Post-trip packing list thoughts: Hawaii Aug-Sept 2019

You can also read about my packing list plan, pre-trip.

Personal item: Arc’teryx Mantis 26L

This bag held up well between airport and car rental commutes, as a daybag in the town, and as a hiking bag along short hikes. Below is the bag with what it held on the way back home, after some rearranging with my carry-on item to accommodate some souvenirs.

Contents

From top-left to bottom-right. Italicized stuff was acquired during the trip.

  1. 1 transparent detachable bag with liquids
    • from the Osprey Ultralight Zipper Organizer
    • 1 tube toothpaste, 1 bottle aloe vera gel, 1 bottle facial sunscreen, 1 tube body lotion, 1 bottle argan oil, 1 tube Abreva cold sore medication, 1 bottle Chi hair moisturizing gel
    • I kept as many liquids together as I could
      • in case they exploded in the air (this has never happened to me before, though)
      • in case TSA wanted me to take them out; I am part of TSA Pre-check so I normally don’t, but on occasion an airport will not practice Pre-check so then I do
      • essentially all the liquids are toiletry-related anyway
  2. 1 1oz hand sanitizer bottle
    • couldn’t fit in the transparent bag, but whatever (TSA Precheck)
  3. 1 10″ tablet with case
  4. 1 power brick
  5. 1 soft brace for ankle support
  6. 1 small purse
  7. 1 pen (in purse)
  8. A set of brochures and misc. paper
  9. 1 thin booklet
  10. 1 small notebook
  11. 1 rain cover for backpack
  12. 1 sunglasses case
  13. 1 point-and-shoot camera
  14. 1 1oz container sunscreen
    • couldn’t fit in the transparent bag, but whatever (TSA Precheck)
  15. 1 small wallet
  16. 1 thin detachable bag with 4-5 small charger cables, extra camera battery, extra SD card and camera clip
  17. 1 Vuori thin, quick-drying, comfy jacket
  18. 1 rolled change of clothes for comfort during commute home
    • t-shirt, merino socks, underwear
  19. 1 Ziploc bag of emergency kit items, a few bug repellant wipes, 4 mosquito repelling bracelets
  20. 1 poncho
  21. 1 Ziploc bag of sanitizing wipes
  22. Noise-cancelling headphones in Trakline belt bag
    • Bag was much lighter and thinner than the official headphone case
  23. 1 bag of granola
  24. (not pictured) 1 toothbrush case with electric toothbrush and 2 heads (1 for husband, 1 for me)
  25. (underneath emergency kit bag) 1 house key
  26. (not pictured, would be clipped to bag) 1 travel pillow
  27. (not pictured) 2 water bottles

Carry-on item: Samsonite Ziplite 4.0 16″ Underseater

I’m really happy with this bag. I got it at a good discount and it turned out to be plenty of room for me. Below is, again, the bag with contents rearranged post-trip for souvenirs.

Contents

Again, italicized items were acquired during the trip.

  1. 1 pair sandals
  2. Dirty clothes in sandals: 1 pair merino socks, 1 pair quick-drying underwear, 1 pair feet cushion things
  3. 2 bags of salt
  4. 1 quick-drying towel
  5. 1 misc. set of paper
  6. 1 booklet
  7. Dirty clothes below sandals: 1 bra, 1 shirt, 1 pair shorts
  8. 1 transparent drawstring bag (underneath sandals and dirty clothes)
  9. 2 small misc. souvenirs (wrapped in white and news paper)
  10. 3 quick-drying shirts (in packing cube)
  11. 1 regular shirt
  12. 1 pair shorts (in packing cube)
  13. 2 kukui nut leis (in packing cube)
  14. 1 misc. souvenir (wrapped in red paper)
  15. 1 mini umbrella
  16. 1 skirt/convertible dress (in packing cube)
  17. 1 scarf (in packing cube)
  18. 1 foldable fan (in packing cube)
  19. 1 sports bra (in packing cube)
  20. 3 pairs quick-drying underwear (in packing cube)
  21. 1 pair merino socks (in packing cube)
  22. 1 compression sock (in packing cube)
  23. 1 extra set insoles (in luggage bag)
  24. 1 set foldable trekking pokes (in luggage bag)
  25. 1 tripod (in luggage bag)

Wearing (not pictured)

  1. 1 pair quick-drying climbing/hiking pants
  2. 1 pair quick-drying underwear
  3. 1 pair merino socks
  4. 1 bra
  5. 1 regular shirt
  6. 1 pair hiking boots

In husband’s bag

  1. 1 drybag
  2. 2 waterproof phone cases

Disclaimer: there were minimal other souvenirs that we put into my husband’s eBag backpack, but he still had room to spare.

