Forum Roundup: The Big Reveal

eWalker counting down to the reveal.

eWalker counting down to the reveal.

The last day of June marked the arrival of a long-awaited event: the unveiling of five new TOM BIHN designs. Forum members had been aware of (and eagerly anticipating) one item, the Aeronaut 30, which was originally requested back in 2008 and which, this April, Darcy said would become a summer reality. However, the Crew was tight-lipped about the other four designs, leading to much speculation.

As May became June, forum members began searching for ways to pass the time until the new products were released, making wish lists of hypothetical items, auditioning self-distraction techniques, or planning vacations to Seattle. In the days leading up to the big reveal, the forum was abuzz with high levels of excitement, which very well may have bordered on the obsessive: there were reports of members endlessly hitting the “Refresh” button on the product pages and the blog to see if an announcement had been made; others tried to wheedle, cajole, bribe, threaten, or otherwise persuade Darcy to spill the beans, but to no avail. Three days out, trailhiker set up a countdown to June 30, and, with one day to go, eWalker began posting countdown updates (down to the millisecond). It didn’t help that a few forum members knew about some of the new items because they were testing or reviewing them, and their teasing only fanned the fires of impatience and anticipation.

At long last the announcement was made, to a round of virtual hosannas, cheers, and joyful weeping.  Within 30 minutes of the reveal, the first review of the Aeronaut 30 was posted on One Bag, One World, and within an hour, a thread emerged detailing the items that forum members had already ordered (at last count, that thread was 9 pages and 129 posts long).

And then the pictures began appearing!  taminca, who has achieved great forum fame for her photo essays on the multiple uses for various TOM BIHN items, posted a series of uses she had devised for the Q-Kit.  Darcy posted a picture of the Night Flight Travel Duffle being stitched together, highlighting the appearance of Coyote 1050D Ballistic Nylon fabric (which so far had been used only in sister company Skookum Dog designs).  NWHikergal, who lives in Seattle, posted a number of pictures of her new 1000D French Blue Cordura Daylight Backpack (see here, here, here, and here for all of them), inciting much admiration and covetousness.  See here for taminca’s photo essay of her French Blue Daylight Backpack, and here for Hawaii’s 400D Black Dyneema Daylight Backpack, which she kindly bought for her husband to use as his personal carry-on item when they fly (click here to see what he can pack in it, with room to spare).

It’s been an exhilarating (and exhausting!) week on the forum!  We hope you’ll stop by to look at the pictures, read some of the threads, and post something yourself as well!

NWHikergal's Daylight Backpack, Q-kits, and stuffed kitty.

NWHikergal‘s Daylight Backpack, Q-Kits, and stuffed kitty.

 

Introducing the Aeronaut 30 and Four More Designs

Aeronaut 30 | TOM BIHN

We’ve been hinting for the last couple of months that we expected five new designs to debut this summer. And you’ve been amazingly patient with us. Before the reveal, we just wanted to take a moment and say thanks for your excitement and support. It’s meant a lot to us as we worked really hard getting these five new designs ready for debut—no small feat for a company our size. Design patterns had to be finalized, names decided, pages built, videos shot, photos taken. You’d be amazed at how much of this came down to the wire; we even decided to change the name of one of the bags on Friday.

And without further ado, meet the five new designs (seven if you count their Packing Cubes) debuting today:

Aeronaut 30
The little brother of the original Aeronaut (now the Aeronaut 45). You know the saying: don’t mess with what’s good, and we didn’t. Mostly, it’s the same Aeronaut people have come to count on as the carry-on bag, just smaller and better suited to travel on North American regional commuter jets, intra-European flights, or for folks who want to pack less and don’t need a maximum carry-on sized travel bag. Though the Aeronaut 30 is smaller in capacity, its fit is the same as the Aeronaut 45. In other words, if the original Aeronaut (45) fit you well, the Aeronaut 30 will as well. It’s no small feat to make a bag that is 20% smaller yet still fits those 6′ and taller (and shorter, of course). All that said, there were a few good things in the design of the Aeronaut that Tom realized he could make great. Design updates in the Aeronaut 30 you’ll find include: both exterior end pockets are zippered, the main compartment snaps have been replaced with zippered dividers, allowing you to turn the Aeronaut 30 into a one or two compartment bag when you need it to be, and the Aeronaut 30’s YKK Aquaguard® waterproof coil zippers have been flipped to be “right side up”, which basically means they’ll last even longer. (If you’re wondering: these design updates will make their way to the Aeronaut 45 in the next 2-3 months.)

