Nick Schneble, my partner in crime and digital nomad extraordinaire, has been challenged to see if he can fit ALL of his worldly belongings into the brand new Aeronaut 30 backpack from Tom Bihn.

Background: We’ve had Tom Bihn Aeronauts for almost six years and LOVE THEM! Seriously, couldn’t live without these beautiful backpacks. They carry everything we need for living and working anywhere in the world in any climate (minus Antarctica) and we can carry them onto any plane without worrying about them fitting in the overhead bins. But Nick has been itching to downsize from the 45 liter bag for a while now, and when Tom Bihn announced they were creating a 30 liter version, I knew I had to challenge him to put his luggage where his mouth is.

Challenge: Nick has to fit everything he needs for our digital nomad lifestyle into the Aeronaut 30. Laptop, clothes, chargers, wifi extender, liquids, rain jacket, shaving stuff, flip flops. EVERYTHING.

Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 Challenge


Do I think he can do it?

David Tennant Nope

Does he think he can do it?

David Tennant Yes

So did he?????

Packing for the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30 Challenge

Drumroll please…





Aeronaut 30 Challenge


In a span of about 45 minutes, Nick took everything out of his original Aeronaut, every tiny item out of its container, and repacked it in a 30 liter bag…. with room to spare.

Aeronaut 30 45 Comparison

Original Aeronaut on top, new Aeronaut 30 on bottom.

That’s the most amazing part about this experiment! He didn’t get rid of a single thing, and yet he was able to downsize to a smaller bag while having more extra room than he had before! He’s got everything he needs to live life – from winter gear to all his tech – in that tiny bag. He even has freaking hair clippers so he can cut his own hair! And TWO boxes of his fancy pants razors. And it all fits with enough room for a few impulse purchases on the road.

Aeronaut 30 Packed with Room to Spare

Shoving his fist inside to prove there’s room for a gift.

And here I thought we were packing smart all along.

I think the key is the packing cubes and stuff sacks Tom Bihn sent along with the bag. This would have been SO MUCH HARDER without them. And honestly, I’m surprised! I was almost sure we wouldn’t need them because the ones we had from great companies like Eagle Creek and Kathmandu worked just fine. It’s nice that after six years of ultralight packing, I can still learn a thing or two!

Tom Bihn Packing Cube vs. Eagle Creek

Everything from two Eagle Creek packing cubes fits into one Tom Bihn cube. It’s ok EC, we still adore you.

Tom Bihn Liquids Bag

“I’m so surprised at how much I like this. It’s already my favorite bag.” – Nick on his new liquids bag

So what about the bag itself? The upgraded zippers and smaller design mean it’s a lot easier to open with one hand, which is great for when you’re moving fast through an airport security line.

The side pockets are also much bigger than the original Aeronaut. You can really fit a bunch of stuff in there, which allows Nick’s main pocket to hold nothing but his sandals, liquids bag, laptop and compression sack filled with clothes. It’s so much less chaotic than it used to be!

Aeronaut 30 Side Pocket

Look at that huge side pocket!

It’s also lighter, so he went from a bag weighing 9.35kg to a ridiculous 8.94kg*. That means he could take out his laptop or winter jacket and be under 7kg (which is the smallest limit I’ve ever seen on a budget airline).

Aeronaut 45 30 Comparison Chart

And of course, it’s just beautiful. I think Nick stared at it for a good 10 minutes talking about how pretty it was before he began packing.

I can’t wait to see how tiny it looks in an overhead bin! We’re flying later this week, so I’ll try to get a good photo. (UPDATE: Here’s the photo!) For now, you’ll have to make do with photos of the two bags (original and new!) having a fun day at the beach before the original gets shipped off to a lucky friend of ours in Sydney! (It may be six years old, but it’s still an amazing bag. We had plenty of people asking for it!)


For the Bihn nerds out there, here’s everything Nick used to pack his Aeronaut:

When they sent eight cubes and stuff sacks I thought it was overkill, but Nick used seven of them! Now I’m looking at all their other organizers wondering what else I could possibly buy. :)

This bag is so amazingly tiny that I found myself getting a teensy bit jealous as we made this post. I’m still glad to have a 45L because I have LOTS of clothes and shoes that I adore. But now that I’ve watched Nick pack into a 30L, I actually think it wouldn’t be too hard for fashionistas to do it. Though of course both Aeronaut sizes are carry-on compliant, there’s no need to limit yourself. :)

Come back soon to check out my review of my brand-new, upgraded Aeronaut 45! After all, I can’t let Nick have all the new gear fun!

Happy packing!

*He did remove all the extra straps from the inside and outside, making it that much lighter. I love them, but for an ultra-minimalist like Nick they aren’t strictly necessary. 

Disclosure: The folks at Tom Bihn generously gifted all this amazing gear to us, but as always all opinions here are my own.

PS – Just in case you think Nick is an outlier, here’s a photo of him with our good friend Jon, who also packs all his worldly belongings in an Aeronaut 30. And his clocks in at a whopping 8.48kg. ;)

Tom Bihn Aeronaut 30

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  • Wanderlust

    Great review! I’ve been eyeing the Aeronaut for a while and really want to snatch one up. I’d like to go with the bigger version as I tend to overpack. I’m just afraid that it will look way too big on my 5’7″ frame. The comparison pictures in your review are very helpful. May I ask how tall Nick is? I’d like to get a feel of how these bags would look on me. Thanks for the great post!

    • Kit Whelan

      He is just under 6 feet tall! :)

  • Hilary

    I’m buying one for Xmas!

  • widepipe

    What size is the laptop? I have a 15″ MacBook Pro and have been wondering if the 30 can accommodate it.

    • Kit Whelan

      It’s a 13″ MacBook Pro. A 15″ might be tight in the 30L, but I think it would probably fit. I still prefer my 45 for the extra space :)

      • widepipe

        Thanks Kit. I like to travel as light as possible, so I was hoping the 30 works. That said, if it’s just too tight, I might go for the 45.