Travel Day

Not much of a post today, as I spent the bulk of the day either waiting for or riding on a train. This means that not much interesting happened.

One thing I noticed was that I was dreading putting on my full backpack to haul around all day. It made me start rethinking my luggage choices – or my travel style. I didn’t weigh my fully packed luggage before I left, and maybe I should have, because I spent most of my first day wondering exactly how heavy it was.

It felt very heavy. But I think a lot of that is the fact that I was pretty tired after the overnight flight, and also I had walked a long, long way carrying it through three airports and far more of Dublin than I needed to.

Today, when I put it on, and fastened the belly band, it didn’t feel that bad. The walk from the hotel to the train station was still pretty taxing, but it didn’t wipe me out as badly as I had feared. So, maybe I’m getting used to all the walking.

The whole day wasn’t nearly as much of a strain as I had built it up in my mind. There was a lot of waiting on metal benches at train stations, where I didn’t have to carry the pack. And train station sandwiches over here are so much better than the kind of sandwich you’d get in a similar place back in Canada. I got a lot of reading done and, when I arrived in Killarney, I was especially pleased that I was able to find my way from the train station to Larkinley Lodge without any problem.

And now I’m settled in for the evening, and actually looking forward to getting to bed before midnight.

Yeah. I am old and pathetic. Even on holiday, I’m looking forward to a good night’s sleep.

Tomorrow, I’m off to see Ross Castle, Innisfillen Island, and a few other sites around town. I’ll have more pictures for you tomorrow, I expect.

Tapping My Foot Impatiently

Okay, so I thought I was all done with booking stuff for the trip. Then I found out that York is hosting an international Shakespeare festival while I’m there, so I went to take a look at what was playing. I was very pleased to find that there’s a performance of King Lear while I’m in the city1, and I nabbed a ticket for that.

I was really hoping that there would be something fun playing at Stratford-Upon-Avon that I could see, but I’m in the area at a time when there’s nothing that interests me2. I may even skip taking the train out there from Oxford to see the place; it’s going to depend on how I’m feeling and what there I still have left to see in Oxford on the day I have free. We’ll see.

Anyway, I had some free time today, so I started packing. Actually, I’m almost finished packing. And laying out my travel clothes for when I head to the plane. Yes, I realize that it’s still almost two weeks before I leave, but I wanted to start figuring out what I’m taking and how I’m carrying it, so I started fitting things into bags, and one thing led to another…

My trips to Ireland have really encouraged me to pack light. I carried less on my second trip than I did on my first, and I’m carrying less on this trip than I did on either of the first two. Part of that is that I went from an iPad and laptop electronics loadout to a Surface Pro 3. The Surface does everything that I need a laptop for3 in the convenient form-factor of a tablet. So, only one device. Well, two, counting my iPhone.

I’m also only bringing clothes for about a week, expecting to wash things like socks, underwear, and t-shirts in my hotel sink, and get the more cumbersome items – pants, heavier shirts – washed in laundromats or by hotel laundry services.

Everything packs pretty neatly into my trusty Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 and my new(ish) Tom Bihn Pilot. I say new(ish) for the Pilot because I took it down to GenCon last year, but this is its first big trip. Aside from being a convenient personal item size carry on bag, it’ll make a very nice day pack as I wander the streets and byways of the UK. It’ll easily hold my Surface, my camera, a sweatshirt4, my rain shell, a bottle of water, and a few snacks. And the Surface can stay at the hotel most days, so it’ll have a little extra room for picking things up on my rambles.

And now, I sit, waiting to add the last couple of items to my bags on the day I leave.

Tapping my foot impatiently.

  1. I like King Lear more than I like Romeo and Juliet, which I’m seeing in London at the Globe. What was I really hoping for? The Tempest, or maybe MacbethJulius Caesar would have been good, too, or Much Ado About Nothing. Oh, well. []
  2. A week after I’m gone, the Royal Shakespeare Company puts on Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta. I would love to see that. []
  3. Processing and storing pictures, keeping the blog up to date, etc. []
  4. Well, really a long-sleeved, light-weight merino wool pullover. []

Less Than Four Months

So, it occurred to me earlier this week that there were less than four months left before my trip, and that I had better start finalizing stuff. Over the past several days, I’ve booked a number of tours, made a number of plans, and ordered a rail pass that will let me travel eight days1?

I’ve updated my itinerary page with the details, so check that out if you have any interest. The biggest empty bit is York – I need to do a little more research to see what there is in the area besides the city2 to see. I also need to sort out which of the several ghost tours of London, York, and Edinburgh I want to take. More research.

