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About Us

CabinZero, Huh?
What’s it all about. This is what everyone asks when I present the range to them. Normally they hear the sanitized, succinct version. For you, I know you are already a fan as you have found our website, I will share the full version. Unabbreviated and uncensored. Keep it to yourself though….
It all started in 1993. Wow! A long time ago huh? Probably before some of you have been born. Let me tell you, good ideas sometimes take that long to work through.

I’d just finished university in the UK. The whole world was in recession (sounds familiar?) and decent jobs were hard to come by. So what did I do to try to help my employability? I went to India… I went to find myself and to find India. Wow…what a decision. I never knew that decision would affect me for the rest of my life.

So there I was, I’d arrived in Bombay (you know it’s a long time ago as the city is now called Mumbai), all alone, with no real plan. Just me, my traveller's cheques (No ATMS in India at that stage) , my British Passport and a large backpack with external frame. (Note the first time bags have been mentioned).

A great trip was had. Fun, adventure, tears and laughter. It didn’t last long, only 6 weeks. But at the end of that trip I had already decided something:

i) I had to go back to India, SOON.
ii) I had to find a better bag which was more suited for travel.

6 months later, after doing a stop-gap job, I was back in India. Visiting many different places. From Manali, Dahamsala, Amritsar, to Madras, Kovolam Beach and a jaunt around Sri Lanka. For this trip I’d swapped my backpack for a large travel bag with an internal frame. It looked great, but fell apart after 6 weeks…disappointing huh?. As a result I had the epiphany moment whilst eating a gorgeous Goan King Prawn Curry on Anjuna Beach.

I needed a small, lightweight (35 litre) backpack, with zippers that would lock. Not too big, or too cumbersome, and it definitely had to be durable enough for the rigours of travel in India. The bag needed to stay by my side at all times when travelling, for security reasons. Some compromise would need to be made in terms of what stuff to travel with, but the advantages outweighed this. I'd used two different bags at that stage and neither was right.. The big issue was size, it was so unnecessary to take such a big bag. Despite the broken bag I had an awesome second India trip lasting over 6 months long with just a few bouts of Delhi Belly but full of adventure and fun.

When I got back to the UK (massive downer) I decided two things:

i) I had to go back to India, SOON,
ii) I had to find this better bag I visualized during the epiphany moment with my Goan Curry.
For my third trip I had cracked it. I found a bag which was suitable and tested it. Perfect. You should have seen the looks I got from other travellers… They would ask: “How can you travel for so long with such a small bag?” My answer, “How can you travel for so long with such a big bag??”. They knew I had a point.

I had everything I needed and I was flexible. If I needed something I didn’t have I would buy it. My bag could be locked up for security and would easily travel everywhere with me by my side, be it on bus, plane, train, jungle, mountain or beach. If my bag is with me I am pretty confident the contents are secure.

That trip was great. Had some very nice romantic interest (where are you now Carolyn?), ate lots more Goan Prawn Curry and also discovered Sri Lankan String Hoppers (so yummy). I also had a great spiritual experiences in Bodh Gaya, the place where Buddha was enlightened.

So three trips to India in three Years. Total of over 12 months of my life spent in India. It’s now 1996..what to do next???? Thailand, Australia, USA? Uh-oh…nope, somebody had to get a job…


Fast-forward to the year 2001.
I’m still alive and working. Incredibly unrewarding actually. So what happens? I get sick. Not just a little but, but a lot! Too much stress! After 2-3 years of struggle I manage to come through, almost intact.

So, what do I want to do after that? Well I didn’t wanna go back to working for someone else in an unrewarding environment. So I went back to my happy days of travelling and try to find a way I can work for myself. By this time I have some cash in the bank and I am able to go to other places. Queue Thailand, Hong Kong, and China.

In Thailand the first breakthrough happens. I noticed a very popular guidebook for Bangkok and Chiang Mai is not available in the UK. So what do I do? I ask the nice people at Nancy Chandler Graphics if I can handle their sales in the UK. Yes, sir! This gets me into the travelling product sector. Quite a bit of international research and travel is done over the next few years which then moves me into bags…

The CabinZero Years, 2010 onwards
All this travel takes me back to my first trips to India. I still felt it’s crazy that most travellers carry all their wardrobe and kitchen sink on their backs when travelling. At that stage I am still travelling with a small bag. But something else has changed in the travel market: LOW COST AIRLINES. Suddenly, all airlines are moving towards charging for checking-in bags and charging a whole lot more if your cabin luggage is bigger than their permitted dimensions. Scandal! It was never like this on my first flight from Heathrow to Mumbai with Uzbekistan Airways in 1993.

With all the travelling I was doing I realized I needed a cabin sized bag which would be lightweight, durable and also be cool enough to use at my final destination bag as I am travelling to different beaches (Sorry, I mean meetings). Pretty much the same criteria I had for the third bag I used in India all those years ago. I don’t want the hassles with having to check-in my bags. In fact I want no hassles with my bags.

I scour the shops in the UK and Asia and realize no-one makes such a bag. So if they don’t make it then I will try to make it! I spent 6 months researching the very best factories and manage to persuade a couple to turn our sketches into real life samples. You don't know how good it felt to see these first samples and try them. Awesome is not the word. On top of this, I decide we need to add extra features like a ‘lost and found system built in’, lockable zippers and ensure the bags are built to last.

So, this takes us up to present day, 2016. Multiple colours, new styles arriving regularly and distribution in many countries around the globe. We also have a great team working for us in our offices in the UK, China and Canada. Coupled with this, I am doing something that I love. I used to travel for fun and adventure, now I travel for business but I also ensure I couple this with fun and adventure. It’s what I live for. I personally test every single style that we make, not just in the office, but at the airport, the beach, the railway station. If they are durable, practical and cool enough for me to use then I know someone else will like them! Equally, if the bag gets bashed up by baggage handlers then we won’t sell it.

I’m passionate about CabinZero and I hope some of this passion can be seen in the attention to detail we put in our range. I'm thrilled when I see someone use a CabinZero, perhaps even on their first trip to India.

Oh yes, and I still love a Goan Prawn Curry, although I these days it has competition from a Thai Massaman or Jungle Curry.

I forgot, to mention. CabinZero. Why the name? There’s a lot of myths out there, some of them started by me. Put simply it means Cabin Sized = Zero Hassles. CabinZero. Neat huh?

Happy Travels...


Neil Varden aka 'Leo'
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