Knowing What Bags to Pack.
For the last four years we’ve lived out of bags. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been a bad situation at all. In fact, it was part of a wonderful live changing experience in which our bags served us well. As we settle into the next part of our life, I had a moment to look back on things that kept us happy while traveling.
It was easier to do the bag thing while living on a bicycle for sure. We had a limit to what we could (or were willing to) carry. We each had four panniers that were carefully packed with a combination of stuff sacks and ditty bags that allowed us to be totally self-sufficient as we pedaled from town to town across various continents.
When we transitioned from our bicycles to the IMBAru, we took advantage of our increased carrying capacity by expanding our bag selection. Same strategy, different vessel. Imagine the Subaru playing the role of the pannier and our assortment of bags as the stuff sacks on steroids.
Since our job description had changed (from vagabonds to traveling trainers) we needed more clothes and gear for an increased array of tasks. We would need to be prepared to meet with the mayor of Miami as well as be equipped to paddle the waters of Lake Superior. To that end we selected a bag for each style of activity: work (presentations and meeting), off days, bicycling, all other sports and tasks (hiking, kayaking, canoeing, stand-up paddling, fishing, sightseeing…).
We didn’t acquire any of our bags via the common, impulse-based buying strategy. No way. Color and price certainly took a backseat to durability and the ability to multi-task through different travel scenarios. It other words we looked for bags that could ride in the cargo area of a mini-van or be strapped to the back of a pack animal.
After four years, over a dozen countries and 40+ states, we’ve been pleased with our choices and would definitely be proud to endorse our gear. Check out the information below to get an idea of what we used and how it kept us happy.
OR Summit Sack
What: Dry bag backpack
Primary Function: Bicycle touring – rear rack bag and backpack for off-bike activities. Trail Care Crew – bicycle clothing gear bag
Thoughts: I’ve dubbed this the ‘everything’ bag. Check out the review I wrote for it in 2009 on Spadout.com
What: Photography backpack for active outdoor/adventure shutterbugs
Primary Function: Field pack – great for carrying camera gear as well as field supplies
Thoughts: One of the most comfortable packs I’ve ever shouldered. Remember the marketing for the Nissan Xterra – “everything you need and nothing you don’t”? That’s the Loka.
North Face Base Camp Duffel
What: Duffel made from PVC type material
Primary Function: Storage for work and casual clothing
Thoughts: Practical, durable, and probably as close to indestructible as a bag can get.
OR Mesh Ditty Bags
What: Mesh stuff sacks that come in various sizes.
Primary Function: They are the little bags that keep the big bag (and it’s owner) from going crazy.
Thoughts: Great for organizing clothes into groups: undergarments, shirts, pants, etc. Drawstring cinch closure is easy to use. Although they aren’t weatherproof, they don’t hold air and can take on any shape necessary to fill a space.
Gallon Ziplock (Freezer grade)
What: One giant, transparent, and durable plastic bag
Primary Function: Storage and transport for toiletries
Thoughts: Cheap option for liquid items. Great way to contain spills from punctured plastic bottles.
Osprey Raptor 14
What: Mountain Bike Hydration Pack
Primary Function: Carry water and other stuff on a ride
Thoughts: Osprey has taken hydration packs to a whole new level. The rigid stay on the hydration bladder is key to avoiding the all too common disappearing reservoir scenario.
Patagonia Critical Mass
What: Large Messenger bag
Primary Function: Work related items like books, laptop, and other important papers.
Thoughts: As the Cronic Overpacker this bag became the carrier of way-too-much stuff. Lucky for me I won the next-size-smaller bag at a raffle. I think my back will be much happier.
REI Large Stuff Sack
What: Generic stuff sack.
Primary Function: Separation for clean and dirty clothes.
Thoughts: When your friends tell you that you smell, it’s time to give those stinky clothes their own space.