Adventure: The Aluminum Fruits of My Labor

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The savings from riding my bike just allowed me to buy an expensive suitcase while still having money in reserve.
What will hopefully be my last suitcase for quite some time.

Remember when I told you about how much money you could save by riding your bicycle instead of driving your car? Remember that? Charging yourself back at $.50 per mile. This rate is low, way low, but just because I’m a jerk and want to prove my point, I’ve been keeping track of mileage, and I’ve been using this rate. The savings from riding my bike just allowed me to buy an expensive suitcase while still having money in reserve.

I’ve got a laundry list of things I need to buy. I always tell myself I don’t need anything, and perhaps if we stick to the strict definition of need, well, maybe I don’t NEED any of these things, but for some reason I find myself collecting various items including the suitcase you see here. I’m a traveler, whether I want to be or not, both for myself and for Blurb. Prior to the pandemic, I might have even been considered a “road warrior,” although I never commuted via air. But I did experience a seven-year stretch where I was on the road the majority of the time.

The savings from riding my bike just allowed me to buy an expensive suitcase while still having money in reserve.

I’m not complaining. Blurb travel is work travel but when you consider my “territory” is the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia, well, you can see why I’m not turning down any trips. There were times when I was one the road for six, eight weeks at a time. There were times I spent four weeks in Europe, flew home for one day then flew to Australia for five weeks. Boom, boom, and boom. Travel like this requires planning and it requires health and fitness. It also requires a bit of zen, and for this reason I like the challenge. Something WILL go wrong, so you have to learn to adapt and roll with it baby.

Consequently, I am fairly hard on my luggage. I rarely check a bag because I’ve learned to go super light. The rules of home are not the same as the rules of road where I can wear the same clothes for days at a time and nobody says a word because they are doing the exact same thing. A stain here or there, some wear, a few extra creases and nobody cares because of where we are and what we are doing. Amazing what happens when you are stimulated.

My last great bag was destroyed by the airlines.

I was returning from Australia and had to check my beloved Eagle Creek. As it emerged onto the turnstile it appeared as if it was sitting in a puddle of some sort, and in fact it was. A puddle of industrial strength cleaning fluid that had completely and utterly soaked all but the very inside middle of the bag. I showed the airline and they claimed it was my fault, that I had somehow managed to bring my own massive bottle of cleaning fluid and had somehow managed to fit it inside my bag. Once I proved they were at fault they said “Well, didn’t you read the fine print?” “We aren’t responsible for your belongings.” I tried to salvage the bag but the fluid began to eat away at the fabric and it finally died in a powdery, smelly, whimpering mess.

The following years were a blur of crap bags. Cheap as I could find. We all have the friend who says “I just buy the cheapest bag I can find and it has lasted sixty-five years without a hitch.” Then you find out they have used it twice, or that it fell apart after the trip, or that the zipper broke and now they use tape to keep it shut. I know this person because my wife is this person. This year, minutes before our Albania trip, she bought a cheap suitcase. The zipper broke by the time we landed in London. She looked down and said “Oh crap.” I responded in the warmest possible way, “Sucks to be you.”

I was using my Away polycarbonate suitcase which I had been using for the past few years. The Away bag, until today, was the most expensive bag I had ever purchased at right around the $200 mark.(When I bought it.) Plastic, well designed, large battery for recharging things and lightweight. I’ve used the Away bag maybe thirty times and was entirely happy with it. The center of the bag does close with a zipper, which means at some point you are going to need a new zipper which means you might need a new bag.

As my wife’s shit bag exploded, and her belongings began to increase as she purchased this and that along the way, she began to resemble an unhoused person who pushes their entire life’s collection down the street in front of them. Watching her leave the plane in London I could only think, “There is my hobo wife, God love her.”

The savings from riding my bike just allowed me to buy an expensive suitcase while still having money in reserve.

Halfway through our trip I said “Okay, my bag is now your bag,” as I began to mentally plan the next step. Also, you should know that after I purchased the Away suitcase she gave me nonstop shit for at least two years. “I can’t believe you spent that much on a suitcase.” Every single time the bag would emerge I would hear this same thing right before she asked to use the Away battery to recharge her phone. Over and over and over. Until I said “I’m giving you this bag.” Suddenly, she began beaming and saying “Ohhhh, this is NICE.” (This makes total sense to any married person.)

I suddenly found myself in the market for a new suitcase. I knew I wanted to try to find something that would conceivably last for several decades. I knew I wanted to try a metal case of some sort, but also knew that many of these cases run into the thousands of dollars. I have important shit to buy, like new motorcycle pants, so I didn’t want to spend that kind of cheddar. I began the hunt. After looking at numerous brands I settled on the case you see here, and yes, it really is three hundred and ninety five dollars. But the shipping was “free,” so this makes me super smart right?

I know, a LOT of money for a suitcase.

But let me remind you of the first paragraph of this post. I’ve been riding. In fact, since being in Maine I’ve filled the van ONE time. ONE time. That’s it. The rest of my trips have been on foot or on the bike. The miles and dollars are adding up which means the three hundred and ninety five dollars doesn’t even use all of the money saved by riding. I’ve got more in reserve. And did you notice the suitcase is army green? The real question is how could I not buy this bag?

This is the carryon version of the case, and it’s also the Euro style carryon which means it’s tiny compared to the behemoths that Americans attempt to stash on board. And yes, Americans suck at travel fashion too and many of us look like we just got out of bed. (not me) I’ve noticed the airlines getting more and more stringent about what makes it inside the plane, so I was future proofing my decision, at least as much as possible. And yes, this case will dent and scratch and look used rather quickly if I end up having to check it, but it comes with a plastic cover for just such occasions and as long as the bag structure remains intact, so will my appreciation for a robust build.

