Looking for travel size stuff?

Have you ever wondered where you could buy those single-dose packets of medicines, or those single-serving sized packages of cookies or condiments? Check out www.minimus.biz. Their prices aren’t exactly rock bottom, but given that you can order single packets it’s pretty nice and they offer just about any travel or single use sized product you’ve ever seen, including things like laundry detergent.

I’ve long used www.mfasco.com to order medicines in single use packets – they offer generics at pretty good prices – because the packets are easier to open and easier to carry. It’s also a bit safer for the kids because we might leave a single packet laying around, but the box stays on a high shelf. MFASCO really works best for things like ibuprofen that we know we’ll use in large quantities because their main market is companies refilling first aid kits and they sell mainly in bulk quantities. I don’t need 25 doses of, say, Dramamine, but it’s nice to have a few in the first aid kit just in case, and that’s where Minimus works well. I could pick up a few doses of several medicines I don’t need often but desperately need once in a while on the road.

Shaving oil

I just got back from a 3-week long vacation. After leaving QuadTech in May, and enjoying a bit of the summer, Susan and I decided to visit her family in Florida, and spend a little time at the beach, Disney and Sea World.

I like to travel and of course I like playing with travel gear. When traveling by car, there doesn’t seem to be much gear to play with. Space isn’t a concern, nor is weight. That’s what I’d thought but I can tell you it’s not really true. About the third time we unloaded the car I started thinking that traveling light is the way to go no matter how you get there. It’s not fun to haul three bags per person (yes, I got carried away!) in and out of the car each time you reach a new destination.

I digress. My electric shaver doesn’t take up an entire bag, but it does weigh a lot more that 3 disposable razors. Add a can of shaving cream, and it’s a wash. Besides, I’ve become an electric shaver over the years. Leaving the charging cord for my shaver at home changed the balance of power. While reading onebag.com, I ran across King of Shaves shaving oil, and decided to give it a try. One bottle of oil supposedly lasts 100 shaves, and is very small.

KOS products are not very easy to find, but CVS does carry a few kinds of their oil and I bought the Alpha mentholated. I also picked up a pack of Gillette Good News disposable razors. I know, I know, they only have two blades and new razors have 3, 4 or even 5 blades. I decided to stick to what I’d used before.

First try: I had about 3-days of beard, and I knew I was in for some pain, but it actually wasn’t too bad. We were in a hotel and the light above the mirror was very dim, but I made do. I came away from it feeling like the oil was very subtle, if it was doing anything. After I rubbed the oil on, it was hard to tell I’d done anything. No smell to speak of, no slippery or greasy feeling. Good News razor have a lubrication strip that leaves a trail of very slippery stuff on your skin, so it was very hard to tell if it was the razor or the oil that was doing the lubricating. The menthol was also very subtle – I did not feel cool nor did I even smell it. However, I did not nick myself, which is remarkable considering how many years it had been since my last shave with a blade. One of the selling points of the oil is that without the foam it’s easier to see where you’re going, and there’s also a lot less to clean up. Not having to rinse a bunch of foam off is definitely worth it. Just pat dry, and I was done.

Second try: It was the next day, and the oil still seems very subtle. Two drops (the amount the instructions recommend) just isn’t very much, but I had the same results as the last time albeit with much less pain due to shorter whiskers. Overall, it was really quite pleasant.

Third try: Time to see what the oil really is doing. I started to shave without oil, just the razor. I even ran the razor backward over my skin to get the lubrication going. Ouch. The oil really was making it comfortable to shave. I could have kept going, but I decided to use the oil. I didn’t nick myself at all or even feel any irritation until I started going back over areas against the grain (something the shaving experts do not recommend) trying to get a closer shave.

So, will I ditch my electric shaver for blades? I dunno. I’ve ordered a few King of Shaves products to try out, but it’s just so much faster to go electric. For travel, however, I will take blades and KOS oil. Much less space, and no charging required.

[UPDATE] I tried going back to Edge Advanced Sensitive Skin. It was slipperier, but I felt irritation. After trying the Edge again, I went back to the oil during the same shave, and it was much more comfortable. I’m a bit confused, as I always thought slippery = good when it came to shaving cream, but the oil is less slippery-feeling but seems to make things work better. A single test is not exactly conclusive, however.

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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Yet more on the Red Oxx Air Boss

Yes, I know it’s a bit odd that I’ve written more about the bag I used to travel to a conference than the conference itself, but there are lots of folks writing about the conference, and digital printing isn’t an area where I have any expertise. In fact I don’t really have any opinion.

About bags I have a lot of opinions 😉

I’ve used the Red Oxx Air Boss for two flights now, and I’ve got to say it works pretty well. When you combine it with the Tom Bihn Brain cell it’s a great combination. You can take just the Brain Cell and have your computer along with a few other items, and then dump the BC back into the Air Boss when you head back to the airport. If god forbid you’re asked to gate check your bag, you can yank out the Brain Cell and not have to worry about sending your computer into the hold.

