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Help with choosing a carry-on bag

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    Help with choosing a carry-on bag

    I hope all you wonderful people out there can help me decide on a carry-on bag for when I fly. I tend to use only one bag as I'm someone who always checks a bag when I travel. Currently I use the Patagonia Critical Mass bag as my carry-on and I've been looking at the Tom Bihn bags as an alternative as the critical mass is good, but I get frustrated with how I organize things in it and it never seems to work out exactly the way I want it to. I got a Swift for Christmas and I'm in love with the bag, so I'm looking to change out the Patagonia bag to a Tom Bihn one.

    The new bag would have to accommodate these things:

    1. Bose QC15 headphones in case
    2. Kindle keyboard in case
    3. Eyeglasses in case
    4. Sunglasses in case
    5. Canon S100 camera in case
    6. Ipod classic
    7. 2 x passports
    8. Paper money, change & wallet
    9. Hat, gloves, small jacket
    10. Small moleskine + magazines/crossword puzzles
    11. Pens & Pencils
    12. Medication
    13. Small knitting bag
    14. External battery (Anker 3 x usb port)
    15. Set of in-ear headphones
    16. Iphone 5
    17. Cables and chargers.

    I'm leading towards the Pilot (with various accessories), but it's back-ordered until late March and my next trip is at the end of February so I need something before then. So I wonder if the co-Pilot would work or the Ristretto or something else? I know I don't want to do a backpack.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.


    My first thought was a Synapse, but since you're not looking for a backpack, I can't really comment on how that load would fit in the bags you're considering (I don't own any of them).

    However, if you have your heart set on a Pilot for your next trip, you can always try calling Customer Service to see if they have a stray Pilot hanging around. You never know!
    kindness is contagious.


      @tiger07 - It's unfortunate the Pilot is on backorder since I think it would fit your list, depending on the size of your small jacket. As an alternative option, have you considered the Night Flight? It has been designed with with carry-on sizing limits in mind and would easily fit your list...the only downside is its ability to hold magazines and full size papers. Might be a dealbreaker for you.

      You can always look on Ebay for TB bags too (There's actually a Pilot on Ebay currently, sale ending today). Good luck!
      Last edited by nathant4; 01-22-2015, 01:30 PM.


        @tiger07 - have you considered the Parental Unit? I don't have one (yet), but I think it should fit everything on your list. Otherwise, definitely check with TB customer service and the member swap thread to see if you can snag a Pilot.

        "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions." — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.


          I would suggest the Night Flight, though I think your packing list *might* test it, because all those "in case" notes may mean jostling bags that each cause a few cubic centimeters of space lost ... then again, that's a small camera, your glasses case might be smaller than I'm picturing, etc. I think the Night Flight is especially nice for having more structure than most other bags (Bihn or not) that I own, and since I can be clumsy and fumbly when trying to get things out of an under-seat bag, that's very helpful. The kindle, in neoprene case, is in *this* pocket, which is oriented nicely upward for grabbing, and the snacks are *here* ...

          The NF is slightly squarer, though -- the tradeoff for structure -- which means it's not quite as body hugging as some others. The Parental Unit would I think also work.



            One caveat about the Night Flight, which I have in Dyneema and think is a fantastic 2nd carry-on bag - it does not fit a standard magazine, so if you like to pick up something to read of that dimension, then keep that in mind. Small books will fit, though.


              I have the Pilot, and feel it could probably handle almost everything on your list, though I am not sure about the jacket! And it kind of depends on how large your medication, bag of chargers and knitting stuff is. The strong point of these bags are the interior organisation (that's why I love mine).

              The Pilot, though, particularly in the dyneema version, tends to collapse and get saggy if you are not carrying one stiff item, such as a laptop, that is a rectangle about the shape of the bag. At least that has been my experience. It doesn't stop me from using it, but it is a consideration in how I pack it and which outer material I choose.

              The "Parental Unit", which I haven't tried myself, does seem to offer a lot of interior organisation as well. I'd be tempted to try that out if I were you. Again, though, I'm not sure if it would accommodate everything on your list as well as the jacket, gloves and hat...
              All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
              Edmund Burke


                I used my Ego bag as a carryon with a similar load on my last long haul trip (Australia to Europe). Similar in style to the bag you have (assuming you have the messenger not the backpack currently) and a great bag.

                Only drawback is that the front pouch is not zipped - however I had everything in tethered pouches in the front so it worked well.

