UPDATE: seems the folks behind VAGO took people’s money and ran. I’ve updated the links on this page to take you to a Facebook page supporting victims of the scam. Please read my article, how to protect yourself on crowdfunding sites.
So you’re going to Paris. You’ve saved for this trip for months and finally you’re off. (And now you can try out your G-RO carry-on too.)
You’ll be there for a week, so you pack only a few pieces of clothing, hoping to save space for souvenirs.
You arrive in the City Of Love and your senses are derailed. The lights, the smells, the sounds.
It’s what the brochure said it would be. Euphoric.
You can’t resist investing in memorabilia; Mariage Frères tea, La Maison du Chocolat, key-chains, a mini Eiffel Tower.
After a few days your hotel room looks like a backstreet pawn shop.
How will you fit all this stuff into your luggage?
There was never going to be enough space, you realize. There never is.
So you go through your options.
You could bundle everything together into the bag, close the lid and do a diving back elbow drop onto it.
Might work, if you don’t mind torn luggage, chocolate covered clothing and an Eiffel tower stabbed into your lung.
You could learn to pack like a pro from a YouTube video or two.
That’ll go a long way towards saving space.
But there’s another option.
Let me introduce you to compression bags and a little device called the VAGO.
What are compression bags?
There are various types of compression bags, but here’s a basic description: compression bags contain a one-way valve through which air is removed. Air cannot return through that valve.
Designs abound, but some of these bags accommodate a vacuum cleaner nozzle, while others don’t.
What all compression bags have in common, is that they don’t let air in once you’ve removed it.
Compression bags gives you up to 75% more packing space.
This is a lifesaver for travelers.
Of course, compressing a travel bag won’t always give you 75% more space. It depends on what you’re packing.
For instance, Ziploc warns that a compression bag packed with down should not be compressed more than 50%, otherwise it could damage the down. In some cases less compression is better.
How does a compression bag work?
Compression bags are open-ended, like standard bags. At the open end is a zipper (in most cases, although not all). This zipper, when closed, seals in the contents of the bag.
At the other end of the bag is a non-return outlet valve. This valve allows for air to escape the bag, but doesn’t let air back in.
A standard compression bag’s outlet valve accommodates a vacuum cleaner nozzle. Some bags can’t accommodate a vacuum cleaner nozzle, but for this article, we’ll focus on the valve type bags.
Once you’ve packed your things into the compression bag, you close the zipper. It mustn’t leak air, else the compression bag won’t compress.
Once you’ve sealed the bag, attach a vacuum cleaner nozzle to the outlet valve and suck out the air. This compresses the bag, leaving you with more packing space.
Compression bag manufacturers
Eagle Creek’s line of compression bags don’t accommodate a vacuum device. You roll the bag to remove air.
Pack Mate and Ziploc have compression bags with outlet valves and compression bags without (the latter being sold as a travel compression bag).
Remember: just because a compression bag contains a vacuum nozzle valve, doesn’t mean you have to use a vacuum cleaner nozzle on it. You can roll it to remove the air.
It’s better to suck out the air, though. I’ll tell you why in a minute.
Introducing the VAGO
The VAGO is a portable suction device that removes air from compression bags.
That’s its only function. It gives you the benefit of a vacuum cleaner without the bulk.
For this to be a successful operation, you need to use a compression bag that contains an outlet valve.
So it makes perfect sense to buy the VAGO if you love using compression bags, right?
There’s a catch…
The VAGO is NOT compatible with other compression bags. In order for you to use the VAGO, you have to buy their bags.
This is a major flaw in VAGO’s design, enough to put me off from buying it once it hits the shelves.
It sucks, because you want to walk into the nearest shop and buy any compression bag.
In order for the VAGO to be successful, they’ll need to distribute their bags worldwide. Whether they’ll be able to pull this off remains to be seen.
If they fail, you’re stuck with an awesome, but useless, air displacement unit.
Yes, you’ll be able to order online. But what if you’re stuck in a foreign country, and your VAGO compression bag tears? Are you going to order online and wait for your bag to arrive?
You’re going to get your hands on the first compression bag you come across.
They can fix their mistake
If Creation Cell creates an attachment for the VAGO that fits any type of compression bag valve, they’ll be far more popular in my books. Then it’s something I’d look at investing in.
And it’s not that hard, seeing as the VAGO currently uses a screw-in adapter in any case.
In fact, if they don’t fix this blunder of theirs, you should be able to take your VAGO to an engineering workshop and have a custom nozzle made.
You might even be able to make money off of their gaffe; start making VAGO nozzles that fit any compression bag.
But the product is enjoying massive support, so let’s trudge on and see why it’s such a hit.
Size and weight
The VAGO is a cylindrical device hardly larger than a size D battery; looks like a futuristic Apple product designed by Jonathan Ive.
The VAGO is minute, considering what it’s capable of doing. And it’s far lighter than even the lightest D-type battery.
But that’s just the suction device itself.
In order for you to use the VAGO, you need to attach the nozzle (they call it a screw pin), which screws into the VAGO.
The nozzle is small though. It’s smaller in diameter and about a quarter of the length of the VAGO device. And because it’s made of plastic, it weighs next to nothing. But it’s one more thing you can misplace. And if you do misplace it, your VAGO is useless.
