“What I really liked about [the Founder's Briefcase] was the ability to leave it standing (it stands well on its own) and zip just the top open to grab my laptop, or iPad — while reserving the option to lay the bag on its side and open it all the way. It’s a nice compromise in that you can easily use the bag as a top-loader (as I do 90% of the time), but it doesn’t bat an eye lash if you want to open it all the way up and lay it flat. This makes it a solid day-to-day option for the traveling person and excellent for neatly packing away your items for a longer journey.”
“This was the most debated category for us, as carry-on has traditionally been treated as ‘maximum legal’ carry-on. The TOM BIHN [Synapse 25] is more of an overnighter than a week away, but it’s every bit a Carry Awards credentialled winner. Excellent fabrics and zips. Flawless construction. An interesting three-dimensional pattern that grows and shrinks without need for compression. And every organizing pocket you could want. Tom Bihn care about making excellent carry, and it totally shows. Oh, and particularly in this pack, we like the black.”
See the Synapse 25 for yourself. And head over to Carryology for more Carry Awards coverage.
Haute Americana’s interview with Tom on design, life, travel, and U.S. manufacturing is up. Excerpt:
Haute Americana: What are your essentials for traveling?
Tom Bihn: I used to manage the youth hostel in Santa Cruz — there I watched what people carried and how they traveled. I realized that the weight of a person’s bag was usually inversely proportional to the fun they were having. With that in mind, I try to travel pretty light, though I always seem to need to carry an extra pair of shoes or sandals. Otherwise I guess I carry the usual stuff – a swimsuit is surprisingly a good idea, as I try to jump into water whenever possible.”
“The diminutive Pilot bag isn’t cheap, but if you travel a lot like we do, it makes a great investment. It’s made well of high-tech materials, designed to last a very long time. I’ve never been able to wear out a Tom Bihn bag, no matter how much abuse I pile upon them.
On the plane, you should be able to get away with calling this a “personal” bag, like a purse, so that you can also carry another carry-on bag into the plane with you, which you can store in the overhead compartment while you keep the Pilot below the seat in front of you.
It works great for what it’s designed to do, and it’s a welcome bag to have by your side on those long flights. If you travel far and frequently, you’ll appreciate this bag.”
Eric sent us the following email — thought you all would appreciate it as much as we did.
Tom and Crew,
I kinda had an emotional reaction reading the description of The Guide’s Pack. I have an old REI toploading rucksack that really looks similar, though it has the dreaded black plastic accessory strap holders, which have all failed. I’ve toted that thing for one purpose or another for the better part of 30 years. One of my favorite packs.
Anyway, reading the description of The Guide’s Pack, well, it almost brought a tear to my eye. Tom’s obsessive desire to get the design right really flies off the page. It’s like he took my old REI pack that I love, and made it better, with all the benefits decades of technological improvement.
I don’t know when I’ve ever had such a strong reaction to a product description. I did with this thing though. It’ll take me awhile to come up with the scratch to get it, but get it I will. Can’t wait.
More broadly, thank you for being such a damn great operation. Over the years my wife and I have wound up buying a few different bags from you, all of which have exceeded our expectations. And the fact that we’re buying from a local manufacturer, with local employees really counts for a lot.
Okay, I’m putting the tissues away and gettting back to work. Congratulations on another job very, very well done.
See also Dan’s watercolors of our bags: Sketches from Japan, Yarn Stuff Sack, the Cadet, Aeronaut, Sketches from Italy, Sketches from Nambodea, and, though not a sketch, it’s definitely worth checking out Dan’s creative use for a Yarn Stuff Sack…
Thanks to our amazing crew (a true team effort here: our production crew, well, makes everything and our shipping crew never ceases to amaze us by shipping out backorders as quickly as soon as they possibly can) the following bags are back in stock and ship within one business day:
Aeronaut, most colors
Travel Stuff Sacks
Packing Cube Backpack (Aeronaut)
Packing Cube Backpack (Tri-Star/Western Flyer)
Packing Cube Shoulder Bag
Knitting Tool Pouches
Pilot Packing Cubes
Aeronaut Packing Cubes
Coyote Organizer Pouches (including a new size – Micro)
And here’s what’s getting low and might soon be backordered in all colors…
The Shop Bag in Wasabi.
If you’ve traveled on United Airlines lately, or just happened to walk by a UA gate, you may have seen them: stiff-sided compartments into which travelers can place their carry-on and personal items to see if they fit. These baggage sizers, as United calls them, are part of the airline’s efforts to more strictly enforce the size and number of bags passengers bring on board. Beginning on March 1, carry-ons can be no larger than 9” x 14” x 22” and personal items no larger than 9” x 10” x 17”. If your bag can’t fit in the baggage sizer, you’ll have to check it gate-side and pay the checked baggage fee.
This announcement has been the subject of some discussion on the Tom Bihn Forums (although we have nothing on the multiple threads on Flyertalk, some of which are running 60+ pages). We’ve gathered information and rounded up the dimensions of all of our most popular travel bags to hopefully shed some light on United’s policy, which TOM BIHN bags make the cut, and give you some packing tips to ensure your bag fits.
