OBOW Light Travel Forum > Bag for 3 week European trip

Bear with this long post...and apologies....I'm leaving soon on a 3-week trip to Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, and (possibly) Germany or France, a big loop. My husband will be traveling with me, bringing his 28" Eagle Creek wheeled bag. We are training it for the first 10 days, then renting a car for the remaining 2 weeks, returning the car to the airport before our flight home. Neither of us is a spring chicken, and are in reasonably good shape.

I've had a 22" Dakota wheeled bag for the past 10 years and, while it's still hale and hearty, it is rather heavy. For this trip, I've decided to go lighter. To that end, I bought an EC Load Warrior 22" ($235) and a Red Oxx Sky Train ($255). I returned the EC, since the Red Oxx beat the EC bag's capacity in a side-by-side contest. Now, I'm having 2nd thoughts about wheeled vs. carry-on, even with backstraps. The EC bag in a larger size might be better. Your thoughts?

In addition, if I keep the Red Oxx, what would I use to pack items so I can get at them easily and they don't flop around in the bag? I've seen EC's offerings, and F1 Spackpaks look awfully good with their compression vents. Red Oxx's Lil Roy and Nomad bags are also nice. Your thoughts on the packing organizers?

Many thanks!
April 18, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley
Since this is a website that promotes "light" travel, I think you'll find most people saying you're taking too much. But that is your choice.

I don't know what your travel experience is in Europe but there are a few things you should know.

In regard to trains....there is no checked luggage or porters. You are responsible for your luggage. On most European trains, the size of bag your husband is taking will need to be stowed in the luggage areas at the end of the compartments. It's too big to keep near his seat.

If you go larger than the Sky Train, your luggage will have to be checked on all flights.

As for whether or not you should take wheels, it's up to you. I've personally done a three week trip to Europe with a bag the size of the Sky Train without a problem. And I continue to do so.

In regard to packing cubes, I've been using Eagle Creek's versions for over 20 years. I occasionally use others--especially if they are customized for the bag I'm using--but EC is my first choice. (I've moved on to their lightweight Specter line recently.)
April 18, 2013 | Registered CommenterFrank@OBOW
Thanks, Frank, for the advice. We're pretty seasoned travelers (been to Norway, Sweden 2x, Denmark, Finland, Spain, Germany, and the Czech Republic in the past 2-3 years, and many other places in years past), and understand the drill on European trains. I, too, think my husband's 28" bag is overkill, but he loves it, so...what can I say? ;-)

I'm keeping the Sky Train no matter what - it's solidly built. I've now also bought packing cubes (not from EC, but from Flight 001 and mostly because of the compression factor, and the Red Oxx packing solutions all look too heavy and clunky). I'm assembling a packing list that will ensure I don't overpack.

My concern is the Sky Train shlep. You've packed in it for 3 weeks -- did you have any room left for souvenirs/tchochkas? If not, how did you accommodate them?

Finally...a day bag...the Rick Steves Civita bag screams tourist to me, as does a few others. Any thoughts on something lightweight, perhaps to also be used as a seat bag for the flight over?

April 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley
How much do the Flight 001 cubes weigh?
April 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEileen
Clothes bag = .16 oz
Underwear = .13 oz
Toiletries = .13 oz

There's a shoe bag, too, which I didn't buy.

What's great about the Spacepak's is that they compress your clothes, underwear, etc. The trick now is not to overpack b/c of the compression!
April 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley
I don't have a Sky Train but I have bags of similar size. I don't leave room for souvenirs/tchochkas or even chazerai.....I don't buy any. I like the National Parks motto--"leave only footprints, take only memories."

I'm somewhat of a minimalist and try to have as little stuff as necessary (Hard to do when I review so much stuff for this website.)

One thing I have done for years is buy postcards with photos of the things I'm seeing. I don't send them but write on them what was going on when I was there, what experience I had. This way, when I pick one up, I can turn it over and reminisce about where I've been.

