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  1. #1
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    Two Months with the Tri-Star

    Now that I am two months in to my Tri-Star ownership experience, I figured it would be appropriate for me to register and post a review.

    About me
    I am an IT consultant who lives in Charleston, SC and works for a little company on the West Coast. I travel four days a week to my client site. There are never direct flights from Chucktown, so I always have to make at least one connection. To avoid having luggage lost, I have always practiced "one-bag" (really in my case "no-check") travel. In the past I had always used cheap wheeled carry-ons + a laptop bag, but after one too many bad experiences with wheeled carry-ons and regional jets I decided to switch up.

    About the equipment
    I ordered from Tom Bihn a Tri-Star in Indigo/Solar, an Absolute Shoulder Strap, and one of the medium packing cubes that converts to a shoulder bag. This is complemented by a Filson 257 (Large Briefcase/Computer Bag) for computer equipment.

    About the pack
    Generally I pack for 3 or 4 days of business casual wear, I use a pretty standard bundle wrapping method with the medium packing cube as the core, which is pretty much the perfect size for the compression-strap side of the Tri-Star.

    - 3 button-down shirts (bundle)
    - 2 sweaters (bundle)
    - 3 pairs of slacks (bundle)
    - 5 pairs of underwear (core)
    - 5 undershirts (core)
    - 1 casual t-shirt (core)
    - 1 polo shirt (core)

    - 1 casual / gym shoes (shoe section)
    - 5 pairs dress / gym socks (stuffed in shoes)
    - 1 pair jeans (folded up in the compartment next to the shoe compartment

    - nonliquid tolietries (tallest front pocket)
    - cordura nylon dirty clothes bag (stuffed anywhere)

    - 2 computers w/accessories (filson)
    - liquid tolietries (filson)

    My review / concerns / point for improvement
    My experience has been generally positive, and I would recommend it with a few reservations to anyone who travels for 3-4 day business trips in a business casual environment.

    x2 The bag will go anywhere on a regional jet. Even when overstuffed (see below) it will go underneath the seat, even on small EMBs and CRJs. I never have to worry about having to check a carry-on through to my final destination on the fullest flights anymore.

    Side handles make the bag very easy to maneuver on and off the plane.

    Tom Bihn's customer service. When I first received the bag, it had a small but important defect: the attachment points for the shoulder strap were missing! A replacement bag was sent ahead to my next hotel second-day air.

    Fit and finish -- amazing. Looks svelte when lightly loaded, and doesn't look too bulky even when absolutely crammed full of stuff.

    The medium packing cube is less useful as a shoulder bag than I was expecting. It has no weight to it, which means if you don't fill it it'll flap around. Also, in theory you could move the ASS from the bag to the packing cube to go out on the town, but the smallish cube gets dominated by the ASS. Also, the cube could use some internal organization (map pocket and pen sleeve would add little weight).

    The three front zipper pockets have no real room to expand internally. If you fill one you reduce the available space in the others. Putting a netbook in the biggest makes the other two useless, even if there is still internal space left in the bag.

    I know it has its defenders, but for my usage the water bottle pouch is a useless gimmick. I could see it being good for daybag-size bags like the Western Flyer, but the Tri-Star really crosses the line from daybag into luggage.

    Compression straps seem flimsy compared to the rest of the bag. They also have a bad habit of forcibly unbuckling themselves if you try to torque them down more than just a little bit.

    x2 Bag does not behave well with large bundles. If you try to pack a bundle that is large enough to take you into the last 2" of the compression straps, the bag gets hard / impossible to zip up without first letting out the backpack straps.

    x2 Nonremovable backpack straps. This is my single greatest frustration with the Tri-Star. You'd never make a bag with a non-removable shoulder strap -- why make it with non-removable backpack straps? Especially when they consume nontrivial amounts of space and contribute nontrivial amounts of weight?

    Other Notes
    If you wear bigger than a L shirt and want to bundle pack, this is probably not the bag for you, the bundles will simply be too large in dimension for the bag to handle. I wear a M and can fit my stuff in OK; a business associate of mine who wears XL found the Air Boss to be a better fit.

