This is a guest post from Practical Hacks reader Berg, in which she provides a detailed explanation of how she approaches packing the Outdoor Products Essential Carry-on.

First, I just wanted to thank Kevin for the chance to post here! I appreciate it.

What I’ve discovered about the Outdoor Products Essential Carry-on is that the sagging or floppiness comes almost as much from the way you choose to carry the bag as it does from the way you pack it.

I packed about 14 lbs in this bag, and in this first picture, I’ve got it by the briefcase handle. Carrying it this way seems to make the bag sag more than any other method.  Using the shoulder strap (I’ve got the OpTech SOS strap on mine), the bag doesn’t sag as much as you think it would, though there is a slight shift.

Moving on to the backpack straps, which work well.  Even just using one strap, the bag hardly sags at all. In fact, out of the three carrying methods, this one seems to sag the least (and was the most comfortable, at least for me). This may have more to do with how I packed the bag, but even so, for a bag without structure, it does pretty well:

By the way, I am turned slightly away from camera in the above left picture, just so you don’t think the bag sticks out that far behind me.  I didn’t overload the front pockets with trinkets, either, just a few small guidebooks and my 3-1-1 bag. Obviously those outside pockets will bulge a little bit if you load it up with lots of odd-shaped items, but they didn’t poke out too badly with what I had in there, as you can see.

Inside, I used a sweatshirt for bulk, to help fill out the bag. The internal straps don’t compress so much as they just sort of hold everything in place. These are great to use if you don’t completely fill the bag, or pack it in a way where differently-weighted items might shift around.  Under the sweatshirt is my messenger daypack. It’s empty, but still takes up about 3″ of height. I thought the OPEC did a good job of squishing it down. Come to think of it, I put quite a lot of stuff into this bag, and there was still room left over.

Below on the left, a rain shell went underneath the day bag. You can start to see how I arranged my packing cubes around the edges of the OPEC. In my view, this is the best way to get structure out of the bag, and reduce sag. It was almost like working on a jigsaw puzzle, where you start with the outside and work your way in. Obviously this depends greatly on what you are packing, and if you can get your things to fit in this way. If you don’t have this many cubes, a pair of shoes, or even a toiletry kit filled with non-breakables might achieve the same goal. The cubes just helped to simplify the various packing configurations for this exercise.

The packing folder (Eagle Creek 15) does provide some stiffness, but I think in the end, the cubes helped more in that sense. If you pack them as full as possible, they become quite firm, and provide a nice frame for the bag. I placed the longest tube (EC full tube) on the left — this is the “bottom” of the bag when carried in backpack mode, and having a firm cube there could account for the bag’s lack of floppiness when carried that way. The black cube on the right (EC half tube, which, quizzically, is more like 3/4 the size of the full tube), or “top” of the bag, is also quite firm. I think having cubes on each side helped with the over-the-shoulder mode as well.

An alternate configuration is below. I still kept a firm cube on the “bottom” for backpack mode, but shifted the other stiff cubes to the other “bottom” of the bag (what would be the “bottom” when carried in over-the-shoulder mode). I didn’t really notice any difference in the way the bag sagged with this arrangement.

What follows is a third method: laying all of the packing cubes down first, and then laying the EC folder on top of them. This left so much room in the bag that I rolled up the shell and stuck that in on the right. The sweatshirt and messenger bag were placed on top of everything again, like before (not pictured). The only noticeable sag was in over-the-shoulder mode, where the bag sagged very slightly at the top middle, where there wasn’t really anything packed.  This was probably the least efficient way to pack this bag out of the three methods I tried.

In the interests of attempting to be thorough, I loaded up some weights in the bag to bring it to around 21lbs.  I personally would never want to carry 21lbs in one bag unless it had a full suspension system, but I wanted to see what would happen.  There was clearly more tugging at the points where the straps were attached, but the bag still didn’t lose shape and sag as much as I thought it would.

To conclude, I think a method of making a frame out of packing aids works well, as does placing the heaviest items in first, so they stay close to your body.  I recommend considering how you’ll be carrying the bag for the most part (backpack straps versus over-the-shoulder), and keep that in mind as you load things in. Also, utilize the interior straps; they really will hold everything in place, which will help a lot with sag.  Happy packing!

