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Best bag for Academic "Business" Travel

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    Best bag for Academic "Business" Travel

    So a question for the Bihn-board hive-mind.

    I'm thinking of purchasing an Aeronaut or Tri-Star.

    I've thought about it seriously for a while now, but my latest trip cemented it in my mind.

    I travel a lot, but not a total frequent-flyer amount. I'm a college professor, and I live far from my family and friends. Any given year I usually take about 10-12 round trip flights and multiple road trips. I've classed my trips into three types:

    1. Long visits with Family in which I usually check a suitcase (once, maybe twice a year.)

    2. Week-long research trips, long conferences, workshops or visiting friends. I can get about a week's worth of clothes in your average carry-on bag with wheels thanks to my Eagle Creek packing cubes and ninja packing skills. I usually travel with my Synapse 25 as my personal item and a wheeled-carry-on bag

    3. Short trips of 2-3 days, for short conferences, speaking engagements and family emergencies (think: funerals, etc)

    It for # 3 that I am thinking of getting a Tri-Star or Aeronaut. At the moment I have a small wheeled carry-on (the kind that just barely fits under the seat in front of you.) and it isn't weighted well and it often tips over, etc. And I am just tired of it. Its hard to navigate and its just big enough to be a pain.

    My question is: which would be best? I think my big issue is that for those specific short trips, those are the times that I would most likely be traveling with formal clothing. Usually a suit or two or a suit jacket, trousers/and or skirt, sweater (thin, not bulky, likely my nice cashmere) and dress shoes and my concern is how well that sort of clothes would travel in either the Tri-Star or Aeronaut. Do the packing cubes work best? Is one better suited towards traveling with more "formal" clothes than the other? I'm a medium sized woman at 5'5 and average weight, so my clothing is not huge in terms of space it takes up.

    Besides "work clothes" I would be carrying toiletries, a small hair iron, make-up, socks, underwear and PJs. During these trips I don't take my Macbook Pro, because I have 15" and it is a beast (I only travel with it when doing research)-- I just carry my iPad and its keyboard.

    I also would likely not one-bag it. I'm waiting to see what the new Pilot looks like, but at the least I would have my Swift with my iPad, knitting, purse stuff and Sharky mini-pillow pet (don't judge, he's an excellent neck pillow on the plane) as my personal item.

    I guess my main concern is which bag is best for folding down "formal clothes" without wrinkling badly and would work well for say a 2-3 days trip that mostly involves speaking engagements or conferencing.

    Thanks a bunch for any and all advice.

    I have the Aeronaut and a Western Flyer (smaller version of a Tri-Star, in terms of shape), and I think the Tri-Star, or even the Western Flyer, would do well for your packing list. For formal clothes, I tend to like the rectangular packing cubes. i'm 5'0", and I find that I can fold somewhat minimally in the rectangular cubes, whereas the large Aeronaut packing cube is square, requiring me to fold more (risking more wrinkles). Your things would easily fit into the Tri-Star. I bought the Aeronaut for trips where I might purchase an odd-shaped souvenir or needed to really load down a bag for a two-week trip, needing more of that duffle bag feel. It works great for those trips! For my shorter trips, I always go to my Western Flyer. I sometimes use the Western Flyer packing cubes in the Aeronaut as well, if you wanted to have the best of both worlds. Neither will fit under the seat in front of you if fully packed, but I've never had trouble heaving the bag into the overhead of any airplane, including the regional puddle jumpers, even with a stuffed Aeronaut.

    Hope this helps!


      Welcome to the hive. From your packing list, it seems to me that a Tri-Star might work well for situation #3. With the three compartments, you can easily stash your suit separately from your clothing--the long, rectangular shape of the TS will help you do so with as few folds as possible. The front divided section can hold your shoes and toiletries, and the iPad and its keyboard will fit well in the front panel zip pocket (the top one). If you figure out how to fit your jacket into an EC packing sleeve, the TS can hold the 18" size. I imagine the back compartment could hold two sleeves if they're not over-full. With the absolute strap, you might find that you can pack into the TS for your week-long travels, with your work stuff in the Synapse.

      The TS also makes sense for you because, if necessary, the middle compartment can accommodate your MBP should you need it. There's more than enough room for the machine and the power brick, plus some peripherals if you're judicious.

      One other thing to consider: if you're quite petite and absolutely certain you won't need your laptop, you might consider the Western Flyer. If I'm going to a 2-3 day conference and it's business casual, the WF is generally more than enough bag for the task. I never pack a suit so I'm not sure how one would fare in the smaller confines.

      Hope this helps!

      PS: I also have an Aeronaut and while it is my BFF, I don't take it to conferences. I think my conference clothes tend to arrive looking smarter if I pack into one of the suitcase-style bags. Others may have had different results, of course.

      Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


        A really great demo video (a few years old, but still very handy) you might find useful would be Maverick's "Packing a Suit in the Tom Bihn Aeronaut Maximum Carry-on Bag". I had a conversation with the admin over at the Practical Hacks web-site, and he was clear that he believes you can pack a suit in a Tri-Star as well. (Probably the same way Badger describes it above.) I've never actually done this, but I've been assured it can be done.
        Last edited by MtnMan; 01-07-2014, 02:00 PM.
        Owner of: Brain Bag backpack (Black), Field Journal Notebook (Blue), Snake Charmer (Small, Orange), Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.


