New: Aeronaut Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt

We present for your use two new accessories for the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45 convertible travel bags: the Aeronaut 30 or 45 Internal Frame and the Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt. Tom and Nik designed both accessories to work with all versions of Aeronauts.

Both frame and belt are designed to add comfort and structure to the experience of carrying a more heavily-packed Aeronaut in backpack mode while waiting in long lines (well, let’s hope not) at the airport or choosing to make a long trek across town to one’s hotel on foot.

We figure most folks will pair the Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt with the Aeronaut Internal Frame, but some may use just the Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt or just the Aeronaut Internal Frame. For more about all of that, see our Aeronaut: Frequently Asked Questions post.

Aeronaut 30 or 45 Internal Frame

The Aeronaut 30 or 45 Internal Frames are made of die-cut 0.055” / 1.4mm thick High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), with a nylon webbing sleeve sewn down the center that encases a 1” / 25mm wide 6061 aluminum stay pre-bent to achieve a generic spinal curve.

Both sizes of frame feature four pie-slice cut-outs that save a bit of weight, but more importantly allow the frame to flex/twist with you as walk.

Installing the Aeronaut 30 and 45 Internal Frames is pretty straight-forward; see our step-by-step instructions here.

Both Aeronaut Internal Frames are in-stock and ready to ship.

Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt

The Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt is designed to allow you to carry some of the weight of a loaded Aeronaut on your hips rather than on just your shoulders.

Tom and Nik worked together to engineer a design solution that allows one to add the Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt to any version/generation/era of Aeronaut while offering a truly integrated carrying experience — almost as if the Padded Hip Belt was integrated into the design of the Aeronaut all along.

Note that the Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt will perform best for folks between 5’2″ – 6’0″—depending, of course, on the length of the person’s torso. If you’re on the shorter end of that range and have a short torso, the Padded Hip Belt may hit you a little lower than you’d like. If you’re on the taller end of that range with a longer torso, the Padded Hip Belt may ride a little higher than you’d like.

The Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt is in-stock and ready to ship.

More reading:
Aeronaut Frequently Asked Questions
How to Install the Aeronaut Internal Frame + Padded Hip Belt
Our Guide to Internal Frames
History of Padded Hip Belts

The Aeronaut Travel Bag: Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of questions (and answers) that we’re asked — or anticipate we will be asked — about the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45 travel bags. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, feel free to

  1. How did Tom come up with the design of the Aeronaut?
  2. What does Tom consider to be some of the more unique features and aspects of the Aeronaut design?
  3. How many design updates have been made to the Aeronaut over the years?
  4. Tom designed the Aeronaut so that the end user could carry it via three different methods. In what particular scenarios did Tom imagine one might carry the Aeronaut by hand, via a shoulder strap, or as a backpack?
  5. Does the Aeronaut meet with all airline carry-on standards?
  6. Will the Aeronaut fit under the seat in front of me on the airplane?
  7. Is the Aeronaut a good bag for road trips or train trips too?
  8. Can I use the Aeronaut as a hiking backpack once I reach my destination?
  9. What if I’m traveling to a conference and I want to “one bag” it—will it work to carry my Aeronaut as my Everyday Carry (EDC) bag?
  10. How much of a difference do the optional Aeronaut Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt make? Do I need them?
  11. Can I use just the Internal Frame or just the Padded Hip Belt, or are both necessary?
  12. Why not just include the Internal Frame and sew in the Padded Hip Belt?
  13. I’m trying to choose between between the Aeronaut and the Synapse 25. Help me out here: what are the advantages of each?
  14. Is a shoulder strap included with the Aeronaut?
  15. How can I pack my Aeronaut so as to maximize comfort for sustained carrying?
  16. Are Packing Cubes necessary for packing the Aeronaut efficiently?
  17. What are the benefits of using Packing Cubes?
  18. How do people use the o-rings in the Aeronaut?
  19. What’s the maximum weight that the Aeronaut can hold?
  20. I use wheeled roll-aboard luggage now. Will the Aeronaut work better than that for me?
  21. Does the Aeronaut have a compartment for my laptop?
  22. Have you considered adding a laptop compartment to the Aeronaut?
  23. What causes the zippers on the Aeronaut to be a little stiff?
  24. Can I lock the zippers of my Aeronaut?
  25. I’m 5’2″ and not so big. Which size of Aeronaut is right for me?
  26. I’m 6’2” and pretty big. Is the Aeronaut for me?
How did Tom come up with the design of the Aeronaut?

The Aeronaut was born from Tom’s desire to make a soft travel bag that would be a significant improvement over a simple duffle. Tom was fond of the Road Buddy series of duffles that he designed and made in the 1990’s, but wanted compartmentalization more tailored to what he carried, which was typically clothing, and somehow always seemed to include at least one pair of shoes. He wanted this new bag to carry comfortably handsfree (as a backpack) when needed for getting across Heathrow or across town. Though Tom sized it to take full advantage of the recommended FAA maximum carryon size (basically a box measuring 9″ x 14″ x 22” / 22 x 35 x 56 cm), he incorporated as many curves as possible – hoping the resulting aesthetic would be a bit more sports car and a bit less ice cream truck.

