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  1. #1
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    Western Flyer Review

    I have been using the Western Flyer for the last 2 weeks now and thought I would write this review for those considering purchasing this bag.

    Forgive the length of the post; I am of the opinion that a bag of this quality and design deserves a thoughtful and thorough contribution.

    Background

    Historically I have never been quite able to get the right mix of professional appearance, practicality, comfort and organization for my three day business trips.
    I have always had to compromise on one or the other and as a result have had to carry multiple bags.
    There were no UK options I could find and so after researching the web, the only bag that really addresses all of the above is the Western Flyer. The Air Boss was just too big for 3 days away, my MEI Voyageur (whilst a fabulous bag) was again too big and lacked the professional appearance.
    The Western Flyer coupled with a horizontal Freudian Slip (amongst other Tom Bihn accessories) provides a wonderful solution and I am enamoured with my purchases.

    Aesthetics

    I purchased the bag in black and at a glance it looks like any other business bag / rucksack, which was my intent. Full or near empty it looks great and does not sag. It looks smarter than a rucksack and when the messenger strap is tucked away looks just as professional as a briefcase.
    Any dust or marks easily rub off.

    On The Road

    I travel for three days a week, staying over in hotels for two nights. I walk for a mile to the train station using the messenger sling or Absolute Shoulder Strap and with 10kg it is quite comfortable for me (although you do notice the weight more with the messenger strap). The only (very minor) niggle I have with the bag to date concerns the messenger strap. Although this might solely be due to the fact that I have never had a messenger style bag before and hence do not know how to correctly place the strap (I will leave it for you to educate me in this regard). However, invariably the bottom right hand corner of the bag ends up in the small of my back and can be annoying (see photo below for illustration). I was in too minds as whether to include this “niggle” or not but an honest review requires completeness.



    I pack as follows. In the front compartment, I put my clothes and toiletries for a three day business trip.
    I bundle wrap 2 shirts, a tie, a t-shirt and one pair of shorts around a core. The core is comprised of the Convertible Packing Cube/Shoulder Bag (containing my small toiletries bag, a scarf, gloves, and hat) together with a pair of lightweight training shoes, 2 pairs of underpants and 2 pairs of socks. I am quite well built (6’6” and weigh 117kg), yet my size 11 (UK) trainers fit perfectly and my extra large clothes emerge with minimal creasing.

    In the back compartment (the one without the zipped divider), I put my laptop (Dell D620), power cable, small umbrella and my horizontal Freudian Slip. The Freudian Slip contains my A4 sized hardback notebook, work notes (often 0.5” thick), magazines, pens, flip chart markers, blue tack, paperclips, post-it notes, the list goes on. I basically need, and the Freudian Slip provides, an organized mobile office.

    In the upper zipped pocket (the larger of the two) on the outside of the bag I put my 5 metre LAN cable, iPhone docking cradle, and my portable external hard drive.
    In the lower one goes a pack of tissues, spare mobile phone, ID pass and any receipts I accumulate as the week progresses.

    In the open “scallop” shaped pocket I have a 1 litre Platypus water pouch. When the bag is full I will only half fill this to minimize bulging. If you fold the bottom part over it will not slip out as it sort of “locks” itself in there.

    I have also purchased some Strapeez to further reduce packing volume by tightly binding accessories such as my iPhone cradle, computer charger and my LAN cable.

    In The Office

    I can attend meetings with a fully packed Western Flyer and does not look out of place. Even when I have removed my clothes the Western Flyer still retains it’s shape.
    The horizontal Freudian Slip and Mini Clear Organizer Pouch keep me organized, enabling me to immediately locate files, notes, memory sticks, pencils etc. and not have to endlessly root around.

    Customer Service

    My purchases were shipped without delay and I received them in the UK within 6 days (including the weekends).

    All in all, I can not recommend it highly enough.

    PS. I have not got a clue as to how to embed photos in the text above so I have included them as attachments.
    Last edited by Sco1t; 11-12-2008 at 01:33 PM. Reason: Removed oversized photos

  2. #2
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Photos

    These are great photos - I've resized them. You can remove the attached photos from your original post, if you'd like.

















    Current Carry: Skookum Dog Citizen Canine prototype, Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  3. #3
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    To piggyback on this review - I have had the Western Flyer for about 4-5 months and had used it only for car trips. Today was the first time I have flown with the bag. I continue to be impressed with the bag. I packed 4 days worth of stuff in it - 4 long sleeve shirts, 1 pair of pants, 4 sets of underwear and socks, 1 set workout gear (shirt, shorts, socks, shoes) and toilet kit. All this fit well and the bag didn't bulge a bit. What impressed me most was the ease with which the bag slipped into the overhead bins on small regional jets (CRJ-200). While others on the plane were struggling to cram their bags into those compartments, I sat back and enjoyed the show. I do love this bag.

    Thanks for a great bag TB folks.
    Last edited by rabergnc; 11-12-2008 at 05:41 PM. Reason: typos, typos, typos....

