Mobile Computing: The Latest Notebook Bags
Could you pack everything you'd need for a week-long business/pleasure trip into just two carry-on bags?
As someone who travels with lots of gear, I find it difficult to get everything into only three bags, much less two. But for a recent trip, lasting seven days and mixing business and pleasure, I challenged myself. The goal: Squeeze everything--notebook, clothes, toiletries, the works--into two carry-ons. Here's the story.
Though restrictions vary, most domestic U.S. airlines allow you to bring onboard one bag plus one "personal item" (a second bag, in essence). Some airlines outside the U.S. restrict you to one carry-on, however. The maximum size usually allowed for a carry-on bag is from 45 to 51 linear inches. (A bag's linear inches are the sum of its width, height, and depth). For a list of some airline baggage restrictions, go to LuggagePoint.com.
For my packing challenge, I tested the Victorinox Coliseum Wheeled Overnight Brief ($400) and the Travelpro Platinum 4SE Rolling Tote ($260). I chose these two bags because both are relatively new to the market, and both are compact yet versatile. Each can hold a laptop plus clothing and other items. Or you could use either bag strictly for personal items, for those trips when you're traveling without your notebook.
Measuring 21 inches high by 14.5 inches wide by 10 inches deep (45.5 linear inches), the Victorinox bag is the larger of the two. The Travelpro bag measures 12 inches high by 16 inches wide by 9 inches deep (37 linear inches).
The Victorinox bag includes a removable, padded notebook case with a carrying strap. The bag also has an exterior pocket large enough to accommodate a 15-inch-screen notebook stored inside the padded case. In other words, you stash your notebook in the padded case and store the padded case in the Victorinox's large, zippered exterior pocket. Voila, you've combined two carry-on bags into one. Plus, you've got a laptop bag for use on the ground. And when you arrive at the airport security check-in, it's fairly easy to remove the notebook, as the zipped enclosure is located on the top of the case, where it's easily accessible.
The bag also has a fairly roomy main compartment, a zippered pocket large enough to accommodate a pair of shoes (plus several pairs of socks), a side water-bottle pocket, and a front pocket for conveniently stashing travel documents. All told, this is an intelligently designed bag that takes into account the needs of today's business traveler.
For more information and a picture, go to the Victorinox Swiss Army site.
The Travelpro bag is wider than the Victorinox, making it somewhat challenging to roll down airplane aisles. But unlike the Victorinox, the Travelpro bag is small enough to fit under most airplane seats.
The Travelpro bag also comes with a padded notebook case that can accommodate a 15-inch-screen laptop. There's a large, interior pocket for storing wet items, two side pockets, and plenty of interior pockets. I found the handle on the bottom particularly helpful when placing the bag in an overhead compartment.
Note: As this article went to production, Travelpro discontinued the Platinum 4SE line. The bag I review here is still available from many online retailers, however, such as eBags.
I'm happy to report that I managed to cram everything I needed into both of these carry-ons. But to do so, I had to seriously overstuff the Travelpro bag. Also, I had to be super-organized--the less space you have for packing, the more organized you must be.
Fortunately, I had also packed within the Victorinox a shoulder bag that folds into a square when not used. For the return trip, I packed my reading materials and other items in the shoulder bag. I carried that bag onboard with the Travelpro and checked the Victorinox bag.
Other than packing an overflow bag, as I did, what options do you have when you need to carry a lot of stuff in as few bags as possible?
One option gaining popularity is to ship items ahead to your destination. For instance, SkyCap International specializes in shipping luggage at rates up to 15 percent less than the fees charged by FedEx.
Additionally, you could leave the laptop at home and rely entirely on your RIM BlackBerry, Palm Treo, or other handheld device. Or invest in an ultraportable notebook that takes up less room, and adds less weight, than a traditional notebook. For example, the Fujitsu LifeBook P7120 weighs just 2.8 pounds and measures 10.28 inches by 7.83 inches by 1.26 to 1.43 inches.
For my packing tips, read "Travel Tips, Part 2."