Wheelies are ubiquitous in Indian airports even though they make grown men look like babies dragging their blankie. If you can manage it, a backpack is elegant and allows you to hop, skip and jump over puddles and potholes.
Tom Bihn specializes in backpacks and other cool travel accessories. With the meticulousness that comes from deep specialization, each of their products has thoughtful little touches that make packing and carrying them an exercise in organization. It makes you feel efficient and in control.
The Aeronaut 30
For the 20 million odd Indians who travel by train everyday, a backpack harks back to that lovely piece of luggage we called a “hold-all.” Remember those? The Aeronaut comes from this tradition of hand-carried luggage. Nowhere is it more useful than on Indian trains.
I am on the Mysore Express, a long and rather wonderful royal-blue train that cuts through interior India. Mysore, where it originates, is like the humanities department of a great university, churning out stalwarts in multiple areas including yoga.
In the old days, my family travelled with a magnificent holdall. It held some clothes, bedsheets towels, shoes and assorted travel accoutrements.
The Aeronaut is exactly like a hold-all, except more organized. It is sturdy yet light and fits easily on the highest train berths, where they turn into a nifty pillow. They can be stuffed underneath train benches or into airline overhead bins.
For a woman, packing Indian clothes is about choice and compression. You need sarees, of course, for formal wear. You need jeans or a kurta pyjama to run into the bazaar. You need your jogging pants and your nightgown. I roll all these into the packing cubes that Tom Bihn makes in various sizes. I love these packing cubes because they let me pull out Indian clothes separate from the Western ones.
Where the Aeronaut comes to its own are on Indian streets that can test the wheels of the sturdiest suitcase. Puddle jumping during Indian monsoon is a sport and it is easier to do with a backpack.
The three compartments of the Aeronaut come in handy when you want to separate the dirty from the clean. Or in my case, the souvenirs and spices from the clothes. For long lehengas (skirts) that I pack to weddings, I unzip all the compartment and let them roll out, quite literally.
One of my favorite features is the zip. Tom Bihn’s zips don’t skimp on the material and are easy to hold.
Bottom line: This is a travel carry-on that doesn’t cripple you on cobblestone streets. Tom Bihn products are available on their website and can be shipped everywhere. The Aeronaut 30 retails for $290 plus shipping
The Synapse Backpack
This backpack is the right size for a hike or a pilgrimage
Hindu temples mostly are situated on top of hills. For the devout, getting to the Gods involves a hike up the hill. The Synapse would be an appropriate backpack to carry into Hindu temples. For one thing, it is easy on your chest and shoulder bones even amidst the crush inside the temples. Second, it has compartments for carrying water bottles, sunglasses, and even shoes when you need to enter barefoot into temples. Fruits and flowers that pilgrims carry back from the Gods can be safely put into the main section.
For those who travel through airports and other such prosaic location, the Synapse has everything you need to hold your devices.
The Synapse retails for $210 plus shipping.