I need some help from this forum to create my review. The full review is probably not going to be finished before a few months after really challenging this bag. These are my thoughts so far... And I hope you guys can poke hole in my theories so I can make sure the review is covering all aspects of this product.
Here is a little sneak peak of the review coming up for the Tom Bihn Brain Bag.
The whole One Bag phenomena is lead by a few enthusiast and have almost a cult like following. Another ‘feature’ review is not going to add any value. There are plenty of those already out there.
I am trying to tackle things that has not been talked about and really put the product through use and abuse.
The reason I got a Brain Bag instead of a backcountry backpack that many folks are traveling with.. is that I find them very inconvenient to use. They are great for what they are designed for, which is walking long distances with heavy load. The shortcomings are quickly evident when:
- You are moving in a crowd with a huge pack.
- Using it as a carry-on on Air travel.
- Are trying to fit the bag into buses, airplanes, under seats, on the roof for remote shuttle or even stacked with a bunch of other bags.
- You stop and go, and take the bag on and off. It’s design likes best to sit snugly on your back with the hip loaders on. It’s almost a ritual getting the bag on and off. And its always a mess carrying it on one shoulder.
- There are many small parts and straps that can easily get tangled or cut.
- Due to the size its easy to over pack.
- And sorry for saying this, you look like a dork and get labeled with the rest of the backpacking cult.
These are some of the reasons why a backpack like that thrive best for what it is intended for. However, convertible travel backpacks are becoming more and more popular and they seem to solve some of the problems I mentioned earlier. However, these bags are going totally to the travel extreme resulting in that they have become hard to use for anything else.
I was looking for a bag that could do it all.
- Travel for 1 month
- Backpacking and Hiking
- Bringing My Clothes to the Laundry Mat
- Going to Starbucks with my electronics
- Bringing my gear to different activities: Snorkeling, Filming, Mountain Biking, Bouldering, Brazilian Jiu Jiutsu and to the Gym.
- Be Utilitarian but still look classy.
I believe the Tom Bihns Brain Bag can do all these things. It’s not a master of any of them, but rather a jack of all trades. This one bag can replace 5 others! Great Right?
So far I have some thoughts:
The price on $160 is ‘steep’ for an everyday backpack. If you like to follow the newest fashion or have multiple bags for different uses, this price point may not be for you. You also have to take into account that backpack technology in terms of features, quality and fabric is rapidly evolving. (including Tom Bihns new Dyneema and different polyester blends are also gaining traction because they are more environmental friendly)
Having said that. If you are the type that keeps your bags forever or have some extra money to burn, or maybe you are a minimalist that use your bag for EVERYTHING? the Brain Bag is a good deal compared to competing brands, weighing in size, features, material and workmanship. This bag is designed to last over a decade. With Tom Bihn you don’t pay inflated brand prices as with brands like Tumi etc.. its a price that gives you top notch quality for your hard earned dollars.
It’s divided into two large compartments with three outside pockets and an outside mesh pocket. You can get specialized inserts for your laptop and camera for maximum protection.
It also has a carbine and straps in the middle that can carry anything from a water bottle to a tripod.
You can also use the compression straps on the side to hold anything from a sleeping pad to a rain jacket.
The bag also have the ability to shrink and grow depending on the load. In that way you can bring it to the coffee shop without looking like you brought a 50L backpack and the day after pack it full for a 1 month travel in Asia.
It has a removable sternum strap and hip belt that is both removable. (I suggests you take those off on the days you know you are not lugging the bag for long distances)
The Brain Bag is made of 1000d Cordura lined with 500d. Its also treated with an outside water repellent and a urethane coating inside to withstand short Rain Bursts. (I recommend treating it with a little known product called “Ultra Ever Dry”. )
The Cordura material feels more like normal nylon canvas without any of the synthetic texture of Rip Stop and Ballistic Nylon.
Personally I am not fan of 1000d Cordura because it attracts dust and debris like crazy. When I put the bag down on the beach it attracted moist and sand like nothing I’ve seen. I’m likely to never set it down on the beach ever again.
The good side is that the material age very good and become smoother with a lot of use and will attract less dust etc. as it wears.
Just a short note on the lining on the inside. Not many bags at this price point comes with a lining. Most people think of outside durability on a bag, but when you load and unload the bag and carry all kinds of books, electronics or other gadgets.. you actually generate a lot of stress on the inside of the bag while you are walking around. The negative side is that the bag becomes heavier, which is the price you pay for durability!
The Zippers are heavy and durable and the whole bag is reinforced with bar tacks stitches.
The Brain Bag shines when it comes to diversity. It is truly a minimalists bag that can be used for a great variety. As I mentioned earlier the Brain Bag is not too big and not too small and can handle most tasks you throw at it. I will talk about this more later in the in depth review.
The first impression of the bag when I put it on was.. “Damn.. this is very uncomfortable”. I learned that when I adjusted the load and the straps it became evident that the bag was comfy and fit snugly on my bag.
The best way to adjust my load was to avoid the “rug sack syndrome” where everything gathers and bulges out at the bottom.
I laid the bag down on its back and packed everything so they would align vertically on top of each other when I carried it on my back. Then I used the compressions strap on the side to tightly keep the load in place. This allowed the bag to evenly distribute the load and I avoided the bottom heavy “rug sack syndrome”.
I read somewhere that people love bottom heavy backpacks.. so I guess it’s all about personal preference.
The carry handle on the top is also solid and it feels like it has a comfy firm foam padding inside it.
The backpack straps are not foam heavy but they are wide and distributes the load well.
I’m 6 Feet and 180 Lbs, this bag might not fit comfortably on a very small frame. I think it handles best for average size people. This is something I was not able to test.
Please leave comments so I can learn from other people’s experiences and include it in my next review of this bag.
I'm also waiting for the Tom Bihn Aeronaut to arrive any day soon!
Brain Bag - Laptop Backpack with a Lifetime Guarantee - TOM BIHN
P.S. This Timlapse was shot with GoPro Hero 3: White Edition using iMovie.