Sunday, July 24, 2011

Company Profile: Tom Bihn

Sometimes it's the individual bags that are really interesting, sometimes it's a company that puts out a lot of interesting bags. Finding these companies is like finding a reliable source, you might not like every bag but often if you like their style and quality, you'll like a lot of these bags. Over time I've found some speciality manufactures who's products I love, and I'll do a little profile on these companies. First is one that's my all time favorite, Tom Bihn.

Now, you'll notice I've got two bags of theirs reviewed, and I have many more. I probably sound like a salesman for them sometime but they have not paid me off in any way, I just love their stuff. Let's get down to it:

Tom Bihn

A small manufacturer based in Seattle, Washington, all bags are made in their factory in Seattle, and their care and craftsmanship shine through. I like the fact that the bags are made by locals, no outsourced manufacturing, and you can feel the love and attention they have for design and manufacture of their bags. Most of their bags are nylon based so it's kinda the more sporty look though the actual designs, I think are elegant and understated. They tend to target a more "travel" person with lots of carry-on and day bags, though also lots of briefcase style bags.

I was first introduced to them by their Brain Bag, (review upcoming) which has been my main backpack for close to 10 years now. It barely shows any wear and it's been good for so many situations.

Right, so the price is a bit high, but it's going to be like that for any of these specialty manufacturers, and you get what you pay for. Excellent quality, thoughtful design, and something that can be used for a lifetime.

You can actually visit their factory in Seattle and meet with the people who make your bags!

Tom Bihn Co-Pilot

Type and Usage:

The Co-Pilot is what I would call a "Satchel" type bag, a small cross shoulder bag, much like a small messenger. Sometimes also known as travel guide bags, it's good for holding the basics, a water bottle, a book, some glasses etc. This strays very firmly onto "Man Purse" territory, though as far as man purses go this one isn't too bad. It's billed as the personal item on an airplane, the bag you can have seat side. It
s not large enough to carry a full laptop, and a small jacket will pretty much fill the whole main chamber.

 Sorry for the picture quality, I took these pictures while traveling in London.

Quick Notes:

Let's face it, it's a purse, just one that would work well for guys. As with everything from Tom Bihn, the quality is impecable, and features are well thought out. It's got enough pockets to organize and have easy access to your everyday things while being small enough to take anywhere. Priced at $110, it's not cheap but good value if you're going to use it everyday.

  • 12" x 10" x 5" / 300 x 255 x 125mm
  • 10 liters / 600
  •  Ballistic nylon: 17.2 ounces / 485 grams
  • Dyneema/nylon: 11.2 ounces / 315 grams
  • $110

Let's face it, some guys want to carry things around too and there is not fashionable way to do so. Backpacks make you look like a student, messengers can be nice but a little large, and you're not bringing your suitcase with you everywhere. Here is a small organized bag that can carry with you everywhere, and look, well kinda o.k.

The picture above shows the basic layout. In the front you have a center pocket that was designed for a water bottle. More on this later. Next two that, two side pockets that easily swallow something like a glasses case or a camera. Behind is the large main pocket. A nice handle makes it easy to pick up and go. Let's go back to front on the features:

In the back, you have an open pocket that's great for quick access things. Magazines fit really nicely here. The bottom of the rear pocket has a zipper so it can be placed on the handle of a rolling luggage:

The main section in the back is the largest pocket. It has two smaller pockets built into the back for more organization. I was able to put my Macbook Air here with no problems, it would fit netbooks but not full size laptops.

The two side interior of the two side pockets shown here, one has slots for pens and pencils, the other a larger soft pockets for cellphones or electronics.

Not shown is that the bottom of the center pocket has a tiny grommet hole that allows water to drain out.

 Here we see how I was using it when I was in Europe as an everyday bag. Sunglasses and medication on the left, the map of London in the very back open pocket. A light jacket/shirt and souvenirs from the British Museum. A water bottle in the center, and a notebook (3x5 moleskine type) on the other pocket.

It worked great as an everyday bag, small enough not to attract too much notice and most places, stores and museums let you in without having to check it in. Same thing on airplanes, no problem taking it as your personal item. With all the pockets it keeps things organized and within reach. That's the reason I like this bag over a small messenger, the ease of access.

