My perfect companion - Large Cafe Bag
I have used my Large Cafť Bag non-stop for the last two and a half months, so I believe itís time for a detailed review. First of all, I am very picky as to which bag to use. I do not own a car, I live in a fully urban environment, I use public transit, and I walk at least 4 km on a daily basis. Choosing a bag that can meet my mobile needs is very important. These are some key characteristics that I always look for:
1. Low profile - Since I use public transit daily, I like to keep a low profile with unassuming gear. No need to shout out whether you have valuable items or not with you.
2. Streamlined Ė This is especially important when you have to use transit during rush hours. Backpacks always get in the way, even when you take them off and carry them in your hand.
3. Secure Ė Again, using public transit daily, itís important to make sure that your possessions are secure and that pickpockets donít get a chance to snatch anything away.
4. Ease of finding items inside bag Ė You donít want to struggle looking for your things in a dark bat cave.
5. Organization Ė When you carry your life with you every day, having your essentials organized is clue to finding them quickly.
6. Good shoulder support Ė When you haul your stuff as a walker, your back and shoulders bear a lot of weight. I have had back problems before. I am not willing to sacrifice my health anymore.
7. Indestructibility Ė Who does not want a bag that will last forever?
It took me a good six months to decide which Tom Bihn bag to purchase. I had looked at other brands, but I kept coming back to Tomís website. Reviews were always positive and, truly, the bags looked very, very nice. I narrowed it down to the CB and the Imago. After getting some feedback on Facebook and reading even more reviews, I decided to go for the CB. Now I needed to decide on the size. Since I sometimes carry my work laptop (an ugly Lenovo X220) or my HP Netbook, I decided to go for the LCB. I was at first worried that it may be a bit too large but, when I opened the box (art by Scott, thank you!) I knew I had made the right decision.
First off, the colours! I got the Black/Wasabi. Most of my wardrobe is black, I love black. But I canít stand black bags with black interiors. TB understands this well. The wasabi colour is vibrant and beautiful! It also makes finding items easy. Also, having that nice and secret splash of light inside an unassuming bag has already generated various comments about the quality of my EDC of choice.
The organization pockets are placed just right. Obviously, a lot of thought went into this placement. There are actually five organizing pockets in the main section of the LCB, in the following order: One large, one medium, two pen slots and a fifth smaller one. The main section also has three o-rings for clipping things (such as pouches or carabiners), one of them already includes an 8-inch key fob. The front zippered pocket is spacious, and it also has an o-ring. On the back of the bag you can find a slip pocket that is great for the daily newspaper or magazines. The bag also has a web handle on the top for quick grabbing. On the back, there are additional straps that can be used around the waist in case you ride a bicycle and you donít want the bag to bounce around and become a liability on the road.
In the main section of the bag I can easily carry my laptop in its neoprene sleeve. This allows my computer to be protected in a bag that has no padding. On any day, whether I carry or not a computer, I have my wallet (a very small zippered card holder), my e-reader in its protective sleeve, home and work keys attached to key fob, and two OnSight mesh pouches (until I have money to buy nice Tom Bihn pouches). OnSight equipment has very good quality products as well, and I was pleased to find out that the clips are compatible with Tom Bihn o-rings. Inside one of the pouches I carry daily necessities (pillbox, powder, emery board, lip balm, eye drops, comb, etc.) and in the other one I carry USB cables and any other electronic device accessory. I recently added a touque and mittens, as it's getting cooler where I live.
In the large organization pocket I carry a notepad, in the medium one I carry my cell phone, I carry two pens in the slots, and another lip balm in the medium pocket. Now, I must mention that the placement is absolutely perfect. I have noticed that, as I carry my bag cross-body, if I need to retrieve my cell phone quickly, I just use one hand to open the clip and my hand automatically goes to the middle pocket without having to even think about it. Genius!
In the zippered pocket I carry a reusable market bag, my building key cards, my metropass and child tickets, a small stuffed owl puppet (a gift from my son), and I clip a coin pouch to the o-ring. Again, the pocket offers perfect placement to carry my key cards and metropass. No need to carry them in an outside pocket, I can easily retrieve them on the go.
Sometimes I carry a magazine in the back slip pocket, Iíve even used it for a soft water bottle and itís been very practical. On the web handle I clipped a carabiner and, hanging from it, a keychain thermometer. Yes, this is handy when you spend lots of time outdoors.
