Minimalist movement musings

walk.jpgThere’s a fair amount of cultural buzz about a New Minimalist approach to art, fashion, design, and lifestyle. The new minimalism may be viewed (and promoted) from a variety of perspectives including spiritual/religious, sustainable/green, pragmatic/functional, artistic/aesthetic. Light travel is surely a minimalist approach. It won’t save your soul - or the earth - but it might save your back, your neighbor’s toes, some money, some time, and some sanity. Let’s call it common sense minimalism.

A lot of people think of minimalism as very modern, but there is little new under the sun. I’m reminded of a certain teacher of some antiquity who was a light travel proponent: “Do not acquire gold, or silver, or copper for your money belts, or a bag for your journey, or even two tunics, or sandals, or a staff…”

While we have our can of philosophical wax open, why not muse on ways that light travel skills and strategies can affect our everyday, non-traveling lives? Here goes: It’s just possible that lessons learned (about luggage and layering?) might help us live more simply any time and anywhere with less reliance on things, possessions, stuff. Accumulation is a Western way of life. Traveling light encourages its opposite. We all have security blankets of some type. Some we drag behind us; some we carry on our shoulders. Light travel teaches us to leave them at home. And go somewhere and do something…


This flight STINKS!

Passengers on a Continental flight from Amsterdam to Newark last week experienced every traveler’s worst nightmare. No, not a terrorist with a bomb, but a river of raw sewage flowing through the cabin. “Lavatory overflow” are two words no flier wants to hear.

Said one passenger: “I’ve never felt so offended in all my life. I felt like i had been physically abused and neglected. I was forced to sit next to human excrement for seven hours.”

Flight attendants reportedly advised passengers not to eat or drink too much when they served them in the odorous cabin. Some passengers were given $500 vouchers to make up for the fiasco. Read the entire story here.


Rolling luggage: Chicken, egg, or turkey?

rolly.jpgQ: Why do able-bodied people need rolling luggage? A: Because their bags are too heavy to carry. Q: Why are their bags to heavy to carry? A: Because their bags have wheels and they rarely have to pick them up!

Rolling luggage is a boon for some: the elderly, the infirm, those with bad backs, people with small children. But it is also  a curse —  clogging airport corridors, clacking incessantly on tile floors, clomping noisily down stair cases.  A person with luggage in tow takes almost twice as much space as a person with a shoulder bag or backpack. How much less crowded would airports be with half as many rolling bags? Wheeled luggage is almost certainly a chief cause of overpacking. The rolling trunks seem weightless until you have to pick them up…or they fall on your head from the compartment above. And, a heavy roller can wreak havoc in an old, cramped hotel when someone would sooner destroy the stairs and woodwork than carry what they packed.

Eschewing wheels is the best encouragement for packing less. And packing less is the ony way to travel light. 

Read here about an expert traveler who goes no-wheels. 


Mamot Precip rain jacket - full user review

oliveprecip2.jpgMARMOT PRECIP RAIN JACKET: Review summary – Great storm protection for the light traveler. High points: Lightweight, ultra-packable, well-ventilated, doesn’t leak, good hood design, good-looking.

RATING: 4 stars, a One Bag, One World recommended product

How to test a raincoat? In my case, a ten-day early summer visit to England and Scotland - from London to Loch Ness - was just the ticket to try out the Marmot Precip. With sometimes torrential rain falling for eight days out of ten the Precip kept me comfortably dry. At under $100 ( you can often find them for around $80 on sale) this jacket falls between the sweaty cheapo rain slickers and more expensive — and often heavier — Gore-tex rain shells. The Precip’s fabric doesn’t breathe quite as well as Gore-tex, but the jacket has Pit Zips (under arm zippered vents) so it’s quite comfortable in warm weather. On colder days, just layer and the Precip will do the rest. Marmot says the Precip is free of the clammy feel often associated with unlined jackets. To be honest, I think it feels quite clammy to bare skin on a wet day, but this is not a problem for me since I wear longsleeves year round.

I can say that it never leaked or soaked through despite steady rain and gale force winds in London. Since the temperatures dipped into the 40’s one day with a strong north wind, it’s a good thing the Precip held strong. One strike against the Precip: their are no interior pockets and the traveler always needs a breast pocket. The styling fits nicely between techie hipster and boring middle-aged, so it works fine for almost anyone. You can jazz it up or down by choosing from the wide variety of colors. Best of all, it weighs almost nothing and packs into a double handful; fits easily in a backpack pocket or messenger bag. I won’t be leaving home without my Precip any time soon. More info from Marmot here. The Precip is available for men, women, and kids. There are Precip pants too.



