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Thread: Ristretto 13" review/sizing

  1. #1
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    Ristretto 13" review/sizing

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    I've never done a product review before so why not do one for a very decent messenger bag.

    Perhaps this is less of a review and more of "which size is best for you".

    If you search online, any review will tell you it's a great constructed bag. No doubts about it so don't need to dive into that.

    I've read countless reviews (in written or video form) from this forum and other personal/ commercial websites but the majority review the previous generation and not the current model. The big difference between the two is the zipper pouch from the open top pocket.

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    Also, none really compare bag sizes which is why I mistakenly bought the 11" Ristretto first.

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    Above is the (from the left) ipad, 11" and 13"[/CENTER]

    In search of a new "laptop" bag, I've been keen on the vertical style for the last few years but couldn't find one that I liked for what I needed at the time and ended up purchasing the Booq Nerve bag for my current 17" laptop.

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    Its a very nice bag, too nice in fact that I've only used it on a handful of occasions because its "fancy" as a daily take-it-to work bag.

    A few years and a falling apart bag later its time for a new bag with new needs.

    The majority of the time my current messenger bag is under used - too much space - when I go to work since I have a relative handful of go-to things that I want with me each day and occasionally bring my tablet with me.

  2. #2
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    The search for a man bag began and it ultimately ended with a battle between the Tom Bihn Ristretto and STM Linear laptop bag.

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    Both look good as a smaller messenger bag without the purse visual quality or metro-sexual look.

    The Ristretto won out because of better looks and function over lower cost, okay looks and better function.

    After much debate over which bag, size became the next battle - the 11" or 13".

    Some photos made the 13" made the bag appear larger/huge on the persons. As if the camera added another square foot of storage space to the bags appearance.

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    And from reviews, the 11" seems to fit lots for its small size.

    I made the purchase, got the bag and looked at what I wanted to fit. Everything fit but wasn't going to fit much more afterwards.

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    11" is a great bag to carry what you need but not the bag to carry what you need and additional stuff you'll want to pick up along the way.

    I spoke to Beau from Tom Bihn and asked how to exchange for the 13" and turned out to be pretty simple. Return the current to be reimbursed and purchase the new size at the same time to reduce any withdraws.

    One week later the new bag arrives.

    Is it worth it? Worth the additional postage from Canada to ship the old bag back and pay shipping for the new one?

    A hard pill to swallow but yes.

    To ease the pain, I purchased a few mesh bags and the messenger stabilizer (1" Cafe/Ristretto Messenger Stabilizer - Stabilize your bag when riding your bike - TOM BIHN), which I should have ordered the first time.

    Pity may have happened on Bihns because I found two extra 4" key straps and a pocket pouch with my 13" bag.

    Thank you guys, it made my day.

    As you can see from the photo, it fits all the stuff I carry around with some room left over. Not a lot but enough space for a few magazines, paperback, small handful size items... more if you want the bloated over stuffed feeling.

    The 11" just fit everything but felt & looked full.

    I think the 13" is just the right size before feeling too big as a vertical messenger bag. It stays just below my belt line and feels okay.

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    11" is a great bag to carry what you need but not the bag to carry what you need and additional stuff you'll want to pick up along the way.

    I spoke to Beau from Tom Bihn and asked how to exchange for the 13" and turned out to be pretty simple. Return the current to be reimbursed and purchase the new size at the same time to reduce any withdraws.

    One week later the new bag arrives.

    Is it worth it? Worth the additional postage from Canada to ship the old bag back and pay shipping for the new one?

    A hard pill to swallow but yes.

    To ease the pain, I purchased a few mesh bags and the messenger stabilizer, which I should have ordered the first time.

    Pity may have happened on Bihns because I found two extra 4" key straps and a pocket pouch with my 13" bag.

    Thank you guys, it made my day.

    As you can see from the photo, it fits all the stuff I carry around with some room left over. Not a lot but enough space for a few magazines, paperback, small handful size items... more if you want the bloated over stuffed feeling.

    The 11" just fit everything but felt & looked full.

