Bag Porn (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Ballistic Nylon)
Where my briefcase used to be a all-business hip tumor that signalled to the world my indentured servitude, my Empire Builder has become office, workshop, playground and incubator, all in a rugged satchel that I rarely let get more than about 50 feet from me. Is it the bag? Is it the contents of the bag? Is it a strange obsession with weapons-grade zippers? Maybe it's all of them.
Either way, here's my 2-month review, complete with pictures, of the Empire Builder. Take from it what you will.
1) I spent obsessive hours flopping between Trager's Courier and the Empire Builder. Both had features I liked. In the end, I went with the Empire Builder for two reasons. A) it was the more structured of the two and would stand up by itself whether stuffed to bursting or empty. B) As much as I fancy myself the wandering digital nomad, I still have to tether my camel and come into my office or those of my clients on a daily basis. I know I look in judgement at whatever someone is toting when they walk in the door for a meeting, so I have to assume that others may be as shallow as I am. :D The fact is, the Empire Builder fit my personality better.
2) Capacity -- One thing I've had to teach myself with this bag is "Just because you can doesn't mean you should." I could tote enough to require a staff chiropracter and still have room. I've emptied the bag for the pictures, but contents typically include digicam, cellphone, Griffin iMic, power cord, iBook in a flame red Brain Cell, project folder for a website redesign, USB cableage to connect all of the above to each other, a magazine, 8 pens, business cards, a supermini maglight, a wireless mouse, 1 each of a CompactFlash card, CDR, Zip and floppy disks, a composition note book for taking written notes, a not-approved-for-airline-use pocket knife, extra dbl-A batteries, a Rio 256 and wraparound headphones and the business section from a January 31st edition of our local paper that may have been relavent at some point in the past. Even with all this, there's still room for the handful of legal-length pocket folders that I cram in there on any given morning. It all slides in with a reassuring "whump" and with a zip of the adsurdly sturdy zippers, I'm ready to go.
2) Square Size: I carry layout boards to clients on a fairly regular basis. I'm sort of anal about the way boards look when they get pulled out of the briefcase. For the few times I carry standard-sized 22"WX18"D mounted boards, they can slip short-end into the bags outer pocket. 18X11 sheets (much more common for presenting logos, layouts, etc) go into the back itself. The closed-cell foam and degree of finish in the inside of the bag ensures that my boards slide in and out flat every time. Moreover, the included file dividers protect the edges and corners for crisp corners and un-bruised edges. One added bonus ... the file dividers are held semi-captive by a bar of closed-cell foam (wrapped and finished in the same fabric as whatever you choose for the interior) making it easy to flip through the contents of the bag. My file drawers should be this well built.
3) Boom Boom Bah-Boom, Out Go The Lights: I didn't think that lining the pockets and interior of the bag would make that much of a difference in my TBE (Total Bag Experience). But the bright blue interior of the pockets does make it easier to see inside the bag. More importantly, having a little surprise on the inside of the bag is sort of like the feeling you get from jersey knit sheets or finding a five-dollar bill in the pocket of a long-unworn coat ... a completely unexpected and totally personal little luxury.
4) The front-flap/pocket/organizer thing: Admittedly, this was the portion of the bag I felt most tentative about when I purchased it. However, as I explain in excrutiating detail in the photo section , this set-up of pockets, flaps, zippers and buckles is damn near ideal.
5) Fit and finish: The handles are are amazing. Besides feeling like they're anchored to the center of the earth itself, the wrapped/contured design means that regardless of which way I grab them, they're comfy.
6) The intangibles. I like companies that like being small. I believe the way to help America's economy grow is to buy American-built stuff. I appreciate companies where the bordering-on-megalomanically-titled President and Directeur Generale :D makes time to read and respond on the boards. I'd like to think that Port Los Angeles and its environs are a little bit better for my having spent money with the company.
So that's about all for now. It's a beautiful bag. You can't go wrong. Buy one now. Thank me later.
And "The Wall" was considered of a box office flop when it premiered...
but like every good sleeper, its virtues went overlooked by the masses and loved to abstraction by the passionate few such that here, 22 years later, college kids who weren't even born when The Wall debuted, are popping the CD in, firing up the Wizard of Oz and watching the two simultaneously, thinking there's no WAY their parents would every have been cool enough to listen to something like this.
All real classics take time to grow into their shoes.
Empire Builder colour combinations
[QUOTE]Originally posted by Darcy
We're always trying to think of new color combinations for the Empire Builder. Have any suggestions?
I recently purchased my first Tom Bihn bag (a Black/Plaid Medium Cafe Bag) and couldn't be happier with the high standard of design, quality of materials and excellent workmanship it displays.
At some point in the next few months I'll be upgrading to a new PowerBook (probably the PB 15" Al) and have therefore been doing a little preliminary market research on appropriate bags. I've settled on the Empire Builder, based on its general appeal, the excellent reviews it's received, and my (admittedly limited) experience with Tom Bihn products.
That brings us to colour combinations. What I'd really like to see is a Black/Charcoal/Sapphire Empire Builder. Additionally, I'd suggest that the Brain Cell (Size 3) would look good in Charcoal too.
I disagree with JasonL's comment elsewhere in this thread -- whilst Tom Bihn bags are (and certainly should be) about utility, in my view the element of individualisation provided by choice of colour combinations is highly significant. If at all possible I'd suggest that making that choice even more varied by offering a 'custom-built' facility (at least in terms of choice of colour combinations) would be a very welcome addition to the service offered to Tom Bihn customers.