Analysis

I’m satisfied with the two main bags I brought. The combo of small roller and regular-sized backpack worked very well for me from the continental U.S. to Hawaii and back. Most places were indeed smooth, especially where we ended up dawdling in the airports for food and souvenir shopping. I was concerned about my husband’s pain dawdling around there since he just had a big backpack, but he seemed to tolerate it well. I know from past experience I would’ve struggled.

I’m largely satisfied with the clothes I brought. I didn’t bring too many and had room to acquire 3 new shirts and a new pair of underwear (it’s extra soft). However, I wish I brought 1 more sports bra. I hiked and swam a lot, both activities ideal for my sports bra. I could’ve done more laundry washing (we ended up washing twice in our 9 night-trip) to avoid wearing my dirty sports bra 2-3 times more than I would’ve liked, but I also wanted to be environmentally conscientious with washing. I guess I also could’ve hand-washed the bra, though, but I’m also lazy.

Especially useful things/decisions

A small umbrella. As predicted, Hawaii’s weather is really unpredictable (!) and not as bad as the forecast turned out to be in terms of rain. It rained maybe 10% of the time, and like Peru, in small bursts. The umbrella was good for those times as well as shielding ourselves from especially hot midday sun. I’m so glad we didn’t bring our rain jackets: it would’ve been even more uncomfortably hot wearing them.

Downgrading to a good point-and-shoot camera. It is just so much more compact and easy to use, but still good quality.

Sanitizing wipes. It felt good to be able to easily wipe down the airplane seat area with these things. It was also useful for wiping down my backpack after hiking.

Light jacket. It was nice to have this on the airplanes when it would get too cold, and also when we went on a helicopter tour with the doors off.

Water bottles. Believe it or not, I only started carrying a water bottle with me on my travels on the trip before this one (Vancouver/Seattle). It was my husband’s first time on this trip. These seem like a no-brainer for most people, but yeah, having them was great in the airports to refill and force us to chug before security (more hydration!), as well as while adventuring to various places.

Priority Pass. (I have the mobile card.) We got free coffee and fruit during our first flight out of Baltimore and free fresh burgers and fries during our quick layover in San Francisco. I’ll do a bigger post on Priority Pass and the Chase Sapphire Reserve sometime later.

Things I didn’t end up needing

An extra pair of insoles. I used this trick in Spain when I wanted to avoid bringing an extra pair of shoes, and that worked well. But while I was quite active in Hawaii, I didn’t walk as much there as in Spain because Hawaii is generally much less walkable (hence rental car).

A full 1oz bottle of aloe vera gel. I knew I didn’t need this much in the beginning, but I didn’t want to buy yet another a smaller bottle or container. But maybe sometime I’ll find another small thing lying around I can reuse.

My tablet. It was nice to use it in the plane, but honestly I had some videos and games downloaded on my phone as well and was just as satisfied watching and playing on that, too.

A second umbrella (in my husband’s bag). Because it rained so little, we just shared my little umbrella whenever we needed it. When we did forget to bring an umbrella and it rained, again it was just so short and felt refreshing since we were hot and humid anyway. But I suppose this sort of thing is hard to predict whether you should or shouldn’t bring it, so I think I’d still have both of us bring an umbrella again next time, depending on the season.

