IAIN ROBERTSON 

A disproportionate amount of my time is spent on-board aircraft and in travelling to one/two-night-stopovers, states an irritated Iain Robertson, whose search for a ‘right-size’ travel bag has taken over four decades to achieve; better late than never!

People who travel a lot get into habits. I have my ‘travel pile’, which contains passport, credit cards, currency and tickets. I have my clothing selection, which includes appropriate wear for Arctic cold, or tropical heat, and a suitable mix for Europe. Despite having gained immense experience, I still pack two days prior to travel and carry out a final check the night before.

However, having started with an all-purpose suit-carrier around forty years ago, I moved onto suitcase, trolley-bag, then grip and, finally, shoulder bag. Circumstances, which include air travel legislation, on-board baggage, lost luggage and a need to return home with more stuff than I left it, have changed my demands on luggage. The simple truth is, I often want access to certain items and placing one bag in the hold, while having another in the overhead locker can be inconvenient. The experienced traveller also needs to be packing savvy!

Yet, durability weighs into the equation. I have owned very expensive luggage but the way in which airport baggage-handlers deal with it has led to my increasing desire to keep my possessions closer to hand. A very expensive French-branded suitcase lasted for three continental trips before succumbing to damage, while a wheeled, solid case became a drag, quite literally, after just five trips. I have used leather, fabric and advanced polymer bags over the years and countless branded ‘freebies’ from various companies, while the stitching of most grips and shoulder bags has given up the ghost within a year.

Thule, a Swedish company renowned for its on-car roof-boxes, bike carriers and roof racks, also manufactures a range of computer, camera and sports bags. Thanks to extensive design for purpose, engineering and the use of quality components, it is fair to state that its products also carry a premium price. However, the latest Subterra Backpack, which promises a 34-litre carrying capacity, is priced at a moderate £140, from an extensive range of bags that can cost as much as £295 (thule.com).

Its long list of product benefits matches my requirements to perfection. For a start, it offers easy access to my ‘travel pile’ and features a well-padded internal organiser for pens, computer and documentation. There is even a ‘PowerPocket’ for cords, leads and plugs and an accessible key-holder, useful for long-term parking. Thanks to a removable ‘packing cube’, I can stash shoes and dirty laundry in a separate, zipper-lined compartment. A convenient zippered side entrance allows ready access to internal contents and an expandable side pocket allows a water-bottle and other personal items to be reached easily.

Should I use the Subterra bag in conjunction with a larger trolley bag, for those longer treks, it has useful, sturdily stitched, pass-through panels. Measuring 23x31x52cm and weighing just 1.25kgs (empty), it complies with current carry-on luggage regulations. However, its capacity is outstanding. Not only can I take a pair of shoes, but the Subterra has space for up to six shirts, two pairs of trousers, a jacket and plenty of socks and under-garments, as well as my appropriately-sized selection of toiletries. I should add that a book, electronic device and my omni-present tubes of Polos and spares for my vaping device have also been incorporated. I can use it like a backpack but it also has a durable and comfortable grab-handle.

Finally, it is classy enough, in its black 800D nylon weave finish, for me to use the Subterra as a practical ‘briefcase’, with the packing cube removed. The bag has already proven to be a boon for several UK-based overnighters and a couple of continental jaunts. It fits into aircraft overhead lockers with ease and stands upright in the front passenger footwell of my car. Thank you, Thule, for producing the ultimate go-anywhere travel bag!

Conclusion:    For sheer convenience of proportion and ingenious use of interior space, Thule has produced a godsend to the professional traveller. Yet, it is practical enough for a multitude of applications and its ‘rip-stop’ fabric is not just well-padded (to protect sensitive equipment, including my camera) but also looks slick and clean.