My Western Flyer Review and Packing List
Once or twice a month, I do something that a lot of folks think is crazy.
I wake up way too early, drive to the airport, and fly 2500 miles to San Francisco (where many of my clients are). I spend the day running from meeting to meeting before heading back to SFO and taking the five-hour redeye home.
Frankly, I prefer this routine to staying overnight, as my body never gets a chance to adjust to the time change, and I don’t have to worry about jet lag when I get back.
For these trips, I needed a carry-on bag that met some pretty strict criteria:
- Plenty of space to hold everything I need for work, pleasure and then some for bringing things back (more on that later).
- Small enough to escape the watchful eye of the agents trying to gate-check every bag that goes past them on full flights, and to fit easily on regional jets, as sometimes I have to fly routes with connections to make the schedule work.
- Durable -- I’m on the go a lot during these trips, and whatever bag I’m carrying is bound to take a beating.
- Easy to carry (especially when running through airports).
- Easy to organize and have everything within reach without having to dig through deep pockets (the problem I found with most backpacks I tried)
- A professional-enough look that doesn’t scream “tourist”, “high school student” or “hunchback”.
I tried a number of different options, but as it turns out, I’ve basically just described the Western Flyer to a T. When I got the bag, the quality of the build was immediately apparent, but it wasn’t until I packed it and spent a whole trip with it that I really grasped just how amazing this thing is.
I took some photos when I got back to show off just how much the WF holds.
Here it is, fully packed:
Certainly full, but it doesn’t look overstuffed, and the Absolute Strap is a back-saver for the amount of weight this thing can hold.
Here’s everything I took out of the middle compartment:
(Scroll down for a full packing list, and an explanation of why there's bread in my bag)
Now with the contents of the other main compartment:
Aaaand with the front pockets emptied:
A list of the entire bag’s contents, clockwise from the top:
Western Flyer (duh)- attached are the Clear Organizer Wallet (clipped to the O-ring in the tall front pocket, which I found great for keeping my business cards, Frequent Flier/AAA/insurance cards and a small zip-top baggie of quarters for parking in SF) and my keys attached to the O-ring in the bottom front pocket.
Hand lotion and sanitizer - I actually didn’t plan to bring these and bought them at the airport the morning of my flight -- the mid-Atlantic winter is rearing it’s head and my skin is suffering for it.
Disc Golf Discs - I had a couple of hours to kill between meetings, so I met a friend for a quick nine holes in Golden Gate Park.
Organizer Pouches - All clipped to the O-ring in the back main compartment: one mini holding my iPhone charger, another mini holding a pair of earbuds, and a small (I think?) with some mints, face wipes and Colgate Wisps for coming back to life after a long flight.
Pants - I brought a pair of REI pants to change into for disc golf, rolled up
Sunglasses - I kept these in the water bottle pocket in the front. My only gripe about this bag is that the water bottle pocket doesn’t play nice with my lifefactory water bottle, as the rubber on the bottle makes it hard to pull out of the nylon pocket. I’ll need to get a different, non-rubber bottle, or find another use for this pocket. Any ideas?
A loaf of bread - No, I don’t travel with my own bread, but coming home from SF without a loaf of sourdough is, to put it lightly, frowned upon by my better half :)
An orange - I was going to eat this on the plane. I didn’t. Now it’s in this picture. So, there you go.
Travel Pillow - If you spend a lot of time sleeping on airplanes, THIS is the travel pillow you want. Yes, it’s bulky, but the support and comfort are absolutely unmatched by anything else I’ve tested. Combine with a sleeping mask and a pair of ear plugs (which I put inside that pouch as well), and perhaps a scotch (not in the pouch), and I sleep like a baby.
Water bottle - As mentioned, this didn’t work with the water bottle pocket, but it fit just fine in the main front compartment.
Sneakers - Also for disc golf.
Horizontal Brain Cell - clipped this into the back main compartment and it provided great protection for, and very easy access to my MBP, as well as the other items I stuffed in the netting: MBP charger, external battery and travel power strip.
A couple of books - both fit comfortably into the taller front pocket.
As you can see, the WF holds a substantial amount of stuff, and the best part is that it all stays organized, so there’s never any rifling through pockets or wondering where you put anything.
It truly has the best of everything: the capacity of a large carry-on, the portability of a backpack, and the intuitive design and distinctly cool look of, well, every other Tom Bihn product.
I read a lot of reviews before finally buying the WF, and actually bought a couple of Aeronauts about a month before (which we've been loving and can't wait to take to Europe for a couple of weeks next month), so I trusted the Tom Bihn brand. I’m super pleased that all of my expectations were met and exceeded, and can’t wait for many more adventures with the Western Flyer.
Last edited by Len; 11-16-2012 at 08:01 AM.
Len, What sort of travel pillow is it?
Great post. I always wondered how people used the WF for business travel when clothes and toiletries weren't much of an issue, and this answers my curiosity quite nicely. Best line: "A professional-enough look that doesn’t scream 'tourist', 'high school student' or 'hunchback'."—As someone who is regularly mistaken for all of the above, all I have to say is, "Amen to the Western Flyer."
Thanks, Len. Looks like a terrific pillow.
thanks for the very thoughtful review. Your level of detail and the real-world scenarios are very helpful. I have purchased a Tri-star for many of the same reasons/feature you underscore for the WF. Thanks again.