3.5.2012 Update:  Appears to be no longer available.  Anywhere.  However:  check out the very similar but slightly smaller (18″) Goodhope Convertible, which sells for less than $30.  I haven’t used this bag – if you have, please comment! Thanks to reader Kat for the tip!!

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33 Comments on Packing the Outdoor Products Essential Carry-on

  1. Michael W. says:

    Thanks so much Berg!

    Gosh the bag will hold a lot of stuff!

    And yes, even in the “sag” pictures it still looks the way it “should,” like a suitcase!


  2. Berg says:

    You’re welcome! Yes, you can fit a LOT in the OPEC.


  3. Paul says:

    Well done Berg ~
    It’s great to see some good pics of this bag. I’ve been
    tempted time and time again … but I just don’t need it,
    since I have a MEI E/O, and a Rick Steves Conv. Carry-on,
    and now a Tac Tailor soft suitcase. Bravo to you and to
    Practical Hacks for a great review as well.

    Happy travels,


  4. Michael W. says:

    I just got a 20″ Eagle Creek PackIt on sale at REI for only $19. (Their winter sale is on! Through Nov 30.)

    I got the PackIt20 not so much to keep my casual/business casual clothes from wrinkling in the OPEC, but rather to give the OPEC some much needed structure.

    (The OPEC is a marvel of lightness and the carry handle is outstanding. I pulled the OPEC out again last night and I like the design and layout much better than the Steves Classic Backdoor Pack. But one of the OPEC’s strategies for saving weight and maximizing volume is to skip any foam padding – not even behind the backpack straps – so it desperately needs some alternative system to give it some structure.)

    Hence the full size PackIt, as an alternative to your (Berg’s) use of multiple cubes.

    With my clothing sandwiched in there between its twin thin plastic sheets, the PackIt SHOULD add much-needed structure to the OPEC.

    I admit that the PackIt20, by itself, weighs more than a comparable “soft-sided” packing cube, due mainly to its twin plastic sheets.

    BUT the PackIt20 replaces, in my guestimate, TWO Bihn TriStar sized (full length and width) packing cubes, which have less height. AND the PackIt20 will let me use the OPEC instead of a bag with foam padded side walls (like the AirBoss/TriStart/MLC etc.). THAT saves me the weight of the foam padding required in other convertible backpacks to give them structure.

    So the net result in using the PackIt20 with the OPEC should be much better space utilization for my personal packing needs – I don’t need a dual padded laptop slot in my convertible backpack, since my netbook goes in my “personal” item bag.

    PLUS it’s a lot easier to fold shirts with the PackIt20 than trying to fold by hand to fit an ordinary packing cube.

    Finally, sandwiching my (more neatly) folded clothing between the two thin plastic sheets of the PackIt20 should cut down on clothing shifting – and potentially wrinkling – much more effectively that using a soft-sided packing cube or, worse yet, just using the tie-down straps in the OPEC.

    I’m going to do some trial packing on the OPEC this weekend. I’ll load up my shirts and pants in the PackIt20 and see how much depth that takes in the OPEC. I’ll lay my fleece sweater into the mesh compartment on the far wall of the OPEC where hopefully it won’t shift too much. Then I’ll see if I can stuff my toiletries kit, Crocs, socks & underwear on top of the PackIt (which will be under the tie down straps on the backpack strap side of the OPEC) and see how everything fits.

    I continue to think the Patagonia MLC looks sharper, but its laptop slot is a big space hog and adds a lot of weight to that bag….


    Kevin Reply:


    Let us know how your pre-packing and testing go. Perhaps we should have you do another guest post. There seems to be a great deal of interest in the OPEC.


    Michael W. Reply:

    I’d love to. If I can figure out how to make the darn **^%$# Coolpix I purchased work!


    MichaelW Reply:

    Bad news, the Pack It 20 doesn’t quite fit th OPEC. Per published measurements the Pack It is 1″ wider than the OPEC, but lengths should match. Unfortunately it is a smidge too wide AND too long. It will fit if you squeeze it in, since adding clothes doesn’t make the Pack It wider or longer, only fatter. But it distends the sides of the OPEC.

    The Pack It 18 will surely fit, but probably won’t give the OPEC the structure it could benefit from, since it is undersized.

    Guess what the Pack It 20 fits perfectly?

    Yes, the MLC, where it isn’t really needed to give the bag structure (it has all that foam padding). But anyone who really needs the “wrinkling proofing” of the Pack It Folder should consider the MLC. They are really made for each other, size wise.

