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  1. #1
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    Guidance needed: Help met pick the right Tom Bihn bag for my needs

    I posted this earlier but it doesn't seem to have appeared in the Forums, I've elaborated a little more this time, so if this does appear as a double post later please could the moderators delete the other one. Thank you.

    I travel quite a bit and I've been looking for the optimum carry-on travel bag. Having tried various solutions available here in the UK I'm pretty sure the optimum bag for me will be available within the Tom Bihn range. I love the idea of accessory compartments. Only problem is Tom Bihn products aren't available here in the UK so I'm going to have it shipped from the US.

    Can anyone offer some guidance on the best Tom Bihn Bag and Accessory combination for my needs please?

    I travel on many different airlines, all of which have different rules on size & weight for carry on luggage. Some airlines have a 23kg carry on limit, but others have a paltry 5kg weight limit, so the items carried need to be secure even if the bag is fairly empty.

    My needs reflect what I wish to achieve, combined with the limitations imposed by the airlines.

    Here's my needs
    Fairly light weight when empty
    Max Dimensions due to Airline rules:- 55cm x 40cm x 20cm (21.65" x 17.71" x 7.87")
    Some protection for Laptop/iPad/Kindle even if the rest of the bag isn't particularly full.
    Compartments are good, my current Crumpler has plenty of flat pockets/pouches, but these don'y allow for the fact the objects I's like to secure have some depth (Camera, iPod Classic, Backup HDD etc.)

    I need to Carry
    13" Macbook Laptop in a sleeve
    iPad in a sleeve
    Kindle 4 in a sleeve
    A Portable Camera or Small Camcorder (Currently Canon G7 or FlipCam)
    iPod Classic
    iPhone
    Chargers for all the above
    A couple of USB cables, a couple of 6ft Cat6 cables
    Earphones in their case
    Travel Dictionary.
    A couple of backup 2.5" HDDs
    Keys
    Wallet

    Features I'd like
    Easy access to travel documents
    Fairly easy access to iPad & Kindle
    Comfortable to carry
    As much space as possible free for other bits and perhaps clothes on the occasions I'm not limited to 5kg weight.

    So there it is.. Does anything scream out as the obvious choice for my needs?

    Thanks for any advice,

    Mark.
    Last edited by MacOCD; 04-21-2012 at 09:26 AM.

  2. #2
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    I'll stick my neck out and say Smart Alec. There's just enough internal organization in the main compartment that your Kindle won't get lost, and there is a zip compartment in the lid where you can put your hard drives or iPod. The side pockets can accommodate your boarding pass, your headphones, and any other small items you have, zipped into organizer pouches. I'd suggest a Snake Charmer to keep the cables and such all wrangled up. The SA is also big enough if you are planning to carry a change of clothes.

    The Synapse may be an option if your clothes aren't too big.

  3. #3
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    You could look at the Brain Bag too, with the straps on the sides you can get it nice and tight if you aren't carrying too much. It also has two sets of gate keeper clips if you ever get a brain cell or switch to a DSLR + Camera I/O. The outside pockets are good for iPods, headphones, wallet, etc. A Freudian Slip would work pretty well for HDs / small dictionary, the file folders work great for papers and do a good job of holding iPads and I am sure the Kindle as well. And with packing cubes you can get a good amount of clothing and still keep everything organized.

    And as Badger suggested the Synapse may be an option too. I just got mine and got to use it with my wife on a short trip. One set of cloths and PJs for both of us, plus toiletries, a couple iPads, snacks, water bottle, umbrella, and a few small misc things. It really is amazing how much you can fit into it.

  4. #4
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    I am a firm believer in, and use the Smart Alec for travel and as a daily bag. For what you want to carry it would certainly work - you would likely need a variety of pouches and packing cubes for those times when there is empty space as things will shift when the bag is not full. I use a combination of things to keep things from moving about too much when I am carrying less than a full load - which is often. An alternative to the Smart Alec (albeit a pricier one) would be the Western Flyer ( I also use this but just for travel). It has better organization with the differing compartments and pockets, all of which would help to keep things from moving around too much. I have the model with the backpack straps (as well as one of the originals with a sling strap) and this can be carried in a number of ways - like a suitcase, over the shoulder if you use a strap, or as a backpack-type bag. The backpack straps are quite comfortable for most short and intermediate distances.

    As Badger noted a Synapse would work for what you want to carry but would leave only a little room for extras.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger View Post
    I'll stick my neck out and say Smart Alec. There's just enough internal organization in the main compartment that your Kindle won't get lost, and there is a zip compartment in the lid where you can put your hard drives or iPod. The side pockets can accommodate your boarding pass, your headphones, and any other small items you have, zipped into organizer pouches. I'd suggest a Snake Charmer to keep the cables and such all wrangled up. The SA is also big enough if you are planning to carry a change of clothes.

