Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member haraya. The previous editions featured Forum members imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.
What’s the most useful item that you carry?
Indispensable item: A classic Swiss Army knife (little blue thing in the center of the pic). I like the little 2.25-inch model with six functions, and my favorite tool on that model is the tiny pair of scissors. I use it all the time.
(I keep mine on a Key Strap so I can find it even in the dark. Key Straps — and their corollary, O-rings — are revolutionary! I may be slightly paranoid/over-prepared, so I have a lot of just-in-case items in my bag. Shopping bag, flashlight, bare-bones first-aid kit. I try to color-code straps if possible.)
What’s your most treasured item?
Gosh, this is a toss-up! I love both my Little Swift (Black/Fjord) and my Synapse 19 (Steel/Ultraviolet). My Synapse 19 tends to be my EDC for cool weather, as it gives me room to stash my outer layers while allowing quick access to things like keys and my water bottle. For warm weather, I love the easy access of the Little Swift. Key Straps help secure everything so that even if I drop my bag, everything stays together.
(And speaking of treasured… sometimes I debate whether or not to take my beloved TOM BIHN items, for fear I’ll lose them on the trip! But what is TB for if not for travel! Now I just hedge my bets by buying more than one thing in my favorite colors, haha!)
Treasured personal items I tote with me: I have a rotating cast of characters.
Wyldstyle lives on my S19. She and I both love purple and have an independent streak.
And I just got a new dragon-themed sleeve to protect my bokken (wooden sword used for martial arts training). When my son outgrew baby carriers, I sold my slings and bought my bokken with the proceeds. So to me it represents both motherhood and persistent practice. Does that make me Dragon Mom?
(Here’s my bokken ready to go in my Smart Alec. I stick one end into the main compartment, and thread the top end through the grab handle. This is the same way my son carries his baseball bat to practice. (For extra stability, I sometimes rig a keystrap between two O-rings inside the bag, and put the bottom end of the bat through the loop, to keep it from shifting from side to side.))
Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?
In the category of “item you’re using in an unexpected way”: I originally got the Aeronaut Packing Cube to pack shoes when I’m traveling, but found that I preferred to pack shoes individually (so each one can go in a different spot in my bag) rather than as a pair. Then I realized that my hakama (part of my martial arts uniform) fits perfectly in the Packing Cube, as if it were designed for that purpose! I train anywhere from 2-4 times a week, so that’s a pretty regular gig.
(This is me at a weapons seminar last weekend. Playing with sticks is fun at any age!)
EDC item I use more than I thought I would: Titanium eating utensil (isn’t the word “spork” so ungainly?!). I got one to be a little more environmentally friendly, but have found that it’s good for more than just soup: it also cools off my to-go coffee faster, without leaving an after-taste like the wooden stirrers do. Also it doesn’t bend or break like a plastic utensil might. Plus, I just like the idea of carrying around a bit of titanium!
I tend to change up my EDC frequently depending on time of year or activity. I do spot in this photo a few things that I have acquired thanks to the wisdom of the Bihnions on the boards:
- Jackery portable phone charger (orange rectangle) (bchaplin alerted everyone to a sale on these, which I had never heard of before, but I immediately loved the concept and bought four)
- Photon X-Light Micro LED keychain flashlight (I think Darcy mentioned these. Tiny but fierce! They are great gifts — everyone I have given one of these has raved about how they carry and use them all the time)
- Nite-Ize locking S-carabiner — hard to distinguish in the pic but I have one holding all my keys, and another that acts as an extender for the O-rings in the clear pockets of the little Swift, allowing me to clip more keystraps to one attachment point.
Clockwise from top right:
- Pens and eyedrops (and sundries, inside orange organizer)
- Wallet (pink)
- Small notebook (purple and white)
- Checkbook (purple dragon)
- First-aid kit in an Iberian organizer pouch
- Nylon tote bag stowed in a burnt orange Q-kit
- Protein bar
- Reading glasses
- Lip balm
- Glasses cleaning cloth
- (in center:)Cord for charger + charger
- (in center:)Sunglasses
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Like Captain Kirk, I was born in Iowa. However, I spent my formative years in a tropical country, and moved back to the States after college. So the concept of portable culture really resonates with me. When I moved back to the US at the age of 19, I brought two suitcases full of books, even though my relatives assured me I could buy all the books I wanted once I arrived! But that little library was my bit of home. Now I travel a little more lightly. A scarf, a familiar lotion – smaller things that nevertheless speak of identity as much as comfort.
I traveled a lot before we had kids, particularly during and right after grad school. For a while I traveled Monday through Friday for work, so I became an expert at doing the ‘clean and jerk’ with my rollaboard, even though I am under five feet and have to stand on a seat to hoist my bag into the overhead compartment. And on our honeymoon we had six pieces of luggage, including a guitar. At one stop, we took so long to load our bags that the bus took off with my husband and half our gear, while I was still standing by the roadside. (“Scusi, my wife!!”)
But for now I’m home with my kids, and ironically I’m more minimal now with my own packing. I almost always fly with the A30 as my main bag. It’s wonderful knowing I have everything with me should we be delayed, or I take a different route home. My next goal is to convert everyone in the family to carry-on only travel. My daughter’s already on board with the concept, now to work on my husband and son!
We’ve got lots of family trips ahead, I hope. Just visiting family alone spans two different continents – we have relatives in both southeast Asia and in Scandinavia. I’d love to expose the kids to different landscapes, different ways of living. We are fortunate to be able to see many amazing places. It’s also important to know that everything is interconnected – we aren’t just tourists, we’re citizens of the wider world.