Red Oxx Air Boss bag - full user review

roabsmall.jpgRED OXX AIR BOSS: Review summary – Simple, adaptable shoulder bag for agile travel. Handmade in the USA, military spec materials & construction. High points: Looks great, three-compartment design, excellent strap, lifetime warranty, made in the USA.

RATING: 5 stars, a One Bag, One World top pick.

Ten days and several thousand miles have convinced me that the Red Oxx Air Boss lives up to its hype as one of the most functional and well-made carryon bags available. The Air Boss is probably not for everyone since it has no wheels. Then again, it was not designed for everyone, but for the serious one-bag leisure or business traveler who needs a highly functional shoulder bag which adapts to a variety of travel needs.

No wheels, no backpack straps

There are two ways to carry the Air Boss: with your hand or with your shoulder. This is actually the key to its mobility. A shoulder bag is much better for uneven terrain (like cobblestones, gravel parking lots, or dirt paths), and is preferable for stairs, escalators, or subway platforms. Darting through the airport throngs is also a breeze with nothing “in tow”. No wheels also means less weight and more interior room. Convertible bags with backpack straps (Red Oxx is developing one of these - stay tuned) are popular, but a backpack-style bag is a little out of place with my sportcoat, and I find a good shoulder strap to be at least as comfortable as one (or two) backpack straps. And Red Oxx has one of the finest shoulder straps I’ve tried. It’s called “The Claw” for good reason: it will not slip from your shoulder. As an old news photographer I know that a strap that is too wide or too cushy will not stay on the shoulder. A good strap like “The Claw” strikes a balance between “bite” and comfort, and above all, it stays put. The heavy chromed metal strap hardware is overbuilt like the rest of the bag. I’m pretty sure “The Claw” could double as towing strap for an automobile!

Versatile & simple

The Air Boss’s three-compartment design sets it apart from most carryons. The two outer compartments are 2.5 inches wide and the center compartment is 4 inches wide. Zippers for each compartment wrap around three sides of the bag, allowing any of the compartments to be opened fully when the bag is lying flat. This makes it easy to carefully place folded clothes in the compartments without stuffing - which means fewer wrinkles. The two outer compartments have two hold-down straps each. The outer compartments are where most of your clothing would go. I like to put normal clothing on one side and coats, outerwear, or sweaters on the other, so that some days I only have to open one side. With a one-compartment design you basically have to do a complete unpack and repack every day. Not so with the well-designed Air Boss.

The center compartment has no hold-downs. Both walls of the center compartment have light closed-cell foam padding which also serves to stiffen the bag slightly so that it holds its shape when it’s not full. This center compartment is ideal for hair dryers, thick books, larger electronics, shoes, shaving or cosmetic bag, or a laptop computer. Since only the walls are padded and bottom of the bag is not, it’s probably best to put a laptop in a sleeve or slim-line computer case. I used the center compartment for my unpadded briefcase which I use as a day bag while traveling (see photo). The ability to stow a laptop, briefcase, or daypack in this center compartment means the Air Boss is perfect for travel through the United Kingdom where new security regulations allow only one carryon and everything must fit in that one bag.

Most of my suggestions for improvements to the Air Boss involve the inner compartments. Padding the bottom of the center compartment would make it better for carrying a laptop. The hold-downs in the outer compartments are adequate, but having three instead of two would make them work even better. The center compartment might also benefit from hold-down straps on one wall for securing clothing, large printed material, or a laptop.

One of my favorite things about the Boss (which I’ll discuss below) is its simplicity, but I believe I’d prefer that at least one of the outer compartments have a zippered mesh pocket for storing dirty or damp clothes.

Less is more 

I have a convertible carryon bag that has so many zippers and pockets that I can never find anything. This is not a problem with the simple Air Boss design. It has the three main compartments mentioned above plus a snapped outer pocket and a narrow vertical zippered pocket (perfect for boarding passes) on one side and a full-width exterior zippered pocket on the other. That’s it: no confusion; no gimmicks. The snapped pocket is ideal for stowing your belt and TSA liquid baggie until you clear security, and of course it’s ideal for newspapers, magazines, or a full-size atlas. The zippered pockets are for stowing things that need to be more secure

Zippers, seams, fabric & monkey fists

Speaking of zippers, Red Oxx uses the best money can buy: YKK #10’s which are reliable and silky smooth. Cheap zippers always fail, sooner or later. These are not cheap zippers. I’m no sewing expert, but even I can tell that this bag is very well put together. The Red Oxx guys got their start as military parachute riggers, and the craftsmanship and attention to detail is obvious in their work. The bag fabric is 1000 weight urethane-coated, Dupont-certified Cordura nylon — the highest grade. Snaps and metal hardware are stainless steel. And I have to mention a small but not insignificant detail – the “monkey’s fist” knots. These are hand-tied in nylon cord to serve as unique, functional zipper pulls, and besides that, they’re just plain cool. 