The Real Dimensions of the Baggage Sizer
Do the math quickly and you’ll see that the dimensions given by United add up to the current FAA standards, which state that carry-on luggage must not exceed 45 linear inches. What makes United’s policy different than the standard is that they are giving precise dimensions for both carry-on and personal items, which are not specified by the FAA. This might seem draconian and unfair, but what United isn’t telling you is that the baggage sizers are actually a bit bigger than the published requirements:
Published carry-on limit: 9″ x 14″ x 22″
Actual sizer dimensions: 10″ x 15″ x 23″
Published personal item limit: 9″ x 10″ x 17″
Actual sizer dimensions: 9″ x11″ x 18″
This is good news for those traveling with TOM BIHN bags, since many of them fit or can be made to fit these dimensions; more challenging is determining what combination of bags to use for the carry-on and personal item. The list below will tell you which bags fit easily and which exceed the published and/or actual baggage sizer dimensions. It sort of goes without saying that a traveler with, say, a sensibly packed Aeronaut and Cadet or Tri-Star and Synapse 19 will likely draw less attention than one struggling with an over-stuffed Aeronaut and a bulging Super Ego, even though all three combinations fit within the size parameters.
Guide’s Pack (without the Side or Lead’s “Admin” pockets)
Brain Cell (all sizes)
Upper Limit Carry-ons:
Super Ego (.5” taller than the published limit but fits within the actual limit)
Personal Item Safe:
Ristretto (all sizes)
Upper Limit Personal Items:
Smart Alec (1.5” wider and 1.75” taller than the published limits)
Synapse 25 (3” too wide and 3.4” too tall)
Synapse 19 (1.4” taller than the published limit but fits within the actual limit)
Super Ego (4.5” taller than the published limit)
Ego (3.3” taller than the published limits)
Empire Builder (1.25” wider and 2.75” taller than the published limits)
ID (2” taller than the published limit)
Zephyr (2.2” taller than the published limit)
Cadet (2” taller than the published limit)
Founder’s Briefcase (.7” wider and 2.4” taller than the published limits)
Brain Cell (Sizes 1-6Z are all between 1.4”â€“2” taller than the published limit; the 13” MacBook Pro Retina size is .4” taller than the published limit but fits within the actual limit)
Large Cafe Bag (2.9” taller than the published limit)
Packing Your Bag so it Fits the Sizer
You’ll notice that many of the personal item-sized bags are a bit taller than the sizer’s published or actual dimensions, but in general there is no need to worry, for a few reasons. First, gate agents will not likely be examining all bags, but will rather be on the lookout for items that grossly exceed the dimensions (so don’t try to pass off your Aeronaut as your personal item). Second, gate agents typically look to gate check rolling luggage first since those types of baggage are generally the most onerous to fit in the overhead bins. Finally, the soft sides of our bags make it easy to stuff them into the sizer, so you may be able to use a TOM BIHN bag that is technically too large to be a personal item (for example, one FlyerTalk member reported that his Super Ego fits easily into the Personal Item sizer; another member recommends the Western Flyer).
The important thing to keep in mind is not to overpack. These bags’ wonderful squishability, which allows you to cram them into otherwise unusable nooks and crannies of overhead bins, also allows them to expand. If you pack your bag to the gills, it is quite possible that it won’t fit into the sizer, even if its published dimensions are within the safe zone.
To avoid overstuffing your bag, you might try employing packing cubes and making sure that they are filled evenly to the edges, since extra volume in the middle of the bag often causes it to develop a barrel-like shape. The slimmer your bag looks, the less likely you’ll be subjected to the sizer.
When you’re carrying a backpack, try to utilize as much of the horizontal space as possible so that everything doesn’t migrate to the bottom (once again, the goal here is to reduce bulk). Some forum members have found success using their Side Effects as internal backpack pouches, which can then double as handy in-flight compartments using S-Biners.
If you’re new to TOM BIHN bags, read our Forum to discover what (and how) people pack, and tips for streamlining your travel wardrobe and your toiletries while retaining some of your creature comforts. Finally, if you have questions about what will or won’t fit in the Baggage Sizer, or what will or won’t fit in a specific bag, don’t hesitate to email or call us.
Luke emailed us a review of his Aeronaut and we had to share it with you guys:
I am not usually inclined to write up a review, but had to brag about my new Aeronaut. Just spent three weeks in India, my third time back in three years. This time was planes, trains, taxis, buses, and rickshaws on a 2k mile odyssey from Chennai up to Delhi. Last two trips I took a sturdy wheeled carry-on that awkwardly converted to a backpack. I’m not going to lie, it did serve me well, but this year I challenged myself to find the most painless way to do the trip, and that included researching a new bag. That’s when I found Tom Bihn.
I won’t recap the quality of the bag and it’s remarkable versatility/utility that are touted in the website videos. I do have anecdotal evidence from the field though. I very comfortably packed all I needed for three weeks that ranged from hot and humid to chilly and damp. The bag held up well strapped to the top of a van barreling through the jungle, and wasn’t phased getting knocked around bus stations or stuffed in train cots. The zippers and tightly weaved material kept the contents clean and dry, and I easily lived out of it while it lay open on a hotel chair, hostel shelf, or dorm bed. It was super easy to break down at security checkpoints and was the only bag I’ve ever had that I wasn’t worried about getting to fit in an overhead bin.
I really love this bag, and am glad about my new investment in travel comfort and utility!