Mmmm, that new-bag smell....
It took me a very log time to decide upon which bag I wanted to buy. I researched many a messenger-bag site, looked in Army-Navy stores, you name it. What I was looking for was a bag that was/is:
- with tons of pockets
- stylish, something I could bring to work that is professional-looking
- but not garish or too teenage looking
- has good safety features (ie. harder-to-slash material, as I like to travel; or metal cording in the strap to prevent same)
I was hoping to get a bag to match the size of my current shoulder bag, which is a very tidy 12.5"x4"x9", but it was hard to find a bag of that size with as many pockets as I'd like (as my old bag had), and with more sense of security. Things I always carry include my camera (since I maintain two blogs and write travel reviews as well - never know when photo ops strike!), usually some kind of reading material(s), my keys, cell phone, wallet, backup batteries for my camera, sunglasses, all kinds of stuff. (Then every so often I go, "Why is my bag so darn heavy?" and I'm amazed at the stuff that comes out of it). So clearly I need a bag that can handle a good amount of stuff, and can be flexible enough to accommodate changes in my day - stuffing an umbrella or jacket into the bag, etc.
The other thing I was looking for was a bag that could double as a carry-on bag but which would not be *huge*; it had to be the right size to be a good day-to-day "traveling bag" - something big enough that I could stuff little purchases in when I'm playing tourist, so I don't feel like I'm bogged down with packages; but is equally useful as a bag for daily work use. (I rarely carry a laptop.)
In the end, I decided upon the Ego, which is sized more like a laptop bag or a smaller messenger bag. The Ego and its slightly larger SuperEgo are among the most stylish in the Tom Bihn lineup, and the attractive design makes the bag stand out. (The only other bag I seriously considered what Timbuk2's 'small' custom-classic messenger bag, which was the size I wanted, but lacked much in terms of extra pockets.) I would love to see to see a "Small Ego", as the "Id" isn't really a smaller Ego, it's a design of the same size, but different layout; and I love the look of the Ego/SuperEgo, as well as their bag layout.
Turn-around time to receive the bag was under a week, even choosing the "slow" UPS rate. Customer service at Tom Bihn was (is!) top-notch, answering all my questions. I was thrilled to have the bag arrive!
I admit the bag was slightly larger than I expected. But having extra space - especially in a bag you expect to use while traveling (and thus often need more space at unexpected moments) - isn't exactly a bad thing. The bag has a good heft (nearly 3 lbs empty, almost as much as my camping backpack!), so you can feel how solidly the bag is constructed.
The brand tag.
Front view of the Ego bag. I chose black/crimson/steel for mine, with a reflecting strip. That central strip can be changed to a wide variety of other strips. I placed a ruler and CD next to the bag so you have a little bit of comparison for size when viewing this.
My alternative cork strip, not installed on the bag in this picture.
I did change the strip later, and since the strip is backed with Velcro, I found it worked easiest for me to work from the top down to remove the strip. Then I inserted the new strip with the decorative side down, adjusted it into place, and flipped it over under the retainer strips. It worked quite easily on the first try, and I got it switched out in about three minutes, tops. I love this little bit of customization; I think the cork strip gives the bag a really nice, professional look.
The back side of the bag, with slash pocket, and waist strap visible. As you can see, the exterior pocket is pretty roomy, easily accommodating thicker books. The buckle you can see in the foreground is the 'messenger stabilizer' on the bag's strap, designed to attach to the waist strap to create stabilty-in-action with the bag. You can remove the waist straps if you don't want them. The back panel of the bag and the bottom of the bag are reinforced with a layer of foam, offering protection to your bag's contents as well as giving the bag some framework.
I compared their straps carefully before finally deciding upon the Q-AM shoulder strap, which is well-padded and quite comfortable. It took me a little bit to figure out how to get the 'Messenger attachement' attached to the waist strap, but now that I've got that figured out, the bag's weight is distributed quite nicely. I would still like to get an extension strap for the messenger attachment, however, as the bag will fit me quite differently when I wear it over a winter coat.
The side pockets are roomy, with buckles to tighten up as needed or to make the pockets lie flat against the bag, and openings on the bottom corners.
Front view of the bag with flap raised.
If it wasn't for the fact there's zipper pulls hanging off the bag, you might not even realize there were pockets there. The "key strip" on the left is designed to hang inside the larger outer pocket; it's handy enough that I want a whole handful of these strips!
As you can see, the "hidden" bockets are wide enough to accommodate a CD case. You could probably fit one of the larger iPods in these pockets no problem. The center area between the pockets is designed with tucks to give extra room to these pockets, which is a very nice design detail.
Large outside pocket, which the flap covers. A couple details to note here: You can see the heavy-duty plastic hook at the top; there's one on either side of the pocket. I stuck a magazine inside the pocket to show how spacious it is, plus to point out a design feature - the top corner of the pocket is sewn into the bag, which means a little bit more security for items in the pocket, and less chance of water getting into the pocket in inclimate weather.
Close-up of the interior pocket details. There's 2 larger side pockets, large enough to accommodate small notepads, MP3 players, etc. They have enough give to be able to hold a can of soda! Then on the right are 3 smaller pockets, ideal for holding pens/pencils or other thin items.