    I think the 13" is just the right size before feeling too big as a vertical messenger bag. It stays just below my belt line and feels okay.

    There are a few upgrades to make this the ultimate bag, maybe things to consider for the next generation.

    - the bag comes with three o-rings inside the main compartment maybe two at each end and one in the middle or at least two at each end.

    There is one o-ring inside the zipper pouch (didn't see it there at first) I think two more would help or instead of o-rings have two or three fabric tags with clips so you can clip a USB or flashlight like I did.

    - additional small zipper pocket/open pouch on the outside flap of the zipper pocket, like a small open mouth pocket (similar to the old generation pocket).

    - an accessory piece - a mesh water bottle bag that can be clipped to the shoulder strap.

    - the back padding needs to wrap around the back bottom edge. There is a small gap of no padding between the back and the bottom where, if you don't lower your bag softly, your tablet can hit the floor or table top.

    - because the Absolute comfort shoulder strap doesn't slide back and forth, you have to adjust the ends, it would be nice if it was longer for the times you position the bag from on your side to on your back or across the shoulder.

    - the back outside pocket, if there was a way to make it expandable. When the bag is full, it's harder to slide things into the pocket.

    - last would be ship in a plastic bag inside the mailing box to keep weather free. It was raining hard today and UPS left the box at the door and just stayed shy of the downpour. Plus I read in one review that their bag had some dust inside. The box is sealed on the one closed edge, maybe taping on the top two open edges would help.

    Small things makes a great bag greater for a personalize touch and become the ultimate vertical messenger bag to go everywhere.

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    The final package

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    Registered User itsablur's Avatar
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    Thanks for the informative post! I've been looking at a Ristretto for a little while as a travel day bag, particularly on the plane where I'd like to keep important/expensive things closer at hand than in the overhead bin, such as computer, cameras, etc.

    Does the bag taper up and become narrower at the top opening of the main pocket? It's hard for me to tell from photos, and being Canadian like yourself, I'm reticent to order one just to check it out, then have to pay all the return shipping if it doesn't really work out for me.

    Edit: I'm trying to see if I can fit an 11" laptop in the laptop slot, then slip in a small camera insert down the main pocket for a Micro 4/3 camera body and a couple of small lenses. I normally wouldn't carry both at the same time, except for on the plane really.
    Last edited by itsablur; 07-09-2013 at 12:22 PM. Reason: added more context
    Own: Aeronaut 45 (Navy/Iberian), Aeronaut 30 (Steel/Ultraviolet), Night Flight (Coyote/Steel), Guide's Pack (Steel), Synapse 19 (Olive/Steel), Daylight (Navy), Aeronaut Packing Cube Backpack (Wasabi), Founder's Briefcase (Black), Pilot (Steel 400d/Steel), Co-Pilot (Black/Iberian), Side Effect (Black/Ultraviolet), Travel Tray (Iberian), various cubes, pouches, sacks, and straps

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    The bag does have a bigger base.

    The way the design goes, you can stuff the base in( front of the laptop pocket).

    This will let you store not as necessary items and then the go to pieces on top.

    For me, I think the 13" is big enough as a daily bag but feels like it could be bigger when you transition from a regular horizontal messenger bag.

    I've noticed that I can't always stuff minor things into the back pocket because its a tight narrow design.

    If you're not going to need much to take with on the plane, you may be happy with 11" because its less bulk, but I don't think the 13" makes a big difference.


    Quote Originally Posted by itsablur View Post
    Thanks for the informative post! I've been looking at a Ristretto for a little while as a travel day bag, particularly on the plane where I'd like to keep important/expensive things closer at hand than in the overhead bin, such as computer, cameras, etc.

    Does the bag taper up and become narrower at the top opening of the main pocket? It's hard for me to tell from photos, and being Canadian like yourself, I'm reticent to order one just to check it out, then have to pay all the return shipping if it doesn't really work out for me.

    Edit: I'm trying to see if I can fit an 11" laptop in the laptop slot, then slip in a small camera insert down the main pocket for a Micro 4/3 camera body and a couple of small lenses. I normally wouldn't carry both at the same time, except for on the plane really.

