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Moving away from backpacks as personal items: how'd you do it?

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    Moving away from backpacks as personal items: how'd you do it?

    I use backpacks 100% of the time. I've tried messenger style, not for me. Never had a briefcase.

    As a result this slightly reduces what I can take with me when I carry: I'm basically limited to wheeled luggage.
    I'd like to move to a more lightweight travel style, especially for business, but somehow I just cannot wrap my head around NOT using a backpack as my personal item on airplane. It just... doesn't make sense to me.

    For example if I'm gone for one week, I COULD take a Tri-Star. But then how do I bring my laptop to work?
    Or, for a three weeks vacation without the laptop, I could take an Aeronaut 45. But then what personal item do I take with me on my airplane seat?

    Right now I always take a wheely luggage, and a backpack (which as of a week ago is a Synapse 25). I'd LOVE to downsize and take an Aeronaut but it'd be a hassle to carry duffle style for a while, or indeed to carry the S25 on my arms if I use the A45 as a backpack.

    How'd you guys do it, for those who are now using briefcases or 'one bag' travel style?

    Maybe I missed something but why not still carry a backpack?


      Relaax, this is not an overly challenging question. Many of the Tom Bihn bags can be flat packed in your main luggage and then used for the daily routine of going to the office when traveling.

      Have a look at the Daylight Backpack. It takes very little space in your luggage.
      There are three different styles of Packing Cube backpacks that can be used inside another backpack.

      This is how I travel through airports and on business trips. Everything goes into one of my travel backpacks. Then I have a very packable bag with me. Once at the gate I simply put out the foldable pack with the stuff I want for the plane. Put the big backpack in the overhead and the other bag under my seat. My stuff that I pull out is usually in a Side effect or 3D organizer cube + large iPad Pro.


        If I understand correctly, I think the issue is that switching from a rollerbag to a wheel-less means moving to an item that is carried on one's back. So the personal items would have to be something other than a backpack.

        I agree that this is a quandary. Some people carry both bags, "turtle-style". I can imagine having that much weight hanging on me, though, and it seems awkward. A rollerbag/personal-item backpack is really not a bad combo. When I've walked around in airports and looked at what people are hauling, that seems to be a frequent solution, so there must be something to it.

        On my next trip I may end up with a rollerbag as well. I'm still deciding. Otherwise, I carry a very small personal item and keep the bulk of my things in the main bag. If you take the Tri-Star or Western Flyer, it's easy to fit your laptop in there, and a Halcyon Daylight Briefcase or something similarly lightweight can be added to carry it once you are at your destination. Or use the DLBC as your personal item?
        All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
        Edmund Burke


          pack a fanny pack?


            I have traveled internationally for years with a wheel bag and backpack. I have found that it is good when I do not have high level meetings. I Have just acquired a Empire Builder for those times when i need a more professional look. The back pack I have fits over the wheeled bag so there is nothing on my back. The trouble of packing your laptop in your bag, such as WF, TS, ETC. You will need to pull it out if you do not have TSA pre-check. If you have a DLBC you could carry it through security, and place it in your bag after that.


              I'm not sure I understand either. If you're trying to get away from wheeled luggage, a backpack makes sense. An S25 plus a Pilot, for example, can get you through many trips. S25 goes up top, Pilot stays with you @ your seat.


                I am probably an exception to the rule but I do not like to have tons of stuff with me at my seat - even on international flights. If traveling for work, it means I booked my flight last minute and I'll be boarding last, so there will not be overhead space available. So, I try to pack so I can fit what I need under the seat.

                I use an A30 or A45 in backpack mode. I pack my work bag in the main compartment. I carry a Side Effect with my phone and iPod shuffle. Those handle all my entertainment. I don't use pillows or large headphones. My ear buds are noise-cancelling and I usually can sleep comfortable in any airplane seat, regardless of location, without neck pillow.

                As for getting through security, I stop before entering the line and pull out my laptop and 3-1-1 bag. I hold these while in line. Then it is easy to drop them in bins - shoes and Side Effect with 3-1-1, laptop on its own - and get through the line without hassle.

                I just don't like the hassle of trying to keep up with two bags. If I have two bags, I will check one - which will more than likely hold only clothing.

