One. Dogs show us the breadth and limitations of our humanity.
Two. It’s always hard to say goodbye to a friend.
When members of the Forum learned that Riley, Tom’s stalwart companion for over a decade, had passed away this spring, they created a tribute to Riley to express their sympathies. What follows are pictures of Forum dogs, in this life or the next, along with memories and anecdotes from their people. We hope you will honor Riley with us by honoring the animals in your life.
“Sophie and Callie enjoying a New Hampshire winter.” — jodel, New Hampshire
“Here’s our buddy, Chaos.” — GriffCouch, New Orelans, Louisiana
“Faith is a rescue dog so we don’t know for sure, but were told she is a Shepherd/Saint Bernard mix.” — Shanisol, Denver, Colorado
“Tom, I feel for the loss of your dear, hairy friend and I just know that you will cherish all the great memories that you had together. As a tribute to Reilly, here’s three of his Retriever friends from Scotland—for once they are clean and presentable—from the left: Mulloch, Brodie and Dileas (pronounced Jeelus). I was probably eating a biscuit at the time—that’s why they look so attentive.” — davys, Scotland
“Here is my dog Whitney, a.k.a. Booda, who just recently joined Riley. She spent her life being loved by my family in Virginia, and made our lives better each day she was here.” — luvdabags, Virginia
“Best wishes and happy memories from my dog buddies, Zero and Daisy.” — Missy, West Virginia
“Kuiken was adopted from Ohio and Tedu from New Hampshire.”— kkintea, Miami, Florida
“Tom, I’m so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing Riley’s life with us.” — Susan M (and Lizzie), Denver, Colorado
“This is Maggie, an 11 month old German Shepherd cross.” — Wendyk, Prince George, British Columbia, Canada
“Sweet Jane.” — BHappy, western Washington
“Boudreaux, our Bouvier des Flanders. We miss her. And Zepper, who loves the Thing! He sends condolences to Tom.” — Gulfcoast, the gulf of Texas
“This is Oliver. He lives in Maine and loves the snow; good thing, too.” — Moose, Maine
“This is the dog trio currently living at my house. The black dogs are Hank and Stella and belong to my son; the blonde dog is named Ariel and is mine. They are all mixed breeds. Hank and Ariel are shelter dogs.” — bunchgrass
“K (our Samoyed) hereby respectfully reporting for the 21-wag salute in honor of Riley!” — haraya
“Titus is looking and feeling naked without his collar. RIP, Riley, and our condolences to his friends and loved ones.” — The Badgers, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
“This is my late family dog, Licorice. We lost her to cancer in January 2011, shortly before she would have turned 13. She was the best labrabeagle in all of Missouri. She was an expert in napping, looking extremely guilty when she knew she’d done something dastardly, and photobombing all outdoor family photos by pooping in the background. However, her true calling was snack theft. Not even a counter more than three times her height could protect pies, bread, or any other delectable treats she wanted to get her paws on. She’d find a way to snag them all with not a single crumb left behind, no broken dishes, no ripped packaging.” — capncat
“We can’t have a dog of our own so we sponsor a dog via the Dogs Trust organisation. This is Cuillen. He lives in the rehoming centre in Glasgow but, hopefully, someone will give him a forever home soon.” — CeePee, England
“Tucker, RIP 10/27/12, now with Riley at the Rainbow Bridge, waiting for us; and Tucker and Daisy.” — Karen, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
“This is Sweet Dee on the left and Rickety Cricket on the right. I had just woken up last Tuesday morning to find my car stolen from the driveway. These two bark at EVERYTHING except that. I was asking them ‘why???’ in this photo and you can clearly see they couldn’t care less. RIP, Riley!!!” — Chiro75
“Tom, as dogs are more intelligent than humans in all the ways that count, Ede KNOWS there is a special place in heaven reserved for as good and true a friend as Riley has been to you. He hopes that you can find the place where remembering Riley is more joy than pain soon.” — Ilkyway, Germany
Before we began our next production cut of Brain Bags, we decided to make a few minor updates to the design. (Just one of the many reasons we have our own factory here in Seattle: we have the power to have a good idea and make it real.)
