Bo Ismono in the Maldives
Bo Ismono in the Maldives

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Tell us a bit about yourself

My YouTube channel has been online, at least with bags, for about two years. And actually, I'm a film editor who edits predominantly commercials in Germany and Europe. The YouTube channel was always like a creative outlet because in the creative world you always work with directors, clients, agencies—so YouTube was always something for me just to do for myself and that was basically the start it. The start of reviewing bags came with the extremely expensive purchase of my GORUCK GR0—which was the highest investment of a bag that I have ever bought in my whole life.

Bo Ismono in Hamburg, Germany
Bo Ismono in Hamburg, Germany

Why did you decide to start with a GORUCK GR0?

Well, at that time I owned a 5.11 RUSH12 which in my humble opinion is still the best bang for your buck. In Germany you can get it for 90 Euros and it's an extremely durable backpack—which unfortunately is also extremely military looking. So I was able to pull it off in some offices but in other offices it was kind of, I wouldn't say frowned upon, but it did attract some curious looks. So I was looking for a bag that had the same ruggedness and then there were all these blogs that showcased the GORUCK GR0. Since it was such a big investment, I was researching so much but couldn't find any visually appealing video reviews about it. So then at some point, I just made the decision to buy that bag because it was like the 5.11 RUSH12 in terms of durability but still military looking because of the MOLLE aspect.

At that time it costed about 300 Euros, shipping was 80 Euros, plus custom fees—the custom fees in Germany always are calculated by the price and shipping fees. I paid close to 400 Euros which was really crazy for me. And then I thought, okay, you spent so much money now you have to do something with it. Then I created my first video review of a bag and that's actually when Carryology found me and asked if they could post my video to their website. That's how it all started—with a really expensive, but totally worth it, bag purchase.

Bo Ismono in Lanzarote, Spain
Bo Ismono in Lanzarote, Spain

What's your favorite travel bag?

That is a really difficult question. I always travel with two bags. One checked bag and one carry-on bag. And it's kind of difficult to answer which one is my favorite because I need to change my bags every week because of reviewing purposes. But if it came down to which bag I have used the longest then it would actually be the GORUCK GR0. It has been with me for such a long time, but now also the OPPOSETHIS Invisible Backpack—for two different reasons. The GR0 is better when it comes down to packing and keeping everything together because it has a really rigid shape so it fits almost everywhere—under the seat or in the overhead compartment. But the Invisible Backpack is so flexible in terms of what you can load and also in terms of how it aligns with your back. You can actually cram it in every single space—it is top-loading so doing that isn't so easy but it is a really good bag. You can even fold it up quite easily if you want to put it in your checked bag for instance.

What’s your favorite destination?

I can't say my home country, but rather my origin country. I was born and raised in Germany but both my parents are from Indonesia so I connect a lot of childhood memories with Indonesia. That would be one of my favorites. Many people don't understand why I like Jakarta that much and I totally get it, the city is really loud, dirty, and there's a lot of smog. But I associate and connect so many memories to that city. I also like Bali a lot—not the crowded areas like Kuta or Seminyak but the rest of Bali is beautiful. Los Angeles was also pretty cool too. I was only there for a week but I enjoyed it quite a lot. Oh, and Mallorca is also really nice. Similar to Bali, not the touristy places, but all the other places.

What are your “Trusty Three” travel items?

