Crew Meetings

On February 5th and 6th, we’ll be having company-wide crew meetings, and that means we won’t be answering the phone (leave a message and we’ll get back to you!) or emails (we’ll respond later those days or the next day) as quickly as we usually do. Our Seattle Factory Showroom will also be closed both of those days (if you are coming from out of town and were hoping to visit one of those days, emailus@tombihn.com and we’ll see if we can arrange an appointment that’d work for you and us). Note that orders will be shipped out as usual and won’t be delayed by these meetings.

What are the crew meetings about? It’s a chance for all of us to get together and take another look at the mission and culture of our company — and, most importantly, to discuss it, with the future and our shared goals in mind.

jwiegley: Reviewing the Smart Alec as a laptop bag

New forum member jwiegley recently posted a remarkably thorough review of the Smart Alec, attesting to the quality of the backpack’s construction and the surprising comfort of the straps. They write:

“My first thoughts on opening the box were that this is certainly a well-made product. My second thought was that the back straps seemed a little skimpy compared to other bags I’ve used. However, usage, and education about seam-stitching and bar tacks, has completely reversed me on that second thought. Simply put, these are the best back straps I’ve encountered, and the most comfortable that I’ve used on any bag. In fact, they are not just comfortable: my back actually feels better with the pack on than off! I’m not sure how that works exactly, but I look forward to putting it on each day. It has come to be one of my favorite things about the bag, which I would not have expected from the beginning.”

Check out the entire thread in the forums. See also: the Smart Alec.

UPS My Choice

We thought we’d take a moment to let you all know about a service UPS offers called UPS My Choice: it’s pretty cool option for those of us with somewhat irregular schedules that don’t really line up with the general UPS delivery times, or for people who just want the ability to manage their deliveries a bit more. A free membership to UPS My Choice gives you the following perks, to name some:

  • Text, Phone, Email, or even Facebook (with the proper app) delivery notifications the day before and the morning of drop-off
  • The chance to give “Leave At” instructions or even sign for packages online
  • The ability to reroute or reschedule packages ($5 per use) or have packages held for pickup at a UPS facility (free)

If you’re somebody getting a lot of stuff shipped to you fairly regularly, upgrading to UPS My Choice Premium ($40/year) might be a worthwhile consideration. With a Premium membership you can get all the good stuff that comes with a free membership, but with unlimited rerouting and rescheduling, plus the ability to have your package delivered within a two hour window ($5 per use).

TOM BIHN Box Art!

Video Music

One of our goals for 2013 was to show you more about how our bags work in real life situations and give you a behind the scenes look at our company. The best way we could think of to do that was through videos, mostly working with the fine folks at SHEP. (Some videos we made in-house — Kieu’s Mad Bartacking Skills and Packing the Smart Alec Backpack for a Hike, amongst others — expect more of those later this year.)

The talented Daniel L.K. Caldwell scored the music for each video and you noticed — without fail, just about every video debut prompted the question: “Wow, who composed the music?”

Daniel’s made a compilation of the music he scored for each of our videos and you can download it here. Pretty awesome, yeah?

And the videos, if you’d like to see them (again):
Materials Testing TOM BIHN Style
Innovation in Fabrics
One Week in Montreal
How to tie cord zipper pulls
Adjusting the Internal Frame in The Guide’s Pack
The Guide’s Pack and Founder’s Briefcase
Synapse 25, Ristretto, Swift
Three Trips with the Aeronaut
Our Materials
Two Weeks in Japan Part I and Part II
Amy Singer, Knitty.com, and The Swift
The Smart Alec
Tom on Design
The Tri-Star Travel Bag
Backorders

On Backorders

At any given time, you can count on at least some of our bags being available for backorder. Sometimes it’s just a color or two that’s sold out, but sometimes every color option is on backorder. It’s pretty much been this way since we can remember: as soon as we think we’ve increased production capacity to meet demand, you guys demand even more from us. And it’s awesome. And we spend a lot of time thanking you silently in our heads as we get to be busy at work every day doing what we love to be doing.

That said, we realize it can be frustrating to not be able to get the bag you want, especially if you’re going on a trip or have some other time constraint. We’re continually thinking of new ways we can increase production capacity: being smarter about the flow of work through our Seattle factory, buying new/faster/better equipment, hiring more factory crew.

But here’s the thing: if the only goal was to have every bag in stock at all times, there’s choices we could’ve made that would’ve guaranteed that. We know what those are, and you probably do too. They aren’t necessarily bad things or things we pass judgement on — they just aren’t things we want to do.