    The Synapse may be an option if your clothes aren't too big.
    Thanks for the reply, I'll certainly consider that one. My thoughts were that people would recommend the CheckPoint Flyer (which I think will be too small), Western Flyer, or even possibly the Tri-Star (although it is 0.13" wider than some airlines allow) each with a certain combination of accessories. I am interested in what people have to say on those too, but I like the fact the one you suggested in lighter, cheaper and has the same overall capacity as the Western Flyer. How compartmentalised can you make the Smart Alec with accessories? I think I'd consider the Brain box as my current laptop sleeve (Crumpler) doesn't really offer much in the way of protection if it was in a rucksack.

    My clothes are unfortunately large so not much chance of getting those in there, I'm 6ft 6ins and take a US 14 Shoe. Synapse would be too small.

    Smart Alec is at the top of my list right now then, but I'd welcome other opinions?

    Thanks,
    Mark.

  6. #6
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    Wow 2 more replies whilst I was answering the first

    Quote Originally Posted by mfeinstein View Post
    You could look at the Brain Bag too, with the straps on the sides you can get it nice and tight if you aren't carrying too much. It also has two sets of gate keeper clips if you ever get a brain cell or switch to a DSLR + Camera I/O.
    Brain bags would be brilliant if it wasn't 1" to deep for some of the UK Airlines I need to use But thanks anyway.

    Quote Originally Posted by mfeinstein View Post
    A Freudian Slip would work pretty well for HDs / small dictionary, the file folders work great for papers and do a good job of holding iPads and I am sure the Kindle as well. And with packing cubes you can get a good amount of clothing and still keep everything organised.
    All very useful info.. so in my Smart Alec, I'd need a Vertical Brain Cell, Fredian Slip and the File Folders. Assuming all those would fit at the same time this is sounding ideal.

    Quote Originally Posted by rabergnc View Post
    I am a firm believer in, and use the Smart Alec for travel and as a daily bag. For what you want to carry it would certainly work - you would likely need a variety of pouches and packing cubes for those times when there is empty space as things will shift when the bag is not full. I use a combination of things to keep things from moving about too much when I am carrying less than a full load - which is often.
    Same for me most the time I'm on an Airline with a 5kg Limit. I pack as much in my cargo pants & jacket pockets to get down to 5kg then re-load my bag once I'm through check-in. But things will get loose in the bag, the liners I listed above will hopefully help.

    Quote Originally Posted by rabergnc View Post
    An alternative to the Smart Alec (albeit a pricier one) would be the Western Flyer ( I also use this but just for travel). It has better organization with the differing compartments and pockets, all of which would help to keep things from moving around too much. I have the model with the backpack straps (as well as one of the originals with a sling strap) and this can be carried in a number of ways - like a suitcase, over the shoulder if you use a strap, or as a backpack-type bag. The backpack straps are quite comfortable for most short and intermediate distances.
    This was what I was leaning towards before the Smart Alec was suggested, although I didn't want to prejudice peoples opinions so I didn't say. Compartments are very good for me. A Western Flyer with the appropriate Brain Cell, Freudian Slip and Potentially Folders would make a mighty expensive Carry-on bag. Not least because I'd have to add International Shipping, Import Duty and 20% Sales Tax.

    Haven't ruled it out, but I'm hoping Smart Alec is sufficient.

    Thanks both of you.
    Last edited by MacOCD; 04-21-2012 at 11:54 AM. Reason: Corrected Insert is Brain CELL not Brain Box

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacOCD View Post
    Wow 2 more replies whilst I was answering the first

    Brain bags would be brilliant if it wasn't 1" to deep for some of the UK Airlines I need to use But thanks anyway.
    Only if you max out both the compartments, the bag doesn't have a frame so if you wanted to you could cary just a Freudian Slip and have it be 1" deep. In other words it could be small enough to fit as a carry on or if you are traveling by car or train be a bit bigger for a couple extra things.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by MacOCD View Post


    Compartments are very good for me. A Western Flyer with the appropriate Brain Cell, Freudian Slip and Potentially Folders would make a mighty expensive Carry-on bag. Not least because I'd have to add International Shipping, Import Duty and 20% Sales Tax.

    Haven't ruled it out, but I'm hoping Smart Alec is sufficient.

    Thanks both of you.
    I'll chime in on the Western Flyer. I don't have a Smart Alec but I do have a WF. It is more expensive, which may be the clincher, but if you went with the WF you would get a very versatile bag for your money (I paid to ship to Australia).