What does Tom consider to be some of the more unique features and aspects of the Aeronaut design?

Though not originally one of the design criteria, it turns out that a cool thing about the Aeronaut’s division of space is that many folks find they can live out of it and never actually unpack it. Once you set it down on a luggage rack/desk/bureau/bed/floor, it’s sort of like a chest of drawers, providing easy access to its contents. This can be particularly sweet when you’re only staying a night or two somewhere, or when your accommodation lacks a closet. We even added two simple webbing loop handles just inside the main hatch opening so you can easily pick up your Aeronaut and move it around your room without needing to zip it shut; these grab loops can also come in handy if, for example, your bag is inspected at an airport security checkpoint, or any time you might want to move an open Aeronaut with some alacrity.

How many design updates have been made to the Aeronaut over the years?

Whew—too many to count! Since its inception circa 2003, we’ve added features and nudged things around a bit, but its basic layout and size remains the same. Of particular note are the Late-2014 and 2017 design updates.

Tom designed the Aeronaut so that the end user could carry it via three different methods. In what particular scenarios did Tom imagine one might carry the Aeronaut by hand, via a shoulder strap, or as a backpack?

Tom wanted to have all three options, and to be able to choose which mode was most appropriate at any given moment. Having the backpack straps zip away is great: when stowing the Aeronaut in the overhead bin, it’ll slide in and out without getting caught; if you need to check it, there’s less reason to worry about what baggage handlers and conveyor belts might do to it; the Aeronaut looks relatively tidy and presentable with straps stowed and carried by hand (or with a shoulder strap attached), so that when you’re making an appearance at a four star hotel you’d perhaps be less likely to be given the bum’s rush. Carried as a backpack, the Aeronaut can make navigating a crowded plane, bus, or subway easy-breezy; a short hike through town to the hostel or pension is no biggie.

Does the Aeronaut meet with all airline carry-on standards?

The Aeronaut 45—with exterior dimensions of 21.9” (w) x 14” (h) x 9.1” (d)—qualifies as a maximum carry-on main bag on most U.S. airlines. Technically speaking, the Aeronaut 45 exceeds the stated dimensions for carry-on requirements for some European and smaller airlines. That said, the Aeronaut 45 is soft luggage, which means that if it’s underpacked, it can compress to meet those requirements. Many people successfully underpack the Aeronaut 45 and use it on European or smaller airlines, but we can’t guarantee this will work for you.

The smaller Aeronaut 30—with exterior dimensions of 19.7” (w) x 12.6” (h) x 7.9” (d)—qualifies as a main carry-on bag for U.S. as well as European airlines, small airlines, or regional jets.

It’s always a good idea to look up the luggage requirements of the particular airlines with whom you’ll be flying. We’d be glad to help, too:

Will the Aeronaut fit under the seat in front of me on the airplane?

The Aeronaut 30 will fit under the seat of many airlines. The Aeronaut 45 probably won’t—you’ll need to store it in the overheard compartment.

Is the Aeronaut a good bag for road trips or train trips too?

You bet. Darcy went on a two week road trip and basically lived out of her Aeronaut–she never had to unpack.

Can I use the Aeronaut as a hiking backpack once I reach my destination?

We suppose you could, and some people have and do. We’ve even tried it ourselves and it worked… OK. In short, it works in a pinch, and with the Padded Hip Belt and Internal Frame the Aeronaut is more comfortable as a hiking pack—but most people probably won’t be happy using the Aeronaut as a day hiking pack, so it’s not something we recommend.

Instead, we’d recommend packing an Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Backpack or an Aeronaut 45 Packing Cube Backpack, or even a rolled-up Daylight Backpack. All three can be easily deployed to serve as great lightweight day hiking packs.

Or, if you’re going on a trip that will, in part, be focused on longer day hikes—for example, a trip to Alaska with three days visiting people and working in Anchorage and 4 days hiking in Denali National Park—you may want to take a Synapse 19 or Synapse 25.

What if I’m traveling to a conference and I want to “one bag” it—will it work to carry my Aeronaut as my Everyday Carry (EDC) bag?

Probably not. Instead, we’d recommend one of these two options:

1. Pack a Daylight Briefcase or Daylight Backpack in your Aeronaut. The Daylight Backpack can fit up to a 15” laptop in a Cache sleeve; the Daylight Briefcase can fit up to a 13” laptop in a Cache. Both are excellent minimalist and light-in-weight EDC options—and they don’t take up much room when rolled up or stowed in the Aeronaut.

2. Take a second bag. The Aeronaut will serve as your main carry-on bag and the second bag—perhaps a Pilot, Co-Pilot, Stowaway, Synapse 19, or Synapse 25—will be your personal item. Of course, at this point, you’re not “one bagging” it — but this method does have some advantages. Namely, once your Aeronaut is stowed in the overhead compartment, you’ll still have a personal item bag that you can stow under the seat in front of you that gives you easy access to your tablet or laptop, phone, books, and other amenities during your flight. Plus, you can use the second bag as your EDC at your destination.

How much of a difference do the optional Aeronaut Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt make? Do I need them?

