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.

A better luggage tag

Over at One Bag One World there’s a mention of a novel luggage tag idea. Red Oxx announced something similar, but I got one from them as a comp (they forgot to send me a plastic one I ordered) some time ago. It’s your basic dog tag with a nice threaded cable loop for attaching it to your luggage.

It’s a little annoying because it jingles a bit when I walk so I replaced with a non-metalic tag on my Air Boss carry-on, but I got what I thought was a clever idea when I got the tag.

Jim Markel asked me what I wanted engraved on my tag. My first choice was:

DO NOT MOVE BAG
DHS TEST LUGGAGE
CONTACT LOCAL
AUTHORITIES
AFTER 48 HOURS

But I figured with civil rights being what they were under the Bush administration it was a bad idea.

Instead I opted for my name, my email address, cell #, my website URL, and a password. My thinking was that if I end up on the kind of long trip where it’s good for the luggage finder to have my itinerary, I could just put a password protected page on my site, with a notice that anyone finding my bag could log in with the password to see my itinerary or leave me a message.

My travel died down, and I never implemented the idea, but I think it’s a good one.

I would also mention that the metal tag is a good idea because a) it’s hard to read from far away (think nosy stranger) but easy to read when it’s in your hand and b) the writing ain’t coming off and neither is the tag. If I check a bag, I’m using it.

Bad Market Research

I just got done signing up for Tumi’s “Advisory Panel”. Yes, I was hoodwinked into thinking that they’d actually selected me because of my extreme insight into luggage. In actuality, they probably culled my name from their bag registry when I registered a bag with them many moons ago.

Anyway, I took their survey, and the first signs this whole effort was underdone came when they asked what brands of bags I own & buy, and had only ONE place to add new brands. They didn’t list Red Oxx, Tom Bihn, Timbuk2, Chrome or anything else unusual. I haven’t bought a “popular” brand of luggage in years, mostly because they’ve all lost their way and have begun making luggage as a fashion accessory first and a functional item second.

So I took their survey and it was mostly incoherent because first they ask how many bags have been purchased, then they ask for the brands to be listed & ranked, but since they don’t have the brands I’ve bought the two sections don’t agree.

The rest of the survey was tired old buyer behavior questions on whether I prefer to buy brands I know and whether I’ll pay more for better quality. Sheesh! Can’t you buy that data from here?

Once I finished the survey I was directed to a site quickly cobbled together and asked to enter a profile, and then I was dumped into a set of polls (read: another survey). The link for the polls was actually “Forums”, but given that I can’t start a new thread, enter my own poll, or do anything else but respond to their questions I think they should rename the link to “Survey”.

Did I plan to continue checking bags with increased baggage fees? Do I think it’s important for my luggage supplier to be green? I entered my response along with the other 5 suckers respondents. Wow. I’ve known that Tumi has slipped further and further down the slope of fashion over function, as all gear suppliers eventually do once they get big (TNF, Eddie Bauer, countless others) but I thought their marketing was more together than this.

Not one question about why I wouldn’t buy from Tumi, or why I like other brands, or even what I want in luggage.

Jim & Tom seem to have this insight, and without asking me to join some bogus panel.

I guess it’s because Tumi’s really not in the luggage business anymore, but in the “pretty thing for sale at the mall I’ve got to convince people they need” business. Great.