A travel towel. Our accommodations always provided us with extra towels. Now that I think about it, the only time I would need this, really, is if I were hiking a long distance and needed to pack light and wouldn’t be able to access a towel for awhile for bathing or sitting down. But I’m not sure if I’ll chop this off the list for the future. It still seems good to have…

Waterproof phone cases. I got them for us to use while snorkeling with sharks, but 1) my husband got sick and didn’t go, and 2) I wasn’t allowed to use mine because I needed a pole/stick to separate my limbs from the camera device (my phone). The snorkeling instructors said this is because sharks are attracted to electromagnetic signals and may want to interact with the source by chomping on it. ๐Ÿ˜€

Noise-cancelling headphones (maybe). It was pretty amazing cancelling out the airplane humming, but… my husband and I like to lean against each other… and the headphones would always get in the way. I am used to just using cheap earphones, which don’t get in the way of cuddling, obviously. ๐Ÿ˜€ Maybe I’ll try to find some semi-noise-cancelling earphones instead. Obviously these have the added benefit of being much more compact, too.

Things I’d like to upgrade

Transparent drawstring bag. The one I got for free from a half-marathon race has been good to have for security-sensitive events and places, as well as a dirty shoe/clothes bag. But it’s become quite unruly to actually carry around because the strings/ropes have become too dangly somehow…

Things I should’ve brought

My Costco Visa credit card!!! It gets me 4% back on gas, and god damn it, there was actually a Costco gas station near our place in Kauai. Ugh!

To come: a post about our activities and what I recommend doing (and not doing).

Deuter SL Trans Alpine 28L vs 26L Pro

For the past month, I’ve been searching for the perfect bike EDC/hiking/traveling backpack. I have gone through 11 bags. Finally, after learning and relearning about all my preferences, I settled down on the Deuter SL Trans Alpine 26L Pro. Before purchasing both the Deuter SL Trans Alpine 28L and the 26L Pro to try in person, I did some research on these. However, I could not find a straight-forward comparison between the two. Here’s my contribution.

  • Deuter SL Trans Alpine Pro 26L vs (regular) 28L - "airstripes" back panels

Similarities

(See their official product pages for more detail, links above ^.)

As Slim Line bags, they are designed for women. They have a smaller frame, S-shaped shoulder straps, waist strap that fits snug around your feminine pelvis, and an adjustable sternum strap that can move around your bosom as you see fit.

They are designed for the bike commuter with a helmet pouch to hold your helmet. I like this so much more than Osprey’s lidlock clip. The pouch is stretchy enough to expand for your helmet, but can be cinched down enough to function like an Osprey shove-it pocket for quick access to whatever you want to put in there, like a rain jacket.

They have a built-in rain cover.

They have their patented Airstripes system for ventilated back support.

They have a thick waist strap for load-bearing support and comes with a hip pocket on each side.

They have comfortable shoulder straps part of the Airstripes system that are adjustable from the top and bottom. They have little loops for things like your water bladder tube and sunglasses.

They have two water bottle holders that, yes, actually can hold water bottles without them falling out.

They have side hidden pocket between the back and one of the water bottle holders that is big enough for a modern-day smartphone (for me, my OnePlus 6)).

They have a collapsible bottom compartment separated by a flexible zippered fabric that you can unzip to expand the main compartment.

They have compression straps to slim down your pack when it’s not fully loaded.

They have a front compartment with organizer pockets for small things.

They have a main compartment with a few organizer pockets. This compartment includes a pocket for a water bladder which can loop through a hidden hole in the top back.

Differences

Pro 26L28L
Capacity: 26LCapacity: 28L
Colors: red/blue mixColors: red, blue
Weight: 3lbs 7oz (heavier)Weight: 2lbs 10oz (lighter)
Front pocket is deeperHelmet pouch can be stowed away; front pocket is shallower
Blinker light attachment
Fewer compression straps, but may not need moreMore compression straps, but get in the way of zippers
Hip pockets are stretchy enough to fit my smartphone$20 cheaper (MSRP $50 cheaper)
The Airstripes system is the “pro” version

For me, the 26L Pro wins in almost every category that matters. I like the colors more, I love that the compression straps that get in the way for the 28L are not there in the Pro, and I love that the hip pockets fit my phone! I’ve seen far too many hiking backpack reviews that complain about the opposite to the point where I just expected this kind of feature to not exist. But gee was I surprised with this pack.

