Western Flyer, Part I: The First Week
After a torturous time looking for a new briefcase and a long awaited arrival, my Western Flyer finally arrived last weekend! (there is hope for you who ordered a backordered item - this arrived 2 months early by that standard) I upgraded from a more traditional Wenger ballistic laptop case I have had for many years. The Wenger worked pretty well, but it wasn’t big enough to one-bag, and too big to be a good personal item on the plane. This first week was a work week, doing what this bag will do 90% of the time, lugging stuff to and from the office.
And lug it does! Considering it isn’t substantially larger than the Wenger (it is lighter), it holds plenty of stuff. I carry a large ThinkPad laptop and extended battery every day and it fits just fine. I have no Brain Cell for it, but now that I know it fits I will have one soon. The bag itself offers minimal protection of contents due to the lack of foam or structure.
I wasn’t looking for a pretty bag, but it turned out to be pretty…pretty. Modern simplicity, consistent color, well-crafted details, that splash of Iberian Dyneema poking out from the gray shell as it wraps a triple macchiato, gently swaying with the stretch of the Absolute Strap, it starts you thinking like J. Peterman. One thing of note, all the colors are darker than they look on the website, on all 15 screens on my many devices where I compulsively checked tombihn.com until it showed up on my doorstep. Except the Dyneema strands, those are straight up white.
My biggest concern when buying this was the size – even though I’m a big guy (6’-3” 200#) the WF just looked bigger than all my previous bags, and at the same time there were hints that my federal-debt sized laptop might not fit just right. But it was the only Bihn bag that I could see satisfying all my wants for a one-bag. I was also concerned with the cost, with all those accessories this was by far the most expensive bag I have owned. In both cases, using the bag for a week has eased my concerns. I feel like I got a great bag that will keep me happy for a long time, and maintain its value.
The WF is flexible – and skipping on accessories robs you of this most unique feature. I myself skipped on the Brain Cell and organizing pouches, and am already preparing a list for my next order. While my first impression of the Freudian Slip was comparable to paying for the seat belts and rustcoat on the car, it turned out to be a great way to flex my daily briefcase into a travel bag. It was also unexpectedly handy to use in the office, I can keep the FS, with my documents and tools inside at my desk, while the WF stays out of the way. And when it comes time to take off for vacation, the FS can stay behind and make room for the guayaberas. And a pocket to put my coffee into when I need to free up a hand to carry rolls of blueprints? Genius.
The Backpack straps looked to be the ultimate in flexibility – at least until I carried the WF loaded to the brim with the Absolute Strap; no need for flexibility or choice once you have that thing! I’m sure I’m not the only one to have scoffed at the price; then I thought “If I’m worried about the price, I might as well just get a Tumi - It comes with a strap!”. If you can afford a Bihn bag, you can afford the strap, so just do it. For noobs, the idea that a shoulder bag could be more comfortable than the backpack straps might sound absurd, but it is. Now, maybe when running to catch a connection or touring the Continent, backpack straps would be good in a pinch, and that is what I’m holding out for; right now, they are just taking up space and adding weight. I hope to get a better idea of their usefulness after my next out of town trip where I may end up doing some more serious schlepping. Not that I mean to rag on the straps; I expected some serious economy class stuff to be tucked away in there, but they are first rate when it comes to backpack gear…just too bad they aren’t stretchyyyy!
The WF and accessories seem to have settled in to my lifestyle pretty cleanly, but it’s only half the test. This is a one-bag, so before I sell all my old luggage on craigslist, it needs to be put through the slalom. In the next few weeks I have a few 3 day work trips that will require different dress, tools, and transportation. There, the Snake Charmer, Packing Cube Backpack and 3D Clear cube will get their trial run-throughs. Hopefully with photos and videos that time around!