Best Overlanding Bags
Today, Overlanding is rising to the occasion as a hobby and sport, as stated in The Interview Part 1 – Defining Overlanding, “a genuine new travel trend”.
Since then, at the tail end of 2019, Scott Brady, President of Overland International declared Red Oxx bags to be the gear of the decade! As flattering an accolade as Red Oxx has ever received, considering Scott has carried our gear across seven continents in every kind of weather and terrain imaginable over the past ten years.
In Part 1, long-time Red Oxx enthusiast and business advisor Patrick Pitman of E-business Coach, Inc chatted with Scott about what “Overlanding” means. Once again, we pick up with Patrick from his offices in Austin, Texas, where he has owned and operated an eCommerce and training consultancy since the mid 1990’s.
“Something that we’ve talked about was getting on an airplane and just showing up to exotic locations and how this can be, I want to say “antiseptic&qout;, or very safe, because you just get off the plane, go straight to a resort on the beach, back to the hotel, then shuttle back to the airport. And when overlanding you’re dealing with travel that’s characterized by four-wheel drive vehicles going car camping. Would you agree?”
“Yeah, that and motorcycles for sure; some variety of a four-wheeled vehicle or a motorcycle is the most most common way to overland. There are people that take public transportation overland, there are people who use trains for overland travel, but primarily, it’s going to be motorcycles and four wheel drives.”
Scott goes overlanding on a motorcycle
Do Soft-Sided Bags Make Ideal Overlanding Bags?
Patrick mentions that Red Oxx gets a lot of requests for bags with wheels. Building a bag with wheels is a whole different manufacturing philosophy. According to CEO Jim Markel,
“Bag with wheels defeat the purpose of one bag travel. Wheels take up room, add weight, more than you think because you have to reinforce the structure that anchors the wheels, and worst of all, wheels tend to break. We won’t build bags with wheels.”
One thing Red Oxx comments on is that there are always requests for bags that have wheels. There’s been a philosophy within the company to defer or delay or even avoid wheels, because wheels suggest that you’re rolling down a smooth, paved path, you’re down the gangway in the airport, or what have you on the train station siding.
Patrick agreed, saying “Soft-sided luggage is particularly suited, I think for the rougher path. Though, now there are new wheels that roll smoothly over gravel or rocks. Also when in the field soft-sided luggage seems to have a particular utility when you’re stuffing things into the back of the vehicle. Scott, you’ve been using Red Oxx bags for some time. What’s your experience when you’re trying to pack and travel with a bunch of gear?”
“Yeah, in my experience, soft-sided luggage is rated a 10. It’s the best choice in most cases, and there’s a few reasons for that. We tend to to pack our bags full of bedding and clothing and things like that. These don’t really require a hard case to protect any of it and then it ends up being a lot safer for the occupants when properly lashed down.”
Scott continued, “I also find that you can take advantage of the nooks and crannies and the various contours of the inside of the vehicle. I remember one of the first trips that I did with Red Oxx gear. I drove a little four wheel drive Suzuki Jimny, from Barcelona, Spain, to lower Mongolia along the Silk Road. I drove through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kurdistan; through the Wakhan corridor above Afghanistan.”
“One of the reasons we chose soft-sided bags is that we could take advantage of the limited space in the car. So we literally shoved and manipulated the bags into positions where hard-cases tend to be a lot less space efficient, and then you lose space to the contours of the box itself. A Pelican hard-case is a good example of something that takes up a lot of volume on the outside compared to its internal dimensions. So that’s one of the real advantages of the soft-sided luggage in my experience.”
“Red Oxx bags are durable enough that on that same trip, we had a minor with us in Turkmenistan. Being an American, crossing the country, they weren’t gonna let me do it unless I had somebody watching over my shoulder. And that was in addition to all the bugs that we had in the hotel, all the interrogations because we added various border crossings.”
Scott Brady – CEO of Overland International
“Having a minor with us in a very small vehicle meant that we had to strap those really big, heavy-duty Red Oxx bags to the roof. And we use, you know, ratchet straps to cinch them down to the roof with no rack because we had no rack on the vehicle.”
Downfalls of Fixed Storage Solutions vs. Soft-Sided Luggage
Scott spoke of the flexibility, the ability to use these soft sided bags for multiple purposes, is an advantage as well. “When it comes to overland equipment bags is people oftentimes want to totally integrate all of their storage solutions into the truck, which means they go with the drawer system, and then they go with a fridge that’s locked down or maybe permanently installed, and they go with other boxes that latch-in and lock-in and permanently install into their vehicle.”
“There’s a couple problems with that– if the vehicle breaks down, you need to throw all of your important equipment into another vehicle that’s with you to get out of that area. You can’t remove a heavy drawer system from the vehicle.
Imagine being stuck in the sand dunes, you need to remove all the weight from the vehicle to get out of a very technical situation. You can’t do that if everything’s in the drawers, you can’t remove all that heavy weight. Whereas soft luggage is easy: just throw it over your shoulder and carry to the top of the dune. So there really are some distinct advantages to soft luggage.”
Patrick noted there’s some advantages to having a mindset of building Red Oxx bags that goes back to Jim and Perry’s history of experience rigging parachutes in the military. The Rigger moto is, “Always be Sure”– basically having zero tolerance for failure when it comes to parachutes. They transferred that philosophy into luggage.
Said Patrick, “I had a conversation the other day with a man who’s driven across Africa, and he was telling me his disappointment with the retailer REI. He was in there looking at some bags. They’re like, Look, if it breaks, just bring it right back, we’ll replace it. And he’s like, ‘Well, wait, you don’t understand where I go, it can’t break. Don’t tell me something’s gonna break and I can come back and replace it. No, it needs to be as durable as everything that I bring. It has to last the duration.’ What’s your experience in that case with Red Oxx?”
Scott replied, “Yeah, one of the core tenants of remote or foreign travel is durability and reliability. And there’s a lot of reasons for that. I don’t mind breaking down necessarily because it adds to the experience. But there’s times that you don’t want that to happen because you’re on a deadline or your visa’s running out, or you break down in an area that’s not particularly safe, or it’s very difficult to get the vehicle out. And this same thing applies to all the equipment that I have along with me.”
“When I’m in the middle of Uganda, or when I’m in the Wakhan Corridor, or, for example, crossing Antarctica, there’s no way to replace almost any of that equipment that you have in the vehicle.”
“So either the equipment needs to be extremely durable and reliable or it needs to be ultimately serviceable, which means fixing it with whatever you have with you. With Red Oxx bags, in 10 years and crossing all seven continents, I’ve never had a single failure. In fact, I can’t even think of even having a hole in one of them. Along the way, everything’s really durable. Well, built.”
Overlanding via motorcycle and canoe in Columbia.
Scott continued, ” One of the things that I found I liked was most of their bags have some heavy duty metal D-rings on them. And those metal D-rings were used for lashing points in the vehicles. I could actually strap down to those or connect one bag to the next using carabiners. And with it being metal, it’s not flexing a lot and it’s not shifting location.”
“I found that to be to really be suitable to overlanding. That kind of design philosophy is one of the reasons why I really appreciate the Red Oxx brand. I was attracted to the minimalist approach; there’s nothing on the bags that isn’t essential, that doesn’t contribute to the effectiveness of ‘the tool’. ”
Scott concluded, “That’s hard to find anymore, products that don’t have a lot of flash, or a lot of the unnecessary. I don’t need my bag to have a lithium ion battery plugged into it all the time, or that I have to remove it when I’m in an air airport. I just want a good quality bag that does its job.”
Check out Part 3 where Scott and Patrick discuss resources for the