— You asked for it: six more (nine total) o-rings! Two additional in each main compartment and one o-ring each in the front left and right exterior pockets.
— The best combination of fabrics we can imagine: an exterior main body of 1000d Cordura with a 1050 HT ballistic nylon bottom and an interior of 420d Parapack.
— Reconfigured front left organizer pocket (fits your iPhone better).
And that’s it. The Brain Bag is solid, classic, and true; the longest standing design of our current offerings. We didn’t want to mess (too much) with a good thing.
The Brain Bag. $190. Available for backorder in colors Burnt Orange, French Blue, Olive, Navy, and Black. Ships by early August.
When we introduced the Double Organizer Pouch in size Small, it sold out in less than a month. Figuring that meant everyone liked it as much as we did, we introduced the Double Organizer Pouch in size Medium. And it too quickly sold out — a couple of times, in fact. Without further ado: meet the Double Organizer Pouch in size Large. Hope you like it as much as we do.
Double Organizer Pouch. Available in sizes Small, Medium, and Large. $14-18. In stock and ships within one business day.
Allison Levine is a web developer, traveler, and writer. Last year, she demonstrated in this video how she packs her Synapse 19 for trips of indefinite length. On her blog, Off the Blueprint, she writes about the symbiotic relationship between travel, minimalism, and living lightly on the earth. We wanted to find out more, and here’s what she had to say.
TOM BIHN Crew: Tell us a little bit about your website. What relationship do you see between traveling and minimalism?
ALLISON LEVINE: Minimalism completely changed the way I travel. The less you’re clinging to, both mentally and physically, the easier it is to immerse yourself in a new culture. I realized how incredible that freedom to experience was when I took my first trip with my Synapse 19, to China. I got lost. I shared wonderful meals and conversations with people I’d just met. I questioned my world view. And I never had to say “Hold on, I need to go take care of my suitcase.” Traveling with only one small bag gave me the confidence to explore, and alone. I couldn’t wait to share that when I got back, so I created Off the Blueprint.
TBC: You’ve been traveling for a while with your Synapse 19. Are you still in love with it? What features do you appreciate the most?
AL: Yes! I love the size, of course—the fact that it fits everywhere, including inside a hostel locker. It can also hold so much for its size, thanks to the genius shape and pocket design. When I first took it out of the box I thought, no way am I going to fit everything in there. Then I started packing it and realized how huge the water bottle and bottom pockets are. I also really like that the main compartment only zips halfway down. That allows me to pack or unpack it while it’s standing, which is much easier than trying to get things organized while they slip out sideways.
TBC: How did you generate your 12-item list of packing essentials?
AL: I read a lot of packing lists to see what worked for people. That helped me nail down the basics: light and efficient outerwear, quick-drying clothes, multi-use items, and tiny cosmetics. Then I experimented. I found that I could downsize some things further, like shirts, sweaters, and flip-flops, but that I’d left other things out, like a netbook or notebook to record my experiences. My list evolves with every trip.
TBC: It’s pretty amazing that you can fit everything you need into a 19-liter backpack. It seems like part of minimalist travel is bringing only what you need, keeping in mind that what works for others won’t necessarily work for you; so, it’s as much a mindset as it is a strategy for packing.
AL: Very true. I’m a small, not-so-strong person, so packing a 19-liter bag works to my advantage. I can fit everything in because my clothes are smaller, and because my bag is small, I can actually carry it! My list works for me, but I wouldn’t expect others to follow it exactly. Even I adapt it as needed. Now that I’m a vegetarian I carry a lot more snacks with me because I know I need to keep nibbling throughout the day to stay full.
TBC: Recently, your blog has focused quite a bit on vegetarian cooking and eating. How does vegetarianism/veganism function within a minimalist lifestyle, to your mind?