                ETA: realized I didn't really say anything in comment to your question. My point is to have only a small 2nd item that can be held or worn over the shoulder or cross body and keep everything else in the larger bag, which can be carried backpack-style. Less hassle!
                Last edited by sujo; 12-08-2016, 08:38 AM.


                  I also do not bring anything to my seat. I have no problem doing nothing for the length of any flight. Looking out the window is fine. Then again, I grew up not being entertained during car trips. I was expected to just sit there.


                    You can use a backpack and a luggage that has a backpack mode.

                    At the airport, place one on your back and hold the other one by the handle

                    If you practice ultra light packing, both backpacks can be carried on one shoulder.

                    It would help if the second backpack is no bigger than the S19, both it and the Daylight Backpack are ideal for that.

                    If the trip is tiring, complicated or both, the Daylight Backpack or even an almost empty S19 can be slipped into the luggage in backpack mode.

                    I am sure the Daylight Backpack is ok in the Tristar, A30 and A45, people who own the Western Flyer need to share their experience.

                    The almost empty, S19, however, is mostly at ease inside the A45. It might fit the A30 but it would take too much space in the Tristar or
                    Western Flyer, unless it is given the space of the main compartment. But, if one only needs one third of the Tristar or half of the Western Flyer for clothes, a Synapse 25 as a sole luggage is better suited. Packing Cubes can hide the clothes.


                      Moving away from backpacks as personal items: how'd you do it?

                      +1 for having one bag that holds everything you need with something inside that you take out when you put your bag in overhead storage or a car trunk.

                      For different trips, use different "somethings." On a short trip, I've had just a large TB pouch holding a tablet, magazine and papers inside a Western Flyer. On a long trip with a kid, I had a stuffed Daylight Backpack inside an Aeronaut 45. (I've also used one end packing cube.). Either way, it is easy to walk and get through the airport with one bag -- then pull out the "something" when I get to my seat.

                      If you need a second bag for your time at your destination, a DLBP or Daylight Briefcase fit flat in any big bag. Maybe take up a chunk of a Western Flyer, then carrying a DLBP and a WF is quite easy.

                      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                      Last edited by Fulton; 12-08-2016, 09:05 AM.


                        Back when I was still travelling my goal for going "one-bag" was to try to save room for my feet. At almost 6', I don't like having to place a personal item under the seat in front of me.

                        At the time, Northwest showed a strong favouritism for roll-aboards, so I went with a Brigg's and Riley Fuse (this one here: Briggs & Riley Fuse 20" Carry-on Computer Upright - eBags.com). This was a pretty good combination of bag-in-a-bag for my needs, at the time. The computer sleeve that came with the B&R was good enough to carry back and forth to the office, though I wished it had a shoulder strap. And the roller was just big enough for everything else I used to bring. At security it was easy to pull out the computer sleeve and send it through since it was speed-thru compliant. My 3-1-1 I kept in the front pouch so also easily to grab. And once on the plane, I was able to put it all overhead.

                        If traveling on a smaller plane, like a Dash-8, where they gate check your carry-ons, it was easy to pull out the laptop sleeve, toss a couple of extra items I didn't want to check, like say, medication in it, and take that on the plane while letting them check the roller. On those smaller planes, the sleeve still went up in the overhead. But I used to get a lot of times where people would end up placing their heavy backpacks on top of my laptop, because it was so thin they didn't realize it was there. Either that or didn't care, but I like to believe it was more likely lack of noticing.

                        However, as I got better at packing lighter, and the times I was on smaller planes increased, and the merger (buyout) between Northwest and Delta meant vastly more people in front of me on the upgrade list to the point it became absolutely hopeless of getting upgrades, plus the number of passengers who were filling the overhead space before I could even get on board increased, the roller started becoming more of a hassle.

                        So, I pulled out an old Swiss Gear backpack I used to use to carry a personal 17" laptop around. (Closest picture I can find on the net is this: SwissGear® Computer Backpack, Red/Black - Sale Prices - Deals - Canada's Cheapest Prices - Shoptoit) With this, I was able to pack in that semi-sweet spot of being large enough to not have anybody complain about it going in the overhead, but small enough to get it on the 'check your carry-on' flights. And when the overhead's were generally full of roll-aboards, I could squeeze this into the left over space a lot better than I could my B&R, keeping it generally closer to my seat.

