You can usually tell how much someone travels by what they carry into an airport. If they are toting two roll-aboards, a backpack, and a briefcase, chances are they haven’t been on the move enough to learn their lesson. The reality is that carrying a bunch of bags sucks. Besides costing more, taking up more space, and in general being harder to handle, you have a far greater chance of your gear being stolen or lost in the process of checking bags. So, carry less of them, sounds easy enough right?
Finding the right bag to fill the job of many can be quite the challenge in today’s market. Most luggage stores are flooded with expensive designer brand options built to look great without the storage or durability really required. If you want to buy the right bag the first time there are a lot of things to consider, and nobody’s needs are exactly the same. Here’s a brief list of things to look at when shopping for a bag.
- Purpose – What is this bag going to be used for? Is this just a laptop bag to bring to work, an expedition bag that will be thrown on roof racks and exposed to weather, a carry-on bag for air travel, or a mix of multiple?
- Size – If you have a 17″ laptop, it doesn’t go you any good to buy a 13″ bag. You must figure out what the core items you’ll need to carry are and purchase a bag to match. You’ll also need to pay attention to regulatory sizes if you plan to use it as a carry on bag for travel.
- Features – Is it waterproof, can you expand or compress it, do you need tons of zipper pockets and separated storage or just a generic duffle? What about padding for electronics, removable straps, easy access buckles, wheels, and handles?
- Carry Method – If you have a bad back you probably shouldn’t be toting around back packs or shoulder bags, and if you are traveling places with a lot of dirt or rough flooring you don’t want rollers. Do you prefer a single sling setup across the chest, carry handles on a duffle, optional backpack straps? How much padding do you like and in which sections of the bag? Will you need to hike long distances, or do you only carry this pack to a hotel and back?
- Hardware & Materials – This refers to the construction in general. Are the zippers heavy duty to withstand strain, are the seams double sewn, is it a cheap blend fabric or a heavy duty canvas, are the buckles brittle or sturdy, how many bad reviews does this product have for breaking?
- Customization -Can you change the layout of the pockets and dividers, can you add additional space or compartments, can you buy packing cubes and storage containers that fit?
- Look – Does it fit the look you want for the environment you’ll be in? If you are going to business meetings you may need a professional looking leather case, while hiking around Europe you may need something more visible.
I personally wanted one bag that could do almost everything. I needed something I could haul to work everyday with my 17″ laptop, use for clothes and toiletries on trips, carry on a plane, and comfortably walk around with for extended periods of time. It was a tall order to be sure but one that I solved with the 5.11 Rush Delivery X-Ray.
The Rush Delivery is a messenger style bag which use an adjustable shoulder strap and movable padding for a comfortable carry. It’s made of a ruggedized nylon for durability and comes in three sizes to meets the needs of a bigger audience. The smallest of the group is the Rush Delivery Mike at 9.5″ high, 14″ long, and 3.5″ deep, followed by the Lima which spans 11″ high, 17″ long, and 4″ deep. The Lima would be our recommended bag for most uses, but if you’re like me with a painfully large laptop, the X-Ray at 12″ high, 20″ long, and 6.5″ deep will get the job done.
The name of the game with this bag is organization. The last thing you want on a long trip is to have to rummage through the contents of your duffle bag to find something, only to pull out your shirts, underwear, headphones, and lord knows what else along the way. The best way to avoid this point of frustration is with pockets and dividers, and holy crap does this bag have them. If I have found and counted every one on the X-Ray, and believe me I’m not sure I have, there are 25 storage areas in various shapes and sizes!
The front flap has two large zipper pockets for things like cables, chargers, headphones and other replaceable items you want within easy reach. (I say replaceable as anything in a front zipper pocket carries the chance of being stolen) Behind the front flap are four spots perfect for pens and pencils, one spot great for hard-drives and small notebooks, and a space for something like a glasses case. A slim Velcro pouch lies behind that which is perfect for holding tickets and small important documents. It’s easy to reach for quick access, but impossible for someone to steal from without unbuckling the bag and making a LOUD velcro sound.
