Need help finding the right bag for your needs? Give us a call 888-733-6999 Mon-Fri 10-5 MDT

Blog Home / Adventure Journals / Three Carry-on Bags Beats One Big Backpack

Three Carry-on Bags Beats One Big Backpack

Red Oxx hanging out with Penguins

How Could Three Carry-on Bags be Better?

Say hello to Tak. Tak is the winner for 2008’s best Adventure Journal. Tak enjoys traveling the world photographing wildlife and remote scenery. Tak now gets to show his enthusiasm for the Oxx with his best Adventure Journal of the year prize of a Smoking Man Gliclee Fine Art Print. That is, if he’s home long enough to enjoy it! Let’s find out why Tak decided 3 carry on bags were a better choice for his travels than one big backpack.

Cheers ~Jim Markel Co-Owner Red Oxx

Recently, I took a couple months to travel, including visits to Australia, the Falkland/Malvinas Islands, South Georgia Island, South Orkney Islands, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica, and Argentina.

In Australia, I was mostly backpacking from hostel to hostel. Historically, when backpacking, I’ve utilized a backpack from other makers. For this trip, I decided to try out my Red Oxx Air Boss along with my new Gator and new Beanos 5, both of which I had purchased at the Company store on a recent road trip (everyone was really helpful and friendly).

Using these bags for the trip worked out superbly. I was able to pack all my clothes and printed material in the Air Boss, and my personal care accessories and shoes in the Beano’s. I then, when convenient, packed my Gator into the Beanos. The Gator contained my photography and electronics gear for the month long trip.

To be fair in my assessment, I recommend this style of backpacking travel (that is, backpacking with a Beano’s and Air Boss rather than a backpacking backpack) for someone who has sturdy shoulders/forearms as the weight is not evenly distributed as a backpack. Upside is using bags that don’t fall apart, don’t make me stick out as a backpacker, fit all the contents in a smart manner, and fit in many more spaces/lockers than some of the backpacks I’ve used.

Note: Red Oxx has come up with a compromise solution to this problem, the Sky Train, a carry-on bag with retractable backpack straps.

I visited the sights in Sydney, relaxed in Surfer’s Paradise and Byron Bay, sped through the under-rated Brisbane, snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Cairns, visited the Waterfall Circuit inland from Cairns along with coffee farms and termite mounds 2 meters high, explored the rainforests, wildlife and tastes of exotic fruits around Cape Tribulation, galloped out of the ghost city(ish) Adelaide, roamed the Kangaroo Island while seeing Koala Bears and Kangaroos in their natural environment, hiked portions of Tasmania’s national parks, and street walked Melbourne and Hobart.

A great experience in the Cape Tribulation rainforest; an exotic fruit orchard. Fresh fruit for breakfast and snacks. Great location for exploring the rainforest – since you are sleeping in it. Snakes were seen around the house, and one night, a large rat was strangled and dragged through the kitchen by a python, leaving a nice trail across the floor. Not recommended for the dainty.

2 days after Australia, I was back on a plane heading for Ushuaia, Argentina – the southernmost city in the world. I utilized the Gator and Beano’s PR5. I packed my clothing, my Gitzo GT3540LS tripod (which fits diagonally in the Beano’s) and personal accessories, which was quite a feat considering that I had to pack for mild temperatures in the Falklands, cold temperatures in Antarctica, and hot temperatures in Argentina.

There’s also the more restrictive luggage weight requirements on South American airlines. While most luggage is made in a manner in which a lot of weight is consumed in the luggage piece itself – with rollers, extension handles, and hardened sides, Red Oxx bags are made almost exclusively with nylon, which allows me to pack extra gear.

In any case, I left the Northeast USA at 6am on day 1, and arrived in Ushuaia at 4pm on day 2, after transiting from NYC to Miami, Santiago (Chile), and Punta Arenas (Chile). The Gator and Beanos had both been checked, and both came out the other end unscathed. It’s fun watching other bags come out the conveyor belt smashed into pieces, or duct-taped together, and then see my Red Oxx bags come out pristine.

Gator at Byron Bay
Gator at Byron Bay

Gator at Byron Bay

Due to the language barrier, I boarded the wrong bus in Ushuaia. The bus driver was in a hurry and couldn’t drop me off at my hostel. I ended up walking a ways with my bags. Not a problem. Top floor of the freestyle backpackers hostel has a beautiful lookout over the water and mountains.

Next, I boarded ship and was off on the high seas. I stored my items in cabin drawers. I used my Gator as my landing bag and for getting around the ship. During landings, I placing it into a dry bag to protect from the waves crashing around us on the Zodiac, taking along a lot of camera gear. Granted, it was pretty packed, but it got everything from ship to shore and excelled. The Gator worked perfectly as a shore bag.

After sailing for about 25 days, I was back in Argentina, and back to hostel life. While there, I went to Iguazu Falls. Perhaps the most friendly, convenient and accommodating hostel I’ve been to was in Buenos Aires. The Esoril Hostel allowed me to leave my bags in storage while I went up to Puerto Iguazu. Then, since my bus got back to Buenos at 7am, yet my flight wasn’t until 8pm, they kindly offered and allowed me to stay in the hostel during the day as a base of operation.

Cataratas del Parque Nacional Iguazú
Cataratas del Parque Nacional Iguazú

Cataratas del Parque Nacional Iguazú

Upon arrival to Puerto Iguazu, I reloaded it with my camera gear and took it around Iguazu Falls National Park, through both boardwalk and jungle trails. Once again – it worked out perfectly. While not watertight or waterproof, it did a sufficient job of protecting the contents from the rogue rain spells and strong waterfall mist.

After some time checking out Iguazu, I was back to Buenos and ultimately on a plane back to NYC. Once again, the baggage came out the other end in great shape. Another successful mission with Red Oxx baggage.

Paulet Island - off the Antarctic Peninsula
Paulet Island – off the Antarctic Peninsula

Paulet Island – off the Antarctic Peninsula

The Red Oxx Gator was carried on for all the Australian flight legs and fit perfectly in both the overhead compartment and under the seat (unless electronic media boxes were under the seat in which case my legs hardly fit, never mind the bag). The Beano’s & Air Boss were checked for all flight legs.

The Gator was the bag of choice for walking the streets, the boat decks, and for carrying-on buses, etc. The Beanos was both checked and carried on buses, smashed in the back of shuttle vans, and typically locked up in hostel and transit station lockers.

The Gator was, as mentioned, checked into the luggage hold for the Antarctica trip, fit perfectly in the overhead compartment on the Puerto Iguazu bus, and, as mentioned, made a perfect bag to take on Zodiac landings in the Antarctic.

It’s small enough it didn’t throw me off balance in varied terrain, and was rugged enough so that I didn’t worry about putting it down on any surface. The reinforced bottom gave protection to the camera equipment.

Both bags, once unpacked, fit perfectly in a little crevice on the ship (another nice feature of the bags just being made mostly of a nylon shell) which was helpful in tight cabin quarters.

Both bags are now sitting compressed in my closet waiting for the next journey – looking more than ready for the next round of the standard abuse traveling gives bags.

“Oh, I want to sail on my mystery ship.” For 2 months! And when I do, I won’t be taking a backpack. I’ll have this combo myself. Red Oxx Approved!
Cheers, Jim