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A good bag is versatile. It has to be functional, yes, but more than that, it needs to be functional in a number of situations — because who has the space or budget or bandwidth for a range of occasion-specific luggage? It’s better to have one bag that can be everything you need.
I’m in India as I write this, and I made it to the airport just 45 minutes before my flight from JFK — that’s 75 minutes after the recommended time, and 15 minutes past the cutoff to check a bag. This is bad! It worked out just fine, but only because I didn’t have any luggage to check.
It's a common joke among immigrant families like mine that you don't go to India without your "India suitcase" — usually two, with the second packed full of things people've asked you to bring with you from the US: paper towels, Q-tips, tupperware containers, Chex Mix, and makeup from Sephora. A bag that you can then use to stuff full of new clothes and sealed packages of besan ladoos and syrupy jalebi and pashmina and silk scarves on the return trip back to the States.
These are jumbo-sized suitcases — the ones you definitely have to check and probably have to weigh twice before you leave your house to make sure they're under the 50-pound limit. (In my experience, they'll let you sneak anything under 53 pounds through, but don't quote me! Travel light!)
So when I decided to come to Delhi with just a weekender — a bag I could throw over my shoulder, a bag I wouldn't have to wait 45 minutes for at baggage claim — it felt like a Big Deal, an irreversible decision that could set all kinds of things in action. Was my worth the same if I didn’t come bearing a ton of stuff?
It turns out nobody even noticed, perhaps in part because, yes, things kind of fell apart while I was in India. But also because we don’t need so many of the things we think we do — I traveled without snacks (unprecedented), without a hairbrush (accidental, but still), without any jewelry, and with only the Aerosoles flats I wore on the plane, and I was fine.
I didn’t bring family-size jars of Vaseline or fun packs of chocolates, and I didn’t have to stress about lost baggage or juggling too much stuff or any of the minor luggage-related hassles that we all face.
And it’s all thanks to this Lo & Sons Weekender, easily the best bag I’ve ever purchased. I bought the original a few months after I started working in New York and I boarded a crowded flight to a wedding in Atlanta with a wheeled carry-on and had to check it at the gate, causing the people who were traveling with me — who all had their own breezy-cool overnight bags — to wait 30 minutes for my suitcase to appear.
I had recently picked up a different Lo & Sons bag, the T.T., after half a year of looking for a bag that would basically replace my car when I moved from the sprawling South to Manhattan’s East Village.
It needed to be able to fit, at any given time, my laptop, a notebook, a novel, pens, a water bottle, some form of snack, a scarf, a pair of flats, sunglasses, headphones, my wallet, and other #essentials, plus it needed to zip close and have handles that could support the weight of everything inside it. The T.T. was that bag. Two and a half years later, it’s still that bag, but we’re here to talk about its sister, the Catalina.
The weekender comes in three sizes: the original as well as the Catalina Deluxe ($148) and the Catalina Deluxe Small ($128). The original is the biggest — it’s boat-shaped, a little more free in structure than the two newer bags. But it fits everything; I've taken it home for a two-day trip to Atlanta and have been able to return with the bulk of my winter clothes. I've taken it on two-week trips and been perfectly fine.
There's a zip compartment in the bottom for dirty clothes or shoes (and also, in my case, an umbrella and a quickly wadded-up rain-proof jacket added at the last minute, because I am nothing if not prepared in the event of weather, despite my inability to ever make it to Penn Station before my train’s boarding platform is announced).
The Deluxes have more structure, more pockets, and a second handle if you want to wear them messenger-style. They’re a little more professional; possibly better for work trips, whereas the original is great for a fun weekend at the beach, stuffed to the brim with towels and with plenty of space to pack a straw hat without squashing it.
It’s perfect. But I’m not oblivious — I took psychology classes like we all did, so I know I’m bad at traveling light because I'm bad at letting go. Forcing myself to limit my belongings — even just for 12 days — is a step in the right direction, and having the right bag makes a big difference.