    If you use large bundles the center compartment will be pretty much consumed by the bundle, so be prepared to carry a separate laptop bag. I imagine the bag would be perfect for 2-3 day 1 computer trips with a Brain Cell, which in that case should clip nicely inside the center compartment.

    Anyway, feel free to ask me anything that's on your mind.

  2. #2
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    I'm the CEO of a tech/supply chain company and I travel a bit as well. I often have to do "serious" meetings (sportcoats/suits...) so what I pack can get bulky. I've been looking for a bag that:

    1) can be used as a daily bag/tech/briefcase bag
    2) can go short trips with those items and some clothes (2 days or so)
    3) can be the second bag (first being a rolling bag) for longer trips (5+ days) and take a reasonable amount of clothing overflow.

    That combo would allow me to have one system for storing laptop, assorted equipment and other work items that doesn't change depending on the trip profile.

    I've been eying the Tri-Star but wasn't sure it could cover that range. I appreciate your observations. Do you think the Tri-Star could work as a daily bag? Is it trim enough to finesse as the second bag (I'm Platinum and usually in first so they aren't overly fussy usually)

    Thanks

    Jiri

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jiri View Post
    I'm the CEO of a tech/supply chain company and I travel a bit as well. I often have to do "serious" meetings (sportcoats/suits...) so what I pack can get bulky. I've been looking for a bag that:

    1) can be used as a daily bag/tech/briefcase bag
    2) can go short trips with those items and some clothes (2 days or so)
    3) can be the second bag (first being a rolling bag) for longer trips (5+ days) and take a reasonable amount of clothing overflow.

    That combo would allow me to have one system for storing laptop, assorted equipment and other work items that doesn't change depending on the trip profile.

    I've been eying the Tri-Star but wasn't sure it could cover that range. I appreciate your observations. Do you think the Tri-Star could work as a daily bag? Is it trim enough to finesse as the second bag (I'm Platinum and usually in first so they aren't overly fussy usually)

    Thanks

    Jiri
    1) The Tri-Star is about one "step" too big for me for a day bag / tech bag. I travel with two laptops but keep one in the office while I'm on customer site; if I were carrying two laptops day in and day out, plus maybe a netbook or bulky accessories like spare batteries, that would better suit the Tri-Star. With just one laptop and various tech gear, the Tri-Star is just going to swallow it whole and you'll be carrying much more bag than you really need. It is stylish enough to use as an everyday bag, and it does flatten down to basically nothing when not full of clothes, so you should be able to swing it.

    The Western Flyer is probably more daybag-sized -- it is smaller in every dimension and disposes with the compression strap compartment, but keeps the center compartment with the Brain Cell clips.

    2) I think a 2-day trip with a laptop, accessories, and business attire in only a Tri-Star is achievable. Assuming you're wearing one suit on the plane, you only have to pack one, which means your bundle shouldn't be too big. I'm a relatively small guy (38 suit) and don't have much of a problem if I have to pack a blazer, but if you're any bigger than 42 or so you might have a problem with the shoulders on your suit coat when you try to zip up the compression side of the bag.

    3) The Tri-Star is too big to use as the second bag. It counts as a MLC under Heathrow's requirements! Of course, it all depends on how much your particular FAs care that day, and in F they don't really care that much. The WF again is probably the better choice here; its dimensions are more comparable to my Filson 257 (which I use to carry a pair of laptops) than the Tri-Star.

    I'll take some pictures in laptop-only mode, laptop + 2 day business attire mode, and when Thursday rolls around in maxxed-out bundle mode.

  4. #4
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    Thanks - I appreciate the feedback. The bag I'm using these days for this purpose is an old Andiamo shoulder bag. It's about the same size as the Tri-Star but heavy (it's from the mid-90's) and actually pretty efficient. It tips a little more to the business case rather than luggage/clothing side of the equation. My perfect bag would split the difference. I'd love it if TB would make a version of the Tri-Star with a gusset that would compress the depth of of the bag - that would make it work as a day bag for me. Do you think that could be done given the weight/rigidity of the material?

