One of the most joyous parts of the process of travel for me is selecting a carry on and its contents. Such a simple thing, but this act is a ritual that encapsulates all of the mental processes I engage in before travel day.
I vividly remember being a child in the airport, clutching my backpack full of airplane activities carefully selected for the occasion. It may have been a regular old bag, but on that day it was special because I had chosen it specifically for that trip, that adventure.
Later, there was the black leather shoulder bag my mother helped me select for a weeklong leadership summit in Washington, DC. Mature (I was 17 after all!), serious, and perfectly suited to its purpose.
For a solid 5 years, my main tote was a diaper bag.
During my past three decades of trip taking, I’ve leaned on a variety of different purses and backpacks that suited my current stage of life.
One stands out head and shoulders above the rest, and today I want to talk about it. In fact, since it’s almost Valentine’s Day, consider this my love letter to my one and only, forever favorite luggage.
We met about 15 years ago. My cubiclemate at the marketing agency where I interned during my senior year of college had the coolest looking orange bag draped across the back of her chair. It was love at first sight, and I admired it for weeks before deciding that I needed one for myself.
I cashed my next paycheck and promptly headed to the Boulder REI. It felt like fate. The one I was looking for was waiting for me, hanging patiently at the top of the high display. It was rugged. It was black. It was mine!
Graduation came, and with it the trip of a lifetime. I was embarking on a 3 week, multi country whirlwind tour of Europe with one of my best friends. Oh, the planning! The research! The packing! I was in my element. And I was taking my Timbuk2 XS messenger bag with me.
The travel bag accompanied me everywhere that June. It made a cameo in almost every photo of me smiling on a bridge or standing in front of some tourist landmark. There was the perfect passport pocket and another well suited for storing my Euros. There was a tiny space that seemed destined to keep a train card accessible, and mesh nets to cradle my constant supply of Haribo gummies (why was that a thing?) and my iPod.
In a moment of weakness, I bought another purse in Italy… but I never used it. That messenger was, and still is, the perfect travel companion.
It’s been almost 15 years since that first big trip, and this bag is still in heavy rotation for me as I journey through life. I choose it for beach days, big city wandering, and just this month I carried it to Disneyland (again). This isn’t a trendy baby-backpack fling, it’s a highly committed relationship.
Sometimes it still moonlights as my everyday purse.
It may seem odd that someone would choose to spend this much energy effusing praise for a bag. But here’s the thing; I’m a research geek. I love a good review. Most are glowingly written after one or two uses. If you’re lucky someone will come back and share their experience a year out. Maybe two. But 15 years? You don’t see that as often.
This bag is just that endearing, and I want to let other travelers know about it.
You should know that it’s small. This is not meant to hold a change of clothes; it will fit a phone, important documents, your wallet, and a book or an iPad. Sometimes I need a bigger carry on, and I will pack this in my checked bag and pull it out for touring when I get to my destination. The company makes bigger versions (I have a large one and I love it too for different purposes), but the XS is just the right size for keeping the essentials close at hand while exploring new places.
The straps and hardware are heavy and well made. Although there are not a lot of compartments, the ones the bag does have are well designed. The zippers are sturdy. The lining is heavy duty and very easy to wipe down. There is an elastic pocket on the side that keeps my cell phone within easy reach. Basically, this has everything I need/want for keeping my essentials close while I head out to explore.
The top review on the product website is currently something along the lines of “they don’t make it like they used to.” A lot can change about a product in 15 years, it’s true. But the basic components (material, size, style) that I adore about this pick are still the same.
If there are any fellow explorers out there who also nerd out over selecting the perfect travel gear… check out this bag. You may just be on the brink of your own luggage love affair.
*This post is not paid or sponsored.