    FWIW when I firmly pack our WF with clothes, shoes etc it weighs around 7kg (obviously depends what you put in it). If you are lightening the load to get it down to 5kg you could minimize movement of the contents by putting them all in one of the two compartments. I am not sure if you need a professional looking bag or not, but if so the WF has very clean lines, looks a bit like a large laptop bag and would be presentable in front of clients etc. If your bag will sometimes be checked in, then I would think the WF would be a bit safer as the backpack straps zip away into a compartment, leaving minimal things to be caught in a baggage handling system. It should easily accommodate clothes as well as your other requirements. If you think you would use it for this I would consider throwing in some packing cubes as well as the other accessories you are contemplating as they really give you a very complete packing system.

    The downside, I suppose, of the WF, apart from the expense, is that its narrow compartments are probably less well suited to taking bulky or oddly shaped items than a single compartment bag like the Smart Alec.. IME the WF works best with clothes and the sort of items you listed in your post.

    Sounds as if both bags will work well for you though. Good luck with the decision!

  9. #9
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    Having had a hard think about this I'm back on the Western Flyer.

    I'm assuming from the pictures of the Freudian Slip that it will happily fit in the same compartment as the Brain Cell?

    So here is what I think is going to be my shopping list...

    $210.00 Western Flyer with Backpack Straps Black/Steel
    $60.00 Size Z6 Brain Cell for my 2006 Black Macbook
    $45.00 Horizontal Freudian Slip
    $34.00 2 Western Flyer Small Packing Cubes Fabric/Mesh
    $30.00 Absolute Shoulder Strap

    That's $379.00 + $40.00 International Shipping + $100.02 UK Taxes/Duty/Handling Charges.

    $519.02 USD for a Western Flyer with the Accessories I'd want. I think it's the bag for me, but I'd never get that past my other half. I think the Tom Bihn purchase will have to wait until the next time I'm in the US, and that;s not going to be in 2012. $379.00 + US Shipping I could stretch to.

    I don't think the single main compartment Smart Alec will be the solution for me.

    Thanks to everyone, I've arrived at what I know I want, and at these prices I don't feel like compromising on the practicality. It will be mine, one day .

    Mark.

    PS. To ascertain the full shipped cost I needed to go through as far as checking out. There's a coupon code section on the checkout form. Are there sometimes discount offer coupons?

  10. #10
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    OK
    Maybe I didn't understand the original post here but why all the focus on that expensive bag combo or Back Packs?

    The Empire Builder seems like the perfect bag to me for the small amount of stuff you are looking to pack in it?
    I carry 3 full size computers in a E.B. all the time as well as all sorts of other stuff. The divider system is simple but brilliant and helps provide organization without taking space or money!
    It gets heavy for sure but I am just saying that it has that kind of capacity.

    Try starting off with a Brain Cell or just a sleeve of some kind and see how it works.
    If you think it looks small,it is not.

    The Super Ego is also designed just for what you need and is even bigger,has more compartments and is less structured so it might hold more random stuff.
    I also have a S.E. and it is truly amazing what it carries. I have often carried it alone for 1 or 2 day trips.

    I also think that A Synapse will likely work for you,again deceptive about its capacity by just looking at the pictures.
    I carry a 13" Macbook in the front pocket by itself and don't feel worried or take a lot of extra care with it but if you do and would be worried about protection it would be simple to cut a small foam piece to cradle the bottom end while in the bag.
    Each of these bags will protect the computer with just a small foam piece to some extent.

    Each of these will be under $200.00 before the crazy shipping and I think would do just fine too.

    Just a source of more confusion?

    Ed

  11. #11
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    To add a bit more confusion - as I noted earlier I use a Smart Alec for travel and daily use. While having all Tom Bihn items certainly is desirable, given the cost to get them to you, it may not be the most practical route to go. Of your list of add ons from TB the only one I would strongly recommend fir the Smart Alec is the Vertical Freudian slip - it adds a tremendous amount of practical function and organization. As I have noted elsewhere in the forums, the Brain Cell is going to give you the ultimate protection for your lap top but consider if it is truly necessary. I had one at one point to carry my 13in MacBook and decided I did not need that level of protection - since that time I have used a sleevecase (Waterfield Designs) or TB cache depending on the device being carried - have never had a problem despite a few falls, bumps, and the like. I would guess that you can find comparable items locally to avoid all the costly shipping and import taxes/fees. Same thing for packing cubes - TB cubes/pouches are desirable but there may be comparable items locally or something similar to the Eagle Creek or ebags lines of packing cubes. Maybe not as good as TB items; however, they are perfectly functional and will last until you have the opportunity to get to the US at some point and purchase the items without the extra charges/fees. Just a few thoughts.....