  4. #4
    Registered User
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    Aug 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sco1t View Post
    I pack as follows. In the front compartment, I put my clothes and toiletries for a three day business trip.
    I bundle wrap 2 shirts, a tie, a t-shirt and one pair of shorts around a core. The core is comprised of the Convertible Packing Cube/Shoulder Bag (containing my small toiletries bag, a scarf, gloves, and hat) together with a pair of lightweight training shoes, 2 pairs of underpants and 2 pairs of socks. I am quite well built (6’6” and weigh 117kg), yet my size 11 (UK) trainers fit perfectly and my extra large clothes emerge with minimal creasing.

    In the back compartment (the one without the zipped divider), I put my laptop (Dell D620), power cable, small umbrella and my horizontal Freudian Slip. The Freudian Slip contains my A4 sized hardback notebook, work notes (often 0.5” thick), magazines, pens, flip chart markers, blue tack, paperclips, post-it notes, the list goes on. I basically need, and the Freudian Slip provides, an organized mobile office.

    In the upper zipped pocket (the larger of the two) on the outside of the bag I put my 5 metre LAN cable, iPhone docking cradle, and my portable external hard drive.
    In the lower one goes a pack of tissues, spare mobile phone, ID pass and any receipts I accumulate as the week progresses.

    In the open “scallop” shaped pocket I have a 1 litre Platypus water pouch. When the bag is full I will only half fill this to minimize bulging. If you fold the bottom part over it will not slip out as it sort of “locks” itself in there.
    Fantastic review. I'm really not in the market for this bag but I had no idea it would hold this much until you listed the contents and provided those images.

    Dang. I really don't need another bag.

  5. #5
    Volunteer Moderator
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    Mar 2006
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    That sling strap is the only thing that bugs me about the Western Flyer - I can never really get it to work comfortably, or simply... therefore I am saving up for another, this time in the backpack straps version (and if I wait long enough, it'll be lined with Solar/White Dyneema!)

    But really, being limited to the (Absolute) shoulder strap carry is not such a horrible thing =D

  6. #6
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    Thank you so much for this review! Your three-day packing list describes what I would take on a business trip, so it's really useful to know it all fits! Does your Dell have the extended battery? Does the bag protect it really well?

  7. #7
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    Does your Dell have the extended battery?
    No, it is the standard battery.

    Does the bag protect it really well?
    Yes it does. I do not throw the bag around mind you.
    I have a horizontal Freudian Slip and put the computer between it and the inside wall of the bag. The padding of the Freudian Slip and that provided by my clothes on the other side, allow for good cushioning and protection.

    Regards,
    Scott

  8. #8
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    Thanks! I have the extended battery, but I think I might get this bag.

  9. #9
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    Nov 2008
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    I have to agree about the sling strap. Although I love travelling with my Western Flyer, the sling strap never worked for me.

    It is uncomfortable, the bag never sits straight on my back (just like on the original poster's rear view photo). If I try to straighten the fit of the bag by pulling it tight, the only effect is the strap cutting in my neck.

    For the future, I will only rely on the absolute shoulder strap, and right now I am trying to overcome my fear to just grab some scissors and cut the sling strap out. I will do it, though.

    This will rid the bag of unused material, lighten the bag and provide me with a nice, large additional pocket ideal to be used for large flat items - magazines, books etc. I guess then the Western Flyer will finally become my best travel companion

    Cheers
    Muldoni
    Last edited by Muldoni; 12-12-2008 at 11:15 AM. Reason: typo

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Muldoni View Post
    I have to agree about the sling strap. Although I love travelling with my Western Flyer, the sling strap never worked for me.

    It is uncomfortable, the bag never sits straight on my back (just like on the original poster's rear view photo). If I try to straighten the fit of the bag by pulling it tight, the only effect is the strap cutting in my neck.

    For the future, I will only rely on the absolute shoulder strap, and right now I am trying to overcome my fear to just grab some scissors and cut the sling strap out. I will do it, though.

    This will rid the bag of unused material, lighten the bag and provide me with a nice, large additional pocket ideal to be used for large flat items - magazines, books etc. I guess then the Western Flyer will finally become my best travel companion

    Cheers
    Muldoni
    Before cutting anything, ask if the bag can be refitted.

    It has happened with the waist strap of the Brain Bag, it was permanent and some people complained that the sides were dangling when not in use.

    Tom made a nice refit that make the two strap part removable, yet, as sturdy when put on.

    Maybe there is something like that for the sling strap Western Flyer

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by backpack View Post
    Before cutting anything, ask if the bag can be refitted.
    I would have considered this, if I wouldn't live some 5000 miles away from the factory Even mailing the bag halfway around the globe and back costs somewhere near the equivalent of a new bag, so I guess I don't have too many options.

    I have to say though that I am still very happy with the bag and will continue to use it frequently on short trips. I only have a hard time imagining that anyone would consider this sling strap a useful feature. Too bad it isn't removable from the start.