          I used to own a Tri-Star and used it for all the types of travel you noted. As has been suggested, you can use an 18" packit EC folder. I have used one for shirts and slacks and it works well. To pack a suit/sports jacket, I tend to use a different folding technique - if you search for packing a sport coat (or folding a jacket) there is a brief video from someone named Till. The technique he demonstrates works well in the TriStar and I have used is many times for professional trips - any wrinkles just steam out in the shower. Ultimately, i sold the TriStar and replaced it with the Aeronaut. I found that I prefer the form factor ( a modified duffle) to the TriStar's separate compartments- it just suits my packing style better. Packing a sport jacket is still doable but I need an extra fold. The jacket still comes out looking good but it takes a bit more space - for me the tradeoff (form factor vs space) is worth it. As is often suggested, if your situation allows, order both, play with them and keep the one that works best, returning the other. You will be paying 2 extra shipping fees but being sure which bag is best may be worth it to you.


            I agree that you might like to try out both the Aeronaut and the Tri-Star in person to make your decision. FWIW, I would use the Tri-Star for the situations you describe. I've owned both bags since their initial release. This really is a matter of which form factor you prefer to use. Also, Badger and I are both within an inch or two of your height (I'm 5'4"), while rabergnc is taller. I suspect that I might migrate to using a smaller Aeronaut, if that gets released. To give the Aeronaut a fair trial, I think you should really try it out with the packing cubes designed for it. I use the Eagle Creek Specter cubes and sleeves, but mostly with other bags (Synapse, Tri-Star, Western Flyer).

            I like the center pocket of the Tri-Star, even if it's not used for laptop access. I like to stash my Little Swift there. I also use the Little Swift to carry my iPad, though for packing purposes you can use the front pockets, as Badger described. On the Aeronuaut, the easy access pockets are the end pockets, and an iPad will fit there. I'll also mention that you can easily slip an iPad in its cache into the back zippered pocket that holds the backpack straps of either Aeronaut or Tri-Star. For longer conferences where I bring along research material, I use a Tri-Star + Synapse combination. That's usually the Synapse 19, but sometimes is the Synapse 25.


              I have packed two type of suit jackets inside a Packing Cube Backpack for Aeronaut: A regular style jacket with the heavy shoulder pads and a lighweight jacket with light shoulder pads.

              Using the wrong side folding technique or packing a sport coat into itself technique.

              1bag1world Till's technique.

              I watched the video a couple of times, practiced on my light weight microfiber suit jacket then tackled my husband's.

              They both fit perfectly in their respective Packing Cube Backpacks.

              I believe, I placed my pants in the same Packing Cube Backpack as my jacket, they are the same lightweight microfiber.

              We had a formal event in one city which took quite a bit a drive to get there and we checked in and just had the time to freshen up and change to get to the venue.

              No wrinkles in either jackets.

              I was using the Brain Bag but have since used the Aeronaut and the Tristar with the Packing Cube Backpacks.
              Perfect in all three bags.

              I like the ability to color code, the handle and backpack straps are a great way to move an empty Packing Cube Backpack out of the way, or to store things in the dresser's drawers.

              It can also be used as a lightweight and water resistant shopping bag, for specialty items, from a conference city, put away rained or snowed on hats, scarves and gloves before placing them in the Swift upon entering a store or a dwelling.

              I also use the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag which is an end pocket Packing Cube for the Aeronaut which can be used in the Tristar and turned into a very lightweight Shoulder Bag or zippered pocket in the main compartment of the Swift.
              Last edited by backpack; 01-07-2014, 04:51 PM.


                1bag1world is now OBOW from our own FrankII who is a very experienced traveller and pioneer of light packing.

                One Bag, One World | News, Reviews and Community for Light Travelers
                Last edited by backpack; 01-07-2014, 04:30 PM.


                  Sorry for the late reply. My travel is pretty similar to yours, and I have found, so far, that my Tri-Star works well for use-cases 2 and 3. (Honestly, it worked great for a week at the in-laws for the holidays, too, though I needed an additional bag to travel back with frozen tamales, etc.) More info on my first work trip (a program review) with the Tri-Star is here: http://forums.tombihn.com/packing-li...uggestion.html


                    Hi - I tend to use my Aeronaut for the family trips and my Tristar for the academic conferences / urban field research. I like how I can single bag it with the Tristar and pull out just my laptop "bag" from the middle compartment to trek to meetings or conference sessions where a laptop is all I really need to carry.

                    Sometimes I have done that with the Aeronaut, but that is usually some field research where I need to bring some more equipment that does not fit into the slim sections of the Tri-Star (e.g. a larger microphone).


                      Thank you so much for all your input.
                      It's really good to know that I can use the EC 18 folder in the back compartment. I think that and with a few cubes I could be good with the Tristar. A friend of mine has an Aeronaut, so I think what I will do is order just the Tristar and then ask her if I could borrow the Aeronaut to pack and compare the two. But personally I like the more "professional" look of the Tristar myself.
                      Also, I plan to order a pilot. Love the size, and I think that could work well with the Tr-star, especially since I only really travel with an iPad.
                      Does anyone use the shoulder bag packing cube with their TriStar? Do you like it?


                        Also, jmoz, on the tamales-- I always bring back a sack of them too at Christmas time (we make them at my parents house and I bring them back to share with friends.) here's my easy way of getting them on the plane-- what I do is save a large bag from an airport store. A Hudson News or whatnot, and I put the tamales (always frozen solid and already packed into a gallon ziplock bag) in that and carry it on, separate from either my carryon bag or personal item. I'm never stopped because it just looks like a bag of food or stuff from the airport. It works great if you don't mind carrying a bag outside of your carry-ons, and also it keeps your other stuff from getting damp from condensation.