    Maybe that’s what Patagonia was up to all along, but didn’t want to mention?


    Kevin Reply:

    Hmm… maybe.

    On another topic… you’ve mentioned Target packing cubes in the past. I went to and couldn’t find any. Is there any chance this is a store-only item? (I looked in our local Target, and there were none there.) Just curious. Thx.



    MichaelW Reply:

    They definitely had them at Target…but last time I checked was spring/summer … don’t know about online, items are different. But if you want them, Steves online is a better source, always in stock, often on sale, low shipping and fast too. Next time I go to Target I will check for you.

  5. MichaelW says:

    Ok, I can report back on packing the OPEC for a short overnight Thanksgiving car trip up to Groveland, a quaint high sierra town on the road to Yosemite.

    In October, the much smaller Patagonia Lightwire Brief – a classically “flight bag-sized” shoulder bag from Patagonia – was plenty, but this time I wanted to carry a cold-weather fleece and puff pullover and needed more room, even for a trip this short.

    First observation: the OPEC packs and carries REALLY well! I mostly used handle-carry, and the formed rubber handle is SUPER comfortable.

    Second observation: the lack of foam panels to add structure wasn’t a problem – and since I had bulky items I was grateful that no space was being wasted on foam padding, unlike the MLC.

    Third observation: using a Tom Bihn Aeronaut-sized convertible packing cube/backpack allowed me to stuff some Crocs into the small compartment at the end of the convertible cube and pack my clothing into the main part of the cube, keeping the dusty shoes separate from clean clothing, yet handy. This particular Bihn cube is PERFECTLY sized for the OPEC, unlike my other foray into packing accessories, the slightly-too-large Eagle Creek Pack It Folder 20″:

    The convertible cube gave me some of the same functionality as a built-in panel like on the Patagonia MLC – it acted as a panel, allowing me to fold and stow dirty laundry plus a fleece jacket underneath it.

    After strapping the convertible cube in place, there was still room for my LARGE puff pullover in the main compartment. I used an LLBean Sack Pack to hold the puff piece.

    (BTW in January on my international trip I WILL need the daypack feature of this convertible packing cube for local use.)

    My Marmot Original Windshirt fit the full-sized, “zero thickness,” mesh zipper slot on the far compartment wall perfectly. This “zero thickness” slot is ideal for stowing a light jacket and keeping it wrinkle free.

    I didn’t have to use the exterior zipper slots/pouches at all.

    All in all I was VERY impressed by the versatility of the OPEC.

    BTW I continue to believe in the “self-locking” spill-proof zippers on Red Oxx bags. At one point I was lifting the OPEC off the bed to put on the floor, and because I was in a hurry hadn’t zipped the main compartment zipper all the way shut. Sure enough the weight of the contents “spilled” the zipper open. No disaster, but something to keep in mind with this and most other bags – the pressure of contents can push open a partially closed zipper. And certainly, if you check this through, use zip ties on the main zippers!


    Kevin Reply:


    Thanks, neat report. What are the dimensions of the Bihn convertible backpack/cube you used?



    Kevin Reply:

    Oops – never mind. 13.5 x 13.5 x 4.25″. I have the same one, and really need to test it out.


    MichaelW Reply:

    Well yes and no. You are considering the pack/cube in “cube” mode where its smaller (turned inside out).

    But I used it in regular “pack” mode where it becomes 17.5″ x 13.5″ x 4.25″, a much better fit to the OPEC with little wasted space on sides or ends.

    And in “pack” mode the separate compartment at the bottom made a nice place to stuff my Crocs. In “cube” mode the inside out folding means the bottom compartment takes away a little of the available packing volume – you have to squish the now useless sides that form it, out of the way.

    Please note that Bihn is adding a second convertible cube/pack, sized for the Western Flyer at 18″ x 12.25″ x 3.5″:

    I have to admit that Bihn takes very good care of his customers in terms of custom fitted accessories. I hope he doesn’t mind us taking his filet mignon accessories and stuffing them in our humble hamburger buns of bags like the OPEC!

  6. matthew harris says:

    for the people that have the OPEC…did you buy in a retail store or online?



    Kevin Reply:

    I think everyone is buying it at Campmor, as they seem to have the best price. kc


  7. Michael W. says:

    Retail is $60. Online is $32.99 with about a $6 shipping charge.