For those few3 who care about such things, I tried out a new bag for traveling this year – the Tom Bihn Tri-Star, which is a wonderful bag. It’s got great organization, and can hold an immense amount of stuff. But not quite enough for a three-week4 trip. So, I’m sticking with my Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45, which saw me so successfully through Ireland twice. I was impressed enough with the Tri-Star, though, that I will continue to use it for shorter trips, like my summer convention trip, or weekends out at the parents’ farm.

For a day bag, I’m going with another Tom Bihn bag – the Pilot. I’ve paired it with the Tri-Star on other trips, and it’s pretty much perfect for what I want. So, yeah, I am becoming an even bigger devotee of Tom Bihn bags than I have been. Make of that what you will.

  1. Looking at my schedule, I will be traveling exactly eight days, from city to city, with a couple of day trips here and there. Perfect. over the three weeks that I’m there, all across Great Britain, including Scotland. First Class, because why not ((It is a little bit more expensive, but not nearly as much as I expected, and I’ve read from UK folks that first class on the long-ish journeys is really worth it. []
  2. Which is pretty awesome, from all accounts. []
  3. Very few, I’m betting. []
  4. Actually, 24 days. []


Tomorrow is the day!

Which means that today is the day that I finally have to finish up all the stuff I need to finish up before I can get on a plane. I’m almost there.

One of the things I have to get done is a post about my final packing arrangements1 – what bag(s) I’m bringing, and what I’m carrying in them. I started finalizing a packing list a few weeks back and did a test pack where I managed to fit everything I really needed into just my Tom Bihn Aeronaut, which is awesome. There were two minor problems:

  1. It was pretty full.Not a lot of room for bringing back souvenirs and such.
  2. It was about a pound too heavy for the carry-on baggage restrictions.

Now, the extra pound wasn’t such a big deal – odds are it wouldn’t raise an eyebrow at the gate unless I looked like I was labouring under a terrible weight. And I had packed an extra bag2 to use as an everyday carry, so I could have slipped my iPad and some other stuff into the second bag at the gate and come in safely under the limit.

But I wasn’t all that happy with the Cafe Bag choice for an everyday carry on this trip. It’s a great bag, but it’s not quite as big as I wanted. I wanted something that would hold my iPad, camera, and a few other things, and the camera just didn’t fit into the Cafe Bag very elegantly. I’d settled on the Cafe Bag because it fit very easily into the Aeronaut with the rest of my stuff.

Most of my other Tom Bihn bags were just a little too large to qualify as a personal item as a second bag. So, I settled on my Red Oxx Gator Carry-On as a second bag. It fits the size requirements neatly, is big enough to carry the stuff I want with me during the day, and small enough that it doesn’t feel like I’m lugging around the world. My one worry is that, while it is water resistant, it is not waterproof. But I think a little common sense will overcome that limitation.

So, with that sorted out, here’s my packing list.


I’ve got most of my clothes in a large Aeronaut packing cube in the main central compartment: two pairs of cargo pants, three merino wool t-shirts, a long-sleeved button shirt, and a sweatshirt. The central pocket also holds my laptop in a sleeve, my Tilley hat and, in the mesh top pocket, my 3-1-1 kit for liquids. That way, I can just unzip the center compartment and pop out the laptop and 3-1-1 kit for airport security.

One of the end compartments holds my socks and underwear in an end pocket packing cube, and the other holds my toiletry Kit with toothbrush, tooth tablets, sink stopper, and clothesline. It also holds my travel towel and my rain jacket.

The slash pocket on one end is for my organizer pouch full of reservation papers and such, and the other is for my phone, keys, wallet, and travel tray.

Fully loaded, the Aeronaut comes in at just under 17 pounds.

Gator Carry-On

The central pocket is for my iPad, camera, and Snake Charmer with all my cords, chargers, adapters, and what not for my electronics. The snap pockets on the front hold my sunglasses, reading glasses, and regular glasses3. The gusseted end pockets hold my travel notebook and pen and a few Clif bars.

And the Gator weighs in at 11 pounds with this load.

What Else?

Well, I’m wearing one set of clothes, including a short-sleeved overshirt, a t-shirt, socks, underwear, cargo pants, and hiking shoes. And I have a really cool fold-up backpack from Sea to Summit. That’s the total of what I’m bringing to get me through a three-week journey all over Ireland. It’s significantly less and significantly lighter than what I carried last time, and that’s a good thing. Not only will it be easier to haul around, it will give me a little extra room to pack a few souvenirs – that was a pretty tight fit last time.


