Carry-On Travel Backpacks: Facts & Fiction​​

Carry-On Travel Backpacks: Facts & Fiction​

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Ahhh carry-on backpacks. Who needs professional baggage handlers when you can lug all of your stuff in a carry-on bag  across the vast expanse of a massive airport with only the assistance of numerous moving sidewalks? My legs hurt just thinking about it!

Ok, I’m being a touch dramatic…

There is certainly a time and a place when carry-on is the best solution. I did my first 5 month trip around SE Asia with only a 30L shoulder bag filled with a couple of tank tops, t-shirts, a pair of flip flops, and a couple pairs of shorts. That said, aside from a little bit of walking and some diving, I spent the bulk of the time getting acquainted with the local beer of choice and lounging on the beach. Not really too gear intensive of an adventure.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, carry-on has now become a solution that is labelled as one-trip-fits-all. Even worse, angry corners of the internet travel community seem to proclaim anything but carry-on makes you some form of a lesser traveller. They get together to spread alternative facts across the travel blogging world, all while sporting red hats bearing the slogan “make luggage great again”… Riding a populist wave, these groups leave a trail of hatred and malice in their wake, by shunning everything non-carry-on and all clothing not made exclusively from Merino wool…

Ok, maybe I’m being a touch dramatic again.

Let’s just say the carry-on only crowd are a passionate lot and there is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to the idea that you gotta be travelling carry-on. That’s why I’ve put together this list of reasons why the carry-on solution is not the be-all end-all solution to travel backpacks. I confess that some of the time carry-on is the optimal solution. However, it does not constitute the “last luggage solution you’ll ever need”. On a long journey, a carry-on bag can easily be a nuisance in its own right. Here are a few reasons (both comical and serious) to think twice before joining the alt-luggage community and swearing allegiance to the carry-on no matter the circumstance.

It’s selfish.

Many of the blogs and articles advocating a one-bag solution and carry-on only will tell you to wear your bulkiest items on the plane. This allows you to pack everything else in your bag (and fit it in). This is perfect for your fellow passengers who will either get to sit next to a derivative of the Michelin Man or try to move your coat, boots, 5 sweaters etc. from the overhead to make room for their personal item.

You have to do all the work:

On most international flights your carry-on luggage is included free of charge. That’s so nice of the airline to give away another freebie on top of booze, airplane food, and mini pretzels! Not quite. You’ve paid for your checked baggage in the cost of your ticket, but have decided you’d like to try out a career as a baggage handler instead of leaving it to the pros.

Security sucks:

Instead of 1 or 2 bag trays, you get to pick through your bag for all of your liquids and gels and then cause a logjam as you wait for your 8 trays to come rolling through and proceed to practice your best repacking time in front of 100 people.

Carry-On Standards vary country to country:

You know your favourite toenail clippers? The ones that have been passed down through your family from generation to generation. They trimmed your grandma’s cuticles and now they’re trimming yours. In some countries, they might be carry-on approved (Canada allows small knives up to 6cm), but in other countries, you’ll be saying a teary goodbye to your strange family heirloom as the big bad security guy scolds you for your naivety (don’t even think about a small knife in the US).

It’s disrespectful to the memory of Anthony Bourdain.

The late and great Anthony Bourdain was quoted as saying  “I check my luggage. I hate the people struggling to cram their luggage in an overhead bin, so I don’t want to be one of those people.” Enough said right there…

Most of the concern of lost/delayed luggage is fear-mongering.

I’ve taken hundreds of flights over the course of my life and have never lost a bag or even had delayed luggage. According to the Air Travel Consumer Report issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation, you face less than a 1% chance that a major airline will misplace your bags. Furthermore, delayed baggage is also quite rare. The best thing? If you have a travel credit card you’ll typically have insurance for delayed luggage – turning an unfortunate situation into a blessing and a new wardrobe!  If you’re still terrified of losing a bag, follow these tips from The Points Guy to help mitigate the 1% risk…

Carry on is not always free. Sometimes it’s even more expensive.

“Stop paying for a checked bag” the Facebook and Google Ads scream! That does sound nice… but is it true? Yes and no. In the U.S. and Canada, the majority of domestic carriers will charge you for checking, but not for carry-on. For international? The first checked is typically free so no benefit to carry on. What about ultra-discount carriers? This is where it gets a little murkier. In Canada, both Flair and Swoop charge more for carry-on than for checked (for both checked baggage is $5-20 dollars cheaper depending on the time it was purchased). In the US, Frontier charges the same for either ($30-$60 – it’s $5 cheaper for checked if purchased in advance). 

