Welcome back to our weekly series called Tuesday Tools and Tips. This is a series to help the traveler and runner with various tools and tips that will help to make your training and traveling easier. If you have suggestions or questions that would apply to this weekly series, feel free to contact me and let me know and I will work it in!
Tuesday Tools and Tips: Carry-on Gear for the Runner
With the changes that airlines have made over the years with fees for luggage, more people are carrying their bags on the plane. Since so many people are carrying on their bags now, bin space has become a premium. For someone who is boarding in zone 4, it can become very difficult to find bin space. For most people on vacation, or even business, it is not the end of the world if your carry-on bag has to be checked due to no more overhead space. But, for the traveling runner on his way to a race, it can be terrible to have your bag checked at the gate. It would be nice to think that your bag will be waiting for you when you get off the plane, but that does not always happen!
In light of that, if you are traveling to a race, you need to be carrying all of your running gear with you on the plane. Yes, there will be an expo where you can buy replacement gear if something went wrong and your checked bag was lost, but every runner shudders at the thought of having to buy new gear the day before a marathon. Your shoes have just the right amount of mileage on them to have them be worn in a little to work well during the race, your clothes are worn in just the right spots, your GPS watch is familiar to you, etc. The marathon distance is too long to work on using and wearing new gear.
Here are some of my picks for the best carry-on gear for the runner.
Duffel bags are great gear for runners in case you are unfortunate enough to board with no overhead bin space left. Duffel bags can be crammed under seats if you really need to since there is no frame to it.
This is my personal bag for races. It is built of very durable material and was built for the runners. It has a pocket for shoes, race bib, water bottle pockets, plenty of room in the main portion of the bag for race clothes, and a pocket on the bottom with vents for your sweaty clothes :). This is a great bag that I have used for just about every race I have ever traveled for (even for local ultras as it is perfect for running gear). I consider the bag a great value at $49.99. It comes in Black, Midnight Blue, Royal Blue, and Red. Here is their website – Endurance Bags.
Under Armour has several duffel bags that would be good fits for the runner. The one I use is an older model but I am sure the newer ones are even better than my model! The reason I have an older model and not a newer one is that the bag continues to serve me and is in excellent shape – Under Armour quality at its finest! One of the things I like about my duffel is that there is another pocket on the bottom that doubles as a pocket for dirty clothes and has a pad that rolls out that makes it easy for you to sit in the mud/rain/etc to change shoes/socks during an ultra. Again, this is something that I have used a few times and a nice feature of the bag. The Under Armour bags also have side pockets that can be used for shoes. These duffels come in 3 size ranges – small, medium, and large – so there are a lot of options available to you. Should you decide to buy an Under Armour bag, make sure you use a shopping portal first for optimum point earning (Ultimate Rewards gives 7 points per dollar). Prices range from $34.99 – $84.99. Website – Under Armour.
Backpacks can be useful for carrying your gear as you make your way through the streets. In addition, many backpacks have laptop sleeves so you can carry your laptop with you on your trip (I cannot seem to ever leave mine at home!).
Killspencer Special Ops Backpack
This is an unconventional backpack to single out for runners, but since it is the one I use all the time, I had to include it here. Plus, I think it is the best made bag I have ever used (what do you expect from a bag made in America?). Sure, there is no pocket in the bag for dirty clothes, but the amount of volume in the bag and what it will hold given its size clearly makes up for it. This bag was the only bag I took with me on my Dubai Marathon trip (gone 4 1/2 days) – all my clothes, race gear, and Macbook.
I like to travel light and really like finding great travel gear. When I found a great deal on this backpack, I couldn’t resist. Granted, it is on the higher side (I have their older model which didn’t cost this much) at $475, but if you want one bag to do it all and never have to replace again, this is the bag to get. It has one main compartment and some small zippered compartments as well. The laptop part is a separate, zippered compartment behind the main area. This bag is very small but can hold a lot! Website – Killspencer.
Carry-on Roller Bags
Carry-on roller bags are excellent bags for runner as well. They have wheels to help move your luggage through the airports/hotels/city streets so you do not throw your back out the day before the race. There are a lot of options in this department. I cannot cover them all, especially since I have not had to own a lot. People do not like to spend a lot of money on luggage, but if they travel much, they will find that their luggage breaks down pretty quickly in direct proportion to the price they paid. You can definitely buy a carry-on bag for around $40, but do not expect to get many trips out of that bag. However, if you are not going to be doing a lot of travel, you really do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on high-end bags either. One thing to make sure of – make sure you look for widebody carry-ons. If you travel on some of the smaller planes, a 22″ bag no longer will fit. In fact, if you have any travel coming up in Europe, you will need to have the widebody bag. The carry-on regulations in Europe are a lot more stringent and a regular 20″ bag will not be allowed (especially when flying in/through the UK). The widebody bags have the same exact volume as a standard bag – just more filled out.
I have a Ricardo bag I bought at Bon-Ton on clearance about 10 years ago. I still use it today! I bought it for $40 – down from $300! It has a suiter, dirty clothes section, plenty of pockets, great wheels, etc. The only problem I have had with it was the zipper has begin to tear. Not bad for years of usage! I personally do not find the current line-up of Ricardo bags to be on the same level of quality as the one I have, but they are still pretty nice. To get the best feel for the deals available, I would check your local Macys or Amazon. Amazon has the Ricardo Bel Aire 20″ Widebody for $79. Here is the website for it – Amazon.
Briggs & Riley
My current roller bag for when I need that extra carry-on space is the Briggs & Riley Baseline 20″ Wide Body bag. I love Briggs & Riley for their lifetime guarantee of their bags. Yes, the bags cost more, but if you are finding yourself constantly having to replace $50 bags, you would be better served in the long run to get a bag with a lifetime warranty. This bag also comes a suiter, outside pockets, pocket in the back, generous interior pockets, smooth wheels, and a great handle. It is an all-around winner of a bag. I use this bag when I am traveling for a week and need dress clothes, casual, and running clothes. It holds it all and does it nicely. Be sure to check their outlet and Amazon. Big Tip: When shopping at Amazon for luggage, make sure you sign-up for their clothing special deals subscription – you will receive a code for 20% off items in their Clothing and Accessories (for which Briggs & Riley luggage are in). That can really help! Here is the link.
Hopefully some of this gear will come in handy for you and your travels. There are a lot of other options out there. I have had the good fortunate to have bags that have given me good success so I have not had to experiment much. Feel free to share your favorites as well!