Real life one bag travel review – my new case, handbag & toilet bag

Hi Frugalistas!

Regular readers will know I’m always looking for new gear to make my travel life easier.  This trip, I went for what is really the “big three” of packing – with a new case (a rolling backpack), new handbag and new toilet bag.

The rolling backpack

The rolling backpack was smaller than my old carry on bag, but I knew that when I bought it.  It would be unlikely that I would ever use it as a backpack, but I bought it because it was the lightest bag I could find in my price range.  I still managed to fit my normal packing list safely into the bag with room to spare.  The pockets on the front were a handy size (the top zip on the front of bag actually opened into a sleeve that ran the full length of the bag).  Like most small carry on bags I found that it over balanced if I put too much into the pockets or the lid.  I’ve never found a bag that doesn’t do that, so I don’t mark it down for that.

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When I put it into use I loved this bag.  Packed and ready to leave home it weighed just 10kg (22lb) with my iPad included – exactly what I was looking to achieve.  It was great to wheel and the handle was comfy in my hand and sturdy to use.  It retracted easily.  With the handle on the top, handle on the side and the base stand it was simple to lift up into the plane overhead locker and onto train luggage racks.  It was the perfect size for Italian train luggage racks, and when on the busy commuter train on the French Riviera, I was able to just sit it on my lap.  The mesh bottle holder on the side was elasticated, and was a perfect size for a 600ml bottle of water to fit into snuggly without wriggling out as I walked along.

The elasticated side pocket on this case worked well and the perfect size for a water bottle

The elasticated side pocket on this case worked well and the perfect size for a water bottle

Going to the Cinque Terre with its steps and steep hills I thought that if ever I was going to use the backpack function it would be there.  This little bag was so light and so easy to maneouvre that I just didn’t need to.  It was easy to lift off the multiple steps on the train, and easy to carry up and down steps.  I did set the backpack function up (the straps are hidden in a pocket at the back and clip onto side clips very easily) and did put it on my back just to try.  It felt comfy and the wheels were wide enough apart to be well clear of my hips, and my clothes (so they wouldn’t leave dirty track marks!)

I did have a couple of minor quibbles with this bag – but they are minor.  The side handle was on the wrong size of the bag in my opinion.  Taking it out of the overhead lockers to get something out of the bag en route meant that the zip was on the wrong side of the case, so I had to turn the bag around to access anything.  Similarly, the strap on the top for extra bags (that I always use to carry my coat if I don’t need it) had to be looped through the top handle.  That made it a bit more awkward to carry the bag from the top with my coat strapped to the bag.

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To me the side handle was on the wrong side – I would have preferred it on the other side for easier in flight and on train use

Handbag

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After 15years of traveling (I actually bought it on a trip!) I’ve finally retired my red leather tote in favour of a light nylon cross body bag.  This bag was an absolute winner, with an adjustable shoulder strap, so it could be worn as either a cross body, a shoulder bag or even as a clutch in a pinch.  It was as light as a feather and fitted so much into it.  Although it looked quite small I managed to fit a folding umbrella, wallet, notebook, pens, tissues and London guidebook all with room to spare.  The zippered pocket inside was a great size for my passport (keeping it a bit more secure) and the two smaller pockets were the perfect size for train tickets and hotel door smart keys.

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This particular bag wasn’t a travel specific one with any special security features but I was delighted with it and it will serve me well as my perfect travel bag for many trips to come.

Toilet Bag

I wasn’t unhappy with the toilet bag I had been using for a number years.  It was a great light travel one, but with luggage restrictions for liquids and only ever taking carry on luggage I just found it was too big for me.  So, a smaller, more stripped down model was in order.  This one was a fraction of the size, but still fitted all my dry make up, spare tissues, full size hairbrush and comb, as well as my first aid supplies with plenty of room to spare.  The hanger could be easily hidden out of the way with a velcro closure (which was something my older one didn’t have and which was a constant source of irritation).  Being small it fitted easily in my bag and genuinely took up far less luggage space.  I left it hung in my hotel bathroom and it worked perfectly.  It also had handy sleeve behind the top mesh compartment.  Even the heaviest of packers, or industrial make up users could get pretty much everything into this bag.  My advice on toilet bags now?  Get the smallest one you can that meets this specification that your hairbrush will fit into, and you’ll be happy.

