I BELIEVE THERE are two kinds of people in this world: people who travel with only one bag, and everyone else.
Before I had my first child, I was a steadfast member of the one-bag community. Though my closets and drawers at home are hardly pristine, I become ruthlessly minimalist and incredibly organized when I travel. I take pleasure in having everything I need tucked neatly into a duffel or a small rolling suitcase. It makes me feel light, nimble, spontaneous, free.
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If you are a one-bag person, traveling with a baby presents a big problem. For me, I’d go so far as to call it a traveler’s identity crisis. The first time we traveled with my son, then four months old, onlookers must have thought we were setting out on the Oregon Trail. We shuffled through the airport with a lurching caravan of duffels, suitcases, backpacks, and loose tote bags dangling from our shoulders. The centerpiece of our caravan could only be described as the minivan of luggage: a gigantic 13-year-old rolling suitcase whose sole purpose (previously) was to store winter clothes. According to the scale at Delta’s bag check, it weighed an astonishing 70 pounds.
I’d already had enough. There had to be a middle ground between one-bag travel and Oregon Trail–caravan travel.
In order to travel without checking a bag, I needed a versatile piece of spillover luggage — something big enough to handle the baby gear that can’t be stored in a diaper bag yet compact enough that it can slip on top of a suitcase handle or in the overhead compartment of an airplane. I’d been scouring the Troubadour site after discovering the British luggage brand in the May Editors’ Picks, and decided on the Embark Duffle in black. (Note: The duffle is currently sold out at Troubadour, but we found it on The Shop at Equinox.)
After putting it to the test, I am pleased to report that it helped my family of three leave luggage carousels out of our itinerary, and allowed us to put the majority of our caravan back in storage. We’ve taken our 8-month-old on three flights, including a week-long vacation in Florida, with nothing more than a diaper bag, two small Away suitcases, and Troubadour’s Embark Duffel.
Here’s why I’m hooked.
First, and most importantly, it looks good. The bag cuts a monochromatic silhouette, while the black vegan leather on the handles and upper contrasts with the matte look of the recycled fabric body. Though you don’t want to scuff it, the materials are quite rugged. The zippers reminded me of the industrial-strength tug required to zip my YETI soft cooler. The recycled fabric is so thick you’d need a power tool to rip it. There was something that felt slightly absurd about stuffing extra diapers, a SlumberPod blackout sleeping tent, a bulky Hatch white noise machine, and a Nanit baby monitor into this sleek and stylish piece of luggage.
Though my son’s gear filled the main compartment of the bag, there were enough neatly constructed outer compartments left for my own personal essentials. I love how you can overstuff the interior of the bag and easily slip a laptop computer, iPad, chargers, wallet, and keys into the outer compartment. There’s also a side compartment that the website instructs you to use for shoes or gym clothes. I used it for three tins of formula, baby pajamas, and bulky nighttime diapers. The whole experience of loading up the Embark Duffel with all of these items reminded me of Hermione’s magical purse, which she would open up and literally climb inside.
Troubadour was founded by Abel Samet and Samuel Bail, two former financial analysts and business school grads who probably traveled a lot. After using their duffel, I imagined them going through airport security on repeat to test out how a bag could best serve that experience. The product is so purposefully built that I doubt they tested it as a diaper bag/work bag hybrid — but they’ll be pleased to know that it stood up to a very unintended test.
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Cohen Rogers Writer
Cohen Rogers is a writer and podcast producer living in Brooklyn, New York. He writes about the things he loves most: food, sports, travel, and business.
Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator
Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.