The Aeronaut 30 Carry-On Travel Bag by TOM BIHN

$270. Available for pre-order in eight color combinations, including the new Coyote/Steel. First production run ships by mid-August; second production run ships by late September.
Packing Cubes for the Aeronaut 30 are available for pre-order here.

Night Flight Travel Duffle
Tom’s had the Night Flight concept on his (very crowded) design board for some time. So, when United Airlines announced their size new requirements for “personal items,” it was simply a matter of a few adjustments, some late nights, and the Night Flight Travel Duffle was made real. That the Night Flight Travel Duffle looks suspiciously like a scaled-down version of an Aeronaut is no mistake: we took some of the same winning design elements from our most popular travel bag and morphed them into a small yet totally fetching duffle bag. Worth noting: Packing Cubes for the Night Flight are an option, as are Padded Organizational Dividers that allow you to organize and protect stuff like smaller cameras (you can even configure them for a DSLR) and noise-cancelling headphones as well as snacks and other stuff.

Night Flight Travel Duffle | TOM BIHN

$180. Available for pre-order in eight color combinations, including the new Coyote/Steel. First production run ships by mid-August; second production run ships by late September.
Packing Cubes for the Night Flight Travel Duffle are available for pre-order here.

Travel Laundry Stuff Sack
Based on a design from Tom’s archives (circa 1981) and inspired by his time hosteling around Europe, the Travel Laundry Stuff Sack works like this: start your trip off with the sack full of clean clothes, and as they become dirty, put them in other end of the same sack. A floating divider midway keeps the clean and the dirty clothes separated. The volume of the clothing doesn’t change, but the ratio of clean to dirty does.

Travel Laundry Stuff Sack | TOM BIHN

Available for pre-order in two sizes —Aeronaut 45 ($45) and Aeronaut 30 ($40)—in colors Steel and Ultraviolet. Ships by mid-August.

Daylight Backpack
Your solid, ultralight, and true companion for hikes, travel, even the daily commute. Similar to the Packing Cube Backpacks, though more pack and less cube. We want to point out a design feature we’re quite proud of: shingled internal pouches/compartments that, when packed with two pieces of clothing, say, a shell jacket and a fleece or sweater, effectively create a padded back panel. We have tested the Daylight Backpack on hikes long and short, hiking up to where the trees are smaller yet older, and then down to secret lakes, and it’s proved itself time and again.

The Daylight Backpack by TOM BIHN

$80. Available in seven color combinations, including Black Dyneema and Burnt Orange. In stock and ready to ship.

Q-Kit
One day, Kieu (our Bartack Operator — see her work) surprised June and Darcy with two of these small pouches. Its shape is reminiscent of the Kit, a retired design, but the Q-Kit is much smaller. June and Darcy liked their Q-Kits so much that they thought we should make more and let you guys give ‘em a try. Clever and awesome (just like Kieu!), the Q-Kit is great for keeping track of very small stuff: coins, keys, phone adapters, as well as charms, hair things, and gewgaws of all kinds.

Q-Kit Organizer Pouch | TOM BIHN

$14. Various colors, all 1050d ballistic nylon. In stock and ready to ship.

Even after all of that, we bet you have questions. Head over to our forums, post ‘em, and we’ll do our best to respond.

Video: Shop Bags

Featuring the Small and Large Shop Bags.

Forum Roundup: Long Live Nordic (in Pictures)

Nordic 400d Dyneema fabric has enjoyed great popularity, and now that it’s being retired it seems appropriate to dedicate a Roundup to recent Forum pictures featuring Nordic.  Enjoy, and if these photos get you hankering for a bit of Nordic for yourself, fear not!  As of today, there are a few items remaining in Nordic: Shop Bags, Pocket Pouches, Packing Cube Backpacks for Aeronaut and Tri-Star, and Travel Trays.

