I used to have a bit of an obsession with Zero Halliburton luggage. Look familiar? That's because bad guys in all the movies use the briefcases to hold their money and bombs. Over the years I kept buying these things, and usually traveled with a huge 26" suitcase as well as a matching computer case.
I still really like my Zero Halliburton suitcases, but they're somewhat unweildy. Two day trips don't require a hectare of packing real estate.
Plus, there was the allure of the carry-on only passenger. I never really understood how it worked before. How do people carry everything in such small suitcases? Is it really that much more convenient? What's so bad about checking bags? I was curious.
As it turns out I read an article about carry on bags on the way back from Vegas one day. None of the bags really stood out - except for one. The Eagle Creek Switchback Max ES 22, which sounds more like some sort of butterfly knife / machete hybrid than a bag. I read about it and was looking forward to going home to look it up.
See, when I buy anything, it's a huge production. As I wrote about in a previous article, I always want to either buy the best or the cheapest. In this case, I was buying the best, so I read every review about it that I could find. No one had anything bad to say.
So what makes this bag so great?
The typical problem with carry on luggage is that it's too small for more than a weekend trip. If I'm spending $275 on a bag, I'd better be able to use it on long trips as well as short trips. The Switchback 22 gets around this by combining two bags. They took a suitcase that was the largest allowed by every airline, and then attached a good sized backpack to the front of it.
The backpack zippers on and also has tie down straps in case you have it packed with bricks or something. The two bags combined work perfectly as one. There are large wheels, a good retractable handle, and even ANOTHER backpack support system on the main suitcase. You unzip this compartment and a heavy duty harness thing comes out and lets you carry the whole contraption as a giant backpack. Whoa!
Once you get on the plane (or before if they give you crap for having too big of a bag), you just detach the backpack and put the suitcase in the overhead compartment.
The other great thing about the backpack is that now wherever you travel, you have a backpack that you can use for hikes, camping, going into the city, or staying at a friend's place.
Both bags can hold their own independently. The suitcase part has a flat front pocket as well as the main compartment. Within the main compartment there is the usual mesh compartment on the opening flap as well as a compression webbing to press the air out of your clothes and maximize space.
The backpack has a main area that has a cool compartment for electronics right near the top. The inside is felt, so you don't have to worry about things getting scratched. The way the main compartment opens is really cool, but hard to describe. It unzips all the way to give you full access, but has guards on the sides so that everything doesn't fall out. It also has a smaller front compartment with all sorts of little pockets for keys, tickets, etc. It just happens to be the exact right size to hold my Libretto laptop. On the sides of the backpack are these neat zip out water bottle holders. I don't really like bottled water, so I kept my MP3 player in one.
Anyway, I was totally sold on the bag, so I ordered one. As luck would have it, I ended up going to San Francisco for work the following week. Eagle creek has their own packing system that the bag is designed for, but I already had a cooler one from Flight 001 (see? That's why I research to make sure I'm actually getting the best one). The Flight 001 one has two sides, one for clean clothes, and the other for dirty. I could write a whole other article about how great that is.
Anyway, I went on my trip, and the bag was fantastic. One thing I particularly liked was that even with the backpack attached and full of stuff, the bag could still easily stand up straight without tipping over. An older bag I had would always fall over with a computer bag attached to it.
In San Fran, Jlaix sensed that there was more to the bag than met the eye, and when I demonstrated, he declared, "Whoa. That's some next level shit!"
Heading back, the bag was equally pleasant. I found out that the compartment where the shoulders straps for the backpack were stowed also doubled as a convenient magazine holder. My one complaint with the bag upon receiving it was that it didn't come with an instruction manual. It seemed like it should have.
I grabbed a taxi to had back to the office where I had parked my car. I blissfully skipped to my car with the backpack on, marveling at how light it was and how easy it was to carry. I drove home, made sure my fish were still alive and well, and started replying to some e-mails.
After an hour or two of being home it hit me.
I left the suticase part of the bag in the taxi trunk.
That's ok, I thought. I'll just check my Amex statment and call up the cab company. Then I realized that I didn't pay with my Amex. I paid with a handful of Jeffersons. In fact, I had no idea which cab company it was. I started calling all that I could find, but had no luck.
I did a quick survey of what I lost.
- Two of my favorite shirts
- Two pairs of my favorite pants
- Two pairs of underwear, which I can't in my size anymore
- My electric toothbrush (luckily I didn't have my crazy shaving gear with me [another story on that later])
- A lighter from Spain that Jlaix gave me.
- Two pillows from a booth at the conference that Shel convinced them to give to me because they had sequins on them like my hat
- My awesome packing things from Flight 001.
Damn. That was a lot of good stuff. It wasn't the end of the world - I was wearing my favorite shirt and pants out of the three that I had brought. American Express Platinum cards have a really cool policy where they will replace anything you lose / break / get stolen within 90 days of purchasing. I'd already taken them up on the offer when I left my brand new $2000 laptop in the rain, so I was looking forward to getting a new bag for free. But still - it would have been better to not lose it.
A couple days later Jonah and I were walking downton to get some food when I saw a cab that looked like the one I had taken. We took down the number and I called.
"Dispatch! They're everywhere. 51, What's your status?"
"Umm... hello?" I replied.
I was confused.
"51! Where are you?"
"Umm. I'm not 51."
She hung up on me. Odd.
I called again.
"... Hello..." I answered timidly. "I left my bag in a cab on Friday and..."
"Yeah, I have it right here."
Wow. No questions? Didn't EVERYONE leave their bags in the cab? How did she know it was mine? I felt a little dumb.
"Where are you guys?"
"Let's see... what's the address here? 1135 Gunter Dr."
"Cool. Can I get it now?"
"No, our office hours are 8am to 5pm"
It seemed odd to me that she wouldn't let me come pick it up now when obviously she was in the office, but whatever.
A few days later I drove over to get my bag. On the way I saw a bunch of cops, which freaks me out. My car is all sorts of illegal at the moment (no need to get into that...), and every time I get pulled over I'm amazed that I don't get a ticket or go to jail or something.
I pulled into the cab headquarters. It was a strange building with long narrow hallways. The walls were made of that weird pressed word interior siding stuff. I wandered down the halls with no signs posted to help me. They probably didn't get many visitors here. Finally someone whose office I poked my head into directed me through another set of hallways to a large office with exactly one misplaced bag in it. Mine.
I gave the guy a tip to give to my driver for returning the bag and left, very happy to have my stuff back.
I put the suitcase in my trunk and began to drive off the property when I saw two official looking guys walking towards my car. Crap. Had they followed me?
One of them flashed a badge.
"I'm Detective Franklin with the Austin Police."
"Do you drive here?"
For a detective he certainly wasn't too great with grammar.
"Umm.. I did drive here, yes."
"For how long?"
This was a strange interrogation. I knew what I had done wrong - just not which he had noticed. My answer seemed to confuse him.
"You drove a taxi for twenty minutes?"
"No. I didn't drive a taxi. I don't drive taxis."
"So you've NEVER driven a taxi here?"
I was almost worried for a second. Had I driven a cab and forgotten about it or something?
The two detectives looked at each other.
"Ok, you can go."
As I drove off I heard them begin to question the manager, who had come outside by now. He seemed surprised that they were there. I wonder what they wanted.