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Lightweight suitcases?
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Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Lightweight suitcases? on 12/07/2011 19:36:42 MST Print View

I've been doing a fair amount of travel lately and it is oh, so very frustrating to have my suitcase and carryons weigh 12 pounds out of the maximum allowable 50 lbs. Have any of you extended your obsessions er... interests to light luggage?

What would you recommend?

David Wills
(willspower3) - F
Re: Lightweight suitcases? on 12/07/2011 19:50:29 MST Print View

Depends on the contents, but I use a hard shell carry on for heavy and fragile things and an REI duffle for soft, durable things.

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Colorado
Tom Bihn on 12/07/2011 20:05:24 MST Print View

Until April this year I was a full time road warrior, travelling for work 4-5 days a week every week. I learned the benefits of 'one bag' travel, where everything - laptop included - could be carried on to the plane in a single bag. It takes discipline, and it took me many iterations to come close to a workable model for most situations.

The first revelation I had was how little capacity roll-aboard bags really have compared with their weight. The second revelation was how many airline passengers would insist on carrying these bag on after the airlines imposed checked luggage fees. There simply isn't enough capacity in the overhead bins for more than 60% of passengers on most planes, so those who are last to board will almost certainly have to gate-check their bags.

After numerous false starts, I came across a Seattle-based company, Tom Bihn, that makes a range of travel bags in the US. The prices aren't low, but the quality and customer service are impeccable. The company is also really receptive to customer feedback via the discussion forums and social media. I own too many Tom Bihn bags right now, but the two that I keep coming back to are the Aeronaut, which is perfect for longer trips (5 days or more), or trips to colder climates where I need maximum capacity; and the Tri-Star, which is my go-to bag for 3-4 day trips.

BER ---
(BER) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
luggage on 12/07/2011 20:06:38 MST Print View

I hate luggage for exactly the reason you state. The last couple years my wife and I have been using a North Face Base Camp Duffel. Size Large = 4# for 90L. Fairly rugged and hasn't been punctured by the airlines yet. Granted my wife is low maintenance in the clothing/shoe department, but one bag is enough for both of us on a week long trip.

Edited by BER on 12/07/2011 20:16:56 MST.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Lightweight suitcases? on 12/07/2011 20:20:45 MST Print View

I'd second the recommendation for Tom Bihn bags. I don't own one but they seem to be well-loved by travelers.

I got a Timbuk2 Wingman (similar in design to the TB Aeronaut). I took this on a 3-week trip to Bolivia, including rolling up my MLD Exodus inside to use for for some trekking. The reason I went with this bag over the Aeronaut was that REI carries it and I had both my dividend, 20% and a gift card to use.

Edit: didn't mention how much I like this bag!

Some other places to look at: (Red Oxx bags) (a "one-bag" travel blog)

Edited by saparisor on 12/07/2011 21:41:36 MST.

Foo Bar
(schassey) - F - MLife

Locale: Bay Area
Believe it or not: GoLite! on 12/07/2011 20:52:04 MST Print View

My girlfriend and I have been using the GoLite TraveLite Convertible for the past few years and absolutely love the bag. Great balance of features, compartments and best of all light weight!

Here is a great review (from a great blog/resource for your very question):

They make them in a wheeled version as well, but this is the dream bag. It carries super well, and is sized to be able to fit into even the smallest overhead bins, which means it's a legal carryon for all airlines, including the european airlines, unlike the Patagonia MLC.

One tip, if you do get one: it doesn't have a designated laptop sleeve or the like, but we just slip our laptops in the space that's formed between the two main compartments, once you close it up, bringing the two halves of the bag together. It gets cushioned by all the clothing packed into the two main compartments, and is super easy to pop out either in the TSA line or once you board, before throwing the bag in the overhead bin.

Can't recommend highly enough!

Edited by schassey on 12/07/2011 20:56:48 MST.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Lightweight suitcases? on 12/07/2011 21:24:55 MST Print View

Outdoor Products Essential Carry-On $30

The Campmor Essential Carry-On is the perfect travel bag. Regulation carry-on size plus stowaway straps to convert from a travel bag to a backpack!

* Airline regulation size carry-on.
* Interior compression straps.
* Stowaway Comfort Straps™ convert carry-on to backpack.
* Front pocket for magazines.
* Accessory pocket for travel documents.
* Deluxe non-slip shoulder strap included.
* Loops under pocket for umbrella.
* 500 denier Cordura® Plus nylon fabric.
* Campmor logo on front pocket.
* Size: 13 in. x 21 in. x 9 in. 2825 cu. in.
* Average Weight: 1 lb. 12. oz.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Lightweight suitcases? on 12/08/2011 00:22:58 MST Print View

Yes, the Outdoor Products duffle bags are good. For one trip by air, I had a major problem with load, so I got the one Outdoor Products duffle bag (top zip) that was the right size and weight. In order to stiffen it and protect the contents, I put a big flap of cardboard inside.