That depends on what you carry, the weight you’re used to carrying on a regular basis, and your own personal idea of comfort.

Some people won’t feel they need the internal frame and padded hip belt.

Some people–especially those who appreciate these two features on other packs, like outdoor backpacking packs–will likely enjoy the internal frame and padded hip belt.

Can I use just the Internal Frame or just the Padded Hip Belt, or are both necessary?

You can use one or the other, or both. Using both will likely give you the greatest sensation of reducing the amount of weight you’re carrying; however, using either the Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt will shift some of the weight of a pack onto your hips.

Some folks just like the way an internal frame feels against their back—it’s less about a perceived reduction in the amount of weight they are carrying and more about the tactile experience of the frame. It’s worth noting that an internal frame can be an especially potent way to increase comfort in bags that beer-barrel out when overpacked/overstuffed; however, the Aeronaut’s design ensures that it hardly beer-barrels at all.

Others may find the additional weight or stiffness of the internal frame unnecessary, but the comfort of the Padded Hip Belt to be essential.

Why not just include the Internal Frame and sew in the Padded Hip Belt?

Not everyone wants to use an internal frame, and it would add both weight and cost to the Aeronaut if a non-removable frame was incorporated into the design. Additionally, the internal frame’s rigidity might make it more difficult to underpack your Aeronaut in order to squeeze it into an airline baggage sizer or get it into a nearly-full overhead compartment.

It’s the same thing with the Padded Hip Belt. And, perhaps worse, if you didn’t want or need to use the padded hip belt, it’d either be flopping about on your left and right, potentially knocking into other people or objects, or you’d have to buckle it behind your back to get it out of the way, which can make for an awkward carrying experience.

By design, the Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt are optional and removable, allowing you to customize your carrying experience.

I’m trying to choose between between the Aeronaut and the Synapse 25. Help me out here: what are the advantages of each?

The Aeronaut 30 or the Aeronaut 45 offers the flexibility of three carrying options: by hand as a duffle, over the shoulder or cross-body with a shoulder strap, or as a backpack. In various travel contexts, these options can prove beneficial (we talked more about that in Aeronaut FAQ #4). The Aeronaut’s design basically allows you to live out of it as if it were a dresser drawer of sorts, meaning there’s no need to unpack, and you’re much less likely to have to pull out some stuff to access other stuff. It gives you wide, unfettered access to your stuff similar to a clamshell opening (but, perhaps, without what some folks find irritating about clamshell openings—namely, that if you open them all the way, your stuff burps out).

The Synapse 25 is a backpack. It has a comfortable handle at the top, but it’s intended to be a grab handle (say, picking up the bag to move it from one room to another) as opposed to a carrying handle. If you want a travel backpack—and you’re either a current or aspiring minimalist traveler—we’d recommend the Synapse 25. Part of what makes carrying and traveling with the Synapse 25 so great is that its fairly narrow main compartment means you can’t pack too much stuff. This gives you more of a sense of the bag being conformed to you—and perhaps even an extension of you.

Feel free to with your unique packing list and travel plans. We’d be glad to give you additional advice more tailored to your unique needs. You’re also welcome to share the same information in our Forums and get a wider variety of feedback.

Is a shoulder strap included with the Aeronaut?

No. Here’s our thinking on that one: as we’ve discussed elsewhere, inherent in the design of the Aeronaut are three carrying options — by its handle as a duffel/valise, worn as a backpack with its hide-away backpack straps, or carried over one shoulder with a single strap (such as our Absolute Shoulder Strap). A good percentage of people will choose to carry their Aeronaut via the first two methods only, and including a shoulder strap with the bag means they’d pay for — and have — something they wouldn’t use. Additionally, we offer several options for shoulder straps, and if we did choose to include one with the Aeronaut we’d be sure to disappoint some folks. Also, many folks already have a shoulder strap from some other bag that they’ll want to use. So, we chose to make the shoulder strap optional.

How can I pack my Aeronaut so as to maximize comfort for sustained carrying? ?

In our experience, we have found the best ways to improve your comfort carrying a bag to be:

1. Take less stuff. Do you really need five pairs of pants? Maybe—or maybe not.

2. Replace some items with lighter weight versions. Five pairs of jeans weigh a lot more than five pairs of lightweight travel pants.

3. Take care to pack your bag so that its load is balanced. See our blog post Packing for Ideal Weight Distribution.

4. Adjust the pack so that it fits you. Make micro-adjustments to the sternum strap and shoulder straps (and Padded Hip Belt, if using one) over the course of the time you’re wearing the pack.

5. Shift your perspective. We can at least tell ourselves that carrying a reasonable amount of weight in a backpack can prove to be a good bone-and-muscle-building workout. 🙂

6. Add an Internal Frame + Padded Hip Belt to shift some of the weight of the pack onto your hips.

Are Packing Cubes necessary for packing the Aeronaut efficiently?

No. Tom designed our travel bags to make Packing Cubes optional; that’s why he added tie-down straps (useful for cinching down / keeping flat folded pants, shirts, or even a blazer) to our Aeronaut 30, Aeronaut 45 (and Tri-Star) travel bags.

