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.
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?
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.