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  1. #1
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    Help choosing bag for summer trip to Scotland

    We're going to Highlands of Scotland in late July for my husband's family reunion then to Ireland afterwards. I can't wait to see Scotland for the first time, and am working on convincing my husband to wear a kilt so he "fits in..." Wink

    Weather looks like it's usually 40s-60s and rainy about half the time. I figure I can wear my Scottevest trench coat as my main outer garment, and layer wool underneath it (Icebreaker underlayers and a Bliss wrap). I'll be coming from the blistering inferno of Texas so I can't wait for that.

    So I need some suggestions. I'm hoping to slim down to 1 comfortable bag worn backpack style. I brought a rolling Zuca to Europe 2 years ago, but now the carryon size limits have changed and my Zuca is officially 1 inch too wide, and I don't want to risk having it gate checked. So I am trying to figure out how to carry everything I need on my back this time with a minimum amount of pain. I do have an Ebags TLS Mother Lode Jr (41.5 liters). I also have a Synapse 19 which I use daily for my laptop and work stuff.

    I packed up the Mother Lode Jr, weighed it, and it was a whopping 26 pounds after I added in my laptop, chargers, and all that other stuff I wanted to bring. My middle-aged bones would be toast carrying that through all the airports. I've actually managed to make 4-5-day trips with only my Synapse 19 in the past (13" macbook and wacom tablet included) and I would really love to travel that light internationally, if at all possible.

    Also, I do want to look presentable for the family reunion festivities, and not like a worn-out backpacker, so I'd like to bring a couple of nice outfits and 1 pair of nice shoes to dress up. No purse since I have my Scottevest trench coat, which looks good with dresses. I will also have an aubergine Side Effect. I'm hoping to get away with wearing my Merrell Tall Captiva boots as my "dress boots" with a black dress:
    Merrell Captiva Buckle-Up Waterproof | Women's - Black - FREE SHIPPING at OnlineShoes.com
    (They are a little bit oudoorsy/clunky with my dress, but passable. Plus, they're waterproof and very comfortable for walking, and look good with leggings or skinny jeans).

    Also, I really want to hike around the highlands a little while we're there. So it would be great to have a comfortable bag that will convert into something good for light hikes and potential drizzly rain.

    I really think my Synapse 19 will be too small, so I've been considering one of these options:

    1. Smart Alec in dyneema (only one currently available), which seems like it could hold all my stuff if I pack ruthlessly, and seems like it would be pretty water repellent. Its shape seems like it might work better for holding odd-shaped souvenirs and stuff on the way back, and I like that I can add the top modular pocket for more space, and attach my boots or trench coat to the bungee cords in a pinch.
    Total cost: $225

    2. Aeronaut 30 for the size, although then I feel like I'd need another "satellite bag" for day outings, which means I'd probably get a Daylight Backpack. Total cost: $350

    3. Synapse 25. A bag whose smaller sibling I already know and love. Total cost: $195

    4. Daylight Backpack packed flat inside my Mother Lode Jr. This gives me a day bag at my destination. I force myself to bring less stuff in the Mother Lode. Total cost: $80

    5. Mother Lode Jr only. I make sure to pack it as light as possible. I empty it and use it as my day bag. (It's about the same height/width as a Synapse 25.) On the way home, I have expansion room for souvenirs if necessary. Total cost to acquire: $0

    So here's my proposed packing list for the flight over:
    - the equivalent of 2 half cubes of clothes. If it doesn't fit, I just won't take it.
    - The equivalent of 1 half cube of assorted computer/charger stuff (Anker 6-port charger, UK plug adapter, Monster mini multi-outlet strip, which I could ditch if I really had to, Macbook charger, phone spare battery charger, several cables, in-ear headphones)
    - 13" Macbook Pro Retina in a vertical cache
    - Wacom Pen and Touch, size small (fits in a half Eagle Creek specter compression Cube) - in lieu of a mouse (I could ditch this if I absolutely had to and bring a mouse instead).
    - Tall boots worn on the plane
    - Vivobarefoot Evo II minimalist shoes for running (squashes flat)
    - Scottevest trench coat (fits in an Ebags Slim Packing Cube)

    Any suggestions or recommendations? My wallet is leaning towards taking the Mother Lode and emptying it at my destination to convert to a day bag (done successfully on our last trip overseas before I discovered Tom Bihn), but my Bihn addiction is leaning towards figuring out how to justify the Smart Alec with top modular pocket.
    Last edited by Amy; 02-23-2015 at 11:28 AM.
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  2. #2
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    I can't vote with your wallet but I think that the eBags weekender will do badly as a EDC in Europe. The square (non-compressible) shape just screams suitcase and there is a tendency to overpack. It is a good bag if you need to check it though but I've found that it doesn't sit well on the back.