If having room for stuff you plan to buy is important, then take a bigger bag or take a foldaway bag packed away when you leave and then fill it as you go along. On the return flight, you can then check the Sky Train and keep the folding bag with you on boad.

I used the Civita for years but have recently switched to a messenger bag. I prefer having both hands free.
April 19, 2013 | Registered CommenterFrank@OBOW
Shelley, I also use a bag that's about the size of the Sky Train. After taking a larger wheeled bag to London in 2008, I vowed not to take a large bag again on a trip where I'd be using public transport. I don't know what, if anything, can be done to persuade your husband to use a smaller bag, but earlier this week I posted my packing list for a two-week trip with an itinerary similar to your (but no Italy or France).

I meant to ask what you would be carrying as a "personal item" - seat bag aboard the plane and day bag when you're out and about. I have a Civita day pack and would probably use it only on a trip to someplace like Alaska. For central Europe I'm going to use an Eagle Creek guide bag. I agree with Frank that a messenger bag is probably the best choice for you, although a messenger bag, especially one styled for a woman's use, is not very different from a purse with a shoulder strap, except for how it's fitted inside. If you are not taking a computer or business paraphernalia, any shoulder bag that you like might work.

The guide bag isn't big enough to hold full outdoor gear (rain parka and down-alternative vest, in my case). For days when I need more space, I'm taking a Sea-to-Summit sling bag (http://www.seatosummit.com/products/display/139), which holds 4 gallons but packs very small. If I were to buy very much stuff to bring back (unlikely) I could check the main bag and carry it aboard along with the guide bag.

I don't worry too much about being recognized as a tourist. My clothes, and my accent in German, mark me as an American (my accent in English sometimes causes Europeans to think that I'm Czech).

I'd be very cautious about compression bags. As you already know, they make it possible to make even a smallish bag quite heavy.
April 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPaul-in-NYS
Great information, Paul, and thanks for your tips.

For personal "stuff," I've been looking at the Gator Bag from Red Oxx, but the price is kinda staggering. I'm sure the quality is top-notch, but $125?? Timbuktu-type bags just don't appeal to me, dunno why.

I'm still looking around, and Frank's advice re: the chazerei/tchochka packable bag is excellent. Since we'll have a car for 1/2 the trip (on the way back to our departure point), that might prove to be an excellent solution.

Yes, I'm aware that compression can lead to over-packing. I'm aiming to take 1/2 of what I took on my February trip to Spain, considering the fact that I only wore 3/4 of what I took (mostly switched out tops and overshirts).

One more question: What do folks do about wallets -- currency, coins, passports, credit cards? Besides stashing passports in our room safe, and short of buying a Scottevest (another hefty price tag), what are the ladies doing / using while strolling the avenidas?
April 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley
I put in my pocket only what I'll need for the day. Some of my clothing has hidden pockets where I'll stash a credit card and some more cash. This is all what I can afford to lose. My passport, other credit card, cash all go in my money belt under my pants. I will carry a Pacsafe purse cross body or just my camera in a case cross body.

One thing about the cubes mentioned above is that they're quite deep and that encourages over packing. I am going to put my pants and tops in a Specter Eagle Creek 18" envelope. I have always used packing cubes but this trip have decided to use zip lock bags for my pjs and undies.
April 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterEileen
You're right, the Gator is overkill. It's heavy, bulky, doesn't crush down to fit in your main bag, and the price is $$$. If you like Red Oxx, try a Lil Roy. It won't hold a jacket, but it will hold a phone, guide book, misc. odds and ends, and an 8 oz waterbottle (I use a Lifefactory glass one, you can also get a 16 oz Nalgene with a flat lid to fit). It's great in-flight (it MAY hold an iPad, call Red Oxx and ask).