Sara Whitehead
Tom Bihn groupie on 12/08/2011 04:44:18 MST Print View

I am a full raving convert to Tom Bihn bags both for travel and around town. My Aeronaut is absolutely perfect for frequent business travel -- 3 nights or 3 weeks, I never need to check luggage. Beautifully designed too -- down to the little pull straps for getting it out of the overhead bin.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
learn from your UL experience on 12/08/2011 06:32:16 MST Print View

I travel about 125,000 miles a year on airlines. And I've used some of my backpacking philosophy to approach my airline luggage as well.

1. I always carry on. Admittedly, I get priority boarding, so there is always space for my bag. But even when I am flying on smaller planes with no overhead storage, it still works out better than checking your bags.

2. Now that we know the bag is going to be smaller, I pack with an eye to lightweight and reusable items. I only take a few shirts---all of them wrinkle free so that I can wash and wear them on the road. I used my backpacking undies as well, and socks that will dry quickly. Pjs are the same ones I use on the trail.

3. One nice sportscoat and a couple of pairs of slacks for meetings. And I'll take a sweater, scart, and umbrella in the winter. When it is really cold, I put it all one, including the Pj shirt underneath. Just like backpacking.

4. Slip on shoes and no belt, so that security checkpoints go quickly

5. A small toiletries bag, charger for the Blackberry, and that's about it.

6. I wear a very comfortable cotton dress shirt and indestructible slacks, with the sportscoat on the plane. That's saves weight in the bag and keeps the coat from getting wrinkles.

If I need a laptop it goes on top of everything.

That outfit will get me through a week of travel to Europe, weighs about 22 pounds.

Then again, if I have my passport and credit card, that's about all I need to get by!

Edited by balzaccom on 12/08/2011 06:39:13 MST.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Costco specials... on 12/08/2011 07:15:29 MST Print View

I'm a fan of the Costco special Samsonite hardshell rollers, which are light and protective of my gear that's being checked. I often have to check, no matter what, since I've got tools and other such dangerous devices (the dreaded Allen Wrench, and...a Philips head screwdriver and are those bearings?) and I've found the Samsonites to take quite a whack and still hold things together. They last us a few years each, depending on where we go and how hard they get hit---somethign we can track with scuffs and scratches that don't show up on soft bags. Anyway, these rollers are quite light, with a very thin shell and not much inside in terms of doo dads. Costco carries them, along with that 9-pack of bacon-wrapped filet mignons!

My Tenba rolling camera/laptop bag is pure carry-on and it's not ultralight when empty, but the weight penalty for padding and durability is the price to keep all that glass intact!

Hamish McHamish
(El_Canyon) - M

Locale: USA
_ on 12/08/2011 09:48:38 MST Print View

Not a bag recommendation but...

All road warriors should check out Doug Dyment's classic site dedicated to lightweight carry-on travel:

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Lightweight suitcases? on 12/15/2011 10:12:47 MST Print View

Today only reg. $175 now $79

Edited by annapurna on 12/15/2011 10:16:41 MST.

Elizabeth Tracy
(mariposa) - M

Locale: Outside
Outdoor Research Essential Carry-on on 12/15/2011 10:55:10 MST Print View

Outdoor Research Essential Carry-on is what I have.

I think it is now made by Campmor.

It is really floppy. Some people pack those rectangular clothing bags inside it, or fashion a piece of cardboard, to give it shape.

And the lightweight travelers DO have their own forum!

- Elizabeth

Stuart .
(lotuseater) - F

Locale: Colorado
GoLite Trabvelite rollaboard on 12/15/2011 11:11:07 MST Print View

If you must have a rollaboard bag (say, for medical reasons), then this is a good option at a great price (one day sale), but when you compare it with their Travelite Convertible you start to see the compromise: the wheels and frame will cost you 2 liters capacity and add 3lb 7oz to the weight when empty.

Plus, airlines increasingly scrutinize rollaboard bags over soft sided shoulder bags/ convertible backpacks. There have been many flights where I boarded after rollaboards were required to be gate checked, and I was able to fit my Tom Bihn TriStar or Aeronaut into an overhead bin.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: Lightweight suitcases? on 12/15/2011 12:00:09 MST Print View

My GF and I are definitely one bag carry-on travelers. She will bring a second smaller carry on for stuff she wants during flight.
I dont think you need a "travel" bag and certainly not a suitcase. Any pack about 30-32 liters works good for me. I have an inexpensive 32L jansport and recently upgraded to a Patagonia Chacabuco. I don't care much for the Chacabucos straps, but other wise its got every thing I could ever need. Im still on the look out for a pack that can work as well both hiking and travel/casual. Hiking packs are usually ugly and techie looking and I don't always want to stand out so much. Plus I want a pack that looks good since I don't have to compromise like I do with outdoor gear.
Remember that you can get a lot of stuff free at the hotel (soap/shampoo/wine opener) and your credit card is the ultimate weight saver.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Lightweight suitcases? on 12/15/2011 12:13:12 MST Print View


I am a "road warrior" although the past 3 years it has not been as frequent. But for several years I had a minimum of 150 hotel nights.

