1972: Tom with one of his first pack designs.

How It Started

When 10-year-old Tom Bihn asked his parents for money to buy the equipment he wanted for his nascent outdoor adventures, they suggested two options: get an after-school job and earn the money, or "just figure out how to make it yourself." Up for the challenge, Tom chose the second option. His grandmother had an old Singer home sewing machine which his brother Dan helped get running; Tom's mom taught him how to sew and his dad provided the foundations of the necessary engineering.

More than 40 years later, Tom's still at it — designing and making the best backpacks, briefcases, and travel bags.

What We Make (or What Makes a TOM BIHN Bag a TOM BIHN Bag)


With his 30+ years of design experience, Tom Bihn designs all TOM BIHN bags.

"The design process is always evolving and varies from one bag to the next. The constant operating principal behind the process is this: I don't want to make something that is already out there. It has to be unique — work better, look better, last longer, fill a niche that no one else has filled. I keep in mind that, because our products last (almost) forever, I have a responsibility to make them be very useful and as handsome as possible as well: I personally don't like being around things that are not pleasing to the hand and eye, especially on a semipermanent basis. I feel in a small way like an architect."
—Tom Bihn


U.S. made, 1050 denier, high tenacity ballistic nylon fabric. YKK AquaGuard® water-repellent zippers. Superstrong Japanese Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric. 500 and 1000 denier U.S. Cordura® nylon. Duraflex® and Nexus buckles. Double-plated, U.S. made metal snaphooks. When we can't find what we want, we design it and have it made — like our 250-lb-tested, acetal shoulder strap attachment rings, made for us in Georgia (U.S.A.).

We don't settle for less than the best: if there's a better fabric, a better zipper, a better anything out there, we'll find it. Of course the best materials don't guarantee a great bag: we've been making bags for quite a while, all along paying close attention to which materials work in specific applications and which may look good today but are likely to fail down the road (or trail).


There's no finer team than our Seattle factory crew. Many of our seamstresses have been sewing backpacks and bags for over 30 years — in fact, we have over 300 collective years of sewing experience in our factory. Tom works closely with the crew on refining the construction of his bags, relying on the crew to alert him to any details of the design or patterning that make cutting or sewing needlessly difficult or inefficient. Tom, Fong, Lisa, and the rest of the crew work as a team, tweaking new designs and refining current designs, adding new machines, binders, tools, cutting saws, and other laborsaving technology to further streamline (and at the same time humanize) our manufacturing process.

Much of the minutiae involved in creating our über-durable bags is so deeply ingrained in us that we often forget to mention it: we finish 100% of the inside seams of our bags; we reinforce critical areas, like where a handle or strap joins the rest of the bag, with multiple bar tacks; all nylon webbing is hot knifed (heat fused) so it won't fray; and though you'll never see it, many crucial panels are overlock stitched prior to being included in the final construction. All to ensure your bag won't give up, ever!

A Variety of Choices, Lots of Options

We're a small company that behaves like we're a big company: we offer a rather large number of color options in many of our bags. And most of those colors are our own proprietary colors — colors you won't find anywhere else. Plus, you can customize your TOM BIHN bag purchase by choosing which shoulder strap works best for you, which size insert best fits your laptop, which combination of packing cubes will best suit your travel style. Finally, add zippered pouches and color-coded key straps to organize the interior of your TB bag.

Our Materials:

Watch more of our videos. And see this interview in which Tom discusses the tools that aide him in the design process.

The Crew

Abdullahi: Bartacker/QA

Abdul likes soccer. In fact, he plays it every weekend.

Mo-Fong: Seamstress

Mo-Fong is an adventurous traveler and especially likes to visit countries she's never been to before.

Esther: Seamstress

Esther is an avid reader. Her favorite genres: mystery and romance.

Tom Bihn: President, Founder, Chief Designer

Tom's favorite book is Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean, and he plays the accordion.

Ichiro: Mountaineer

Ichiro is a happy and vocal Lab/Husky mix. He's most at home hiking in the mountains but is pretty ok with hanging out at the factory.

