The “Poor Man’s Vacuum Packing System” – Packing tip

Try the “poor man’s vacuum packing system” to make more room in your suitcase or carry-on:

  1. Get a gallon-sized or two-gallon-sized zipper storage bags (Ziplock, Glad, etc.) and a plastic straw.
  2. Fold the clothing and put it in the bag.
  3. Insert the straw and seal the bag around the straw.
  4. Suck the air out (use your mouth — it’s free and no heavy vacuum cleaner to pack!) using the straw, then quickly remove the straw and finish sealing the bag.
  5. Pack the straw to repeat when coming home.

Bonus: if a toiletry leaks, everything is safe in the plastic bags.

[Photo: Flickr | Artnow314]

Carry your dirties in a draw-string bag – Packing tip

Having dirty socks, underwear and a tee rolled into well-worn jeans isn’t too bad for that weekend jaunt, but if your travels take you to several destinations, it’s nice to keep clean and soiled clothes separate.

One easy way is to pack a lightweight draw-string bag (cotton or nylon) or even a pillowcase. Going out, it can house your shoes. Coming back, it’s a quick carry to the washer. Heading to a beach cottage? Toss in some clothespins to hang the wet stuff.

Pro tip: a vial of liquid detergent can double as shampoo and vice versa.

[Photo: Flickr | knitgirl63]

Pack plastic zipper bags – Packing tip

I always toss a couple plastic zipper bags in my suitcase and carry-on.

They come in handy for everything — from wet bathing suits after a hotel swim, to a dirty diaper on the airplane. They also keep souvenirs dry and unscratched, and come in handy for muddy shoes or liquid gifts (like maple syrup or olive oil) that might otherwise ruin clothing in a suitcase if the glass breaks.

Don’t be sad if you can’t find a zippered bag: any plastic bag will work. In fact, larger bags are great for containing muddy shoes, or can be used as an impromptu “day bag” in a pinch.

New from Tom Bihn bags – the Tri-Star

Darcy over at Tom Bihn bags has been teasing me for over 2 months about a new bag Tom has been working on.

The only speck of information they were willing to reveal about the Tri-Star was that it would be a three compartment bag, and that its size would fall between their Western Flyer and Aeronaut bags.

This afternoon, they finally revealed the product, and posted a bunch of photos (with Tom Bihn himself modeling his creation).

Thanks to its compartmental design, the Tri-Star can hold your laptop, and all the clothes and smaller items you’ll need for a short trip. Like the Aeronaut, the Tri-Star can be carried as a regular bag, as a shoulder bag, or as a backpack.

After reading the product description I’m convinced that this is a dream come true for the kind of traveler that carries too much stuff, and tries to avoid checking a bag. Pockets, some more pockets, and then even more pockets. In fact, the Tom Bihn blog needed 1390 words to describe all the various features found on this bag.

Also, as a first for Tom Bihn, this bag will be available in blue (they call it Indigo) ballistic nylon, which looks pretty damn cool if you ask me.

The new Tri-Star will start shipping in late June, but can be pre-ordered on their site right now. The basic bag costs just $240, but a fully tricked out Tri-Star with their amazing Absolute shoulder strap, internal laptop case, Freudian Slip organzier and waist strap will run you $370. Still, if it delivers the kind of convenience I think it will, that may be a small price to pay.

Product review – ZUCA Pro rolling luggage

Before I introduce you to the ZÜCA Pro, let me open with an admission – I am a luggage junkie. I have a closet completely devoted to all the various bags I have collected over my many years of traveling.

Now that is out of the way, let me introduce you to something I can only describe as the coolest bag I’ve ever come across – and this is coming from someone who has often spent over $1000 on a set of matching bags.

The ZÜCA Pro is a rolling bag with a twist (several in fact). The bag is built around an aircraft grade aluminum frame, with rollerblade style shock absorbing wheels and a sturdy aluminum retracting handle.

What makes the bag different, is how the frame has been made into an integral part of the design – many bags feature some kind of metal or plastic inner frame, but the ZÜCA Pro has been designed with enough strength that you can actually use the bag as a seat. No longer will you have to battle with your fellow passengers in the departure lounge, you simply roll your bag into a nice corner, and take a seat on it.
The inside of the bag is where the design gets even better – instead of your usual empty cavernous space, the ZÜCA Pro comes complete with 5 color coded packing cubes and a TSA compliant toiletries pouch.

These packing cubes force you to pack wisely. ZÜCA even includes a helpful “how to pack” guide, recommending which garments to pack in each cube. In real life, this works amazingly well.

The largest packing cube is 9.5″x10.5″x5″, making it large enough for 3 pairs of pants or a couple of bulky sweaters. Each pouch is made of durable and nylon mesh and has a handle on the front, making it easy to pull out of the case. To put the space to a real test, I first packed what I normally would inside my usual 22″ rolling suitcase, then I repacked all the items in the ZÜCA Pro.

All my garments and toiletries fit without a hitch, though the bag did not have much space left, and adding an extra pair of shoes would have been tricky. Because of the metal frame, there is not much room for expansion. The toiletries bag fits in an elastic pouch in the top, so once you reach the checkpoint you can pull it out for inspection in a matter of seconds.

Hidden away in the front of the bag is an expandable wet garment storage pocket, which is great if you end up with a lap full of orange juice on your flight and have to make a quick change mid-trip. On the outside of the bag are several zippered pockets, and on the rear are 2 more pockets, and a name tag/business card holder, covered with a Velcro flap, to keep prying eyes off your personal information.

There is one other feature you won’t find on most other rolling cases – the entire bag can be detached from the frame, and washed. Of course, if you are like me, you want your bag to be grimy and dirty, it’s how people can tell you’ve seen some real roadwarrior action.

The bag weighs just 8.75lbs, which means it is the same weight as many other premium rolling cases. The wheels are recessed, making it easy to slide in the overhead compartment without the poor flight attendant having to use all her weight to get the bin door to lock. On the top of the case is a large handle. If the boring black wheels don’t impress you much, you can pick up a set of blinking LED wheels for just $10.

I know luggage is a really personal thing, so I’m not going to try and convince you to go out and order one of these bags, but I feel safe saying that the ZÜCA Pro is the best damn piece of luggage I have ever reviewed.

When put up against my trusty $700 Tumi rolling suitcase, the poor Tumi loses in every battle, and that is a piece of luggage that has traveled close to a million miles with me.

The ZÜCA Pro costs $285, which includes the bag, the 5 packing cubes, the toiletries bag and a nice ballistic nylon cover, which is perfect if you are forced to check the bag and want to give the poor thing a little extra protection. The ZÜCA Pro comes with a lifetime warranty.

You’ll find the ZÜCA Pro at their web site, where you can also learn more about the design. Of course, this is also where you’ll find their online store.