Good genes

The Air Boss is the result of collaboration and consultation with onebag.com travel/packing guru Doug Dyment. His insight paired with the Montana-based Red Oxx company’s manufacturing skill and commitment to quality makes this bag unique. Learn more about Red Oxx here. The company website also has a packing diagram (developed by Dyment) just for this bag. This bundle packing plan works. I can attest that my clothing had fewer wrinkles when properly packed in the Air Boss than I’ve gotten with other bags and methods.


The Air Boss is slightly under maximum carryon dimensions at 21”x 13”x 9” but it’s hard to imagine a carryon with more capacity. The fact that the Air Boss has no wheels, pull handles, rigid internal frame, or lots of silly compartments means you can stuff a lot in the Air Boss. I use an ultra-light packing list. My load was only about 12-15 pounds worth which means the bag was not nearly full, and, in fact, the Air Boss is a little too large for me. The good news is that it’s perfect for most people who are going to pack twice as many clothes as I do plus a pair of shoes and hair dryer. I’m guessing most travelers will probably pack their Air Boss to 18-25 pounds. Many international carriers now limit carryons to 22 pounds. The Air Boss would be ideal for those trying to stay in that weight range. I’m quite sure though that it’s built well-enough to handle any load you can stuff in it. The soft-side design also means that the Air Boss should fit almost any aircraft overhead luggage compartment. It even fits the tiny Embraer 145 regional jet’s overhead compartments which cause most carryons to be gate-checked and thrown into the baggage hold. In larger jets the Air Boss will fit in the overhead compartments either way – parallel or perpendicular to the aircraft aisle. The Air Boss weighs under four pounds with strap. Some carryon bags weigh 12 pounds or more empty - almost as much as my Air Boss weighed fully packed.

Looks & style

The Air Boss comes in 12 color combinations. The colors are strong and deep – distinctive without being overly bright (except for the yellow which is pretty bright). This is a nice-looking bag which works for corporate or casual types.

Who it’s for

If you can’t carry a bag far and require wheels the Air Boss is not for you. If you’re looking for a bag that will handle almost any travel situation and terrain with aplomb, check out the Air Boss. For reasons stated above it is ideal for the present security situation that carryon travelers face. And its lifetime warranty means it should serve you for years to come - through whatever the future holds for savvy travelers.


At $225 its price is in line with other top-of-the line shoulder bags and is well below that of many wheeled carryons. It is available direct from redoxx.com

Suggested improvements

Aside from minor changes to the interior compartments which are mentioned above, I believe compression straps to cinch up the bag when it is under-packed would be helpful. These would make the bag more useful to me since I’m not likely to ever fill the Air Boss up. All soft-sided bags are liable to some bulging when over-packed and compression straps would help minimize this too.

PHOTOS - from top -  Revolving door in Glasgow hotel doesn’t slow down the Air Boss,  Ran into this happy Air Boss user as soon as I stepped off the 777 at Heathrow, “The Claw” shoulder strap, Beautiful detailing and “monkey’s fist” pulls, High-visibility red interior, Snapped pocket is great for TSA liquid baggie, Center compartment swallows my briefcase - beating the UK “no personal item rule”


O'Hare? How about O'Heck

ohare.jpgIf you’re a US citizen arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare airport on an international United flight I have just one piece of advice for you: renounce your US citizenship and stay overseas. Or maybe hop a freighter. O’Heck made London Heathrow look like a garden of earthly delights. My experience this week was a train wreck at every stage: bad information, rude and unhelpful staff, long lines, flight delays, inadequate waiting areas and buck passing on a governmental scale. Customs was fine, security was OK, but everything else was bad by any standard. Avoid O’Hare/United if possible.


Rick Steves on lightness, new bags

newrs.gif“Sometimes I see a reflection of myself in a shop window — with my carry-on pack on my back — and wonder if I’m too old to be so footloose and fancy-free. No! Packing light keeps me young when I’m on the road. Less is more. Like a good fisherman who feels the fish better without a lot of flashers and weights, when I travel light I have nothing but pure 100% Europe on my line.” —  travel guru Rick Steves

Also - big news from Rick Steves: he’s updated the Convertible Carry-on ($99) and re-introduced an earlier, simpler version - the Back Door Bag - which looks like a real bargain at $79. The Back Door Bag sort of started the whole one bag craze years ago.