Araceli: Fabric Inspector/Spreader

When she's not at work, Araceli likes to sing, dance, and play the guitar.

Cyndi: Bag Expert

Cyndi is a self professed Renaissance woman who when not adventuring outdoors can be found making stuff.

Matthew: Bag Expert

Matthew loves games of all sorts. When he's not out exploring the city (and sometimes while he is) you can usually find him playing a game of some sort.

Matt: Main Shipper

Matt moved back to Seattle after 5 years in Southern California. Matt is cold all of the time.

Yin Mei: Seamstress

Mei likes to play Candy Crush. She's an accomplished cook and her specialties are baked chicken and cakes.

Candi: Seamstress

Candi plays the piano beautifully.

Victor: Seamster

Victor is an accomplished cook. His speciality: Carne Asada.

Luu: Seamstress

When she's not sewing at work, Luu loves to sew her own projects at home. She's also an excellent cook.

Sheng: Seamstress

If Sheng's not at work, she's probably playing tennis or doing Karaoke.

Dau: Seamstress

Dau loves traveling to and throughout Vietnam.

Canh: Seamstress

Canh is masterful at making delicious Phở. We're trying to get her to share her recipe with us!

Ngan: Seamstress

Ngan loves listening to classical music.

Honguyen: Seamstress

Honguyen bakes amazing things. Amongst her specialties: cupcakes.

Tam: Seamster

Tam loves to watch soccer, travel, and listen to a wide variety of music.

Lisa: Sewing Supervisor

Lisa likes traveling to other countries and working in her garden.

Di: Seamstress

Di likes to spend time with her grandchildren. And go shopping!

Kim: Bookkeeper

Kim believes in karma and random acts of kindness.

Yanhua: Seamstress

Yanhua loves listening to Chinese music.

Nik: Director of Operations and Product Development

Nik makes his own fermented sodas which can range from sweet and bubbly to explosively fizzy.

Thuy: Seamstress

Thuy loves to travel, near and far.

Kieu: Seamstress

Kieu likes to go on urban walks. The secret to her good health? Eating lots of vegetables from her own garden.

Ying: Seamstress

Ying loves to spend time with her family and grandchildren. And she loves watching tv!

Wing: Seamstress

Wing's passion is music.

Chun: Seamstress

Chun is an expert on Seattle's best Dim sum restaurants.

Lulu: Quality Assurance

Lulu's favorite movie is The Lion King.

Edelmira: Seamstress

Edelmira prefers Mexican music above all others.

Andrea: Quality Assurance

Andrea loves to dance (to Spanish music!) and plays volleyball.

Aravelia: Quality Assurance

Velia's favorite movie is Alice in Wonderland.

June Johnson: Production Emerita

June can save the life of any houseplant and is pretty much good at everything she does.

Tim: Shipping Crew

Although Tim lives in the city, he'd someday like to live on a small farm.

Ben: Materials Manager

History major. Builds his own motorcycles. Was a Naval Aircrewman.

Irma: Fabric Cutter

Irma likes to take vacations (we miss her quite a bit) and listen to Mexican music.

Darcy Gray: Chief Creative Officer and CEO

Most unusual hobby: hiking at night.

Lai-Fong: Sewing Supervisor

Fong is a natural with dogs — and people, too!

Ling: Seamstress

Ling likes to cook traditional recipes and fruit dishes.

Maria: Seamstress

Maria's favorite tv show is Sábado gigante

Zhong: Seamstress

Zhong loves to grow and tend to a variety of ornamental flowers.

Rudi: Seamstress

Rudi's idea of the perfect Sunday: reading the newspaper and gardening.

Son: Sewing Machine Mechanic

Son can fix anything.

Tao: Seamstress

Tao is an accomplished knitter. To relax, she cooks, specializing in amazing seafood dishes.

David: Beekeeper

David's a bee keeper and in his spare time he works with us on factory stuff.

Lily: Fastest Dog in the West

It might be the Greyhound in her: Lily navigates through the woods faster than any dog we know.


Yeah, you! You're part of our crew, too.