    Thanks

  5. #5
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    The Tri-Star is definitely not for everyone...but I might be able to help.

    First, I'm not a fan of the bundle packing method. I find cubes/folders to hold more and pack in tighter.

    For a 3-4 day trip, I don't take anywhere near as much as you are trying to take? Five pairs of pants?

    In the rear compartment I have an EC 18' packing folder. In it are 3 shirts, 2 pants, 1 sweater. Wrapped around it, if needed, a sports jacket. This is held down by compressions straps and no problem closing the zippers. (I should say all of my clothes are travel friendly, wrinkle-free and wash easily in a sink.)

    Front section....Cube with socks, undies, t shirt, gym shorts. (I only take one pair of shoes so I put my toiletry kit on the other side where you put your shoes. (I take some pre-cut disposable insoles and change them every few days. )

    Center section--backpack with netbook, ipod, cellphone, chargers, plugs, etc.) Other side of center section has small cube with miscellaneous items but I could put my toiletry kit there is needed and put shoes in front compartment.

    I'm big on small items. My toiletry kit is 9x6x2 and has not only my toiletries but my mini-laundry kit. (I have no problem washing out a shirt or undies in the sink as my trips sometimes last 2-3 weeks and I take only the Tri-Star. )

    It's a matter of taking only what is essential. I find ways to get smaller and smaller items as they become available.

    I'm surprised you bought a bag with backpack straps if you don't need them. Perhaps an Airboss would have been better for bundle packing--however--many Air Boss owners complain the bag tends to bulge outwards when overpacked.
    Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers. http://www.1bag1world.com

    Aeronaut(2), Tri-Star(2) Cadet , Large Cafe Bag, Travel Tray, Travel Money Belt, Absolute Straps(3), Side Effect, Clear Quarter Packing Cubes (2), 3D Organizer Cubes (4), Aeronaut & Tri-Star Packing Cubes, Clear Organizer Wallet, numerous Organizer Pouches,, Guardian Dual Function Light, Vertical Netbook Cache, Nexus 7 Cache, RFID Passport Pouch, numerous Key Straps.

  6. #6
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    Thumbs up

    Very illuminating discussion!

    fbrown627, could you show us a picture of your packing method for your Eagle Creek PackIt folder? I'd like to see how you situate your items with your sportcoat.

    Keep up the good work, everyone. And happy trails...

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jiri View Post
    I'd love it if TB would make a version of the Tri-Star with a gusset that would compress the depth of of the bag - that would make it work as a day bag for me. Do you think that could be done given the weight/rigidity of the material?
    The 1050 nylon is tough, but it's neither heavy nor rigid. When unloaded, the bag settles down to 3-4" inches in depth by virtue of its construction. If you go to the product page and look at picture x or z7, you can kind of see the bag has accordion-like construction around the center compartment that squishes down of its own accord when unloaded. In picture x they probably have something in the other compartments to keep the weight of the jeans from squishing the bag down.

  8. #8
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    Thanks - even without a gusset if one compartment had tie-down/compression straps, it could make the profile thinner and look more like a business case when in equipment only mode.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by fbrown627 View Post

    Center section--backpack with netbook, ipod, cellphone, chargers, plugs, etc.) Other side of center section has small cube with miscellaneous items but I could put my toiletry kit there is needed and put shoes in front compartment.
    What backpack do you use that fits into one side of the center section of the tri-star?

  10. #10
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    I've been using a Pacsafe Metrosafe 200 messenger bag. However, I'm about to get a Pacsafe Roamsafe (now called the Slingsafe) backpack. I got in touch with Pacsafe and they said it would fit the center section of the Tri-Star.

    Darcy also said the Synapse would fit.So would any of the Cafe bags or the Ristrettos. All, of course, would go in sideways for length.

    I find most backpack/daypacks are crushable as long as you don't stuff them.

    As I fly internationally, I stick with one bag. The one bag plus personal item isn't allowed on many foreign carriers. One bag means one bag.

