Bags and bag sensibility

When I was in retail, it was always interesting to see and hear what people wanted in the way of bags for short or long haul trips. 

Some wanted big packs, some wanted small packs. Some wanted big packs with wheels whilst others wanted bigger packs with wheels. Some even wanted packs that they probably couldn’t carry anyway if they were filled to the brim.

Many wanted big packs to take with them to South East Asia, a destination where the common consensus amongst travellers using Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Forums is to take a 30-35 litre pack. Some wanted to take everything they would need with them – even when it was pointed out that you could get toiletries, contact lens solutions and, yes, any extra clothes to replace those that had been damaged or lost along the way.

There’s a lot of different bags out there. Some are fabric based whilst others are hard shell. Some have carrying handles whilst others have rucksack harnesses hidden behind a zipped flap. Others have extending handles and wheels so they can be pulled along behind the traveller that’s bought them.

My personal preference after years of using packs as an outdoor instructor is for a fabric bag with a rucksack harness that can be hidden away. It should also have grab handles, one or more pockets to take the stuff that needs to be shown at an airport’s security desk and it should also have zip pullers that can be locked together to deter thieving toe-rags…

After using Karrimor and Lowe Alpine travel bags over the last twenty years, I think that I may have found the bag that ticks all of the boxes that I needed to be ticked when it comes to picking a bag to use for hand luggage only trips – the Osprey Farpoint 40.

Now I stress that this is my personal choice here, but it’s one that appears to have been made by a few people in Thorn Tree’s online community. I’ll be posting my thoughts on this bag on wisepacking in the next week or so, but as I say, this is my choice and it may not be yours.

Fabric bags have many advantages. They’re space efficient, lighter in weight and have external pockets so you can stash items where you want to. Some bags are available in different sizes too which is great if you’re Ronnie Corbett rather than John Cleese…

They can usually be cinched in so you can adjust your bag to suit the cabin size limits of any airline you’re flying with.

They can also be picked up and run with if you’re late for a bus, plane or train. Or carried onto a bus or into a taxi to avoid any bags in the boot charges. They’re also easily placed into left luggage lockers if you don’t want to cart them around during the day (Caroline bought her own Farpoint 40 after trying mine out and we managed to get both packed bags into one locker at Rossio station in Lisbon last year).

Now some may want to get hold of a wheelie bag for their travels, but my advice would be to think long and hard about going down this route. A hard shell wheelie bag has a lot of dead weight to think about, a factor that can eat into any cabin baggage weight allowance.

It’s also worth doing a spot of people watching in the rush hour on a railway station and then doing the same in the middle of a busy town or city centre. 

You’ll probably see a whole load of commuters and ‘suits’ using wheelie bags of all sizes and whilst there probably won’t be any problems in the railway station or in a shopping mall, when it gets to the streets, it’s where the fun starts!. Especially if there’s cobbles around, kerbs or areas with mixed surfaces for decorative purposes or to give people with visual difficulties an idea where crossings are. 

One scenario that ticked me off recently was a couple towing wheelie bags behind them in the centre of Ambleside. It was obvious that they weren’t local, but they weren’t aware that their bags were taking up a fair amount of a narrow pavement. Or that their bags were moving trip hazards… 

Fortunately nothing happened, but one thought did cross my mind. How cool would one or both members of this couple look if they inadvertently rolled their wheelie bags through a pile of dog poo or any other organic matter of a similar nature? I’ll let you decide that one!

As a measure of the various criteria that airlines have when it comes to hand luggage and hold luggage too, it’s worth taking a look at for more guidance. 

Antler have a range of different bags to cover most eventualities – but remember, other brands are also available (and I’d recommend that you see and try a selection of bags in a shop before you buy rather than making choices online.

About Keith Rickaby

I’m a writer and photographer who has worked in the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and I'm originally from the North East, but now based in Yorkshire and back to home life after three years with a travel and outdoor activity based retailer.

One response to “Bags and bag sensibility”

  1. keith rickaby says :

    Just checking that the comments facility is active!!


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