This Travel Bag Is Essentially Mary Poppins' Purse for Three-Day Trips

Everything should fit beneath an airplane seat. Everything.

nomad lane bento bag
Nomad Lane

This is Kind of Obsessed, a column about all the stuff we're really, really into right now. This time: Nomad Lane's deceptively roomy weekend bag.

I have a love-hate relationship with traveling. Everything from the stress and rush to get out the door on time, to the inevitable fight with your significant other, to the lines, to the lost baggage, to the cramped seats and oversalted peanuts: hate. And packing. I really hate packing. On the other hand, I love long flights, because it’s during these trips that I do my best thinking, self-reflection, and writing. I even decided to leave my old job and start Artisan Revere while on an airplane.

To get Artisan Revere up and running, I had to build out a robust supply chain, manage numerous vendors, and learn knife design and making. I read voraciously. Non-stop. There was so much to learn, but I also knew, from my years as a researcher, that I needed to be on the ground, learning in person from world-class experts. Because of that, I found myself traveling more than I had in years. I was on a plane almost every week, taking meetings with factory owners, craftsmen, machinists, and engineers all over the country. To any aspiring entrepreneur — you can learn a lot from books, but you need to be on the ground, asking questions and soaking up the knowledge of experts, and actually doing the work yourself.

During every diligence trip in a new facility or meeting with a maker in their home shop, I felt a bit naked. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I just felt uncomfortable showing up with a back-pack, or a duffel bag, even my black messenger bag felt off. I’m a bit obsessive, and I love my bags, and I want one for every occasion. I’ve got over 30 bags. Duffels, ski bags, hiking hags, messenger bags, camera bags, totes, small, medium, and large suitcases.

Perfect travel bag: 1. Fit enough clothes and personal items for a three-day business trip, assuming one pair of extra pants, 2. walks the line between business casual and rugged, 3. convenient + thoughtful design. 4. Fits under an airplane seat.

The exact moment that I realized I needed a new bag was during a regional connection flight from Wisconsin when I got hit by the air traveler’s trifecta: window seat, hungry and bored, boxy photography bag, AKA “personal item” up top in the overhead bin. What do you do when the person in the aisle seat falls asleep immediately and you just want to get your damn snacks and a book to read? I nudged the guy in the aisle, got up, got my trail mix, my book, my notebook, and sat back down. I wrote down what I wanted from a bag:

Perfect travel bag: 1. Fit enough clothes and personal items for a three-day business trip, assuming one pair of extra pants, 2. walks the line between business casual and rugged, 3. convenient + thoughtful design. 4. Fits under an airplane seat.

It didn’t take long to find exactly what I was looking for — Nomad Lane’s Bento Bag. They’d just done a multi-million dollar IndieGoGo campaign, and I had a fondness for other creators who start from nothing and successfully crowdsource their products. Through a friend of a friend, I managed to get a hold of the two founders: Kish and Vanessa. As luck would have it, they happened to be in town right when I was hosting a dinner for NYC-based founders and creators. We got dinner and I picked up the Bento Bag shortly after.

Everything about this bag is just so well-thought-out, and this is coming from a guy with a compunction for finding flaws and a weird obsession with bags.

The materials are superb — tough 840D nylon, for tensile and tear strength (yes, I’m a materials nerd), matched by robust zippers and precise craftsmanship. They even run their bags through 500 drop cycles with 26lbs inside to ensure strength. Mine is olive green, and has a surprising amount of space inside, given how easily it fits under an airplane seat. Actually, surprising isn’t the right word, it’s astounding — I actually am just astounded by how much space and flex there is. I can fit my MacBook Air, my iPad, a thick book, a toiletry bag, a large water bottle, a glass Ball jar filled with trail mix and, of course, 3 days worth of clothes and a pair of shoes.

I’m the kind of guy who loves thoughtful options — Nomad Lane gave them to me. Starting from front to back, there’s a flexible pocket up-front for pens, chargers, and various nick-nacks, of which I have quite a few. Inside, you’ve got zippered pockets and netted pockets. Heavy-duty electronics users needn’t worry about running out of battery either, because there’s a discreet charging port that can link up to a portable power bank (not supplied). Next, you’ve got twin top pockets for easy access to more electronics, toiletries, or snacks. Or, in the age of COVID — phone, keys, wallet, masks, sanitizer. These are my quick-access pockets where I store things I need to grab quickly. Behind that, you’ve got the “breaks down into a suitcase zipper” — room to separate clean and dirty clothing and extra shoes. This is the main compartment, and it’s big. I put my MacBook Air, my iPad, paperwork, and books here. There’s plenty of padding and separation if your electronics don’t have a case. And finally, there’s the large back-side pocket. Fill this with more clothes or paperwork. This compartment also has a sneakily hidden band on the side for a water bottle or an umbrella.

Everything about this bag is just so well-thought-out, and this is coming from a guy with a compunction for finding flaws and a weird obsession with bags. The Nomad Lane Bento Bag is the only bag I bring on short trips because I absolutely love how it looks and because the quality and convenience are outstanding. I’m kind of obsessed with mine.

Buy Now: $198

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