    I think you'll want something else as your day pack and you'll need something to bring stuff back.

    Me? Given what you already have, I'd do the mother lode as the checked bag and the S19 as the carry-on and EDC.As an alternative, get the daylight backpack or a packing cube shoulder bag for your daily carry and overflow bag. If you take the eBags by itself then you'lljust buy something there.

    Have a great time - but - check the weather before you pack. July in both Scotland and Ireland should be in the high teens/low 20's (Centigrade) or right around 70 F. You'll get the occasional rain and it might be unseasonably chilly (too early to tell) but it is unlikely to be in the 40's or even 50's. IIRC, the historic lows in July were right around 10c or about 50f
    When in trouble, obfuscate.

  3. #3
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    Ceb,

    Thanks for the weather tips. If it's that much warmer than what I was expecting, then I'll ditch the boots, and lighten up everything, which will make packing easier.

    Also, just to clarify-- I don't want to check any bags-- we want to do it all as carry-on to reduce the risk of losing stuff. I'd love to bring my Synapse 19 as my main daily bag and carry-on, but I couldn't figure out how to do that while avoiding checking a bag.

    The Mother Lode has great organization and capacity, but definitely isn't sexy, especially with the god-awful Ebags logo (which I tried to black out with a sharpie). I don't like carrying it around as an EDC, now that I've been spoiled by the svelte Synapse 19. But it does cinch down with external compression straps to be surprisingly slim. And the internal compression straps are some of the best designed I've seen. Also, I have even managed to fit my fully packed Synapse 19 in its smallest outer pocket. It makes the whole beast really uncomfortable to carry, but it does get it all into a single unit. I really can't ding the Mother Lode for anything except fashion points. It looks very American in a loud, cheap tourist way-- not in an understated classic Tom Bihn way. I think that's why my snobby self is shunning what is a perfectly utilitarian bag. I just don't enjoy carrying it around.
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  4. #4
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    By the way, I snapped a picture of a mostly empty Ebags Mother Lode Jr (left), Synapse 25 (middle) and Synapse 19 (right), for a size comparison. (The Synapse 25 was a gift for my grown son.)
    Help choosing bag for summer trip to Scotland-20150114_123335-jpg
    Last edited by Amy; 02-23-2015 at 12:30 PM.
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  5. #5
    Forum Member Pokilani's Avatar
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    Help choosing bag for summer trip to Scotland

    How about the S19 on your back and hand or shoulder carry a WF in dyneema? Put all the heavy stuff in the S19 and mostly clothing in the WF. I have really small hands and the poron handle in the WF is super easy to grip.

    ETA: sorry, it looks like you're trying to one-bag it...

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Pokilani; 02-23-2015 at 12:31 PM.

  6. #6
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    Pokilani,
    I considered that too-- one backpack and one hand carry. I might look at the Western Flyer as an option. I suppose as long as the heaviest stuff was on my back (electronics, chargers, etc) it would be possible to carry a lighter bag in my hands. That may be less unwieldy overall than trying to have one very heavy thing on my back.
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  7. #7
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    An alternative: the Brain Bag. It's about as wide and tall as the Mother Lode, a bit lighter, and is compressible to a pretty small size.
    Blue Parapack Brain Bag with Brain Cell

  8. #8
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    I thought about that, but wouldn't the Brain Bag be kind of bulky as an EDC? Also, it looks kind of rugged and backpacker-ish, which I don't like as much as the minimal-looking Synapse or Smart Alec. But I like the fact it will fit so much more stuff. Hmmm.... thanks for the idea. Maybe I'll take a look at that again as well.
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  9. #9
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    If I promised to carry all your stuff, could I come along? Then you can pack whatever you want, and not worry about it!! Wink

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amy View Post
    Ceb,

    Thanks for the weather tips. If it's that much warmer than what I was expecting, then I'll ditch the boots, and lighten up everything, which will make packing easier.

