Western Flyer Review
Iíve had the Western Flyer for about a month. I bought it exclusively as my under-seat carryon in lieu of my Ego. I found the flap of the Ego got in the way of quick access in the cramped quarters of a plane, and the fact that its outer storage areas didnít zip shut entirely gave me pause.
Iíve been very happy with my purchase. I keep my Macbook in a Brain Cell along with a horizontal Freudian Slip and a magazine or journal in the back compartment. In the front compartment, the one thatís divided by a zipper, goes a Sigg water bottles and 3 or 4 Eagle Creek sacs. The other half of the zippered compartment holds a bulky noise-canceling headphone case and a padded bag with my small USB hub, thumb drives and a few short cables.
The outside zipper pockets hold an iPhone (lower) and a large travel wallet (upper) as well as a Ziplock with the few liquids I carry on board.
None of these compartments are close to being full, so itís easy to retrieve what I need during the flight.
I carry the bag by an Ultimate StrapóI havenít even tried the built-in sling strap. The small pull loops on each end of the bag are fabulous; they make bag retrieval very easy. As described Iíve had no problem fitting the bag under the seat of a United 757-300 and even the small aisle seat of a United 757-200. The real challenge will be the aisle seats on a United 777, which have a large annoying media box. I'm taking a few flights on those next month.
Gripes? A few small ones. The main handle feels one-sided, meaning itís asymmetric and thus more comfortable in one hand than the other. One of the key ring anchors is tucked up under a flap in an obscure location, and for my money there could be a few more of them. These things certainly arenít deal breakers, but given the care that goes into the design of these bags I was mildly surprised by the handle. Now I donít even notice it much.
I carry an empty Cafe Bag to use when I arrive at my destination. To me the Western Flyerís strengths on the plane are weaknesses on the ground and itís just too big for me to want to carry around daily when I donít need to carry my laptop.
I hope this is helpful to those of you who are considering the purchase of one of these bags.
On the basis of several other Tom Bihn bags with which I'm very happy, I bought this one. In many ways, it's just the bag I want for short (2-3 day) trips. And I really wanted to love it. But there is (what seems to me) one really major design flaw, which was a deal breaker for me, so I sent it back.
This has to do with the sling strap. Basically, you have two choices for this: either (a) you don't use it, in which case you have to pack it away in the compartment on the back of the bag, which it occupies to the exclusion of most other stuff you might put in there; or else (b) you use it, in which case you have to leave that back compartment substantially unzipped with the strap poking out, so again you can't put anything (or at least not anything you want to keep ....) in this back compartment.
If TB comes out with a version of this bag that has the strap completely detachable, and attached to the exterior of the bag (rather than sewn in, inside the pocket), I'll surely buy it and love it. Or even a bag that just leaves out the sling strap (which I don't realistically think I'll use all that often) altogether. But as it is, I'm afraid it's not the winner I had hoped for.
I used to own a Subaru Legacy wagon - an OK car really. Now I drive a VW Golf TDI - way more fun, but that's another story. Anyway the important part is that the Subaru wagon had a roof rack, built-in. It came with the roof rack as a standard feature. Now, I have lots of friends who owned the same or similar Subarus, and they all loved the built-in roof rack, and used it all the time. But I never used the roof rack. And because my gas milage was lower with the roof rack than it would have been without the rack, the roof rack was not a good feature for me. For my friends who loved their Subarus with built-in racks, the compromise on the fuel efficiency was worth it. But not for me.
However, I think it would be a stretch to call the roof-rack-as-standard-feature a design flaw. I'd call it a feature that, while perhaps useful to most people, was not useful to me.
In the same way, the sling strap on the Western Flyer is a feature, a feature that some people might not find useful, but I disagree that it's a design flaw.
Last edited by Tom Bihn; 03-11-2008 at 07:36 PM.
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I use the roof rack on my Subaru Legacy wagon roughly once a year: to bring home the Christmas tree. The rest of the year it's up there where I don't notice it, unused. Perhaps it has a small effect on gas mileage, but it doesn't really affect the functionality of the car.
That's different from the way the sling strap on the Western Flyer bag is implemented: it would have kept me from using the back compartment, either by occupying a good bit of the space there or by forcing me to leave the compartment partially unzipped while dashing through the airport.
I agree that the strap is (potentially, at least) a feature. What I was trying to say was that the way it's been done, sewn permanently into the interior of the back compartment, has a negative effect on the overall functionality of the bag, at least for me, and that (not the presence of the strap, but the way it's attached) seems to me like a design flaw. If I had kept the bag, I would have used that strap roughly as often as I use the roof rack of my Subaru, but regardless of whether I was using it or not, it would have had this consequence for what I could put in the bag.
As far as I know, there's no other travel bag on the market like the Western Flyer, and the basic idea is just what I need. I'm just a consumer, trying to provide some feedback on the implementation of that idea, which I found to be in need of some change. But perhaps I'm wasting my time.
I think the back compartment wasn't really meant for use other than for housing the strap, though. Kinda like the part on some bags that are just a flap that can go over the handle on rolling luggage. It isn't really meant to be useful for anything else (and in the case of the rolling luggage flap, it isn't). I actually have a targus (I think) bag that has this same "feature" to hide the backpack straps. For me, at least, I wouldn't have thought to put anything else in the back "compartment". Note: I do not own and have never seen a Western flyer in person. This is just my thoughts.
Sling feature of Western Flyer
I've used the Western Flyer on 8 flights so far and, as I noted in my review, it works perfectly for my style of travel as a portable office, holding everything I need in the lounge before takeoff and in the air during the flight. I've also used it now on a trip when I spent three days at a hospital bedside during a relative's hospitalization and it functioned equally well there. (I don't use it at home because I prefer my Empire Builder for that.)
I don't use the sling feature at all, but it doesn't add enough bulk or weight to worry about. Frankly, I simply ignore it, as I (mostly) do with the backpack straps on my Aeronaut.
If you think a Western Flyer would be useful I'd go ahead and buy one. If your experience is like mine you'll never notice the sling.
I have a Briggs & Riley Vertical Bag that I use and really like as I have mentioned before here.It is not too large and incredibly well made and Professional looking.
It has provisions for a detachable shoulder strap which I use daily and also has a backpack "thing" to allow for carrying that way too.
The "thing" also detaches so it takes no space in or on the bag when not needed.
The down side of this is that I can not find it now and I have wanted to use it recently.
One mans trash is another mans treasure......as they say.
First I thought I wouldn't use the strap but it's perfect when I carry an other backpack. I just carry my WF on my chest.
I originally bought a WF for week-end trip but it's the perfect size to carry my hakama and keikogi (kendo clothes). After training, I put my hakama stored in the large packing cube and my wet keikogi in the large pocket. Like that my hakama don't get wet.
In the other pockets, I put my tenugui and some tape in a mesh packing cube and my zori (shoes) in a closed packing cube.
Now I use my WF twice a week.
Funny coincidence. I owned a GL10 Turbo for 10 years. The roof rack was critical for lugging my 8' ladder on shoots. I bought that wagon for the rack + the cargo space. The engine was too weak for most for my gear loads though. Thank goodness for the beefier engines that came after that ;)
Originally Posted by Tom Bihn
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