Sundance Resort, Utah. Photo by Jennifer Willis.

the travel bag saga continues

Because you know I will always be seeking to improve, right?

I’ve now taken three trips with the eBags TLS Motherlode Weekender Junior as my only bag, and I’m still pretty happy with it—other than the name being a mouthful and a pain to type. I’ve taken it with me on a two-day trip to Chicago, a five-day visit to Virginia, and a three-day workshop in Utah, and it served me well on each. These were relatively short jaunts, but I think the bag would still do well on longer trips.

The bag is heavier than I would like, but it’s also sturdy and I don’t worry about it falling apart. The backpack straps could be narrower and/or curved to accommodate a woman’s frame more comfortably. Mostly, though, the only thing I’m continuing to figure out and refine on the bag thus far is the best use of the individual pockets.

For my last trip—to Sundance, Utah, in April for a writers’ workshop—I knew that I didn’t want to be hauling the entire bag up and down the mountain each day. I took along a 20-liter New Outlander backpack (that packs down into its own pocket) as a day bag, and it worked perfectly. I had plenty of room for my MacBook Air (secured in a padded laptop sleeve, iPad Mini and case, bullet journal, pens, hand sanitizer, water bottle, and even extra socks, tights, a hat, and gloves for when the forecast called for temperatures to plummet over the course of the day.

The Motherlode Junior was not packed to capacity for the trip. I had fresh clothes, toiletries, snacks, various cables and charges, file folders, a collapsible cane, and more with room to spare. I did lose one of the Motherlode Junior’s chest straps along the way; the chest straps are designed to be easily removed, and I need to find a way to make sure they don’t get pulled off while I’m shoving my bag into tight spaces. But eBags replaced the strap immediately (under warranty) when I contacted them about it.

The only real issue I had was on the flight back to Portland, and this was entirely a problem with the aircraft seats instead of with the bag.

I flew Alaska Airlines on the flight down and was amazed when the seats were wide enough that I could fit my bag sideways under the seat in front of me, instead of longways. The accommodations on the return flight, via Delta, were significantly less spacious. Not only were the seats more narrow, but there was less space between the rows, front to back. The bag fit longways beneath the seat just fine, but getting it down between the edge of my seat cushion and the back of the seat in front of me was a real bear. My bag was not overstuffed and had been cinched down, but I still had to wedge it down in there. Getting it back out was even worse. I can’t imagine what tall people do with their long legs in such cramped quarters.

(I don’t typically store bags in the overhead compartment for several reasons. The competition for space seems to be getting fiercer, and the only way to win—and not get your stuff man-handled or crushed—is not to play. Also, I have particular items from my bag I use during flights, I prefer not to have to jump and down from my seat during the flight or waste time retrieving and re-storing these items during loading and unloading.)

This got me to thinking about how to redistribute the items in my bag for an even leaner profile (of something that was already pretty lean). I quickly came to the conclusion that instead of a new in-bag distribution strategy, maybe I should start thinking about a travel vest.

I was instantly pulled in by the photos, videos, and descriptions of the BauBax line of products, but reviews have been kind of all over the map and without any way to gauge the product in-person before ordering, I’m hesitant to make a purchase. Now I’m looking at SCOTTeVEST, and I like what I’m seeing so far—lots of hidden pockets, sleek profile, and overwhelmingly positive reviews. If you have anecdotes, recommendations, or even horror stories to share about travel vests, I’d be happy to hear from you.

I don’t have any trips on the immediate horizon—I think the next one is in September, and then maybe also November—but I’m thinking about local adventures and everyday applications, too. It’s true that I carry a little kids’ backpack as a purse and get some wonderful compliments on it, but sometimes I think I’d prefer to be completely bag-free.

So that’s where we are, until the next update . . .

Posted in thoughts from the spiral.

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