Next up is a slightly larger non velcro pocket which fits our canvas tool roll (aka toiletry kit) perfectly. Its just thick enough to provide adequate space but thin enough to prevent things from falling out easily. Finally, a zipper pocket spans nearly the full width of the bag to hold folders and full size documents that tend to get separated or fall out during travel.
The back of the bag is where the meat of your travel gear will go. A full width pocket with a velcro latch is farthest forward and works great for your favorite magazines or business brochures. Behind that lie two open pockets, and two zipper pockets. These work well for memory cards, hard drives, passports, and things you’d rather not lose to the quick hand at a local cafe. An Eagle Creek Pack-It folder fits in the center with ease and makes taking clothes in and out a breeze on the go. If you haven’t tried something like this before, I can’t recommend them enough. This should be considered a must have accessory for travel, especially with this bag.
The rear divider features two pockets on the front side and a large padded slot for your laptop behind. It very wisely has a velcro strap to hold the laptop down inside the sleeve even if your bag is knocked off the table or placed sideways on a plane. Last but not least, a large slim zipper pocket adorns the rear of the bag, while two rounded and adjustable pockets sit on each end. The round pockets fit lenses, water bottles, and generally anything smaller than a thermos. Because you can cinch the top shut, they also make convenient stuff sacks when lacking other options.
We’ve been really happy with this bag from the start. The purchase price of $104 on amazon is reasonable, if not a bargain, when compared to luggage of a similar size, and you can have your selection of three drab colors.. The hardware feels solid and performs time and again without beginning to feel cheap or brittle, and though I do admit I would gladly pay a little extra for the feel of metal buckles, they’re certainly not necessary.
The versatility of the bag’s design is a huge plus as it allows for the addition of accessories like a camera holder, small medical kit, or any other MOLLE compatible item. Of course if you don’t need the extra storage space, you can always give into the gods of hook and loop by slapping some patches on there and showing just how awesomely tacti-cool you are.
Every-day carrying is comfortable and there’s more room than you’ll ever use for the office supplies and papers needed to conquer your 9-5. Months of heavy use hasn’t weakened the straps, busted stitches, broken zippers, or even worn the buckles despite me stepping on them repeatedly. The padded shoulder strap has thus far kept me from getting sore during transit and helps to distribute the weight over a larger area without cutting into the skin. Even the largest of the Rush Delivery series can be fit underneath the seat of the plane, meaning even if you’re the unlucky soul to be told the overhead bins are full, you’re safe from the last minute bag check. One of my biggest praises however, is for something I had thought was useless and I almost removed upon purchase. Connected to the bag is a little “safety-strap” which runs from the shoulder harness to the bottom corner or the X-Ray. During my first trip to the airport, a late flight caused me to run for my next plane creating a swinging and slamming motion for my bag. The thing about knocked me over. Suddenly seeing the light, I clipped the strap around me and made a second attempt for the gate, this time with just a slight rubbing motion against my back, brilliant.
Of course the Rush Delivery isn’t perfect. The biggest complaint was that the bag tends to squish things inside it when full. This is because the bottom is narrow and doesn’t have a solid piece of plastic to frame it, causing the contents to push toward the center when lifted. This could obviously be fixed with a little effort, but we didn’t find it frustrating enough to worry about. Another negative is the small zippers used on the inside of the bag. The exterior models are appropriately sized, so we had a hard time understanding why they would go through the effort of making the inner models not only different, but less effective. I also feel the bag could use some more ventilated padding against the side facing your body. If you have loaded everything in for a long trip, the weight of the bags hard surface rubbing into you can get very old very quickly. Thankfully, the “safety-strap” mentioned above keeps the rubbing from becoming bouncing, but hey why not shoot for perfection.
Overall the Rush Delivery X-Ray is an excellent bag at an affordable price. It has a modern tactical look and will keep everything you need for your trip safe and organized in one neat package. If you’re looking to cut down on your travel hassle with luggage that works on the plane, in the car, and on your way to work, we’d say this bag is a solid choice.