  8. Berg says:

    Have just returned from my 9 day trip to Japan, where I utilized the OPEC as my main bag. When my brain unscrambles itself, I’ll post a quick update as to my experience & new insights regarding this bag. :)


    Kevin Reply:

    Can’t wait to hear it!


  9. matthew harris says:

    just got the opec delivered and this seems it will work fine…had been looking for something just a bit smaller than my rick steves bag (which has been great) but i always had spare room…in some ways sort of similar to the steves bag but you can tell right away not as big or deep…lack of outside compression straps should be fine in my case…but would be nice for a future release…for what i usually pack and how i pack there was no real sag or any bursting at the seams…pretty form fitting…i moslty use my bags in backpack mode and for the price a great value…


    Michael W. Reply:

    Based on your comment, and on the current 20% off sale at the Rick Steves online travel store (plus flat rate $4.95 shipping), I just ordered another Rick Steves Classic Backdoor Convertible backpack.


    Now that you mention it … yes the OPEC is a little smaller than the truly maximum legal carryon sized Steves. In fact it “seems” about the same size as my latest generation Patagonia MLC, although it has more “usable” volume since it has no padding sucking away space.

    BTW I also just got the Golite TravelLite pack, which is sort of an upscale OPEC – nicer looking (but not sturdier) materials, slightly different layout (exterior access to “shoe slots” for stowing shoes, clam-style opening onto twin full panel zip slots – kind of like two packing cubes that zip together). But it’s also MLC/OPEC sized! Won’t take a PackIt 20″!

    So why did I get the Steves Classic, the very bag I was only too happy to gift away two months ago because it seemed too large?

    Well, I still believe the OPEC/MLC/GoLite size is the “right” size for MOST of my travel – but not all. That is, without my jiu jitsu uniform (thick and heavy like a judo gi).

    BUT I’m getting nervous about lost luggage again, and thinking about stowing my uniform in my carryon in January instead of checking it through. And it seems the only two truly “maximum legal carryon” sized bags are the Steves and the RedOxx AirBoss. And of THOSE two, the Steves is WAY cheaper and a pound or two lighter.

    So in 10 short shipping days, my convertible backpack collection will consist of:

    1. OPEC – rugged and humble, sensible layout.
    2. GoLite – techy lightweight, but actually heavier than the OPEC since it has a foam back pad. No packing cubes needed, since the main compartment is split into two 3″ high cubes, thanks to the full zip panels.
    3. MLC – a little classy, materials that are more durable than the GoLite, only one with a ginormous laptop slot. But less usable volume.
    4. Steves Classic – size, pure size! But still at the very light end of the scale in terms of weight. I think I actually like the exterior organizer pockets on this best, of the four. It’s interior shoe panel may actually work better than the exterior shoe pouches on the Golite, since it should keep the “lumpiness” of the shoes INSIDE the main compartment instead hanging out the side of the bag.

    After my January trip, which will be my last for a while, I should probably box these up and send to Kevin for a photo shoot. :-)

    As you can probably tell, I don’t think one bag truly fits all sizes – not even for a single traveler unless all your trips are the same. I pity the person taking off for a round the world trip who has to choose just one!


  10. Kevin says:

    The following is a trip report that Berg emailed to me following her trip to Japan with the OPEC – I think it speaks for itself. Thanks, Berg!! -kc

    The bag performed well. I had just over 7 kilos in it during my trip, and while this is doable (ANA’s limit is 10 kilos, which I can’t imagine any regular person being able to lift into a 777 overhead with any ease, but anyway…), I don’t recommend carrying 7 or 8kg on your bag for any length of time. Definitely try and go as light as possible, obviously, though it’s somewhat of a quandary, as this bag performs better when full (shape-wise, not weight-wise). It’s almost too big.

    I mostly used the shoulder straps, due in part to the “heaviness” of my crap, but also because of the ease of transport. The straps are actually quite comfy, but you start to realize how wonderful waist belts can be about 20 minutes into walking around (I often day-dreamed of having an Osprey Talon while wandering the streets with an aching neck & back). While waiting in lines, I put the bag down in “briefcase” mode, and used the side carrying handle. What I liked was that the bag stood on its own in briefcase mode, so I could kick it along the floor instead of picking it up repeatedly… which I ended up doing quite a bit while waiting to buy bullet train tickets, and consequently got dust all over one side of the bag, heh. The dust came off rather quickly.