I added one last thing to the itinerary last night – I booked the Evening of Folklore and Storytelling dinner at the Brazen Head4 for the Friday night I’m in Dublin. It looks like fun. And with that, the itinerary is locked.

Which is a good thing, because I leave tomorrow.

And then I’ll finally start having some interesting things to post here.

  1. Some of you may be interested in this – or not – but the folks at Tom Bihn said they’d like to see my packing list and stuff. []
  2. A Tom Bihn Cafe Bag, if you’re curious. []
  3. Of which I generally use only my sunglasses, but I’ve been needing the reading glasses more and more, and the regular glasses might come in handy if I decide to, say, go see the opening of Man of Steel on my last weekend in Dublin. Just sayin’. []
  4. Ostensibly the oldest pub in Dublin. []


Warning: The following post is kind of long, and chronicles my quest to find the perfect luggage for my trip. If you’re not into luggage, you may want to skip it. I’ve been told I’m a little… obsessive on the subject.

I’ve got a bit of a thing for bags. I like backpacks, messenger bags, luggage, totes, all that sort of thing. I wind up carrying around a lot of stuff from place to place, and that has made me very aware of what makes a good bag. A lot of it comes down to function and purpose: some bags work better for some things than others do. I own a number of different bags that I use for different things. I’ve got bags for my laptop, and for my clothing when I go on trips, and for hauling around my game books, and for carrying my gym shoes and water bottle, and so on.

So, I’ve been putting some thought into the luggage and packing for my trip to Ireland. My initial plan was to bring a moderately large upright rolling suitcase that I would check on the flight, and a smaller messenger bag/laptop bag for carry-on. However, after looking how my trip plan was shaping up, I decided that wouldn’t be the best way to do things.

The problem I saw was that I was going to be doing a lot of traveling by bus around the countryside, and relying on public transport in the cities. That meant that I’d be hauling my big suitcase with me on these things. Now, anyone who has used a rolling suitcase knows that the wheels work moderately well on smooth, flat surfaces – like airport floors – but are pretty much crap on anything rougher. And, seeing as I was going to be doing things like getting off the bus at Cashel for a couple of hours to see the Rock of Cashel, it looked like I was going to be dealing with a number of rougher surfaces.

I started rethinking what I was going to do for luggage. And what I was going to pack – if I was going to be hauling my stuff from place to place on buses and taxis, I needed to cut down on the amount of stuff I was planning on bringing. Research time!

One Bag proved to be very useful in clarifying my thinking and getting me started on planning what I would need, and what I would carry it in. While I am less focused on the minimalist approach the site advocates1, it did give me a good starting point to make my own decisions.

After doing a fair bit of looking around and reading reviews, I decided that I would base my luggage on what I could carry on the plane. This meant one carry-on bag, plus one “personal article” – in this case, my laptop bag. I would pack a week’s worth of clothes, and make use of laundromats in Ireland periodically2, cutting down the number of clothing articles I would need to bring.

I want a third bag with me, as well – a small messenger-style bag that I can carry around with me as I go sight-seeing, one smaller than my laptop bag. I plan on packing this flat into one of the other bags for the plane ride, though.

Carry-On Bag

I did a fair bit of poking about to find a good carry-on bag. I need it to be big enough to hold a week’s worth of clothes: a couple pairs of jeans, four or five t-shirts, two or three sweatshirts, a sweater, socks, underwear, and my good hiking shoes3. Weather in Ireland in the fall is generally fairly warm, but with frequent rain, and the possibility of cool days and strong winds. Also, night is not so warm, so I want to be able to layer my clothing, hence the large number of shirts, etc.

While these would have still left space in the suitcase I had originally intended to bring, it was more stuff than I could fit into any of my current carry-on size bags. I needed something bigger, so I went looking. While I was shopping anyway, I decided that I wanted a bag that had multiple carry options, including backpack straps.

My top couple of choices were the Sky Train from Red Oxx and the Aeronaut from Tom Bihn. Both had great reviews and included all the things I was looking for. In the end, I went with the Aeronaut for a few reasons: it was a little bigger, it was a little cheaper, I liked the colour4, and I had already had a really good experience dealing with Tom Bihn previously, when I got my laptop bag. I included the Absolute Shoulder Strap5, and packing cubes designed to be used in the bag.

On my GenCon trip this summer, I got a chance to try the bag out, and it was pretty much perfect. I had to pack a few more things for the trip than I plan to bring to Ireland6, but I didn’t bring my hiking shoes. All in all, it should work out just perfectly.

