In Search of the Perfect Travel Bag
In an attempt to make our travel life a bit more streamlined, I’ve been searching for the perfect travel bag for years. If we were just packing for our upcoming Portuguese Camino trek, it would be kind of a no-brainer. It’s because we have to pack for the Camino and also pack for the days before and after the Camino, that’s making it a bit tricky. I need the perfect travel bag. Don’t we all?
When we walked the Camino de Santiago in 2015, in an effort to purge the weight of our backpacks, I wore the same pair of pants for 45 days. By the time we caught up with the rest of our clothes in Aix en Provence, France, my pants could almost stand on their own. The other day I pulled those same pants out of a drawer and shuddered at the thought of putting them on again, but they’re so damn perfect for trekking. They are lightweight, dry quickly and they have loads of pockets.
The Perfect Travel Bag
In my on-going search for the perfect travel bag, I’ve had my eye on eBags’ Mother Lode Weekender Convertible. A bit too pricey, I have been resistant to take the plunge and I was resigned to taking our trekking backpacks on this trip.
You know how whatever you search for online ends up in your Facebook feed? Well, a couple of weeks ago my dream bags showed up in my feed and they were significantly reduced in price. Apparently, eBags has pop up sales. Long story short we bought two bags at $50 off each bag with free shipping. NOTE: My little story is in no way a paid endorsement for eBags. It’s just me sharing our travel tips.
It’s My Body That Doesn’t Hold Up
What I don’t love about our trekking backpacks is #1 I find the support frame very uncomfortable and yes, I had it fitted to me before we bought it. But the reality of trekking over a mountain with a loaded backpack is vastly different than trying one on in a store. #2 I do not appreciate the fact that the backpack has to be opened/closed from the top. It’s a pain in the arse because invariably the one thing I want is at the bottom of the pack. In all fairness to the pack though, it has held up well for years. It’s my body that doesn’t hold up under the weight of it.
I’m So Over Wheeled Bags
There are several things that attracted me to our new bags. #1 It opens and closes like a suit case with a zipper and opens out flat. Yay! #2 It has removable backpack straps so I can carry it on my back as we move from point A to Z. It also has a shoulder strap and/or can be carried with just a handle. #3 It has no wheels. I’m so over wheeled bags and trying to pull them over European cobblestone streets. Also, a wheel frame adds weight, wastes space and it’s not overhead friendly on flights. #4 This bag is carry-on perfectly sized, which is one of our flight goals – just carry on. It should be noted that although this bag can be used as a backpack, I don’t believe it is meant to be a trekking backpack. That would be the user’s choice.
My goal for this bag is for it to be our go-to travel bag for any trip, long or short. Although, we will keep our trekking backpacks for future adventures even though I have a love hate relationship with my bag.
About a week or so ago I posed the question on our Facebook page. Packing cubes, yay or nay? Wow! What a response. Aside from a couple of naysayers, overwhelmingly readers replied with a resounding, Yay! Personally, I love packing cubes. They will prove to be especially helpful while packing for this upcoming return to Portugal because each of us will have a “Camino” cube and a “Before/After” cube. Makes it so much easier when you don’t have to unpack everything to find one thing. Don’t you agree?
Before I cut the tags off of our new bags, I practiced packing said bags to see if they were going to work. I’m already in love. We tend to pack lite, but even so I wasn’t sure these bags would hold everything we would need, no matter the length of the trip. So far, they’re looking good! I have packed everything I need for a month with room to spare should I, in the future, need to add in a pair of jeans, or cold weather gear.
The Perfect Daypack
Included in my on-going search for the perfect travel bag, has been the perfect daypack. I think I found it. The GoGoMountain bag is very lite weight, foldable, water resistant with an added water resistant cover, and it has a USB port.
While walking the Portuguese Camino, we’ll need to carry a few things with us each day. Extra socks, rain gear, snacks, water, a first aid kit, medications, phone chargers, paper and pen, and all of our documents are essential. Here’s a picture of our newly acquired daypack along with a couple of other bags I’ve had for years and never leave home without.
A zippered flat bag carries all of our paperwork and easily fits in the daypack. The small black zippered bag holds all of my chargers, and the small shoulder strap purse carries our passports and serves as my wallet. I have been in love with this little purse for years. It never leaves my body when we’re out and about. Never. When I’m wearing a jacket, it fits nicely underneath. It’s a RFID bag, so the contents cannot be scanned. Not everyone believes in the RFID concept, but I figure it can’t hurt.
The other purpose of a daypack, especially in situations such as walking the Camino when we’ll be in a different location every night, is the daypack also serves as an emergency pack. Everything vital is with us at all times. I think all too often we all get caught up in the joy of travel and we forget that shit happens.
Keep it Simple
With all of the being said, you may be wondering just what do we pack for a month of travel. Our golden rule is to keep it simple. If you’ve ever noticed I’m almost always wearing the same clothes in our travel photos. To read a more detailed list of our Camino essentials list, read here. This year, we’ve added a carbon monoxide detector to our stash of stuff. For this trip we are taking:
- 1 pair of hiking pants
- 2 pairs of shorts
- 4 short sleeve shirts
- 1 long sleeve shirt
- 1 sweatshirt or sweater
- 4 pairs of socks/undies
- sleep wear
- hiking sandals
- flip flops
- rain jacket
- rain pants
- personal toiletries/meds
Trains & Planes
So, here we are just two weeks away from crossing the pond once again and taking on our second Camino. But, first, we’ll need to take a bus to the Metro Station, catch the Metro to Union Station, hop on a train to Newark International Airport and then take the red-eye from Newark to Lisbon. From Lisbon, we’ll hop on a train to Porto. We’ll spend a week taking care of business, catching up with friends and eating at all of our favorite spots.
