Gear Review | Patagonia Headway MLC 45

Sized for carry-on travel, the Patagonia MLC (Maximum Legal Carry-on) 45 might be the perfect piece of luggage. ($132, patagonia.com)

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I travel quite a fair amount for work and pleasure, and because of this, I have gone through more pieces of luggage than I care to think about. When I first started traveling, I got a bright orange, hard-sided luggage set, thinking that the plastic outer shell would last longer than a fabric one. I was wrong. Lucky for me, my wife got me this bag for my birthday. In the short time I have had it, it has traveled nearly everywhere with me. It has been on short jaunts up to Northern Michigan, flown out to the Californian desert, and even made the trek to Antarctica. 

Let's start off with looks. Depending on what type of a person you are, this might matter the most or not at all. Since I am vain and care about what the bag I carry through airports looks like, this is important. Patagonia does not make a bad color of this bag. Mine is Oaks Brown, with red straps and handles, as well as a red lining. This color combination has the advantage of not drawing attention while still managing to stand out amongst the sea of navy and black roller bags that constantly spill out of baggage claim areas. The bag is currently available in 3 other colors, Big Sur Blue, Black, and Gorge Green, which I've ranked in order from favorite to least favorite. The only thing identifying this bag as a Patagonia bag is a small (2" x 1") patch.

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Open the front zipper of the MLC 45 and you'll find a simple pocket, void of any organizational system other than a keychain. I find that I rarely (read: never) use my keys when I travel, so I can clip them here and they are easily accessible once I'm in the airport parking lot on my way home. This pocket is large enough to fit a few pairs of socks and underwear, or more than a few issues of Wired or Backpacker, which should help fend off boredom in any international airport.

The second set of zippers open up a much larger compartment that is home to an array of pockets that are meant to house anything from pens and small cell phones (my iPhone 6S Plus doesn't fit, but a regular 7 would), to notepads and books. Two of the pockets are made of a see-through mesh with an elastic opening, while the others are made out of the same material as the liner. None of these interior pockets have zippers or seal completely, but some of them do offer velcro as a means of staying shut. 

Moving back in the bag we arrive at the largest compartment, which can be identified by the largest of the zippers. Open that up and three compartments are revealed. The first is a large but flat compartment that I use primarily for any button up shirts (or anything else I don't want to get wrinkled) I bring on the trip. The second compartment is made up of two large pockets, both of which zipper shut. The first, which I tend to use for toiletries, is made out of the see-through mesh that was mentioned previously, while the other, which usually houses a small first aid kit and over the counter drugs, is made out of the red liner material.

The third and largest compartment of the bag is where most of my clothes end up. It can easily hold a few pairs of pants and a dozen t-shirts, though your mileage may vary. It also has a large zippered see-through mesh cover so if accidentally opened, your clothes won't fly everywhere. 

The back of the bag is home to two more large pockets, each of which are fairly flat. The one with the shorter zipper is home to the backpack straps when they are not in use. In addition to the two pockets is a zippered opening that allows you to attach the bag to a roller bag's handles for easy transporting in and out of the airport. 

Each zipper on the bag is fitted with a tie, which makes zipping and unzipping simple. The MLC 45 is also equipped with both a detachable over the shoulder strap, and (somewhat) detachable backpack straps, so you can choose how you carry it.

Warning: If you pack this bag full to the seams, it will cease to be carry-on sized, which is to say it will still fit in an overhead compartment, but you may get stopped and forced to check your bag at the gate (on my trip to Antarctica I had an 80% success rate).

Priced at $189 (as of writing this the Brown Oaks color is on sale for $132 on Patagonia's site), it is far from the cheapest piece of luggage, but as I have found from experience, when it comes to a lot of items, luggage included, you get what you pay for. And the Headway MLC 45 happens to come with Patagonia's infamous lifetime warranty. 

Bottom Line: If you're in need of a carry on that will keep everything organized, and don't find that wheels are a necessity, pick one of these up quick. 

Packing List | Fly Fishing for Largemouth Bass in Michigan

With Memorial Day came my first time off of work for 2016, so I met a couple of friends in Charlevoix, a fantastic little beach town in northern Michigan to unwind. We hit the water every day and caught more fish than I cared to count. 

Fly fishing can be an expensive hobby to get into, but it doesn't have to be. Here's all the gear I useed to get into the water:

Redington 9' 5-weight Fly Rod $65

It only took minutes to find a once-used fly rod on craigslist. Sure, a 5-weight isn't ideal for bass fishing, but I spend most of my time targeting trout in streams near my home, and this 4-piece, 9-footer was a steal. 

White River Fly Shop Hobbs Creek Fly Reel $60

Tippet, fly line, and backing can end up costing quite a bit of money. Add a reel to the list and you maybe pricing yourself out of a great hobby. That's why I chose this loaded reel from Bass Pro Shops. It has a large arbor, and comes with everything you need to get started, sans fly. Plus, the 5-weight had no trouble landing a 5 pound largemouth.

Orvis Bass Popper $4

I have yet to get into tying my own flies, let alone making my own poppers, but a quick trip to my local Orvis and I had a few varieties in hand. My recommendation? Try the chartreuse. It looks like a wounded frog and draws the big bass in. 

Orvis Encounter Waders Free (Normally $169)

Full disclosure: I got lucky and received my waders and boots as hand-me-downs after my cousin grew out of them some years ago. If the water is warm enough, you don't even need waders, but if the temperature isn't quite there, these from Orvis are a great option. They're not too pricy, and light enough that you won't start sweating when the sun get high in the sky.

Orvis Encounter Felt-Bottomed Wading Boots Free (Normally $99)

Pair these with the waders above and you'll never slip on a wet rock again. 

Sun Protection - Outdoor Research Sun Glove $17, Patagonia Sun Mask $20, Patagonia Hat $23

On a recent salmon fishing trip in Patagonia, I forgot about protecting my face and hands from the sun and paid for it for days. Now, instead of worrying about lathering up with sunscreen every two or three hours, I wear a breathable long-sleeve shirt, and cover up my hands, face, and ears.