The VAGO is powered by a micro USB cable. It’s the same cable used for charging Android phones.
The VAGO does not contain a battery. You have to plug it in when you use it.
They claim it works with a battery pack
This is confusing. On their website, they make the following statement:
Use the general Micro USB cable for the power supply same as your phone Can also use portable battery to recharge VAGO when shopping
What does that mean?
The VAGO does not contain a battery, so it cannot be charged.
I think it means you can use a mobile battery pack to power the VAGO, provided the battery pack is compatible with a micro USB cable.
Take note: It seems the VAGO does not ship with a power cable or portable battery pack.
So how much sucking does the battery pack allow for before it’s drained?
I suppose that depends upon which portable battery pack you use.
Creation Cell ships the VAGO worldwide. Shipping, it seems, is included in the price. I’m not sure whether the price covers import duties. You’ll have to find out about that one.
The VAGO offers one bag size. It’s 50 cm wide and 60 cm long.
Similar compression bags include:
- Eagle Creek – Pack-It™ Compression Sac, Medium (39 cm x 62 cm)
- Travelon – Space Mates Compression Bags, Large (55,88 cm x 73,025 cm)
- Ziploc – Space Bag® Travel Bag (45,72 cm x 57.15 cm)
- Pack Mate – Travel roll storage bag, Large (50 cm x 70 cm)
The VAGO is still in pre-production. Please visit their website to find out when it launches.
The VAGO comes in six colors:
- Special edition Iron VAGO, based on the colors of Iron Man’s suit.
- Special edition Captain VAGO, based on the colors of Captain America’s costume.
The VAGO comes with a one year warranty.
I’m not sure whether this includes the compression bag, or just the VAGO suction device.
Eagle Creek gives a lifetime guarantee on their bags.
PS, the “lifetime” refers to the product’s life, not yours.
Whether Creation Cell offers a guarantee on their bags, I don’t know.
Creation Cell says the VAGO has a suction strength of 225 mm Hg (millimeter of mercury).
This converts to:
- 0.29997499998093 Bar
- 29997.499998093000613 Pascal
- 4.3507695373916046577 PSI
- 30 kPa
- 224.99975329040887573 Tor
Suction strength is one of those hard-to-understand subjects; at least, for a pleb like me. It’s something that vacuum cleaner manufacturers can bend to their marketing needs, to impress you with their products. (Read this great article on suction power.)
The VAGO has a flow rate of 1.8L/min.
This translates to 0.0635664001cfm.
Common household vacuum cleaners operate in the 50 to 100cfm range. Compared to vacuum cleaners, the VAGO is weak. But it’s a portable suction device. You’re not supposed to clean the carpet with it.
Creation Cell claims that the VAGO takes about five minutes to compress a bag.
This is dependent on how much air the bag contains, of course, so this is a very loose interpretation of compression time.
There are many variables that play a part in determining the speed of compression.
You might pack one shirt; I’ll pack two fluffy blankets; mine will take longer to compress.
The VAGO has a noise level of 50 dB.
According to Noise Help, this falls into the categories of “light traffic” and “refrigerator”.
The Center for Hearing and Communication (every teenager’s favorite organization) says this puts the VAGO in the “electric toothbrush” category.
It’s not all those noises combined, by the way.
I can live with the hum of a refrigerator and an electric toothbrush.
By the way, here’s a cool infographic: Decibel Scale and Noise Level Chart.
Compression bag packing tips
You might want to pack hard objects into your compression bag.
Don’t do it. Hard objects don’t allow for air displacement and might damage your bag.
If you’re bent on doing it, consider the following:
- Use a compression bag that can accommodate a suction device. You don’t want to roll a bag with hard items inside of it.
- Wrap your hard object inside soft clothing, so as not to cause the object to be in direct contact with the compression bag. If it makes direct contact, it might pierce the bag.
But it’s a much better idea to compress soft items and use the extra space to pack hard items.
More compression bag packing tips:
- Make sure the bag is sealed before you try sucking out the air.
- Don’t store sharp objects in a compression bag, and if you do, don’t roll the bag. Use a suction device and pad out the bag with something soft.
This is something you need to be aware of. Just because you can pack more, doesn’t mean you should.
If you overload your bags, you make them heavier, thus making it harder to manage.
Suction VS rolling. Which is best?
For obvious reasons, if you roll a bag filled with clothes, it might crease.
It’s better to suck air out of a compression bag.
But not everyone wants to take a vacuum cleaner on their Hawaii holiday to remove air from their luggage.
Not everyone would invest in a VAGO portable suction device either.
Many people will be left with one option: rolling their compression bags.
This is fine, as long as you’re aware that you might wrinkle your favorite blouse.
But get the best of both worlds. Get compression bags that roll and accommodate a vacuum cleaner.
The idea behind the VAGO is phenomenal. It makes sense to carry a portable air displacement unit for compressing travel bags.
It makes sense to use compression bags to optimize packing space.
But the fact that the VAGO is not compatible with other manufacturers’ compression bags sucks the joy out of me.
On top of that, it seems the people behind the project have stolen investors’ money.
If you’re OK with being locked in with Creation Cell’s compression bags, and you don’t mind being taken for a ride, by all means, support the VAGO project.