    Packing this bag properly will save tons of headaches (and backaches), especially if you use the backpack straps. Sometimes, while shifting from backpack to briefcase mode, some of my cubes would move around and slip down between my pack-it folder and the backpack straps, so when I’d go back to backpack mode, the newly-shifted cubes would poke at me and I’d have to stop & fix them. While you sort of have to figure out on your own what will work best to fix this (depends on what you have in your bag, naturally), what I ended up doing whenever possible was laying either my shell or my fleece over top of everything in the main compartment, folding it around my stuff like a fitted sheet on a bed, and using the internal straps to bunch it all together and hold it in place. One other solution would be to line the “bottom” with a thin piece of foam (I think Michael W. may have suggested such a thing). You could even shove the foam into the pocket where the backpack straps go.

    One of the things I really liked about this bag was how low-key it looked. Though hotel staff were often puzzled as to how to carry it (most ended up going for the briefcase handle), I liked how it didn’t look like a backpacking bag, or some fancy piece of luggage. I had at least 2 Japanese security agents ask me if I had a laptop in it, but they didn’t once ask me if I had a laptop in the messenger bag that I used as a daybag & personal item. I think at first glance, most people assume it’s some sort of large briefcase.

    The outside pocket will be your nemesis if you let it. Stuffing that thing full will definitely make it difficult to fit your OPEC into those sizers, although you still won’t have any trouble fitting it into the overhead bin. By the end of my trip, my bag was pretty full, and fit into both the A320 and 777 I took to get back home. If you opt to get the OPEC outfitted with external straps, I’m sure you won’t regret it, as I often times wished I had them. It might also help with the shifting I talked about earlier, and will absolutely come in handy if you don’t have a fully-stuffed bag.


    Michael W. Reply:

    Any personal bag in addition to the OPEC? Any “seat side” pull-out bag like KC’s Kiva key chain bag?


  11. Berg says:

    Yes, I used a messenger bag for a personal item & daybag, though it was probably too big to be considered one. I’m always able to get away with that for some reason, but probably because the bag looked like a briefcase, and because my other bag, the OPEC, doesn’t stand out.

    One advantage women can have is they can carry large handbags as personal items. I have a great little backpack I usually use, but it looks very recreational. I’m thinking about getting a packable RS Civita bag.


    Michael W. Reply:

    The Civita weighs under 10 ounces, IIRC. Unfortunately the microsuede looks and feels like mouse fur! Has nice padded shoulder straps, though, considering it still manages to come in so light.

    I have been using an XS Timbuk2 (sometimes even their Metro) for knocking around on the weekends the last few weeks, which got me to pull out the Small custom I had made up for me a few years ago with a handle and separator panel in all black ballistics nylon. Looks like it would do nicely as a personal bag for a long flight. It might come down to one of these “slacker” messenger bags, or the more “professional” looking Patagonia Lightwire Brief.

    I really don’t need a very BIG personal bag for my “seat side” items. BUT whatever I choose has got to be at least big enough to “off-load” a few heavy items from my convertible backpack, or I may have trouble with the ticket counter “weigh-in.” It would also be nice if it were large enough to stuff my transit jacket from my cold flight when I arrive in the tropics. (But I don’t see why the transit jacket can’t go in my convertible backpack.)

    Since ONLY the San Francisco ticket counter weighs my carry-on luggage, and they don’t even look at a shopping bag, theoretically I COULD have a small personal bag IF I stuff the netbook,powerbricks, cellphones, and paperbacks etc. in either my personal bag or just simply a shopping bag until I’ve gotten past the ticket counter.

    I swear travel is like running lab rat maze these days. Metal-less belts and shoes, slip ons, weighing carryons, what next? Segregating liquids out of the toiletries kit?

    So what do you like in messenger bags – Crumpler, Manhattan Portage, Chrome, Timbuk2?


    Berg Reply:

    I use an XS Timbuk2 bag for work, and as a personal item for almost all U.S. domestic airline travel. I almost brought it to Japan, but was worried it’d be too small to hold my jacket or fleece (though I could have always just flung it over the bag like I ended up doing anyway). I’ve thought about buying a Small, but they’re just so darned expensive for being just messenger bags. Well-made, but still…

    The Civita appealed to me for its low-key looks, and packability. I don’t usually need a whole lot in-flight that I can’t fit in my jacket pockets, but like you said, carrying a personal item offsets the weigh limits that are hard to meet if you carry a bigger camera, or electronics, etc.