The Aeronaut is designed to be a bag you could basically live out of and never have to unpack. Its end pockets do a great job of keeping rolled clothes neat and you’ll find that folded clothes don’t shift around too much in the main compartment. Unlike bags with clamshell openings, you can set the Aeronaut on the bed/chair, zip it open, and have full and entirely visible access to your stuff—without worrying about it unfurling or falling out. In short, we think the design of the Aeronaut especially lends itself to packing sans Packing Cubes.

What are the benefits of using Packing Cubes?

See our post Packing Cubes: Frequently Asked Questions.

How do people use the o-rings in the Aeronaut?

Wait, let’s back up for a second for those not in the know: o-rings small, round, plastic rings sewn inside many of the compartments and pockets of our bags to which one can clip and tether additional pouches and organization — such as Organizer Pouches and Key Straps. O-rings are so unobtrusive that it’s totally optional whether you utilize them or not.

Included with the Aeronaut (and most of our other larger bags) is one 8″ Key Strap attached to an o-ring — we figure most folks will clip their keys to this Key Strap.

Here’s an idea of what could be clipped to the o-rings in the Aeronaut:

Left to right: included 8″ Key Strap, Double Organizer Pouch w/16″ Key Strap, 3D Clear Organizer Cube w/16″ Key Strap, Passport Pouch w/16″ Key Strap.

What’s the maximum weight that the Aeronaut can hold?

The Aeronaut is durable and strong enough to hold way, way more weight than you’d ever want to—or should—carry. So, the answer to this question is: how much weight is it comfortable for you to carry? We recommend practice packing and using one of those inexpensive nifty little luggage scales you can get all day long on Amazon. Does 30lbs feel like too much? Remove some items, or replace them with lighter weight versions, and see how much weight you’ve saved and how different that feels.

I use wheeled roll-aboard luggage now. Will the Aeronaut work better than that for me?

Maybe, maybe not. It’s important to acknowledge that carrying one’s one luggage as opposed to wheeling it isn’t possible for every person and every body. And some folks may just prefer traveling with rolling luggage.

That said, we hear quite often from folks who have made the switch from rolling luggage to carrying their own bags and find it liberating. More easily navigating cobblestone streets, saving weight and space, and not risking the impoliteness of taking up double the physical space around you—these are just a few of the benefits people have shared with us.

Does the Aeronaut have a compartment for my laptop?

It does not: the Aeronaut is not intended to carry a laptop. Most people who use the Aeronaut use it as one bag of a two bag system. Clothing and toiletries are packed in the Aeronaut, which is then stored in the overhead compartment on the plane. A laptop/tablet, snacks, phone, glasses, etc. are stored in a personal carry-on bag that fits under the seat in front of you and kept easily accessible in flight. For a true “one bag” travel solution, please see our Tri-Star, Western Flyer, or Synapse 25.

That said, some people choose to work around this and carry their devices in the Aeronaut. Smaller tablets can fit in the mesh zippered pocket in the inside flap of the Aeronaut or the side exterior zippered pockets. If you unzip one or both interior main compartment zippers in the Aeronaut 45, you can fit a 15″ laptop in a Cache in the bottom of the bag. And, if you unzip one or both interior main compartment zippers in the Aeronaut 30, you can fit up to a 13” laptop in a Cache in the bottom of the bag.

13″ MacBook Pro in an Aeronaut 30. Note that underneath the laptop is its appropriately sized Cache. We don’t recommend putting a laptop without a protective sleeve in any bag — we’re just showing the laptop on top of the Cache in this photo so you can see the laptop itself.

Have you considered adding a laptop compartment to the Aeronaut?

We have, and we’ve come up with some options as to how we’d incorporate room for a laptop in the Aeronaut, but we don’t like any of them (so far).

What causes the zippers on the Aeronaut to be a little stiff?

We use YKK AquaGuard water-repellant coil zippers on the Aeronaut because we wanted it to have the greatest possible weather resistance; however, these zippers can be a bit harder to open and close than standard coil zippers. We feel it’s a reasonable tradeoff.

Can I lock the zippers of my Aeronaut?

Yes, the zippers on the main (center) compartment as well as both end compartments feature lockable sliders. Zip any of these compartments entirely shut and butt the two sliders together so the small eyelets overlap, then slip a small luggage lock (or zip-tie) through the eyelets to secure that compartment. If you choose to lock all three compartments you’ll need three luggage locks. Also remember that the TSA requires access to your luggage “without the passenger being present” so even if you’re not checking your bag, you should consider using TSA-approved locks. Keep in mind that any time your bag is not in your sight someone could potentially cut the bag open or otherwise access its contents, locked or not, and that the idea behind locking your luggage is A: to “keep honest people honest,” as they say, and B: so that if your bag is opened you’ll know about it. There’s plenty of on-line discussions about the pros and cons of locking your bag—we provide the lockable sliders so you can choose.

I’m 5’2″ and not so big. Which size of Aeronaut is right for me?

We’d recommend the Aeronaut 30. That said, if you’re used to carrying a bag as big as the Aeronaut 45, that should work just fine too.

I’m 6’2” and pretty big. Is the Aeronaut for me?

