(Sarah Read is an author, editor, yarn artist, and pen/paper/ink addict. You can find more about her at her website and on Twitter. And check out her first novel, The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, now available where books are sold!)
My recent trip to New Orleans was the first time my husband and I have ever traveled without our kids. To celebrate not having to carry diapers and car seats through airport connections, we decided to pack as lightly as possible. Our five-day trip would include everything from riding pontoon boats through swamps, to 5-star, jacket-required dining. With that kind of wardrobe variety, minimalist packing can be a bit tricky, but we were determined--no checked bag, no suitcase, no wheelie-that-won't wheel--nothing for the overhead bin that just gets checked anyway because (surprise!) your flight is oversold. Just a backpack each. A challenge, yes, but it can totally be done, if you have a good backpack.
The Maruman Sketch Bag is a good backpack. It was the perfect travel bag, and it is now my official journey bag. I have four more trips planned over the next three months, and I know I won't need anything but this backpack for all of them.
The first thing I noticed about the bag is that it is extremely light. The fabric is a PU-coated nylon that's so thin it almost feels like tissue paper. The structure of the bag is created with thin, light foam. It feels fragile, but it's not. I did not go easy on this bag--I was actually curious to see if it would tear, so I put it through plenty of abuse, but it doesn't even show a scratch. My return flights from New Orleans were not nearly as minimalistic as my flights there (heh), and I can tell you that you can cram this bag full of cans of chicory coffee and books and drag it out from under airplane seats, and (somehow) it holds up just fine. The only downside to that ultra-light fabric? Sometimes it gets caught in the zipper. It doesn't happen if you're careful, and it's a small price to pay for a bag that's light enough that you can fill it full of books and still lift it.
This backpack has an excellent balance of small and large pockets. There's one main large compartment that's great for clothes (or books). Inside that main compartment is one large pocket and two small mesh pockets. Behind that is another large compartment, this one with some foam padding for a computer. The specs say it will fit a 15" laptop, but you could totally fit a desktop computer in there if you wanted to. It's roomy. Or, you know, more books. On the front of the bag is another large zipper compartment with two small pockets inside and one pen pocket. And on the front of that is another small zipper pouch, great for fast-access items. On each side of the bag is a drawstring pouch, fit for an umbrella and water bottle. And on on the side facing your back is yet another padded, medium zipper pouch, perfect for valuables and small electronics. I did use a Lihit Lab bag-in-bag and a few NockCo cases for some extra small-item organization, but I do that even in my everyday purse.
The straps are well padded with foam and very comfortable. There is a sternum strap with a buckle, as well, to help support the weight of all those books. It can be adjusted by width AND height, for which I am very grateful. I'm quite short, so I often can't use a sternum strap. It was very nice to be able to make use of this one.
The only time I had any difficulty with the bag at all was trying to get it out from under the seat on the smaller plane on the way home. When stuffed totally full, it barely fits under the seat in front of you, and I may have had to remove the floatation cushion on my seat to get it out. This is, of course, a fault of the ridiculously small seating space of the airplane and not a fault of the bag--but a travel issue nonetheless. It's possibly also the fault of whoever decided to buy that many books on vacation, but whatever.
I'm very happy to have what I feel is the perfect travel bag. And I'm already planning what to pack for my next trip--to the Chicago Pen Show! I hope to see you there! And speaking of packing books, I'll have copies of my novel, The Bone Weaver’s Orchard, with me to sign and sell at the show. Hit me up if you're interested! And feel free to find out how many will fit in your backpack. If you've got a Maruman Sketch Bag, you could have them all and then some--just remember that your seat cushion can be removed in case of water landing or book overload.
(JetPens provided this product at no charge to The Pen Addict for review purposes. This post contains Amazon Affiliate links.)
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