Maybe it's my age, but a couple of things have become glaringly clear to me after a lot of years of traveling and carrying luggage. The first thing is that I don't want any luggage that isn't a roller bag anymore. Yes, the roller and handle add some weight to the bag but it is so much easier to move your luggage that I will gladly deal with the extra weight. Carrying all that weight on my shoulders doesn't work anymore.
Secondly, for anything longer than a weekend, I want a hard bottom which most roller bags have. The hard bottom protects fragile items, keeps things in place and gives shape to the bag which is important if you want to leave it standing for a second while you find your passport, or if you have to use it as a portable desktop while standing in line trying to take notes while on your cell phone.
Now that we have the right bag, let's talk about packing it. There are certain items that always go in the bottom of the bag: binoculars, fishing reels, fly boxes, shampoo, sunscreen and other liquids, and anything valuable that I can't put in my carry on luggage, anything fragile. So, you might be saying, 'she puts her shampoo with her fly reels, is she crazy?' The most important item next to the luggage that we use are resealable plastic bags. Every liquid, gel and cream is put in a sealed plastic bag. Sometimes double bagged and placed on the bottom of the luggage with socks, buffs, or a fleece vest across the top of the bottom layer for cushioning.
The fly rods go on the bottom of the bag in the cloth sacks, no hard tubes. We stagger the ends so the reel seat of one is against the ferrule ends of the next rod. The bottom of the duffel is sectioned and the rods lay comfortably and safely in these sections. This is also where the reels go in the neoprene cases with handles up. On top goes some soft items as mentioned above, gloves, hats, socks, a fleece vest, flip flops, etc.
One other thing that is especially nice about the hard separate bottom section is that TSA has never inspected it. They riffle through the top of the bag but never the bottom. Maybe this makes the items a little safer I don't know, but I do know that when I open it things are where I put them when I packed.
All my clothes go in the top section. My shirts go in one Eagle Creek Pack It Folder and my skirts or trousers go in another one. I like the 15" size but Barry prefers the 18". These folders keep the items neatly stored and organized. My smaller items I place in a mesh draw string bag. Larger, crushable items like a fleece jacket, rain coat, fleece pants, are stuffed around the edges. My shoes go in the large end zippered pocket.
The one item that stays packed at all times (I have a copy in each piece of luggage that we own) is a laminated copy of the inside pages of our passports. If the passports are stolen, this copy will provide us with identification, numbers, and information necessary to get out of the country. It will still be a big hassle, but the copies will make it somewhat easier - I'm told.
When I'm on a tropical trip and don't have a lot of fleece and my bag is not full, I can easily cinch down the size of the bag by pulling the adjustable straps on the outside of the bag.
In all the traveling that we do, our bags are only rarely over the 50 pound limit. This might happen when we are out for three weeks or more and/or carrying gifts for people at the other end. With careful planning and today's easily washable quick-drying fabrics, we don't have to take a lot of extra clothes. Oh yes, a small 4 oz. bottle of liquid detergent goes in that bottom compartment - in a resealable bag, of course.