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Addax 31 - a great adding to the TB portfolio

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    Addax 31 - a great adding to the TB portfolio

    Hi folks, adding to Cristina 's post on the Addax 26, here is my first take on the new Addax 31 (Nebulous Grey Ballistic / Island Halcyon 200) which was provided to me free of charge by Tom Bihn. I had the chance to test it for a couple of weeks now.

    I first have to say that I love big backpacks. My EDC for the last couple of months has been the Shadow Guide 33 and before that it was the Synik 30. That is because I commute with my bike and can’t have enough space for extra clothes, my gym stuff, groceries shopping on my way back, a decent loaf of bread, etc. I don’t mind if a bag is only half full but I hate it if it is jam-packed or if I don’t have enough space for additional things. And no, I am not a minimalist traveller, I often check in bags, bring a carry-on in addition and my personal item is usually way bigger than it should be. Last time it was – believe it or not – the Addax 31, as I just returned from the US (and they’ve let me pass!). Given that, I am really glad, that TB has another big one on offer!


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    The most prominent characteristic of the Addax is the roll-top. It seems that this kind of opening is quite popular recently, so I started thinking about its merits. First of all, it gives the bag a very clean look) in comparison to other top loading backpacks (e.g. the Shadow Guide 33), as there is no need for a lid that has to be fixed on the front. Furthermore, you can roll the top more or less to adjust the volume of the bag, although my experience is, that if you roll it too little it might diverge in the middle and doesn’t close properly. Finally, it is a very intuitive way to close things, e.g. you would probably do some kind of rolling to close a paper bag.

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    ​There are a couple of closing mechanisms for roll-top bags. My Ortlieb bike panniers for instance close by connecting the two ends of the roll, as one has a female and one a male buckle. Other packs use Velcro or magnets to fix the roll, some have a strap that is fixed to the front of the backpack and runs over the roll. Yet, the Addax still has another mechanism: Both ends of the roll have buckles connecting to their counterparts that are fixed to the back panel. In my opinion this adds to the clean look of the bag, as the ends of the roll are nicely tucked away. However, you can still connect the two ends of the roll to each other as the buckles have opposite orientations, i.e. male on one side, female on the other, although I think that this type of closing is much less convincing aesthetically.

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    To allow for the roll-top there is need for additional fabric on the top of the bag. Some might consider that as a downside of this kind of opening as it adds to the depth of the bag. Thus, to reach the bottom of the Addax 31 you have to really dive deep. To me that’s not an issue, but clearly, top loading backpacks with no front opening can easily become a little disorderly when loaded with too many small items and the added depth does certainly not help in this regard.

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    In terms of organization, the Addax comes with two zippered front pockets: the lower one with no additional organization, the top one with two mesh pockets to store smaller things such as a wallet, a phone, etc.

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    Furthermore, there is a zippered pocket intended to hold a water bottle (shown with my 16 oz Kleen Kanteen insulated bottle) or similar things on one side and an open pocket (!) on the other that is also suited to hold a water bottle (yeah!) or an umbrella.

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    On the back there is a huge laptop compartment (compare to my 13'' Macbook Pro) that can either be accessed through a zipper on the right side or through a zipper at the top of this compartment from inside the bag.

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    Inside the bag there are two mesh pockets attached to the front panel and one large one to the back panel. I illustrate their size here: I put an everyday cubelet in each of the front pockets and a hoodie in the back pocket (I think it is intended for a tablet), you can also see the inside opening of the laptop compartment.

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    What I also noticed is that this bag is fully lined. As many of you know, one of Tom’s design principles was, that he would never line a bag just for the sake of it, but only if it would make sense in terms of functionality. One of the major reasons for this principle is the fact that lining adds weight. Without being an expert on bag construction, I was wondering whether the Addax – the first full design of Jose, TB’s new designer – is an exception to the rule as it is fully lined. I have to say that I really like that because it gives the bag an almost luxurious feel. But it is indeed quite heavy: The TB site says 1200g, my scale did say 1300g. That’s comparable to the weight of a Synapse 30 which, however, has a much more complex architecture and a little heavier than the Shadow Guide 33 which is bigger though and has no lining at all.