Bo Ismono's Trusty Travel Items
Bo Ismono's Trusty Travel Items
  1. LG G6:
    My number one addiction, is unfortunately my phone. I always need to carry my phone. I have a Quad Lock attached to it so I can mount it to the handlebar of my motorcycle for navigation. That would definitely be something that's always with me. And yeah, I need to admit I have a phone addiction.
  2. Swiss Army Knife:
    Nowadays, I carry a Swiss Army Knife. I currently am testing the Elko by the James Brand. I actually always carry that, not necessarily to cut stuff but rather, there was this one incident where I got stuck in the hotel room's bathroom. There was this door that got stuck and I couldn't turn the knob so I was stuck inside the bathroom of my hotel. There wasn't a phone and I was half naked and I didn't want to scream for help so fortunately I had the knife with me and I was able to pry open the door. That was the moment I was so happy to carry a knife and I always carry it with me to the bathroom now.
  3. Watch:
    Definitely a watch. There are more obvious things like a charger for my phone or headphones but a watch is more important due to the fact that your phone's battery can die. More importantly, what always happens to me, is that the phone automatically switches timezones as soon as you get reception at the airport that you are landing in. So I always get confused with the time and want to manage my time to reduce jet lag. I always have a mechanical watch because I like the thought of having such an intricate piece of machinery on my wrist and not having to rely on batteries.

What's your favorite travel hack?

It's not a travel hack but it's the most important thing that I always carry—Gaffers Tape. I always have a roll of gaffers tape with me to fix stuff but more importantly to hide stuff. I always travel with redundancy in mind, so I always have two credit cards, two piles of cash, my small ID card, and my passport. I put those in a Ziploc bag and then I take the gaffers tape and try to find a good spot in the hotel room and hide it instead of putting it into the safe. Gaffers Tape is a little bit better than duct tape because it doesn't leave any residue. Don't forget to add a reminder to your phone that you have hidden something in the hotel room!

What item do you miss most when traveling?

I have workout equipment to do pull ups on. I actually have two bad shoulders that used to pop out quite a lot due to accidents. I started doing pull ups just to build up the muscle around the joints so my shoulders don't pop out. Every time I'm traveling I don't have anywhere I like to do pull ups. You can do it on the door frame but hotel room doors always close by themselves so you can't really do pull ups without locking yourself out or something like that.

Bo Ismono in Bali, Indonesia
Bo Ismono in Bali, Indonesia

What’s the weirdest thing you carry with you while traveling?

I have a small table name tag from a wedding my wife and I attended and that's something I always carry in my wallet. But I wouldn't call it “weird” because it's an emotional value. But weird? Hmmm. Everything in my pack is always very functional. I tend to pack for cold situations. So I always always have the Patagonia Nano Puff Vest with me, even if I'm flying to Bali or Jakarta. Everyone laughs at me for it until the moment they get into the room with air conditioning and get sick. So that's something that people find very curious but I think it probably fits into the category of functional.

Someone from Instagram asked – What was the most difficult review that you've done on a piece of gear or bag?

There was the one which I called, “I need to break up with this bag”. That was the CYCOP Daypac and it was actually quite difficult. The bag wasn't bad, it was very well made. It had a lot of promising features but it was over engineered. It was very complicated to use, it had a lot of pouches with the so-called whisper-pods because it had silent Velcro. While the idea of silent Velcro is a good idea because it's silent, it isn't practical. It's not as useful because it doesn't hold and the Velcro isn't that strong. As soon as you filled the whisper-pods they just fell off and furthermore, they had about five or six quick access compartments on the outside. I actually lost my battery pack in there and ended up buying a new one—just to find my battery pack inside of one of the six compartments! I felt kind of sorry for that because they had so many other products that were really good but there was just too much going on.

I was struggling with myself if I should do the review or not—not because it was a bad review but I only have about four videos each month that I can do due to timing restraints. So I was arguing with myself if I should invest the time in reviewing a bag that isn't that good or drop it and go with a bag that is really good. I actually had someone comment and say something like, “hey you only review bags that are good, what's up with that?”

It actually was kind of fun to review the bag without bashing it because I was able to see how much thought process went into the bag. So I tried to do a review that was fair—or at least I think it was fair to them while still saying hey, it wasn't that good. That was the most difficult review for me at least because all the questions in my head if it was the right way to go. In the end, it was fun to make that video and the pack just was not for me.

Follow Bo's travels on Instagram!

August 1, 2018

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