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On the hunt for the perfect travel backback

I travel a lot. When I travel there is mostly a flight and one or more overnight stays involved. So far I was using a Tumi backpack, which served me well. After 10 years of service it is showing its age and I'm looking to retire it. Turns out the hunt for a replacement is far more difficult than I expected. I'm looking for the ultimate backpack for the frequent traveller. I thought my criteria are not uncommon:
  • Robust and torture resistant: I carry heavy loads and long distances (mostly running to gates to catch that flight) and don't need a strap coming off. It also shouldn't look -after a month of use- worn out like 19th century gold digger equipment.
  • Fit under an airline seat (which is kind of a contradiction to the amount of stuff I need to carry
  • Carry the corporate Lenovo T61 (no Macbook anytime soon) and its little brother
  • Well organized space for: 2 power supplies, 2 international adapters, various cables, business cards, phone, passport, wallet for second currency, tickets, external disks, iPod etc.
  • Carry a folder with reference materials (and the bill collection) and a book
  • Have space for shirt, underwear and toothbrush (many trips are overnight)
  • Umbrella -- best outside so it doesn't soak the stuff inside after use
  • Ability to be locked
  • Needs to offer service/warranty in Singapore (I can buy it anywhere)
  • I like black, but that's optional
  • Needs to be sold in a place I can have a look (means: any airport/city in AP). Singapore would be an advantage
Meet the contestants, the first two come from the luggage industry, the later a backback experts:
  • The incumbent brand sends its model Alpha T-pass Business Class Briefpack:
    Tumin Alpha
    Having a track record and an excellent customer service is clearly and advantage. Tumi is in the upper price quadrant.
  • Samsonite offers the Pro-DXL2 Laptop backpack
    Samsonite Pro-DXL2
    The Samsonite offers a dedicated garment compartment that even features a hanger for a jacket.
  • Booq sends in 2 models which I quite liked and examined yesterday: the BOA3M and the Phython XM:

    Problem with both of them: Since Booq has no luggage heritage they don't feature zips that can be locked. A big disadvantage for international travel.
  • Timbuk2 Patrol
    Timbuk2 Patrol
    The website states it is sold in Singapore, but I haven't found a shop yet.
  • Others (seen online, but haven't touched them yet): Spire Meta, Megalopolis Aero, Brain Bag and Wenger's Swiss Gear
On the hunt I came across a number of interesting looking messenger bags too. Should I challenge my assumption that a backpack is best for my needs? What's your take? Backpack yes/no and what model to pick?
Update (14 July 2009): A new contestant entered the race which looks like a good compromize:

Travelpro executive first backpack
. It features 9 externally accessibe compartments, 2 of them lockable, plenty of storage space and TravelPro's sturdy ballistic nylon. I already have one of their products and was quite happy, so I'll go with that for now.

Posted by on 24 May 2009 | Comments (9) | categories: Travel


  1. posted by Dragon Cotterill on Sunday 24 May 2009 AD:
    For the past 3 years I've been using a Targus bag. { Link }

    I find it highly durable, light, holds a shed load of stuff (in lots of compartments), has padded areas for laptops (I use a Lenovo W700 and an Acer Aspire One notebook), is extremely comfortable to wear and is available in most places (except the UK Emoticon cry.gif - I bought mine whilst I was in Japan).

    On the down side, it's more racksack looking. Meaning it's not a square shape and when it's full it won't fit under a seat. But it does normally fit in overhead lockers.
  2. posted by Craig Wiseman on Sunday 24 May 2009 AD:
    My favorite travel backpack is yellow and black, and seems to renew itself each January. It's rather amazing....
  3. posted by Michelle O'Rorke on Monday 25 May 2009 AD:
    There is an excellent Australian company with stores in Singapore

    { Link }

    They are very good quality and stand up to lots of abuse while still looking good. Most of their stock are messenger style, but they have backpacks and at least on wheeled bag.
  4. posted by Bob Balaban on Monday 25 May 2009 AD:
    Don't do a messenger bag, they hurt when they're heavy.

    Here's the one Mooney recommended on his web site:
    { Link }

    I've been using one from Land's End for 10 years, very sturdy
  5. posted by Scott Leis on Wednesday 27 May 2009 AD:
    I got a Brain Bag about two years ago. They might not meet *all* of your requirements but:
    - They're tough (thick material, thick zips, extra stitching).
    - They have space for two laptops and accessories.
    - Tom Bihn also sell a wide variety of padded laptop pockets for Brain Bags. One of those will ensure your laptop has a snug fit.
  6. posted by Dave Harris on Monday 01 June 2009 AD:
    Another Australian company is STM ( { Link } ). I've had mine for a couple of years now, being abused on a daily basis (hefty Dell, PSu, USB drive, powered external drive, cables galore, 2 paper notepads, lock, mp3 player, small camera, more cables, chargers for various devices, plus whatever else I need to take to/from the office). It's served me very well so far, and aside from the odd fag-burn it's in excellent condition. Well, you've seen me with it a few times. It does its job very happily as far as I'm concerned, and was only about RM150, as far as I can remember, so you'd probably be looking at about 200 Singbucks ;o)

    The company's website says they have a retailer at Style Evolution- Distribution & Retail Iluma Bugis Shopping Mall, 201 Victoria Street #03-06

    Hope this helps.
  7. posted by Michael Sampson on Saturday 20 June 2009 AD:
    Stephan, have you made a decision on a new bag? What did you buy?
  8. posted by Michael Sampson on Tuesday 14 July 2009 AD:
    Cool, thanks for the update. Looking forward to hearing how you find it.
  9. posted by Michael Sampson on Wednesday 25 November 2009 AD:
    Mmm, my Timbuk2 Patrol arrived today! It looks great! Thanks for the heads-up on this one.

    And great to meet you earlier in the month.