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Carry-On-Only: We Tried, We Succeeded… Sort Of

by Globetrooper Todd | 10 Responses
Carry-On Items

We’ve written a lot about the carry-on-only philosophy in which you only travel the world with carry-on baggage. The purpose isn’t just to avoid lost bagage or the wait after a flight, but to instill a discipline that leads to more enjoyable global adventures. You can read more about our thoughts on this at The Carry-On-Only Philosophy.

We previously travelled to Africa and the Middle East carry-on-only, and that was with duck-down sleeping bags and other trekking sundries. So this time around, sans trekking, sans climbing, sans anything but necessities, we thought we’d easily come in under the carry-on size and weight restrictions.

But not so fast…

Lauren and I cut our possessions down to what we thought were the bare essentials. We displayed unrelenting discipline as we culled and cut and loaded our bags. For the record, we have very different bags; I have the Tom Bihn Tri-Star and Lauren has the North Face On Sight. My bag’s capacity is approx. 33 litres and Lauren’s is approx. 36 litres. Not the smallest bags on the market, but below the carry-on maximum of about 45 litres.

We thought we were set. As long as we could fit our ‘stuff’ into the bags, we’d be okay. But then one of us decided to weigh the filled bags. Oops. 11.3Kg. No problem, only 4.3Kg above the carry-on restriction for coach class. 4.3Kg?! How the heck are we going to cull that much? Back to the drawing board.

Again we culled and cut and repacked, but the weight hardly dropped. So I weighed just the bag and my laptop and a few other essential items, but no clothes: this time, 6.3Kg. Ah ha. There’s the problem, these travel-specific bags are heavy because they’re made from material designed to withstand being catapulted into cargo bays by unloved and unloving baggage handlers.

And then of course there’s my laptop. Which, given we’re traveling for business, is non-negotiable.

So, back to the drawing board and our only conceivable solution was to take a leap of faith. That is, a leap of faith that no one would weigh our bags. Or if they did, we’d use our perfect mix of Australian and Canadian charm to get a free pass (which of course wouldn’t work in any country other than Australia or Canada… or maybe New Zealand).

So we’re sitting here, awaiting our flight to Montreal, with bags just over 9Kg. The consolation? Our bags look like coin purses compared to some of the bags that others are successfully getting on board. I swear some of them must verge on 60-litre capacity.

The obvious question is whether this voids our support of the carry-on-only philosophy? That’s up to you, but you know what they say, it’s only illegal if you get caught. And since we’re doing A-Okay, what’s the problem?

In all seriousness though, the ?One Bag philosophy is about travel with agility and flexibility and discipline. I’m sure I still won’t use some of my items even though I’ve only three-quarter filled a 33-litre bag. And that’s the point, to minimise the useless items because you have to carry them and think about them and factor in the costs of their burden. So let’s see how we go, let’s see if we need to make any purchases, and let’s see how practical carry-on-only really is.

Posted in Gear & Gadgets | June 11th, 2010

10 Responses to Carry-On-Only: We Tried, We Succeeded… Sort Of

  1. I’ve also recently switched to a carry-on-only philosophy using Tom Bihn’s Aeronaut and Smart Alec. I used the Smart Alec as my personal item and it holds my laptop and tons of other gadgets, books, notebooks, things that wouldn’t fit in the Aeronaut, etc. The Aeronaut is my main bag that holds clothes, shoes, toiletries, etc. Altogether, I think the bags hold a combined 70L. I used this system for the first time on a trip to San Francisco and it worked like a charm.

    • Hey Keith, that sounds a bit more manageable than my 33L :) Did you have to walk far with the bags? If so, how did you find the Aeronaut? I walked about 3 kms across Montreal yesterday with the Tri Star on my back. I’ve always had trekking backpacks before and could really tell the difference in terms of comfort while walking.

  2. oh it was a b&w photo.. i thought u had strictly black, gray, white stuff so u can mix and match. i’m in fashion business so pardon the fussiness on fashion. hahaha. how often do u do laundry? that is really my concern with one bag. :)

    • We went to the laundromat for the first time after about a week (Lauren wrote about it here: http://globetrooper.com/notes/laundromats-vegemite-and-a-week-of-clean-panties/).

      We could have laundered our clothes in the sink, but we wanted to get out and about. It was CAD$0.75 for a big cup of detergent, $2 for the washing machine and about $1 for the dryer. For me, depending on locale, I can get away with a pair of shorts, 2 x jeans, and a few shirts. If it’s cold you can wear shirts twice, which could mean 2 weeks between washing.

      Also, Sophia from As We Travel gave Lauren a good idea of washing underwear while in the shower. Then hanging them out to dry afterwards.

  3. The weight factor is part of why I never go for high end travel gear. It’s heavy because it’s durable, and I generally find that it wears out eventually anyway. I’d rather have something light and cheap that I have to replace every two years than something heavy and expensive that I have to replace every five.

    • Hey Kelsey, thanks for dropping by. I sold the Tom Bihn bag on ebay a few weeks ago and bought a much lighter Deuter trekking bag. A third of the cost, half the weight, a million times the comfort when walking. I also sold my 15in MacBook on ebay about a month ago and now have the base model 13 inch. So much better for a third of the cost.

      Just checked out your blog (http://www.mongolianexperiment.com) and will certainly keep an eye on your movements through Mongolia. Not sure if you know we’re all headed to Mongolia in May to trek across the Gobi (http://globetrooper.com/gobi2011). All the best.

      • Oh yes, I’m aware of the Gobi2011 expedition. If you look at the Staff page on TME, you’ll see that Davenport is an advisor for TME. ;)

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  5. Hey there!

    We travel with 60L packs and were always able to bring them on board as carry-on.

    After our first trip to Asia, I realized that we could have done it with a 45L, but after already buying the backpacks we have it didn’t make much sense to ditch them (or sell) for new ones. They are comfortable and roomy. To be more specific, I’m talking here about the North Face Terra 60.

    If you look at them, even completely full, they are no bigger than the average wheeled carry-on luggage. A little longer, maybe, but volume-wise, about the same.

    Going back to my first statement, we can usually carry them on-board, except in some situations where where checking baggage is pricy so everyone brings carry-on only, which eventually forces the company to check – for free, everyone’s carry-on at the gate. By the way, we hate when that happen, but we are prepared: all our carry-on items (a book, mp3 player, wallet, etc) stay on a tiny little drysac that we just pull out.

    Three things that allow us to bring them on board: 1) abiding with the liquids and pointy objects policies, of course, 2) never having them fully stuffed, or with shoes, tracking poles and other stuff hanging, and 3) and most important, we always fold the waist-belts behind our backs while checking-in – the whole waist-belt thing gives them the idea that you have a huge backpack.

    Cheers!
    Andre

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