This post is part of a series in which ladies on the road offer a review of their backpacks. Today’s review comes from Kit Whelan of Seek New Travel.
I’m Kit, a digital nomad, travel blogger and social media consultant on my fifth year of nonstop travel. I’m currently spending the summer in Berlin and will be heading to Ireland for a big trip with my extended family in a few weeks.
What’s your backpack brand and model? How much does this backpack typically cost?
My beloved backpack is the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. It costs $250.
How long have you had your backpack and where have you traveled with it?
I’ve had my Aeronaut since April 2009, when I set off on my first RTW trip, and it still looks (almost) brand new! It’s been around the world quite a few times – shoved in the bottom of Thai buses, on the luggage racks of trains across Eastern Europe, in the hull of an Egyptian felucca, in the back of rental cars on road trips across New Zealand and Australia, and in the overhead bins of a few dozen airlines. It’s a trooper!
What factors were most important to you in choosing a backpack? How did you come to choose this one?
I wanted a carry-on size backpack because I absolutely hate having to be separated from my stuff. As a digital nomad I’m quite literally homeless, so my entire life is in there – my laptop, all my clothes, and the all-important Kindle! I wanted to make sure my bag could fit in any overhead bin in the plane and, if necessary, on my lap during a bus ride.
I also wanted something that wouldn’t make me look like a backpacker. I’m a professional freelancer, and while I love getting dirty on hikes, I love a hot shower and a comfy bed even more. I’m not an 18-year-old backpacker anymore, and I didn’t want to stick out like a sore thumb as I walk the streets of Paris, Hong Kong or New York.
And on top of all this I wanted quality. That’s why I chose Tom Bihn. They’re renowned for their high-quality craftsmanship and the reviews from fellow travelers were extraordinary. I took a leap of faith and couldn’t be happier with my decision!
What do you like most about your backpack? Any down sides?
The Aeronaut is a slim, sophisticated-looking pack that doesn’t make me look like a typical backpacker. Even when I overstuff it, this bag refuses to look big. People constantly exclaim “that’s all you brought?!” without realizing how much is truly in there. It’s like Mary Poppins’ magic handbag!
I also love that I can unzip the pockets and see all my stuff. No digging through piles of clothes to find the shoes buried at the bottom of the bag! I can easily reach in and pull out any item without disturbing the organization of my stuff. This is supremely useful when I’m about to board a 12-hour flight and suddenly remember I left my iPhone charger in my pack.
BUT while it’s chic, sleek, and easy to pack, it’s not made for long treks. AT ALL. I can carry it on my back for about an hour before I start to notice the strain on my shoulders, which isn’t very long. If you’re planning on doing any multi-day treks, this is not the bag for you. Since I’m more of a day hiker, it’s not really a problem for me.
Tell us about the fit and comfort level of your backpack.
The straps and back panel are nicely padded, but there is no contoured back support, so the entire weight of the bag sits on your shoulders. That’s not a problem when I’m only going from an airport to a train, but if I’m standing in a long line at customs I’ll take it off to give myself a break. There are waist and sternum straps, but they’re not weight-bearing, so I rarely use them.
If you want to take your backpack as carry-on luggage, can you?
I specifically purchased this backpack so I would never need to check luggage again! It’s made to be the maximum carry-on size allowed on most international airlines: 55.5 x 35.5 x 23 centimeters (22 x 14 x 9 in). Of course, that’s assuming you don’t overstuff it! But even on the occasions when I shoved one too many street market purchases inside, the Aeronaut still looks small when it’s on my back. I’ve never had a flight attendant look twice at it. I’ve even managed to fit it in the tiny overhead bins on the regional jets that fly between NYC and DC!
Have you found the size to be too small, just right, or too large?
The Aeronaut is the definition of a Goldilocks bag. It’s large enough to hold all my clothes – including two jackets and three pairs of shoes! – plus a bunch of toiletries, my MacBook and other electronics while still saving a bit of space for purchases made on the road. And yet it’s small enough to fit in my lap on a city bus or in the overhead bin of any airplane.
Overall, would you recommend your backpack?
Wholeheartedly! I would recommend this bag to anyone who wants a chic carry-on backpack with lots of space that will last forever. It’s hand-down the best purchase I’ve made for my life of travel.