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View Full Version : To Vegas and Back with a Pilot and a Smart Alec



Janine
04-06-2014, 06:03 AM
First, the (un-)packing photos:

5927

and

5928

Sorry, but I'm going to have to post about the trip in pieces. The kids are awake and I only get a few minutes at a time to do mom stuff!

Janine
04-06-2014, 06:06 AM
Details #1: Contents of Smart Alec

I packed my clothes in PCSBs and stuffed them in my Smart Alec.

The UV one contained 2 pairs of jeans.

The Iberian one contained 4 shirts.

The Wasabi one contained undies and socks (4 panties, 4 pairs of socks, 3 bras).

It wasn't a tight fit. I could have packed more, but I'm glad I didn't because I didn't need all the clothes I brought and I did need extra room to bring back loot from my conference and from shopping!

A pair of flipflops that I stashed in one of the side pockets.

Not shown: big yellow waterproof bag that I used at my destination as a laundry bag, 20L SeaToSummit.

Janine
04-06-2014, 06:15 AM
Details #2: Contents of Pilot

Steel/Wasabi SE with my wallet, 2 Field Notes notebooks, lip balm, and a Small Iberian OP with a few momentos from home.

MBA13 in a vertical cache. I wish I had a horizontal cache on rails, but I slummed it with a vertical railless one.

Large Steel OP for documents and receipts. This pouch is actually a little tall for the Pilot, but I folded the zipper edge over and tucked it in anyway.

Medium Iberian OP with folded paper products (napkins, tissues).

Small Solar OP with business cards.

Nano Olive Parapack pouch with headphones.

Mnemosyne notebook (I love these!)

Jackery battery and phone cable.

Ultrasuede screen cloth.

Bottle of water, purchased after security checkpoint.

Full-size hairbrush.

Gum, floss, and a small plastic case that holds cotton swabs, tweezers, nail clippers.

3DCO with toiletries.

Everything fit well with a bit of room to spare.

Janine
04-06-2014, 06:18 AM
Details #3: The Trip

From Lexington KY to Las Vegas NV for a 2.5-day conference. Was anyone else here at PBS TechCon?

Janine
04-06-2014, 06:46 AM
Details #4: Observations on the Pilot

OH MY GOOGLE, I love my Pilot. It fit very well under the seat in front of me on all 4 legs of my journey. It went with to all my conference sessions. It was comfortable to carry (even though I lost my Absolute Shoulder Strap and used an Ultrasuede Strap Wrap on the regular strap instead) cross-body or over one shoulder. And the size is perfect! I can fit everything I need in it and still have room for extras.

I have issues with Ballistic fabric. It's stiff. My natural inclination when pulling items from the front side pockets is to unzip them fully and bend the fabric away from the contents. This does not work. A much better approach is to unzip the top of the pocket, leaving the side still zipped, and reaching in with my hand to pull out what I need. After the first half-day of the conference, I just left the side pockets half-zipped this way and used them like slip pockets. It worked out pretty well.

During the flights, I had my SE tethered in one front pocket and my 3DCO in another. This was fine for the checkpoint, where you take your stuff out once and then put it back in. I tried leaving the SE in the front pouch while shopping and that was a bit frustrating. The Ultrasuede layers catch on the SE and provide resistance when you try to slide the SE in and out. It worked much better to keep the SE in one of the large pockets inside the main compartment when I knew I would be using my wallet every once in a while. Then I could pull out the SE and get to my wallet quickly, and stow them away just as quickly.

Next time I will probably just slip my wallet into the Pilot and leave the SE at home, and use a PCSB as a PLO when required. I did bring PCSBs, but I didn't use them as PLOs at my destination.

Janine
04-06-2014, 06:50 AM
Details #5: Observations about the Smart Alec

For a short trip, the Smart Alec was great for carrying clothing. The PCSBs worked well for segregating my clothing and made packing and unpacking easy. The Smart Alec also fit easily in the overhead bins of the planes. It was comfortable to carry, both lightly loaded on the way there and completely overstuffed on the way back. It was also comfortable to carry both the Smart Alec on my shoulders while also carrying the Pilot crossbody...and doing so while running through the Dallas airport to catch my connecting flight.

I would have rather taken an Aeronaut, but I sold my Indigo one prior to this trip and haven't figured out what new color to buy. (If you have a gently used one you'd like to rehome, let me know!) I was holding out for an Aeronaut Jr, but it appears that we'll be waiting a while longer on that bag. The Aeronaut suits my packing style a bit better than the TS/WF or a true backpack like the Smart Alec.

