Carry-on Bag: I tend to get excited about something and then forget to really think about the pros and cons. So I bought a Cotopaxi Allpa35L backpack for this trip. It’s really a wonderful bag and would be great on certain trips. But not this one. The biggest problem was that I had to carry it on my back many times in places (like airports and train stations) where I would normally be merrily pushing along my lightweight spinner bag. It started causing me some back problems (which was coupled by all the time I was spending in the car driving). I do love that bag so much. In fact, if I could make a bag with wheels that has the Cotopaxi look and inner compartments, I’d be so happy! But I just can’t deal with a backpack. I got home last night and already my back is feeling better.
The one thing it did, though, was get me to keep the weight of my packing down. I had it down to 18 lbs, until I suddenly remembered that I needed to bring my CPAP machine. I did not want to add a third bag, so I just packed the CPAP in the backpack. At least I was able to ditch the hose, mask and reservoir at the end of the trip since I had plenty at home. But it added extra weight to the Allpa and brought it up to 20 lbs.
I’m going to keep the Allpa. For one thing, my daughter has been eyeing it and she loves Cotopaxi bags, but I will probably use it again also. Just not for long European trips.
Personal Bag: I used the G4Free packable backpack from Amazon. Overall it worked well, but the problem was that I had 2 backpacks. I tried to put one on first then throw the other one over my shoulder but neither really worked well. So I wound up just carrying the personal backpack in my hand when I had the Allpa on my back. I did try also putting the G4Free backpack on my back and carrying the Allpa, which sometimes worked okay, as it was easier to maneuver the Allpa that way. There were a few times I was a little unsteady on stairs with it on my back. But there was no real good solution. Another reason to go back to the spinner.
Day Bag: Originally I planned to bring my Tom Bihn Side Kick bag for use while I was out and about. I’ve been using it at home so I figured it would work. But for some strange reason, I changed my mind at the last minute and took a much smaller bag that I bought in Germany last year. It has a long strap and is basically clutch size - it fit my phone, and some documents in it, but not much else. Because it was so small, I needed to bring the G4Free backpack whenever I went out for any length of time. The only good thing about it was that I could cinch the strap up to make it a waist bag if I went on some hikes and wanted my arms free. But next time I’m going back to the Side Kick. It’s a nice size - not too big but not too small.
Clothing: What I did wrong: I made the mistake of buying some new clothes without really wearing them before I left. For example, I bought 2 pairs of Eddie Bauer Travel Pants at Costco before I left. I tried them on and they fit well. But I didn’t wear them anywhere. And sure enough, they were really uncomfortable when I was driving the car. They were made of a poly/spandex blend, but there wasn’t much stretch and the polyester just felt like it was digging into my skin. So those got shoved into the dark nether regions of my bag and I relied on my other 3 pairs of pants.
I packed a knit jersey mock turtleneck that looks good on me but I had not worn it in 4 or 5 years. On the trip I realized why - the turtleneck portion drove me crazy. It felt scratchy and I kept yanking it away from my neck. That one did not make it to the nether regions - it was left behind.