Designing the Perfect Carry-On

keep-calm-and-carry-on-royal-blueA lot of bags pass through my door for review. Big bags, small bags, one compartment bags, multi compartment bags and so on.

Many are similar but they all have at least one unique feature to keep them different from their nearest competitor.

Which got me thinking……is there such a thing as the perfect bag? Or are there so many varieties that it would be impossible to come up with the perfect bag?

Is designing a bag that difficult or could we come together and find common ground?

For me, the perfect bag would measure 20″x 14″ x 8″, weigh less than 3 lbs, have one main compartment, one slightly smaller outside compartment, and a third outside compartment on top of the other outside compartment just big enough for a 3-1-1 bag and a few other items. The bag would have both internal and external tie-down straps. The outer pockets would be without any organizers. Hideaway backpack straps with sternum strap and waist belt. D-rings for a shoulder strap. All connections would be made of metal. The backpack strap connections would hide away. Lockable YKK zippers on all compartments. These zippers would not only lock the compartments but could also be locked to a fixed point on the bag so they can’t move. “O” rings in every compartment.  Padded handle on top and two sides for easy carry and getting it in and out of the overheads.  Ballistic Nylon  or Ripstop Polyester.

That’s my wish list for the perfect bag. What about you? What would your bag look like? Don’t be shy. Who knows, if we come up with a consensus, I might present it to a manufacturer or two to see if they would make it.

And how cool would it be to say you helped design your carry-on bag?

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13 Responses to Designing the Perfect Carry-On

  1. rica4do says:

    I think that it should be more then a just a bag, it should be a carry-on set, with packing cubes, 3-1-1 bag and other organizers especially designed to make the best use of it’s space. Packing cubes that can be used as backpacks or sling bags with removable straps or be combined to make something like an eagle creek complete organizer would be perfect! I believe that nested light weight bags are way to go to make a perfect carry-on set!

  2. Greg says:

    Check out the Osprey Farpoint 40…it’s very close to your desired specifications. I have used it successfully and gratefully for a little while now, and with it’s lifetime guarantee, I anticipate many more years of utility from it.

  3. rica4do says:

    I forgot to vote for the material definitely Balistic nylon! All your other specifications are fine!

  4. OzBarb1 says:

    My Caribee Skymaster 40 is close. Just missing the waist strap and O-rings.

  5. Moneypenny says:

    I wonder if there is a perfect carry-on. Our needs do evolve over time, whether due to travel requirements/restrictions (such as the 3-1-1 requirement, or airlines’ shrinking carry-on allowances) or our individual changing needs (having kids, traveling more by train than airplane, taking up SCUBA diving, etc.).

    For my foreseeable future travel plans, I’d agree with most of your list. 20 x 14 x 8 sounds like close to the ideal size. I would want the bag to weigh closer to 2 pounds than 3, and I’d be willing to sacrifice features or pay additional for a high-tech fabric like Dyneema in order to get it there. I would like the separate outside compartment to be large enough to hold a purse or in-flight bag without robbing too much space from the main bag compartment. Some sort of tie-downs or connectors for a separate laptop sleeve when needed, that could easily be removed when not needed (akin to the Tom Bihn “cache on rails” idea).

    Definitely agree on o-rings, shoulder strap attachment, and hideaway connections for the backpack straps. I’m really intrigued by what your nemesis Minaal did with the backpack straps, putting a roll-away cover over the straps rather than placing the straps inside a pocket such that you then have to dig them out and attach them. Do not want organizer panels or compartmentalization inside the bag — if these features are left off and the bag is lighter as a result, users can add the cubes and organizers that work best for them.

  6. Frank@OBOW says:

    Briggs & Riley had a unique take on “hideaway” backpack straps on their Exchange 20 Duffel (now discontinued.)
    We did a review on it on our archive site where I have a photo and discussion of this:

    http://onebagger.squarespace.com/blog/2013/2/14/gear-review-briggs-riley-exchange-20-duffle.html

  7. mutlutlo says:

    This one’s tough. I feel like I’ve read so many “here are my minimum specs” posts on this subject that they’ve all merged into that “how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich” exercise from grade school. I even remember the epic design-by-committee thread of the MEI Executive Overnighter from the old OBOW blog (and was shocked Ahmed hadn’t had an aneurysm by about page eleven).

    I love bags and I love traveling light. When you get serious about the latter, the former starts to take on a Grail-like aspect. I’ve even flirted with making/prototyping my own. General size and shape seem to be easy to wrap your head around. Then you get into the details. Structured vs slouchy? Natural vs synthetic? Ballistic vs nylon canvas? 1000 denier vs 500? Which surface treatment? Velcro vs hard fasteners? Duraflex vs metal? Specific pocketing vs flexibility? Etc vs etc? Time to shake hands with the devil.