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    Of course, there are O-rings all over the place! But, I miss at least one additional one: As I love to use Freudian Slips I need an attachment point somewhere at the top of the inner back of the bag (because otherwise the FS starts to bend at the lower end and slips down into the bag. However, three additional O-rings in that position would be best as that would also allow me to attach a 3D Organizer Cube as an additional interior pocket (I use one that way in all my backpacks and found this to be the best position).

    Speaking of other big backpacks, here are some comparison pics: First of all, side by side and back-to-back with the Shadow Guide 33. As you can see the Addax is slimmer and broader. Both packs have the same back panel and shoulder straps and thus, the carrying comfort of the Addax is great! Even with heavy loads it carries really comfortably.

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    Now, side by side and back-to-back with the Synik 30. The Synik 30 is the most compact of the three bags which I think is mainly due to the fact that it is more compartmentalized.

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    In conclusion: Kudos to Jose for a convincing debut (and to the TB crew for another extremely well-made bag)!

    If you need additional details, please let me know!

    ...spread joy in your neighbourhood (and not Corona!)
    current bags: Smart Alec, Guide's Pack, Guide's Edition S25, Luminary 15, Daylight Backpack, Aeronaut 45, Tri-Star, Road Buddy 36, Daylight Briefcase, Small Yeoman Duffel, bits and pieces

    #2
    Just a quick note, looks like we (and by "we" I mean me) had the Addax 26 measurements in the Addax 31 by mistake, good catch! On average, the Addax 31 weights 1360g in Ballistic and 1235g in X-Pac®. :)
    Last edited by MatthewR; 11-15-2022, 02:06 PM.

    Comment


      #3
      Great review, bartleby! Nice to see pics of the larger size, and also side by side with the SG33. Gosh, I thought the SG33 was tall when I got it, but with the roll top extended, you could definitely squeeze more into the Addax 31 than those 31 promised litres.

      Edited to add: I agree, it’s heavy right out of the box. I can live with it because of the waist strap, which I would use anyway, but it’s good to point out as it’s heavier than expected.
      Last edited by Cristina; 11-15-2022, 02:04 PM.

      Comment


        #4
        Thanks so much for the reviews and pics!

        This is innovative and a great effort on the part of the new designer. I do like the idea of the XPac option; I've been told that it doesn't have the same issue with the coating peeling over time or in high humidity that the ballistic can succumb to, so while I'm happy to see that this bag is fully lined, that would become less important to me with an XPac exterior. Though aesthetically it's nice to see all that color, there would be a weight-savings without it.

        To me, it's something like a Paragon with extra organization (and of course a rolltop closure). If the Addax is offered in the 18-20 liter range it would be really tempting as an EDC. If I didn't already have a lot of Tom Bihn gear, including the Techonaut, I'd consider the larger size for travel.
        ----
        All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
        Edmund Burke

        Comment


          #5
          Great review! If you have an A30, would you please post comparison pictures with that?
          A30 - Original Halcyon/UV MB - Aubergine/NWS LCB - Original Halcyon/Wasabi! MCB - Steel dyneema/Wasabi! STT - Wasabi! SE - NORDIC/Solar TT - Sitka

          TB Newbie First factory visit - 9/21/2018

          Heart’s desire: a S19 or S25 in original NORDIC.

          Comment


            #6
            Nice to see a repeat of the Shadow Guide back panel. That bag is an extremely comfortable carry.
            Currently trying out a secondhand Red Blend S19 for EDC!

            Comment


              #7
              As soon as you mentioned the Shadow Guide 33, I was hoping to hear some more comparison, and I was not disappointed. Love those comparison screenshots, and they actually leave me with a lot of questions on the dimensions. The SG33 is listed as 14" wide while the Addax 31 is listed as only 12.8" wide, but judging by the photos, the Addax is far and away the wider of the two. The depth of the SG33 is listed as 9", while the Addax 31's is listed as 11.8", and yet in terms of depth, the Addax appears notably leaner front-to-back (and that measurement raises questions on the suitability for travel, where maximum depths tend to cap out at 9", or 10" at the very most).