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    Here's a side view of the bag I just found. It shows how the bottom tapers out so you can store much more at the base.

    Consider the accessories you may want to get while you browse the site. The pouches come in handy to separate (like pockets that aren't there) the smaller stuff in the big front pocket.

    It also keeps it at the top for easy access. I probably should have gotten the padded pouch to hold my camera instead of the regular one. Normally I had a hard case attached outside of my old bag but since its stored inside now's I figure its protected enough to stay safe.


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    Registered User itsablur's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info! What's the measured width of the base of the bag vs. the opening of the bag?
    Own: Aeronaut 45 (Navy/Iberian), Aeronaut 30 (Steel/Ultraviolet), Night Flight (Coyote/Steel), Guide's Pack (Steel), Synapse 19 (Olive/Steel), Daylight (Navy), Aeronaut Packing Cube Backpack (Wasabi), Founder's Briefcase (Black), Pilot (Steel 400d/Steel), Co-Pilot (Black/Iberian), Side Effect (Black/Ultraviolet), Travel Tray (Iberian), various cubes, pouches, sacks, and straps

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    Wow, what an amazing, comprehensive review!

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    Quote Originally Posted by enjih View Post
    Wow, what an amazing, comprehensive review!
    I agree. Thanks so much for doing this. I had a first-generation Ristretto and sold it, but have just recently started to consider one of the current models. I've got an 11-inch Macbook Air, so I just assumed I would get the 11-inch, but your review is making me stop to reconsider that.

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    Here's a top look at my bag with my stuff in it.

    Everything is pushed down with 4" of space to spare above my small note pad.

    My larger pad of paper with the metal clip is 9" wide and could probably squeeze 9.5" all the way down.

    Full width of the outside is 10.5". If mouth was as open as the bottom, there would be tons more space to fill the bag with.

    I emptied the bag over the weekend to use to carry a few small containers of food and cups and it felt too tight and squeezed with so little to fit anything else.

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    Darcy and itsablur like this.

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    Thanks Enjih.

    I thought it was important for everyone to know what you can fit despite the sound of the size. 13" seems large and have seen reviews with people packing tons in it, I just don't know how they did because you would have to pack every square inch and then have to take everything out just to get something that may be at the bottom.

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    I've seen the 11" and 13" in the stores when considering the size difference. The 13" does seem much larger in overall size when looking at each laptop. Much wider for sure, depth didn't seem overall much. Which is where I think the 13" Ristretto is better. More height for storage, etc. That 1/2" wider or so is not much.


    Quote Originally Posted by ncb4 View Post
    I agree. Thanks so much for doing this. I had a first-generation Ristretto and sold it, but have just recently started to consider one of the current models. I've got an 11-inch Macbook Air, so I just assumed I would get the 11-inch, but your review is making me stop to reconsider that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gotmoose View Post
    I thought it was important for everyone to know what you can fit despite the sound of the size. 13" seems large and have seen reviews with people packing tons in it, I just don't know how they did because you would have to pack every square inch and then have to take everything out just to get something that may be at the bottom.
    Well, the same concern can really be voiced for just about any bag that's effectively a single large well. Even the Synapse or Smart Alec user would be digging if they packed the bag to capacity with items one on top of one another. The key is always to plan ahead and pack accordingly; frequently used stuff on top, rarely used stuff on bottom. If everything/most things are tethered to the bag with long key straps, then even if you do need something from the bottom, everything you just displaced is still at least attached to the bag and can easily be put back in.
    Own: Aeronaut 45 (Navy/Iberian), Aeronaut 30 (Steel/Ultraviolet), Night Flight (Coyote/Steel), Guide's Pack (Steel), Synapse 19 (Olive/Steel), Daylight (Navy), Aeronaut Packing Cube Backpack (Wasabi), Founder's Briefcase (Black), Pilot (Steel 400d/Steel), Co-Pilot (Black/Iberian), Side Effect (Black/Ultraviolet), Travel Tray (Iberian), various cubes, pouches, sacks, and straps

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