You bet. However, if you’re that tall or taller and have a long torso, you may find that the optional Padded Hip Belt rides too high to be comfortable.

Here’s a video we made that shows more people of various heights and sizes wearing both the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45:

And here’s some photos of various people wearing both sizes of Aeronaut….

Aeronaut 30

How the Aeronaut 30 fits various people

Aeronaut 45

How the Aeronaut 45 fits various people

Still have more questions? and Kat, Matthew, or Cody will be glad to help.

Previously unreleased videos (Part II: Synapse 25 and Western Flyer)

In this series, we’re sharing some packing videos we’ve had but never posted.  In Part I, we featured the Aeronaut 45 and Aeronaut 30.  Today we’re bringing you Part II: Synapse 25 and Western Flyer.

The Synapse 25 and the Western Flyer are organizational powerhouses.  They both have clever internal and external compartments and pockets that make them easy to pack and carry with little forethought or additional accessories.  We show them here with a number of cubes and pouches** to give you an idea of what they can hold and different ways you can use them.

** Click the links below to see updated versions of this item.

Synapse 25

Accessories used:

00:15   Tri-Star Medium Packing Cube **
00:24   Packing Cube Shoulder Bag
01:09   Cubelet
01:34   Side Effect
01:51   3D Clear Organizer Cube

Western Flyer

Accessories used:
00:10   Cubelet
00:22   Key Strap, 8”
00:33   3D Clear Organizer Cube and Key Strap, 16”
00:56   Western Flyer Medium Packing Cube **
01:29   Cache (Tablet) **
01:46   Western Flyer Large Packing Cube **
02:01   Medium Halcyon Organizer Pouch and Key Strap, 16”

If you want more Packing Cube info, check out our Packing Cube FAQs.  For packing-related discussion and banter, head over to the Forums.

Birds, Coffee, and a Limited Edition Cafe Bag

TOM BIHN Limited Edition Cafe Bag for Birds & Beans
The limited edition Birds & Beans Cafe Bag out in the wild.

I grew up on the central coast of California, and remember being particularly excited to see any birds of prey. Mostly I’d see red-tail hawks and sparrow hawks—now called American Kestrels. At the time I didn’t realize that all was not as it should be in the world of raptors; I didn’t know that these were the days when farmers still used DDT, and the paucity of birds of prey was the sad effect of DDT’s biomagnification. Happily DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, and now these many years later when I return to my old stomping grounds, I see not only my old friends the red-tailed hawks and American Kestrels, but peregrine falcons, ospreys, and bald eagles. Their return is really quite amazing, a testimony that when it comes to wildlife conservation, there is reason for hope.

However, DDT is still used outside the U.S., and habitat loss, light pollution, wind turbines, and feral cats are having devastating impacts on bird populations. With so many challenges, where do we begin? My personal recommendation is to begin as one would with any difficult task: with a strong cup of coffee.

Our friends over at Birds & Beans coffee roasters partner with organic and shade-grown coffee growers in Central America, helping their coffee plantations to not only produce great coffee, but be great bird habitats as well.

Tropical forests in Latin America have been disappearing at an alarming rate for decades. Without these forests as winter refuges, many bird species that migrate to and from North America for the nesting season, like Veeries and night hawks, are suffering dramatic population declines. Traditional shade coffee farming offers a buffer for the loss of these important forests, and scientific studies prove that these types of coffee farms are nearly as good as full forest for the biodiversity that provides both migratory and local birds with the habitats they need to thrive. Organic, shade grown family coffee farms that are Smithsonian-certified as Bird Friendly® are amazing habitats for the birds we love. Indeed, not just birds, but the family farming that supports viable local rural communities in Latin America are under ongoing threat of giving way to large-scale “sun” farms. Sun farms require clear cutting trees and use heavy chemicals to grow coffee, resulting in less work for farming communities. Buying and drinking Bird Friendly coffee such as Birds & Beans helps save birds, family farms, local rural communities and the Earth we all share.

Every bean in every bag of Birds & Beans coffee is certified shade grown, Bird Friendly, USDA Organic and Fair Trade.

To help support the Bird Friendly coffee mission, we made a special edition Small Café bag, available only from Birds & Beans.

TOM BIHN Limited Edition Cafe Bag for Birds & Beans

TOM BIHN supplies Birds & Beans coffee to our production and fulfillment crew here in Seattle. Stop by and we’ll pour you a cup to try.

New Luminary Backpacks Are In The Works

Tom sews one of the new Luminary prototypes in his design studio.

Tom has made a couple of design updates to the original Luminary. Most notably, he’s made the right side pocket large enough to fit phablets such as the iPhone Plus and the HTC U Ultra; the left side pocket is a bit bigger too (wider actually) than the first iteration of the Luminary. The asymmetrical height of the pockets makes the main compartment zipper extend further down one side than the other, which we think looks kinda cool. Yet Tom was able to nudge things around so that the new Luminary’s main compartment zipper still opens just as wide as the older version – about 44 cm or 17.4”.