The strap from the Air Boss fit the Brain Cell with just a little persuasion, and worked pretty well. More on that later. The Brain Cell is a very good size – enough to carry a computer and a few extras, but not enough to get it so heavy you can’t carry it all day. It held the computer and power adapter just fine, with enough room left over for business cards, pens, a modest show guide, and a small digital camera clipped to the strap. I’d even suggest it could use a thin flap pocket on the side opposite the mesh pocket. The Brain Cell is stiff and padded enough I didn’t worry about my computer at all, I even walked with it in light rain although I’m not sure I’d recommend relying on the Brain Cell to be weather proof.

The Air Boss has held everything with the addition of some souvenier t-shirts, bags of peanuts and Cracker jacks, and the give-away bag from Xerox. The weight is a bit much for lengthy slogs though, and I’d suggest that anyone looking at long walks should be eyeing a bag with backpack straps. The strap is part of the problem, though. I have a love/hate relationship with the strap, mostly hate.

I love it because it’s very sticky, and will not slip off a shoulder. Your outer garment will be missing a sleeve before your bag hits the ground. For lighter bags you carry off one shoulder this is great.

I hate it because it’s very sticky and you cannot shift the bag at all until you remove all the weight from the strap. Even then it’s tough. This is really irritating when I’m carrying a bag messenger style, and shift it to the back while walking to minimize bounce, but need to pull it up front to get something out of it. It doesn’t pull. I basically have to take the bag off to get into it.

The strap is also a bit narrow, and even though the rubber pad is wider, it’s not stiff enough to distribute the load very well. Hanging the bag off a shoulder rather than across the chest was pretty uncomfortable for any substantial length of time. The strap seems identical to Tom Bihn’s TerraGrip strap and I’m guessing neither company makes it themselves. I have a pretty cushy strap from Eagle Creek I’ll try on the next trip.

I’ve thought of a few more potential improvements for the Air Boss:

  1. I was going to suggest a key clip, but then I got a better idea – how about a few rings in each section, to which one could clip small pouches? Failing that, a key clip in the center compartment (where the keys won’t create a hip-irritating lump) would be appreciated. It doesn’t need to be a long leash, just a short but secure clip.
  2. How about a short unsewn section on the handle straps, for carrying an umbrella?
  3. I’m tempted to ask for external compression straps…but I’m not sure it’s a good idea.
  4. A flap on the inside of the slip pocket would help keep items in the pocket. A carry on bag eventually has to be lifted overhead and that’s when things start falling out.
  5. When I bought a Tilley hat a long time ago it came with a few “Brag Tags” – small printed cards with info about how to order the hat. The idea was that when people commented to the wearer, he could just pull out a brag tag and hand it to the person making the comment. I’ve been asked by one person about the Air Boss already…

More on the Red Oxx Air Boss

I’m sitting in Milwaukee’s General Mitchell International Airport, and next to me is my Red Oxx Air Boss, with Tom Bihn Brain Cell. It’s proven so far to be a pretty awesome combination.

The bag isn’t full – I’ve only got two shirts, underwear, socks, undershirts and a pair of pants on one side and a jacket in the other side, with my laptop, toiletries and a few gadgets in the middle. It’s a bit heavy, and the strap padding could be a bit thicker. But it didn’t even come close to sliding off my shoulder.

The outside pocket did fine to hold the things I need handy, and the slip pocket held my very threatening zip baggy of toothpaste to satisfy TSA regulations. The bag is not small, but it doesn’t feel big either. Like an oversized briefcase. I’ve actually carried briefcases heavier than this, back when I used to think I had to carry 5 books on a flight 😉

I’d originally thought the shoulder strap was a bit narrow, but I discovered an advantage to it – it fits the clip on my blackberry holster better. It’s the width of a men’s dress belt, so that makes sense.img_0674.jpg

There it is sitting happily in an airport chair.img_0675.jpg

I pulled the Brain Cell out a bit so you can get a look at it – the two bags make an awesome combination.

So far the only suggestions I would have are:

  1. Add a pencil/pen slot or two at one end of the large slip pocket. You could just run a line of stitching about 2″ long about 1″ in from an end to form a short sleeve that would hold a pen perfectly.
  2. If you put a bit of padding at the bottom, carrying a laptop directly in the bag would be a lot safer.

So far, it’s been a good bag!

I’ve been Air Bossed

My long awaited Air Boss arrived a few days ago. It arrived at work, so I could only pull it out of the box and inspect it briefly. Even so, here are my initial observations:

  • The saffron color is, well, saffron. For some reason I was expecting a much colder yellow – I think it was a picture I saw on a another site discussing the bag – even though the color matches the Red Oxx site photos perfectly.
  • It’s light and soft. Because of this, the fabric seems a bit insubstantial. After a moment’s thought, I realized why it felt this way. First, my usual murse (man purse) is a black Timbuk2 metro, which has a thick rubbery coating on the inside which makes it very stiff and quite heavy. Second, whenever I envisioned the Air Boss, I was imagining my Tumi briefcase of a similar design. It’s made of ballistic nylon, which seems denser and heavier than the Cordura used in the Air Boss.
  • It seems small. However, I’ve learned that luggage, particularly soft luggage, is often very deceptive when it comes to size. Bags that seem huge fill quicker than expected, and seemingly stuffed bags swallow unexpected loads with no trouble.
  • The zippers seem very large – not a bad thing, just surprising.
  • There are three external pockets. One full length that has a simple snap closure, one full length zip, and one narrow (the space between the handle straps) zip. The narrow one surprisingly goes all the way to the bottom of the bag, but it’s wide enough to get my arm down there so it works ok. The pocket is intended to hold airline tickets and that sort of thing, and it should work well for that. The fact that it goes to the bottom provides a place for a few rarely needed but necessary items, like packets of Immodium, cold medicine and aspirin.
  • I was a little surprised to find the bottom of the main compartment wasn’t padded – some of the web references I found suggested folks putting their laptops in there so I assumed it would be padded. It doesn’t matter to me because I ordered a Brain Cell from Mr. Tom Bihn to take care of my computer.