AL: I think of it as eating light, both for me and the environment. Traveling light has made me question everything about the way I live, and whether there’s a better (albeit probably more challenging) way to do things. I really enjoy subverting norms because it forces me to get creative. And that’s something that inspires me about Tom Bihn—that they always think outside the box.
TBC: What is a travel-related item you thought would be really helpful but actually wasn’t?
AL: I thought a sarong would be an awesome, multi-use item to take. It can be a dress, a cover-up, a sleep sheet, a towel, etc. But I ended up only using it as a not-that-great towel, and ditching it after my first trip. It’s probably great to take if you’re hitting up a lot of beaches, but not so much if you’re mostly visiting urban areas.
TBC: Do you allow yourself any luxuries when you travel? How, in your eyes, does the idea of creature comforts interact with minimalist traveling?
AL: I try not to start out with any luxuries, but I tend to buy them as I go, especially when I inevitably catch a travel cold. I had to start carrying my day bag separately during my train trip around the States because I picked up bottles of nighttime cold medicine, agave nectar, and lemon juice when I got sick. I don’t feel better until I’ve had my hot water with honey / agave and lemon.
To travel you only really need your wallet, passport, and maybe a spare shirt and underwear. Everything else is probably a luxury that we could live without. But we’re human, and as long as the creature comforts are manageable and don’t detract from your travel experience, I don’t think they’re harmful. Plus purchasing those comforts en route can be interesting, since even the most mundane transactions are exciting in a new place.
TBC: Speaking of that train trip—it was three months long. What inspired you to do this? Had you traveled much by train before? What did you hope to learn or discover on this trip?
AL: I’d traveled by long-distance train before in China and Europe, but never in the US. I wanted to see what American sleeper trains were like, and also take a trip that didn’t involve flying. I think I’ve got flyer-fatigue, because trying to get somewhere far away without taking a plane sounds so much more exciting to me lately. It slows you down and forces you to disconnect for a while, which is a rare pleasure in this digital age. So I was hoping both to experience a slower, historic form of travel and to learn more about my own country. I enjoyed meeting people from all over and learning about the history of places like New Orleans, Louisiana and San Antonio, Texas on my way west. And of course the scenery was stunning, especially when pulling into Tucson, exploring California’s central coastal area, and riding the rails through the Pacific Northwest.
TBC: There are a couple of cool book reviews on your site, not of recent books but rather of guides or memoirs that were published anywhere from 50-75 years ago. Do you often look to writers and thinkers from the past as part of your research on travel and/or as inspiration for your travel philosophy? How do you see these texts from the past influencing the way you travel now?
AL: I really enjoy reading old travel books. Travel like that just doesn’t exist anymore. In The Importance of Living, Lin Yutang recounts the story of a wealthy man in ancient China who leaves his job, family, and home to wander the countryside with only a gourd and the clothes on his back. That story reminds me that the best travel is light and aimless. Some of my most rewarding travel experiences have been when I let my expectations go, or just gotten lost somewhere new. I like reading Dervla Murphy’s books because she inspires me to be fearless. And Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat reminds me to laugh in spite of travel mishaps.
TBC: What are your travel goals for the next few years?
AL: I’d like to continue traveling without flying, maybe to South America next. I definitely want to take the Trans-Siberian Railway sometime in the next couple years. More generally, I want to work towards leaving my trips more open-ended. Wandering isn’t really wandering if you know when you’re heading home. The idea of not knowing where I’m going next terrifies me, and that’s something I’d like to overcome.
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!
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:
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.)
$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.
$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.
Available for pre-order in two sizes —Aeronaut 45 ($45) and Aeronaut 30 ($40)—in colors Steel and Ultraviolet. Ships by mid-August.
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.
$80. Available in seven color combinations, including Black Dyneema and Burnt Orange. In stock and ready to ship.
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.
$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.
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:
Pocket Pouch Linings:
Nordic with Dogs:
Nordic in the Wild:
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.