6 Weeks. One Bag. Can it be done?
Our next adventure is one without Karen our campervan. We’ve been travelling Europe and the UK for over 18 months now. She deserves a bit of a holiday from us. She’s going to chill out whilst we take a 6 week rail trip around the USA and Canada… with only one hand-luggage sized bag each. WTF?
We’re no strangers to the minimalist way of travel. Down sizing from our 2 bed flat in London to a Mercedes Vito camper van seems so long ago. But we did it. Now we have to do it again, only this time, it’s to a bag of the dimensions of 53 cm x 23 cm x 38 cm (that’s 21 in. x 9 in. x 15 in. for our American friends). We love a challenge.
Let’s start with the bag.
Dale will say I’m bag-obsessed. He’s even threatened to impose a ‘one-in, one-out’ rule. I would argue that I merely appreciate a bag that’s been well designed for a specific purpose. Even before van life, when we lived and worked in London, I had different bags for different reasons. Incase, Eastpak, Crumpler, Lowe Alpine all appeared in my bag arsenal and still do. I like to do my research and then plump for a bag that’s going to last me. So it was no different when it came to finding the right travel companion for our North American tour.
To say I’m well read on one-bag travel is an understatement. I’ve always been a fan of the carryology.com site. It’s been my go to for EDC and travel gear reviews and news for years. I also like to keep my eye on any new bag/EDC carry Kickstarters. Which is where I spotted the Nomatic Travel Bag.
I’d had my eye on one of these bad-boys since they launched their Kickstarter campaign. I loved the thought and practicalities that went into the design. They ended up raising $1.7m dollars so it seems lots of you did too.
I considered one of the Tom Bihn bags, which I know are really popular with other one-bag travel fans and I also like the design that goes into the Riut bags (I’ve still got my eye on one of those for the future) but I wanted something that would hold a bit more and take full advantage the hand luggage allowance.
I’m not going to lie. As bags go, it’s at the pricier end of the scale. But I’m treating it as an investment and as a bag I’ll get a lot of use out of after this trip. And I’m big believer when it comes to this kind of gear; you buy cheap, you buy twice… plus, we got ours when they were on sale, so it would’ve been rude not to.
What I like about the Nomatic Bag
- Fits most airline carry-on luggage restrictions.
- Waterproof material and zippers.
- Different pockets and sections for items without being fiddly.
- Seamlessly changes from duffle bag to backpack (also has removable waist straps to spread the load)
- Fits laptop and iPad.
Here’s the video if you want to check out all the features... and it has a lot of features.
The other benefit of this bag is that it doesn’t look like a backpackers bag. We’ve been professional housesitting recently and turning up at your hosts’ house and unpacking your life out of the van into Aldi reusable carrier bags and into their beloved home isn’t particularly classy. Neither is whacking it into a traditional backpack. The Nomatic Travel Bag is stylish and the fact you can carry it in like a normal duffle bag helps.
It will also fit my small camera bag which holds my Canon 70D and extra lens. There’s nothing worse than having to carry another bag on your front or over your neck when you’re carrying a backpack. I always end up with horrific neck and shoulder ache afterwards. It’s also another thing to put down and forget about as well as screaming ‘tourist’ to any would-be thief. Problem solved with the Nomatic Travel Bag. It all fits.
It all fits? Just how much stuff can you get in there?
The bag's around 40L, although it disguises this fact well. It might be helpful if I give you an idea of what else is going in there. Oh, and did I mention we’re going to a wedding in Canada so need to include some appropriate clothing? I’ll tell you now… I will NOT be packing a suit!
Muji Travel Bricks - If you’re not using travel bricks yet, what are you doing?! They’re a game changer when it comes to packing. And especially when packing light. We use these for organising our clothes in the van and I’ve used them in my backpack when hiking in Japan. They’re relatively inexpensive and are long lasting. I’ve not had a rip or tear in them and they’ve had a lot of use. You can buy them in various colours and sizes so they are great for separating out shirts, underwear, socks, outdoor gear. I’ve converted numerous friends to using them.
