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Are these bags for me?

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    Are these bags for me?

    I am a 55 year old woman going on a 3 week trip to Italy.Several different cities, using the train. I am new to TB bags, was going to use a wheeled bag, but beginning to think something like Smart Alec or Brain Bag would work better. Hope to pack light.
    Anyone have any suggestions?

    hi there: I would highly recommend the Western Flyer or Tri Star rather than Smart Alec or Brain Bag. These bags can also be worn with the Absolute shoulder strap should you need to do that; and carry by backpack straps as an option--which is what I have. The tri star is a bit bigger; I have the WF and that along with the Synapse has been very versatile for me. In fact, I brought both on board Qatar Airways this time without a murmur and did not have to check in at all. My Synapse was packed very light and it passed as the "handbag."


      I would agree on the Western Flyer or Tri Star. I have a Western Flyer and adore it. I believe in the forums there is an example of a young man taking his for a Europe trip for several weeks to a month. If you pack wisely with interchangeable, washable, travel clothes and you only bring one or two extra low profile shoes other than the ones you are wearing these bags will easily hold what you would need.

      I agree with Shiva, the Synapse would make a nice personal item, but the Imago, large Cafe Bag and co-pilot (smaller capacity than the Synapse) would also be nice contenders. The Packing Cube Shoulder Bag and Packing Cube Backpack would also be nice because they are ultra lightweight, hard to slash, and would store inside of you travel bag if you desired.

      There are many hints on the one bag website to help with light packing tips too.
      I really, really like TB Bags!


        Here's another vote for Tom Bihn's Tri-Star or Western Flyer as your main piece of luggage.

        In my opinion the Tri-Star is the archetypical "maximum-allowable carry-on bag." It's rugged, efficient, stylish, and it comes in such nice colors! The Western Flyer is VERY similar-looking but just a tad smaller. It lacks an extra pouch in the front, and lacks the center partitioned pocket (which is a good place to slide in a laptop). Size-wise, I'd say the Western Flyer is to the Tri-Star as a petite-sized dress is to a regular-sized dress of the same style. Everything's just a little smaller all around.

        The key of course, is packing lightly, like you said. Rick Steves has a great little article about packing light (and we all know he's the guru of light travel). You can read it at Rick Steves' Europe: Packing Light and Right

        Make sure to visit his Graffitti Wall for hundreds of pages of tips on everything, from all his readers. You can easily spend an evening reading through all those tips (I know! I've done it!).

        One thing about riding a train in Italy; you will want to make sure to use a cable lock to tie your bag to a post, and you will want to keep all your valuables on yourself (passport, wallet, etc.).

        Also, depending on which airline you fly with, and which airport you plan to fly into, they will have different (stricter) rules about carry-on sizes and weight limits. Heathrow is particularly notorious, and Virgin Airlines is very stingy because the go by a weight restriction that's not very much.

        I'm one of those big Packing Cube Shoulder Bag evangelists here. I love it because, as Dorayme mentioned, they're slashproof, ultra-lightweight, and quite versatile. You can use one as your cross-body shoulder bag/purse during the day, and if you are flying with an airline that tells you you can only carry ONE carry-on (and that includes purses), then you can literally stash your Packing Cube Shoulder Bag in your carry-on so you just have your Western Flyer or Tri-Star to carry.
        Last edited by Lani; 08-02-2011, 11:52 AM.


          I second the Western Flyer and Tristar choices.

          I own 3 Brain Bags, 2 of them are my husband's and I carry ons on domestic flights.

          However, European airlines have ridiculously low luggage weight requirement from 11 to 22 pounds.

          Here is Alitalia latest allowance due to the fact that they use old MD80
          You are allowed to carry only 1 piece of hand luggage onboard which must not exceed the following dimensions (including handles, side pockets and wheels):
          Weight: 5 kgs/11lbs, length: 55 cm, height: 25 cm, depth: 35 cm (22" x 14" x 10")

          Below is the link for the TriStar

          Dimensions: 19" x 13" x 8" / 480 x 330 x 205mm
          Weight: 3.4 lbs / 1550 grams

          Link to the Western Flyer page
          Western Flyer: TOM BIHN

          Dimensions: 18" x 12" x 7" / 455 x 305 x 180mm
          Weight: 2.53 lbs / 1150 grams

          I tried them both at the store, empty, they feel weightless, I had one bag in each hand, they do not feel big for a 5.7 person.

          Years ago, I bought a bag roughly the size of the Western Flyer in the hope it would solve my luggage dilemma, it didn't. It was heavy, bulky and unwieldy to use.

          Unlike the Western Flyer which is compact, streamlined and extremely stylish.
          Last edited by backpack; 08-03-2011, 11:23 AM.


            Hi -
            I'm not sure how familiar you are with one-bagging, but the reason the tristar and western flyer are preferred over traditional backpacks is because:

            1. they unzip on all three sides. That means they open flat, and are therefore easier to pack and unpack. (ie:clothes fold up nicer and there's less digging to get stuff out.)

