything. All of my machines are from the late 1950s. You can sew a nice bag with a home sewing machine - you just need to use lighter fabric (nylon pack cloth) and light weight nylon webbing and try and avoid any hemmed seams converging.

I make my own patterns by sewing prototype packs from scrap fabric and then give a few usable versions made from better fabric out for friends & family to test the fit & function (skateboarders are the best people to test a pack's durability).

Making your own bag is bags of fun and it will give you a whole new level of appreciation for the design and craftsmanship of a Tom Bihn bag!!!

08-01-2012, 08:29 AM
I'm jealous of your glorious sewing machines!

08-01-2012, 09:57 AM
Making your own bag is bags of fun and it will give you a whole new level of appreciation for the design and craftsmanship of a Tom Bihn bag!!!

Amen to that!

08-01-2012, 09:59 AM
Hello Friends,
I just wanted to follow up with a few thoughts on the Aeronaut fitting smaller people. I've attached this image of my lovely wife's Aeronaut hastily removed outside a hard to find Vancouver restroom while making our way (running!!!) to the airport. She's 5'4" and wears a size small in most garments.


Looking at the shoulder straps in the photo you can see a couple items of interest to smaller peeps...

The distance between the points of attachment, where the straps emerge from the zippered cover pocket at the top of the pack and where the lower end of the straps attach to the pack with the side release buckles is about 16" (between those points). In the world of backpacking backpacks that's considered a size small.

Looking closely at the bottom of the strap where it connects to the pack, you can also see that she still has almost 2" of slack in the adjustable length of the strap and she likes her shoulder straps tight! This would suggest that a person with an even smaller torso would do just fine.

Also of note is the width between the straps where they attach to the pack (where your neck fits). This width and the carefully contoured shape of the straps allows for a comfortable fit for just about everyone whether you need the straps loosened all the way out or tightened all the way up. They do not rub on your neck or want to fall off the sides of your shoulders (neither of us used the sternum strap). Tom has attained shoulder strap perfection.

Unlike backpacking backpacks the Aeronaut has no frame or elaborate hip belt so where you put heavy items makes a HUGE difference on how it feels. Heavier items need to be close to your spine and slightly lower in the pack. Using TB packing cubes or stuff sacks will help manage the load.


08-01-2012, 12:15 PM
Great...now I need to visit this incredibly beautiful place. Nice pics!

08-01-2012, 07:32 PM
I'm jealous of your glorious sewing machines!

Hi Sera.

Here's a pic of my living room picture window... . a pic of the opposite side of the living room would reveal that my lovely wife is a fiber artist. She gets the fireplace side of the living room for the So Cal winters when the temperature dips down below 65F.


Pair of Pfaff 138-6 German made cast iron machines. The one on the right is about 50 years old and looks like new.


08-02-2012, 06:13 AM
You made those bags? Amazing. I have toyed with the idea that if I won the lottery and could find a machine that could handle the tougher fabrics it might be fun to tinker with making bags. But considering the odds of winning the lottery it probably isn't going to happen.

The pictures were amazing by the way. Good job.

08-03-2012, 10:39 PM
Since I went to all the trouble of writing down what we packed for this trip... I thought I could share the lists... I was also feeling a little weirder than normal having posted pics of bags that I have sewn myself and pics of my sewing machines on another bag makers blog. So these packing lists will get us back on AERONAUT topic!!!