    Also, just to clarify-- I don't want to check any bags-- we want to do it all as carry-on to reduce the risk of losing stuff. I'd love to bring my Synapse 19 as my main daily bag and carry-on, but I couldn't figure out how to do that while avoiding checking a bag.

    The Mother Lode has great organization and capacity, but definitely isn't sexy, especially with the god-awful Ebags logo (which I tried to black out with a sharpie). I don't like carrying it around as an EDC, now that I've been spoiled by the svelte Synapse 19. But it does cinch down with external compression straps to be surprisingly slim. And the internal compression straps are some of the best designed I've seen. Also, I have even managed to fit my fully packed Synapse 19 in its smallest outer pocket. It makes the whole beast really uncomfortable to carry, but it does get it all into a single unit. I really can't ding the Mother Lode for anything except fashion points. It looks very American in a loud, cheap tourist way-- not in an understated classic Tom Bihn way. I think that's why my snobby self is shunning what is a perfectly utilitarian bag. I just don't enjoy carrying it around.
    I have two issues with the Mother Lode - one of which you've identified above. Aside from that, my major issue is that it doesn't really cinch down - only to the 3 or 4 inch base and that it looks very sloppy unless it is full - then it looks huge.

    But it is fine for the overwater travel, just not when you get there. Maybe you should figure out a bag that goes inside the ML on your way over and that you can carry separately on your way back.

    Can you borrow your son's S25 and ditch the ML? The S25 cinches down nicely and won't look out of place in Europe, Scotland or Ireland.
    Last edited by ceb; 02-23-2015 at 02:25 PM.
    When in trouble, obfuscate.

  11. #11
    Forum Member bermudajes's Avatar
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    I love my A30 as a travel bag, but I can't see myself ever using it as a daypack. I do wonder, though, if you could fit your S19 inside the A30? That would save you on the cost of the DLBP.
    kindness is contagious.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by ceb View Post
    The S25 cinches down nicely
    How? It has no cinch straps.
    Blue Parapack Brain Bag with Brain Cell

  13. #13
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bermudajes View Post
    I love my A30 as a travel bag, but I can't see myself ever using it as a daypack. I do wonder, though, if you could fit your S19 inside the A30? That would save you on the cost of the DLBP.
    I considered that too, but my Cordura s19 would probably eat up most of the usable space inside the A30, wouldn't it? It seems the A30/Daylight Backpack combo would be more space efficient.
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  14. #14
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ceb View Post
    Maybe you should figure out a bag that goes inside the ML on your way over and that you can carry separately on your way back.

    Can you borrow your son's S25 and ditch the ML? The S25 cinches down nicely and won't look out of place in Europe, Scotland or Ireland.
    My son uses his S25 daily for work, and it's now his favorite bag, so I really hate to ask him to give it up for 2 weeks. Smilie

    I suppose I could take the S19 squashed as flat as possible inside the Mother Lode, which I would under pack as much as possible. Carry it all backpack style in a single unit. Then I would have the S19 as my EDC once I get there. On the way back, if I end up with more stuff than I left with (always), then I would always have the option to bring the S19 as my carry on, and check the Mother Lode. Or just awkwardly haul both of them on the plane with me.

    That's probably the most prudent alternative so far, I suppose... the Mother Lode with the S19 inside it. At least then I can buy something else with those same funds I would have spent on myself-- maybe Tom Bihn gifts for my husband's relatives??
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  15. #15
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    What about a packing cube backpack or shoulder bag? You can use them as packing cubes while in the eBags MLWJR and then emptying them out once there to use as an EDC? Very lightweight.
    Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers. http://www.1bag1world.com

    Aeronaut(2), Tri-Star(2) Cadet , Large Cafe Bag, Travel Tray, Travel Money Belt, Absolute Straps(3), Side Effect, Clear Quarter Packing Cubes (2), 3D Organizer Cubes (4), Aeronaut & Tri-Star Packing Cubes, Clear Organizer Wallet, numerous Organizer Pouches,, Guardian Dual Function Light, Vertical Netbook Cache, Nexus 7 Cache, RFID Passport Pouch, numerous Key Straps.

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