              It's very interesting to see that the Addax basically inherits the Shadow Guide's back panel, which I think is pretty good for all-rounder usage. In terms of height, does the SG33 or Addax 31 feel taller on the back? Although the skeleton back panels appear to be almost the same size, some of the Shadow Guide's height is dependent on whether the hood pocket is suitably stuffed. Of all my packs, the SG33 has been the trickiest to get a sense of its proper dimensions in use/from a practical standpoint (versus just what's listed on the webpage), so seeing another pack built on the same bones sort of helps to gauge it and put it into perspective. One note on weight: the SG33's weight takes into account the frame sheet/stay, which is included with that bag, while the Addax's listed weight does not, as the frame is an extra add-on.

              To be perfectly honest, I haven't got much interest in the Addax. As I mentioned, I own a Shadow Guide 33, which I think occupies the same conceptual space as it, and of the two I find the SG33 superior for what I'm looking to use a bag of that size and capacity for (travel). Also--and this is just personal preference here--I straight-up do not like roll-top bags. They have exactly two advantages: scalability of capacity, and if you really really don't want rain to get in your bag. If one doesn't have an express need for either of those features, they're inferior to almost all other bag opening types, plagued by such onerous access to a bag's contents that significant numbers of roll-top bags on the market seem to have zippers built into the sides for quick entry (as though admitting the inherent weaknesses of the form). I find it difficult to understand the appeal, but I suspect it's just one of those designs that is made more because they are easier to make than many other designs.

              That said, this offering can be said to "fill a gap" in the TB lineup, offering a design, a water bottle carry style, and even a fabric option that the company hasn't used before. I'm just sort of curious where this pack is supposed to be positioned. The inner and outer pockets suggest EDC, but the openness of the main compartment suggests travel. I'm still hoping, someday, to see a proper, dedicated travel backpack from TB. There have been several bags that have danced around that idea: the Hero's Journey [on the maximalist end of things], the SG33, the Synik, the Techonauts, and now this, but I'm hoping for something that's a great travel backpack and only concerned with being that.
              Last edited by ittoujuu; 11-15-2022, 11:16 PM.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by ittoujuu View Post

                What I also noticed is that this bag is fully lined. As many of you know, one of Tom’s design principles was, that he would never line a bag just for the sake of it, but only if it would make sense in terms of functionality. One of the major reasons for this principle is the fact that lining adds weight.​.
                MikeV this new bag is fully lined! Will TB be reverting to fully lined Aeronauts? Yup, I said REVERTING, because under Tom Bihn's stewardship, Aeronauts had been sold fully lined with halcyon.

                The Aeronaut 30 is more expensive and approx the same size as Addax 31, therefore the same level of "fully lined" should apply

                Regarding functionality, halcyon is very easy to wipe down.

                Tom is gone, so please don't use the reason of "Tom's philosophy...."

                The weight addition (just a few grams) of the halcyon lining is well worth the happiness interior colour brings.
                Last edited by bijoux; 11-16-2022, 03:33 AM.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by ittoujuu View Post
                  I'm still hoping, someday, to see a proper, dedicated travel backpack from TB. There have been several bags that have danced around that idea: the Hero's Journey [on the maximalist end of things], the SG33, the Synik, the Techonauts, and now this, but I'm hoping for something that's a great travel backpack and only concerned with being that.
                  Same. I think the back panel and the bottom (slanted toward the body) of the Shadow Guide are a good start there. I love my SG for carrying heavy loads. I wouldn't want the drawstring closure though (or roll-top).
                  Currently trying out a secondhand Red Blend S19 for EDC!

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by bijoux View Post

                    MikeV this new bag is fully lined! Will TB be reverting to fully lined Aeronauts? Yup, I said REVERTING, because under Tom Bihn's stewardship, Aeronauts had been sold fully lined with halcyon.

                    The Aeronaut 30 is more expensive and approx the same size as Addax 31, therefore the same level of "fully lined" should apply

                    Regarding functionality, halcyon is very easy to wipe down.

                    Tom is gone, so please don't use the reason of "Tom's philosophy...."

                    The weight addition (just a few grams) of the halcyon lining is well worth the happiness interior colour brings.
                    I could be wrong, but my understanding is that the Aeronaut redesign started while Tom et.al. were still there... It's been in the works for quite some time.
                    “Commander, I always used to consider that you had a definite anti-authoritarian streak in you.”
                    “Sir?”
                    “It seems that you have managed to retain this even though you are authority.”
                    “Sir?”
                    “That’s practically zen.”
                    -Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

                    Comment


                      #11
                      ittoujuu epeterson
                      What features are y'all looking for in a 'great travel backpack' ?

