In Part One, Lauren and I were trying to find luggage that met both of our requirements for the round-the-world trip. Somewhere along the way, we also had developed our own concept of “one bag travel” — one that was a little different from the way we saw other people doing it.
Unlike some One Bag Only purists, we decided that everything we brought along should be able to fit into one bag — but we didn’t necessarily need to be dogmatic about it. If it made things more convenient for each of us to supplement our main suitcase with a couple of small bags as well, that was fine by us… so long as we could fit everything back into our main bags should that become necessary. We also both wanted something that we could carry onboard airplanes, fit into the overhead racks of trains and ferry boats, and also be sturdy enough to check if we wanted to.
But Lauren wanted a backpack and I wanted something a little less…. granola.
By unpacking my travel attitudes a bit before planning our trip, I had to face up to the fact that I had a kind of aesthetic allergy to backpacks. For me, I felt like I’d look more like an invading soldier than a respectful guest if I hoisted around some enormous, oversized pack that fellow pedestrians would have to dodge.
Was there a way to split the difference so that we could keep a low profile while moving around easily and quietly? Was there such a thing as a “carry on / backpack hybrid” that was also sturdy enough to survive as checked luggage, but didn’t make me look like I was about to climb K2? Perhaps a bag elegant and simple enough to not be out-of-place in either a nice hotel or in a hostel?
Would either of these bags be able to meet all of our needs? I bought one of each to find out.
In this post, we’ll look at the Sky Train — and in the next part of the series, the Aeronaut.
THE RED OXX SKY TRAIN
I found many positive reviews about the Red Oxx Sky Train and also the company’s overall approach to building rugged luggage. Made in Montana and designed by former military parachute riggers (with a little help from “One Bag Travel” guru Doug Dyment), the Sky Train looked like a bag that practically begged us to stuff it to the gills and take it around the world!
I wasn’t the only one who felt that way: Many people were already using this bag for their extended travels and were singing its praises. The bag’s heavy ballistic nylon construction, fitted out with metal hardware and zippers with monkey knots attached for easy opening and closure, seemed rock solid. Another plus: I found reviews from a number of women who said that it was a good size for their frame. Lauren isn’t a wimp by any stretch but, at 5’4″ (about 1.6 meters), it would be easy for a large bag to throw off her balance. The only disparaging comments about the bag that I could find were that the company’s logo patch was, um, a little ugly.
After working around a few browser-related issues with their online store, I was able to order the Sky Train and it was shipped and delivered within about a week. When UPS delivered the box, I was a little shocked by how light it was. The Sky Train inside seemed smaller than I had imagined it would be. But as I started to unzip its two compartments, I quickly got a sense of the volume that it could contain. As many people had mentioned, the hardware felt solid and I really liked how the knots on the zippers made them easier to use. And yes, to my taste as well, the logo patch was … a little intense. I’m trying to be more of a glass-half-full-kind-of-guy, so I decided that the patch would probably make it easier to spot on a baggage carousel if I had to check it.
Per our wishlist, the Sky Train lets you carry it like a suitcase, over one shoulder like a messenger bag, or on both shoulders like a backpack. The website’s sales pitch claimed that you can easily stow the bag in the overhead bin or under your seat. This would be important in our expected planes-trains-and-boats style of travel.
Essentially, Sky Train’s design consists of two main interior compartments and an outside zippered pocket. The main compartment has compression tie downs to secure your contents, while the secondary compartment has a small zippered pocket for your toiletries or loose items. Per the Onebag.com philosophy, “bundle wrapping” your clothes is recommended — and Red Oxx helpfully provides a link to a PDF of a Packing Diagram to demonstrate that process with the Sky Train.
All-in-all, it looked like a hell of a bag. But how would it perform out in the real world?