Guide: Backpacks for train, bicycle, commute everyday with a bonus: summary of one-bag travel in 2020

My favorite way of organizing gear decisions is by use.

why is organizing by use so powerful?
you form a cohesive group of things that work together, instead of a random assortment of bags that kinda sorta does everything. you get a clear idea for what to bring on each day.

based on 10 years of working in an office professional setting and commuting by train, bus, or (very often) cycling, these are the categories and ensuing bags to fit those uses.

Light carry days

General guideline: a bag that holds about 15 liters

Biking days

-> backpack like a chrome bag that holds about 18L. the best solution is really to have a rack or panniers. a backpack is better than a messenger bag because it distributes weight much better. having a chest strap is super, super useful for keeping the loads square. it does not have to look nice, but it should be sturdy. ex. chrome delta (they do not make this because they fucked up the exterior waterproofing and will not stand by the product anymore, it peels off and looks terrible and they won't repair it even if you pay). banjo brothers makes a nice bag too. garbage bags are nice too.

Train days

-> briefcase style that is wide enough to hold lunch and other materials. filson 48hr duffle. i have the padded computer briefcase, fantastic deal if you like more structure. for this type of bag, i like a bag that bends.

briefcase style, that is wide enough that you can hold your lunch or other materials.
i have a sleek stylish briefcase, that, well, isn't wide enough to hold much more than my laptop.
i keep it because i use it when i go on interviews or important meetings, only have to carry a few papers, and want to make a nicer statement.

Heavy carry days

General guideline: a bag that carries 40 liters

Biking days

-> i still like the patagonia black hole duffle, ideally in black. i have it in bright green and that is fine, but does not really fit my aesthetic. this bag you can put on your back or, the best solution is really to have a rack. the rack you can throw this bag on.

Train days

-> black hole duffle, ideally in black. i like the duffle style on the train because, well, you can open it up and look around, grab a book etc, without exposing everything. full zip backpacks like the GR1 have trouble with this last point (they do have a point, see below).


Travel deserves its own post, in fact i have one, but I briefly summarize here:

General guideline: For \"one bag travel\" having two bags is nice.

You have one backpack for travel, then inside there is a small packable bag you can use for your day to day.

Some people like to have one medium sized bag for travel and day to day. I like having expandability in case I bring stuff back souvenirs for myself, friends, or family.


  1. 40 liter, full zip backpack - I said above they have point, here it is: when traveling, the full zip facilitates packing and unpacking and getting your gear. the majority of the time, you are in the safety of your sleeping area when you open the bag anyway. -> i like the GR1, if they do not have that, there are a number of heritage brands that make them as well.
  2. 15 liter, packable day bag, messenger - the messenger sling gets the most use from me. i did not believe it. having it be packable is a huge boon. i have used this bag to carry wet clothes back from the beach in Spain, 8+ beers for the group while walking to a parade in the US, and biking around in France. All black would be nice, but i have a black and blue one. it was $15 at ross. -> i also like the tom binh daylight briefcase, though. the ones from chrome are too small (8-10L)...if you are going through the trouble of having a sling bag, just get one that can actually carry stuff. if you are carrying a water bottle or something, just carry it in your hand?


I know it may not seem like much, but this list is borne out of thousands of hours of international excursions, with my meticulous and incessant tweaking of pre-trip pack lists and post-trip analysis each time.

This quote echoes simplicity:

“Perfection is achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Travel system for bags, one bag, international, adventure travel
How to actually pack for super fun, lots of walking / biking / non-car locomotion international trips, where you go to the beach, and eat at roadside places, and eat at nice places too
Extra: bag ideas for scary shopping areas and blending in

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