    FYI, my bags were never weighed by ANA on any flight to, from, or within Japan. I weighed them at the airport myself, and they were fine (the personal item helped with that, holding my heavy camera and a lot of paperwork that I needed to keep), but as a contrast, Air NZ was near-obsessive about weighing everyone’s bags, both here in the U.S. and there in NZ.

    I’ve never had anyone weigh a personal item, though, which is why I tend to shove the heavier things in there during transit. Also, I think messenger-style bags or briefcases tend to go over better than knapsacks or backpacks, for some reason, I think perhaps because GAs often believe you have a computer in your briefcase. I’ve also seen some guys carrying those recyclable grocery bags sometimes, which would obviously pack down nicely and be useful for souveniers, too.

    The way I see it is, you should be allowed to have 2 pieces, one that will fit in the overhead, and one that goes under your seat, not either/or. I’ve never understood the big deal about a quasi-large personal item that will clearly fit under the seat. It’s the passenger’s own fault if they want to decrease their own legroom, but I guess the airlines worry about people abusing the privilege?


    Michael W. Reply:

    I am eyeing my Small T2 now….

    I agree with the need to keep the “appearance” of the personal item in the right “zone.”

  12. Till says:

    Michael, what do you mean “segregating liquids out of toiletry kits”? We already need to do that unless you manage to put your toiletry hardware in one 1 quart baggie WITH the liquids.

    There is a thread on daybags and seatside bags on FT. Many suggestions there. Tumi has some nice options and there is a cheaper company that makes a really good knock-off called Tandi.

    I decided that my personal item would really stay with me. So if I am not 100% onebagging it (and I’m usually not), I use the Tumi 26141 or the BR BB107 as my personal item, seat side bag and day bag around town, they just happen to also be usable as briefcases.

    I still have a little in-flight baggie, an EC Pack-it sac small, for stuff like Ipod, headphones, tissues, lip balm, ear plugs, travel pillow and eyemask. Still is very handy because I can stow it either in my personal item bag or in my onebag carry-on. Often enough this would even fit in the pocket of my travel anorak.


    Michael W. Reply:

    “Michael, what do you mean “segregating liquids out of toiletry kits”? We already need to do that unless you manage to put your toiletry hardware in one 1 quart baggie WITH the liquids.”

    My attempt at humor. It was not so long ago that we would have thought such a proposal insane.


  13. Tony B. says:

    Just got my OPEC today and am preparing for a trip to South East Asia. Have read in a couple of places about fitting compression straps to the exterior of the OPEC. Any ideas or details would be real helpful, I’m kind of new to all this.


  14. Michael W. says:

    Compression straps may not be necessary. If you are traveling from a cold winter location to hot SE Asia, your “take off” winter jacket should fill any dead air space in the OPEC. Also remember the OPEC has internal straps, which may be sufficient.

    Still there is no denying compression straps are helpful and they are one of the key features I like on my Rick Steves Convertible Classic.

    To add them to the OPEC, buy some accessory straps from REI. You choose the buckle type, or the thread-through type. Either will work for this application.

    Take your bag to the cheapest dry cleaners you can find – they almost always have a sewing machine and do alterations. I say cheapest because alterations pricing are often linked to their drycleaning pricing, if one is high, the other is likely to be high too.

    Show them what you want to do – two straps, the mounting points – determine the strap length and decide whether to double the strap under the connection point, or to burn the edge. Burning the edge doesn’t look as nice but is much easier for them to sew through. Their machine should handle the thickness of the strap and bag, if they have a weaker machine try another cleaner or a shoe repair store that does bag repairs too.

    I recommend attaching the end points just on the far side of the top and bottom seams, for maximum compression. If you attach AT the seam or a little IN from the seam, you won’t get as much compression.

    Good luck! Keep in mind the repairs and straps will cost almost as much as the bag, but YMMV!