Review - Onederwear disposable travel underwear

MenBoxer02.jpgDisposable cotton Onederwear is an interesting option for the light traveler. I tested the men’s boxers on a recent trip and found them to be a viable alternative to traditional cotton or poly underwear. I used them about three days out of eleven on this trip including the last day — which meant wearing them a full 24 hours from hotel departure to arriving home in the early hours of the morning. In between were 10 hours of flights, three airports with lovely vinyl seating, 13 hours of layover and flight delay, and an hour in a car or bus.

The Onederwear boxers are not perfect but they are surprisingly comfortable. My concern was that their thin waistband would pose a problem but this proved not to be the case — my undershirts stayed tucked and the briefs stayed “up”. The boxers’ fly is a little more problematic. It seems not to overlap far enough and after a long day the barn door is a little ajar, if you know what I mean. Nevertheless, I found their comfort to be comparable to the poly/nylon boxers I was wearing on other days. Onederwear makes boxers, briefs, and three types of women’s underwear. (I also received some briefs. I didn’t care for their fit, but then I rarely like briefs. The briefs did have a more effective fly than the boxers.) Another note: because their cotton fabric is quite thin they dry quicker than traditional cotton underwear if they become sweat soaked.

Even if they do not become your primary choice for travel underwear, keeping several pairs on hand is a good idea — for those nights when you’re tired of sinkwashing, or to keep in your day bag or vehicle in case of accident, illness, or unexpected travel delays. I’ll continue to use them along with my poly quick drys.

At about $2 per pair including shippng Onederwear may be cheaper for the occasional traveler than buying two or three pairs of Tilley or Ex Officio travel undies. Since they’re made of cotton — and even though you throw them away — I’m guessing the environmental impact is no greater than that of poly underwear which is petroleum-based.

BTW - This company makes also makes a cool (if you need it) roll-up necktie case and disposable sheets to cover airplane seats for you germophobes. See these items here.


Pondering Patagonia

mlc.jpgHere’s a pretty objective look at a couple of Patagonia products (including the Maximum Legal Carryon) — from the Patagonia corporate blog - maybe not totally objective, but seemingly very honest and thorough. It’s worth checking out if you’re shopping for carryons. I handled an MLC recently and was not blown away with the materials or construction, but it is a Patagonia product with a good warranty and reputation behind it. I’m also intrigued with their One Bag which is an undersized two-compartment carryon/laptop bag. My current packing list means I can’t quite fill up a near-maximum size carryon - even when I tuck my briefcase inside it.

Flight attendants on commission, not food Nazis

Upstart cut-rate carrier Skybus (of $10 ticket fame) has incentivized your hunger. Flight attendants will get commission on sales of foods and other items on Skybus flights - and remember, you’re not allowed to carry any food or drink on to this “Flying Greyhound”. From the USA Today air travel blog (quoting Forbes.com):

“Skybus flight attendants will be hawking not only food and water but also such sundries as suntan lotion and jewelry to an extremely captive market. And the attendants will have incentives aplenty to tap you on the shoulder. Paid only $9 an hour, or $16,000 a year, they’ll get a 10% commission on any merchandise sold in this flying souk.”

You could always try the Napoleon Dynamite trick and stuff some tater tots in your cargo pants…

Here’s a great story on the ‘Bus by ABC NEWS. Some highlights:

Before the plane even took off, Skybus was tempting me to open my wallet. Flight attendants passed out catalogs, offering watches, necklaces, pens, sunglasses, makeup, perfume.

Flight attendants told us about the merchandise long before anybody gave a safety lecture. It was like the Home Shopping Network at 35,000 feet.

The airline’s witty “rules of flying” state: “Oh, and don’t sneak food onboard unless you brought enough for the whole plane.”

“We’re discouraging that because that’s part of our profit model,”  Diffenderffer (CEO) said. “But we’re not food Nazis. Nobody’s going to take away their sandwich.” - the entire story here.

 Check out the official Skybus Rules of Flying.



More on jet lag

Here’s a serious look at jet lag by Jane Brody of the IHT:

“The biological disruptions of jet lag are made worse by the fatigue induced by a long flight - the many hours spent in a cramped, dehydrating environment where the air is bone-dry and low on oxygen, the food can be worse than dreadful, and the opportunity for on-board exercise is ever more restricted, in part by security concerns.”

