Air Boss or Sky Train?

This last weekend we went to visit some family for a long weekend. I took the Air Boss, after a bit of deliberation.

The Air Boss is best suited for trips where you can use the bundle packing method. Folding works only so so, and living out of the bag quickly has it bulging in the middle because when it’s standing up and you’re pulling things out and stuffing them back in things gravitate toward the center. Usually if I’m visiting family it’s a living out of the bag situation, and the Air Boss isn’t the best choice.

But since I’m visiting my father, who has a lot of space and I know I’ll be able to unpack, I decided to take the Air Boss and it worked out fine.

Still love the bag for business travel – It once again proved itself during a speaking gig a few weeks ago. But a recent trip to Las Vegas where I took a different bag (it was two nights, and I had to wear a specific shirt for both days so there was little clothing) and that got me thinking about luggage again. I ended up looking at Tom Bihn’s stuff, and oogled a Western Flyer for a bit, and then I ended up back on Doug’s site and reading about bundle packing again. I’d used one of those packing folders to Vegas, and it was a pain.

Re-reading Doug’s site, I noticed he seemed to be talking about making a bundle tightly around a core, outside the bag, and then putting it inside the bag. When I was packing the Boss I noticed that the compartments are all pretty flat relative to the other dimensions. The bag is 21″ long by 13″, and the outside compartments that I use to hold clothes are only 2″ thick. That makes for a floppy bundle. I’ve never tried to bundle the clothes outside the bag and then fit the bundle inside, but I don’t think it would work very well. I’ve never been able to make a bundle very tight. When I try to pull clothes tightly around it tends to crumple the inner layers. There isn’t much space for a thick core. Regardless it works better than my old rolling bag, but when you’re a bag junkie, well, the pursuit of perfection and this kind of bagsturbation is it’s own reward.

That got me thinking about the Sky Train, which has two compartments instead of three and a different aspect ratio. One of them is 6.5″ thick, and the other 2.5″. The bag is an inch shorter, which doesn’t seem like much on paper but on a travel bag an inch is a lot. This makes the main compartment an obvious choice for a bundle, but now a bundle that could be thicker and more stable. I might not need the whole 6.5″, but things like sweaters or jackets, which are often needed while traveling, could be folded and put on top of the bundle. The other compartment could be used for either a smaller bundle or maybe the briefcase stuff. The thicker compartment might work better for live-out-of-the-bag situations as well.

There are a couple things that make me hesitate though. First, the bag is an inch shorter and the Air Boss is already on the edge of being too small for some shirts – with a 17.5″ neck, the body of the shirt is a bit over 21″ wide and the Sky Train is 20″. Second, the center compartment of the Air Boss is such a perfect place for lots of things that don’t really have another place, like shoes, computer, etc. They’re in the center of the bag so they don’t rub against me while walking. They’re protected. And, if I really need to thin the bag to fit it into an overhead (this happened only once, BTW) I can quickly yank out the computer and voila! The bag is thinner. I have this thing about symmetry as well.

I have a few more trips coming up, and I think I might try putting clothes in the center Air Boss compartment and the computer on the outside, and see how that goes.

The Red Oxx Air Boss, years later

I’ve noticed a lot of folks ending up here doing searches on the Red Oxx Air Boss bag. I can understand why.

It seems like it might be the perfect bag, but it seems expensive, and it can be hard to make the decision.

Well, for those of you who are curious, I’m still using it. As I sit in Ohio writing this, it’s sitting in the other room holding my stuff. I’ve got several other bags, but this is the one I end up using.

Another Reason To Love The Air Boss

So I’m in the line to board a Bombardier CRJ900 regional jet out of Atlanta on my way home from the Primir winter meeting. Every single roll-aboard in front of me had been stopped and tagged with one of those pink gate-check tags. While gate-checking is a lot more reliable than regular through-checking, I still prefer to have my stuff with me and tossed about by annoyed baggage handlers. I did a quick mental scan of what was in the bag. My computer was in my Metro briefcase. The only breakable thing in the Air Boss was the coffee mug I’d bought for my wife and it was pretty sturdy. Ok, if they ask to gate check it I won’t object.

My pulse quickened a bit as I got to the head of the line, but Mr pink tag just waved me through.

Of course, I was carrying the air boss properly loaded and not bulging at the seams, so it didn’t look much bigger than the Metro briefcase I had on my shoulder. Either that, or perhaps that both are saffron made me look just weird enough not to triffle with.

