UPDATE 01/28/2017: Here’s my YouTube video on this bag.


Last year, I challenged myself for the first time to travel in the winter with only carryon items. For that, I chose the Tortuga Backpack. Over the past two years, I’ve been trying to get smaller and smaller with my luggage and managed to do short summer travel with the Tom Bihn Synapse 19 liter backpack. Knowing that I am not enough of  a minimalist to use a 19 liter backpack for winter travel, I decided to use another favorite: the Osprey Porter 30.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been on the quest for the perfect personal item bag. I’ve used totes, backpacks, large purses, cloth bags, cheap bags, and designer bags. My ideal bag would be a gorgeous bag with great organization. Through many travel experiences, I have learned that that bag is an elusive goal. Wanting to streamline my packing as much as possible, I decided to go with functionality over fashion. I decided to splurge on the Tom Bihn Pilot.

This bag is not a gorgeous or fashionable bag, but it is brilliantly designed to contain a lot of things in a tidy, compact package.

Here is the bag fully packed with pictures to indicate the size:img_3055



In the center front pocket is a dedicated water bottle pocket. There’s a tiny opening at the bottom to drain any accidental spillage or excessive condensation.


The two very room pockets on the front are great for quick access items. Here I have my baggie of liquids, pens, camera batteries, and pillbox. There was room to spare.


In the other pocket, I packed my toiletries/makeup and Kindle. The toiletries bag is pretty hefty, but there was room for maybe a couple of small items such as a USB cable.


In the back pocket, I had a pouch with my portable charger, USB cable, iPhone/iPad charger (not pictured), and ear buds. I also stashed my gloves in this pocket. Because the bag was pretty full, there wasn’t space left in this pocket for anything bulky, but my bordering pass and other papers could easily fit.


Here’s what fit into the main compartment. Of course, I could have gotten a lot more in had I not put my packable down coat in there, but it was worth it not to have to wear that while traveling. The purse is fully loaded with purse-stuff. The Tom Bihn Travel Tray (red drawstring bag) had everything I wanted to have available during the flight and once I was at my destination, it was where I kept all of my bedside odds and ends- watch, phone charger, lip balm, eye mask, etc. This was a short flight, but I still always carry a couple of Shower Pill body wipes on every trip.

Tom Bihn Pilot  Main Compartment

The bag fits very easily under airplane seats. I placed it so that I could stretch my legs during the flight.


THE VERDICT: This bag does everything it supposed to do. Although the standard shoulder strap wasn’t the most comfortable, it wasn’t bothersome enough for me to want to pay for a premium strap. To justify the splurge, I also use it as an every day carry. I won no fashion awards with my hiking pants and functional bags, but I’m ok with that for now.

Inside of the Osprey Porter 30 for a weeklong trip to a cold climate was:

The measurements after compression
  • One dressy outfit (skirt, shell, and wrap)
  • One pair of flat boots
  • One pair of jeans
  • One merino wool sweater
  • Three long-sleeved tops
  • One pair of thermal silks for warmth and or sleepwear
  • ExOfficio underwear, bras, and socks
  • One pair of leggings
  • One tee shirt
  • A pouch of jewelry
  • Ugg hat and Burberry scarf
  • Christmas gifts
  • Random things that I threw in at the last minute

On the plane I wore:

  • REI Sahara pants (These are seriously the best pants for travel. The thigh pocket fits my iPhone 6 Plus and passport. They have just enough stretch for comfort without looking unprofessional. And they look far better in person than in that dreadful website picture.)
  • Long-sleeved top.
  • Fleece hoodie.
  • Nike Musique cross-trainers. Designed for dancing, these are great for everyday and cross training.

I’ve got another trip coming up soon. Guess I’ll start now to deciding what bags to take.