(Mostly minor) cons for the Pro 26L:

  • 2 fewer liters, but I don’t actually need them day-to-day. Will see about travel, though.
  • Weighs more by 13oz, but the excellent load-bearing support makes the weight difference (and any of its weight) a non-issue.
  • No blinker light attachment. This is the one thing that really sucks.

Finding the perfect EDC/hiking/travel bag

(This was originally posted on jasna.me, so it appears before my inaugural hello, world! post.)

As I mentioned in my retrospective, I’ve been quite obsessed with travel accessories, bags, and ironically, anti-consumerism and minimalism. (I thought the latter two were synonymous, but in practice, they are often not. I’ll write about my thoughts on this sometime.) I have watched way too many Youtube videos and read way too many comparison articles on the best bags for this and that since before my recent trip to Seattle and Vancouver. I bought two new bags (a backpack and a roller bag) for that trip, and while they held up fine, I ended up returning them. Since then, I’ve been on this shamefully consumer-driven journey on finding the one perfect bag (minimalism, haha!) that can function as my EDC, my personal item on a plane, and also my hiking bag.

(I have already found 2 contending roller bags. I’ll write about them sometime.)

In the past few weeks, I have gone through 12 bags:

  1. Osprey Radial 34L (2017 ed.)
    • $128.37; down to $79 Osprey close-out
  2. Osprey Radial 26L (2017 ed.)
    • my size (S/M) is actually 24L so I’ll list it as such from now own
    • $103.99; down to $84 Osprey close-out
  3. Osprey Radial (2019 ed.),
    • expands from 26L to 34L$180
  4. Osprey Metron 26L (2019 ed.)
    • $160
  5. Osprey Questa 26L (2019 ed.)
    • $89.99
  6. Osprey Talia 30L
    • $111
  7. Osprey Momentum 32L – coming in a couple days
    • $103.99 – $50 gift card = $53.99; down to $79 Osprey close-out
  8. The North Face Surge (Luxe Ed.)
    • $125 – 15% discount = $106.25
  9. The North Face Recon
    • $99 – 15% discount = $84.15
  10. Arc’teryx Mantis 26L – coming soon
    • $149.0
  11. Deuter Trans Alpine Pro 26L – coming soon
    • $180 – 20% discount = $156.99
  12. Deuter Trans Alpine 28L
    • $130

All of the above are either “unisex” or women’s fit.

What I was looking for

Throughout this journey, I learned about what I valued and looked for in the perfect bag, in descending order of importance:

  1. high-quality material
  2. between 25L and 30L
  3. comfortable for long walks in the city or trail
    1. load-bearing waist belt
    2. load-bearing sternum strap
    3. comfortable shoulder straps
    4. comfortable back panel
  4. lightweight, though not compromising all other things
    1. ideally, no more than 2.5 pounds. but the lighter, the better.
  5. in line with 2 and 4: not too bulky
    1. would like to use this bag daily in crowded metro trains without being an ass
    2. would also like to use as a personal item on international flights
  6. simplicity in # of main compartments: no more than one
    1. I don’t want a more typical fancy school backpack that has 3 or four smaller vertical compartments, one for laptop, one for books, one for other shit, etc. Instead, I want…
    2. A large main compartment for helmet and whatever else.
    3. A secondary compartment just wide enough for a 15in. laptop that raises the laptop for safety. Maybe even a slim book too.
    4. A tertiary compartment for smaller things I need quick access to, e.g., pen, wallet, phone
    5. A small pouch to safely store my sunglasses that’s easy to access
    6. An easy way to access a rain jacket and rain cover (or have bag be waterproof for latter) from the front: a “shove-it” pocket or shoe compartment are perfect
  7. useful side pockets
    1. at least one must be able to hold a water bottle/umbrella upright without trouble
      • many bags have shitty side pockets in which bottles/umbrellas fall out or don’t fit at all
    2. the other must be able to comfortably hold a few knickknacks (keys, ID, earphones) securely and be easily accessible. normally if both are #1, then both are #2 for me.
  8. SOME way to harness my helmet from the outside without it swinging around in case I need more room inside
    1. I do not like Osprey’s Lidlock. It is just too stiff and a pain to use. It also seems to be placed in inconsistent heights across its bags.
    2. usually if there are compression straps or daisy chains, on the outside, I can find a way to do this without a lidlock. I prefer this.
    3. the lazy person’s way is to just strap the helmet onto the bag’s top handle, but that has the helmet annoyingly swinging around.
  9. not ugly. see the Osprey Momentum 32.
  10. blinker light attachment
  11. bonus points
    1. NOT The North Face
      1. only because, at my college, EVERYONE had TNF products, and I vowed to never join that bandwagon because it pissed me off for some reason. maybe just that so many people were obviously unoriginal in this way.
    2. NOT black but still cool-looking
      1. everyone loves black, including me. but it’s kinda overdone and I want my bag to be easily identifiable but still not sickly-looking.
    3. fatter waist belt for better load-bearing. seems to be rare in EDC bags; basically essential in hiking bags.
    4. NOT expensive! but the prices above are all in the range I’d be willing to pay, so not a big issue. (in fact, it is the last issue listed!)