Small Muji Brick
- 7x underwear (6x pairs of Bonds COOL and 1x Uniqlo AIRism).
- 4x half-socks (Uniqlo) - they pack smaller than regular socks.
- 4x trainer socks.
- 1x Swimshorts and 1x Speedos
Medium Muji Brick
- 1x Uniqlo Chinos - smart enough for wedding attire. Casual enough for daily wear and they have stretch.
- 5x t-shirts - a mix of Superdry and Uniqlo Supima Cotton.
- 1x Chino Shorts.
- Billabong New Order Submersibles Shorts - light, pack small and you can swim in them. Just make sure you take your phone out of your pocket first!
- Uniqlo Cotton Oxford Slim Button-Down Shirt - smart-casual but can dress up for a wedding with a…
- 1x Short sleeved cotton shirt.
- Pyjama Shorts and Vest - Just so we're not wandering around naked in our hosts' homes!
- 1x Quick-dry active shirt.
Wearing to travel
- Uniqlo Black Jeans and belt.
- T-shirt (one from the Muji Brick)
- Superdry Cashmere Blend sweater - a good layer and can be dressed up with chinos and shirt.
- Nike Trainers.
Crumpler Cupcake 4000 Camera Bag
- Canon 70D with 18-85mm lens.
- Canon 50mm lens.
- Spare SD cards, spare battery, lens pen, cloth.
- Clear Muji Travel Toiletries Bag - airport security ready.
- Shower Gel in Muji travel bottle.
- Moisturiser in Muji travel pump.
- Hair Wax in small Muji travel tub.
- Cologne in Muji travel atomiser.
- quip electric toothbrush (we’ve just bought these and having them delivered to a friend in New York for when we arrive).
- Travel Toothpaste.
- Nail Clippers.
- A couple of plasters (aka Band-Aids).
- Antibacterial Hand Gel.
- Beard Trimmer and charger.
- Toms Classics (Navy Blue) - (fit in the Nomatic Bag shoe compartment).
- 13” Macbook Pro & Power Cable.
- Magic Mouse.
- Seagate 2TB Portable Hard Drive.
- iPad Mini.
- iPhone power cables x2.
- Cygnett Power Bank.
- USB travel charger plug.
- Bullet Journal notebook with Moleskine Pen Belt and Muji Gel Ink Pens.
- moo.com mini business cards - personalised with my photos and great to hand out to any friends we make on our travels.
- Headphone splitter - so we can watch our Netflix shows on the go.
- Beats Solo Wireless Headphones - decent at blocking out noise on airplanes/trains.
- Bellroy Slim Wallet - the best wallet I have ever owned. That is all.
- Keys with TILE and Swiss Tech Utili-Key 6-in-1 multi tool.
- Gonex Packable Backpack - great little day pack for exploring. Packs into its own pocket.
- Buff - great as a scarf/sweatband/eye-mask.
- Turkish Towel - soft enough to be used as a scarf or blanket to keep you warm on the flight/overnight train journeys. Absorbent enough to be used on the beach!
- Helly Hansen Odin Jacket - waterproof, windproof and packs small. If it’s good enough for mountain rescue, it’s good enough for me.
- Light, Casual Jacket.
- Ray Ban Sunglasses.
- Cubitts Spectacles.
- Small Sea to Summit Dry Bag.
… and that’s it!
Blimey. It looks like quite a lot when it’s all written down. Trust me, it doesn’t look like it when it’s all in the bag. And that’s why the Nomatic Travel Bag is definitely the best bag for our 6 week rail trip around the USA and Canada. All this gear fits, it doesn’t look massive AND it’s all within our hand luggage allowance on West Jet. It’s a one-bag travel winner!
I’ll update the post once we’re on the road but in the meantime, let me know in the comments below if you’ve got any one-bag travel tips or think we’re missing an essential item from our list!
You can track our journey from June 27th on my PolarSteps Profile, or download the PolarSteps app and give me a follow.
*although I've added links to the products and gear in this article they're not sponsored and I haven't received any payment to say any of this... I'm just being helpful in case you want to track down the stuff for yourself. Happy travels!