PHOTO: Aeronauts checked in at the Wickaninnish Inn

In my Steel Solar Aeronaut (I'm including country of origin in my list just for fun):

100-400 Canon "L" zoom lens (ridiculously heavy) (Japan)
17-40 Canon "L" zoom lens (Japan)
Battery & Battery charger for Cannon 5D Mark II
New Balance trail running shoes (USA)
2 nice long sleeve shirts (thrift store - USA)
1 dark silver blue synthetic travel blazer (thrift store USA)
2 nicer long sleeve hiking shirts (60%cotton 40%polyester) (thrift store, have to go look at the tags but not made in China)
Long sleeve synthetic T shirt (USA)
Lucky Jeans (thrift store USA)
Charcoal colored Columbia nylon hiking pants (Viet Nam)
Goretex jacket (Canada)
Nylon shorts/swimsuit
4 pairs of thin nylon socks (USA)
1 pair thin wool socks (USA)
4 synthetic Patagonia boxers (USA)
Silve-rish colored Tilley T3 hat (Canada)
2 liter Platypus collapsible water bottle (empty USA)
BC guide book (never used it)
Trail mix for airport stranding
Tiny toiletries bag

All organized in 9 various size and color silicon coated nylon stuff sacks.

In the Birthday Girl's Forest & Ultraviolet Aeronaut:

Italian dress shoes with kitten heels
Nice evening dress
Evening handbag
Cashmere sweater
Paisley magenta wind breaker
Nylon shell with thin polar fleece lining
New Balance shoes (USA)
2 work out pants for hiking
2 work out tops for hiking
Long sleeve nylon sun shirt
Thin hoody sun shirt
2 skinny jeans
floral skirt
Paisley maxi dress
Pink Rivendell thin wool beanie
Tilley hat
7 tank tops
Toiletries, socks & undies
Electrical charging devices

All packed and organized in 5 stuff sacks

I had tons of extra space in my Aeronaut and Stephanie's was at about 75% capacity. Day packs were less than half full for both of us.

We love packing for any trip and start way way early. Packing for this Vancouver trip was a little different for us. The Vancouver Island weather reports were all over the place. We ended up having sun for the first few days and the mostly rain & drizzle for the last days. Spending 4 nights at Canada's top hotel also puts a little pressure on you for a decent appearance when you track mud into the grand entry and then spend 3 hours eating dinner at the #1 table in their restaurant. We also went for some epic hikes in the rainforests in rain and walked for miles on the beaches. So we needed a wide range of outfits.

I'm a recovering Canadian citizen and my lovely wife is from Oregon & then Wisconsin but when you live in San Diego for a long time your thermometer tolerance favors the higher numbers. Crossing on the ferry, going out on deck felt like we were on that Deadliest Catch crab fishing show. The wind off the North Pacific can be cold and seems to blow right through any fabric and then the skin. I would have left the guidebook at home and added a Rivendell thin black wool sweater, thin Rivendell wool beanie. Stephanie would have packed another pair of warmer pants (I'd make her bring her Western Mountaineering micro down jacket).


Warning - off topic unrelated photo:
Kitten yawning in front of a Christmas tree.

08-08-2012, 04:58 PM
How did you carry both the daypack and Aeronaut?

08-08-2012, 07:02 PM
When I carry my Aeronaut and Synapse, I put the Aeronaut on my back and attach the chest and waist straps, then put the backpack on my front, and pose like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. That last part isn't necessary.

08-08-2012, 09:13 PM
Hello reeder,
Good question. tCook has got it - Teenage Mutant Turtle style.

When the Aeronauts are in backpack mode and you need to put on some miles, then the day packs go on the front. The Aeronaut goes on first and the shoulder straps are adjusted. You also have to re-tension the day pack shoulder straps to keep the front pack in place once you start walking. This double pack rig it takes about 3 minutes to get used to and then you won't think twice about it. We use this method for multi-night backpacking trips on smooth dirt roads. Works great - just not on rough terrain.

We also carried the day packs over one shoulder with a single shoulder strap loosened up. That way you can see your feet for stairs etc. The single shoulder strap also makes it faster to get into the day pack to grab your camera for some quick street shots!

If you have the Absolute strap you can comfortably carry the Aeronaut over your shoulder and wear your day pack on your back. We found this to be the best way to get around airports, stepping on to trains, buses, boats and navigating other crowded areas.

I also carried my lovely wife's day pack inside my Aeronaut and she carried her shoulder bag purse for the first 2 days of travel.

Lots of ways to carry the Aeronaut... all of them good.