                        You might be wondering how this does at security, well, since my Nexus qualified me for Pre-Check, my need to pull out a laptop dropped from always to almost never (except for the odd random additional screening which I think only happened once or maybe twice so far over my Pre-Check years). Without the Pre-Check, the way I tended to stuff the backpack could make putting the laptop back after pulling it out a hassle.

                        The downsides were that it didn't look professional, I had to unpack it fully to be able to use a generic laptop back back and forth to the client, and that when it was being used as generic laptop back, it was way oversized for the my now little Lenovo 14" ultrabook.

                        Thankfully, the last couple of years all my clients have been within driving distance, so the need to travel both light and airplane compliant hasn't really come up. Most days, I was fine with my messenger bag (that just got replaced with a DLBC this week!). However, I always know there's a chance the next client might have me back on a plane. If that happens, I'm pretty sure I'll be clicking 'buy' on the Western Flyer I've been eyeing for a while now. I can't justify the spend if I'm not on the road, but it looks like it can combine the best of both worlds between what I used to use my B&R and my Swiss Gear for. Being able to sit in that sweet spot of large enough for overhead but small enough to pass a personal item, more professional looking and providing bag-in-a-bag capabilities for lighter hotel-client travel.


                          My wife and I got away last weekend. I met her there carrying the s25. She came with the a45 with one absolute strap. On the way home I realized the problem with having two bags that are best backpack carried.
                          I carried the a45 on my back and slung the s25 cross bodied with the absolute strap...one end clipped to the handle the other where a waist strap would attach. It wasn't perfect but way better than carrying the s25 by the handle.
                          I even had hands free to drink coffee.

                          Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


                            This is the big hole in the Bihn line-up: a zero-g personal item bag that's shoulder strap carry or convertible to a backpack.

                            The Western Flyer is getting close but it's still too big - a DLBP-size WF would be great ... it could be called the Western Runner.

                            In the meantime, I backpack carry my A45 or WF and shoulder carry my Pilot with a PCSB piggy-back. The Pilot goes under the seat, the PCSB holds all of my in-flight stuff and goes on the seat back. Once I'm at my destination the Pilot becomes my briefcase and I always use the DLBP flat or as a packing cube if I need a day bag.

                            Pro Tip: the DLBP won't hold a baguette so you'll need an umbrella.


                              I understand where the OP is coming from, as this was my biggest dilemma when deciding whether or not to buy an Aeronaut. I was an S25 + Roller bag traveler for years, but really wanted to find a way to be hands-free in the airport, and having the A45 seemed ideal to me. Plus it's such a cool bag. I still have specific scenarios that challenge me, and I'm not yet settled on my ideal personal item, which varies depending on whether or not I'm taking my DSLR.

                              For quick weekends with no camera gear, I do the A45 and my Ristretto, which handles my iPad, phone, keys, a snack, etc. perfectly. Those are my favorite trips.

                              For longer trips with the camera gear and/or laptop, I use the A45 and have tried: Checkpoint Flyer, which I found uncomfortable, and then a big sack-like bag I grabbed at Target at the last minute before my last big trip. That bag was a bottomless pit but it held up like a champ and I crammed a LOT of dumb stuff in it. It just was impossible to find anything in it, and was heavy enough to stun an ox.

                              So I have now purchased a Large Cafe Bag, which I was hoping would be similar in capacity but easier to use, than the bottomless sack. And I'm currently contemplating throwing a MCB into the mix as well for other situations.

                              I am also looking at getting a mirrorless camera body to further reduce weight and space consumption there. Having already streamlined my lens selection for travel.

                              In all scenarios I pack the Daylight Backpack in the strap pocket of the A45 for use at my destination. Because I too, am ultimately a backpack human.

                              My last trip for work I was fortunate to be able to forgo the laptop and use just my iPad Pro and keyboard. With all the iOS work apps and Microsoft 365 I was able to do everything I needed to do that way. But obviously that won't work for everybody. I hope I never have to lug my laptop on a plane again if I can avoid it.
                              "Here's my life. I have to mine it, farm it, trade it, tenant it, and when the lease is up, it cannot be renewed."
                              --Jeanette Winterson