I went ahead and ordered my bag with the Absolute Shoulder Strap. I think this was the best decision I made when I purchased this bag. Keep in mind that I carried a lot more than my daily stuff while I was travelling three weeks in Spain. Furthermore, I do buy books frequently, so I tend to add something to my load every few days. The AST is a life saver! It really does expand and makes loads feel much lighter. The curvature allows for it to sit nicely across the shoulder without any stiff sections making it uncomfortable or digging into the skin. More genius! The length can be adjusted at the sides of the bag, so this can easily adapt to people of different heights (must not allow my husband to try it!).
Overall, this is the best bag I have ever owned. I would recommend this bag for anyone who needs simple practicality and durability. Unfortunately, my TB wish list is growing way faster than my bank account, but at least I have nice gear to look forward to.
Thanks, Tom Bihn!
A fantastic review. I setteled on the Imago myself and am still shocked at how much it holds for being a small messenger bag. Thank you for the great detail and real world experience. Now I want a cafe bag too.
Thank you! Actually, the Imago is the next bag on my list (after a load of accessories). :cool: I will let everyone know when I purchase one. For now, I am sure the LCB will take me through years and years of adventure. I've also taken it hiking, in the mountains in Spain and yesterday at a conservation area not too far from Toronto, and it carries extra food and my son's stuffed hedgehog! Even the hedgehog finds it comfy! :)
You can't go wrong with TB!
Mars (a.k.a. yohopee)
That's really great the cafe bag can be useful for hiking also. I like to use the packing cube shoulder bag when hiking or riding my bike. It's nice to see alternatives to the usual daypack. I was convinced of the Imago after watching Christina Giles review it on youtube. She seems like a very nice lady and does an excellent, passionate review.
I have a LCB and an Imago and I am debating whether to take one of them on a trip I have coming up, or go with my Synapse. I will have some walking/light hiking and time in rural and semi-urban areas. It's really interesting to hear that you have found the LCB is good for hiking. Presumably you carry it cross-body. Do you use the waist strap (I've removed mine)?
The LCB is great for trips! I took it around Spain for three weeks in all environments, urban, rural, and wild, on foot, car, trains, metro, etc. It met all my traveling expectations. I've also used it for our frequent weekend trips and practically every day since I bought it. If we are doing any sort of steep hiking (like we did at Picos de Europa) I do use the waist strap and the bag remains secure. I tend to move it back a bit and shorten the length on all straps, almost carrying it like a lumbar bag. And yes, I always wear it cross-body. We are avid hikers at home and I've tried dozens of backpacks. I find that that LCB holds its own if you make sure to pack the contents properly (pouches help!). For very heavy loads (more water, food, or pans) like in back country camping, I would still go with a backpack, but for shorter hikes (I've done up to 8 km with the LCB so far), it's perfect. Oh, I failed to mention that I've been rained on multiple times and the LCB has kept all my belongings dry and safe!
Originally Posted by JLE
Having a flexible/soft water bottle has helped a lot as well. I suggest you get one (unless you already own one) as it will not occupy as much space as a regular hard bottle and you can easily stash it in the slip pocket when empty.
If you are taking a suitcase with you, consider packing either your messenger bags or your backpack flat on the bottom so you are prepared for all situations. I still took my backpack with me when we went on our trip last summer, so I had a backup. I did not use it, however. I think my LCB and I formed quite a bond. :)
This is my daily load. Missing from the photo is my iPhone as I was using it as a camera. :)
Sometimes I add books if I end up at a bookstore.
I am planning to do this trip (which is 10 days in Bangkok and Bhutan) with just my Western Flyer and a personal bag. (Of course, if I take my Aeronaut instead of the WF I'll have more room for purchases... :) ) I know with my packing lists and method for the WF I won't be able to fit a "spare" bag inside the WF, even if I treat it like a packing cube. Also overall luggage weight is a significant consideration for me, both for carrying comfort and because of the carry on weight limits on Australian and Asian airlines - so it's important that I get the choice of personal bag right, without relying on a backup.
Originally Posted by yohopee
I won't need to carry much when I am walking so I expect I'll go with your suggestion and take the LCB or the Imago rather than the Synapse. I find those two bags can comfortably carry an identical load so at the end of the day it will probably just come down to colours (linen LCB vs black Imago) and general aesthetics!
Please post a photograph once you return. It will be awesome to see your final choice. Safe travels!