The Art of Packing

Some like a bag that speaks volumes, like the old hard-sides, splashed with decals from far away locales. Indestructible, iconic and, before its even packed, heavy as a ton of bricks. My Auntie Bea, yes its true, hung on to her relic until her last trip to Europe. It may or may not be a coincidence she had a bad back, just saying. Never fear if you have one of these or are lucky enough to have a whole set, you may re-purpose them for another 50 years of use by crafting your extra large Samsonite into an accent chair, or your train case into a charging station, better yet transform them into speakers for your stereo system for an incomparable sound. Best hooked up to a record player or phonograph.

Turn your hardside into speakers

Back to the 21st Century where a suitcase’s life is less long-lived. Recently I purchased a lovely Orange duffle type thing on wheels at a home goods chain store. I want to say it completely fell apart on its second voyage but maybe it was its third. In any case (no pun intended) there is no reason for such poor construction but this is what we have come to expect. Most more expensive bags at retailers are sturdier but I have had quite expensive cases fall apart after, what I consider, light use.

Bag in a state of disrepair after a few runs.

Bag in a state of disrepair after a few runs

Every trip can be a reinvention of yourself and thus every so often, (or more often than not) a fresh and shiny piece of luggage offers up the opportunity to become organized and pack the perfect bag. You know the one, the one that hasn’t been invented yet, the one you strive for and will make that upcoming trip, nay your whole life, a happier one. In attempt to finely tune this worthy pursuit, I recently purchased my newest and most favorite bag for an upcoming trip to Paris.

It didn’t occur to me that I needed a new bag, until I roamed REI in anticipation of a new adventure. It is a habit of mine to do so, I wouldn’t want to miss out on a much needed new gadget,  Once sucked into the vortex of the luggage aisle, I was lost to humanity, mulling over the options. Important to consider the destination, the accommodations, type of trip, all contributing to the decision. In this case I am travelling for the AirBnB Open in Paris, appropriately staying at an AirBnB.  I anticipate cobblestone streets, steep narrow staircases and cramped quarters. Since I’m travelling by myself, I’ll have no dog’s body to lug a bag if my back aches so weight and portability is key. While a duffle bag seems like a good choice, it can be a backbreaker, hanging off one shoulder, digging into my muscles…ouch. Since no massages are included in the itinerary my thoughts drifted to a backpack. I really like to be able to wheel a bag through the airport. If you  are staying in one place the ratio of time spent on trains and terminals is significantly greater. So a wheeled backpack whittled down the options, except the choice is still overwhelming! Clearly the salesman was well aware of my turmoil and created a radius around me just to avoid the inevitable barrage of forseen questions. I observed  his avoidance of the area with some satisfaction as I only needed to wheel around, poke and prod the culprits to find the least offensive.

Years ago we had one of the first convertible backpack pieces of luggage by Swiss Army. It was the priciest bag we  ever bought and might still be the greatest indulgence in a bag. The bag was impressive, like a Swiss Army knife, yellow and gray with the cross insignia. The handle small and curved, not two pieces of metal jutting out, just one. And the handle swiveled, promising easy handling and maneuvering, surely this was a lifetime investment I told myself (and my husband!) Like most panaceas, it was not so. There was very little room in the main compartment, the zippered areas cramped and impractical and, worst of all, the bag fell over when packed. ARGH  But we persevered, and used it on quite a few adventures though we usually carried another bag with more room that didn’t fall over when you stood it up. In fairness, this bag still resides in the baggage graveyard of a bathroom closet of our home.

Narrowed down between two bags from Outdoor Research, I rolled back and forth through the aisles. One had a straight rod coming from the back, one two. One was heavier and smaller, one was larger and lighter but with entirely too many zippered pouches which would be better for a hiking trip. One was black with a green lining, one was a more fetching red surely form and function were deciding factors. Both were perfectly good bags but not for this trip’s purpose. I wasn’t willing to compromise and so the search continued.

Is the suspense killing you? The bigger, better and ultimate winner was an Eagle Creek EC Lync System. They weren’t on the aisle with the other rolling backpacks so I darn near missed them but on an endcap in pieces in lightweight cinching bags.  One specimen was perched on top and below were three sizes (20, 22 and 26) each of a tomato red (orange), bright blue and muted grey option. It was a little more difficult to envision my articles of clothing packed since the bags themselves were ensconced and in pieces but I finally reached aloft for the example and pulled it apart. If you shop for one in person, make sure you ask a salesperson to put one together for you. Its quick and easy and necessary to understand the beauty of this design. Not only was it lightweight but roomy with just enough zippered pockets, Ingeniously it has a rolling frame that removes completely from the bag. So you can carry it as a backpack more easily without anything poking you in the nether regions and store in about half the space, fully constructed. The sturdy frame has just enough plastic and aluminum to protect and structure the bag without becoming damaged in transit through carousels and baggage handling.  Amazingly it seems to stand upright fully packed. Voila and I almost missed it!!! Your needs may be completely different and I hope you will share your “perfect” bag in the comments.

Auntie Bea, Uncle Skip and Gilchrist clan

 

Travel Tips
Memorize your passport number, as you will likely be asked for it on numerous occasions throughout your adventure.
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