United Airlines’ Carry-on Baggage Sizer: Which TOM BIHN Bags Fit?

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.

TOM BIHN | United Airlines Carry-On Luggage Restrictions

(Synapse 19 and Tri-Star in the new bag sizer with room to spare. Thanks to @tadbell for the photo.)

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″

(Source: Flyertalk)

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.

Carry-on Safe:

Aeronaut

Tri-Star

Western Flyer

Guide’s Pack (without the Side or Lead’s “Admin” pockets)

Brain Bag

Smart Alec

Synapse 25 / Synapse 19

Ego

Empire Builder / ID / Zephyr

Cadet

Founder’s Briefcase

Brain Cell (all sizes)

Pilot / Co-Pilot

Swift / Little Swift

Upper Limit Carry-ons:

Super Ego (.5” taller than the published limit but fits within the actual limit)

Personal Item Safe:

Pilot / Co-Pilot

Swift / Little Swift

Small Cafe Bag

Medium Cafe Bag

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”–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.

The Aeronaut on a Chennai to Delhi Odyssey

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!

– Luke

Thoughts on the Pilot

Initial reactions to the new PilotPhoto courtesy of kkintea.

“My pilot came! The UPS man came and I snatched the box from his hands. I love the size. It is perfect. Big enough but not too big.” –atarango1

“As far as size, I think this could easily be a bag to use for a 3 to 4 day trip, especially if the trip is to a warmer climate where you have no need to dress up. I’m not sure how/where I’d squeeze in an extra pair of shoes (as light as I pack, I always like an extra pair) but I bet you could squeeze in a pair of flip flops for the beach very easily. But of course, this bag is really the ultimate size for a personal carry on and will certainly be able to hold enough stuff to keep you occupied even on the longest of flights.” –WMW40

“I can’t wait to start packing it for my upcoming conference. I specifically want to see if I can get away with only taking the Pilot. I will have to look “professional”, travel by plane (thus I will want to bring knitting), and will have to carry stuff with me all day (hotel is offsite from main events).” –gochicken

“It crosses over nicely from travel bag, overnight bag, work bag, knitting bag, and EDC. Of course, to each his own. That’s why I love Tom Bihn. He makes bags that appeal to many different types of people for all their varying needs!” –Mausermama

“I carried the Nordic pilot to a business meeting where everyone was wearing suits, so formal end of the spectrum. No one seemed to find it unusual. And the color really popped against my black suit. ” –Yoda Sloth

“This Pilot is sick!! I am able to fit more than I imagined and the Eagle Creek large packing sac, which can fit a change of clothes, fits like a dream in the Pilot. I am more than happy with this bag and so glad I splurged on the absolute strap.” –MelissaL

“I love my new (Navy/Solar) Pilot! It’s perfect for every day carry for my 11″ MBA plus some misc. stuff. It also works decently well (though not as well as a Packing Cube Messenger Bag (PCMB) would!) in the center of a Tri-Star. Alternatively, I can fit my (Lumix GH1) micro 4/3 camera in a small Crumpler Haven AND MBA in there without it looking too funny. Finally, I did a test pack, and for a casual 1-2 night trip (without the camera, but with the laptop), I can get everything I need. It’s like 4 bags in one!” –jmoz

“I got my Pilot yesterday – Black/Wasabi. It’s early, but my first impression is that it’s wonderful. It’s exactly the size I hoped for to use as my work bag.” –smj

Thanks to everybody for the marvelous feedback! Check out the Pilot for yourself and maybe you’ll be inspired to leave your own feedback in the Forums.

 

ViciousV: My Co-Pilot is…my co-pilot!

ViciousV: My Co-Pilot is...my co-pilot!

Posted by ViciousV in the Forums. See: the Co-Pilot.

New: 7″ Tablet Cache

The 7″ Tablet Cache is a protective sleeve that’s designed to protect your 7″ tablet against scrapes and scratches; it’ll fit in just about all of our larger backpacks, travel bags, and messenger bags. Available in four sizes to fit most 7″ tablets.

7″ Tablet Cache. $25. In stock and ships within one business day.

7" Tablet Protective Sleeve | TOM BIHN Made in USA

Macworld Reviews the Synapse 25

“When I reviewed the Synapse 19, I wrote, “As long as you tend to travel light, and you’ve got a 13-inch (or smaller) laptop, this is a superb, and superbly versatile, bag.” With the Synapse 25, those caveats no longer apply: It’s just a superb, versatile bag. The Synapse 19 is still my everyday bag, because I like to travel light and its smaller size forces me to do so. But I have to admit that I’m envious of the Synapse 25. It’s a little bit more of everything that’s great about the 19, and the Cache/rails system is fantastic. The 25 is one of the most versatile bags I’ve seen, and though it’s not inexpensive, my experience with its smaller sibling—four years of heavy use and still going strong—suggests that you’re getting what you pay for.”

Read the full review by Dan Frakes at Macworld.

Macworld Reviews the Synapse 25 | TOM BIHN

How to: Using paracord loops to make larger O-rings

Have you ever found the o-rings in your bag to be not quite big enough? Check out this thread in the forums from jwiegley showing how to utilize simple paracord to make a bigger o-ring. Very cool!

paracordloop

Aeronaut Review from LaForce Be With You

Aeronaut Review from LaForce Be With You

“So many different places claim to have “the best” of something. The best french fries. The best customer service. The best wine. Of course “the best” can really depend on personal preference and everyone may not agree. All that aside, I feel confident in proclaiming this to be the best carry-on bag and hopefully many of you will agree if you have one or buy one. ”

Check out the rest of Emily’s review on her blog, LaForce Be With You. See also: the Aeronaut.

Five pitches up at Spring Mountain

Five pitches up at Spring Mountain w/the Guide's Pack | TOM BIHN

With the Guide’s Pack. Thanks to Alex for the photo.

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.