The drawback to me is that it is a shoulder bag and that's a personal choice. I'm not the biggest fan of shoulder bags as they bounce if you run, and also you place too much weight on one shoulder. For a bag this small it wasn't too much a problem since you don't have enough to really weigh it down. I didn't use the Tom Bihn straps, instead I swapped it out with a Timbuk2 strap that allowed me to easily shorten the strap when I needed to run. The advantage of this bag is that everything is easily accessible, and easy reach. Disadvantage is that it is a small if you want to put something like a larger jacket, or a change of clothing.

Overall good for an everyday purse

Monday, June 27, 2011

Europe 2011

So, another trip to Europe and another chance to use some of my travel bags. This time, I've got three weeks in Europe going between the UK (London), Luxemburg, Sweden (Stockholm), and Finland (cabin in the woods). With a wedding in London, and possibly light hiking in the Finland, it was a little tricky to pack. In the end I went with my trusty Tom Bihn Aeronaut  (see my review of the Aeronaut here) as my main bag, and Tom Bihn's Co-Pilot (review forthcoming) as my day bag.

Got pretty close to the weight limit, at 8 kilos or around 18 pounds, I got just up to the limit with my main bag. Add in the small bag with my laptop, I was at 23 pounds.

The reason for the co-pilot was that it was small enough that it squeaks in as a "personal item" for just about everybody. Would have liked a small backpack but sometimes the airlines get picky about the personal item. Also in a pinch, the co-pilot fits into the Aeronaut, I like the ability to have only one bag when I travel.

More musings as the trip continues.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Cork Fabric

While nylon, leather, and cotton are some of the most popular materiels to make bags out of, there are endless amount of materials you can use. I enjoy seeing all different types, recently I've found out about cork fabric. It's durable, supple, has what I think is a unique look. Harvested from the bark of cork trees without killing them, it's a renewable resource that makes a stunning fabric. Here are some examples:
Tom Bihn Cork Swift


MOMA cork bag
Peasants and Traveller's Doctors Bag

The Tom Bihn Swift is an excellent Knitter's bag, hopefully I'll get a review of that in the future.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tom Bihn Aeronaut

The Aeronaut - packed

Type and Usage:

The Aeronaut from Tom Bihn is a divided convertible duffle type bag. With three large compartments, two smaller pockets, hide away backpack straps, it's a versatile bag very well suited for one-bag travel. It's designed to fit into overhead compartments of most airplanes. As with all things that come from Tom Bihn, it's not cheap, but quality is impeccable.

Quick Notes:

I like it, it's my go to travel bag in anything over two or three days. I've made many multi week trips with it, and lent it to friends who've made trips with it. Over and over I come back to this bag. As with everything Tom Bihn does, it's well thought out, durable, strong, and everything a

It's certainly not perfect, I have a couple of quibbles with it, but not enough for me to stop using it. The three part design is great for organization but sometimes I wish it was one pocket so I could place one large item in.

  • 22" x 14" x 9" / 555 x 355 x 230 mm
  • Volume: 45 liters (2700 cubic inches)
  • Weight 2.71 lbs / 1230 grams
  • Ballistic Nylon

If you're looking for a quality carry on that can act as a one bag solution the Aeronaut certainly fit's the bill. Let's take a look at the details:

A beginning of bags

So, what is this blog about? Well bags of course! I'm Charlie, and I love bags.

Yes, this could be an intro given at a recovery clinic on one addicted to bags, but that's me. I love bags and I collect them, all types. After complaining to a friend that somebody really should have a good bag blog, he responded with, "You should write it".

So here I am. Mostly I'll cover backpacks, and travel bags as that's what I use the most. But I'll venture into all different type of bags. Being a guy, I'll mostly cover bags that guys would use, though if I see something really nice for a women's bag, I'll be happy to write about it. My fashion sense isn' the greatest though, that's mostly what will keep me from talking about women's bags too much. There will be reviews, random thoughts, anything really anything else I want.

How often will this be updated? I honestly don't know but I'll try to keep it up to date. I've got a lot of bags that I own that I want to photograph and review, and always more bags to get.