Concurrent with the redesign of the Luminary was the development of a new, larger Luminary—the Luminary 14. Its shoulder straps and over-all height are intended to better fit taller and/or broader folks, and its padded back compartment can fit up to a 13” laptop. The Luminary 14 can hold noticeably more than the original Luminary (henceforth to be known as the Luminary 10), yet is still quite a modest sized pack. (For those paying close attention: we re-measured the volume of the original Luminary when we were measuring this new size, and the original came in at a perfect 10 liters. Both were measured using our new volume measurement protocol, so we feel very confident abut these numbers — more on that some other time….).

Both the Luminary 10 and Luminary 14 are in the final stages of their creation: pattern adjustments are being made and Tom is working with Lisa, Fong, and Nik to ensure both bags are efficiently manufacturable. We expect the new Luminaries will be available for order sometime soon-ish (emphasis on the ish).

To sign up to be notified when the new Luminary 10 is available, visit the Luminary 10 page.

To be notified when the Luminary 14 is available for order, subscribe to our general mailing list or to our blog posts (that sign-up box is on the right). 

Various Luminary prototypes on Tom’s drafting table.

Previously unreleased videos (Part I: The Aeronauts 45 and 30)

Some months ago, we experimented making some packing videos but never got around to sharing them.  So here they are: a series of videos demonstrating how to pack a few of our popular bags.  Let us know what you think—if people like them, maybe we’ll be inspired to make more.

Part I: The Aeronauts 45 and 30

Besides snacks, dogs, and naps, there’s nothing we like more than the pleasure of packing a well-organized bag.  We’ve designed our travel bags (like both sizes of the Aeronaut) with strategically-placed compartments and pockets so they’ll pack like a dream right out of the box.  At the same time, using a few or several accessories allows you to customize your bag’s organization, whether a little or a lot.  That’s why we offer accessories in a bevy of shapes, sizes, styles, and colors.

These two videos demonstrate packing strategies for the Aeronaut 45 and the Aeronaut 30 using just a few accessories.**  Then the same stuff gets packed again, this time with the help of several more accessories.

** We’ve updated the design of a few items since making the videos; you can see the new versions by clicking on the links.

Aeronaut 45

Accessories Used

Just a Few:

00:50   Key Strap, 16”

A Few More:

03:01   Cache, Tablet **
03:38   Side Effect
04:09   Key Strap, 8″

Aeronaut 30

Accessories Used

Just a Few:

00:44   3D Clear Organizer Cube

A Few More:

02:32   Key Strap, 8”
03:01   Cubelet
03:43   Halcyon Organizer Pouch, Small [**It’s listed as Medium in video but seems smaller to me]
03:51   Key Strap, 8”


If you want more Packing Cube info, check out our Packing Cube FAQs.  For packing-related discussion and banter, head over to the Forums.

New Passport Pouches

Passport Pouch that fits four passports

We’ve increased the size of our original Passport Pouch so that it fits passports in protective plastic sleeves, thick passports with many pages, or as many as four passports—without making it too big to comfortably wear cross-body or around one’s waist. (The Passport Pouch can also simply be stowed inside of a bag.)

The previous dimensions of the Passport Pouch were 5.0″ (w) x 6.3″ (h) / 125 mm (w) x 160 (h).
The dimensions of the new Passport Pouch are 5.5″ (w) x 7.1″ (h) / 140 (w) x 180 (h) mm.

We also now offer our Passport Pouch in two versions:

Passport Pouch, Standard
A simple, straight-forward and well-made passport pouch, it gets the job done well. $22. Ships by April 13th.

Passport Pouch, RFID Blocking
Underneath its interior lining of Aether fabric, this version features a layer of a special metalized fabric that will effectively block detection or reading of RFID chips. $25. Ships by around late April.

You can sign up on the Passport Pouch page to be notified via email the moment either version of the Pouch is ready to ship.

Many thanks to Walker, Artdime, pammy, Cristina, and  habanero for providing feedback in the Forums about our Passport Pouch sizing.

Passport Holder by TOM BIHN

Passport and Document Wallet

New Packing Cubes

Our new Packing Cubes combine two of our light fabrics—Mesh and Aether—to achieve our goals of a Packing Cube design that doesn’t weigh much, allows one to see the contents of the Packing Cube without revealing too much and provides enough body and structure to make packing the cube easier. 

They’re available — in-stock and ready to ship — in sizes designed specifically to maximize the space and packing efficiency of our Aeronaut 45, Aeronaut 30, Tri-Star, and Western Flyer travel bags.

Wondering about the differences between our various Packing Cube options? Check out our Packing Cube Guide + Frequently Asked Questions.


Our high-quality U.S.-made Mesh fabric offers two main benefits: first off, it allows you to see what’s inside the Packing Cube, but doesn’t make the contents so visible that the person behind you in line at the TSA checkpoint will know if you prefer boxers or briefs. Secondly, it is a fabric that is, like our Aether, light-in-weight.


Aether is an ultra-light, 100% nylon fabric from Japan. It has a unique and complex construction, combining 30 denier monofilament (warp and weft) with both 100 denier and 200 denier yarns in a micro-ripstop weave to further increase its tear strength. Aether is very light in weight yet provides an almost paper-like structure that we find helps to add some body to our Packing Cubes—which, in turn, makes them easier to pack.

