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Meet Svenja and Her Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 Backpack Review

Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 backpack review

The following Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 backpack review was submitted by Svenja. Read more female travel backpack reviews here.

Hi, my name is Svenja, I’m a teacher from Germany, I love traveling, and I’m seriously obsessed with bags – purses, backpacks, luggage, you name it. The newest member of my vast collection is a Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30, which has replaced my former favorite piece of luggage, my Osprey Ozone 36 roller bag, after just one trip.

What’s your backpack brand and model? How much does this backpack typically cost?

My new backpack is a Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30, little brother to the famous Aeronaut 45. It’s available only at the Tom Bihn website or their Seattle retail store, and at US $285, it’s not exactly cheap (it’s worth it, though, the quality is amazing!).

>>Read a review of the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 or a review of the Tom Bihn 26L Smart Alec.

How long have you had your backpack and where have you traveled with it?

I’ve had my Aeronaut 30 only since June, and I’ve taken it on a four-week road trip all over the southwestern US. As US road trips start with a long-distance flight for us, I also had the chance to test its carry-on abilities, which are pretty amazing.

Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 backpack review
Svenja took her Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 backpack on a road trip in the southwest US and as carry-on on her long haul flight.

What factors were most important to you in choosing a backpack?

I generally like the idea of being able to carry all my stuff hands-free, and while I have traveled a lot with rolling luggage, I prefer not having to watch out for other travelers’ feet when hurrying through a crowded airport. As an added bonus, the fact that I carry my possessions on my back forces me to pack light – carrying even the usual generous European or US carry-on limit of 8-10 kg (17-22 lbs) gets highly annoying really quickly.

What do you like most about your backpack? Any down sides?

I might be biased but I think my Aeronaut 30 is the bees’ knees, at least for my travel style. The Aeronaut basically brings together the easy layout of a duffle bag – big main compartment for clothes and big stuff like my laptop, smaller side pockets for toiletries, electronics and general knick-knack – and the comfort of nicely padded backpack straps.

Another nice feature is the back pocket where you can zip away the backpack straps so they are out of the way and don’t get tangled when you store the bag in the overhead compartment or stuff it under the seat in a plane. Yup, it even fits under the seat in front of you, perfect if you travel with just one bag and want to have your belongings close by (or in case all the overhead space has been hogged by fellow travelers).

Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 backpack review
The backpack straps (right) on the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 can be hidden away (left).

Depending on your preferences, it might be a downside that the Aeronaut doesn’t have a specific laptop compartment. I don’t mind, my MacBook 13 lives safely nestled in its Thule case, easy to grab right on top of everything else in the main compartment.

Tell us about the fit and comfort level of your backpack.

Even though the Aeronaut 30 doesn’t have a frame like a hiking backpack would, I think it’s very comfortable to carry. It comes with a sternum strap and you can buy an additional waist strap (not a weight-bearing hip belt though, which is why I didn’t get it). When I carry my fully-loaded Aeronaut 30, I usually just pull the backpack straps tight and don’t even bother with the sternum strap.

For reference, I’m just shy of 5’2”, 110 lbs and fairly athletic, and my bag weighted about 18 lbs for the flight, maybe 22 lbs on the road, when I accumulated additional weight in form of snacks and souvenirs. I wouldn’t want to go on a multi-hour hike with the Aeronaut 30, but it was comfortable enough to carry for an hour or so when we first had to hurry halfway through Frankfurt airport only to have to wait in line for a small eternity when boarding was stopped due to a medical emergency in the jetway.

If you want to take your backpack as carry-on luggage, can you?

Absolutely! It’s tiny enough to fit the airline sizer boxes, even when fully loaded, it even fits underneath the seat, and if you decide to store it in the overhead compartment, the strategically placed grab handles make it easy (even for us shorties) to pull it out again without dumping it on your or someone else’s head.

>>Check out our first timer’s guide to traveling carry-on only.

Have you found the size to be too small, just right, or too large?

For me, the size is perfect. Due to my, um, not so sizeable size (being tiny equals tiny clothes), I have managed to cram in clothing, electronics, toiletries and basically the kitchen sink for our four-week road trip. Its layout makes it easy to live out of on the road, and its compact dimensions make the Aeronaut 30 the perfect companion for small hotel or AirBnB bedrooms.

Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 backpack review
Svenja fit all this stuff into her Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 backpack.

This is what I packed for four weeks in California, Utah, Nevada and Arizona in summer:

  • 4x t-shirts (one oversized to sleep in)
  • 2x tank tops
  • 1x shorts
  • 1x skirt
  • 1x running tights
  • 3x undies
  • 2x sports bras
  • 2x socks
  • 1x sarong
  • 1x bikini
  • 1x Patagonia Houdini jacket (love it, it comes everywhere with me!)
  • sunglasses
  • a Turkish towel
  • chargers for my laptop, cell phone and
  • my laptop, cell phone and GoPro
  • assorted travel documents
  • two stuffable grocery bags
  • two sporks, a camping mug, my
  • two toiletry bags (dry and liquids)
  • a tiny first aid kit
  • a and a braided clothesline

On the way, I acquired a pair of flip-flops, a couple additional t-shirts, a big bottle of sunscreen and some other odds and ends. The Aeronaut 30 swallowed everything and then some, and over the course of four weeks, I developed quite a system to put everything into its perfect little place – my little Aeronaut would have done Mary Poppins proud!

Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 backpack review
Svenja’s Tom Bihn all packed up

Overall, would you recommend your backpack?

I would – if you’re not looking for a hiking backpack, if you enjoy packing light, and if you are willing to spend quite a lot of money. Love that bag and can’t wait to take it on our next adventure!

About the author: Born and raised in northern Germany, totally obsessed with traveling, flip-flops and rainbow-colored nail polish (not necessarily in that particular order). Married to a very tolerant man, who enjoys traveling as much as I do, and puts up with my ever-growing collection of flip-flops and nail polish. You can read my ramblings in German on http://willruth.rocks and in English on http://www.travel-blog-repeat.com, and find me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook.

Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 review

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Written by Ali

Ali Garland is a freelance writer, blogger, and travel addict who made it to all 7 continents before her 30th birthday. She enjoys travel planning, encouraging others to see the world, and packing carry-on only. She and her husband are expats living in Berlin. You can find Ali at Ali's Adventures and Travel Made Simple.

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