Once on the plane, one that has overhead bins substantially shorter (in the vertical dimension) than the other planes I’d been on, the Air Boss slid neatly into place without any shoving, the metro under the seat. Two people nearby had those newer wheeled briefcases that must have held several versions of the tax code plus an 90’s vintage laptop. One fit in the overhead with two people persuading it. The other didn’t.

I’ve been toying with getting a Sky Train, but I think I’m going to stick with the Air Boss.

Air Boss still the boss

I just got back from the Primir meeting in Portland, Oregon. Portland is a great city, with a nice transportation, reasonable prices, and the weather was even nice. The Primir meeting was enlightening as always, and it was nice to see everyone again. The travel to and from the meeting was less enjoyable, but I’m alive and these days that’s about the limit of what we expect. It was also a nice chance to play with luggage. ;-)

The trip got me thinking about bags again.

A long time ago I stopped carrying a briefcase at all. I had realized that I was mostly hauling a bunch of stuff to work that didn’t need to be there, and stuff back home that didn’t need to be their either. So I just stopped. Then after a while I missed having a few things with me, more than would fit in my pockets. So I started carrying a man-purse. I’ve owned many of these, and the last was a small messenger bag called the Timbuk2 Mini Metro. Then my job changed again, I started missing some paperwork at home, and I bought a Chrome small messenger bag as my Timbuk2 Mini Metro was too small for files. I like the Chrome, but it is really best suited to its intended purpose rather than an impromptu brief case. The metal seatbelt buckle in the front is probably very handy for messengers, but I just keep banging it into things. The size and shape are good, but I miss the small pockets in the Timbuk2.

So I’ve been thinking about getting a briefcase. Yes, I have a few but nothing mid-sized. I used to have a Land’s End canvas briefcase, but tossed it after it got ratty looking. I was not stiff enough anyway.

Then I went to Portland and took my Red Oxx Air Boss & Tom Bihn Brain Cell combination which worked as well as last time. Both did what I expected, and everything went fine. I’m finding that the more I use the Air Boss, the more I like it. Things fit well and the more I use the bag the more I realize the thought that went into not only the design but the precision of the dimensions. For example, if you find the cinch straps in the outer compartments aren’t long enough, you’ve got too much stuff in that compartment and it will bulge when you zip it. When the bag is over stuffed it’s hard to snap the handles together – another signal that the bag is too full, and you may have trouble sticking it in the overhead. You can stuff the bag past these warnings, and I’ve yet to be unable to get it to go where it needed to, but it’s an easier carry when it’s properly loaded. Also, if you’re going carry-on, it’s always good to be asking if you really need to be carrying this or that extra item.

But the fun of luggage is in the pursuit of the perfect solution, and so every time I travel I always thinking about how things could be done better. On this trip I identified the following:

  • I missed having various things with me while in flight, because everything was in the Air Boss, in the overhead. When I have my preferred aisle seat, and I’ve been fortunate enough to get space near my seat it’s no big deal to get up and get something, but I was in the middle on this trip. Note to self – book earlier!
  • I missed having some workout clothes which I couldn’t fit into
    the Air Boss because of the space taken by the computer.
  • The Air Boss gets heavy when my computer is in it. Add some paper, and it gets to be pretty uncomfortable. The Claw strap keeps it on the shoulder, but it’s not a happy shoulder.

So three more votes for a briefcase. I’ve looked at the Tumi Essential Brief, but at $300+ it’s pretty expensive. I’ve looked at Tom Bihn, but they don’t make a slim briefcase, only 6″ or wider. The shoulder straps attach on either side of the body, which tends to make a bag hard to open when it’s on my shoulder as it does with my Travel Pro case. I’ve checked out a few other bags at the local luggage store, but they’re all very fixated on things I just don’t want. Dedicated computer pockets, expandability, special snap-in accessory pouches all add cost without adding real usefulness or flexibility.

So I’m looking at Red Oxx’s “Slim-Line Padded Brief” – with other bags named “Air Boss”, “Gator” or “Benos”, it’s an oddly functional name – and I’ve all but decided to order it pending a few questions from Red Oxx. It looks like the right size, although it may be a bit full when my computer’s in it. Without the computer, how I’d carry it to work, it should be the right size. Not crazy about water bottle pockets, but I can live with them.

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