Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Good Gear: Outdoor Products’ Essential Carryon

I’ve become more and more interested in carry-on-only travel in the past couple years for all the obvious reasons. The “one-bag” approach has garnered increasing attention recently, and there are more bags than ever on the market designed for this sort of travel. These are bags designed to: fit the airlines’ size restrictions for carry-on luggage; provide a logical and useful packing arrangement; be ergonomic to haul and lighter than roll-aboard cases; and be robust enough to stand up to the abuse of modern travel.

While I continue to maintain that my Eagle Industries A-III pack is the greatest single bag ever produced by human hands (see “Good Gear: Ode to the A-III” below), it is not necessarily ideal for all one-bag carry-on-only packing scenarios. The lack of a main compartment that opens totally flat is an impediment to efficient packing and, moreover, to living out of the bag over multiple stops. Also, the very features that contribute to the robustness that I love (i.e., the abrasion resistant Cordura nylon, the bomb-proof stitching using bonded nylon thread, etc.) translate into weight. The bag weighs almost 37 ounces empty (2.3 pounds). While that’s pretty light compared to 8-10 pound rolling bags, I wanted to experiment with a bag designed around carry-on travel.

Among the best regarded and impressive are the offerings from Tom Bihn (Aeronaut) and Red Oxx (Sky Train & Air Boss). They feature great designs, construction of Cordura or ballistic nylon, YKK zippers, and they all fit in that looming overhead bin.

These bags are not cheap however. And while I’m sure the quality of construction and design are worth it, their $220+ price tags make experimentation prohibitive. Also, they’re not exactly super-light compared to my old A-III; coming in at between 43 and 64 ounces.

Thus, I was greatly pleased to stumbled across the Essential Carryon from Outdoor Products.

The Essential Carryon is a one-bag friendly design that comes in under carry-on size limits, has hidden back-pack straps for longer distance hauling, weighs 1/3 less than my A-III pack (28 ounces/1.75 pounds), and costs . . . wait for it . . . $29.99!!! At that price, experimenting with it is a no-brainer.

I’ve already used it on a couple multi-week road trips, a weekend get-away flight, and it’ll be my primary bag for our upcoming west coast trip. So far, I’m very impressed. It works well and is quite comfortable to carry. In basic black, it doesn’t get a second look from gate agents who seem to mistake it for a laptop bag. Admittedly, the construction is nothing like what I have experienced with my Eagle Industries bags or what I understand about Red Oxx products. However, if it blows out after a year of travel, I can replace it every year for almost a decade and still be under the cost of a Red Oxx Sky Train.




  • Campmor has the Essential Carryon for cheap!:

  • Doug Dyment’s site ( is a great source for the “doctrine” of lighter travel even if his specific suggestions don’t apply to your situation. Having said that, there’s a treasure trove of specific ideas, recommendations, & resources.

  • James Isbell’s blog ( and associated forums, also have a good deal of stuff on similar subjects. There’s a bit more graphical content on packing methods and gear.


Anonymous said...

However, if it blows out after a year of travel, I can replace it every year for almost a decade and still be under the cost of a Red Oxx Sky Train.

The math works. But if it does blow out, it will not likely be at home. It will be while you are traveling, maybe in a foreign airport or train station. How much would that inconvenience be worth?

Anonymous said...

Whaaat iiiiif???

Ever heard of duct tape & clothes pins, genius?