Wednesday, November 4, 2009

More Packing Tips

I've posted and guest posted quite a bit on my ultra-light packing tips making it possible for me never to check luggage when I'm flying. Whether I'm on the road a week or 7 weeks, everything goes in one Mountainsmith carry-on backpack and a Mountainsmith fanny pack. But, curiously, when I'm in my home turf, my ultra-light packing plans fall by the wayside. Unlike many writers, I don't work at home or in an office. I'm kinda the itinerant journalist, writing, researching and doing interviews in all manner of venues, from cafes and coffee shops to parks, gardens, libraries and other locales that allow for lots of natural light (a key criteria for me).

As a result, I carry around my laptop, and all my notes, notebooks, and research materials in a small but heavy backpack (not a Mountainsmith) and a large shoulder bag plus an addition portfolio (which might be a fed ex pouch) stuffed with more materials. The latter became quite problematic a few months ago when I inadvertently left it near an umbrella stand in a vegetarian restaurant while I ate lunch with friends. It turned out the manager thought it was a bomb -- no joke, that's what he said -- so he placed it outside next to the building's facade in a garbage can! (I was able to retrieve it.)
This all being said, it was time to check out some new baggage options for my jaunts around New York City. Enter Keen, the company that makes my favorite shoes that go on all my trips and are perfect for biking, light hiking, kayaking and walking around town. They sent me a messenger (sling) bag -- the Pearl -- to check out. Here's what I found:

This week, I tested this messenger-type bag because I had a lot of networking and workshop events, some all day and others at night, that required me to walk around a trade show floor and meet and greet a ton of people while collecting their business cards, giving them mine, taking notes of our meetings and then running to the next meeting or cocktail party where I had to transform into the non-itinerant journalist who would be sipping a glass of Chardonnay at, among other places, the Norwegian Consul General's residence here in Manhattan.

The Pearl was perfect. When I slung it across my back, I found a zipper compartment -- great for pens, business cards and small notebooks -- on the left side of the pack (on my back side) but easily accessible while it was still on my back. And, the location prohibited any subway thieves from infiltrating this pocket. Quite an accomplishment. In addition, I stuffed my cell phone into the mesh stretch pocket along the strap, making it also very easy to grab.

On the right back side of the pack was an additional small zipper that afforded access to the pack interior. Perfect for when I needed to remove my digital camera. Again, I didn't even have to remove the pack to accomplish this. The pack itself allowed me to stuff two additional sweaters, and plenty of notes and research materials. Yet, instead of looking overstuffed, the Pearl presented a very slim image. I could easily sit down to meet with clients and feel comfortable with the pack still slung across my back. It felt light as a feather (it weighs just over a pound) -- what a welcome change for me. And the day when I did need my laptop and some additional materials, interestingly the strap on the pack is so adjustable that I could sling it over my backpack and it all fit together perfectly!

The interior of the pack contains two additional mesh zippered pockets, one with a carabiner that was perfect for attaching my keys. (No more searching at the bottom of my overloaded bag for the missing keys.) Additionally, it's eco-friendly: the Pearl is made from recycled materials -- even the rubber is recycled.

I'm not saying this small bag takes the place of the load of luggage I normally tote around the city. But, on those days when I need to look trim for a frenzied set of day activities or for evening cocktail networking events, I'll look to the Pearl. It also makes for a fine overnight or weekend bag for that quick trip out of the city. I'm definitely bringing it as my only bag for the Thanksgiving holidays I'm going to spend with friends in Virginia.

I can't wait to wear it in the summer when I want a breathable bag on my back that won't lead to excess sweating as I run all over the city. The Pearl has a nice mesh and foam back side that looks like it'll be quite comfy in the sweltering August heat.

23 comments:

Stephanie - Wasabimon.com said...

This looks like a great bag. I'm always on the lookout for ways to feed my bag addiction. ;)

JTravel said...

Hi Stephanie, I have tons of bags that I'm always testing out when I'm running around NYC. And I always fall out of love with them for one reason or another. But, though this is my new fave bag, I don't anticipate my love for it dying. It looks great, performs well and it's even eco-friendly. What more could you want?

Alexandra Grabbe said...

I used to only carry leather bags, a habit left-over from living in style-conscious Paris, but now am always on the lookout for attractive carryalls that are lightweight. Thanks for your suggestion. I will check out the Web site.

JTravel said...

Hi Alexandra, I felt the same way as you did. But, I have to say that I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on this bag from some very style-conscious people this week.

ReadyMom said...

Cool bag. I like bags that go across and over the shoulder like this one.

Vera Marie Badertscher said...

Great looking bag. Now if I can find it at a discount...

JTravel said...

Hi ReadyMom, I had tried so many sling shoulder/messenger bags and, before this one, they just weren't comfortable. They always fell in the wrong place on my body. I guess they were made for large bike messengers. So I'm particularly happy that this bag fits as snug or loose as I like but comfortable nonetheless.

Jennifer Margulis said...

Sounds like a great bag! I usually carry an LLBean back pack -- it does the trick most of the time.

Frugal Kiwi said...

Since having my right shoulder reconstructed, I prefer a messenger style bag that will go over my left shoulder or a backpack with a waist strap that takes the weight off my shoulders completely. As much as I've loved Keen shoes in the past, this looks like a great one to try.

JTravel said...

Hi Frugal Kiwi, I think you'll love this bag. The shoulder strap is very comfortable. I had high expectations for the bag, given that I'm a very big fan of their shoes. And the bag did not disappoint. I hope you enjoy the bag too if you decide to purchase it.

JTravel said...

Hi Jennifer, Yes, LLBean makes good products as well. Glad you're happy with their backpack. Thanks for your comments.

Meredith Resnick - The Writer's [Inner] Journey said...

Cool pack...I love slings. They hold a surprising amount of stuff, too! Having an extra light one would be great.

Katherine Lewis said...

This looks like a fabulous bag -- I was *just* looking for a lightweight bag to hold my laptop and tuck inside my suitcase. This past airplane flight I ended up sliding my laptop inside one of the airplane pillow cases. Not a good plan.

JTravel said...

Hi Katherine, Yikes -- an airline pillow case laptop bag. Just remember, though, that the Pearl is teardrop shaped. And my laptop is really on the big side so it doesn't fit in it. But it's perfect for a small laptop or netbook.

JTravel said...

Hi Meredith, This is my first experience with a sling bag I love. And, you're totally right, it packs an amazing amount of stuff but doesn't look overstuffed.

Lisa said...

Sounds like a great bag. Like you, I pack well for long trips, but carry a haphazard assortment of bags, laptop case and loose stuff around town. I'll have to add this to my wish list...

JTravel said...

Hi Lisa, It's funny you're like me carrying around a disorganized array of materials at home but oh, so organized when on long-haul trips. I've used the bag every day this week and completely happy with it.

Sheryl Kraft said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I am forever trying to find the perfect bag - and always failing for one reason or another. This is definitely one that looks like it might be "the one!"

Nancy Monson said...

The holy grail of the traveler: The perfect bag (to go with the perfect shoes that won't kill your feet)! Thanks.

JTravel said...

Hi Sheryl, I also am always looking for the perfect bag. Glad this one is so amazing and looks good too. And thanks for your comments.

JTravel said...

Hi Nancy, What could be better for city travels but a perfect bag and perfect walking shoes.

Clark said...

If you like sling bags you might want to check out Tom Bihn's "Buzz". They tend to be more expensive than what you would find in your local sporting goods store but they are worth the investment.

canvas prints said...

Thank you for the packing tips, it's vital to make sure you have everything that you might need to hand and easy to get to / pack away. Thanks a lot!