                      When I'm not playing with new bags, that's what the Aeronauts/Techonauts are for me.
                      “Commander, I always used to consider that you had a definite anti-authoritarian streak in you.”
                      “Sir?”
                      “It seems that you have managed to retain this even though you are authority.”
                      “Sir?”
                      “That’s practically zen.”
                      -Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by G42 View Post
                        ittoujuu epeterson
                        What features are y'all looking for in a 'great travel backpack' ?

                        When I'm not playing with new bags, that's what the Aeronauts/Techonauts are for me.
                        The use case I'm looking at is flying somewhere (or taking the train), and then carrying the pack on my back for a few miles outside.

                        Features I'm looking for:

                        - Ventilated back panel, for comfort when it's hot out. This rules out the Aeronaut, but not the Techonaut. I do have an SG23, and I love the 'skeleton' and the mesh in the back panel. The mesh back panel of something like the Smart Alec would also be fine for this use case, although not *quite* as good as the skeleton panel.

                        - Carries weight well. Ideally this would mean that the pack design directs the weight toward the body. The slanted bottom of the SG23 is great for this, but ideally I'd like cinch straps on the sides as well, Brain Bag style. I think the Aeronaut and Techonaut both have internal straps to secure things in the main compartment -- I don't have either bag, so I can't really evaluate how well they perform this function. Both the Aeronaut and Techonaut look, to me at least, like a box designed to maximize carrying capacity within airline size requirements, rather than a "shape" designed for comfortably carrying weight.

                        - Comfortable straps -- I suspect both the Aeronaut/Techonaut are fine for this, since I like the edgeless straps on the SG23 and the Smart Alec.

                        - Protects the contents. One thing I don't really like about the Aeronaut/Techonaut is both have a "side pocket" which ends up being on the ground if you set the bag down in "backpack configuration." I'm not sure what I'd actually use that pocket for -- anything I can think of that I'd want separated is also something that I wouldn't want getting smashed when I set the bag down.

                        - Fits within airline size requirements (although this doesn't need to be a "maximized" shape/volume; I just want to be able to carry it on).

                        - Edit: I do always travel with a device (either a tablet or a laptop) and I'd want to carry it in the bag, but I'm fine with putting it in a separate sleeve in the main compartment rather than having a dedicated laptop compartment. Whatever works. :)

                        FWIW I think I will probably give the Brain Bag a try for this purpose, although it would be great to see if TB had any new design ideas in this space.​
                        Last edited by epeterson; 11-16-2022, 08:03 AM.
                        Currently trying out a secondhand Red Blend S19 for EDC!

                        Comment


                          #13
                          bartleby I'm always super impressed by your studio-quality photographs. Clear. Well-lit. And focused on not just the big picture, but the small details, too. I was also surprised by how much it weighs empty, and why it came fully lined when omitting the lining would probably have saved a significant amount of weight (on the Xpac version, I think they could easily do without it since the back side of that material is usually a contrasting white and plenty waterproof). BUT I appreciate the contrasting liner on such a tall, deep bag. I returned an Ursa/Cobalt Cambiata awhile back because, among other things, the lining felt too dark for a deep bag and I wanted something lighter with more contrast. I eventually bought a Coyote/Sangria Cambiata, and it's a "night and day" difference in how much easier it is to locate items in the main volume when the lining is a lighter, brighter color. If I remember correctly, the Aeronauts are still fully lined bags, but use the same color Ballistic as the outside of the bag. It wasn't a cost-cutting or weight-saving decision, and the only true loss was the loss of contrast, which does become a little more problematic with dark bags (Black, Ursa, etc.).

                          bijoux Regarding lining and all that? While reviewing the Addax 31, I sent a rough draft of my review to Maia, who forwarded it along to Jose - we exchanged a few emails back and forth, but I did learn that the Cambiata was mostly a Nik design with some minor input from Tom, and last-minute simplifications and improvements from Jose. Point being, I was very mistaken in assuming a new bag came from a new designer, but the timing was so concurrent I just assumed they were related to another. They weren't. So the first original design from Jose is the Addax and NOT the Cambiata. Jose's a smart dude, and the design is informed largely by his personal experience as a bike commuter - so all the features come straight from practice, and not theory. By a bike commuter, for bike commuters (and whomever else can find it useful). Sometimes it's just easiest to go straight to the horse's mouth for some clarity, and that's what I did - I flat out asked Jose in an email who designed the Cambiata, and he gave me a straight answer.