            2. they are rectangles, so you can fit more stuff into them than a more rounded backpack that has the same footprint. (The backpack loses space with its domed shape.)

            I hope this helps! (Maybe you already knew this :-))

            I learned all this at the One Bag site (I would recommend googling it, if you haven't already -- it's a funny site!)
            My little set of TB stuff:
            Western Flyer (steel/ultraviolet)
            Small Pouch (cork)
            Large Shop Bag (solar)
            packing cubes


              It's almost impossible to do with any of the Tom Bihn bags,* unfortunately, but I have a detailed write-up on how both my husband and I packed for a two-week European trip while still meeting Virgin Airways' strict 13-pound carry-on rule: The Travelite® FAQ » Blog Archive » The Ultra-minimalist packing list: How I packed for Europe

              [*The big problem is that a lot of sturdy carry-on bags weigh a lot to start with. When every ounce counts, having a bag that weighs 2 pounds is a big deal.]


                Thanks for all answers, especially this one. I didn't understand the drawbacks of the traditional 'backpack' style.


                  A sturdy carry on with backpack straps which can be hidden away securely, is a must.
                  One never knows if, due to lack of space in the overhead bin, need to bring more revenue or simple whim, a gate agent will make any passenger check their carry on.

                  The weight of the Western Flyer is not a big deal, especially if somebody chooses to bring a DSLR camera, those are heavy and bulky and, in my opinion, unnecessary.
                  I have a light weight setup for still and video images which fits without any problem inside a Medium Padded Pouch.
                  This set up can be made even more lightweight using the latest generations of point and shot cameras and mini cams.
                  Maverick takes great pictures and videos with his small Leica Deluxe.

                  The most important is to choose lightweight fabric garments and accessories which means microfiber and light cotton separates instead of denim and bulky khakis.

                  A packable wind breaker, 1 or 2 cardigans, 2 to 4 long sleeve shirts and the same number of pants/skirts are essential for all seasons.

                  In summer, tees in colors coordinating with the long sleeve shirts and the cardigans enable the cooling and modest open shirt over tee look and the elegant twin set a la Grace Kelly.

                  In Spring and Fall the same setup can be used with slightly heavier cardigans, to compensate, tees can be removed from the lineup, it is too cold for only two small layers in much of Europe.

                  A lightweight dressy scarf and a warmer wrap are a must.

                  Both can be bought in the destination country.

                  Link to major department stores in Rome.
                  Rome Department Stores, Grandi Magazzini Roma, In Rome Now Complete City Guide Italy Shopping Restaurants Accommodations Arts Culture Weather Services

                  Online maps are your handy guides to find dining, shops and laundromats (you have the most chance to find those in proximity to a university)
                  Last edited by backpack; 08-03-2011, 08:54 PM.


                    Originally posted by wbljean View Post
                    Are these bags for me?
                    View the following pictures to see how a Tristar can be used for travel to Italy She shows exactly what she packed: Me with my Tri-Star | Flickr - Photo Sharing!


                      Originally posted by roomy View Post
                      View the following pictures to see how a Tristar can be used for travel to Italy She shows exactly what she packed: Me with my Tri-Star | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
                      These are great photos -- I can't believe I missed them before. Thanks, roomy.
                      Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

                      Current carry: testing new potential materials in the form of Original Large Shop Bags.


                        I have a Tri-Star, and it's been much, much better for my packing needs than my previous incarnation of two backpacks. I packed for a four day trip to Portland last weekend, and after filling one side of the bag with clothes (including a spare bra and pair of jeans, just in case), toiletries, and four books and some tea in the outside zipper pouches I still had two sections of the bag empty. As I was driving and didn't need to take weight into account they didn't stay empty for long, and to be sure the blanket I packed was honestly useful.

                        You mention that you are a 55 year old woman; for that reason I'd suggest the WF over the Tri-Star. I don't know how fit you are, but if you think you can make it through the trip with the lighter bag, that would be what I would go with. It's been said before on many travel sites that no one says at the end of the trip that they wish they had packed heavier.

                        Also, as these bags are intended to be travel bags, getting into your stuff will be easier than if you used one of the backpacks.


                          Thanks, it's really helpful to see a photo like this!


                            A good rule of thumb is to keep you carry on to about ten percent of your body weight. I did 8 days in Germany with my Tristar (which I adore) but with electronics I was up to almost 21 pounds. The WF is a bit smaller so it might help you keep your packing discipline a bit better if that is a challenge for you but I love the additional organization of the Tristar.

                            I reviewed it on my blog if you are interested.


                              The Brain Bag is only half a pound heavier than the Western Flyer. (I take it, from your initial post, that you are a backpack person. Me too.) In my experience, generally multipurpose items are not quite as functional in each use as something designed to do one thing.

                              Consider the Brain Bag with packing cubes. The Brain Bag is pretty square, and the Aeronaut Large Packing Cube fits in each compartment. (A Packing Cube Shoulder Bag would probably come in handy, too, for wandering around.) When you arrive at each destination, you just have to slide out the packing cubes. And when you get home, you've got a fabulous backpack!