Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bag Lady

My Class of '63 high school graduation gift from my parents was a set of luggage. My favorite piece: the cosmetic case--the item that, should I actually fly anywhere, stayed with me, making me feel utterly grown up. It was a beige, vinyl, hard-shell, double snap-lock rectangular case, complete with a "vanity mirror" built into the lid.

Although it hasn't traveled with me for nearly 40 years, it remains with me, serving as official Keeper of the G.I. Joe body parts (not a single soldier remains in tact, long ago blown to bits), hand gernades, and other miscellaneous weaponry and camo/combat clothing. My sons, now 44 and 38, occasionally take a look-see and relive an explosion or two.

Over time, I've worked my way through several more versions of what I imagined to be the perfect catch-all carry-on, until I used it/them. They've ranged the gambit of color (including polka dots), material, size and handiness--or not. I've tested wheels vs. no wheels. (For the record, one of my 2 carry-ons must have wheels. End of story.) The jumbo vs. how-small-can-you-live-with versions (the more regional jets we're forced to fly, the smaller the bag). Then there's the "pockets are a good thing"; why don't I ever look in the right pocket first?!

I never discard the older bags since one never knows which one might best serve an upcoming trip, or one day become a kind of morgue for sundry items. Sometimes I drag one out and think, "What was wrong with this?" By the time I'm home, I remember. Back in the corner it goes, waiting for the next time I forget.

But sometimes, that oldie bag serves just the right purpose for "such a trip as this." You know what I mean. While one journey requires three changes of clothing, the next only needs a clean pair of underwear. Some gigs need props, notebooks, laptop and an odd assortment of shoes, while the next works best with two pair of bluejeans and a bulky sweater. Different bags for different strokes.

But I have to admit that this red Kipling bag (comes in many colors) has been traveling with me for several years now, and it still looks like new. So far, I've had no desire to swap it out. I discovered Kipling bags in an airport during one of those loooong layovers. I bet I opened, closed, zipped, unzipped and pretended I was packing at least a dozen different sizes.

Some of my favorite things about this awesome Sherpa:

  • When empty, it weighs almost nothing.
  • When I'm not using it, it wads up for easy storage.
  • I can always manage to cram one more thing into it.
  • It's sort of waterproof.
  • The interior is beige, which makes it easy to explore. (I've sworn off black interiors, including in hand bags.)
  • The exterior pouch pockets hold just the right amount of stuff.
  • The long exterior zipper compartment offers all types of slots for all types of organizing of all types of little things.
  • The zippers and snaps are incredibly strong and easy to work.
  • It has both hand grips and a shoulder strap, the latter which I never use.
  • It easily rides on top of a wheeled bag, and in fact has a sleeve to slip over the handle of same--although the grip on the handle of my favorite Briggs and Riley wheelie (mine looks likes this, but doesn't have this type of handle, so I'm not sure ...) is too wide to fit through the sleeve, and that's the one I usually couple it with.
  • Thankfully, the thumb-sucking gorilla geegaw (for real) that comes with it is detachable.
  • Items can be rearranged within the bag so as to I'LL MAKE IT FIT! into some of the small stowaway compartments.

I own another of these Kipling bags, a big one. Again, I can always stuff one more thing into it, and it weighs nearly nothing when empty. When stuffed, I have to check it (although when not over packed, it can schmoosh into the overhead bin), but when I travel back and forth to The Farm, where I go hide to write (new website, so check it out), it's awesome! Socks in one end zipper compartment, undies on the other (easy to find), and everything else in either the exterior zipper compartment or the generous duffel.

I went a Googling so I could tell you exactly which model of that large bag I have. Although I couldn't find either on the actual Kipling site (could just be me), I did manage to locate the smaller one on Of course as with all things (wallets, bras, toilet paper ...), my favorites never seem to stick around long, so I was glad to find at least the Sherpa still going strong. (Check out the awful gorilla hanging on the left side in that photo.)

While I was toodling around, looking at other Kipling bags, I heard myself think, "Oh, that new bag looks even more perfect!"

Charlene, DO NOT FALL FOR IT! Reread your own post. You have the perfect bag!

What about you? What's your favorite carry-on, get-the-job-done bag? Or, do you, too, have a gem of a retired oldie you're using for special storage? Please, let us know about it by posting your comment here, under--duh--COMMENTS!


Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, I was just thinking about this very subject this week, when I returned from a trip to Italy. I've had an Eagle Creek tote bag for about 10 years that I have taken on every overseas trip. It's somewhat similar to your Kipling bag, but it's black and has one large rather flat pocket on the front, with little slots inside for phone, pens, etc. It also has a pocket on the back; the bottom can be unzipped to make a sleeve to fit over a wheeled bag's handle, but frankly I usually just hang it by the handles to rest on the front of the wheeled bag, which gives a much better weight distribution.

There are small pockets on each end, just right for a fold-up umbrella or small bottle of water. You can stuff an incredible number of items inside, and there is an extra couple of inches of nylon material that extends out and zips over the inside. Best of all are the very sturdy handles, which are long enough to fit over a shoulder, but also have leather wraps around the middle to make it easy to carry by hand.

I so wish I could buy another one! It still looks perfect but I'm afraid it's going to wear out at some point. I wish Eagle Creek would start making it again. I have bought an awful lot of bags, and still have most, but this is the one I use every single time.

Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

Thanks for these rich details. I, too, have a decades' old Eagle Creek bag, one that holds cosmetics. etc.. (It's smallish.) I still often use it in combo with other bags it handily fits into. Did you check eBay for one like you've got? Sometimes "new" old stuff shows up there. But it is SUCH A BUMMER when they get rid of, or otherwise "improve" (not) our favorites.

I have an email newsletter called the TwinkleGram. (Subscribe at Recently, one of the fun things I included was a survey about toilet paper. I had no *idea so many people had so many things to say about toilet paper! Honestly, I should compile the results and send them to TP manufacturers. A few of the most popular-type comments: "STOP CHANGING IT!" "Remember what 'parts' we use it on!" "Why do we have to choose between soft and strong? MAKE IT BOTH!" Exactly.

Anonymous said...

Me again--thanks for the suggestion to try eBay! Toilet paper ... all I can say is that the stuff in Italy is awful!