    I would consider using a Synapse but I go to places where pickpockets are plentiful. Without being able to secure the zippers on a bag it's like a candy store for them. That's why I go with Pacsafe......clips to keep zippers together and neither fabric nor strap can be cut. Now, had the Synapse been designed with either locking or at least dual zippers that could be connected, I'd have purchased it.
    Last edited by Frank II; 12-02-2009 at 08:13 AM.
    Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers. http://www.1bag1world.com

    Aeronaut(2), Tri-Star(2) Cadet , Large Cafe Bag, Travel Tray, Travel Money Belt, Absolute Straps(3), Side Effect, Clear Quarter Packing Cubes (2), 3D Organizer Cubes (4), Aeronaut & Tri-Star Packing Cubes, Clear Organizer Wallet, numerous Organizer Pouches,, Guardian Dual Function Light, Vertical Netbook Cache, Nexus 7 Cache, RFID Passport Pouch, numerous Key Straps.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by fbrown627 View Post
    ...I go to places where pickpockets are plentiful.
    Hi fbrown627, my curiosity is piqued. What places do you travel that have these problems? Just curious for my own edification. This also brings up again the idea of a rain fly/ bag enclosure made of Dyneema. If the whole bag could be wrapped in Dyneema - the world’s strongest fiber™, which is slash resistant with threads 15x stronger than steel by weight (Dyneema molecular weight is in the millions), it could address such concerns for users of Tom Bihn bags.
    Bags: Super Ego (Black/indigo w/cork seatbelt); Aeronaut (Crimson/Steel); 2 Medium Cafe Bags (Navy/Cayenne, Linen/Olive), w/an Ultrasuede Shoulder Strap Wrap; Large Cafe Bag (Cocoa/Wasabi) w/Absolute Strap; Imago (sadly lost to hazmat); a Brain Cell w/ another Strap Wrap; and a Shop Bag (Steel). Accessories: Bunches and bunches.
    Wanted: Zephyr or Empire Builder.
    " ...all [that] you have to depend on is yourself and your luggage." - The Luggage Salesman (Joe Versus the Volcano)

  12. #12
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    I spend time in Europe and right now the two worst, in Western Europe, are Rome and Barcelona. However, with the economy as bad as it is, pickpocketing has picked up throughout Europe.

    They are so bold, they will literally follow you on the street, and attempt to open your backpack while matching you stride for stride. They are good.

    When standing still or on any type of public transport, the bag is held in front of me with my hands around it. But with so many pockets, and thieves as young as eight, without zippers that are clipped together, you are vulnerable. And, they sometimes use knives to cut the bottoms hoping things would fall out. (Yes, dyneema might work but checked isn't my thing. Basic black to blend in.)

    That last part isn't a problem with Tom Bihn bags as things can be connected to the O-Rings. My plan was to put my small electronics in my side effect and clip it to an inside O-ring. If the bottom is cut, the side effect wouldn't fall to the ground but hang there. Not an easy grab and run. I'd also use my TB pouches for other things. But there is no way to secure the outer zippers. And with all those compartments, it would be a waste not to be able to use them.

    (I'm even thinking of putting some of my own type of "o" rings in the Pacsafe bag.)

    I wear a moneybelt when traveling so my passport, cash and credit cards and safe. But I don't feel like losing my cellphone, ipod, camera, etc.
    Last edited by Frank II; 12-02-2009 at 11:33 AM.
    Editor--One Bag, One World: News, Reviews & Community for Light Travelers. http://www.1bag1world.com

    Aeronaut(2), Tri-Star(2) Cadet , Large Cafe Bag, Travel Tray, Travel Money Belt, Absolute Straps(3), Side Effect, Clear Quarter Packing Cubes (2), 3D Organizer Cubes (4), Aeronaut & Tri-Star Packing Cubes, Clear Organizer Wallet, numerous Organizer Pouches,, Guardian Dual Function Light, Vertical Netbook Cache, Nexus 7 Cache, RFID Passport Pouch, numerous Key Straps.


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