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Going lightweight: What kind of bag for exploring for the day while luggage is in hotel?

I'm new to lightweight travel. I'll be going through South Asia for a 10 days with a Tortuga travel backpack on me. Many of the days will be from a hotel so I can leave behind the travel bag.

Normally I have an Osprey daypack which is perfect for day use, but it's a little big to stuff inside my travel backpack. I can't wear 2 backpacks.

I'm struggling to come up with the ideal "personal item" or packable day pack/sling/man bag that can stuff in my main bag, yet be able to keep my essentials while touristing around for the day and leaving behind my travel bag.

I have a "man-bag" (Nutsac brand) that I normally use for daily exploring, but it's a heavy canvas/cotton thing and not quite packable enough. Maybe an ultralight backpack like a Matador Freely 16 or Sea to Summit sil-nylon pack? A nylon sling bag?

Needs to handle a water bottle and my "essentials" which takes up about the room of a kid's lunchbox.

Posted by
13716 posts

These guys probably are going to be a bit heavy and stiff for you, but wasn't sure so thought I would throw it out: https://pacsafe.com/
Their sales pitch is that they are secure, almost too secure sometimes (i use a tiny one that holds all my personal things, passport, watch, money, etc when I go through airport security).
Once in country my front pockets do the trick or if not, I have cargo pants.....

Posted by
11441 posts

I bought a Sea to Summit Sil Nylon Pack for my current trip. I wanted something very small. I like it. It my seem a slight flimsy but it's pretty tough.

I would suggest practicing folding it back up a few times to become proficient.

When folded, it takes up little space and weighs virtually nothing.

Posted by
943 posts

Normally I have an Osprey daypack which is perfect for day use, but it's a little big to stuff inside my travel backpack. I can't wear 2 backpacks. I'm struggling to come up with the ideal "personal item" or packable day pack/sling/man bag that can stuff in my main bag, yet be able to keep my essentials while touristing around for the day and leaving behind my travel bag.

The same travel sites that helped you select the Tortuga probably offer excellent suggestions for a carryon carryon personal item. You could start at Packhacker, Carrylogic, or OneBag Travels. I use an 18L Patagonia backpack (insanely bright red) along with a 45L Bihn Aeronaut. It has been perfect for both day tripping and holding my onboard essentials. It's easy to sling one or the other over one shoulder but the pack is never very full so it can be worn as a chest bag if necessary while navigating congested areas. I've only had to do that once, just to keep both hands and arms free, but it was not a big deal. I see no reason you can't take your Osprey.

Posted by
4592 posts

I also have the LLBean that Raymonolee mentioned. I have a carry on roller bag and use the LL Bean daypack as my personal item on the plane. It’s very lightweight and easy to wash on delicate in the washing machine afterwards. When I am on the metro or a very crowded place, it is light enough to just wear across my front.

I have also just placed it flat inside my suitcase and use it later when coming home.

Posted by
6016 posts

I have gotten into the habit of only carrying what will fit in my pants pockets most of the time (or a jacket in cooler weather). But sometimes I do want to bring my tablet, and maybe a water bottle, so I bought a small sling bag, just big enough to fit my tablet.

Single strap, over the shoulder, light, and you can stuff it in your pack when not in use.

Posted by
287 posts

We have North Face backpacks that are small and convenient, called the Hot Shot. Easy to carry with one strap over one shoulder, and it is small and you really can't put much in it, but you also would be hard pressed to make it too heavy and uncomfortable to carry around all day, either. For the flight over, we check our main bag, and use the Hot Shot for our carry-on items, so we get a lot of use from this one bag.

Posted by
6788 posts

I've used the Rick Steves Civita bag for years. It looks like a stiff, formed backpack in the photos, but in reality it is formless. Empty, it feels like a pillow case, and can be wadded up to almost fit in a jacket pocket. I find more use of a day bag in carrying things I might buy along the way - souvenirs, post cards, candy bars, pastries, 6-pack of Coke Light - since shopping carry bags are not given away free as they are here in the US.

Be prepared for a deluge of choices here. There’s Eddie Bauer, osprey daylite tote pack, Patagonia lightweight tote pack, RS civita. Go with something in the 15 liter - 22 liter range. There are bags on Amazon.

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for the replies. I was playing around with my options again and I should be able to utilize my osprey day lite. I really like that pack. For the flights where we'll have to check the bag (7kg carry on limit) I can wear the osprey and sling the Tortuga over one shoulder. For those travel days where we are between hotels and carrying everything, I can relocate the essentials to the Torguga pouches and put the smaller empty pack inside. Hopefully it'll work out.

Posted by
167 posts

I have a Daylite Plus that I like for day to day stuff but agree with your observation that it is difficult to use two backpacks when traveling from point to point. Consequently, I only use the Osprey when using a suitcase. Even then, I prefer a messenger style bag as it is just much more convenient and secure than a backpack in every situation other than hiking.

My favorite day bag by far is the Tom Bihn Co-Pilot. I end up using this 90% of the time. It is easy to carry even when using my Osprey Farview travel backpack. Plus it fits under the plane seat as a personal item and leaves plenty of legroom.

Posted by
287 posts

but agree with your observation that it is difficult to use two backpacks when traveling from point to point.

Agree on this point, hence why we use the most versatile, small backpack we found (North Face Hotshot) for everything - the flight over, and as a day bag.

I used to use the older version of the small RS day bag - black, formless - and I found it difficult to find things that fell into the dark bottom of the bag. It is also easy to leave behind somewhere...and it doesn't really wear well as a backpack (on a man at least) or even over one shoulder. Very possible that bag has been updated, mine was from 20 years ago, and it sits in a closet at home when I travel now.

