Gear Guy

Can you suggest a compact bag for multi-country travels?

I will be traveling through a number of countries next fall and every guidebook I've read suggests traveling with just one small, carry-on bag. What's a good bag, then? And any ideas on what kind of clothes to pack? All synthetic, or is cotton OK? Jake Surprise, Arizona

A: Well, I suppose that makes sense, but it also sounds like pretty frugal packing to me. Especially for a long trip. Your seatmates in some aircraft and trains may wish you'd packed some extra shirts and underwear.

Swift Traveler

But I'll play along. I'll even play by the rules—unlike the young woman in front of me on a flight from Baltimore to Charlotte last week who somehow got onto a full flight with two bags that each filled most of an overhead bin.

I digress. I lug around an Eagle Creek Expandable 24 ($220;, which has about 3,500 cubic inches of packing space. I find that it'll cover me for close to a week, more if I have a chance to do some laundry en route. It's strictly one of those ubiquitous wheeled suitcases, but the slightly larger Switchback Modular 26 ($285) comes with a backpack option. The latter is borderline acceptable as a carry-on piece, but you probably can sneak it on. A very nice piece, which will work wonderfully with Eagle Creek's packing accessories. Keep in mind, though, that it really isn't a "backpack"; it's a semi-soft rolling suitcase with pack straps, suitable for a trek from the train station to your hotel.

For something more back-friendly, you might look to Dana Design's new Swift Traveler ($349;, a true traveler's backpack with a roomy capacity of 6,300 cubic inches. It has an internal duffel you can check-in, plus a removable daypack. The Swift also includes a pretty good trimmed-down version of Dana Design's superb suspension system. Osprey's Departure 75 ($289; is very similar, though a little smaller at 4,500 cubic inches. Still, that's a substantial capacity, and either of the above should let you carry a fair-sized selection of clothing—even some spare shoes!

Though you don't specify where you're headed, I'd probably take a mix of synthetic and cotton in terms of clothing. The synthetic stuff certainly dries better (example: Mountain Hardwear's Canyon Shirt; $65,, but cotton is comfortable and often looks less travel-geeky. Lands' End and L.L. Bean both sell a selection of wrinkle-resistant clothing, such as the Lands' End Carefree Coastal Shirt ($40;

Bon voyage! Send us a postcard.

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Lead Photo: courtesy, Dana Design
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