10 Days, 1 Bag Debrief

I’m back from my 10 day work trip to Minneapolis and Madrid. Things went well, especially in terms of the clothing and gear I brought with me. Packing light was the right call and I definitely brought the right stuff. Everything I brought with me was used at least 3 times, from nice button down shirts to my Trail Maker shorts (for the gym), to my Patagonia Houdini jacket. It would have been great to not have my MacBookPro, but even with that added weight, my pack was manageable.

The highlight of the trip was my arrival in Madrid. From the moment I set foot off of the plane, it took me just under 30 minutes to reach the hotel: 5 minute walk from the plane to the Immigration, 1 minute at Immigration, 5 minutes to get a cab, and about 15 minutes to get to the hotel, not far from central Madrid. Simply unbeatable.

Unfortunately while my gear was great, my travel situation was not. Originally my plans included seven flight segments in 10 days, going from DC to Minneapolis to DC to Madrid to Newark to DC. But United’s system outage two Friday’s ago lead to one of my flights getting cancelled. It ended up not affecting my ability to get to Spain on time, but meant I had to spend about 5 hours sitting around the Minneapolis airport. Coming home, weather in the midwest and south caused a domino of cancellations of Continental flights. The end result was me spending 9 hours in Newark airport waiting to get back home to DC. For a while it looked like the late flight I had been rebooked on might get cancelled after multiple delays, so I was mentally preparing for either legging it to get a late train to DC or spending the night at a hotel near the airport or in NYC.

While spending extended, unplanned stretches in airports is a bummer, I was never worried about what it would mean for the stuff I had with me. I had no checked bag, so if an overnight or alternative travel situation arose, I didn’t have to deal with getting a checked bag back. I was light so if I had to run for a train or bus, it wouldn’t have been a physical problem. I had plenty of clothes, plus stuff to wash the things I was wearing, so all I would need would be a sink and I’d be clean and fresh for whatever came next. In fact, the stuff I had with me would allow me to travel for days or weeks beyond what was planned with absolutely no additional stress or effort. This is the real virtue of packing light and packing the right things for my needs.

One last note. The GoLite Jam2 is a great backpack. I never filled it more than half way, though it would have been easy to over pack it. I didn’t do much shopping, though had I, I would have had the space needed to bring things home. While the roll-down, top-loading isn’t ideal for repeated access, it worked fine for my situation. It also allowed me to collapse the part of the pack that I wasn’t putting things in, making it feel smaller than the 50L that it actually is. I still think more purpose-built bags like the MEI Executive Overnighter or Tom Bihn Tri-Star are better for this sort of business travel, but the GoLite is definitely good in that you can use it for this stuff, but then do actual hiking and camping with it. Since having multiple applications of one bag is appealing to a lot of folks, this might make the GoLite actually a better carry-on pack than some of the high end, US built traveler bags.


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