It’s nice to be free of your bag or backpack for a few hours.

When you travel, your bag is like your child. Like most parents, you love it dearly and always wonder if it’s okay. Sometimes though you need a rest, and it’s important to have a bit of “you” time. Checking your bag gives you that time! If you’ve ever walked around the expanses of Heathrow, Hong Kong International, Narita, or Dubai you’ll appreciate the feeling of freedom and Buzz-Aldrin-like weightlessness that checked luggage affords.   

You’re cheating the weigh-in and hoping you don’t get busted.

With a carry-on bag, you’re like a boxer or UFC fighter trying to drop down a class to fight a different opponent. Sure you may look like you meet the guidelines (you can fit your bag in those weird metal bag measurers), but when that smiling baggage attendant asks you to place your bag on the scale, you’re left with a sinking feeling. Then the weigh-in comes and you’ve blown your weight restriction out of the water. You’re left scrambling at the check-in desk to find a plastic bag to haul your in-flight essentials before bidding adieu to your “one-bag” as it journeys down towards the checked baggage hell you so feared.

If you don’t believe how easy this weight barrier is to cross, check out this fun infographic I built of a purely hypothetical, yet realistic, carry-on packing list (I even weighed each item myself :)….). Note that China Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Emirates, and Cathay Pacific (among many other major airlines) restrict carry-on bag weight to 7kg (yes, I’ve been busted before).

It is (often) worse for the environment.

There’s been a huge push by the carry-on travel community to flaunt the idea that carry-on only is the answer to travel’s environmental impact, and maybe even the solution to climate change as a whole…. Who needs the Paris Accord, when you can carry-on!  Yes, I’ll confess that the potential for weight reduction can be beneficial for reducing jet fuel consumption, but this argument completely disregards the numerous incredibly harmful effects of carry-on only. Weight reduction benefits are easily offset by travel-sized containers and the purchasing of inexpensive items abroad on a use and dispose basis. I recently chatted with a traveler who bragged about her 25L bag, only to add the caveat that anything she doesn’t have or can’t carry she buys there and throws away. Environmentally friendly? I think not.   

Now that I’ve finished my transition to pariah of the online travel community by encouraging you to consider checking a bag, I’ll say this as a closing remark, I have no issue with traveling light and I have packed and traveled quite comfortably out of a 25L bag. That said, there are plenty of times and plenty of trips when traveling with a larger bag like our 60L Khmer Explorer Travel Set simply makes more sense (you had the option of stopping reading before the product plug…)!

Happy travels friends!


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Travel Dresses for Women: The Best Dress for Your Next Trip​

travel dresses for women

Travel Dresses for Women: The Best Dress for Your Next Trip

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One of the staple items in any travel backpack or suitcase is a great travel dress. Breathable, comfortable in hot climates, and versatile (for the beach and a night out), a great travel dress can be your best friend when you’re exploring new places. So how do you choose the right dress (or dresses) to take on your next adventure? Fear not, this article has you covered! From selection criteria to the tried-and-tested favourite dresses of 9 amazing globe-trotting women, your search for the right travel dress is about to get much easier!

Women’s Travel Dresses Criteria

Have you ever packed something for a trip only to realize when you got there that it was a total waste of luggage space? Perhaps the material was inappropriate for the hot, sticky climate, or maybe the item’s design turned out to be a cultural faux pas. To avoid wasting precious luggage capacity, here are a few key considerations to keep in mind when you’re picking your next dress for travel:


Is it breathable? Is it lightweight? Will it wrinkle easily?

Light, natural fabrics are often best. Think organic cotton (which is significantly better for the planet than conventional cotton) and check out this fabric guide from Travel Fashion Girl to decide which fabrics are best for different climates.


Where are you traveling to? What do local women in the country wear? Do you need to have your knees or shoulders covered to respect the local culture?

A trip to the beaches of California is likely going to require a different dress than the one you might want to rock in India or Sri Lanka. Do your research before you visit to see what the local customs are for dressing in your chosen destination(s). The goal is for both you and those around you to feel comfortable! A helpful hint: a scarf or sarong is a great thing to bring along for covering exposed shoulders when needed!


Do you feel great in the dress? Is it practical for your trip? Is it versatile?

