// Around The World With One Bag (Part Two)
TRAVELING WITH THE SKY TRAIN
Because the Sky Train was more compact than the Tom Bihn Aeronaut, we decided that it would be Lauren’s bag on this trip. But before we left the country, I took the Sky Train on a short, domestic trip with a few connections to test it out myself. Since it was just a quick turn-around, I ended up packing it lighter than Lauren would for our trip around the world. On both large and small planes, the Sky Train was able to fit into the overhead compartment. However on a smaller plane (a Bombardier Dash 8 for all you über-flyers), I had to kind of rock it back and forth until it fit into the bin and, in fact, I scuffed the bag while trying to extract it.
From this experience (and from some “test packs” as we prepared for our circumnavigation), it became clearer that the Sky Train carries its substantial volume by expanding its depth. How much it could expand became clear as we boarded our first flight — a United 757 that is part of their roomier, Premium transcontinental service between New York and Los Angeles. Lauren’s bag, now fully packed, would not fit into the overhead bin no matter how I maneuvered it. Thankfully we had boarded the aircraft early enough to where I could run it up to the front and, with the help of a sympathetic flight attendant, stow it in a closet.
When we got to Tahiti and Lauren put the fully loaded Sky Train on as a backpack for the first time, I could see the issue even more clearly: The bag had expanded so much that she looked like she had grown a shell. No wonder it wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment!
The moral of this particular lesson: This bag has got some serious Z-Axis for its size — so pack accordingly!
Lauren was able to fill the Sky Train with almost two week’s worth of clothes, two pairs of shoes, some flip-flops, her toiletries, assorted chargers and gadgets, a small umbrella, a laundry bag, and a few magazines. One key to getting so much stuff to fit inside were the compression straps in the main compartment.
After a minute or two of what I call Travel Tetris, Lauren could maneuver her items into optimum position and then “lock” them into place with the straps. At this point, the heavy-duty zippers with the monkey knots really came into their own! Sometimes it took her a while to get the Sky Train zipped up, but the zippers held up without jamming or sticking and, once closed, stayed closed without slippage.
“So — were there any drawbacks to this bag?”, you might ask. There were only a couple:
- The metal fittings felt heavy compared to the Tom Bihn Aeronaut — which wasn’t always a bad thing. There was one flight where in our haste to check in our baggage, we forgot to stow the backpack straps. The spring-release mechanism that lets you attach and detach the backpack straps became bent from the loving care Lauren’s bag received from the ground crew. We could sort of bend it back into position and it wasn’t an issue for the rest of our trip. A smaller-profile part might not have been caught in whatever mangled it in the first place but, then again, a smaller plastic piece might have broken completely.1
- We preferred the Tom Bihn Absolute Shoulder Strap to the stock Red Oxx strap and replaced it for this trip.
Lauren really enjoyed using the Sky Train and it held up beautifully over 3 months and 40,000+ miles (64,000+ km.) of travel — and we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a “one bag solution”. It delivered what it promised: It’s a well-made, compact piece of gear that you can load up and take anywhere!
But the Red Oxx isn’t the only good option… In Part Three of “Around The World With One Bag”, I’ll review the Tom Bihn Aeronaut: A bag that, for some people, may be an even better performer than the Sky Train!
- In any event, it gives us a chance to test out the “No Bull” Warranty and report back here [↩]