I received my first TB bag, the Cadet, on Friday. Ordered the Friday before so right at a week to go from Seattle to Wilmington, NC. I love reading as many reviews as I can before making a purchase and I figured I would add my review for those that may be currently looking at the Cadet.
Upon receiving the Cadet my first impression was how great the packaging is. Not normally something to get excited about but I appreciate the simplicity and lack of waste, very similar to Apple's packaging. Pulling the Cadet from the box you can instantly recognize the quality craftsmanship that goes into these bags. The denier fabric is awesome. Every stitch and seam are perfect. YKK zippers are as good as you can get. The handles and how they meet at the top of the bag is fantastic. Couldn't find a single flaw, large or small, anywhere.
The Absolute strap and clips are great. It seems to be a very comfortable bag to carry in my initial testing, and the strap doesn't seem to budge once you get it seated where you want it on your shoulder. No experience with the standard strap but for $20 I would say the Absolute strap is a no-brainer.
I ordered the Steel/Iberian color scheme. The steel is very sharp; it is a darker grey than the website pictures portray and has just a light sheen to it in the light. In certain lighting it almost appears to have a very subtle green hue to it. I've always had black bags before this and it's nice to have something different that is still professional in appearance. As far as the Iberian goes, I LOVE it! What a difference the contrast between the Steel exterior and the Iberian interior, the Iberian just pops. Makes it very easy to find smaller items at the bottom of the bag and the Dyneema pattern is very cool and it definitely makes these bags unique. Also, to my eye the Iberian is still very professional looking in the Cadet and I would not hesitate or feel embarrassed opening it up in a professional setting.
As far as the size of the bag goes, even after looking at tons of pictures and comparing the size to other bags I own the Cadet is thinner than I expected. Stated dimensions on the website are dead on, just the initial impression is that it appears much smaller. I was worried I may need to return it for something a little larger. However, once I started loading it up I realized that in use it is much larger than it seems. I normally don't carry a lot but like many others here have stated, I have a tendency to fill up any unused space so this size will probably turn out to be great for me for EDC use.
In the main compartment I have:
- 8.5"x11" legal pad in leather portfolio
- 5"x7" note pad (for quick lists and notes)
- 5"x7" spiral bound notebook (gym log)
- 5"x8.5" Moleskin notebook (planner, using a modified version of the Bullet Journal)
- paperback novel that is approximately 2" thick
- 1L water bottle
- 4 file folders with a handful of papers (keep this in the separate divided section)
- IPad Mini (although I usually just leave it in the back pocket for easy access)
- I can also fit my empty coffee mug horizontally across the top as well
All of this fits without a single bulge anywhere on the bag or any issues zipping up the main compartment. I have no doubts that I could also carry a thin 13" laptop and power adapter in there as well with no problems other than weight, but at 6'2" and just shy of 200 lbs it's not much of an issue for me but something to think about if you're smaller or have any sort of back issues. The key to organizing the Cadet is in realizing that everything doesn't have to go horizontally, when I turned the portfolio, notebooks, and paperback vertical it really opened up a ton of space. In the end I'm very happy with the size. Also, with the padding of the Cadet and the way it holds its shape it is able to stand up on its own despite being a thinner bag, I'm sure this is dependent on how you load it up but I was able to stand it up both empty and loaded with everything listed.
The front organizer pocket is where this bag truly shines! The zippers come approximately half way down the sides of the pocket and the front flap folds over perfectly at the bottom edge of the front Ultrasuede pocket. When folded over the top edge is perfectly even with the top of the interior organizer pockets. This makes it incredibly easy to quickly grab what you need in the pockets but also allows you to easily store and retrieve other loose items or pouches in the bottom of the pocket with no worry of them falling out. I'm borderline OCD when it comes to organizing things and this pocket is as close to perfect as I've come across before.
In the organizer pockets I have from left to right:
- Zebra 301 mechanical pencil and a Pentel Clic Eraser (1st pen pocket)
- 2 black Bic Soft Feel retractable pens (2nd pen pocket)
- 2 blue Bic Soft Feel retractable pens (3rd pen pocket)
- Parker Jotter pen (4th pen pocket)
- 3"x3" post-it note pad and small Altoids tin (1st organizer pocket)
- Ultrasuede screen cloth (2nd organizer pocket)
- IPad charger and cable (3rd organizer pocket)
- Tom Bihn flexible ruler (fits perfectly in the small pen-sized pocket on far right of bag)
Items loose in bottom of pocket:
- Bottle of Mio water flavoring (Blueberry = yum)
- 3"x4" ziploc with chap stick, travel ibuprofen bottle, finger nail clippers, tooth picks, and floss
- Small personal first aid kit with some basics
- Earbuds, wrapped and secured with a binder clip
Attached to the O-rings:
- Fenix E05 flashlight on a NiteIze mini-carabiner
- Kingston DTSE9 G2 flash drive on NiteIze mini-carabiner
- 8" key strap that came with the Cadet
Not much to say about the small Ultrasuede front pocket other than it works as advertised. I can fit my IPhone 5S and my small Saddleback ID wallet without issue. I think an IPhone 6 would also fit, but not sure about the 6 Plus. I can also fit my keys in there if I choose. It would be nice if you could fit a small tablet in there but not a big issue, I had to nitpick about something.
Last but not least is the open top pocket on the rear of the bag. Also not much to say here other than it works. Like I said before I normally keep my IPad Mini in there for easy access but it would easily hold a couple of magazines or some additional documents as well. Don't do much traveling so the zip through feature for a roller bag won't get used but it's nice to have. Also, something I didn't find in any of the reviews I read was that the zipper isn't at the very bottom of the pocket so even with it unzipped you could still keep a magazine or some papers in there without worrying about them falling through. Really good design there, makes it less of a compromise than the double rear pocket of the Zephyr and Empire Builder.
I think that about covers it all. Tried to be detailed without getting too long winded, hopefully I was successful. All-in-all for a simple, minimalist briefcase type bag I am very happy and would highly recommend the Cadet. If anyone has any other questions please let me know. Thanks for those of you who helped convince me of the Cadet.