Comfort is queen when you’re traveling. It’s important to have a travel outfit that you can wear on airplanes, to a fancy dinner, and to the beach, and feel equally comfortable in every setting. You don’t have all the room in the world to change outfits (especially if you’re lugging your wardrobe in a backpack!), so find one travel dress that makes you feel great whenever you wear it!


What material is it made of? Who made it? What are the values of the company you’re buying from?

There has been a push towards transparency and awareness about ethical working standards in the fashion industry since the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh resulted in the deaths of 1,138 people. Those killed in this tragedy were mainly garment workers, who were making clothes for global brands in unsafe conditions. With the fashion industry also being one of the most polluting in the world, it’s important to consider how your new dress not only helps you travel but also how it impacts other people and our beautiful planet. Looking at where our dresses come from, what their impact is on the people who make them, and what their impact is on the environment makes a big difference. The majority of the following travel dresses are made by companies that put social and environmental responsibility at the very heart of their ethos, making it that much easier to shop with a heart!

“My Favourite Travel Dress”  – From the Experts

Sure, it may have been easier for me to do a bit of internet research, try on a few dresses at a local boutique and come up with a few decent dresses for travel. But when I set out to craft this article my intention was to find the best dresses for travel. Dresses that had been tried and tested by those who have the expertise to judge. I really love a good travel dress, but I must admit I’m more versed at judging the best pair of jeans to wear for cycling a dusty Cambodian backroad (I wish I was joking…).  With this in mind, I spent time asking some of the web’s greatest experts on fashion, travel, sustainability, and all three mixed into one. So without further ado, let’s dive in to their recommendations.

Travel Dress for women Mish
Image by We Live We Explore

Favourite travel dress: The Etienne Maxi Gown 

by Spell & The Gypsy Collective

“My favourite dresses for travel are the Spell & The Gypsy Collective – my current fave, the Etienne Maxi Gown! I absolutely adore Spell for their focus on sustainability and care for this earth. This is my go-to travel dress at the moment because I love how when wearing it, it transforms any photograph into something really special. A gorgeous vibrant print that stands out against any backdrop, flattering but comfortable fit, and of course the flowy gown that makes me love twirling about. It’s also crinkle-free, perfect for packing away in a suitcase!”


from English Lass in LA

ELiLA travel dresses for women
Image by English Lass in LA

Favourite travel dress: The Pocket Dress

by Pact
“I recently took this PACT dress to New York and it’s since become a travel staple for me. Despite the poor dress getting very squished in my suitcase (I may have had to sit on it to close it), it wasn’t creased when we got to our hotel. This dress can be worn layered in cold climates but I’ve also worn it in Palm Springs with just a pair of sandals. Not related to traveling, but I had to mention the adorable pockets. There aren’t enough dresses with pockets and so any dress with pockets makes me very happy!”
travel dresses for women
Image by Conscious Life & Style

“When I’m traveling to warm destinations, comfy dresses are always my go to! Creating an outfit with just one piece is so helpful for light packing. One of my favorite ethical fashion dresses is this pretty printed one from Plume and Thread made consciously in the U.S. The fabric is super soft, doesn’t wrinkle, and since there’s no need for dry cleaning, I can hand wash it with minimal environmental impact. Another big bonus of this dress is that it has pockets! Sometimes it can get tough carrying around everything traveling so it’s nice to have another convenient place to put things when needed.”


from Miss Filatelista

Image by Miss Filatelista

Favourite travel dress: Celeste Wrap Dress

by Poème Clothing

“My absolute favorite travel dress is the Celeste wrap dress from the Poème Clothing collection. I fell in love with their beautiful handmade designs, breathable fabrics, and their dedication to paying fair wages to the artisans who create the Poème Clothing collection in fair working conditions in Bali. I took my dress out for a spin in Chiang Mai, Thailand as I ventured around to some of my favorite Buddhist temples. As a former worker of the fashion industry in NYC I keep the question Who Made My Clothes in mind whenever I shop and try to buy ethically produced items or at least locally made garments. It used to be challenging to source sustainable fashion that didn’t cost a fortune but thankfully the times have changed and consumers have demanded ethical, sustainable, and affordable clothing options.”