New: Aeronaut 30 and 45 Laundry Packing Cubes
You asked for a Packing Cube version of Tom’s Laundry Stuff Sack, and here it is in two varieties: Small (fits t-shirts, socks, underwear, swimwear) and Large (fits pants, dresses, skirts and shirts). Basically, it’s a Packing Cube with two zippered compartments: one side is Mesh, one side is Aether, and between the two sides is an Aether divider. Clean clothes go in the Mesh side and dirty clothes go in the Aether side.

New: Island Aether
When the color swatches for our Aether fabric in Island came in, we knew we had a winner: not too dark, not too light, yet as vivid and inviting as tropical lagoon. It’s a perfect, utopian blue, and an excellent match to our 200d Halcyon in Island (though it’s worth noting that the Aether Island lacks the white grid of the 200d Halcyon and hence might be perceived as a bit darker). Island Aether joins our other colors of Aether: Wasabi, Violet, and Carbon.

New Packing Cubes: Full List of Colors, Sizes, and Varieties

Tri-Star, Large, Island
Tri-Star, Large, Violet
Tri-Star, Large, Wasabi

Tri-Star, Medium, Island
Tri-Star, Medium, Violet
Tri-Star, Medium, Wasabi

Tri-Star, Small, Island
Tri-Star, Small, Violet
Tri-Star, Small, Wasabi

Western Flyer, Large, Island
Western Flyer, Large, Violet
Western Flyer, Large, Wasabi

Western Flyer, Small, Island
Western Flyer, Small, Violet
Western Flyer, Small, Wasabi

Aeronaut 30, Large Laundry, Island
Aeronaut 30, Large Laundry, Wasabi

Aeronaut 30, Large, Island
Aeronaut 30, Large, Violet
Aeronaut 30, Large, Wasabi
Aeronaut 30, Large, Carbon

Aeronaut 30, End Pocket, Island
Aeronaut 30, End Pocket, Violet
Aeronaut 30, End Pocket, Wasabi
Aeronaut 30, End Pocket, Carbon

Aeronaut 30, Small Laundry, Island
Aeronaut 30, Small Laundry, Wasabi

Aeronaut 30, Small, Island
Aeronaut 30, Small, Violet
Aeronaut 30, Small, Wasabi
Aeronaut 30, Small, Carbon

Aeronaut 45, Large Laundry, Island
Aeronaut 45, Large Laundry, Wasabi

Aeronaut 45, Large, Island
Aeronaut 45, Large, Violet
Aeronaut 45, Large, Wasabi
Aeronaut 45, Large, Carbon

Aeronaut 45, End Pocket, Island
Aeronaut 45, End Pocket, Violet
Aeronaut 45, End Pocket, Wasabi
Aeronaut 45, End Pocket, Carbon

Aeronaut 45, Small Laundry, Island
Aeronaut 45, Small Laundry, Wasabi

Aeronaut 45, Small, Island
Aeronaut 45, Small, Violet
Aeronaut 45, Small, Wasabi
Aeronaut 45, Small, Carbon

Packing Cube Recommendations for the Pilot, Stowaway, Yeoman Duffel and more

We’ve decided to retire the sizes of Packing Cubes designed and sized for the Pilot, Night Flight Travel Duffel, Stowaway, Yeoman Duffel, and Hero’s Journey. Below is a list of our recommendations for alternate Packing Cubes for the aforementioned bags.

Choosing to retire designs is never an easy thing to do, but in this case, here’s why we made this choice: we offer a wide variety of Packing Cubes, Stuff Sacks, and Pouches that work well to organize these bags. Additionally, we’re a small company of 50 people who all work under the same roof here in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A and our production capacity is limited. Retiring these Packing Cubes will help free up production capacity so we can make more of other existing designs as well as new designs.

We’ve also debuted new Mesh/Aether and Aether/Aether versions of our Packing Cubes that replace the previous versions of our Halcyon and Aether Packing Cubes for the Aeronaut 45, Aeronaut 30, Tri-Star, and Western Flyer travel bags. See all of our new and current Packing Cube versions here.

We’ve made a category page that lists all previous-version Packing Cubes: pre-2018 Packing Cubes. At the time of this blog post, some of the previous-version Packing Cubes are still in-stock while others are not.

If you have any questions, or would like packing/organizational recommendations beyond what’s listed below, feel free to


Main Compartment:
A Western Flyer Small Packing Cube almost fills the space, with 3D Organizer Cubes or Cubelets fitting the dual pockets perfectly.

Side Compartments:
If a laptop or tablet is being carried, a Small Snake Charmer handles the cables in one pocket, while a Size 2 Travel Stuff Sack takes care of anything else in the other. If not, a Travel Cubelet in one side and 3D Organizer Cube in the other provide organization and modularity.

Water Bottle Pocket:
If no bottle is needed, a Size 1 Travel Stuff Sack will fit nicely with some room to spare.

Night Flight Travel Duffel

Main Compartment:
Size 4 Travel Stuff Sack, or for more traditional packing cube organization, a Western Flyer Small Cube, filled almost but not quite full.

