19 February 2009

make your own gear: luggage without wheels

On our last trip we adults took a wheelie bag each, that converted to a backpack. I find that having a backpack is essential when travelling and needing to hold children's hands. Sure its great for stairs and things like that, but my prime love is for how it helps me maintain my children's safety.

I have been thinking that I'd like to ditch the wheels.

I walk everywhere when at home, and I always carry a backpack on my back. This is a product of pushing a stroller for many years - a backpack just suited me best for carrying things.

So I've been thinking that if I want to reduce the weight of what I take on holidays with me (and I certainly do!), one big way to do that is to lose the wheels, because in so doing, you don't only lose wheels but the whole handle structure of the bag that goes with them. That certainly reduces the weight.

I've been looking at bags. One website that I have been particularly taken with is Tom Bihn Bags. I love the look of their Aeronaut bag. It seems to me to be fabulously practical. It has a main central section and two separate end sections. It can be hand held like a normal suitcase, used with a shoulder strap (I cannot fathom why you would do this - it would be dreadful for your back!), and when the stowable backpack straps are whipped out, it can be carried like a backpack. This is what I would do. I like the way it has inbuilt sections. This would help to stop all the little "bits" falling around in a bag that is anything but completely full. I don't want to have to travel with my bag full, so this is a consideration for me.

However, it is TOO big for me. I often travel with Virgin Blue (an Australian airline) when I travel for business, and the Aeronaut is way too big for their maximum carry-on size. Of course, I would not be wanting to check my bag if at all possible, so this too is important to me.

There are a couple of other changes I would prefer to be made to the lovely Aeronaut, to suit my needs too. Like it would be good if the compartment sections could be zipped down to fold them out of the way if you did want to use the bag as a one or two compartment bag - if you had something long to carry, for example. And it would be interesting to see whether one of the end sections could be collapsible, for the sake of travelling on Virgin Blue with its very short maximum length.

But I really like the functionality of their design. And they look to be exceptionally well made.

I am quite handy with fabric and a sewing machine (in my work life I am an embroidery designer) so now I am considering designing and making my own bag just for me and my personal requirements. My brain has therefore been working overtime on this little design dilemma (a good dilemma though!)

I have looked and looked at all the bits I would need. Things like fabric, zips, buckles and attachmenty sorts of things. I can get everything locally except for water-resistant zippers - IF I decide to go for water-resistant zippers. And if I don't then I still want YKK zips because apparently they are the BEST, and I still need to find them locally.

And all for a lot less than it would cost me to import one of the gorgeous, luscious Tom Bihn bags. Of course their bags are designed and constructed by people who have been doing it for years. They have knowledge and expertise that I don't have. No doubt they have made and fixed lots of mistakes to come up with the designs that they now have. I don't have the luxury of all that, but still, I reckon I can make a sturdy, well constructed bag that suits my needs.

I'm certainly willing to give it a go.


  1. Yvette,

    Darcy from TOM BIHN here. If you need help finding particular materials, call us (1-800-729-9607). We may be able to point you in the right direction or maybe even send you some.

  2. Hi Darcy,

    Thanks! I really appreciate your offer, and may take you up on it. I know I gushed about Tom Bihn bags in my post, but I really do covet the Aeronaut bag! (I need to work on not coveting - the 10th commandment...) Unfortunately the Aeronaut just doesn't suit my actual needs, despite it being so lovely.

    I made up a prototype of my bag yesterday in other fabric, and am pleased with the result. Lots of changes to make, but its all about trial and error.

    I have the greatest respect for your bag designers. And now I'm already thinking about my next bag creation, and the first one's only just started. Could be getting addictive methinks...!