Lessons learned

I thought I was down to the wire with the Osprey Questa and the Osprey Momentum. However, the Questa’s bungee cord system was just a no-go, and the Momentum’s “unisex”/MEN’S fit was just too unwieldy (plus, it’s ugly). Finally, I just couldn’t deal with Osprey’s lidlock system.

I think I would’ve settled with The North Face Recon (perhaps more of a true “unisex”), but it’s just not as comfortable as Osprey. It’s stiff (and the Surge even stiffer). The Recon is quite good in most other ways, though.

Almost getting tricked by the Osprey Radial 24L (2017)

This bag was in my second batch of bags I was comparing, and I got woo’d into the fancy kickstand. I also thought it was comfortable around me. I found it for about $20 less on Osprey and ordered it, returning the Amazon one. But then I realized the next day that my shoulders were hurting a lot. Not positive it was the bag but it seems to be the culprit. I also had reservations about it because it was one of the heavier bags for all its bells and whistles, and I didn’t like that it had essentially 3 main (smaller) compartments instead of 1 (big one, with 2 smaller ones). Finally, it was much less bulky than its 34L relative, but still bulkier than all of the other bags.

And then its successor, the Osprey Radial (2019)

The new Radial is definitely better for me than the old models. This one only has one main compartment. The flexibility in expanding from 26L to 34L is great. The fancy back panel seemed to work a lot better for me in the REI store than the old models’. It is a stretchier mesh material. It is adjustable, making this model a one-size-only one.

A small gripe about the older models is the sunglasses pouch is between the main compartments on the top; I think (?) I prefer it in the front so my stuff doesn’t crush it in between. The new model moved the pouch to the front!

Another small difference is the new model does not have the cheap but fun and useful retractable key chain thing in one of its side pockets. This doesn’t really matter to me; I guess it helped trim the weight, because…

A major con to this bag is it is even heavier than the old models at 3.31 pounds, making it by far the heaviest bag in the list. Granted, it is supposed to have the most superior back panel / load-bearing support.

Let’s not get too needlessly fancy

But I reasoned late in my assessment that, to be completely honest,

  • I am not biking THAT far every day–at most, 5 miles; normally, 2 miles. I don’t need a heavy-duty bike commuting bag.
  • I am not hiking THAT far when I do–normally, I’m pretty spent at 5-6 hours of hiking. I’m not really into overnight/multi-day hiking anymore, so I don’t need such a hi-tech back panel for this. (Anyway, I already have a bag for that.)
  • One thing I am succeeding at in minimalism is minimalist packing, and I don’t need THAT much space, really.
    • With my Questa 26L (and accompanying roller bag), I still have probably 10+L of space after trial packing for a 10-day trip.
    • For EDC it is about the same, with helmet clipped on the outside, that is. (Stuffed inside, it works, though a little tight.)
  • I HAVE LIVED WITHOUT A KICKSTAND ALL THIS TIME!

The other minor point about the new Radial is it is WHEW! $180! That is literally double the price of the Questa and more than double the Momentum.

So, once the new Radial and the old Radial arrive, I’ll be promptly returning them. (Again, I feel very ecologically irresponsible about my carbon footprint in all this…)

Problems with the other bags

I’ll sort these in order from best to worst.

