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  1. #1
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    Trip report with the Aeronaut 45 + Side Kick

    I recently swapped my Aeronaut 30 (A30) and Pilot setup for an Verde Aeronaut 45 (A45) and black halcyon Side Kick (SK), and am here to report on my first two trips with this setup. For the past 6 months I had been using the A30 and Pilot, but found the A30 was just too small to hold my things comfortably. For example, as a 6’2” guy my shoes barely fit in the end pocket. Also, the A30 never sat comfortably on my back, and I discovered I hate wearing bags (like the Pilot) crossbody as it puts too much pressure on my neck and upper back. Since the A45 has about the same capacity as the A30 + Pilot, I decided to give this bag a try since I love the Aeronaut layout. In the last two weeks I’ve made a trip to Salt Lake City for a weekend followed by a week in England.

    For these trips my strategy was to use the bottom pocket of the and main pockets of the A45 for my clothes, shoes, and toiletries. In the top end pocket I placed a SK that served as my in-flight entertainment bag and carried my 9.7 iPad Pro. in the top zippered pocket went a water bottle. I also placed a folded up black halcyon daylight backpack (DLBP) in the backstrap compartment. At the airport, I shoulder carried the SK as it gave me easy access to my passport and tickets which were stowed in the front zip pocket. The SK is so light and small that it was easy to carry without any strain.

    Since I flew on Norwegian from Denver to London (cheap tickets, pretty good flight), I was limited to 10 kg in the A45 plus a small personal item. At the airport the A45 (without the SK) weighed in at 8.2 kgs. I found the whole setup to be much easier to deal with than the A30 + Pilot. It was nice being able to quickly stash the SK in the end pocket. Taking trains, buses, and subways, and walking around town was nearly effortless. My wife, who arrived a couple of days before me, had two checked roller bags that were a nightmare for us to maneuver around the city. It got so bad that she ended up taking a cab to the airport rather than brave the Tube with the luggage (she left for Berlin for a business trip while I flew home). Seeing the contrast made me grateful for my Tom Bihn bags!

    Things I loved:

    * The A45 is so much more comfortable on my back than the A30 packed with the same load out. The bag is wider and longer, and just sits better on my body. I also called customer support before buying it, and was told that the straps were a bit wider. The longest I carried this setup was for about 1.5 hours continuously. It definitely felt heavy on my back then. Hopefully the upcoming product release will help with this (can’t wait!). However, I never felt any serious strain. After using the A30 + Pilot in crossbody mode, my neck would hurt for a day or so.

    * The SK is a revelation. It is nearly the perfect companion travel bag, and is so light I hardly notice carrying it. My iPad (no cache), pens, earphones, battery charger, cables, plane snacks, passport, tickets, and sunglasses all fit in. It was tight, but I really like the organization in this bag.

    * The extra room in the A45 feels more freeing to me. It is so much easier for me to arrange things in it. I use a combination of A45 small packing cubes, travel laundry stuff sack, and an Eagle Cree medium packing folder. I had plenty of room left over which allowed me to pack in some souvenirs on the way home. I feel like I only ended up using about 70% of the capacity of the bag.

    * While I didn’t take a laptop with me on this trip, my 15” MBP fits effortlessly in the backpack strap compartment of the A45. It didn’t fit in the A30. It is so easy to slide in and out. I will definitely use it as a laptop compartment in the future.

    * I love that the zippered end pockets can hold a water bottle as long as the end compartment next to it isn’t overstuffed.

    * The A45 was even easier to live out of than the A30 in my opinion. It was simpler to find things. I also like the slightly larger footprint of the A45 packing cubes as it is easier for me to roll up and fit my shirts and other clothes in them.

    * Perhaps love is too strong a word for this point, but I was surprised by how much I liked my new large travel tray. I never thought I would make use of it, but it ended up being quite handy to coral cables, my wallet, and other things in the places I stayed. I may get a second one.

    * I took a size 3 travel stuff sack to use to stash dirty laundry. This worked really well as a compact laundry bag.

    Things I wish were improved:

    * Waiting in customs for a long time, I began to envy all of the Osprey owners ahead of me. With the internal frames, large padded hip belts, suspension systems, and lifter straps, the packs looked more comfortable. I’ve tried out some of their packs at REI, and while I don’t love them, I do like how most of the weight is transferred to the hips. I think a full suspension rig would be overkill on the Aeronaut, but there is room for improvement.

    * The SK is almost the perfect in-flight and personal travel bag for me. However, I became frustrated at how small it is. I would love it to be about 0.5 inches wider and taller. My iPad barely fit, and because of the shape it really limited how much I could put in the SK. A slightly larger SK would not only allow an iPad Pro 10.5 to fit comfortably, but it would also let me put everything else I need in without feeling like the bag is overstuffed. I have a packing cube shoulder bag (PCSB), but I’m probably going to return it. There is so little structure that it is frustrating to use, and uncomfortable to wear. Also, there was quite a bit of room left in the A45 end pocket. A slightly bigger SK would make better use of this space.

