A Carry-on Luggage Demonstration to D.C.

Red Oxx co-owner Jim Markel’s adventures have taken him from Zambian safari to the shark-filled waters of Cocos Island. On his latest adventure, he blows the political winds in Washington. Travel guru Doug Dyment’s dictum about modern air travel: with the right bag, "carry-on only" is the only way to go. This installment includes his personal packing approach and luggage selection for a classic three day business trip, as well as his reason for going to D.C.

I began my tale at the end, recounting how my travel mate Steve was stuck for three days without his toiletries and spare clothes after missing a flight and losing his luggage. What a mess.

Not for me, if I can help it. When preparing for the trip, I picked three bags, all of them carry-on. No checked luggage would be necessary on this classic three day business trip.

Red Oxx’s history goes a long way to explain our passion for packing smart. My partner Perry and I learned to sew in the U.S. Marine Corps as parachute riggers. So our military backgrounds predispose us to pack only the essentials. But our recent acquaintance with Doug Dyment, of One Bag fame, has confirmed our sense that modern air travel requires a similar rigor in packing.

In designing the Air Boss, we enlisted Dyment to furnish his dream list of carry-on bag features and extra touches. Several iterations later, and with Doug’s blessing, we couldn’t be more happy with the result. This bag’s design exceeds the demands of a scenario just like mine: get me through a three day, cross-country business trip with no fuss, minimal delay and with a suit a that still looks good when you get there. Cool.

My D.C. trip would be the first opportunity for me to put the Air Boss thru its paces. Since Dyment and "Perry – the bag god – Jones" led the design, I didn’t have much input beyond where to put the logos and foam padding. Now I’d be able to test their genius.

After nicking a red one from the production line, I went home to pack. I gathered my clothing, figuring out how to take just what I needed and nothing more:

  • A couple sport coats were the first things I cinched into the Boss.
  • Next in went the dress pants (2 pair)
  • Then three nice shirts.
  • I still had plenty of room for another pair of cargo pants for the trip home.

This bag can really swallow up the threads. (The foam padded stays stabilize the items in the bag.) In the center section went the Tri-fold toiletry kit, my sleep clothes, underwear and a pair of shoes. OK I am starting to be impressed with this bag. I still could fit a laptop in there if I had to, plus another outfit or two.

With the bag packed, I shouldered it and felt the weight distribution. It balanced nicely. Stuffing my passport and plane tickets into the handy side pocket, I scooped up my latest copy of Outside and slid it into the accompanying pocket. Very nice indeed!

Since I was not taking a laptop on this trip, I left the briefcase and had grabbed a matching color Gator from the Red Oxx store. The Gator bag was made to meet airline regulations for what qualifies as a personal item carry-on bag. The rules state that you are allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item.

The Gator is perfect for transporting all your digital camera accessories and still has room for an in-flight snack. I usually pack a lunch to bring along when I fly.

Clearing security at the airport, I noticed an older, middle aged rancher being selected for a full Monty search. Jeez – the computer sure has a knack for ferreting out the most suspicious person in the airport like a rancher getting on a plane in the middle of Montana. After stowing my Boss in the overhead bin and the Gator under the seat, I settled in for takeoff.

The reason for my trip to D.C. was to raise awareness and ask for continued funding for a government development program that actually works. Sounds crazy I know, but it’s true. The Montana Manufacturing Extension Center (MMEC) plays a vital role in fostering manufacturing growth in Montana. Easy access to qualified manufacturing expertise is a rare thing in the U.S. today. Red Oxx has relied on the MMEC for training and process improvement for our production facility. The information available from the staff of engineers has been instrumental in our continued success.

Fellow MMEC board members joined me on the trip: Ken Green of Timberline Tool and Mike Weir of North Winds Publishing. Timberline Tools is foundry and tool making company based in the Flathead Valley. They make a gas line cut off tool that allows the user to clamp off a gas line without excavating a huge hole. North Winds Publishing prints and publishes phone directories. They operate a large company by Montana standards with over 50 employees in Great Falls.

As hokey as it sounds, going to D.C. and visiting the halls of power is something I had always wanted to do. I had the opportunity to visit with my congressman Denny Rehberg and he had opportunity to listen to my rant on China. It was a memorable moment.

MMEC Director Steve Holland and I were catching the mid afternoon flight out of Reagan International. So we checked our bags with the hotel bellman for a quick getaway and hopped on the Metro subway.

Our destination was the National Air & Space Museum. Diablo, the bellman, had been mistaken the museum opened at ten not nine. We cooled our heels on the national mall and took in the subtle beauty of an early spring day. Nothing quite blooming yet, but I felt spring in the air. Even the city is beautiful. Blame it on the French! Designed by Pierre L’Enfant, close friend of George Washington, the city’s open green space was a significant part of the original design. We enjoyed it immensely.

Once the Museum opened, we dispersed into a magnificent hall filled with the great landmarks of the age of flight. One after another there they are: Yeager, the Apollo program and back to the earliest origins of rocketry. Pretty cool stuff. I am glad some of my tax dollars do something to inspire the mind.

Time to jet! We moved back into the Metro and negotiated our way thru the subterranean netherworld. Like a couple of Prairie dogs, we emerged from the ground and blinked into the mid day sun. Fishing out my shades from the Gator’s easy side pocket, I orient myself to the map and find the airport….

Postscript: A week later, Steve was in town on MMEC business and stopped by the Red Oxx store to order his own Air Boss. Another true believer, hah!

The benefit of having all your stuff with you is far outweighed by the pain of not having your personal items when you need them. We both agreed that this would take care of his future travels and he selected the midnight blue color. He was tempted by our 12 colors, but opted for the business-like blue.

Well, he can sneak off to the Caribbean with that Saffron Gator he walked out with, too, and I won’t tell a soul!

Engineers are so risque.

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