But will it hold enough?

When I brought it home later in the day I could try it out, and I packed the following with ease:

Side A: 2 dress shirts, 2 t-shirts, and a pair of twills. This side was full but not bulging at all – another shirt would be no problem.

Side B: 1 blazer, 2 dress shirts, 2 t-shirts, and a pair of twills. This side was bulging a bit – I could have gotten more in there, but the bag would start being football-shaped.

Middle: 1 pair of shoes and 4 pair each of socks and underwear. I think I could have gotten my laptop and toiletries in there with no room to spare.

In total I fit four day’s worth of clothes without wearing the same shirt twice. Normally, I’d take only more underwear/undershirts/socks to get more days in a business environment so I think the bag really is good for a week on the road. Indefinitely if laundry services are available. In one of Red Oxx owner Jim Markel’s trip reports he mentions what he packed in an Air Boss, and it seems reasonable to me. A full suit and two shirts, along with a few ties and an undershirt to be the core would be no problem in one side alone.

I used the bundle method for the clothing, except the t-shirts which were folded and formed the center of each bundle. I think it would have worked better with them just being bundled like the rest. If I needed much more clothing or was traveling in winter I think I would probably take a separate bag for the computer, or just the brain cell as it can take a shoulder strap. The beauty of the bundle method is that it’s very space efficient. The bad news is that there’s no pulling out just one item – you have to unpack.

Once the bag was full, silly for thinking it was small. It’s not that huge, but the bag hides it’s width when it’s empty. When it’s full it grows to it’s full 8″+ width and the center of gravity moves further away from my body. Even so on my shoulder it didn’t seem very heavy, or hard to manuever. The shoulder strap has pretty soft, grippy rubber which is very shoulder friendly. It attaches with normal clips, so other straps could be substituted if needed.

Another thing I noticed is that the zip for the center compartment is centered on the bag, so the strap is offset to one side. This favors carrying the bag so the larger outside zip pocket is away from your body. I’m not sure if this or the non-zip pocket would be better on the outside. Usage will tell. If choosing between centering the zip or the strap was part of the design process, I’d be interesting to hear the trade-offs that were discussed.

I like:

  • The size seems perfect. It’s big enough to haul as much as you can reasonably lift, assuming it’s mostly clothes.
  • The three-compartment design is aimed at clothing and allows the bag to work even if you have enough to fill only the two outside compartments. A single compartment bag just doesn’t work when it’s not full. This bag was designed as a collaboration with Doug Dyment (of OneBag.com fame) and Red Oxx so it’s no surprise it’s laid out well.
  • Dealing with Red Oxx is a pleasure, as you would expect a smaller US-based manufacturer to be. You also know that the folks who made the bag are paid a living wage.
  • The outside zip pocket is large enough and well placed to hold all of the last minute items I ditch into my bag as I get to airport security.

I like less:

  • The zippers aren’t covered. The missing cover on the outside means that leaving this bag in the rain will more likely mean wet clothes. Outside covers do tend to hide the zipper handles, although the really nifty monkey-fist pulls would alleviate this.
  • The yellow fabric is light enough that you can see through it somewhat. Granted, it’s not like I’ll be carrying anything secret in the outside pockets, but it was noticeable when I stuck magazines in the outside pockets I could read the titles. On the other hand, it does make it easier to find stuff. I would assume that this is a color specific issue.
  • The pockets aren’t lined. This isn’t a big deal as it doesn’t make the bag less useful. It’s just a “nice touch” that I’ve seen on other bags, i.e. Tumi. It does make me extra glad I ordered the Saffron color because they are real bright inside – it will be no trouble to find stuff. I used to buy every bag in black, and I’ve learned that light interiors really make a bag easier to use. The main compartments are lined except for the ends, top and bottom.
  • Overall the bag doesn’t exude the solidity I expected. Again, this goes to my comparison to Tumi and perception of weight. What I have to remember is that if Tumi made this bag it would be a) Black, b) at least $200 more, and c) probably a pound or two heavier. I asked the folks at Red Oxx about the fabric choice, and they responded that using ballistic would have been a) heavier, and b) limited the choice of colors.

So far I’m pleased with the Air Boss and I’m anxious to see how this bag will work out on my way to the OnDemand conference. It’s only two nights, and not very formal so I’ll be taking only this bag. A week later I have a four night trip that’s more which will be a tougher test.