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Brain Bag + Aeronaut = happiness

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    Brain Bag + Aeronaut = happiness

    This is my first field test for my new Brain Bag and Aeronaut.

    After hearing Leo Laporte rave about his Tom Bihn bags, I rushed to the website and immediately bought a Brain Bag to hold my 17" MacBook Pro and all of the associated stuff that comes along with it. I got the recommended Brain Cell to provide added support for the laptop, and perhaps act as a carry case when I don't want the whole bag.

    I'm a road-warrior, logging between 50 and 100 flight segments a year, mostly domestic US. I had been swearing by my Eagle Creek Switchback, using the daypack as my personal "laptop bag". However, more than once, my laptop floating around loosely in the daypack has gotten cosmetically damaged.

    The Brain Cell is a welcome change! It fits very nice, and the clips hold it well in the Brain Bag, to keep it all from coming apart as I (frequently) pull the laptop out for use or inspection at flight checkin. I also got a Snake Charmer, and can't imagine working without that convenience now. I put the power cord in one side, and everything else in the other, so that I can easily pull out the power cord without it being tangled in everything else.

    After using the Brain Bag for a couple of weeks, I decided I wasn't ever going back to my Eagle Creek, so now I needed "the clothes bag". Based on the "One Bag" site's info about how much space and weight the wheels take up, I decided to try a non-wheeled approach for for the first time in years. This was a brave move, but boy, am I happy with the results.

    I picked up the Aeronaut, opting for the smaller-frame backpack since I'm a small (but round) guy, and I don't think I'll be backpacking often with this. However, I stepped up to the Absolute Comfort shoulder strap, knowing that my back would be holding the Brain Bag while my shoulder (and neck) would be supporting the Aeronaut. I got a full size packing cell, two half size, and two small end-cap size cells, as recommended. (I'm still sorting out how to use these best.)

    After packing the Aeronaut with my usual "reusable one week of clothes", I couldn't believe it... I still had space left over, and I could easily support the bag with one hand! My Eagle Creek rollaboard was never this light, even packed with a light loadout.

    But the best part was on the outbound leg of this trip I'm currently on, to Brazil. My Delta flight from Portland to Atlanta got an hour weather delay, leaving me 15 minutes to get from the T concourse to the E concourse for my international leg. (Many of you reading know what this is like, I presume.) So, I grabbed the Brain Bag, and threw it on my back, and then slung the Aeronaut over my right shoulder and neck. I slung the bag forward in front of my waist, and grabbed both handles to reduce the weight on the neck. I ran like this to the tram, trammed to E, and then ran the rest of the way down to E1. Even carrying this, rather than rolling, it was still less effort, and I was especially happy not to need a double-wide space that the roller took. I might have looked a bit funny running with a big backpack sticking out my back, and a fullsize carryon in front of my stomach, but it worked, and that's all that mattered to me.

    I made my flight, and as I was getting settled in, I had just one small space over my seat to put my bag, the other spots already claimed by those that had a more leisurely connection. My Eagle Creek with its hard back would not have fit, but the Aeronaut fit nicely by "giving" just a bit since the sides are entirely soft. Again, a win for the Aeronaut. (If you've ever fought the center overhead storage in business class on a 757, you know the problems there, especially when someone else has a large rigid barely legal bag.)

    So far, I'm very very happy. Count me as one highly satisfied customer. Pictures soon... I've got to do the "what's in my bag" picture that everyone ends up doing as a rite-of-passage.

    Randal L. Schwartz
    <[email protected]>
    Last edited by merlyn; 04-14-2008, 12:57 PM. Reason: add signature
    Randal L. Schwartz

    trip report - part 2

    After three more segments (POA-GIG early in the week, and then a marathon of GIG-ATL and ATL-PDX with an eight hour layover), and the usual airport trouncing, I'm still extremely impressed.

    I speak at a lot of conferences, and frequently get handed the usual "conference bag" which often has stuff I'd like to take home with me. I'm also often handed one or two T-shirts from the various groups I speak with, and this trip was no exception.

    Prior to my Tom Bihn bags, I was almost always left in the awkward situation of trying to figure out how overstuffed I could make my Eagle Creek Rollaboard, still keeping everything I came with, but now with the additional goodies to take home. I'd sometimes even be forced to roll the T-shirts up and stuff them in my Scott-E-Vest coat pockets, making the airplane seatbelt a bit difficult to snap.

    But to my amazement, I just dropped the conference bag at the bottom of my Aeronaut, packed my clothes inside the packing cubes next, including having added the two T-shirts to the mix, and then easily zipped up the lid, without even so much as squishing or tugging!

    The extra space was immediately obvious to me, and I knew I wouldn't be scared of the Delta size-wize measuring devices on this trip... I was still legal. OK, so I thought it would then be too heavy, but I was still able to easily lift the Aeronaut by one hand on the handle... something my overstuffed rollaboard would have made rather difficult without a good counterbalance.

    I've found that even though I look a bit like an oddly shaped Sherpa, the best way to carry my load was having the weight both in back and in front directly. I put my rather heavily packed BrainBag on my back (using the waist belt for longer distances) and I sling the Aeronaut around my right shoulder and neck but hanging immediately in front of my waist. Distributed this way, I found that I could walk rather long distances without having to relieve the shoulder strap weight of the Aeronaut, although I would grab the Aeronaut by the end handles when I was standing in line occasionally to reduce the neck pull. One other advantage of this arrangement is that I found myself standing up straighter... a loaded backpack has not done well for my posture over the years.

    I discovered another odd benefit of not using a rollaboard: I have both hands free! It didn't occur to me until I pulled out my iPhone to check the time and schedule that I was actually using both hands while walking down the concourse... something that is usually awkward and often requires stopping with the rollaboard.

    And one more minor note... the Snake Charmer is amazing. Every time I had to set up my laptop, it was a simple matter to slide it out of the Brain Cell, and then grab the Snake Charmer from the other slot and quickly locate the cables I need. I now regret all the time I've spent digging through the bottom of my backpack case to find the right cables using the Eagle Creek bags.

    So, I'm now thoroughly convinced I made the right decision. Thanks Tom Bihn, and thanks to Leo Laporte for introducing me to my new favorite bags.
    Last edited by merlyn; 04-29-2008, 07:41 AM. Reason: adding extra note about standing straight
    Randal L. Schwartz


      Thanks for the great review! Do you travel with a suit? If so (and if you pack it in the Aeronaut) how does it look upon arrival?


        Thanks for the great review.

        How much do you bags weight filled in this manner?

        Could you elaborate more on the content of the bag?