    When you get your geek-creds in design, you come to realize that each one of these choices has its pros, cons, evangelists, and bitter foes. The best you’ll ever do is the perfect bag for you (and hopefully a break-even subset of like-minded fanatics). Otherwise, when you’re talking about a perfect bag for everyone, you’re really talking about an oxymoronic set of ideal compromises.

    Take Tom Bihn. I spend so much of time on their home page, sometimes even I’m convinced I own one of their bags. I don’t. I love a lot of the qualities that have made them such a cult, yet I don’t quite love their products. At first it was the tech-oriented aesthetic. Then, as they started making more and more cubes, pouches, straps, and whatnot for their core line (with o-rings in every pocket to silently rebuke your lack of accessory), I realized that I just don’t ultimately agree with their premises. Organization and compartmentalization are so fundamental to their design philosophy that they conflict with my need to streamline and minimize. Perfect for many but two pockets past my need for zen.

    So, as you’d guess, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as the perfect bag, not even in my own head. My ideal self carries a full-grain duffle with beautiful patina, one main compartment, and just enough wabi-sabi to look bad-ass cool as I wander the earth having adventures. The self that deals with weight limits on European and Asian carriers has 500d Cordura (and a 1050d ballistic base) with whatever treatment Arcteryx use, Aquaseal zips, closed-cell foam, and three-way carry in a package about an inch or two smaller in every dimension than MLC, two compartments max plus a slip pocket for the me that isn’t as zen as I think. Enough structure to hike to a hostel, enough slouch to carry off the bar at the Pen. Plus an AustriAllpin Cobra for just because.

    And I’ll take an Aeronaut 30 sight unseen while I work it out.

  8. D M says:

    Why not just MAKE your own perfect bag? That way you get exactly what YOU want.
    1). Figure out your ideal design (as in Frank’s example above).
    2). Get the materials. This is easier than it seems. Just poach them from current bags on the market.
    3). Sew it yourself (admittedly, it’s not a wedding dress). Or talk to a tailor or seamstress and tell them how you want it sewn.
    It may be a little pricy, but not prohibitively expensive. Plus you end up with your unique “perfect” bag!
    I started doing this recently with clothes. I like the Travelsmith anywhere pants in supplex nylon, but didn’t like the fact that they have no belt loops. So, I sewed on my own so I can wear a belt with them to make them look dressier. I removed some “Columbia” and “Ex Officio” tags on some travel shirts to make them look more generic, too.
    But what really got me started was the return of the Outdoor Products (now Campmor) Essential Carry-on bag…$30 but with that horrible huge logo that is silk screened on and impossible to remove or color over with a Sharpie pen. So, I cut some black nylon fabric from an old backpack and sewed a black patch over it. Matched perfectly and Super easy!

  9. GearGuy68 says:

    This seems to be the MEI Convertible. Granted it is a little larger but I think they can both shrink the over all size and use some other fabrics to lighten the bag. They do custom bags and are a really good company to work with as far as I know. I am thinking of having them make me one in a 36 CI size. Something like 17x12x7 with no backpack straps but maybe some extra foam padding for some padding and structure. This is the perfect under the seat personal item and if done right could be made to attach to the main carry on.

  10. vecturist14 says:

    I think everyone has their own idea of the perfect bag, based on their travel needs and quirks, For me, being 5′, I’d love a bag that I can primarily carry as a backpack, which means it can only be 17-18″ long, and 10-12″ wide, with a depth of 7-8″. I’d like my bag fairly simple with one main compartment, and one smaller pocket for the little things I’d need to grab. I’d something that can handle 15-20 pounds of stuff, but isn’t too heavy itself. I’ve actually looked at a lot of backpacks and haven’t found one to my liking yet. The REI overnighter came close, but it was a bit too heavy and I felt it was overbuilt.

  11. Russ says:

    I think what Frank describes is what I’m looking for. Number one for me is both internal tie-down and external compression straps. I like how the internal straps are on my Weekender TLS, where they can be “tethered” to the top of the compartment to help pull down more evenly on the clothes. I like the idea of metal hardware but am worried about weight; the compression hardware can be plastic (even Red Oxx does this on the Tres Hombres). I think a simple rectilinear shape would be best. No big logo. No velcro flaps.

  12. BrianK says:

    So, the new Osprey Porter 46? It’s getting really close.

    http://www.ospreypacks.com/en/group/gear_hauling/new_porter_series

  13. PackingLight says:

    I don’t think the perfect bag has been created yet. Some are close. Here is my list of the features to consider:
    http://www.packinglighttravel.com/travel-tips/luggage-and-packing/features-of-a-perfect-carry-on-bag/

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