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I’m a one-bag evangelist. Whether I’m traveling for six weeks in East Africa or a month in Europe, I travel with a single carry-on sized bag. Last year I stumbled upon a site, onebag.com, that solidified my outlook on packing, which I’ll share with you in this post.
For many people, an ideal vacation is flying to Paris, spending a week at a hotel, and returning home. I don’t pass judgment on that vacation–to each his own–but it’s not my ideal. My ideal vacation is four weeks in four to eight cities, possibly spread among several countries. To get between cities, I might take buses, planes, or trains. I stay in hostels or at others’ houses usually, and I may have to walk with my bag up and down hills, stairs, and on city streets.
If you’re going from your house to the airport to the hotel, you want to have a bag with wheels. Bags with wheels move best along those flat paths. But if you’re going to be hyper-mobile and only want to take one bag, ditch the wheels. Why?
The frame and rounded edges of a wheeled bag usually double the weight of the empty bag and cuts its volume available for packing in half! I was shocked to see how much more I can fit into my new rectilinear (all right angles) wheel-free bag compared to my old rounded wheelie. Furthermore along uneven surfaces and on public transport, wheelies are much harder to deal with than luggage you carry.
I really recommend heading to onebag.com for more info on one-bag travel that’s way beyond the scope of this post; I’ll just list my reasons for one-bag travel and show a few pictures of my packing.
I prefer one-bag travel because of its associated serenity, frugality, and flexibility. First, the less stuff you carry, the less you have to stress about. No more worrying that your bag won’t arrive at the baggage claim, that you will leave a bag in the taxi, or that you’ll have to protect several bags from theft.
Next, one bag is cheaper. There are no checked baggage fees, no need to tip porters, and you can more easily take cheap public transport from the airport.
Finally, one bag creates incredible flexibility. If you want to take a side trip, you don’t need to store luggage. If a spontaneous offer pops up, you don’t have to worry if there’s space for you and your bags. If you want to change hotels, you can walk out with your belongings on your back. If you want to take a moped to the unpaved side of Isla Ometepe, Nicaragua to an incredible rambling farm-cum-hostel on the slopes of a volcano, you can.
After deciding to make the leap to one-bag travel, I purchased the Red Oxx Sky Train bag in all black. The bag was $255, which is more than 25 times what I had spent on my wheeled carry-on in Peru, but well worth it. It’s a high quality bag built to last for years of extreme traveling. It also is conforms to the slightly more stringent carry-on bag requirements of European budget airlines, which I occasionally fly.
I chose this particular model because of its backpack straps, which I use to carry the bag. It also has shoulder straps and handles, and any conveyance method you aren’t using can be removed or hidden. Here’s a picture of everything I can fit in it:
This is all I need for three weeks in Europe and a week in Florida, and it fit very easily into my bag. A week’s worth of clothes is plenty since everywhere in the world has cheap laundromats. I would even replace the bulky computer and its charger for an iPad if it weren’t for this blog. The tennis balls will be jettisoned in Florida. I like to take things that I know I’ll ditch, so I know I’ll have space in the rare case that I want to bring back a souvenir.
Here’s what I took for six weeks in East Africa and Turkey:
The flexibility of one bag allowed me to use motorcycle taxis, go on safari without storing my luggage anywhere, easily take a ferry and a Cessna, and generally enjoy the trip much more.
There are some drawbacks to one-bag travel: the bag’s weight and lack of space. I think most healthy adults can easily carry the 30 or so pounds that a fully loaded bag can weigh, but pregnant women, children, the elderly, and those with bad backs can’t. The lack of space can be a bit constricting also and is a deal-breaker for souvenir hounds. But with careful packing, travel-sized necessities, and an easy-going attitude to what you “need,” I find way more than enough space for my necessities, reading material, and a few oddball items like cards, bananagrams, or ping pong balls.
Any drawbacks are overwhelmed by the positives of one-bag travel for me and maybe for you too. Have I convinced anyone else to try out the one-bag thing?