So, it’s slow and steady, but we’re working on being able to make more bags so that chances are, more often than not, the next time you need a new bag we’ll be able to ship it to you right away. We’re getting the quality right, we’re making more (and more secure) jobs for our factory crew, we’re getting better at what we do. It’s a challenge, but it’s one we’re up for, and we hope you’ll stay with us for the ride.

Introducing the Pilot

The Pilot personal item travel bag | TOM BIHN | Made in America

The Pilot personal item travel bag | TOM BIHN | Made in America

The Pilot personal item travel bag | TOM BIHN | Made in America

The Pilot is a personal item carry-on sized travel bag designed to fit the items you want close at hand and easily accessible during your flight or at the airport. It’s a natural complement to our larger Aeronaut, Tri-Star, and Western Flyer carry-on travel bags. Ultralight travelers may choose to use the Pilot as their “one bag” travel bag, utilizing the Pilot’s Packing Cubes for organizing clothing and a 3D Clear Organizer Cube for toiletries. Some may not even use the Pilot primarily for travel: it also serves well as an organized every day carry briefcase.

And the Pilot is proof that, yeah, we do listen: several years ago, we introduced the Co-Pilot, our original personal item travel bag. For many, the Co-Pilot was an ideal size, but some of you asked for a slightly larger version that would accommodate a 13″ laptop. We heard you, and that larger Co-Pilot is here, with a few updates. Not simply content to upsize an existing design, we took a look at the extra space the Pilot offered and considered how we could best maximize its utility while retaining a proportioned look and feel.

The Pilot. $150. Available for pre-order and ships by mid-February.

Nate Higgins and his Synapse 25

Nate Higgins and his Synapse 25

Thanks to athlete Nate Higgins for sharing this photo with us. Learn more about his inspiring story, here. See also: the Synapse 25.

i_clavdivs: What’s in that Aeronaut?

i_clavdivs: What's in that Aeronaut?

Just how much can you fit into one Aeronaut? Check out this packing list from i_clavdivs…

“Here’s my list:
Day bag

Clothing
Buff
Glasses cleaning cloth
Hoodies (wear 1, carry 1)
Jacket (wear)
Jocks & Socks
Trousers (wear 1, carry 1)
4 T-shirts
Walking shoes (wear)
Cap/hat

Toiletries
Cotton buds
Deodorant
Lip Balm
Medicine Anadin
Toothbrush & Toothpaste
Listerine Strips
EDT

Gadgets
Headtorch
Monocular
Sunglasses
Book/Magazine/Kindle
Driving License
Ear plugs and eyemask
Headphones
iPhone
Money
Passport
Personal Laptop & Mouse
Camera
Chargers (Camera, iPhone, Laptop, Kindle)
International adapter

Printouts
Car reservations
Flight reservations
Hotel reservations
Itinerary & directions
Route maps
Travel Insurance”

See the rest of the thread in the TOM BIHN Forums.  See also: the Aeronaut.

Looking Forward to 2014

TOM BIHN | 2014 Designs

We don’t really believe in resolutions, but we’re all for reflections, and as we wrote this list of things we’d like to accomplish in 2014, we realized it was something we could share with all of you.

- Thought/Design
You told us you liked the posts on the design of The Guide’s Pack and Founder’s Briefcase and we hear you; we want to work on more posts for more bags that explain the thought that goes into each pocket, each seam.

- Our Awesome Crew
This is something we work on/think about a lot — we’ve got one of the best crews in the business, from design to production to customer service to shipping, and we want to make sure they know they’re that great. We came up with (what we think) were some good ways of showing our appreciation in 2013 (better benefits, raises, more lunch parties) but we want to top that in 2014. One idea: a monitor/tv where in which your tweets and photos and posts complimenting our crew and the fine bags they make scroll past.

- More efficient
As you well know, our bags are often on backorder (demand is greater than production). We think with a few small tweaks (mostly, looking at how things work and stripping away the unnecessary stuff) we can get even more efficient and be able to make even more bags, as we continue to hire more/add to our Seattle factory crew.

- What’s Fun, What’s Not
A rule we often use around here: if we’re having fun doing X, great. If it’s a drag, why is it a drag? Maybe it’s something we shouldn’t be doing. Or, maybe it’s something someone else would be way better at, and we could hire that person to do that thing. Always a good rule to reassess with.