from Bohemian Trails

Image by Bohemian Trails

Favourite travel dress: Splendid dresses

by Splendid 

“When I popped into Splendid’s SoHo store last summer, I had no idea that a simple denim-like dress would soon become my go-to travel staple. As a frequent traveler, comfort is key, as is the need to transform an outfit from day to night. Surprisingly, you can really dress this little number up with a pair of heels, a belt, a necklace and/or a hat. It’s also easy to pack and takes up very little room in my suitcase. A major plus in my book.”

travel pockets travel dresses for women
Image by Liang Ge

Favourite travel dress: The Sunkissed Midi

by Athleta

“One of my favorite dresses I take along with me on my travels is the Sunkissed Midi Dress by Athleta. The cut is classy and the fabric hugs my body in just the right places. Not only is the fit amazing, but it’s also supremely soft and breathable which is perfect for warmer weather.”


from Leotie Lovely


travel dresses
Image by Leotie Lovely

Favourite travel dress: The Playa Robe


“My favourite travel dress, or rather my favourite travel piece, is a linen robe by PAR EN PAR. It can be worn as a dress, a coat, a beach cover up, or a robe and it packs up small as well. It’s one of those pieces you can dress up or dress down as well so it’s as diverse as it is beautiful! It’s made both ethically and sustainably as well so it’s a beautiful piece on all levels.”



from Just One Way Ticket
sarong the best travel dress
Image by Just One Way Ticket

Favourite travel dress: A sarong  

“The best dress is a sarong, multi-functional to use as a dress, towel, blanket, headband, scarf, etc. I always bring 2-3 lightweight sarongs with me when I travel, it’s the best travel accessory in my suitcase!”

And if you don’t like dresses? Other Travel Outfit Options


Not all of us love dresses. Sometimes it’s nice to have a travel outfit that allows you more mobility, but still has the same level of class, versatility, comfort, and breathability. You’re not alone and this great outfit option is one alternative that you could try for your next journey!


from Water Thru Skin

Water Thru Skin Travel Outfit
Image by Water Thru Skin

Favourite travel outfit: Rooted Pant 

by Arizen

“Finding new conscious brands has become a part of my routine, and there’s honestly nothing that makes me happier than discovering brands like Arizen. This one-of-a-kind brand designs beautiful and comfortable clothing pieces using sustainable fabrics and nontoxic dyes. Some of the earth-friendly fabrics they use are made of wood pulp, tree cellulose, flax, cotton and others. Arizen also works with artisans in Bali, empowering them through fair wages, humane working conditions, and fair work opportunities.”



Which of these dresses do you like best? Do you have a favourite travel dress that we missed? Let me know in the comments below!

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Shop for Good: Amazing Products Addressing Current Issues in Cambodia

caring for cambodia

Shop for Good: Amazing products addressing current issues in Cambodia.

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Cambodia’s history is both beautiful and devastating. The spectacular ancient temples of Angkor stand in stark contrast to the heartbreak of the Killing Fields. The warmth and generosity of the Khmer people make it easy to forget the country’s present challenges and difficult past.  For these reasons and many more, Cambodia profoundly impacts all those who visit and inspires many of those visitors to help make a difference in improving the country’s future.  

When Michael and I founded Banana Backpacks, we set out to help address some of the issues facing Cambodia today. Like any ambitious project, it was inspiring to look around and see others with a similar motive making a big difference. The following 6 amazing companies craft goods that not only make your life better, but also have a major impact on tackling current issues in Cambodia. From watches that provide water filters, to jewelry that fights human trafficking, we’re sure you’ll love what these shop for good enterprises are working on as much as we do.

caring for cambodia


What they craft: Bags, wallets, sneakers, caps, and more

Issue they are tackling: Environmental waste

If you’ve visited Cambodia, you may have seen the brightly coloured cement bags used on construction sites across the country. But we guarantee you have never seen them like this. Elephbo is a Swiss startup created by Nicolas Huxley in 2014 to turn these recycled cement bags into beautiful products. Employing a team of Cambodian staff to collect and clean the material at above average wages, the cement bags are then combined with other high quality materials to create unique and sustainable bags, wallets, sneakers, and caps. Elephbo is dedicated to decreasing environmental waste and improving local employment opportunities in Cambodia through every one of their pieces. Their newest collection involved the impressive recycling of more than 25,000 cement bags. That’s certainly a fashion statement you can be proud to make.