    * The A45 zippers are quite stiff. The zippers on my A30 did give a bit over time, but not much. I recently went to a Topo Designs shop (seemingly everyone in the UK was wearing one of their bags). Their designs aren’t for me, but their zippers are so nice to use. I wonder if there is a fundamental trade off between some kind of weather proofing or durability and ease of zippering.

    * I have a burnt orange and black halcyon DLBP. I opted to take the black halcyon DLBP on this trip. Overall, I really like this pack. However, when there were only a few things loaded in the pack it would consistently slip off my shoulders. I really really wish there were a sternum strap option for this bag. I resorted to tying the dangling ends of the backpack straps together across my chest to form an improvised sternum strap.


    Overall, I’m thrilled with this new combination. I’d like to thank the TB crew for making such awesome products that make traveling a delight. Right now I’m looking at my partially unpacked A45 with a goofy grin on my face. This luggage makes me so stupidly happy. At the end of April I am going to India for a few weeks, and I can’t wait to travel with this combination again.
    Last edited by Dancingphysicist; 03-06-2018 at 11:06 PM.

  2. #2
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    This is good to hear! I recently traded my A30 and Pilot combination for an A45 and SK. I use the SK as my EDC, so I'm used to using it all the time. I'm a 5'5" tall, 138 lb lady, and the A30 was uncomfortable to wear in backpack mode. The A45 is actually so much more comfortable. I underpack it, but I like the 2-D acreage in the A45 better than the A30. My stuff just fits better in the bigger bag, and I like having room left over. I liked the combination so much that I bought it for my husband, too.

    In my upcoming trip to Germany, hubby and I will be A45ing it in backpack mode, while my Dad and sister will be dragging wheelies and totebags. I have a feeling, I'll be wrangling Dad's luggage in addition to my own, so it will be good for me to be hands free for my own luggage.

    P.S. I appreciate the stiff zippers, because it means I'm less likely to get pickpocketed.
    Last edited by BWeaves; 03-07-2018 at 07:18 AM.

  3. #3
    Forum Member kathryn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dancingphysicist View Post
    * Perhaps love is too strong a word for this point, but I was surprised by how much I liked my new large travel tray. I never thought I would make use of it, but it ended up being quite handy to coral cables, my wallet, and other things in the places I stayed. I may get a second one.
    IMHO the travel trays are unsung heroes of travel. :D

    So glad you love your A45! I think your reaction is quite similar to mine when I first took mine on a long trip ca. 2009, although I admit to liking the PCSB much more than you do. (The people I was traveling with had many giant checked rolling bags which involved long waits at luggage carousels and more time to navigate airports. Had I been on my own, instead of waiting for them, I wouldn't have missed our tiny island hopper flight and been stuck in BZE an extra 4 hours.)
    "I'm more of a creative problem solver with good taste and a soft spot for logistical nightmares.Ē ― Maria Semple, Where'd You Go, Bernadette

  4. #4
    Forum Member Perseffect's Avatar
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    I really like the idea of the side kick and the A45. But I also agree that itís just not the right size for carrying an iPad.

    What I did spot was that a small cafe bag can also fit an A45 end pocket and is better proportioned for an ipad.

    And on that theme. A SCB also can fit into one of the front compartments of a Tristar.

    I think the SCB as a genius sized/proportioned bag and its flexibility within these two travel bags is a winner.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Aeronaut 45 (Navy/NWS), A30 (Black/Island), Tristar (Steel/Island), Western Flyer (Steel/Island), Pilot (Steel/Island), Synapse 25 (Mars Red/NWS), Synapse 19 (Black/Island) & (Burnt Orange/Steel), Ristretto 11 (Navy/Steel), Small Cafe Bag (Navy/Steel) & (Mars Red/Dawn), Daylight Briefcase (Cloud/Dawn), Side Kick (Mars Red/Dawn), Travel Cubelet (Mars Red)

  5. #5
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    Interesting idea! I have a SCB that I got for just this purpose. It does fit the iPad better, but I dislike the fact that the shoulder strap can't be disconnected, and that the top is a flap instead of being zippered. It is meant for vertical orientation, and whenever I put it in the A45 end pocket my stuff slides out. A side kick with the dimensions of a SCB, but in horizontal orientation would be just about perfect.

  6. #6
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    I used an A45 + a SK for my recent flight to Florida and liked it, but really missed having a larger personal item because I knit (I usually use a MB or a swift as an EDC, but prefer a zipped bag for travel). Just this past week I was able to score a used PU that matches my A45 and it will be perfect for my purse stuff, knitting, travel docs etc and Iíll carry it crossbody, with the A45 on my back. My tank of an iPad pro fits nicely in the back strap pocket and Iíll stuff the SK into the A45 to be used as a EDC for my trips. I can fit a sock project into the SK if Iím careful so Iíll even have knitting to go :)

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