Over the past few months, we’ve taken the TTL on numerous car trips as well as a few cross-country flights on several different types of aircraft. Some folks will always prefer hard-sided roller luggage over the soft squishy type. But if you’re often finding yourself on small tight regional jets and would rather not gate-check your bag, soft-sided luggage is The Way.
Packing the TTL is about as easy as it gets. The very nature of soft-sided luggage means that the stated dimensions have room to flex. Splitting your packing into two large compartments makes it harder to overpack. As long as each side closes easily, you’ll know that the clamshell will close and the bag will be good to go.
Through most of our travels we kept the TTL in backpack mode. It was love at first sight once we felt how good the straps feel on-body. Carrying it for hours through airports and convention centers was a breeze whether it was fully packed out or used as a daily driver once we had unpacked at our destination. If you’re going to utilize the forward half zip compartment and front zippered pocket, we found it best to pack out any bulkier items you may want quick access to before packing that side of the clamshell.
Due to the nature of soft-sided bags, there is always some degree of volume sharing between compartments. A fully packed clamshell half will start to eat up space in those two front compartments. This is not a unique problem and is something you’ll come across in all forms of soft-sided bags. Tom Bihn’s Aeronaut line of bags uses this volume sharing as a feature between the three compartments.
In the forward half zip compartment we packed the Arc’teryx Heliad 6 with an iPad Mini, portable charging bank, cables, travel documents, and snacks. It was easily retrieved after passing through security and worn on-body while the TTL went in backpack mode.
This brings up a broader topic of travel bag packing theory and with the TTL specifically. We preferred to travel with the TTL fully packed with clothes and travel essentials that won’t be accessed until the final destination is reached. Alternatively, if you’re not packing the TTL quite as full, the half zip compartment and front zippered pocket become much more usable in transit – especially if used as a shoulder bag or hand luggage. These two pockets are less accessible when in backpack mode.
A bonus feature of a travel bag of this size – if you’d rather deploy a smaller pack for everyday use once you arrive at your destination, most 20L or smaller bags fit quite nicely in the deeper side of the clamshell.
We threw a Mission Workshop Sanction AP in there for a trip to San Francisco. Especially if you fill the smaller bag up efficiently, you don’t lose much space at all doing this.
When you find yourself needing to slim down the bag to be as sleek and low profile as possible, the backpack and shoulder straps all stow away completely – leaving only the carry handles exposed and no loose webbing to get caught when you need to move through tight spaces or gate-check the bag.