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by AVService View Post
    OK
    Maybe I didn't understand the original post here but why all the focus on that expensive bag combo or Back Packs?
    I hadn't originally considered Back Packs, that thought came from a suggestion from Badger

    Quote Originally Posted by AVService View Post
    The Empire Builder seems like the perfect bag to me for the small amount of stuff you are looking to pack in it?
    I carry 3 full size computers in a E.B. all the time as well as all sorts of other stuff. The divider system is simple but brilliant and helps provide organization without taking space or money!
    It gets heavy for sure but I am just saying that it has that kind of capacity.
    The Empire Builder is only $30 cheaper than the Western Flyer. You say "with the small amount of stuff I'm looking to pack in it", but that's not the situation. In my original post I said I'd like As much space as possible free for other bits and perhaps clothes on the occasions I'm not limited to 5kg weight. I listed the tech stuff to allow for secure, protective transpiration for that stuff, especially as the bags will not always be full due to 5kg Hand Luggage Allowance of some UK airlines. I want as much additional space as I can get within the dimensions allowed by the airline. My 64gb new iPad, iPhone4S are expensive things and my old Macbook and backup HDDs have critical data on them allowing me to work while travelling, all need the proper protection afforded by compartments and pockets.

    Quote Originally Posted by AVService View Post
    Try starting off with a Brain Cell or just a sleeve of some kind and see how it works.
    If you think it looks small,it is not.
    The difficulty with shipping to the UK is the extra $40 shipping each time. UK duty and sales tax is on the delivered price so adding additional components later would be even more expensive. The Freudian Slip appeals as I'm pretty sure it'll hold a great deal of the bits I have in place. I could manage without the Brain Cell I guess as I do have a Crumpler Gimp sleeve for my 13" Macbook already, though that really doesn't offer much protection.

    Quote Originally Posted by AVService View Post
    The Super Ego is also designed just for what you need and is even bigger,has more compartments and is less structured so it might hold more random stuff.
    I also have a S.E. and it is truly amazing what it carries. I have often carried it alone for 1 or 2 day trips.
    Super Ego does look like a possibility, but knowing I'd add a Freudian slip anyway means I'd only be saving $40+Tax over what I believe to be the perfect travel bag for my needs.

    Quote Originally Posted by AVService View Post
    I also think that A Synapse will likely work for you,again deceptive about its capacity by just looking at the pictures.
    I carry a 13" Macbook in the front pocket by itself and don't feel worried or take a lot of extra care with it but if you do and would be worried about protection it would be simple to cut a small foam piece to cradle the bottom end while in the bag.
    Each of these bags will protect the computer with just a small foam piece to some extent.
    I think if I were to go for a Back Pack there'd really be no point not going for the additional capacity of the Smart Alec.

    Quote Originally Posted by AVService View Post
    Each of these will be under $200.00 before the crazy shipping and I think would do just fine too.
    The main problem is the prohibitive shipping & UK tax cost of buying the accessories later, this means I'd need to jump in at the deep end and get everything straight away. As an example, a $45 Freudian slip would cost $112 shipped to me with UK Tax and courier handling fees.

    I an ideal world I'd buy my Western Flyer & Freudian slip the add the Brain Cell and the Packing Cubes at a later date, my cost is the spread and I have the opportunity to see if I really do need some of these items.

    I think that for me these Tom Bihn bags are all about getting precisely what you need, sure they are expensive, but once purchased they'll enhance the travelling experience over many, many trips. If I'm going to leave off some of the bits that make the bags appeal to me then I may as well go for some other solution that's more affordable and available here in the UK without the additional shipping costs.

    Quote Originally Posted by AVService View Post
    Just a source of more confusion?
    Not at all, I think you post further helped me to clarify that I know what I want. I'm just not in a position to pay $519 for it and survive the credit card bill inquisition

    Thanks for taking the time to add your thoughts,

    Mark.

    PS. Did anyone have an idea what that coupon code section on the checkout page is for? If there are occasional deals/offers/promotions that use it it would help make my purchase happen sooner.
    Last edited by MacOCD; 04-22-2012 at 09:31 AM. Reason: Various typographical errors

  13. #13
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    I guess my real point was that if you look to a briefcase it may already have the sort of organizational features you may need and then adding the Freudian Slip and other bags would not be needed. The Backpacks will in general require the extra items for business use.

    The E.B. already has a panel like the Slip for small items and Dividers for paperwork too again like the Slip but with much more space and flexibility in my experience.
    The 2 Front pockets already provide storage options where maybe the extra bags would have come into play.

    The S.E. likewise has several extra largish pockets again maybe making the extra bags unneeded?

    So my suggestions are looking for a way to save on the initial outlay and with bags that may be more business oriented already.

    It is a shame that the shipping is so high and I can certainly understand the extra burden of deciding carefully.

    Ed

  14. #14
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    No, there are never coupons or discounts offered. If you check the FAQ section, they answer the why. I think the website olatform automatically adds that box in.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by darbs View Post
    No, there are never coupons or discounts offered. If you check the FAQ section, they answer the why. I think the website olatform automatically adds that box in.
    OK thanks, I did read previously that there weren't discounts offered but having seen the box for Coupon Codes I though maybe things have recently changed


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