    Anyway, although it will break my heart to mutilate my Western Flyer with a sharp pointy object, I will continue to be a loyal customer - I have just ordered my third Tom Bihn bag: a black/black/cayenne Super Ego! Can't wait to hold it in my hands as my very own personal Christmas present

    Cheers
    Muldoni

  12. #12
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    Update - 10 days in Sweden Xmas 2008

    I have been using my Western Flyer for a few months now as a work bag and I have nothing further to add to the review above except that one of the zip cord pulls has gone missing (it probably did not like my company and decided to head off to pastures new). Darcy is on the case though and I should have a replacement very soon.

    The bag performs superbly, does not have a mark on it and has kept the contents dry in the rain.

    I thought I would put the Western Flyer through it’s paces though and so decided to use it on my 10 day holiday to Sweden this Christmas.

    Normally I would use my MEI Voyager and have plenty of room to spare, however my curiosity was peaked regarding the Western Flyer and how much I could pack in it.

    The photos below show the bag fully packed and then everything that it contained. It weighed 9.4kgs and was fairly comfortable on the shoulder (using the Absolute Shoulder Strap) walking through Heathrow, the London Underground and the way back home.

    Sorry for the grainy photos but I only had my iPhone to hand:
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    The full list of contents:
    1 Spare woolly hat
    1 Short sleeved shirt
    1 Pair shorts
    1 Long sleeved shirt
    2 Long sleeved t-shirts
    2 Jumpers
    1 Wind stopper fleece
    1 Convertible Packing Cube containing 6 pairs of pants, 6 pairs of socks, 1 pair of thermal long johns and 2 thermal tops.
    1 National Geographic magazine
    1 Economist magazine
    1 Book about skating on lake ice
    1 Small plastic box containing plasters
    1 Small plastic box containing first aid kit
    1 Sewing kit
    1 Pack of tissues
    1 See through plastic bag containing: 1 travel-sized Listerine, 1 travel razor, 1 travel toothbrush, 1 shaving oil, 1 travel-sized moisturiser, 1 lip balm and 1 pill box for headache tablets.
    1 mini-USB to USB cable
    1 Power charger for digital camera
    1 Power charger for HP laptop
    1 HP TX2530 Laptop with extended battery fitted.
    1 HP laptop case
    1 iPhone connection cable
    1 UK Plug adapter (not shown)
    1 Absolute Shoulder Strap (not shown)

    I must admit I was pleasantly surprised that I had everything I needed for the 10 day trip. I was staying around family and so, after 6 days, I was able to easily wash clothes for the rest of my stay.

    My packing list on the way there was slightly different as instead of the Windstopper fleece, I packed a pair of old cargo pants which I left behind and also I had some travel-sized shower gel and toothpaste which I used up.

    The Western Flyer certainly was fully packed, it bulged a bit but was not uncomfortable to carry or hideous to look at.

    All in all I am still very happy with my purchase and would thoroughly recommend a Western Flyer to anyone.

    All the best to you for 2009.

    Regards,
    Scott

  13. #13
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    More Photos

    I could only get 5 photos into the previous post; here are the rest:

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  14. #14
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    Scott,

    That was an excellent review, especially the pictures and detail you presented.

    I've been thinking about a Western Flyer for some time now, mainly for two to three day business trips where I'd have to bring along some 'dress casual' pants like Dockers and button-down pinpoints (cotton), along with a set of workout/running gear (shorts, shoes and shirt), you know...the usuals for a two to three day stay, laptop/charger, personal items such as a small dop kit, underwear/socks and business essentials.

    I tend to pack fairly lightly and even with good packing skills, I'm somewhat 'concerned' that my bag will be a bulging one... and this goes contrary to being comfortable, as the whole point of traveling is trying to stay as comfortable as possible.

    If I did not have to take the laptop/charger, I could easily use the Western Flyer as a carry-on bag with clothes... and I'd carry my current Tumi expandable ballistic briefcase for the business and other essentials.

    Can you please comment on what I'm saying with relation to the Western Flyer being a 'one bag only' business/clothes/essentials alternative to my now carrying an Air Boss, with my laptop tucked inside the middle compartment.

    If the Western Flyer is too little bag for business and clothes for three days, an alternative would be ordering a Brain Cell for my laptop and placing this, again, within the inside third compartment of my Air Boss... but this gets a little on the heavy side.

    Everything has its pros and cons and I'm more than willing to compromise accordingly.

    Thanks for your posting!

  15. #15
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    Thanks Climb14er.

    It is difficult to answer you. I am quite large and so my clothes and training shoes take up a lot more room than they would for a smaller person. I would say that you would probably be able to get all you describe in the Western Flyer but it would come out creased if you did not bundle wrap correctly. My gut feeling is that the volume of your intended packing list would push the capacity of the Western Flyer to its limits.

    I do not pack casual 'going out' clothes as I go to most events directly from work and in that case dressing down just involves removing my tie. Not packing casual clothes also gives my shirts more 'room to breathe'.

    As you can see from the photos above, when fully packed the Western Flyer does bulge, but not too much. This means it retains its style and comfort. The back of the bag is padded and if you are using a shoulder strap and not the messenger sling, the sling provides more padding.

    As you can probably tell I am really pleased with this bag. However, each person has their own ideas when it comes to what suits them. I prefer to go very much on the light, minimalistic side and this bag is absolutely perfect in this regard.

    I hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Scott

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