Laptop Bag

I had been sold months before on the Id from Tom Bihn, and I love the bag. With the addition of a Brain Cell, Snake Charmer,  and Absolute Shoulder Strap, it is a great case for carrying around my laptop, iPad, and a few other things. I brought it down on the GenCon trip, as well, trying it out in concert with the Aeronaut, and it worked wonderfully.

However, with all the stuff in it, it bulges7 and is not quite as manageable as I want it to be – not for a long trip like this. When I’m carrying less crap, it’s pretty much perfect, but it’s not quite big enough for the stuff I want with me on this trip.

I looked at a few other laptop bags, but none of them were really in the running once I started looking at the Empire Builder from Tom Bihn8 – it’s pretty much exactly what I was looking for, and will come in handy on other occasions, as well9. It holds my Brain Cell and laptop, along with the Snake Charmer and a bunch more crap, in a nicely-organized, easy-to-access manner. The design on the bag is tremendously smart, with nice little features and extras that I keep discovering.

My one complaint was the colour choice. I wanted the Black/Cardinal/Steel colour combination, but the Cardinal isn’t going to be ready in time, so I went with the Black/Steel/Steel10. That said, it’s a small complaint, and the bag is very impressive.

Shoulder Bag

I had the perfect bag for carrying around during the day: the Paladin Mission Go Bag. It’s a deceptively simple design that seems a little awkward and inefficient to pack, at first, but once you get the hang of using its features, it reveals itself as brilliantly designed and able to hold a whole lot of stuff. I actually have two of them – the Coyote and the Black – as well as the Paladin Mission Pack that is designed to be used with the Go Bag. And I love them dearly.

But then a couple of people – one of them Irish, and one who travels to Northern Ireland on business frequently – gently suggested that carrying a bag with such a military design might not be the best idea, especially considering the violence this summer. Neither they nor I think it likely that the bag would draw any sort of negative attention, but perhaps best not to take any chances. From all I’ve heard and read, Irish folk in both the Republic and Northern Ireland are friendly and welcoming, but I’d hate to have my holiday spoiled because of what bag I decided to carry. That would be dumb.

So, I decided to go with another bag, even simpler in design, but able to hold a great deal of stuff without being stupidly large. It was my second-choice small shoulder bag: the Red Oxx Gator Carry-On Bag. I already owned it, and it folds up nice and small to pack into one of the other bags for transit, and then unfold for my day trips out sightseeing.

Last-Minute Addition

That was it for luggage until this morning, when my friend11 Chris sent me a link to the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Day Pack. For thirty bucks, it struck me as a remarkably convenient thing to have on hand, in case I needed an extra bag for souvenirs, hauling my laundry to the laundromat, or stuff like that. So, I ordered one, and will be bringing that along with me, as well.


So, I’ve got my luggage picked, and my packing list done, and everything looks ready to go. I leave in a little under three weeks, and am pretty much all set.

  1. I also don’t care as much about wrinkles as the site seems to. []
  2. According to all the travel books I’ve been reading, these laundromats aren’t hard to find, and many of them offer a wash and fold service, so I can drop off the clothes in the morning, go see the sights, and pick them up in the afternoon. []
  3. These are what I will be wearing most days on the trip, but I will be wearing my lighter, easier-to-remove-and-put-on shoes for the plane flight, both because of comfort and because of convenience getting through security. []
  4. The one I got is red, but not the Cardinal red that is on the site. I like the Cardinal better, but it wasn’t made available until after I had bought my bag. Oh, well. []
  5. Which is awesome! []
  6. Yes, even though the GenCon trip was two weeks shorter, I brought more stuff. No laundry and plenty of sweating during an Indianapolis summer, not to mention toiletries. I’m not bringing toiletries to Ireland, because the regulations for transporting such things mean I wouldn’t be able to bring enough to last the three weeks, anyway, so I might as well just buy them there. []
  7. Maybe it’s just me, but I find a larger bag that does not bulge is far easier to manage than a smaller bag that does bulge. []
  8. This is starting to read like a love letter to Tom Bihn. What can I say? So far, they’ve impressed the hell out of me, and I love their bags. []
  9. For example, it holds all the stuff I need to run my bi-weekly D&D game, replacing a much larger and more awkward backpack. []
  10. And kudos to Tom Bihn’s customer service for making it easy for me to change my order when the Cardinal was delayed an extra month. But I still would have preferred the Cardinal. []
  11. And enabler. []