The Pros: Rugged construction, handsome looks, tremendous capacity
The Cons: Lack of smaller pockets for odds and ends
The Verdict: The BOSS of “one bag” travel
After deplaning in Omaha a few weeks ago, I ended up waiting in the gate area for a colleague to make his way off the plane. After tossing my Air Boss on an unoccupied seat, I began fiddling with my iPod when I noticed a middle aged couple nearby eyeing my bag.
After a few more moments of whispering with his wife, the husband spoke up: “Excuse me, what IS that bag? Who makes it?”
So I quickly launched into the story of Red Oxx – a small company located in Montana, founded by a former Green Beret and parachute rigger, maker of “adventure” and travel bags of unequaled quality.
Extraordinarily robust construction
This isn’t an unusual experience. Even in its fairly subdued “safari” color scheme, this bag attracts attention. Look at it for no more than a few seconds and you can’t help but be floored by the robustness of its construction. A few examples:
Above: YKK #10 zippers – these look like something that ought to be on a flak vest! The “monkey’s fist” zipper pulls are distinctive and easy to grab and use. An extra benefit: these zippers will absolutely not slip open under any condition!
Military spec snaps and hardware (above) are used throughout.
Another example – the heavy duty D-Ring and strap latch shown above, for instance – look like they’ll last a lifetime – plus! Red Oxx employs double stitching, heavy nylon reinforcement straps, and 1000 weight ( ! ) urethane coated, Dupont certified Cordura nylon.
Everywhere you look, the Air Boss oozes rugged quality.
All 3 main compartments are fully zippered on 3 sides, so you can open the bag up flat for packing – a tremendous convenience! Two of these compartments feature adjustable tie-down straps for securing clothing. All are lined with ~1/8″ thick closed cell foam padding (covered with the red material) for protection and to give the bag a bit of structural integrity when empty.
Heavy duty, rubberized “claw” strap will NOT slip off your shoulder, “gives” slightly for comfort, is double sided so there’s no fumbling around, trying to find the “correct” side.
Sounds great – but who is this bag for?
Also noteworthy about the Air Boss are the things you won’t find in these pictures: wheels, telescoping handles, and superfluous extras.
Although built like a brick house, the Air Boss is at its essence a minimalist device. There are few frills. What you get is pure function: 3 main compartments; a zippered compartment in the front for magazines, folders or perhaps tee shirts; a snap-closure open compartment on the back, along with a (tall, narrow) zippered compartment for boarding passes and perhaps a couple of extras like a music player.
That’s it. This is a bag for the person who wants to pack light and carry his or her bag with him/her at all times while in transit. Designed with the help of “one bag” guru Doug Dyment, the Air Boss enables you to pack for a 2-7 day trip featuring one and only one bag. Perfect (and designed for) the business traveler, the bag is nevertheless funky and functional enough to serve a student traveling abroad; the only downside in this regard is that it lacks backpack straps that are generally preferred by younger travelers (see note about the Red Oxx “Sky Train” below.)
Why adopt a one bag approach? No fees for checked luggage. No fear of your bag being lost. Greater flexibility – connecting flight canceled late at night? – all your stuff is with you. Want to accept a later flight in exchange for a voucher from the airline? – ditto. No bellman tips. No fear of someone pawing through your stuff somewhere in the baggage department. Greater peace of mind.
As such, Red Oxx eschewed frills and extras with the Air Boss. The result is a bag that is both wildly overbuilt and lightweight – right under 4 lbs. (A typical wheelie weights 12-16 lbs., by contrast.) By the way, you could check this bag without fear – it’s a beast and could handle whatever a baggage handler could throw at it. But that’s not the point – it’s ideal for anyone who wants to enjoy the security, freedom and peace of mind that one bag travel offers.
- “Claw” Shoulder Strap
- 4 lb. closed cell foam padding
- Fabric:1000 weight urethane coated, Dupont certified Cordura nylon
- All zippers #10 YKK self locking
- Thread:#92 bonded SolarMax nylon
- All seams double stitched and bound
- Stainless steel Military spec snaps with Red Oxx logo
- Zip knots on all zippers
- Heavy duty luggage tag
- Embroidered logo
- Double box stitch on carry handles
- Available in 12 colors
- Made in USA
- Lifetime Warranty
- Dimensions: 21″L x 8″W x 13″H (meets nearly all airline carry-on requirements)
- Capacity: 2,184 Cubic Inches
Impressions, Comments, Concerns…
I’ve used my Air Boss extensively, and it has proven itself over and over as a tough, reliable performer. I can easily pack enough clothing for 3-6 day business trips and the bag remains relatively light. The only caveat I’d offer is that if I want to bring along my laptop, I end up packing it in my Metro daily bag as the Air Boss gets a bit too heavy with the addition of a 6-7 lb. laptop. It’s my preference to not do that, however, as I find it very liberating to travel with just one bag – it’s so much simpler and easier! (I am investigating picking up a mini laptop to get around this issue.)
If you occasionally carry looseleaf binders or say literature from trade shows, you needn’t worry that you’ll abrade or punch a hole in your Air Boss; the 1000 weight Cordura nylon is extremely tough.
Another interesting aspect: if you need to remove something (padfolio, laptop, folders) from one of the main compartments, the fact that their zippers run across 3 sides of the bag makes it very easy – unzip the side and slip your item out that way, vs. out the top, if you prefer. This is handy when the bag is in an overhead and you need to retrieve something, or when taking a laptop out at the TSA checkpoint.
I have one beef with the design of the bag. The snap closure for the main handles is not conveniently designed. I’ve written about that issue in the past; click here for details plus photos of my unpacking the bag at my destination during a 5 day trip.
I alluded earlier to my only other concern: if you have an iPod, earplugs, or other small items, the only small pocket on the bag is the “boarding pass” pocket, and small items naturally end up at its bottom – and it spans the entire height of the bag. A pocket made out of lighter material – or one additional zippered pocket on the back of the bag would be useful. If I wear my travel vest, this issue is eliminated altogether. (Interestingly enough, Red Oxx’s “Sky Train” has such a pocket, as well as backpack-type straps for occasionally carrying the bag backpack-style; it’s more expensive than the Air Boss, however.)
There’s also no key retainer on the Air Boss. Paranoiacs among my readers may wish to consider picking up Red Oxx’s Pin Mount Key Clip, introduced since this review was first published. You can see it in the image below, mounted to one of the compression straps in one of my Air Boss’s side compartments; handy, costs less than $10:
As a frequent traveler, anything which makes my life on the road simpler and provides greater peace of mind is of significant value. Adopting the one bag approach has done just that, and the Air Boss is the perfect complement to this philosophy. It swallows up enough clothing for 5-6 day trips with ease and can easily be placed in overhead compartments. Slung over my shoulder, it’s easy to navigate through airports, get on and off rental car shuttles, and breeze down aircraft aisles.
I should point out that I am in my 50’s and of average build and physical condition. Carrying a fully loaded Air Boss has not been an issue… plus it’s immeasurably easier to hoist into an overhead versus my old wheelie.
The Air Boss is manufactured by Red Oxx in Montana. It’s backed by a lifetime warranty; price is $225. At that price, the bag represents a fine value; this is a bag that will easily last decades.
Visit Red Oxx for more details.
Learn about the bundle method of packing here.
A key to traveling with one bag is packing light; create a customizable packing checklist here.
If you have not visited Doug Dyment’s OneBag.com, please do so. There’s a great deal of information on the one bag approach to travel and it’s a well written site. Visit for a few minutes and you’ll be intrigued, if not a convert.
For a review of the Red Oxx Metro, click here.
Thanks for visiting; happy travels!