Read the entire article which examines several coping strategies here


Sniffing your liquids

The TSA will begin deploying handheld “sniffers” this summer to test carry-on liquids at US airports:

The handheld machines will not ease restrictions that limit passengers to carrying small containers of liquids and gels on board aircraft, TSA spokeswoman Ellen Howe said. They will primarily check bottles holding medicines, baby formula and other items that passengers can carry on board in unlimited quantities.

“It may not necessarily mean any specific benefit to the traveling public other than enhanced security,” Howe said. - USA TODAY

The Brits have already begun liquid spot checks with a decidedly low-tech method: litmus paper.

Happy hamsters suggest Viagra cures jet lag!

hamster.jpgThe Times of London reports that tests on jet-lagged hamsters suggest that doses of Viagra ease the effects of time zone trauma.

“One group of hamsters was injected with a very low dose of Viagra, also known as sildenafil, on the night before the induced time change. These animals recovered from jet lag between 25 and 50 per cent more quickly than those that did not receive an injection.” -

(Insert your own joke here - I’ll refrain since my wife may read this ) 

 Read the whole story here. And more from Nature.com here.

But wait there’s more: forget the pills, try electro-shock for jet lag.  And here’s advice on how to sleep well at 40,000 feet - which might lessen the lag.


X-ray examination

scanner.jpg“New X-Ray scanners at British airports could be exposing passengers to potentially dangerous levels of radiation, according to one senior radiologist.

The machines are designed to “strip search” passengers by using low-level X-Rays, which produce an image of their bodies, revealing whether they are secretly carrying weapons, explosives or illegal drugs.

But the scanners may not be safe for certain people, particularly children and women in the early stages of pregnancy, according to Dr Sarah Burnett, who works as an independent radiologist in London.”  -  read the entire story from thisislondon.co.uk/The Evening Standard


Long-range travel weather

mostly_sunny.gifHere’s a better weather site for travelers myforecast.com. It offers up to 15-day forecasts worldwide. Is it accurate? I’ll let know in few weeks…

Wander lightly & thoughtfully

melondon.jpgTravel is both a means to an end and an end in itself. The point is to get somewhere and to be there. Traveling lightly makes it all easier and more enjoyable, but in the end it’s not all about luggage and laundry, flights and fares. Tyler Brule suggests how the traveler should experience a city: take to the streets and wander - thoughtfully and without itinerary.

flyertalk.com - terrific resource

ft.JPGThe forums at flyertalk.com are a great traveler/frequent flyer resource - once you learn to navigate and search them. For luggage advice it’s best to search (must be registered) for brand names - which will find threads comparing and rating different models. There’s lots of love for Tumi and Red Oxx it seems.

Flying cafeteria

bus.jpgAs we mentioned last month, there’s a new US cut-rate carrier offering flights for as little as $10. Skybus brings the Ryanair concept to the US. USA Today reports that the Skybus “cafeteria” pricing plan has some odd twists:

“Skybus charges $5 for each checked piece of luggage. Like Southwest, flights are open seating, but you can pay $10 for the privilege of boarding the plane first. Food and beverages may be purchased on board, including soda and snacks. Outside food is forbidden – seriously! And nothing is free: You can purchase a blanket and pillow (and carry them home after the flight if you so desire).”

More on the Skybus menu here

The Skybus carryon weight limit is a very European 22 pounds. It’s not clear whether that’s a total weight of the carryon and personal item or if they are weighed individually. And there’s a twist: the carryon size is limited (according skybus.com) to 9”x16”x19”. Most popular carryons are at least 20” long. It will be interesting to see if this rule is designed to make an extra $5 off traditional carry-on travelers.


Beating the liquid ban

tsascre.jpgHere are some fresh ways of dealing with the the TSA’s carry-on liquid/gel/aerosol restrictions (three ounces or less, must be contained in quart-sized ziplock bag):


New source: Gear Review

We’ve added a new link: www.travelgearreview.com. Adam has a nice-looking site with insightful reviews. His emphasis leans slightly more towards backpacking, but there’s a lot of overlap between backpacking and light travel gear. In fact, many of the light traveler’s tricks come from packers. He’s even managed to snare one of the most elusive beasts in the luggage world: the MEI Voyageur convertible carry-on backpack and can tell you how to get one. This pack’s most notable features seem to be rugged construction and very comfortable straps. I don’t care for the one-compartment design, but if you’re going to carry a pack comfort is all-important. I believe Doug Dyment is also a fan of this pack.