Posted by
5 posts

jasonindenver might just be onto something. A small messenger bag might just be perfect to co-carry with the Tortuga bag. After all I'm not hiking on this trip, just urban walk-about. It's easier to manage security with a messenger vs backpack too. Basically a bigger version of my nutsac manbag, which holds everything I carry but I want to add a water bottle and windbreaker/rain coat because we'll be in the middle of rainy season.

Posted by
8 posts

For me, this need would be filled by the Tom Bihn Daylight Backpack in ballistic. (This is the bag I carry every day.) My understanding is that it now has padded straps, so it's probably fractionally less utterly flat, but I'll bet it's still very very low volume when tucked into the bottom of a suitcase.

Posted by
11 posts

Nanopack backpack. Stuffs down to about the size of your thumb. Holds way more than you'd think. I was worried it would tear or something but I just got back from 3 weeks in Europe used it daily without a single problem. Carried my jacket, water bottle, chapstick, hand sanitizer, rando souvenirs and maps collected on the daily and had lots of room to spare. I also have the Nanopack sack but the backpack holds more and can be worn more ways.

Good luck!

Posted by
36 posts

Personally I never leave the house without my luggage being locked. I triple check that the locks work and can open them before I leave. I once went to a airport where one of the employees was walking through the airport yelling, Everyone you must have locks on your suitcase. Weird. Plus I only do carry on and if TSA needs to go through my things I want to be present if they open my bags.

Enwild.com has a 16 liter Deuter pack that is very lightweight, packs flat (but not into a small pouch), has nice features, on sale for about $50. Good value for a good daypack.

Packing Hack. Depending on the particular pack, you may be able to use your pack as a large packing cube inside your suitcase. Then, empty the contents inside the hotel room and convert the pack into a day bag.

Posted by
1126 posts

My go to is a Patagonia Mini Messenger bag. Just enough structure to deal with a heavier item such as a water bottle. I love the Sea to Summit ultralight backpacks, but they just become too uncomfortable when carrying anything heavier. (Osprey makes a similar one, I believe.)

I'm not sure the Mini Messenger is still sold -- which is a shame -- Patagonia seems to have moved on to slings, which just aren't the same.

Posted by
5 posts

I picked up the Tom Bihn co-pilot. So far it's pretty impressive. It swallowed up everything from my nut-sac "dammit" bag and is still basically empty. It'll easily hold my water bottle, rain coat, and snacks too.

Now to decide on sticking with my Tortuga set-out 35L, which is already getting pretty full and I don't have half the clothes packed into yet. Or skip the carry-on criteria and if I check, I have an Osprey 55L backpack what is super comfy and has room to spare. The co-pilot can even go inside of it. We're flying Vietjet air to/from and inter-country and already paid up for one check bag for each person. Their carry-on limit is only 7kg (15 pounds), so getting the main bag down to that will be quite the challenge. I'm sitting at 13 pounds and still don't have everything I want to bring.

My wife has already relented and is going to check her bag, so me making a big sacrifice to stick within a carry-on and still have to wait on her bag has me ready to give in too.

Posted by
10 posts

Great topic. After a lot of looking, wife just got an REI Trail 5 waist pack for our upcoming trip; have not used it yet so no report.. The dilemma of online shopping... we wanted to actually see any pack we were considering and the REI store is close. I have my veteran Mountainsmith waist pack.

Posted by
943 posts

Mountain SmithlLumbar pack series

Tough times for MS; their site shows 90% of these excellent waist packs as OUT OF STOCK. Still some available at their retailers such as REI. BTW: The MS Tour was 50% off at REI Outlet a few weeks ago. I've worn two or three of these down to the bar threads over the decades.

You mentioned Tom Bihn copilot above. I just purchased a RedOxx PUP bag. I will post a review in a couple of weeks after I have used it for a while. So far, I’m really liking it.
Generally, I don’t think of a TB copilot as “packable .” Carry-able, yes. My new PUP bag is too bulky to be placed into the “packable” category as well. (Packability depends on suitcase space. If I made an effort, I could remove contents and flatten the PUP bag and lay it into the suitcase.) It will make a very good airplane underseat bag though.

Posted by
5 posts

Well to add more to the drama of packing... I finally whittled my bag down to 7kg, the max for carry on. Skipped the spare shoes, dropped one full set of clothes, etc. But reading the fine print on the airline page, the 7kg is carry on PLUS the "personal item". Now there's no way I'm getting under that.

Carrying the Tom Bihn co-pilot around the house, I'm feeling like it's really big to have hanging off my side all day. So back to the drawing board.

I pulled out my trusty Red Oxx PR5 duffel that's been around the world a few times. It absorbed my packing cubes and items much better than the backpacks do. Everything fits with room to spare. And now that my back is free, I can bring my Osprey daylite pack with plenty of room to spare for water, snacks, rain coat and hat. I think I'm going to stick with that. Because our itinerary now has a hotel for everyday I only have to carry the duffel from the airport -->taxi-->hotel everyday. I think I'll be fine with a 15 pound over the shoulder duffel for that short amount of time. Maybe I'll get to use all my new bags on another trip where they fit the situation better.

We leave next week, so who knows, I might repack 7 more times. I'll report back.

Posted by
187 posts

My husband and I have both use for RS Civita bag for many years. very soft and scrunches down to very compact. It has three zippered pockets so easy to organize. The cushioned straps are very comfortable and the bag is so lightweight you will forget you have it.

Posted by
11973 posts

I've used Rick's Civita bag quite a bit. I've also used a grocery bag that you buy at a store. There's nothing less touristy than carrying a grocery bag from a local store, because half the people you see are carrying one too. Lately, I'm using a packable bag that folds into itself. Generally, I'm just looking for the lightest bag that works for carrying groceries, picnic supplies, a sweater, etc. as I need. I don't care about structure or bells and whistles.