Tom Bihn Large Cafe Bag Review


Why I bought it: Saw it on ebay, couldn't resist. It's Tom Bihn! I'd heard so much raving about the products and I had to see one up close. Turned out to be a good thing I bought it, because just a few days after I received it, I sent in my usual daily bag under its warranty to see if I could get a refund due to faulty interior lining.




First Impressions:

Size: Looks bigger than I thought it'd be. Previous daily bag was a timbuk2 small classic messenger bag, which is about two inches wider, two or three inches shorter, and about two inches longer. So while the other bag actually is bigger, this one threw me off by being taller and more square than I'm used to.

Colour: Gorgeous. Much classier, and not all of that is due to the fact that my last bag was bright red and this is black. The wasabi interior is so beautiful. It's not a colour that I'd be able to handle on the exterior of a bag, at least not in large amounts, but I love it as an interior colour.

Fit: Seems to wear best on my hip, as opposed to higher on my back as I've recently started to wear messengers (see pictures linked later in review for how I usually wear the bag).

Strap: Was expecting to immediately hate the shoulder pad and to want to replace it with one that velcros on, but liked it then and still like it, so far. Not a big fan of the strap itself. Well, it's not the strap exactly that's the problem, but the method of adjusting it. I really like cam buckles and it's taking me a bit to get used to having to adjust the strap before I put the bag on because doing it while it's on does not go over very well. I really like being able to adjust the length of a messenger bag strap while I'm still wearing it, but this isn't a complete deal breaker.

The bag in general: Love the slash pocket. No, adore the slash pocket! How did I go for two years wearing a bag that didn't have one? I really don't know. Overally, really like the division into three main areas (front zip, main area, back slash). Will be interesting to see, over time, how much excess can be fit into the two outer pockets when the main one's full.




Thoughts After Use:

I really like the bag, which is good because it's my only messenger now, at least until I hear back from Timbuk2 as to whether they'll be sending my old bag back or giving me a refund. In the case of a refund, I'll keep using this as my daily bag at least until my birthday (october), at which point I may be treating myself to a new bag. I have my eye on the Imago (and I admit on the ID too), although I'm a little hesitant because it too is a pretty thin bag and it's also quite tall like this one. I'm also trying to bring backpacks back into my life so I'm torn between buying a new messenger or continuing my perpetual quest for the right backpack for me.

The thinness of the bag (3") has been its main drawback, combined with the lack of an adjustable length front buckle. This bag may be deeper than what I'm used to, but what I'd really like would be an inch or two more width because that's what really makes a lot of a difference when it comes to how much fits in a bag, and doesn't make it look that much bigger. Also, there've been many times when I've had a little difficulty getting the bag to close, and as there's no velcro (I can't really say I want any, though), I can't just forget about buckling it.

Don't get me wrong though; the large cafe bag still holds quite a bit! It's not meant to be a bag that you can stuff your life into and it's not. It's a bag that you can fit your daily essentials and several extras into, which is more than enough for most people. It's great for outings or as a daily purse replacement (I refuse to carry around a purse at college; the idea seems bizarre to me).

See pictures here (mine are the ones titled Large Cafe Bag Review) for an idea of what I carry and what the bag holds comfortably: http://flickr.com/groups/57753561@N00/pool/

I have also used the bag as my carry-on on one flight within the US (getting through security was barely a hassle). If I hadn't had my laptop(toshiba m200, about 4.4pounds I think, didn't bring power adaptor), I think the bag would've been great(had my wallet, gameboy sp, paperback book, graphic novel, my cellphone, my pocket moleskine, bought two magazines, also ended up with several snacks my mother bought for fear that my brother's house would have no food, and there were maybe a few tiny other things; carried my sweatshirt in my arms; I could have also had my psp and my pda very comfortably but decided to leave them at home for once).

Unfortunately, I did have my laptop (no sleeve, because I don't own one thin enough to fit in the cafe bag and I didn't want to bring my backpack). The laptop made the bag heavy, and the lack of padding in the bag combined with no padding from a sleeve made the bag hard and dig into my hip and back (I had to keep switching how I carried the bag because my shoulder really hurt after wandering around the airport for over an hour; got there very, very early, needed to kill time). It wasn't bad when I only had to carry the bag for a little while (like half an hour), but beyond that, not a great idea. The shoulder pad is good but not padded enough for very long term use, and if you're carrying anything heavy and hard, you need to cushion it somehow. This really wasn't the bag's fault, although I do wish the strap pad was just a tiny bit more padded.


So, improvements I would make:

- Add an inch or two more width (depth?)
- Pad shoulder strap a little more
- Adjustable length front strap
- New method of adjusting shoulder strap

And that's really about it, I think. I'm getting used to the height of the bag. Wish it stood on its own better though. I think its being wider would help that happen.

If you're looking for a not a purse, really do consider one of the cafe bags. The quality is great, they're gorgeous, and they hold a surprising amount for their size(don't be fooled by my complaints about the width). And then add the organizer pouches(small or medium, small is best) and it's a perfect combination. The pouches make adding things to the bag and taking things out a quick and simple task(you can displace the contents of the bag to access the actual interior without having to take things out and scatter them).