Nordic Family Photos:

Hollie's Nordic family photo

Hollie‘s Nordic family photo

RDR3's Nordic family photo

RDR3‘s Nordic family photo

ncb4's recent Nordic haul

A new Pilot joins ncb4‘s Nordic collection

trailhiker's bivvy of Nordic Shop Bags

trailhiker‘s bevy of Nordic Shop Bags

Accessories:

A Nordic Side Effect atop RhoFro's big haul (click here to see the box it all arrived in)

A Nordic Side Effect atop RhoFro‘s big haul (click here to see the box it all arrived in)

kkintea's Nordic collection with the Travel Tray in focus

kkintea‘s Nordic collection, with the spotlight on the Travel Tray

Pocket Pouch Linings:

moriond's Kiwi/Nordic Pocket Pouch

moriond‘s Kiwi/Nordic Pocket Pouch

dorayme's Aubergine/Nordic Pocket Pouch, with contents

dorayme‘s Aubergine/Nordic Pocket Pouch, with contents

Nordic with Dogs:

WMW40's canine buddy with a Nordic Medium Cafe Bag

WMW40‘s canine buddy rocking a Nordic Medium Cafe Bag at agility class

Darcy's Smart Alec with partial doggie photobomb

Darcy’s Smart Alec with partial doggie photobomb

Nordic in the Wild:

maverickWFregionaljet

maverick‘s Western Flyer, taking up very little room in the overhead compartment of a regional jet

What the Trend in Reduced Carry-on Sizes Means if You Own a TOM BIHN Bag

Earlier this year, we reported that United Airlines had changed its baggage policy so that carry-on bags could not exceed maximum dimensions of 9” x 14” x 22”, and personal items could not exceed 9” x 10” x 17”.  If a bag was too large in any dimension, its owner ran the risk of being required to check the bag through.

Very recently, George Hobica, the founder of Airfarewatchdog.com, discovered that American Airlines had also adopted this policy, which reduced the maximum carry-on width from 15” to 14”.  Hobica’s bag was 15” wide and he was sent back to the ticket counter to check it in.  Delta passengers’ bags must also conform to the slimmer 14” width.

What does this reduced width mean for those of you with TOM BIHN bags?  Carry on as usual.  As we mentioned back in March, most TOM BIHN bags already fit within the new standards—even your Aeronaut is still safe.

TOM BIHN | Western Flyer fits United's personal item sizer

How the Tri-Star Saved AsiaChuck in Indonesia

AsiaChuck - How my TOM BIHN Tri-Star Saved Me in Indonesia

“First time poster here, people. I’ve been lurking for months in the shadows of all you professional Bihners, in awe of your collections and your adventures. My own collection has been building while we prepared to leave the US to live in Asia, knowing how much harder it is to get something shipped to me outside the US. I fell in love with TB bags as soon as I put on my Synapse 19 the first time… then I was addicted! But that’s for a later time…

Recently, my family and I moved to Indonesia. Just this last week, I was sent from Bandung to Medan, which is about a two hour flight. I was going for three days, by myself. I was terribly nervous, not knowing the language yet, and flying a new airline in Asia, where they’re very often completely picky about weight of bags. I knew I needed to pack light, and not check any luggage….”

Read AsiaChuck’s entire post in our forums and learn how the Tri-Star helped make his trip to Indonesia a great one.

In stock: Travel Stuff Sacks, Nordic + Black Dyneema

Thanks to our awesome production crew (they made the bags) and shipping crew (they shipped out the backorders) the following bags are in stock and ship within one business day:

Aeronaut, Black/Steel

Ristretto for iPad, Black/Iberian

Travel Stuff Sacks, all sizes and colors

Shop Bag, Large in Black, Steel, Solar, Nordic, Wasabi, Iberian

Shop Bag, Small in Black, Steel, Nordic, Wasabi, Iberian, Ultraviolet

Travel Tray, Nordic, Ultraviolet and Black

Packing Cube Backpack (Aeronaut) in Ultraviolet, Steel, Black and Nordic

Packing Cube Backpack (Tri-Star/Western Flyer) in Iberian, Ultraviolet, Wasabi Black and Nordic

TOM BIHN | Travel Tray in Black

Forum Roundup: Not About Bags

Aeon’s new Burnt Orange Synapse 25

Aeon’s new Burnt Orange Synapse 25

While people join the Forum to discuss or learn about Tom Bihn Bags, many members have found kindred spirits who share their other passions.  The dedicated space for these discussions is the Not About Bags Forum, where almost anything is fair game for discussion.  There have been a number of interesting threads popping up as of late, so here are some tidbits of What We Talk About When We Aren’t Talking About Bags.

One perennial favorite topic: cute and fuzzy animals.  Take a peek at the 6 page long thread on Forum members’ pets for tons of photos and anecdotes (though arachnophobes might want to steer clear of post #35, which features Miking’s buddy Renton).  Click here for an older thread on companion animals.

