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  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

The Beauty of Objects

The Beauty of the Familiar | TOM BIHN
Watercolor by Dan Bransfield.

Forum Roundup: A Week’s Worth of Pictures


jjpreston’s Black Dyneema Synapse 25 training across Italy: “The perfect travel bag.”

jjpreston’s Black Dyneema Synapse 25 training across Italy: “The perfect travel bag.”


SusanM’s Steel Parapack 3D Organizer Cube: “A mini Side Effect.”

SusanM’s Steel Parapack 3D Organizer Cube: “A mini Side Effect.”


monkeylady’s UV Dyneema Small Shop Bag: “Carrying fresh, ripe peaches and raspberries.”

monkeylady’s UV Dyneema Small Shop Bag: “Carrying fresh, ripe peaches and raspberries.”


jcrary’s Steel Snake Charmer: “A home for my RN tools.”

jcrary’s Steel Snake Charmer: “A home for my RN tools.”


lacyfinn’s Kelly Large Cafe Bag and Turquoise Double Organizer Pouch: “They are beautiful together!”

lacyfinn’s Kelly Large Cafe Bag and Turquoise Double Organizer Pouch: “They are beautiful together!”


ilkyway’s Nordic Dyneema Synapse 19: “Needed some fresh air.”

ilkyway’s Nordic Dyneema Synapse 19: “Needed some fresh air.”


bchaplain’s UV Dyneema Size 1 Stuff Sack: “Will fit exactly five apricots inside.”

bchaplin’s UV Dyneema Size 1 Stuff Sack: “Will fit exactly five apricots inside.”

“So this is probably the best laptop backpack out there.”

An excerpt from Snarky Nomad’s review of the Synapse 25:

“But I also wanted to highlight what makes the Synapse so distinctive. It’s not just good, but uniquely good, and I wanted to go into obsessive detail regarding each and every one of its distinguishing features, particularly for those who only want to buy something once. I think you’d have a hard time finding a new favorite after picking up one of these, despite the innumerable competitors clamoring for your attention.”

But wait! Go back and start at the beginning and read the entire review. It’s one the most detailed and thorough reviews we’ve seen of the Synapse 25.

Snarky Nomad on the TOM BIHN Synapse 25 Backpack | So this is probably the best laptop backpack out there

Forum Roundup: Sweating the Small Stuff

There’s little doubt that everyone on the forum loves TB accessories, so this week’s roundup is dedicated to those little things that blow our collective hair back.

Forum member Moose kicked off a very popular thread this week when she asked, “What do you keep in your Side Effect?”  Read on for over a dozen answers and some terrific photos by ncb4, tizi and Ilkyway.  chautime wanted to know what would happen if shampoo or some other liquid toiletry were to leak inside the 3D Clear Organizer Cube.  Would the cube contain the spill? Read on for forum member testimonials.  In other 3D happenings, icebeng discovered some pretty cool things happen if you turn your 3D Clear Organizer Cube inside out.  Be sure to also check out the 3D hacks courtesy of sturbridge and SusanM.

PaulT00 rejoiced over the brand-spanking new Travel Trays that wended their way to England to live with and him and the Travel Trays already in residence.  On the newest accessory front, K9TB wrote in to announce that the Small Double Organizer Pouchmakes a great wallet, especially if you’re traveling to a bunch of different countries and need to carry multiple currencies.  Keep reading to see more pics of the SDOP in the wild.

Finally this week, dorayme made the compelling case that bags and accessories can be works of artkkintea‘s little friend seems to agree, wouldn’t you say?

So many Shop Bags!

So many Shop Bags!


taminca’s many uses of the Double Organizer Pouch

taminca’s come up with 10 awesome uses for the Double Organizer Pouch (size Medium). Here’s three of our favorites; see all 10 in the Forums.

P.S. The Double Organizer Pouch in sizes Small and Medium is back in stock and ready to ship.

Vehicle Documents Pouch:

TOM BIHN | taminca's many uses of the Double Organizer Pouch customer photo

Travel Documents and Receipts Pouch:

TOM BIHN | taminca's many uses of the Double Organizer Pouch customer photo

Emergency Kit:

TOM BIHN | taminca's many uses of the Double Organizer Pouch customer photo