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From luggage to organizers, starting off with the right bag makes any trip easier. You want something sturdy, lightweight, and just the right size for the trip.
Over the years we’ve been through our fair share of bags, and have developed quite the collection. Some have withstood the test of time, while others left us trying to balance 50 lbs on the last remaining good wheel. Far from fun!
These are the various types of bags we routinely use; what they work best for, and the specific bags we can recommend.
Table of Contents
Right Bag For Any Trip
We’ve found Patagonia’s Black Hole Duffel 55 Liter perfect for just about every trip.
At 55 liters it’s a mid-size bag. Big enough for both of us to share on short trips, but we need a second bag for longer adventures. We love that it flattens, making it easier to store on trips where we have less space.
What we love about the bag:
- It’s one of the lightest checked bags you’ll find, at 3.2 lbs including the straps.
- Shoulder straps allow it convert from a duffel to a backpack.
- Flexible and can be flattened down to fit for road trips.
- Rugged, durable, and water resistant. We dragged this around South America, Iceland, the U.S. and the U.K., and it still looks new.
- Folds up small. We’ve kept it as a spare bag on trips where we plan on coming back with more than we left with.
- The bag doesn’t come with a roller, which is what keeps the weight down. The larger version of this bag does come with a roller attached.
- As it is an open space, we find it works best with packing cubes to give organization and structure.
Carry On Bags
Picking the right carry-on bag is probably one of the more challenging choices. Different airline carriers have different size requirements, especially when traveling internationally. Some airlines are strict on weight, others only ask you to lift it into the overhead bins by yourself. Plus, the ideal carry-on doubles as a weekend bag.
The most important factor for us in a carry-on, is weight. Ideally, we want them 7 lbs. or less. This is critical when some airlines restrict carry-on to only 15 lbs.
For us, one of our carry-on bags is always our camera bag, but we’ll talk about our picks under camera bags below.
Typically, we prefer a roller bag for our carry-on. We look for rollers with some protection around the wheels, though these are becoming increasingly harder to find.
Max-out Your Carry-On
The best solution we found for maximizing carry-on capacity is the Cabin Max Tallinn.
It’s completely flexible, and it can expand, or contract, to whatever size the airline needs, depending on how you fill it. Best of all, it only weights 1.87 lbs.
We use packing cubes to give it structure.
Tip: “Backpacks” are less likely to be forced into checked luggage at the gate, like many roller cases.
Likely to be abused in baggage handling, checked luggage will eventually break in some way. It’s not unusual to see cracked hard cases, missing handles, or broken wheels. Sadly, this is true of cheap and expensive bags alike.
We bring a camera bag with us everywhere we go. It has to be strong, but also ideally not look like a camera bag.
For short trips, we slim down our camera gear and bring a bag that can double as a day pack. We absolutely love Peak Design’s Everyday Backpack 20L. It keeps our gear safe while being stylish enough for a city trip, yet rugged and compact enough for hiking. We’ve had ours for over two years and used it on countless trips; it still looks new.
The 20-liter fits all this, but there is also a 30-liter version.
- Full-frame DSLR camera with Nikon 80-400mm attached
- DSLR with Nikon 18-200mm attached
- Nikon 50mm
- Memory cards, cleaning clothes, etc.
Bags That Keep You Organized
Packing cubes save space, keep you organized, and make repacking a cinch. We have three sets, but my favorite is the Eagle Creek’s Original Starter set, especially the Garment Folder. The other two are more budget friendly options, but have still held up well over the years.
We hope you find these items useful, we certainly do. For more recommendations on travel gear visit our travel shop.
If you have questions for us or suggestions for other readers, please leave a message in the comments below.