Other threads are resurrected periodically because they focus on items that inspire the same brand loyalty that forum members devote to Tom Bihn Bags. One such thread is about Moleskine notebooks, started by KarlJ in 2009.  Way back then everyone probably thought that in 2014 we would be writing with the power of our minds (wink), but jump to the end of the thread to read scribe and eWalker’s discussion about writing longhand and the romance of putting pen to paper.  (Speaking of pens and paper, click here for an earlier thread on writing tools, and here for a discussion of notebooks in general.)

Recently, some members have turned their attention to clothing.  Check out this thread that explores the notion that people look better if they dress according the most flattering color palette for them, a topic explored in Carole Jackson’s Color Me Beautiful.  This thread raises the subject of the “capsule wardrobe,” which is considered here, on streamlining one’s wardrobe using techniques outlined on the Project 333 website.  For a thoughtful thread on decluttering and living more simply, click here.

Some of these topics appear in a thread begun just yesterday by kkintea, who recounted what she learned from other forum members in the past year.  What might you learn (or teach others) about this year?

An Interview with Mike Boyink

 

The Boyink family in Mobile, AL.  (Photo by Marcus Neto)

The Boyink family in Mobile, AL. (Photo by Marcus Neto)

Perhaps you’ve read stories that go something like this: a person begins to question the seemingly endless American pursuit of material things.  He decides that he doesn’t need all those things to be happy so he sells most of his stuff, pays off any of his debts, and hits the road.  As a perennial traveler, he finds opportunities to connect deeply with people he meets along the way, and learns about what he really values.

Such a story describes what Mike Boyink of Holland, Michigan, did nearly four years ago.  What makes Mike’s story a little different is that he undertook this adventure with his wife Crissa, and his teenage children, Harrison and Miranda.  The Boyinks downsized and began a year-long odyssey traveling the country, towing a fifth wheel.  Within that first year, they decided to sell their house and make the road their home for the foreseeable future.  The family has chronicled their path to full-time travel on their blog, which they author collaboratively.

Recently, Mike tweeted that he was the happy owner of two Tom Bihn bags.  He was nice enough to sit down (virtually) with us and tell us more about life on the road and the complicated nature of the Stuff that fills our lives.

TOM BIHN Crew: What are the bags you use, and the items you typically carry in them?

MIKE BOYINK: We have two of the Ristretto 13″ bags. One carries a Macbook Air (mine), the other a Macbook Pro (family).  In my bag I also have a Grid-it for the various bits and connectors, a small headphones case, and one of the TB zippered pouches for meds and change.  The family bag carries roughly the same—we’re pretty minimalist.  The bags live under our living room chairs when we are in place or go into the truck if we’re on the go.

TBC: How did you find out about Tom Bihn bags, and what convinced you to buy them?

MB: I asked on Twitter and had multiple recommendations.  I bought my bag first, and mainly what I liked was that the bag seemed designed to fit—I bought an Air to be as portable as possible and wanted no slop in the bag.

TBC: On your travels, how do you decide where to go?

MB: Sometimes there are specific destinations—like Crystal River, Florida, to swim with manatees or Silver Springs, Florida to look for the wild monkeys.  Sometimes it’s people— family or friends that we want to connect with.  Other times it’s “I’m done driving; where can we stop?” or “Where is the weather nice?”

TBC: What kind of planning goes into a lifestyle like yours?  If the extremes are “completely spontaneous” and “meticulously planned out,” where do you fall?

MB: We started out more towards the latter and realized just how insanely stressful that was. We are more the former now, except for times when we can’t be—like being in Florida in the wintertime, you can’t just show up at a state park on the weekend. In those cases we will book ahead a week to two weeks out of necessity.

And then there are times like now, where we are coming off a couple months of travel and heading back to Michigan where we will purchase a seasonal lot in one campground and be there for the summer. We are doing this for a few reasons—the kids want jobs, summer in the midwest is hard because it’s camping season everywhere, and I have some business projects I need to focus on.

TBC: Do you have advice for people who wish they could travel more?

MB: It’s funny how often we hear that, then after saying it there comes a “but.”  We wish we could travel full time but…

…we can’t afford it.

…our kids are in soccer/little league/drama.

…we really need to be in community.

From our perspective, it’s what comes after the “but” that’s really more important to you currently.  And that may not be a bad thing. However—whatever your “but” is, there’s probably a way to enjoy it or overcome it and travel too. Challenge those buts and see if they are really roadblocks after all!

TBC: What are some of the most surprising things you’ve learned from this experience?

MB: How easy it is to get in a rut.

