In search of the perfect travel bag

A review of the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 carry-on bag

We travel a lot. No surprise, you are reading a travel blog, after all. 
All of these trips and mini-vacations are times when we think about what to pack, how to carry everything, and how to do it comfortably.

How can we do this better? More efficiently? More comfortably? Air travel is a very stressful thing. With a little planning and forethought, we can make the overall experience more pleasant.

One of the ways that I make travel more pleasant is by only bringing a single bag. 

1. Why single bag travel?

Mostly, traveling with one bag is about bringing the right clothes with the right fabrics (a 100% polyester shirt will stink after a few hours of wear, an example of what not to pack) and being willing to wash clothes every few days by hand.

Read more about packing essentials for her and for him.

The right bag can make your whole trip so much more pleasant.

A large tote, for example, isn’t a good travel bag for plenty of reasons that you can imagine, so design really does play a role in making the process easier. Just be careful not to get obsessed when reading about travel bags.

2. Essential single bag requirements

Everyone’s needs are different. But after a lot of trial and error, and reducing my overall needs, I’ve settled on a few requirements when traveling with one bag:

  • I like to pack everything I’m taking in a single backpack
  • The bag must fit under the seat on an airplane and fit carry-on size requirements
  • The bag must be comfortable to carry and weigh under three pounds (this also makes a difference on budget airlines that might have a low weight limit, 15lbs/7kg)

3. Why Tom Bihn?

Previously, we were backpacking with enormous 45L bags that were the maximum carry-on size for an airplane. A bag of that size, when fully packed, might be 25 or 30 lbs. Exhausting!

I was using an excellent single bag before, an old Patagonia Refugio, but the design wasn’t optimal for air travel. So, after a lot of reading and thinking about bags, I bought…

The Aeronaut 30 by Tom Bihn

Tom Bihn is a Seattle-based company that manufactures all of their bags locally. I had read about their bags (among many others) for over a year before I chose the Aeronaut. I’d heard a lot of hype. They are expensive bags, and that gave me pause, but that is also the cost of buying something made by workers in the United States and not in China, Vietnam, or Bangladesh.

I think the hype is justified, however. The bag is incredibly well-made and the design is exactly what I was looking for. The ballistic material has a thick, dense weave and a beautiful color. Tom Bihn is also known for their bags lasting for twenty years or more.

Tom Bihn designed the Aeronaut specifically for air travel, and for staying in hotels, hostels, or bed and breakfasts.

The duffel design of the Aeronaut means that its easy to live out of when city hopping. It’s not a useful bag for school or hiking. It’s pretty much intended for a specific kind of travel.

4. What I’m packing

I didn’t need a school backpack design. I had been traveling with that kind of backpack previously, and I needed a better design to efficiently pack and carry things like cameras, tripods, clothes, shoes, etc.

Here I use packing cubes to pack and compress everything efficiently. The main compartment holds all of my clothing and toiletries.

The side pockets can hold an extra pair of shoes, a camera, noice-cancelling headphones, and other little items needed on the plane.

5. The verdict

I’ve already completed one round of city travel with the Aeronaut 30 and was pleasantly surprised. It had just the right amount of room, and made the security and seating process a breeze.

I see this bag becoming my essential, single travel bag for years to come.


Do you have a favorite travel bag? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

As always, you can see more of our travels on A Game of Roads Instagram.

Happy Travels!




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