                          ittoujuu, I've owned "front entry" ultralight hiking backpacks that also have a roll-top, and while adding a side or front zipper entry allows quick and easy access without unfurling the roll top, it's also the most likely point of failure (I've had bags with "water resistant" zippers that even have garages built over the zippers leak). Since you're stuffing items into a large main volume regardless of the point of entry, I think it's going to be a shift of organizational mindset, more than anything. More than anything, the built-in pockets help, and if you need more than that, it's probably a great bag to add a Freudian Slip into.
                          Last edited by Chicagoan; 11-16-2022, 08:14 AM.
                          I own a LOT of Tom Bihn bags, but here are the ones I'm using right now:
                          Everyday Carry: SK
                          Hiking Daypack: Cambiata

                          Car Travel: SK, T45, MT
                          Plane
                          ​Travel: CP, TS, SZTSB

                          Comment


                            #14
                            epeterson all really good points!

                            I think it might be worth you trying a T30 at some point, just to see it. For that bottom pocket, I either put a second pair of shoes plus misc. or it's a great spot for the laundry cubes. They keep everything squared off and for me at least, the squish thing doesn't matter to my undies, PJs, t-shirts, etc.

                            The BB does have a lot of cool features and I've single bagged with it. The compression straps are great.
                            For my physical size, it's very very wide across my body, which is probably why I don't carry it as much.
                            “Commander, I always used to consider that you had a definite anti-authoritarian streak in you.”
                            “Sir?”
                            “It seems that you have managed to retain this even though you are authority.”
                            “Sir?”
                            “That’s practically zen.”
                            -Terry Pratchett, Feet of Clay

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by G42 View Post
                              ittoujuu epeterson
                              What features are y'all looking for in a 'great travel backpack' ?

                              When I'm not playing with new bags, that's what the Aeronauts/Techonauts are for me.
                              Glad you asked! Before starting in, I wanted to say that I think the Aeronaut is a good bag, but it is functionally a duffel with backpack straps. I love duffels; they're my go-to for car trips and other times where I know I'm not going to have to hoof it for more than 15 minutes at a stretch. But for something I'd take overseas, a proper backpack is important to me because I want to be hands-free. So...what AM I looking for in a great travel backpack?

                              - The way I pack and organize, I like a "two-chamber setup." Basically, one large space, into which I can stuff my packing cubes, dopp kit, extra jacket, packable daypack, etc. that gets closed before I head out and (ideally) doesn't need to be opened until I arrive at my hotel. Then, another compartment of decent size that can hold all the things I want to actually access while in transit. My two "travel packs" - a Goruck GR2 40L and (as of a couple months ago) a Shadow Guide 33 - both accomplish this in different ways, but both satisfactorily deliver on this point. On a conceptual level, my preference here can be thought of like "having a small daypack stapled to your travel pack."

                              As an aside, the Techonaut almost accomplishes this, but its separate compartment being on the bottom makes it so much less useful to me than the Shadow Guide's hood pocket. In the SG33's hood pocket, I'll have a Side Effect to corral small stuff, and most of my electronics will be in there. I would not put any of that stuff in the bottom pocket of the Techonaut. The slim pockets on the Techonaut's side and top don't seem especially useful for me, being thin, deep, and lacking enough dedicated volume.

                              - The harness system needs to be good. The Shadow Guide, with its skeleton back panel, ventilated mesh, frame sheet w. half-stay, and edgeless straps accomplishes this, and I would think that harness system the optimal foundation on which TB might build this hypothetical travel pack. My Goruck is very comfy even without a sternum strap or hip belt (but I have broad shoulders, so one's mileage may vary), but a TB travel pack should also offer a removable sternum strap and padded hip belt - available if they're needed, gone if they aren't. Modularity is always a plus, and TB is very good at that. Ideally, I'd like the pack to be comfortable without a hip belt, because I feel hip belts add a lot of drag to donning and doffing the pack to quickly get something I need. I don't think load lifters are a necessity, but the pack should be designed to ride high on the back, in line with the shoulders or even a bit above. The main point here is that this pack should be comfortable to carry for a couple hours, on and off transit, even loaded with 20-30 lbs.