This is a view of the zipper on the main compartment. The way the zippers are designed, there's a thin layer of tough material that lies over the zipper, thus helping keep moisture from seeping through the zipper. You can see the easy-pull zipper design as well.
Interior view of seams. As you can see, the seams have been covered with sewn edging; this prevents snagging, fraying, etc.
The main interior zippered pocket is almost as wide as a CD case is tall. This gives you plenty of room to store your laptop or whatever you might be carrying. Here, you can see the set of two snaps on the back wall of the pocket - these snaps are designed to attach a laptop sleeve. But you can remove them if you want.
Close up of the snap design.
The Tom Bihn not-so-secret-message tag: The last lines read "Nous sommes desoles que notre President soit un idiot. Nous n'avons pas vote pour lui." Translation: "We are sorry that our President is an idiot. We didn't vote for him."
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To view any of the pictures more closely, go to my set on Flickr.
Those are great pictures. Are you a professional photographer?
Thank you, how kind of you to say! Of course, it helps to have a great subject to shoot, too. :)
As for the question if I'm a professional, technically, no. By day I am a mild-mannered administrative assistant... on nights and weekends I morph into aspiring PhotoGrrl/WriterChick!
Just wanted to add that that's a great review ... makes me want an Ego!!
I agree that the shots are very good. They are clear and show good composition. I'm finding too many online bag or luggage shots fail to show the insides of the bags with enough details for a consumer to get a feel for the item - assuming they even try to take pictures of the insides!! You did that extremely well with various techniques.
Can I ask what camera you use for both the review and when you carry the bag (in case they are different)?
Great review and really excellent pictures! I can put my feet up now, knowing you can shoot so well !
Thanks for the compliments. :D
My camera is a Canon PowerShot S3 IS, which I've had about 9 months and I *love* for the details it captures.
Now if I just had a little photo bag that fit neatly inside my Ego. ;)
I have to admit that's my biggest peeve when perusing the bag websites as well. I looked at a *lot* of different brands and a whole bunch of bag reviews before choosing this bag, and one of the reasons I picked it was that the website showed enough details that I felt I knew what I was getting.
Originally Posted by pretzelb
Since people generally have really specific items in mind when choosing a bag - whether it's a laptop, a composition notebook, a camera, an iPod, etc - it can only be beneficial for manufacturers to show as many pictures as possible. I know part of it is a bandwidth issue, but whether I'm standing in a store or browsing online, I want to be able to look INTO the bag and judge whether it's going to fit my stuff or not! And even if it's a single-pocket-bag, it's good to see that, too.
I couldn't agree more. One of the reasons I keep coming back to the Tom Bihn site is because (of the sites I'm shopping at) they are near the top if not the overall best at showing pictures of all the features of the bags. But as good as they are, I'm sorry to say they're still not doing nearly enough by my standards as some items appear to have no inside shots at all.
Originally Posted by Meryddian
It baffles me as to why that's the case. Would you put the bags behind a glass case for a brick and mortar store to not allow customers to handle them and try them out? That would be absurd. So why not have plenty of photos? I just can't believe that bandwidth is a problem, especially when we're talking about the difference between sale and no sale.
The only thing I can figure is that companies think if they offer a money back guarantee that people will just buy and try. I don't know about the rest of the world but returns are near the bottom of my list of fun things to do and mail order returns are even worse. Unless I'm highly confident I'm going to like the product I'm not going order it so it is in the seller's best interest to give me as much information as possible.
It's kind of sad when the customer and 3rd party reviews are where you actually get to SEE the pictures of the product you need. I do need to tip my hat to Tom Bihn for adding the forum for customer reviews and putting the section in Flickr for photos - it certainly helps fill the gap. Others would be wise to do the same if they can't handle taking the pictures on their own.
Wow, look at me ranting away. I guess it's obviously a pet peeve of mine too!! Yikes.
I sure agree about wanting to see more inside views of what the bags can hold and whether they have pockets and/or D-rings, etc. TB bags are all so interesting that again and again on the forum I see first time TB shoppers struggling over which bag to choose. Inside-the-bag pictures might make it easier for them and for me.
How about this - TB flies Meriddian to their shop so she can take pictures of all the bags and then they get posted in a new section of the forum. (Hard to put as many shots as we'd like on the ordering pages - that's why I suggest a new forum section.) With her skill and customer/user point of view and excitement I think we'd get some great inside-the-bag shots?
Well woo-hoo, wouldn't have to twist my arm much on that! ;-) And thanks for the compliment!
Originally Posted by Skylark
And I agree with you, pretzelb - since so many brands develop "cult followings" these days, you'd think more brands would realize and optimize the power of the internet and use it - not simply in providing a good quality site where you can peruse the products thoroughly, but helping brand users interact. Advertising and word-of-mouth are certainly far different creatures than they used to be. :)
There are some brands out there (Apple springs to mind) that readily recognize this end-user power. And I thought it was pretty cool when I discovered the Tom Bihn forums and saw what an enthusiastic bunch of folks were here!
Has anybody ever posted a Maverick-style demo video of Tom Bihn's breifcase/messenger-style bags? I'd love to see demos of the Ego, Super Ego, Empire Builder, Zephyr, and Checkpoint Flyer to see how these bags work and what can be carried in each of them.
EGO video review.
Originally Posted by MtnMan
^ Video does not work. Hmmmm...