Image by Elephbo
Image by Elephbo

KOW Lifestyle

What they craft: Slippers

Issue they are tackling: Waste and unethical employment

I had the pleasure of visiting KOW Lifestyle’s beautiful workshop when I was in Siem Reap this spring. Having heard rave reviews about it from one of the company’s Khmer employees, I needed to see this working haven for myself and KOW did not disappoint. Tucked away in a peaceful garden, the company is a model for responsible small business and employment in Cambodia. KOW was founded by the inspiring Dutch entrepreneur Godie van de Paal in 2015 and the company is revolutionizing the making of hand-crocheted slippers in an ethical and environmentally responsible manner. The materials used to make the company’s slippers are biodegradable and they actively pursue a zero-waste project by transforming scrap materials into new products. KOW offers fair wages, benefits, a pleasant working environment, and training opportunities, all of which are outlined in the company’s publicly available employee handbook. With all of this social good, you can certainly feel cozy wearing these beautiful slippers!

Image by KOW Lifestyle
Image by KOW Lifestyle

Lucky Iron Fish

What they craft: Reusable iron fortifier

Issue they are tackling: Iron deficiency and anemia

For those readers who are iron deficient or anemic, Lucky Iron Fish has your best shopping answer. This fellow Canadian social enterprise creates small, reusable fish that release iron into water or broth when boiled with a few drops of an acidic liquid like lemon juice for 10 minutes. These fish last up to 5 years, making them an affordable and environmentally friendly solution for those suffering from iron deficiency. Better yet? For every fish you buy, a fish is given to a family in need. Iron deficiency is responsible for anemia, impaired cognitive ability, and increased risk of illness, among other life-altering health conditions in Cambodia. The concept for the Lucky Iron Fish originated from a study trip to Cambodia by Dr. Christopher Charles who was shocked by the high rates of these conditions in the region. His future research was dedicated to developing a safe and affordable solution. The fish design was inspired by a symbol for luck in Cambodia: the kantrop fish. What better way could there be to shop for good than by spreading health and luck in Cambodia and around the world?      

Image by Lucky Iron Fish
Image by Lucky Iron Fish


What they craft: Timeless clothing

Issue they are tackling: Access to education and unethical employment

I often describe Dorsu as the Everlane of Cambodia. This transparent Khmer and Australian founded company takes a hard stance against the environmental and societal harms of fast fashion in favour of timeless, ethical pieces. Founded by Kunthear Mov and Hanna Guy in 2008, Dorsu offers beautiful, minimalist clothing for both women and men. The company uses unwanted or unused leftovers from the large garment industry in Cambodia to cut back on waste and make unique collections. In addition to ethical employment standards, including above average wages and training opportunities, Dorsu financially supports Chumkriel Language School (CLS). CLS provides English, computer, agriculture, and creative arts lessons within the Kampot community of Cambodia where Dorsu does its entire in-house production. With a belief in making education a priority for future generations in Cambodia, Dorsu is a company close to our hearts.

Image by Dorsu
Image by Dorsu

TUK Watches

What they craft: Watches

Issue they are tackling: Access to clean water

TUK is a brand I recently came across and it was love at first sight. The word “tuk” means water in the Khmer language and the brand takes its name seriously. For every one of their beautiful watches, their partner, RDI Cambodia, installs a water filter in a school classroom. With our own focus at Banana Backpacks on tackling barriers to education and clean water in Cambodia, TUK’s mission speaks to our hearts on a very deep level. The company was created by the talented Kelsey Braun and Sasha Juliard. Their incredible Instagram photos are sure to inspire you to see the world and shop to make a difference. 

Image by TUK
Image by TUK

The Brave Collection

What they craft: Jewelry

Issue they are tackling: Human trafficking

The Brave Collection is the kind of organization that gets people talking. Jessica Hendricks Yee built her striking jewelry line to raise not only funds but also awareness of the human trafficking of women in Cambodia and around the world. Every one of her items is made by local Cambodian artisans who suffer obstacles to fair and meaningful employment due to disabilities or poverty. Going above and beyond this, 10% of The Brave Collection’s profits are donated to fighting human trafficking in Cambodia through partner organizations. Additional education stipends for artisans’ children are even more of a reason to shop for good here. Be sure to check out their brass bracelets that feature the word “brave” written in the Khmer script.

So there you have it, 6 incredible and unique enterprises making the world a better place and allowing you to shop for good and support Cambodia. If you want more details on Banana Backpacks and our Cambodia projects, head to our store, read about our start, or ask me below. 

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