                Being able to access the main compartment without opening the flap is a good feature too.
                List under construction ....


                  Hm, I have reservations about the PU due to your jacket, headphones, and kindle keyboard. (The garments will probably need some kind of compression unless they're super lightweight.) And the small knitting bag. I'm guessing that it will be a tight fit at best, but the organization and ease of removing your stuff from the bag can't be beat. If you're in no hurry and don't mind the return fee, I think it's worth trying that and the Night Flight, which has the added bonus of removable padding, I think?


                    Just in case this helps to visualize, I will attach a few photos I took a while back of various items that will fit in the Pilot.

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                    ETA: Note: Those are Bose QC15s in the case plus Kindle, iPad mini, etc. I think you could fit all the items you are talking about, depending on how big the jacket is that you would bring. If it were something like a windbreaker that fits into its own pocket, like a Patagonia Houdini jacket, no problem. But if you are talking about a bulkier lined jacket, that might be difficult. I adore the Pilot for an airline carry-on.
                    Last edited by NWhikergal; 01-22-2015, 07:44 PM.
                    "Do one thing every day that scares you." - Eleanor Roosevelt
                    "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." -Ferris Bueller


                      I am gradually transitioning DH to TB bags--Each trip I pull out an appropriately sized bag and suggest he "try packing" his stuff in it. Fortunately, he has never (so far) questioned when I acquired these bags and to my knowledge hasn't figured out the cost of them. A while back, I purchased a Pilot (Navy/Solar) with him in mind and "offered it up" as his personal item for this trip. He promptly declined and said he'd rather take "that backpack(S19) I used last time" (2 day). I transferred my own stuff from Imago, to Swift, to MCB inside LSB, and finally caved, pulled the tags off the Pilot, and used it. I absolutely love the Pilot, so much so, that I will have to order one for myself if DH shows any interest in it. My tip is to keep in mind that capacity on paper does not necessarily equal actual packing space. The design of each bag compared to the configuration of your actual stuff is the true measure of what will fit. We are currently traveling for 6 days with 2WF, 1S19, and the Pilot...so far by small regional jet (double seat across the aisle from single seat) followed by regular jet (3 seats on each side of the aisle), carry on only. The organization of the Pilot is awesome...I know exactly where everything is and it is easy to access what I need. Many thanks for another wonderful bag which I previously thought I didn't need because I "already had a couple of bags with similar capacity"...now I'm wondering if there might need to be an A30 in my (our?) future...:-)
                      Lots of assorted purples, some blues, and a bit of black: 2S19, 5SE, 2WF, MCB, SCB, Imago, 2S, LS, TT, K, 2QC, 5 3D, 4WFSBPC, 2WFBPPC, FJNB, 4Wallets, 4LSB, 2SSB, DLBP, Pilot, Assorted sacks, packing cubes, organizer pouches, key straps :-)


                        1. Bose QC15 headphones in case
                        2. Kindle keyboard in case
                        3. Eyeglasses in case
                        4. Sunglasses in case
                        5. Canon S100 camera in case

                        These four items, especially their cases' volume, will probably decide which bag you should get.


                          Thank you all for your comments, I hadn't considered the Night Flight and I am now seriously considering it. The magazines aren't a deal breaker, although it's disappointing that they don't fit in the Night Flight.

                          For more information as I guess my list wasn't detailed enough:

                          The jacket is a Patagonia down sweater hoody so it packs down quite small (it's a women's small).
                          The hat and gloves are beanie style hat and liner gloves
                          The kindle is in it's own leather case - so not too bulky, about the size of a paperback book.
                          My sunglasses and eyeglasses again are in fairly small cases, same with the camera.
                          The knitting bag would be the medium yarn stuff sack.


                            I think that would fit in the Pilot since down packs so small. For the Pilot at least I could test pack an equivalent list later today, if that helps to confirm. While the adorable NFTD has its devotees, I prefer the Pilot for when I want to bring magazines or it has to do cross duty at a meeting or conference and carry folders and binders. Plus I like being able to carry a decent sized water bottle in the Pilot middle front pocket. It all depends on your intended uses, since we each have our bag favorites here!
                            "Do one thing every day that scares you." - Eleanor Roosevelt
                            "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." -Ferris Bueller


                              @NWhikergal - wow that would be great to test pack an equivalent list. Thanks!