It's small enough no museum will ask you to check it (I've never been asked). And it's loads cheaper than the Gator; mine was $25, it may now cost more. It's the one Red Oxx I carry now; I replaced my Air Boss with a Tom Bihn Aeronaut, my Gator with a TB Co-pilot, and my Saffron Travel Tray with a TB Travel tray in Ultraviolet. You can get a RO Shopping Tote for jackets & stuff, pack dirty clothes in it, pack a picnic in it, and more, and it's cheap.
April 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlana
Just checked, the Lil Roy is still $25, and the Market Tote is also $25. Get both and you just saved $75 on the Gator idea. For size: the tote will hold a full-sized grocery bag, and the Lil Roy's about the size of 2 hardcovers stacked. It has 2 snap-down dividers and short handles. I get told 'how cool that bag is!' all the time in downtown Seattle. Use the tote as your personal carry-on with food/water for your flights, your coats once you're onboard, and any other miscellany.
April 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlana
Thanks, Alana, for the advice and look-ups. Yes, I've now scrutinized the Gator -- it's got too many outside pockets, needs a claw strap, etc., etc. Your TB carry-on is pretty, and only $15 less than the Gator. What is it you like about it? (I saw the video on the TB website, and that's an awful lotta stuff in the one bag). I must admit to be being impressed by the passport pouch and little wallet accessories, too.
April 21, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley
Shelley, regarding a day bag, check out this thread where most of the discussion concerns the TB Medium Cafe Bag: http://onebagger.squarespace.com/obow-light-travel-forum/post/1016759

I am likewise in the market for a good, lightweight day bag / "personal item", and the TBMCB looks pretty good. The CoPilot is also very nice, and I like the additional organization, but it might be a bit big for what I want. The EC Guide Pro looks OK, although a bit small, while their Vagabond seemed a bit big and heavy.
April 22, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkbob
FWIW, I received the Flight001 Spacepaks from Amazon. The hanging toiletries bag is quite nice, and reasonably lightweight and small. The other 2 bags (underwear and clothing) are WAAAAY too big for the Sky Train, and would (as Friend Eileen said) encourage overpacking. All are being returned to Amazon as we speak.

I think the Red Oxx Lil Roys and/or Nomads for underwear and/or electronic gear is the way to go for packing "cubes".

I'm going to order a small Aviator bag from Red Oxx for stuff we buy. Although Friend Frank takes photos, I'm more of a material girl who knows the word "sale" in at least 10 languages ;-) Rest assured, though, we buy small items, not fur coats or 20x40 art prints. If we ever did buy something large, we'd pay for shipping or go to Mailboxes Unlimited or equivalent.

As for the carry-on bag, I'm still searching.
April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley
I'll tell you a funny story about souvenirs.

Years ago, one of the tour companies I worked for catered to mostly Australians--the most fun people to travel with. On almost every trip into Mexico, at least one of them bought a huge sombrero. Everyone would admire it and when things simmered down, I'd go over and say "have fun getting that home."

Immediately, the smile would drop, they'd look at me and say: "Oh, I didn't think of that."

The sombrero wouldn't fit in any suitcase so the only way to get it home was to wear it.
April 23, 2013 | Registered CommenterFrank@OBOW
Why I love my Co-Pilot:

It's small, but a little bit bigger than the Lil Roy.
It has hardware to clip on a shoulder strap (I use an Absolute by Tom Bihn-I HATE RO's Claw strap).
It has a water bottle compartment big enough for a 16oz Lifefactory glass bottle, or a 24oz diet Dr Pepper-I always travel with both).
An Acer 11.1 Netbook (AOD 150) will fit in the main compartment IN A CACHE.
It crushes down to fit inside the Aeronaut.
It can be carried just by its top handle, comfortably.
It makes a great around-the-city bag for day trips.
Pockets, did someone say pockets? The Co-Pilot has a few, plus with Tom Bihn organizer pouches and color-coded key straps you'll never lose anything enroute again!
And, let's face it, I just think it looks cool!

I also have a Medium Cafe Bag from Tom Bihn. I've traveled with it and with a Swift, but only with them packed inside the Aeronaut on flights. Neither bag zips across the top, and I'm always afraid of losing something small enroute with either one down by my feet. The Co-Pilot zips up tight.

The Co-Pilot is a Tardis, like most Tom Bihn bags. It may look small, but you can pack AND PACK stuff into it as you please. The zippers and seams won't give way-trust me.

