We'd read many horror stories from backpackers being forced to check their large packs and the pack didn't arrive at the destination. This was especially a worry for us as we connected from Tampa to Panama City, Panama to Lima, Peru to Santiago. Call me crazy, but I don't trust airlines THAT much these days. So our goal was to carry on, but mostly, our goal was to get Brian's carried on. My pack is fairly small, but Brian's in noticeably larger and doesn't quite fit into an overhead bin like a rolling suitcase.
Our first strategy was to carry our packs as luggage by zipping our straps in-counter intuitive, I know-but it certainly makes our packs look smaller and closer to a roll-on suitcase. Second, we put all of our heavy items, including electronics in our daypacks, detached from our main packs. (Our daypacks zip on to the main pack, but wow, that really makes them look giant!)
The first test came at our check-in on COPA-no issues there. Victory! The second test came when we touched down and connected from Lima to Santiago. Lan is notoriously strict and even has its gate attendants wander through the crowds with checked luggage tags forcing people to gate check their bag. At least 3 ladies with hawk eyes scanned Brian's bag and kept moving. Whew!
While we don't think we will be quite so lucky all the time, it is great to know that we might be able to skate by on a flight or two as we travel the world.
As for our packing strategy, we used our packing cubes and compression packs and think we did a pretty good job for our trial run. We didn't pack too many things we didn't use and know what to tweak for the real deal. I.E. I don't need to bring 3 tank tops.
We feel fairly confident we will have packed as efficiently as possible come Feb. 21st, also knowing we will make changes as we move from place to place. Our personal goals for our main pack weight are:
Brian: 22 lbs.
Wish us luck!