                              - Rein in the "prescriptive carry." I've seen way too many "travel backpacks" that not only have a laptop compartment, that compartment is big and roomy and has enough pockets and sleeves to also carry a tablet, a mouse, and half of your home office. Those backpacks got axed from my consideration early on because that's a ton of wasted space for me, who might carry a laptop at most. I realized that looking for a travel backpack without a laptop compartment would restrict my choices too much, so the two packs I ended up with have a laptop compartment that's very simple and doesn't feel like it's wasting space if I'm not using it. Any other sort of accessories (like cords)? I'll figure out where to put those on my own; I don't want the bag to have space dedicated specifically to that. Admittedly, it's a difficult balance to strike, making pockets and/or storage space that has enough independent volume to be useful while also getting out of your way if you're not using it. Even packs I really dig have not entirely escaped this issue!

                              Note A: While I do care about water bottle carry for EDC packs, I emphatically do not care about dedicated water bottle pockets for a travel pack. It's one more thing to potentially fall out. If I want one along, I'll stuff it in the more readily accessed compartment of my pack. Granted, you have to know and trust that your chosen water bottle isn't going to leak, but I've often used SmartWater bottles I got at the airport for this and have never had one leak on me.

                              Note B: For travel packs in particular, I want designs to be mindful about the number of pockets easily accessible from the outside. Something like a quick-access pocket up top is fine, and front dump pockets are everywhere, but since pickpocketing is unfortunately a thing, I feel limited in what I'm willing to store in any pocket someone could potentially unzip and yoink something out of while I was wearing the pack but my attention was focused elsewhere. This is why I have trepidations about using the Synapse 25 for travel, even though I think it's fantastic for my EDC. On that note, I'm impressed at how hugely pickpocket-resistant the Shadow Guide's design is. Basically no compartments on that pack can be accessed while you are wearing it without you knowing. I would feel safe keeping my passport and money in the hood pocket even on dodgy public transit.

                              - I tend to not pack my packs full, preferring to leave some space to account for anything I might pick up on the way. This is where the two-chamber setup, mentioned above, really shines (I can stuff the main compartment if needed and leave the secondary compartment just lightly packed, and things won't shift around). Because of this, I favor packs that have a bit more room than I technically need. I could probably travel with a 30 liter pack, but it would be pretty full from the get-go. Ideally, a travel pack for me is somewhere north of 30 liters, though probably not exceeding 40. Beyond literage, though, is how the space is used. The SG33 is, as it says on the tin, 33 liters, but because it's a drawstring klettersack, it feels like it can handle a bit more than that without much difficulty.

                              - This goes without saying, but it should work with airline size requirements. I don't think a travel backpack could be and hold what I want and still be brought on board on, say, RyanAir without coughing up some cash for a paid carry-on, so let's forget that in favor of having something that's compliant with overhead bin carry-on for the majority of international airlines. You can use most any modest-sized pack for under-seat, so I think for dedicated non-minimalist one-bagging, overhead compartment sizing is the way to go. Having something max-sized, 9" x 14" x 22" can be a pretty bulky box, though (and is around 45L at those measurements) so figuring out which dimensions to scale down to hit in the mid-30-liter area while also maximizing comfort of carry is worth thoughtful consideration. I'm 6', so for travel, 20"-22" height is prime for me; shorter people may prefer a different ratio of dimensions.

                              - Generally speaking, a clamshell/panel-loader style that hinges at the bottom (not the side) is what most people seem to prefer. These are easy to load and unload; arranging packing cubes and laundry in them is a snap. Aesthetically, if a travel backpack looks like "a large backpack" and not like "a suitcase strapped to your back," I feel it's less likely to attract scrutiny from airline personnel, but that's just my hunch.

                              -------

                              Yeah, anyway, that turned out to be longer than I expected. Cheers, and thanks for reading!
                              Last edited by ittoujuu; 11-18-2022, 03:08 PM.

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