Posted January 15, 2018 in Gear Reviews by Jim Markel
Today it seems that every luggage brand has a crossover backpack carry-on bag with hidden backpack straps. It wasn’t always so. A dozen years ago, Red Oxx was getting a lot of requests for an airline bag that had backpack straps. Our premier carry-on bag, the Air Boss, was coming across as a tad too big and heavy for customers with smaller frames. There was also an obvious need for international travelers who wanted to carry their belongings like a backpack over both shoulders across Europe’s cobbled streets.
CEO Jim Markel recalls, "Perry tried stitching backpack straps on the Air Boss and it was a disaster. The zippers were in the wrong places, stuff would fall out. So I turned to our friend Doug Dyment at onebag.com for some pointers. He suggested reduce the number of compartments from three to two and flip it so that it opened like a clam shell."
With those professional pointers the best carry-on backpack bag for a woman (or anyone with a smaller frame) was on the drawing boards. Once again Red Oxx was a pioneer in this principle idea of a crossover style carry-on. Today, numerous start-ups on Kickstarter and even our primary competitors all offer backpack carry-on bags.
But what makes the Sky Train the best carry-on backpack among this horde of wanna-bees?
Red Oxx uses the most flexible, reliable, and strong modern textile material in the Sky Train’s construction available – 1000 weight denier CORDURA® Brand Nylon fabric. The term "denier" (pronounced denyer) refers to the weight or mass density and thickness of fibers before they’re woven into a fabric. The heavier the denier (or larger the number), the stronger the tear and wear resistance, because the fabric’s threads are thicker.
CORDURA® Brand Nylon also has excellent abrasion characteristics and is coated on the inside with a water resistant petroleum-based coating. Every yard of fabric Red Oxx acquires from our American based mills is personally inspected. If a roll does not meet our high quality standards, it gets rejected and sent back to the mill.
Says Red Oxx Production Manager Carissa, "The cut room team looks for any fabric flaws such as irregularities in the warp and weave of the material, ie: extra threads or missing threads. Is there any variation in the dye coloring? Then they flip the fabric over and inspect the coating on the backside. It’s important that every piece of the bag, once it’s cut and ready for stitching together, matches in quality."
Life is complex. Travel is challenging. Why not carry-on a bag that speaks to simplicity? The Sky Train has two primary compartments and opens with zippers down the top and sides. This makes it easy to load and unload the bag. Though today’s packing solutions via Packing Cubes weren’t available from Red Oxx at the time, the "bundle method" was the suggested packing style when the Sky Train was introduced.
By carefully wrapping your shirts, pants and jackets around a center bundle, usually containing one’s toiletries, you then slipped the interior compartment’s adjustable containment straps around the bundle and you’re good to go.
A small flip-out pocket in the top compartment is stitched in to hold items you might need quick access to and a flat exterior pocket holds your reading materials. The backpack straps themselves are cleverly hidden in a third "smuggler’s pocket" and can be quickly deployed and attached at the bottoms at either corner for those rush moments when you need to bolt to the next flight across the airport.
Says Red Oxx Lead Bag Designer Lacy…"Keeping the number of pockets down reduces build time and improves quality because it reduces the number of sewing errors or problem areas that might crop up down the road."
Despite the simplicity of the bag’s design, there are a variety of ways to carry it. Red Oxx Customer Care Representative Christian (who by the way is a big and tall fellow) had this to say about why the Sky Train is his choice for best carry-on backpack:
"The Sky Train is far and away my favorite bag that’s made here at Red Oxx Mfg. Inc. It’s built like a Sherman tank, and has multiple carrying features. You can carry it by the Euro handles which make stowing it a breeze, whether it’s in the ever-shrinking overhead bin or under the seat. You can also use the Claw Shoulder Strap to carry it on your shoulder. My personal preference however, is deploy the hidden backpack straps, which helps when I’m trekking across airport concourses. So the carry versatility of the bag is why I love it so much."
"It looks as though you wouldn’t be able to fit very much in the bag, but it packs a mean punch. I can fit up to two weeks worth of my stuff in there. I secure my gear by using our packing cubes and use the tight bundle roll method of packing. So when someone has a backpacking trip coming up or is going to Europe, I recommend the trusty, good ole reliable Sky Train!"
Have you ever attempted to cash in on a bag company’s warranty claim? With most carry-on brands it’s like running a gauntlet. By the time you’ve filled out multiple forms, dug up your purchase receipt, begged and cajoled the customer service rep (if there is one), and counted the days, hours and minutes since you bought the bag, come to find out your bag purchase didn’t conform to some micro fine-print-rule in that brand’s multi-page warranty statement.
At Red Oxx your warranty claim process has been simplified. If your bag’s seams or zippers happen to break, it gets burned in a car wreck, it gets chewed on by the family dog, or impossibly torn apart by a baggage train, first we’ll marvel it even happened at all, then our team of Warranty Specialists will access whether the bag can be fixed or replaced – no questions asked! Only a bag lost or stolen will not be replaced. That’s it. Talk about an unbeatable warranty.
While filling out our short simple Warranty Form will make the swift 72 hour turn-around repair time fly by even faster, it’s not required. Red Oxx will then return ship your repaired, or replaced bag, for free. Try that with some so-called company struggling to get established on Kickstarter!
People who work in the travel industry know all about owning and using reliable travel luggage. When the question of "What’s the best carry-on backpack?" was asked of Kasey Austin, Vice President of award-winning travel agency Austin Adventures, she was quick to respond.
"All in all, my Sky Train came in unbelievably handy… Its ability to transform (to) a backpack… in 30 seconds’ time and its uncanny ability to squeeze into any overhead bin had me thinking time again, ‘Why would any travel professional not invest in this piece of luggage?’ Whether I’m heading to Europe for a conference or to Africa for a safari, Red Oxx’s Sky Train is sure to follow in my footsteps."
"M" recently posted a product review of the Sky Train. One of our earliest Sky Train owners when the bag was introduced ten years ago, “M” had this to say about why the Sky Train ranks as her best carry-on backpack…
"Hi, this is my second red oxx sky train purchase. I adore these bags for all the reasons the manufacturer points out. The first one I purchased about 11 years ago and it has survived 4 long overseas trips, and many trips in the USA. I am a small woman and at the time traveled with my young child. I needed something I could handle that could hold a lot and still be safe and reliable and easy to carry. Success!!!! I got the second Sky Train a few months ago for a family member going overseas, as I wanted them to have a reliable, safe, colorful, functional bag which packs a ton and yet is easy to carry in multiple ways, and can fit in overhead bins easily as they are so flexible. Success again! I will NEVER buy another kind of bag. Trust this company, which has admirable ethics and a solid product line. I wish I could get a bag of each color and style!"