That there are no laws dictating a traditional work week or lifestyle.

How we can have more friends and closer friends than living stationary.

How little stuff we need.

How awesome it is to always be “home” yet have changing views and experiences.

How our world isn’t really designed for being location independent.

TBC: Can you say more about what you mean by “our world isn’t really designed for being location independent”?  How do you work around some of the challenges that reality presents?

MB: Just in general our government and society expect you to have a physical address.

We have three of them: one for invoice payments, one for other mail (there are mail services that scan your mail for you and send PDFs), and a “legal residence”—which in our case is our in-laws’.

Another example: trash.  If we aren’t staying in a campground, but instead are “boon docking” (just in parking lots, etc.), then trash is an issue.  Where you do you legally get rid of trash if you don’t have an address?  Either [dumpsters] are privately owned, so dumping our stuff there isn’t fair to the owner, or they are in public places but most often have “no household waste” signs on them.  We don’t want to just throw [trash away] randomly; we want to do the right thing, but there often isn’t a great solution.  While we don’t buy much other than consumables, we do try to ditch whatever packaging we can while in the store.  Otherwise we have held on to trash until we are in a campground again.

TBC: I imagine that would make you ask yourself if you really need X or if it can wait?

MB: Oh we do that anyway.  Limited onboard room for storage, plus RVs have inherent weight limitations.

TBC: That makes perfect sense.  It’s easy to ignore when you have a house-house.

MB: Sticks and bricks we call them ;) .  It’s a good constraint. … Minimalism really.  I’ve seen a fair amount of interest in it even outside the RV world.  Do you know the Fight Club quote about stuff?

“You buy furniture.  You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life.  Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled.  Then the right set of dishes.  Then the perfect bed.  The drapes.  The rug.  Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.”

It’s a huge paradigm shift.  We are so ingrained in a consumer culture that when you try to remove that goal of stuff ownership people don’t know what to do.

TBC: Did you have to sell the idea of less is more to your kids, or were they somewhat predisposed to agreeing with it?

MB: I not only had to sell it, I had to model it.

For years I was into old Jeeps. I owned several at different times.  Garage full of tools.

Spare parts everywhere.  I was in the middle of telling the kids they’d have to make some sacrifices for the trip, and realized I couldn’t ask them to do what I didn’t do.  So [I] put a “for sale” sign on a Jeep I had worked on for five years and everything else.  It was a huge part of my identity.  I had put so much of myself into that Jeep.  But it occurred to me that there will always be Jeep projects. But the opportunity to see the country as a family wouldn’t happen again.  I can get all the stuff back at some point if I really want to.  Not so much the time.

TBC: Since you’ve been traveling, have your children ever expressed a desire or longing for the things that accompany a stationary lifestyle?

MB: Yes. Some of those are why we just booked a seasonal spot for five months.  They are excited to have library cards, maybe get involved with some summer sports, etc.

TBC: How do you establish a sense of community in the places where you stop, especially when you know that you won’t be putting down permanent roots in any one location?

MB: Community doesn’t happen at every stop. Sometimes we purposely go somewhere where we know friends are so that we can be part of that community. Other times we have worked for campgrounds or ranches for a few months and built community that way. We are all part of different online communities and those can also lead to offline meetings.

TBC: How did you prepare your family for the changes they would be making?  This doesn’t seem like something you can even comprehend until you’re in the thick of it yourself.

MB: It’s hard—we didn’t really know what it would be like.  We did put a printed map on the wall and start pinpointing places that sounded interesting.  We also didn’t replace a broken dishwasher because the RV wouldn’t have one.  But otherwise we talked about the unknown really being the adventure.

TBC: Final words?

MB:  If I paint this lifestyle as all sun and roses that’s not accurate. We have family conflict like any family.  The upside is that our house is too small to hide in—we have to deal with things.  But it’s the flexibility we enjoy—we can park for five months if that’s what will benefit the family most. And we don’t have to move into a new house to do so.

The Boyinks' home on a Texas ranch.

The Boyinks’ home on a Texas ranch.

Mike Boyink is an author, teacher, web developer, and the owner of Train-ee.com.  Read more about his family’s story and their day-to-day travels on their blog, Boyinks4Adventure, or follow Mike on Twitter.

Scott’s Side Effect for Motor + Pedal Travel

TOM BIHN | Scott's new Side Effect

TOM BIHN | Scott's new Side Effect

Side Effect is the perfect companion for 2 wheeled funtimes, both motor & pedal powered” – @scottjpalmer