  15. Tom Buividas says:

    Tom’s solution:

    Or how to make an “Outdoor Products Essential Carry-on” or any other carry on a better piece of luggage. It’s a cheap and simple solution. This may be a stretch but here goes. This bag needs a stiffener; you all know that cheap little piece of cardboard covered with vinyl on the bottoms of most cheap duffel or sports bags. My old racquetball bags have them. I’ll bet if any of you go in your closet and check other bags you have a couple in the house. You can make one with a little stiff cardboard, or any other lightweight material and make it any size you want.

    Now I don’t like to use bundling for packing, it’s a pain and is not simple if you are moving from place to place. Packing cubes are okay and could be used in my solution. But I prefer not, since I have to pack and unpack them. I prefer to fold my clothes and place them in the carry on. I attempt to fold as little as possible. Pack that suit case up. Pack it high.

    Now the solution: put the stiffener on top of your clothes and cinch it down with the cinch straps. You now have a more even compression on all your clothes at the same time. This kind of works like one of those vacuum bags or like the Eagle Creek Pack It Folder; essentially you are pressing the air out of the clothes and tightening them against the stiffener. The entire bag becomes stiff.

    Put your shoes and other goodies where ever you deem it appropriate, you will have plenty of room. Play with the stiffener. Try bigger and smaller ones. The possibilities are endless…

    You could put an additional stiffener on the bottom of the suitcase, beneath you clothes. The bag becomes stiffer. Maybe even better compression on your clothes. If you anal about it you can even add extra cinch straps under the lower and above the upper stiffener and cinch the daylight’s out of it.

    What’s the problem with the solution? Added weight. But is there really? No packing cubes, no pack it folder, you really don’t need extra straps around the bag. We don’t have to worry about the zipper, the compression is internal. There is no extra cost, sowing straps on, or packing cubes needed.

    Now I unpack my bag and hopefully it worked like a Pack It Folder.

    The only problem is that if you go through a security manual bag search they can’t see through your stiffener and may undo your cinch straps, but so what…thirty second later you’re on your way.

    Good luck!


  16. Rick Monroe says:

    Good to see this bag reviewed. None of the other gear sites have given it any attention. So far, I’ve carried mine on 17 two-week business trips to Europe and also on some vacation trips. It is lightweight and has been very durable and easy to handle on lots of planes, trains, and subways. It’s got just one big main compartment, so I used to use the “bundle” method, which worked very well to prevent wrinkled shirts – but which is a fairly high maintenance way to pack. Now I just use a couple of eagle creek packing folder (but without the stiffener or the packing board). I’ve tried lots of the other bags (only at home though) and returned them. They were usually too heavy or they didn’t carry well. Turns out this cheapo bag beats them all.


  17. Michael W. says:

    @Rick – I like the Eagle Creek Packing Folders precisely FOR the front and back stiffeners! That’s what makes them different, to me, from simple packing cubes.

    The OPEC has tie down straps. So I pack my EC Folder with the more important clothes (shirts and pants), Velcro it down as tight as the adjustments will allow, then put it on the bottom of the stack. Next up is an ordinary packing cube (something from Bihn) with uw/socks/etc. Then a light jacket or fleece for emergency in flight use (the 12 hour flights where the thermostat is set REALLY LOW. (I leave the fleece out of the cube/folder so I don’t have to dig too deep for it.)

    The EC Folder gives the OPEC the stiffness and shape that it needs (no built-in padding in the OPEC to give it shape).

    The next trip I am trying out an old Costco “clothes hanger/folder” mini garment bag recycled from an old Costco 22″ wheelie. This is a “tri-fold” with a loop for your own hangers and a master hanger at top for hanging the entire garment bag on a rack in the closet.

    The advantage of this old-style garment bag (thinned down for use INSIDE a wheelie) is that I don’t have to fold my clothes, just place them on thin metal laundry hangers in the bag, then tri-fold it and put it in my OPEC. When I arrive, I just hang it in the closet, no unpacking. A few more wrinkles than careful EC Folder packing, but acceptable, and saves a lot of time packing and unpacking.

    Packing and unpacking and repacking hasn’t been an issue for me before on trips, but next time I intend to do a couple of side trips, and I DON’T want to have to spend so much time fussing with folding, putting on hangers, folding again.

    BTW you can’t use a regular garment bag for this packing alternative; you need an accessory style garment bag as included with some wheelies, otherwise the garment bag is simply too bulky and over-built.

    Did you have any problems with the zippers opening by themselves during your trips?


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