End Pockets:
A 3D Organizer Cube
A Travel Cubelet for taking an even smaller version of your stuff with you once you reach your destination!


Rear Main Compartment:
Tri-Star Small Packing Cube for clothes

Front Zipper Compartment:
Any combination of Size 1 Travel Stuff Sacks, Cubelets or 3D Organizer Cubes in the pockets on either side of the phone pocket, depending on the little things you need to pack.

Front Main Compartment:
If you’re using the water bottle pocket and have it zipped up, a Travel Cubelet on one side and a Size 2 Travel Stuff Sack on the other gives organization and modularity.
If you’re not using the water bottle pocket and it’s unzipped, another Tri-Star Small Cube fits in here.

Vertical Laptop Compartment:
Plenty of room for a Deluxe Spiff Kit here.

Mini Yeoman Duffel
Two Aeronaut 45 Small Packing Cubes on their long narrow end next to each other, with a Spiff Kit (either size) and a Side Effect or Travel Cubelet on top.

Small Yeoman Duffel
An Aeronaut 30 Large and Small on the bottom layer (or a single WF Large), plus a Spiff Kit (either size) and a Packing Cube Shoulder Bag.

Medium Yeoman Duffel
An A45 Large and Small on the bottom layer, with an Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Backpack for excursions along with a Spiff Kit (either size) and either size of Aeronaut Laundry Stuff Sack on the top layer.

Large Yeoman Duffel
You could use 2-3 Western Flyer Large cubes on the bottom layer and two Western Flyer Small Cubes to fill in the side. A Spiff Kit of either size fits vertically between the cubes in the center.

Hero’s Journey

Top Bag:
Either size of the Travel Laundry Stuff Sack, or an Aeronaut 45 Small Cube.

Main Bag:
Main Compartment
Treat it just like an Aeronaut 45! Either 2 large cubes or 4 small ones, or mix n’ match!
For bigger stuff, unsnap the wall between the main and lower compartment, then try a Tri-Star Large cube on the bottom, and either a second TS Large, or an A45 Large and Small on top.

Lower Compartment:
Either the Sleeping Bag stuff sack (for a sleeping bag) or two A45 End Pocket cubes.
If the wall is unsnapped, a single A45 End Pocket cube still fits!

Lid Pocket:
Either size Spiff Kit works great in here and is easily accessible.

Farewell to the Field Journal Notebook

TOM BIHN | The Field Journal Notebook Returns

Back in 2015 we made the decision to retire a number of designs including the Field Journal Notebook. And then, in 2016, we announced its return. Now, in 2018, we are once again retiring the Field Journal Notebook. This decision was made partly because of two materials supply related reasons: first, the Field Journal Notebook’s three-ring binder mechanism is no longer available, and second, the cost of the specially-produced-just-for-us FJN paper inserts/refills have gone up by a substantial amount that we’d rather not pass on to you.

And so here we find ourselves once again: the Field Journal Notebook is retiring and this time it’s for good. The currently available Field Journal Notebooks, accessories, and paper refills are the last of their kind. No more final batches will be made. (Go here to see the Field Journal Notebook and its accoutrements all in one place.)

Those of you who already own or plan to purchase a Field Journal Notebook may be wondering where you can find paper refills from here on out. The Field Journal Notebook accepts paper that is 5.5 x 8.5” which isn’t a terribly common size but not too rare. Here’s some paper refill options that can be obtained through Amazon:

Avery Mini Filler Paper, 5.5 x 8.5 Inches
Bright White 24lb Bond 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ Sheets
Ampad Graph-Ruled Refill Sheets

In addition, unpunched Half Letter or A5 (different but fairly similar sizes) paper can be acquired and an industrious person could make their own custom pages (or find one that works for them on sites like Etsy) and use a Mini 3-hole punch such as this one by Staples or an adjustable punch such as this one by Swingline to print and punch their own replacement pages.

Finally, there have been some helpful discussions about this on the forums, such as the Where to Buy FJN Insides, Field Journal Notebook Hole Spacing, and Field Journal Notebook threads, all of which are worth a look if you’re interested in more information about planners and hole punching for the Field Journal Notebook.

Many thanks goes out to our volunteer Forum Moderators moriond and Ilkyway for the links / information / tips referenced in this blog post.

And, as always… if you have questions about any of this, or give us a call at 1-800-729-9607 or 1+206-652-4123.

News Briefs

Early reviews of the Luminary 12 / 15 from the Forum community are in. See L15 reviews by logan_g, G42, Lia, anna2222, Quiltmama, and L12 reviews by marbenais, awurrlu and L12/L15 comparison reviews by Cristina, aedifica, bartleby.

The new Luminary 12 and Luminary 15 backpacks + bags in 210d ballistic nylon will be up for pre-order on 02/26. Details here.

We posted a very early heads-up on our March 5th, 2019 (roughly 6%) price increase in the Forums along with news of Shop Bags in 210d ballistic nylon.

Subscribe: Blog Posts

You’ll receive an email every time we publish a new blog post. That’s about 3-4 times a week.

Recommended Posts