You say your carry-on and suitcase are overweight. No one should be weighing your carry-on, just the checked baggage.

There have already been some good ideas posted. Here is my input.

If possible do not check baggage. The baggage apes will damage or lose your luggage. Normally they will find the luggage, but you will be without it when you need it. Don't use the rolling carry-on suitcases that barely meet the carry-on size requirements. They will not fit into an overhead on the small commuter planes. Depending upon the trip, I usually take a carry-on 'suitcase' or a TNF Rucksack. I always take my laptop bag, which goes under the seat, and sometimes I need to wear suits for corporate meetings, which means a separate suit for each day. On these trips I check luggage.

Reducing weight is just like backpacking. Is something multi-use? Some people wash clothes when traveling, I don't have the time or inclination. Take light weight underwear. Thin nylon dress socks weigh little and take up little space. Do you really need undershirts? Good, clean lightweight undershorts are a necessity. Extra storage items inside a bag are usually unnecessary, but I do use freezer bags for some stuff. Even if I check a bag, my toiletry kit is a baggie. I put dirty clothes into a mesh bag.

I don't use any cotton clothing items. Heavier and bulkier than alternatives. If you wear suits, quality light weight worsted wool suits are lighter, take up less space, and are more wrinkle free than most poly blends. And in the corporate world, the worsted wool looks better. I can wear a worsted wool suit on the plane, traveling from west coast to east coast, and it is not wrinkled when I land. One less item to put in the suitcase. Depending on the trip, I can get by with one or two sport coats and mix/match with pants. Again worsted wool pants and sport coats. I normally do not take much in the way of after-hour clothes. I just wear what I use during the day. Shoes can be bulky and heavy. Sometimes I need to bring more than one pair, and I use older Bostonian shoes with a narrow Italian styling, similar to wingtips. Light, always in style, and wear well. They are probably 15 years old and I have re-soled them twice.

On some trips I need to wear suits everyday, a different one each day too. On these trips I check a large suitcase. Never has it been over 50lbs, usually around 45 lbs for an entire week of everything, even some business material that goes inside.

Quality -- When I first started traveling, I had to buy a new suitcase every year. The baggage apes are brutal. Tired of this, I went to a large luggage store that had an onsite repair facility because they repair luggage for the airlines. They suggested I buy Briggs & Riley. Lifetime unlimited warranty. After 10 years my checked suitcase was looking rather worn. A couple broken zipper pulls, piping on the corners worn, some of the inside lining coming apart. This particular model is no longer sold. I took it in (no receipt required), and Briggs & Riley completely restored it a no cost. The workmanship of the repairs was stellar.

I recently got a Briggs & Riley laptop bag, which is a 'clam shell.' You do not have to remove the computer for screening. Also in the corporate world, you don't want to show up at a client's meeting room with a backpack computer case -- just the way it is. This laptop case looks good and has a lifetime warranty too. Just open it up and it goes through security. Here is a picture of my luggage. 4 items cover 100% of my trips. I take the laptop case (bottom left) and just one of the other 3. I have never needed to check the rucksack or small carry-on, and since I fly out of Palm Springs I always leave on a small commuter and connect somewhere else. Also, I often go on hikes or even overnight trips when traveling on business, and the rucksack does double duty. It packs into a very small package and I throw it into the large suitcase if I will do an overnight hike. I can carry my UL backpacking gear in the checked bag without going overweight. If I plan an overnight hike, I always bring the large suit case. For day hikes, I use the rucksack for carry-on luggage and as a day pack.

Good luck!!



TNF Flyweight Rucksack

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
carbon on 12/15/2011 13:03:51 MST Print View

Just in case you have more money than you know what to do with.

Curtis B.
(rutilate) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: carbon on 12/15/2011 13:09:10 MST Print View

LOL. A bargain! At $2500, I'll take two!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Re: carbon on 12/15/2011 13:25:00 MST Print View

Halliburton Warranty:

"Our guarantee does not cover normal wear and tear, scratches, abrasions, dents, crack, or damage resulting from misuse or abuse from airlines or other carriers including damages to the contents of the case and consequential or incidental damages."

Briggs & Riley Warranty:

"If your Briggs & Riley bag is ever broken or damaged, even if it was caused by an airline, we will repair it free of charge – Simple as that!"