My backpack is the best. Over the last three and a half years I’ve thrown it, scraped it and stuffed it until it bursts, and it has never failed me. Really, other than a little wear on the zippers, it still looks brand new!

A traveler’s bag is the most essential of essential gear, and I really can’t stop talking about how great mine is when someone asks me about it. And people ask a lot. But for those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of my company, here’s why my Tom Bihn Aeronaut is the absolute best bag a nomad could ask for:

Carry-On Size

Tom Bihn Aeronaut

Nick with his Aeronaut in London’s St. Pancras station.

The Aeronaut is specifically designed to be the largest carry-on size allowed by most airlines: 22″ x 14″ x 9″ (555 x 355 x 230 mm). This means I can pack till it bursts and still be reasonably confident that I won’t get the stink eye from a flight attendant. I haven’t checked a bag since 2007. No worrying about thieves or whether my valuables will make it in one piece – my bag never leaves my sight and no one touches it but me.

I Can See Everything

Tom Bihn Aeronaut

My empty Aeronaut – iPhone provided for scale.

Unlike traditional backpacks, the Aeronaut opens from it’s side like rolling luggage. I never have to dig for the shoes I packed in the bottom because it’s all right there. It’s also really hard to lose stuff because the lining comes in a series of bright colors (mine’s neon yellow!). This is a godsend for those of us who tend to lose little things like hair ties and plug adaptors.

I Don’t Look Like A Backpacker

Tom Bihn Aeronaut

All our gear.

No offense to my large-backpack toting friends, but it’s generally hard to blend in if you’re carrying a bright orange bag as big as a ten year old. With my Aeronaut, I could be a business traveler sprinting for a train in King’s Cross station or a jet setting fashionista on her way to Singapore (I might need better clothes to pull this off, though). I love that I don’t stick out like a sore thumb.

The bag is also convertible, so if you like you can have a duffel bag or a shoulder bag, but the backpack is the most comfortable and practical form it takes.

It Can Hold Everything

Tom Bihn Aeronaut

View of the side & back where the straps can be zipped to turn it into a duffel bag.

Two side pockets, a top flap pocket and a zipper pocket on the edge don’t sound like a lot, but this bag holds everything I could possibly need while I travel. Three pairs of shoes, a laptop, tons of clothes and all the girly toiletries I need fit in one carry on. The design is fantastic – from the useful grab handles on each end to the water-repellant zippers and zip-away straps, the people at Tom Bihn thought of everything.

The Bihn holds all my stuff for endless years of travel, is small enough that I can weave through a crowded airport without hassle, and sleek enough that I feel like a sophisticated traveler as I make my way around the globe.

It’s expensive, at $250 plus $10 shipping, but comes with a lifetime guarantee. They’ll even repair damage due to normal wear and tear for a small fee. Not that I expect to need that for a while!

  • Katy

    I’m passing this on to my boyfriend, who’s joining me on my rtw trip next month. I have the newish Osprey Far point 40 in s/m, so actually 38l. It’s carry on specific, too and looks pretty much like the bag I took to law school!

    My rumpled clothes totally give me away as a backpacker, but at least my bag doesn’t… :)

    • Kit

      “My rumpled clothes totally give me away as a backpacker, but at least my bag doesn’t.”

      Exactly my thoughts! Someday they’ll make nice dresses in wrinkle-proof fabrics. Enjoy your RTW!

    • Stef

      Hello :) Just wondering if you bought the Aeronaut and if so how you two got on with the two bags? I’m considering doing the same and am choosing between the two (and a Patagonia MLC..) I’m worried about back strap comfort during hiking should I wish to do any..

  • sara

    Came across your website while searching for reviews on the Aeronaut. Seriously considering purchasing it for a 10 day trip I have planned later this year (Paris/Rome/Amalfi). I have an excellent medium size rolling suitcase I purchased for a trip last year but not sure that it will do well on this trip when I’ll be moving from several different airports and train stations. My only question about this being a carry on is how you deal with the 3 oz rule for toiletries? I noticed in your other posts that you packed full size toiletries. Does the 3-1-1 rule not apply for international travel? I can probably get my clothes/shoes down to an amount that would comfortably fit in my bag but will need more than a 1 quart bag of toiletries to get me through 10 days. I guess it wouldn’t be a big deal to check this bag in if I had to but at that point, then I may just stick with my rolling suitcase (which is just slightly too large to check in). Love your posts! Super helpful!

    • Kit Whelan

      Glad I could help! The 3 oz (100 ml) applies everywhere, so I only buy full-size toiletries when I’m not flying for a while. My liquids are: 1 oz face wash, 3 oz face exfoliant, argan oil for hair, mascara, cortizone cream, eye cream, and acne spot cream. I also have an empty 3 oz tube that I could use for shampoo/conditioner, but right now I use a LUSH solid shampoo and argan oil instead of conditioner, so it just sits there empty. I’m currently trying out a solid body butter from LUSH.

      I’ve made a full list of what I pack here:

      That all works for me in my Aeronaut, but your needs may be different. I will say I love having a backpack for weaving through busy Italian train stations, though :)

  • sara

    Thanks! Yes, that is helpful. After I read this post, I started reading some of your other posts and saw your review on the solid shampoo. I have a Lush shop near my office so I will have to check that out to see if that is something that could work for me. The big issue for me will be the shampoo and contact lens solution. Otherwise, keeping things to a 1 quart bag will be easy enough. I tend to be an over packer but your website has me inspired and motivated to keep things minimal for my upcoming trip!!

    • Kit Whelan

      They do make 2 oz bottles of contact lens solution (at least Bausch & Lomb does) which are really helpful. My partner Nick always buys those :)

      Good luck!

  • sara

    Thanks again for all the great suggestions! I just ordered a Tom Bihn bag plus loads of Tom Bihn accessories. :) Also went to Lush last week and picked up a bar of squeaky green shampoo and jungle conditioner. My hair has never been happier. I may stick with the solid bar shampoo routine even if it isn’t necessary for travel!

    • Kit Whelan

      Awesome! It’s so exciting buying new travel gear :) Glad to hear the LUSH stuff is working out for you, I hope the Bihn will too!

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  • Genevieve

    Hi Kit! Do you by chance have an article regarding wheeled vs.
    non-wheeled bags? I have a carry-on sized wheeled bag that I’m using for
    most of my traveling now, but I’m considering buying a new one and
    would like a traveler’s opinion…..for the most part I’ve always been
    SOOO happy to have a wheeled bag (even bouncing around Europe), but many
    travelers say non-wheeled are better – why is that?? Thanks! :-)

    • Kit Whelan

      I don’t know if I’m really qualified to write an article like that, I haven’t used a wheeled bag in years!

      I think the reason many people prefer non-wheeled is it’s just easier to hop on and off buses, or run for trains, with a backpack. You can hold it in your lap on a crowded bus if you need to, meaning you won’t be separated from your stuff. But really I think this is just personal preference. If you like a wheeled bag, keep using them! This article may help you choose (although this site is even worse than mine for encouraging you to buy travel gear!):

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