Jan 172012

Filson Travel Bag [ LARGE ]

Anyone who has been to an

airport since 9/11 knows the

rules of security have changed.

Baggage restrictions are no longer

a joking matter and that bottle of

water you forgot to throw out is

enough to get you a pat down.


The Filson Travel Bag Large at the lounge in Rome with a copy of Monocle's Alpino. Adam Marelli


There is a golden rule of travel that millions of people do not know.  If you bags are soft and dont have wheels they are not taken as seriously.  Anything you can swing over your shoulder will hardly ever raise an eye brow at security or the gate.  If you have not seen the small “test cages” near the gates, which determine whether a carry on is too big keep an eye out next time.  Even if your bag is a little larger than the restrictions a softer bag will ease its way into the cage and get you onto the plane together.

As a rule, I never check luggage unless its a surfboard.  Why?  Because airline baggage handlers either send it to the wrong country or they turn loading the fuselage into a Mixed Martial Arts match with my bag.  So far the bag is 0-20.

I prefer to travel light and take everything on board.  Its a recipe for a quick departure, faster arrival and headache free stay.  After a 10 hours in a petri dish for runny noses, vomit and bathrooms straight out of a football stadium, all I want is a hot shower and a change of clothes.

Filson Travel Bag Large


For the holidays my angelic girlfriend surprised me with a new piece of hand luggage from Filson.  The Filson Travel Bag [ Large ] is made from rugged, waxed twill and supported with bridal leather straps and buckles.  If the straps can restrain a horse its good enough to shuffle between terminals.  The design is simple but a few ideal features that make it my perfect bag.

Durability & Flexibility: I want something strong enough that it will not rip but not a rigid hard case that catches the eye of security.  It looks like a tricked out gym bag, but can handle any cargo.

No Wheels:  Let me go on record and say that I dislike wheely bags.  What I like even less about wheely bags is that they let people drive them without a license.  If you have ever had you knee clipped or toes run over by a widget who cant remember how big their bag is, you will understand me.  Wheely bags are the ignoramouses solution to travel.  Their best function is wheeling inside of an airport.  Why on earth would I want to optimize a bag for the ten minutes spent on artificial granite floors or moving walkways from security to the gate.

For “wheeling” they are great.  But for the other 10 hours I spend traveling they are a hinderance on anyone who comes into contact with them.  The collapsable handles stump people all the time.  It seems that “Push the button and Pull” is one too many steps for some travelers.  And I dont mind if someone cannot lift their bag into overhead storage.  As a thirty something male, I come with a sign that says “Sure I can help you.”  But I do have issues with the overzealous deboarder who swings a piece of wheeled luggage from the overhead as if it was a flying guiottine.  At least if I am going to get hit in the head with a bag, I would prefer that it did not have a skateboard wheel on the corner.  Ouch!

Strong Zippers: The Filson bag has massive, leather backed zippers that could keep a hyenea from escaping.  This comes in handy when you pick up a few extra things on the road and need to jam the bag full of treasures.  The brass teeth are stiff at first, but as the break in over time, it reminds you of all the travels and times you have earned a smooth zipper action.

Monocle's Bi Annual Travel Paper, Alpino. This is my favorite in-flight reading.

Outside Pockets:  The bag has two full length outside pockets.  What do I use them for?  A copy of Monocle’s Bi-Annual Newspaper Meditteraneao and Alpino.  This is the only uplifting newspaper in the world which highlights brilliant travel locations, interesting cultural stories (this season a small Italian town that actually lands on Swiss soil) and a rich selection of essays from actual writers, not slaves forced to regurgitate AP headlines.  The open pocket keeps the newspaper flat and allows for easy access.  The line of passengers waiting to board behind you will hardly appreciate “Oh excuse me on second I just need to grab a few things out of my bag.”  Good luck not getting stabbed with an air sickness bag.

Inside the other pocket I carry a small Leica Tripod, which I use for nighttime long exposures. The head of the tripod is solid aluminum.  When it passes through security’s x ray machine it looks like a pipe bomb.  I have learned to put it in a separate tray like it was a lap top and it always gets through faster.  Since the pocket is deep it stays locked in there the rest of the time.

Inside Pockets:  All of my small items are organized with Klein Tool Bags.  These fit the matching inside pockets so if I need a charger or a pair of headphones, I can find them with my eyes closed.

Twill Fabric:  There are two things I really appreciate about Filson’s “Rugged Twill Fabric.”  The first is that the bag is not black. Another golden rule of travel is do not buy black luggage unless there is something specific about it.  If you ever wanted a porter, loading a bus to forget your bag on a curb in Khajuro, just buy a black bag.  Anonomity, is not a strenght when it comes to luggage.  You want it to stand out in a crowd.  It does not need to be “Rob ME Pink” but a tan bag is easy to pick out.

The other thing I like about the fabric is that it will look better with age.  This is mostly true with Filson products.  When the bags are fresh out of the packing they look stiff.  But after some use, a little abuse and a bunch of passport stamps later, they develop a character very similar to Billingham Bags.  If you use a Billingham and like that type of leather/canvas aesthetic the Filson bags are delightful.

All in all the bag was a pleasant experience and I look forward to exploring a few new countries this year with it in tow.


Now that everyone has made their New Years Resolutions, where is everyone traveling this year?  Let me hear you plans, adventures, or dreams for 2012!

Enjoy-Adam Marelli

  10 Responses to “Travel Essentials: Luggage”

  1. Sounds good, but how do you carry your cameras….are they in the Filson, or do you carry a second bag?

    • Hey Dale,

      This is for clothes and laptop only. I try not to take a laptop if I don’t absolutely need it.

      I keep my cameras in my shoulder bag, which is also a Filson, but not as nice as this bag. The Man-Purse holds the cameras and lenses. I travel with a small kit, two bodies and two lenses. Sometimes I leave with just the 50mm and two bodies.

      This is the article that shows my actual camera bags:


  2. I really like that bag, but does it come on “please don’t rob me purple”?

  3. You’ve sold me :) Just ordered one in “Otter Green” (was a tough choice between that and the tan).

    • Joey,

      Its a fantastic piece, I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I went for the tan because the fabric will darken a lot over time. I have two of their other tin cloth bags. When they were new, they were wildly different colors. One was green the other was more tan. 5 years later they are both a medium green brown. Fantastic.


  4. Hi Adam,

    what about an update on the bag after a year of use? Are you still happy with it?

    Regards, Juergen

    • Hi Jurgen,

      Good timing, I am leaving for Switzerland, Germany and Italy next wednesday. I still love the bag. The leather has broken in wonderfully. My Japanese denim has rubbed off on the one side, but that is my own doing.

      And the zippers are wearing in nicely. It has done me well in Thailand, Japan, and Italy. I believe this one is a keeper.

      I will see if I can take a picture to post from the road.


  5. Hello and thanks for your Nice review. Is it the filson 246 medium bag ?

    • Hi Olivier,

      Its actually the “Large Bag” which is no longer in production. They only make the Medium now, which is identical just a bit smaller.

      I love it.


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