  1. Osprey Questa 26L
    • +++ most comfortable bag
    • + nice design
    • + not too fancy: 1 main compartment
    • + nice water bottle pockets
    • — don’t like bungee cord system. One time my rain cover bag fell out of it.
    • ++ it’s really light: 1.62lbs
  2. The North Face Recon
    • + more comfortable than the Surge
    • – not the most comfortable though ๐Ÿ™‚ Questa wins
    • – laptop compartment less bulky than Surge but still too bulky
    • ++ thick, wide waist belt!
    • +++ shove-it pocket!!!
    • – a little heavy (2.7 lb) but not as bad as the Surge
    • – TNF
  3. The North Face Surge Luxe
    • ——– VERY uncomfortable. straps were rigid. no air ventilation.
    • ——– 3.1 pounds?!
    • – the random fleece-like material inside. clearly contributed to the weight, and while it was luxuriously comfy to my hands, I was worried about dirt, etc. in the long term.
    • – laptop compartment was too bulky
    • +++ the colors
    • + big main compartment
    • ++ thick, wide waist belt!
    • +++ 2 big front pockets for rain gear!
    • – TNF
  4. Osprey Momentum 32– “Unisex”, so big and bulky for men
    • ++ still comfortable
    • — pretty ugly
    • +++ shoe compartment for rain jacket
    • + built-in rain cover
    • — realized I just don’t like Osprey’s lidlock system
  5. Osprey Metron 26L
    • + not too fancy like the Radial
    • + lidlock
    • ++ thick, wide waist belt
    • ———- more designed like the Farpoint/Porter stuff, i.e., dedicated travel bags. Has those large compression belt things in the front.
      • Not sure if I would use those as areas for my rain gear. Seems weird and not secure enough.
    • ? unsure about comfort. Was too turned off by design to spend more time with it.
  6. Osprey Talia
    • ——– too many main compartments
    • —– too bulky
      1. large
      1. has kickstand
      2. has fancy back panel
    • +++ two large front pockets for my rain gear

The final (?!) round of bags

This includes the Deuter Trans Alpine 28L, the Deuter Trans Alpine Pro 26L, and the Arc’teryx. Mantis 26L.

Deuter Trans Alpine 28L

I just received this today. I LOVE it. It has everything I want except a laptop compartment, but this is not a deal-breaker because I already have a laptop case. Bonus: it has waist pockets that fit my metro and work IDs and my headphones. Not my phone, but there is still an easily-reachable and secure side pocket for that. I love the dedicated helmet pouch. It is high on the pack, which I discovered I greatly prefer over bottom or middle. I LOVE the collapsible bottom pouch. You can unzip the divider between it and the main compartment so your main compartment can have more room. You can stuff the bottom pouch since the divider is stretchy, so I can not only fit my rain jacket but also my comfy hoodie for easy access. Built-in rain fly is separate. Holy smokes. This bag is just right!

Minor setback: the compression straps get in the way of unzipping the main compartment, but at the same time they work really well for what they’re there to do: compress.

Deuter Trans Alpine Pro 26L

Have not received yet. Clearly contending directly with its non-pro version. On the screen, it looks prettier than the non-pro, and I think the materials are supposed to be nicer. But we’ll see who wins. Obviously a let-down is the 2 fewer liters, but with the amazingly easy-to-use and well-positioned helmet pouch on this model and its non-pro sister, I still have plenty of free space for my daily commute. I may not need those 2L if all other “pro” features are worth it.

Update: see comparison between the Pro 26L and the 28L.

Arc’teryx Mantis 26L

Have not received yet.

I don’t know what to expect with this one now that I’m just blown away by the Deuter. I can imagine myself keeping it if it is somewhat packable and I want a simpler bag to use without the bells and whistles of the Deuter’s waist pockets, back panel, and helmet pouch. But if I want to be more minimalist, I should return it if it doesn’t beat the Deuter. We’ll see…

Update: yup, I really don’t need this bag! But I like it… Partly because of the brand, partly because of the great reviews on its durability, partly for its looks, partly for its simplicity and still nice, deep side pockets. Will I keep it?