Another benefit of this bag is that is will not expand, which means crazy buying decisions while on the road are far less likely to happen. Not that I ever did this but perhaps I know someone, someone who may or may not have been mentioned on this post, who might be capable of such a thing. No expansion, no zipper, cleaning fluid resistant and hard to crush in case I need to toss a camera inside and check the damn thing.

This is not my only suitcase. I still have the Away and I also have two duffle bags I can check if a trip requires it. My wife has her shit bag which will surely live around our house for far too long resulting in a fight as I secretly attempt to donate it or throw it out the van window at high speed. Maybe at a kid on a bicycle. Full circle people, full circle.

UPDATE: After searching for this bag online, I am now being bombarded by luggage ads. Wow, wow, wow. I had no idea where we were price wise with what I would consider average bags. My brain was still thinking in the hundred and fifty range, but after searching for one of my older bags I discovered the current price was $359. I also found fabric suitcases for FAR more than this metal/alloy beast I purchased. Here I was thinking I was a 1%’r with dropping this amount of cash on a suitcase, but apparently this isn’t as crazy as I first imagined. I should have known. I once saw a colleague pay $27 for avocado toast.

Comments 17

  1. Oh man, I love a good bag post. Am in the market for a duffel, since my future travel is looking to be fairly local. I recently spent over 200 bucks for a bag (SGD). Backpack in my case, from Mystery Ranch. Unbelievably good to carry, since I walk around here with a fair few kilos on my back quite often. Saved me headaches, backaches and likely many many trips to a physio / chiro, which start at 200 bucks an hour in this crazy country. The decisions that went into that bag were complex and manifold, and involved weeks of being educated on webbing, harnesses, manufacturing, use types and packing (have a mate who’s a packing expert. I have heard more about the nuances of webbing than I believe I need to know in about 3 lifetimes).

    This cabin bag looks and sounds fantastic. I wish you both many unscathed, tightly packed journeys.

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      I love Mystery Ranch too. The backpack I carry every day is a MR. A small one, Ruck 15. It’s incredibly well thought out. I would change or add one or two things but they are small items. And my two duffles have been in daily use since 2019 since they are the only bags we use in the van. This trip is four months and they get used constantly. In fact I just emptied mine looking for a shirt I might have left in Albania. Damnit. My duffles are Patagonia which I got for a steal when a local outfitter was going out of business. They still look brand new. One key for me with duffle is the backpack straps that easily pop on and off but allow me to carry the damn thing on my back.

    2. I now own the MR Coulee 25 (that first one which involved getting a diploma in packing). Then picked up a second hand Streetfighter, then a discounted District 24 (doesn’t have the Futura harness but compartment galore makes up for it). Which is probably too many, but eh, they’re all good bags. I’m so spoilt by how well MR carries, that I haven’t used anything else since getting the Coulee last year. It continues to save my spine.

      “One key for me with duffle is the backpack straps that easily pop on and off but allow me to carry the damn thing on my back.”

      That is exactly the kind of duffel I’m looking for. Patagonia eh… [goes off to browse]

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      Oh ya, I love how that pack opens. It reminds me of the eggs in the movie Alien. They open like that right before the creature flies out and attaches itself to someone’s face. I want my bag to remind me of that movie.

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      Ohhhhh, did I mention I want their High Water Flip? WATERPROOF. I’m about to go fishing again and when I get in the canoe with my gear in a non-waterproof ruck it makes me nervous the entire time. Same for when I cycle into town during monsoon season. And when I’m teaching abroad and am out for the day with all kinds of things I need to keep dry. Maybe it’s more that I NEED this bag????

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    6. “It reminds me of the eggs in the movie Alien. They open like that right before the creature flies out and attaches itself to someone’s face. ”

      I KNOW RIGHT. I was so charmed the first time I saw that thing. Best bag design ever!

    7. “It reminds me of the eggs in the movie Alien. They open like that right before the creature flies out and attaches itself to someone’s face. ”

      I KNOW RIGHT. I was so charmed when I saw it. Best bag design ever.

      Omg you need that High Water Flip. It’s brilliant… and comes in the right colour. What are you waiting for Dan?

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      I know several people who travel with ONLY their GoRuck bags. Two of these people have been doing this for years, and it is quite impressive to watch. Another LIKES his bag but doesn’t love it for org reasons but admits the build quality is second to none.

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      I just got it. It’s tiny and gorgeous and looks to be really well built. I’ve got several upcoming trips so it’s about to get used. Peru will be interesting as I want to see if I can pull off a trip like that with such a small bag.

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  2. Used to travel with two: a leather one for the selected cameras and lenses, and one of those plastic, yellow – kinda insulated? – ones that Kodak reps and labs used to hand out for film protection against sunshine.

    A travel tripod was usually housed inside a normal, civilian suitcase, and on a British Airways flight from London to the Bahamas, a very pretty and light-but-rigid Rowi tripod came out of that suitcase with a broken leg. Thus did I discover the value of a duopod, actually easier to use quickly with long lenses than a mono, as long as you set it up so that the unavoidable variable is the upwards/downwards motion. It worked fine with my 500 mirror Nikkor, and taught me a lesson I might never have otherwise learned. I used that two-legged-steady technique quite often after that forced experience. If you have not already, try it out for yourselves with your longer lenses.

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      I don’t discriminate when it comes to legs. I’ve got one, two and three contraptions. Use them all from time to time. I had things stolen from my bags years ago but it hasn’t happened in quite some time. Probably because I rarely check anything.

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