After eights day of embracing our beloved Porto, we’ll put on our sneakers and start walking!
What an informative and practical blog post Patti. I so appreciated reading your about your perfect travel bag . Actually you provide a guide for several bags. I’m so impressed with your post I will share on FB. Best wishes with your Camino walk.
Thank you for the kind feedback, Estelle, and for sharing the post on your FB page. Greatly appreciated!
Finding the right travel/hiking bag is a big job. I like the looks of your choice. Sadly, my shoulders will no longer carry.
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I don’t know how many more years my shoulders have, Gaelyn, I’m hoping for several years to come. Until then, we’ll see how these work for us.
Why are you taking a carbon monoxide monitor? And what shoes are you hiking in this time. Patti? Thanks!
Great questions, Deb. I’ll be wearing RYKA Sky Walk Walking Shoes (sneakers) with memory foam insoles, and I’m taking a 2nd set of insoles. After much research, we’ve decided it’s good practice to carry a CO2 monitor. It is small and easy to pack along. Here’s an article that explains why it’s a good idea. https://www.firefighter-pgh.com/blog/portable-carbon-monoxide-detectors-should-you-travel-with-one/
Patti your research has paid off. Sounds like you found the perfect travel bag and day pack. I hope it will live up to your expectations. Let us know how you get on with them. I love packing cubes and I am even using them now on our motorhome travels. I am excited for your upcoming adventure 🙂
Thanks, Gilda. I can see where packing cubes could come in really handy for storage and such in an RV. And, if you park the RV and just travel for a couple of days the packing cubes would be easy carry in a duffel.
Looks like you’ve made some terrific choices, Patti and Abi. I love ebags and have been buying from their website for several years. Although they carry many other brands for sale, their own ebag brand of luggage, organizers and travel gear is well designed, light-weight and durable. As for packing cubes – a huge YES vote. After living out of a suitcase for 3+ years, they’re absolutely necessary for keeping organized. I also use a couple of see-through, travel compression bags which are are great for a trip that includes different climates or activities. Plus, they’re a good way to carry you dirty (and sometimes smelly ) laundry home. P.S. My next question is … knowing how you had such trouble with blisters on your initial Camino, what footwear and socks will you be taking?
Anita… oy, my feet! I’m only going to wear synthetic socks and I will force myself to sit down every couple of hours and change socks. (dampness and friction cause blisters) I will use NOK Cream on my feet every morning. I’ll be wearing RYKA sneakers with memory foam insoles and I’m taking an extra pair of insoles. On our first Camino we learned how to take care of blisters, so should they appear this time I can hopefully, nip it in the bud immediately. I’m well-prepared and I’m just hoping for the best possible outcome! You know what?! I’ve not had a single blister in the 4 years since we walked the Camino and we walk probably 20 miles each week. Go figure!
Terrific post addressing a topic that most of us that traveller frequently are always contemplating! Trying to improve and do better next time. Looks like you scored the perfect bags!!
I have to tell you of a bag that has been Ben’s number ONE go to bag for the last six years or so and it is nothing short of perfect. Of course now you have your perfect bag, so this information is rather tardy haha, but nonetheless, will share this with you. It is called THE TORTUGA and is made by a very small business that was started by a nomadic adventuresome type. It is super rugged and sturdy, lightweight and the zip opens all the way around (not just the top) and it has served as Ben’s bag whether we go for a week or three months!! Ever expanding and it can be carry on or go in the hold if overpacked. Personally I love to have a small bag that has wheels and a backpack. The small bag with wheels has a handle too, so if necessary I can pick it up but my back just hurts too much with a big load on it.
Yes we are huge fans of the packing cubes!! I like everything organized. Another tip is that I roll clothes rather than lie them flat. So that I can easily see what I have without having to take out a whole pile of clothes.
Have a fabulous trip!
Thanks, Peta! I took a look at the TORTUGA travel bag and it looks like a good one as well. These new bags of ours also compress/expand which I think is another big plus. I sometimes roll clothing as well, but then I find with some pieces the rolls get too fat. Ha! Ha! It’s a great game of what works each and every time. Hopefully, I’m not putting too much stock in to these bags!
Great article! The bag looks great, I look forward to your review of it afterward. We used to travel exclusively with carry ons but it became more and more problematic as everyone else did as well. We ended up being forced to check our bags more often than we could take them on board. Then we started doing a lot of 2-3 month travels where we needed clothing for several climates, hiking boots, poles (because we do a lot of rugged hiking and our balance isn’t getting better with age), and the ever increasing # of medications and other bits the hubby seems to need to keep the body going. At some point I gave in and we check our bags but I do miss the days of simply walking out the door! Unfortunately if the hubby tried putting a suitcase on his back he’d probably herniate another 3 discs. As they say, getting old is not for the weak!
Thank you for posting a comment, Michelle, and for sharing some wise words, and for reminding me of why I need to hold on to our wheeled and more traditional bags. It is so super easy when you don’t have to stand around waiting for your bags and hoping they landed in the same place you did! I’m sure the day will come when we’ll have to return to checking our bags, but hopefully, these new bags will suffice for a few years to come.