Packing for a Year: Suitcases

I will be leaving the United States in September for a year, traveling to Edinburgh to pursue an MSc in Book History and Material Culture. And while I am super excited about doing all of that, I am truly freaking out about packing. Recently, as in for hours this morning, I have been googling “Scotland packing lists” or “scotland average weather” or “rei + boots” or “year-long packing list”. Don’t worry. I’m only semi-obsessed with packing lists and suitcase volumes and now versed in Osprey’s product list.

I’m sure that my packing-obsessed self will turn what should be one post about suitcases into a week-long deep dive into fabric density and airplane weight restrictions, but I’ve got to start somewhere. You, reader, are under no obligation to keep reading. Thus we begin.

Issue #1: Suitcases.

How many suitcases do you bring if you are packing for a year? One? Two? Six? When I traveled to London for six months, I brought one large suitcase and one carry-on. In addition, my parent shipped me a medium-sized box of clothes. I then found Primark and all of my prayers were answered for anything I was missing (or just wanted). This time, however, I am on my own dime and would like Primark (or any clothing store) to be a last resort. I no longer have a job and would rather my savings are not spent completely on clothing. Unless it’s Burberry. Burberry always trumps rationality.

This leads me back to the suitcase question. I have already decided that the suitcase I brought to London is inadequate and should be at least supplemented, if not replaced outright, by one lighter and more durable. So for this trip I will either bring one extra-large suitcase or two medium-sized checked bags (and a large carry-on), but I will bring no more than two checked bags.

Osprey is my brand of choice for a new suitcase, followed closely by Patagonia. Other contenders included North Face and Eagle Creek, but were removed from the running based on durability, style, and their warranties.

Of these three options, the Patagonia is the most expensive, but in the same range, both price-wise and size-wise as option 1, the Osprey 130L Shuttle. Thus price becomes much less of an object and deciding factor. However, based on reviews I have read, the wheels tend to go a bit wonky and either break or bend and the fabric has ripped. No bueno. Plus, the duffel straps seem to be superfluous with a bag this large and I see them getting in the way. Other reviewers, both on Patagonia, Amazon, and REI, swear by this bag – which is a good thing to keep in mind – but it is option #3 for a reason. Additional pros: weather-resistant, additional low-profile pockets both inside and out, light (8 lbs 10 oz), Patagonia will repair bag for a “reasonable fee”.

Additional pro: it looks cool.

Additional pro: it looks cool.

Options #1 and #2 are essentially the same bag, but in different sizes. So, if I were to bring just one suitcase with me, it would be the 130L. If I were to bring two, I would purchase the 100L, or perhaps something smaller, and pair it with my inadequate suitcase from the London trip. I like the Ospreys a lot. They have many optional pockets, which is perfect for an organizational freak like me. There are compression straps for when the bag isn’t completely full, or, more likely, it’s too full. Padded and low profile handles make the bag easy to haul, and there are no complaints of the wheels breaking. I do not believe this bag is weather resistant, but with checked baggage, that is small concern. Additional pros: light and Osprey will fix the bag for free.

Papa and baby.

Papa and baby.

One major issue for the Osprey could be the size. A reviewer posted that this bag is over the legal size for checked luggage, to which I say “phooey” to the TSA and airlines that impose that regulation.  Another reviewer contested this and said it’s just fine. Bag size and weight is potential issue with anything I’m taking and I will most likely have to pay up for it, Osprey or not. (Helpful: TSA Luggage Regulations. Phooey.)

Screw you, luggage regulations.

Screw you, luggage regulations.

Right now, I am leaning towards the Osprey and will pay a visit REI to make the final decision. I always like checking it out in person before I purchase. Who knows, I may come home with two!

*Handel's "Messiah" plays in the background*

*Handel’s “Messiah” plays in the background*

The carry-on luggage is relatively easier to plan. I will bring my trusty 40L Gregory Mountain pack, which conveniently fits a ton of stuff, has handy pockets, and is carry-on size, as well as a “personal item.” The personal item is TBD. It will most likely be a large tote purse (too many to choose from), my North Face backpack, or my Fjallraven backpack. That will come down to what additional purses and bags I decide to bring with me. So many purses, so little space. Just wait for the shoes post.

So, 800 words on suitcases. I could have done better, but I also could have done worse.

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