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The brands of the products are trialled this trip are irrelevant.  What is important is the specifications I’ve spoken about.  Looking for a carry on bag with a side handle that means I can open the bag without turning it around is now a must have for my next bag.  If  you are looking for a handbag for travel, look at the internal compartments and how you might use them.  Trial them in the shop to see how much you really can fit in.  And a basic camping style toilet bag with a hanger that fits your hairbrush will probably do the job.

What new travel gear have you tried recently that you love?  I’d love to hear about what made your choices great!

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11 Comments on “Real life one bag travel review – my new case, handbag & toilet bag”

  1. ladylighttravel 04/05/2013 at 3:35 pm #

    Looks like you went with some of the Rick Steves gear. They are light and I actually considered buying some myself (specifically the rolling backpack). Ironically, I went with an Australian brand for my Toiletry Kit. I bought a small (yes, small) Sea-to-Summit hanging bag for the same reason as you. Why bring big when you can go lighter with small?

    Btw, the handle on the RS bag is on the “correct” side for right handed people flying on US airlines. The flight attendants want you to put the bags into the bins “wheels out”. That would mean that someone right handed would want the handle on that side. It would be nice to have a small handle on both sides – even if it was non-padded.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 04/05/2013 at 3:51 pm #

      Aha, that explains why the handle was round the wrong way – I’m a left hander who doesn’t fly in the States!

      I bought the RS toilet bag because I’d already bought the backpack and had to pay for shipping anyway. For us, it’s often cheaper to buy in the US and pay shipping. The toilet bag was about half the price of what I had been looking at in a specialised camping shop here! Bet you paid far less for your Aussie toilet bag than I would have here……

      • ladylighttravel 05/05/2013 at 6:50 am #

        Hmm, I’m not sure about that. It was $35 US. But the weight was only 2.8 oz (80 g) so I couldn’t resist! I of course justified it as a “birthday present”. Ha!

        I’m seriously still looking at the RS bag for work travel though.

      • frugalfirstclasstravel 05/05/2013 at 7:19 am #

        It’s an excellent bag. Softer on the sides than a normal carry on. I think it will be pretty durable.

  2. Lynne in NC 05/05/2013 at 9:39 pm #

    Jo,
    Great post! Thanks for the review of the gear that worked for you this trip.
    It’s very helpful to those of us who travel for leisure and wish to fly hand carry only.
    All the best!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 06/05/2013 at 6:24 am #

      You’re welcome! Part of what my blog is all about is carryon only travel so telling my readers every trick and clue I’ve worked out is key!

  3. turnipseedtravel 08/05/2013 at 12:28 pm #

    Fantastic reviews! I love how you pointed out the pros and cons to give a fair assessment of things. I’m searching for a new toiletry bag and I’m on the hunt for one that has a detachable 3-1-1 kit – they’re hard to find!

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 08/05/2013 at 7:04 pm #

      I’ve never even heard of a toilet bag like that! I’ve seen ones that meet the 3-1-1 requirements – right size and clear, but not one like that. If you find one let me know what it is so I can hunt one down

      • turnipseedtravel 14/05/2013 at 9:47 pm #

        I’m always looking for new ones – the hunt continues!

  4. Nancie (@Ladyexpat) 27/04/2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I do like that rollie backpack.
    I bought a bag similar to your black shoulder bag for my travels to Chiang Mai this past winter. I would have preferred black, but had to settle for blue. The price was right, and I found that I could carry all of what I needed when going out for the day.

    • frugalfirstclasstravel 28/04/2014 at 6:14 am #

      The rolling backpack is an absolute winner – I’ve done three trips to Europe now with, and it’s been great. By using packing cubes I also managed to pack it so it doesn’t fall over no matter how full it gets.

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