Good luck with your choice!
April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlana
Oh-forgot to mention: if you like small backpacks, in October I picked up a Synapse 19. Loving it! It's now my daybag of choice (over my MCB) here in the rehab facility. I'm learning to walk again after major abdominal surgery (and a coma). I highly recommend it.
April 23, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlana
An alternative to the TB Co-pilot is the Lesportsac Deluxe everyday bag. http://www.lesportsac.com/store/7507_5205.html but it is available in more colours and prints. I have a few in more "manly" prints and colours for when I travel with the SO so he is also willing to carry it as well :D It's similar in size to a Co-pilot so it looks more like a mini messenger bag rather than a purse in the black, steel and navy colours.

Of course nothing beats the functionality and workmanship of a TB co-pilot, but the Lesportsac is as close as it gets, costs less and can be found at discount.
April 24, 2013 | Unregistered Commentertcl
Another update: Ordered Red Oxx Gator bag -- TOO BIG, TOO HEAVY, return trip
Ordered Red Oxx Chica bag -- kind of stiff construction, still debating whether to keep it
Ordered Red Oxx Nomad Shave kit (2) -- will keep one for shoes, hubby has no need for 't other, return trip
Ordered Red Oxx Lil Roy for electronics -- Hubby swiped it right away, I'm ordering 2 more
Ordered Red Oxx Small Aviator duffel -- sweet, and well-worth the $$, goes into hubby's suitcase for souvenirs (pace Frank)
May 5, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley
This will be a long post, but i wanted to return the favor of the suggestions and advice from some of you prior to our trip. We returned this past Monday, and here's the scoop:

-- I over-packed, but not by much, rendering the Red Oxx Sky Train too darned heavy for shoulder or backpack. I decided, while in Zurich, to look for a polycarbonate trolley --yeah, I wimped out-- but the wild part is that buying Rimowa in Switzerland is 10-15% cheaper than in the US, and 20% cheaper after your VAT refund.

-- Revelation: I LOVE my Rimowa Salsa Air 26" trolley. It's incredibly lightweight, extremely durable (lots of packing/unpacking in hotel rooms and for transport in car). For those who talk endlessly about the limitations of hard-sided luggage: you are misled. These new bags are more flexible than you think, weigh less than many of the soft-siders (my husbands beloved Eagle Creek, for example), and sell like hot cakes in Europe. Where they know a thing or two about these things (we saw wheeled luggage there years before American manufacturers finally bit the bullet).

TIP: if you want to buy luggage, particularly high-end, at a great discount, even with freight charges, try www.koffer-direkt.de. There is no English translation ( you can download an app for that), but you will figure out pretty quickly what you want and the price point. Plus, you will find discount codes all over the web.

Best purchases prior to trip:

-- Spacepack Flight001 hanging toiletry kit-- definitely worth the $$, as counter space, even if you're at a 5-star hotel, is nil. Brilliantly made, high-quality materials.

--Rick Steves clothesline -- while I blew it on the new bag, Rick helped me save the shekels by doing a few hand washes and hanging stuff on this super-strong, super-versatile clothesline.

-- Red Oxx Lil Roy -- I used it for underwear, my husband used his for wires, headphones, etc. small, reasonable price, extremely durable.

--Red Oxx Small Aviator Bag -- fold it up in our main bag, use it to store any schwag, dirty clothes, and other stuff. See above for Red Oxx's high quality fit and finish. Highly recommended.

-- Red Oxx Nomad Shave Kit -- I used it for shoe storage, but you can certainly use it as a toiletries kit...but see above re: lack of counter space, AND ditto Red Oxx's fabulous quality in this reasonably-priced item ($20-25)..

-- Leigh earplugs -- necessity
-- travel packets of Tide
-- inflatable neck pillow -- necessity

I bought a Rei in der Tube...um, tube...at the Salzburg train station -- wonderful laundry product.
The only souvenirs were scarves (great for dressing up that ol' thing you've been wearing for 2 weeks), an unusual/inexpensive watch, and 2 tiny ceramic birds to add to my husband's travel collection (1 for him, 1 for a friend),

UPS in the heart of Vienna took extra care in shipping the afore-mentioned Red Oxx Sky Train, plus a few smaller objects, back to the US.