But taking the Smart Alec on this trip rekindled my love for this pack. It is simple and effective and comfortable. It can be whatever I want it to be. It fits well. It looks slick. The uncluttered lines make it easy to stow.

Next time, though, I'll probably remove the stretch bungie and tuck it away in one of the internal pockets. That way I can rethread the bungie if I need to use it. The bungie got caught on things once or twice and I forgot that I could use it to compress the load! I also didn't need it's reflective qualities for safety on this trip.

Badger
04-06-2014, 07:22 AM
You didn't use all your chonies??? But ... But ...

Anyway, thanks for the review and especially the commentary on what size OPs fit into the Pilot. I didn't think the Large would fit at all, so this is very exciting.

PS: where are the cashews you promised you'd get me?


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Janine
04-06-2014, 08:25 AM
Details #6: About the capacity of the Smart Alec

Did I overpack? Of course. I am not an ultralight packer. I don't have high-performance lightweight sink-washable clothing. I am a regular person who wears jeans and t-shirts and likes the feeling of freshly-laundered fabric on her skin. I could have done with just one pair of jeans in my luggage, but I also could have easily needed that other pair if the Diet Coke my neighbor spilled on the first flight had gone the other way (on me rather than him, that is).

I actually wouldn't take much more than this for a longer trip. I would expect to do laundry in the middle. The Smart Alec, for me, would be a good size for carrying clothing for a Spring/Summer/Fall trip that lasted up to 7 days.

For a winter trip, I could probably do 4-5 days with the Smart Alec. I'd still be wearing jeans, but I'd have a sweatshirt or two with me and possibly flannel PJs.

Janine
04-06-2014, 08:34 AM
You didn't use all your chonies??? But ... But ...

Anyway, thanks for the review and especially the commentary on what size OPs fit into the Pilot. I didn't think the Large would fit at all, so this is very exciting.

PS: where are the cashews you promised you'd get me?


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If I *had* used all my chonies, then I would have made a stern mental note to pack more for the next trip!

And speaking of chonies, I am in love with Icebreaker's offerings. I got my husbanimal a pair of briefs and a pair of boxers for Valentine's Day and I covet them. In fact, I wore the briefs on the plane to Vegas. They are the most comfortable undies I have ever worn and they aren't even styled for my anatomy. Totally worth the price IMHO.

As for the cashews, Caesar's has some kind of crazy big brother thing going on. I moved two bottles of water in the mini fridge to make room for a box of Chinese takeout, and they *knew*. Two bottles of water showed up on my bill at checkout. They did not know that I replaced them, so their system is not complete, but still...it's creepytown. I was afraid to take the cashews!

Badger
04-06-2014, 08:36 AM
They also watched you as you slept.

😶


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Janine
04-06-2014, 09:05 AM
Details #7: The TB Way

This has been mentioned many times on the forum already, but I want to add my own spin to it.

When I have had trouble adjusting to a TB bag, my problems are almost always solved by stepping back, trying to understand how the bag was meant to be used, and trying again. I think my observations about the Pilot support that notion. Example: bag-in-bag has caveats with the Pilot, but the Pilot's size is such that one probably doesn't need to also bring a PLO when carrying it. When I quit trying to use the Pilot my way and thought about what it was designed to do, the clouds parted and a beam of light shone down on me.

I think that also explains why I never warmed up to my various Co-Pilots. That bag didn't work the way I wanted it to, and I had better options already for doing the things a Co-Pilot was meant to do. It simply wasn't a good match for me. By upsizing to a Pilot, I filled a niche for a bag I needed but didn't already have. Once I figured out a better way to fill its pockets, our relationship bloomed from infatuation into deep love. In fact, we got married in Vegas. (Don't tell Dave.)

For those of you considering a Pilot (or any other bag, really) then I recommend approaching the selection from both directions: what you want the bag to do, and what the bag was designed to do. If there's an overlap, you'll probably be happy with the purchase. If there isn't an overlap, you probably won't.

Janine
04-06-2014, 09:10 AM
They also watched you as you slept.

We're going back there next year for PBS TechCon 2015, so now I have a whole year to freak out about Big Caesar. THANKS.

Badger
04-06-2014, 09:11 AM
The solution: I'll come with you and counter-stalk them. It will all work out in the end.


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Janine
04-06-2014, 10:44 AM
The solution: I'll come with you and counter-stalk them. It will all work out in the end.


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Hahahah! Excellent!

Also, I got one of these as swag at the conference: Crazy cool Dopper water bottle (http://us.dopper.com/en/). You should get one to put in your super-secret Ninja-stealthy counter-stalk utility kit. You can use it like a regular water bottle but it also has a second screw cap whose lid is a small stemmed cup. This solves my water bottle woes stylishly. I can get a bottle brush into the bottle to wash it, sip when I'm on the go, or drink from a cup when there is a table handy to hold everything. My only complaint is that the bottle's bottom is a little rounded and not as stable as I might like. But other than that...genius!

scribe
04-07-2014, 06:39 AM
Ack, I hate those mini-bars with everything RF-tagged - you can't rearrange them to fit your own food in there. I avoid even opening the door!

Toblerhaus
04-07-2014, 08:18 PM
Fantastic post! I so love seeing packing photos, and yours makes me want to buy a Smart Alec and a bunch of PCSBs.

backpack
04-07-2014, 08:35 PM
Ack, I hate those mini-bars with everything RF-tagged - you can't rearrange them to fit your own food in there. I avoid even opening the door!

It is easy to find out what hotel has them and avoid them. You can also ask for an empty fridge, they cannot say no because you could need it for medications.

The review is stupendous!

No, I don't need a Smart Alec, yes, it is a gorgeous bag!

scribe
04-07-2014, 11:57 PM
It is easy to find out what hotel has them and avoid them. You can also ask for an empty fridge, they cannot say no because you could need it for medications.

Alas I can't always choose my hotel - for work trips the venue is generally chosen by my employer, and on leisure travel I'm often going to a convention that's at a specific hotel (I could stay elsewhere - and have done so on occasion - but it's not convenient since socialising goes on until late at night). TBH, a lot of UK hotels don't even bother with a mini-bar/fridge in rooms any more, presumably because of all the hassle it involves.

Badger
04-08-2014, 07:13 AM
Alas I can't always choose my hotel - for work trips the venue is generally chosen by my employer, and on leisure travel I'm often going to a convention that's at a specific hotel (I could stay elsewhere - and have done so on occasion - but it's not convenient since socialising goes on until late at night). TBH, a lot of UK hotels don't even bother with a mini-bar/fridge in rooms any more, presumably because of all the hassle it involves.

I totally agree, scribe. If I'm traveling for work I'm usually freaking out about other things (like not making an ass of myself in front of hundreds of strangers) so calling the hotel to ask for a fridge or clean out the minibar is the last thing on my mind. I generally just assume there won't be a fridge and if there is one, great. Occasionally I do take stuff out of the minibar, but not to the tune of $8 cashews. $8 scotch is fine though (it's all about priorities).

ETA: I meant to say that unless it's total highway robbery, I always try to stay at the conference/convention hotel. Doing otherwise in the past has proven to be a major pain.


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scribe
04-08-2014, 12:33 PM
Yeah - battling through autumn wind & rain on the seafront at Brighton put me off staying in alternative hotels for life!

ETA: Scotch in the fridge? Blasphemy! :)


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Badger
04-08-2014, 01:15 PM
Scotch in the fridge? Blasphemy! :)


I know, right? But that's where they keep it, at least in my experience. To be honest, I usually travel with a mini bottle in my 311 bag and then I can just bypass all that nonsense altogether. If I'm willing to use the hotel shampoo, I can even bring multiples.

scribe
04-08-2014, 01:34 PM
*lol* I've only taken Scotch with me when not flying. A hip flask is a wonderful thing :)


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Badger
04-08-2014, 01:59 PM
If I'm not traveling by air, I take a normal (entire) bottle. More cost-effective.

Vecturist
04-09-2014, 10:53 AM
I've taken Scotch on a few flights with me, easier in the days before all the crazy liquid restrictions. Unfortunately I have not found minis of my 2 favorite scotches so I have been forced to aliquot them into a couple of mini Nalgene containers - blasphemous I know. On the bright side, they don't attract attention.

Badger
04-09-2014, 12:37 PM
I feel your pain. I will never be able to get minis of Junipero gin, which kills me because the bottles would be stinking cute.

What are your two favorites? I usually just take Glenlivet (or Woodford reserve bourbon, which I like with lots of ice; less dehydrating that way).


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scribe
04-09-2014, 12:41 PM
Yeah, I think it unlikely I'll ever find a miniature of my favourite Scotch, Glenkinchie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenkinchie_distillery) (which I'm sipping as we speak, as it happens...). It's light, smooth and also the closest distillery to my husband's home town :) Auchentoshan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auchentoshan_distillery) is not dissimilar, though it comes from the other side of Scotland.

In winter I like Aberlour A'bunach (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A'bunadh), a delicious cask-strength whisky (nearly 60% abv!).

Glenfiddich is my usual brand when more obscure single malts are unavailable...

Vecturist
04-09-2014, 12:53 PM
I feel your pain. I will never be able to get minis of Junipero gin, which kills me because the bottles would be stinking cute.

What are your two favorites? I usually just take Glenlivet (or Woodford reserve bourbon, which I like with lots of ice; less dehydrating that way).


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Lagavulin 16 year and Macallan 18 year. My first introduction to Scotch was the top shelf stuff and it has pretty spoiled me. I will drink Glenlivet and Woodford, especially since they're usually available on flights when I get the lucky upgrade.

Badger
04-09-2014, 12:56 PM
Ooh. Fancy.

I would like to say my favorite is Bruichladdich 18 but as I've only been able to afford one bottle, ever, I don't know if it counts.

I mostly just drink gin. Because gin.


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scribe
04-09-2014, 01:11 PM
I love gin (Bombay Sapphire is my favourite) but it needs a good tonic. Fevertree is the best tonic brand I've come across, but few pubs stock it :(


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Vecturist
04-09-2014, 01:19 PM
Ooh. Fancy.

I would like to say my favorite is Bruichladdich 18 but as I've only been able to afford one bottle, ever, I don't know if it counts.

I mostly just drink gin. Because gin.


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On the upside, I don't have to worry about my drinking habits because of the price of a bottle... Never been one for gin, but if I'm out at the bar with friends, my standard is a Guinness.

Badger
04-09-2014, 01:25 PM
I don't have to worry about my drinking habits because of the price of a bottle...

I'm not exactly sure how to interpret this statement. Must be nice.


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daisy
04-09-2014, 01:47 PM
I love gin (Bombay Sapphire is my favourite) but it needs a good tonic. Fevertree is the best tonic brand I've come across, but few pubs stock it :(



We are lucky enough to have a bottle shop nearby that stocks both Fevertree and Q-tonic. But most bars here seem to use schweppes.

We did a taste test between Tanquerey, Bombay Sapphire and Copperwave (http://www.hunterdistillery.com.au/products.php) last night - the Bombay was definitely the smoothest.

(No we don't normally have 3 gins in stock - one bottle was almost out and we picked up the Copperwave on a recent trip to the Hunter Valley, a wine growing area which has a new distillery)

I have fond memories of a gin bar in Madrid a couple years back.


I'm not exactly sure how to interpret this statement. Must be nice.





I suspect Vecturist is lamenting the high cost of quality booze - which does indeed compel one to sip and savor rather than slam it down

Vecturist
04-09-2014, 01:52 PM
Yes, I was complaining about the cost of my preferred booze - it's definitely not an 'glass everyday after work' drink, at least on my current salary, and I'd think it'd lose some appeal if it were.

Badger
04-09-2014, 01:53 PM
I love gin (Bombay Sapphire is my favourite) but it needs a good tonic. Fevertree is the best tonic brand I've come across, but few pubs stock it :(


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Fever tree is a very good tonic indeed. My favorite is Fentiman's, and I've never been able to find it at a bar.


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Badger
04-09-2014, 01:58 PM
Yes, I was complaining about the cost of my preferred booze - it's definitely not an 'glass everyday after work' drink, at least on my current salary, and I'd think it'd lose some appeal if it were.

Haha. For a second I thought you were saying the exact opposite.

I'm very lucky that my favorite gin, which is small batch, loaded with botanicals, and so forth, is somewhere around $27-29 per bottle. That does put it in the category of an everyday gin but since I have to go to another state to get it, I hoard it away.

The longest I ever hoarded a bottle was around five years with a bottle of Glenrothes. It moved with me something like four times. I kind of felt like a jerk when I finally killed it.

This discussion is making the $8 cashews seem like a good deal.


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snowbot
04-09-2014, 07:36 PM
The one joy of being an utter lightweight is that I rarely have to worry about being able to afford two drinks at the bar.

Badger
04-10-2014, 07:29 AM
The one joy of being an utter lightweight is that I rarely have to worry about being able to afford two drinks at the bar.

But ... Didn't you spend enough time in Wisconsin to adapt? What is this "lightweight" of which you speak?

wink, wink


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mjpinter
07-17-2014, 02:16 PM
It is easy to find out what hotel has them and avoid them. You can also ask for an empty fridge, they cannot say no because you could need it for medications.




I knew I read this tip on this forum somewhere! I totally did this on this trip and it absolutely worked! There are no refrigerators in the rooms of the hotel that I am staying at right now, and I walked down to the front desk and told them that I needed a refrigerator for medicines (which I don't have) for my child (which I don't have) and five minutes later a wonderful chap named Jimmy brought one up to me on a little dolly. Amazing. You, backpack, have changed my life! I travel fairly often and hate not being able to make my own meals--now I am happily munching on yogurt, soy milk, and hummus to my heart's content.