Don't get me wrong: The Sky Train is one tuff bag. But, my back, hips, and shoulders simply couldn't take the strain (my overpacking issue), but the Rimowa Salsa Air...a splurge, but also a keeper

Finally, the weather was almost uniformly blech for 3.5 weeks. But, we LOVED Vienna, Ljubljana, Verona, Vicenza, Lugano, and Bern despite the clouds.

Over and out...
June 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley
Oh, one more thing: I repurchased Red Oxx Gator Bag -- you can use this for ALL your inboard necessities, plus a change of underwear, Tshirt, etc. it's what I used to move from place to place, but...

During the day, touring the cities/towns, loved my Eagle Creek Day Pack-- folds to nothing, weighs nothing, fits everything.

I also bought Pacsafe passport holder and wallet products. Love the wallet, as I could attach it with a chain to my belt loop or day pack inner loop and set a lock to discourage would-be pickpockets. Both products light, durable.

Did I mention the TSA-approved lock on the Rimova? Yeah, cute, but we still parked anything valuable in out on board bags and the Red Oxx Aviator bag (which we used as our one overhead storage item),
June 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley
Interesting website, the German luggage one - Google Translate does a good job if anyone's browsing. It has some lovely items if weight (and $$) isn't an issue. Some items I don't really understand though. Why have a laundry bag when a large ziploc will do? Perhaps I'm just 'cheap'. ;)

I admit I'm always looking for lightweight alternatives, so I've ditched a number of items along the way, including a hanging toiletry bag. All my toiletries go in the 20x20cm security bag, except wipes which I do like to use. If it needs to hang up I punch a hole in it! And everything in is 'disposable', as in I can chuck the whole thing away before the flight home.

I'm constantly on the lookout for lightweight, practical, reasonably priced travel clothing that doesn't only come in black/white and doesn't look like I'm off on a trekking holiday. (And ships internationally.) The 7kg allowance seems to feel heavier every year!

Sounds like you had a grand trip Shelley. Thanks for sharing!
June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie
Hello Shelley. Thanks very much for all your posts. Well done!
June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSteve
There were plenty of ziplock bags in my bigger bag, but punching a hole into one as a substitute for a hanging toiletry kit just doesn't work for me. Many times the door was there, the sink was there, the shower was over there..having that small hanger was a great convenience.

We always snitch one of those hotel bags meant for their insanely expensive laundry service for storing our dirty clothes until we are staying somewhere for a few days, at which point we do a wash, and store that same bag back in someone's bag.

My wardrobe was pretty varied, but with the rain and cold, it was impossible to wear the lightweight pants, sandals, and short-sleeved tops (2) I brought along. Who knew Europe would have one of the rainiest, coldest springs in decades?

I'm a one-bag newbie, and this trip did, in fact, help me cut down on unnecessary stuff. Next time, it'll get lighter and easier, thanks to all of you.
June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterShelley
<<I'm leaving soon on a 3-week trip to Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia, Italy, and (possibly) Germany or France, a big loop. My husband will be traveling with me, bringing his 28" Eagle Creek wheeled bag. We are training it for the first 10 days, then renting a car for the remaining 2 weeks,>>

We are looking at a vaguely similar trip in about a year, just Switzerland, transfers by train only, for which the need for a wider variety of clothing may push me beyond my preferred 22-inch roller plus Tom Bihn Co-Pilot.

Accordingly, I may with some reluctance look at an expandable roller in the least common size, 24-25 inch, volume well above my base 22-inch case, but still small enough to easily move on and off a train with the Co-Pilot secured by its back loop over the handle, as train station stops can be brief, trying to handle multiple bags clumsy, not to mention issues of possibly walking station to hotel in places like Zermatt.
June 17, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlan B