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Thread: MCB or Co-Pilot or Imago? Western Flyer or Synapse?

  1. #1
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    MCB or Co-Pilot or Imago? Western Flyer or Synapse?

    So I own one Tom Bihn bag--a Swift, which I love and is my favorite knitting bag, and really if I was rich I would have every single Tom Bihn bag out there, but I am not, so I wanted some advice on my next purchase and I have two questions.

    #1
    I am an academic and about 3-4 times a year I go to conferences that usually last around 3-5 days. So my question is this- I am looking for a good day bag to carry around with me when I am at a conference.

    Requirements:

    I want the bag to be able to squish down into my carry-on luggage easily. So it can't be too bulky.

    I need to be able to carry an Ipad, conference packet, a notepad, my purse stuff (wallet, pens, lipstick, Epi-Pin, brush, gum) and my conference knitting (usually a sock or shawl), water bottle and snacks

    So it needs to be big enough, but not too big to comfortably haul around all day. And it needs to be easily packable. Up til now I have been using a baggalini handbag, which works fine, but is almost too floppy and flimsy, especially with my ipad in it. It also bulges funny when full and I can't carry it cross-body.

    So I was thinking the MCB or Co-Pilot, or maybe even the Imago, but I wanted people's opinions on what they think will work best.

    Question # 2

    I always carry a smaller carry-on bag and a rolling suitcase when I go to these conferences. For years I have been using a Timbuk2 tote bag, which is large and sturdy (and keeps my stuff dry in the rain) but it can also get unwieldy when over-stuffed because it has no structure to it.

    So in my rolling suitcase are my clothes (suits, multiple) shoes, hair iron, etc. In my smaller carry-on, I tend to carry my ipda, kindle, purse stuff, a few notepads, my jewelry, multiple knitting projects, water bottle, and (here's the big Pain in the butt) a lot of food. Why a lot of food? Well I have celiac disease, and it can be very hard for me to find "safe" food to eat at conferences, or to find a place to buy said food while in the downtown (aka touristy area) of a major city- if I don't carry a large amount of food with me, I sometimes run the risk of A) eating something dicey that makes me really ill for days--a bad thing to happen at a conference or B) starving. So for a typical conference I carry 3-4 apples, packets of nutbutter, usually a few large bags of nuts, dried fruit and trail mix. Canned salmon or tuna, gluten-free crackers, gluten-free cookies (usually macaroons) dried fruit strips, and a variety of bars (like Larabars, etc). Oh and teabags, and a travel teamug. (and yes I do get this all past security. I have had my nutbutter confiscated because it is a "liquid", but now I buy little single serve packs of it and it gets though.)

    So I want a bag which I can carry all my usual stuff, and have a compartment for my food. In the past I have stuffed as much as I can into the smaller bag and then put the other half of the food in my rolling suitcase, which works, but sometimes stuff gets squished. And also getting into the bag without disrupting everything that is shoved in there can be hard.

    So I was thinking of getting a Western Flyer for this purpose (as the second carry-on-- and I could slide it onto my rolling suitcase, which is appealing) or do you think a Synapse would be big enough for this purpose? It might be more comfortable to backpack things around.

    Questions, questions... thanks for listening.

    A

  2. #2
    Registered User gochicken's Avatar
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    I'm most certainly not the expert here, but I'm here, so my thoughts are:

    Question one: Co-Pilot with an Absolute Strap. It will easily handle your load and keep you organized all conference long. It's structured, and looks professional, and it carries a lot more than you might think! If you are out all day with it, the Absolute Strap will almost make you forget you are carrying it.

    Question two: I think you might be better off with the WF because it has 1600 cu in instead of 1160 cu in for the Synapse.... I guess it depends on how big the food volume ends up being. You could get the WF with the backpack straps if you think you'd prefer to carry it that way. I traveled this summer with a 17 pound Tri-Star backpack style and a Co-Pilot with Absolute strap. That worked rather well. Or as you said, you could get the other kind and let your rolling luggage do the work.

    Also, I'm not sure what colors you like, but the WF and the Co-Pilot are in the new Aubergine color as well! Have fun deciding. I'm sure the others on the forum will have much wisdom to add!
    Satisfied owner of: Azalea Swift & LS, Blk/Plum Swift, Cork LS, Blk/UV LS, Synapse 19 & Co-Pilot, Steel/UV Pilot, Fst/Stl Tri-Star, Fst/Blk/UV SA, UV PCSB, Plum SE, FJN, & SCB, Aubergine WF, LS & Kit, Trvl Trays, Passport Pouches, and Shop Bags in all colors , Multiplying OPs

  3. #3
    Registered User dorayme's Avatar
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    I'm not an expert either, but I'm going to echo gochicken's recommendations. I think her choices would be the best. I have the bags you are considering. While the MCB and Synapse are spacious for how they look, for the capacity you are considering, I think the CP and WF (with some packing cubes) best fit the bill. They will give you the most put together look/feel, are compartmentalized allowing for separation and segregation of contents, are structured enough (ballistic) to keep their shape, and allow for adequate storage of the items on your packing list. Both are easy to carry too, with the AS for the CP and backpack straps on the WF.

    I had to deal with food intolerance with my daughter for both dairy and soy while she was a nursling from 2-9 months. One of my closest friends is a celiac. I have much empathy for the food sensitive individual. My friend and I have gone to many a fiber show together. She always must pack food, whether we are off for a day or 4. Many times, I also pack food so that we can eat together vs. having to find a restaurant for me.

    This is where I wish TB would consider some insulated type cooler bags. I know they would be executed well, and I think there is a market for them from the small insulin pouch needs, to grocery run, to tailgator/picnic uses.

    FWIW, if you put your crackers, cookies and other crush-able foodies into tins or other safe hard side containers they will crush less, and you may be able to save by buying bulk and repackaging vs. buying smaller travel sized quantities that are always more expensive. I'll have to remember the individual nutbutter trick though.
    ncb4 likes this.
    Si non aptus in Peram, ego opus ad buy magis quisque.
    my bags: S, LS, KP, mg'11, S, LS, COW, MCB, LS, COW, LSB, SE, LSB, TT, SB, SE, TSS4, PCSB, PCBP-A, SC, BB, SCB, FJN, BB, FoJ, RS, F.O.T., LSB, S25, PCSB K, LS, I w/AS, A, PP FJN, SE, 3-DC, MCB, PCBP-T/WF, PCSB, CQPC, S19, LSB, SB, TT, SE, S, C-P, P, WF, UT, LSB, CQPC, PCBP-T/WF, SE2, MCB, RiPad, SB, LSB

  4. #4
    JLE
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    Some great advice above. Here's my two cents:

    The Western Flyer is just a fantastic bag and would work well for your needs, I think. I have the rolling luggage sleeve version. I also have a Synapse, which is the best backpack I have ever seen, but for travel the WF works better.

    I don't have the Co-Pilot, so can't comment on that, but I do have an Imago and the LCB. If you want the other bag to fit into the Western Flyer for when you are travelling it might be worth another look at the cafe bags. There's a trade-off between structure and squashability - the cafe bags can squash very easily into other bags. If you were choosing between a MCB/LCB and the Imago I would say go for the cafe bag. The LCB can easily hold the same amount of stuff as the Imago and its more "regular" rectangular format might make it a better choice over the Imago for holding conference papers etc.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by JLE View Post
    The Western Flyer is just a fantastic bag and would work well for your needs, I think. I have the rolling luggage sleeve version.
    I second (or third or fourth) this. I have a WF rolling luggage sleeve version also. I use it just as the OP suggests as a secondary carry-on along with a rolling bag. I then use it as a briefcase to meetings during my trip. It looks professional and keeps everything organized--definitely good looking enough for toting around a conference and comfortable enough with an absolute strap. If you zip up the divider in the front compartment you could probably store your food in one half. The back, larger compartment is great to hold a computer or hand-outs from meetings or the conference. The rolling luggage sleeve version also has a bonus of a couple of slip pockets along the back inside panel.
    My Tom Bihn stuff: Western Flyer (Black/Steel), Large WF packing cube (Steel), Packing Cube Shoulder Bag (Steel), Absolute shoulder strap, Horizontal Cache, Clear Organizer Wallet (Plum), Small Dyneema pouch (UV), Ballistic Nylon Pen/Pencil Pouch (Steel), FOJ Pouch (Navy), Clear Quarter Packing Cube (UV), Small Yarn Stuff Sack (UV), and the Super Secret Mystery Gift!

  6. #6
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    I love my Co-Pilot, but as I've said several times on these forums, the fit for folders is VERY tight. I would caution you to consider the size you would need to carry a conference packet. I've been handed folders that are just over 8.5" x 11" and those won't fit in the Co-Pilot. This is a real shame, because the organization of a Co-Pilot can't be beat. I still carry mine and just stick the over-sized folders in the back pocket. If this will be an issue for you, I think the MCB would be the #2 choice because it would fit so easily into your other bags.

    I agree that the Western Flyer is the way to go for a carry-on bag. I have a Western Flyer and I use it more than any of my other bags for travel. It will easily fit your food, and I agree that it would also serve you well as a briefcase (depending on your height; I'm 5'0" and the WF looks way too big on me for a briefcase, but that's not true for 90% of the population!). I think the rolling luggage strap is the way to go, mainly because I've found it so useful for my own purposes. With the absolutely strap, it won't get too heavy to lug around on your shoulder.

    Now you have to decide on colors! Keep us posted!
    Indigo/Solar Western Flyer, Aubergine/Steel Tri Star, Nordic/Steel Aeronaut, Indigo/Solar Synapse, Cocoa/Wasabi Small Cafe Bag, Black/Wasabi Small Cafe Bag, Black/Steel Co-Pilot, Aubergine/Hemp/Steel Imago, Wasabi Dyneema and Nordic Dyneema Small Shop Bags, Solar Dyneema and Nordic Dyneema Large Shop Bags, Indigo, Wasabi Dyneema, and Plum 3D Organizer Cubes, Wasabi Dyneema Travel Tray, Wasabi Dyneema Large Yarn Stuff Sack, Small, Mini and Pen/Pencil Pouches, an assortment of key straps

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    All this input is great! I think I am going to go for the co-pilot and eventually the western flyer. I'll probably buy the co-pilot first and then save up a bit for a western flyer, but I do think they will serve my needs. I don't tend to carry lots of papers at conferences, with the exception of when I give a paper, but that think that would fit when I need it to.

    I do like the new aubergrine color for both, both I would need the copilot for a conference that is in mid-November so I I am not sure that it would be ready by then, so maybe the grey or red instead. My swift is in the red and it is a nice color, but maybe that would be too bright. I'll have to decide....

    I am also considering maybe getting the western flyer with the backpack straps instead of the sleeve for the roller board. How heavy can it get when fully packed? I am thinking that maybe the backpack option may be the better one, because often my shoulder gets sore when toting things around. I do really like the aubergrine though....

  8. #8
    Registered User dorayme's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atarango1 View Post
    All this input is great! I think I am going to go for the co-pilot and eventually the western flyer. I'll probably buy the co-pilot first and then save up a bit for a western flyer, but I do think they will serve my needs. I don't tend to carry lots of papers at conferences, with the exception of when I give a paper, but that think that would fit when I need it to.

    I do like the new aubergrine color for both, both I would need the copilot for a conference that is in mid-November so I I am not sure that it would be ready by then, so maybe the grey or red instead. My swift is in the red and it is a nice color, but maybe that would be too bright. I'll have to decide....

    I am also considering maybe getting the western flyer with the backpack straps instead of the sleeve for the roller board. How heavy can it get when fully packed? I am thinking that maybe the backpack option may be the better one, because often my shoulder gets sore when toting things around. I do really like the aubergrine though....
    One consideration is to buy the WF first and use your Swift as your smaller bag. It will easily accomodate your list and the red could be your piece of flair and accent color that helps you be memorable identifiable. Then add the co-pilot later. This way, you get to travel with all TB bags sooner.

    As far as how heavy, that depends on your contents. The bag itself is very light. If you have heavy shoes, that makes a big difference. Also if your clothing is dense. Travel specific clothing tends to be lighter weight if it's synthetic, but some of these items, like CHICO's slinky line is very heavy and dense feeling.
    Si non aptus in Peram, ego opus ad buy magis quisque.
    my bags: S, LS, KP, mg'11, S, LS, COW, MCB, LS, COW, LSB, SE, LSB, TT, SB, SE, TSS4, PCSB, PCBP-A, SC, BB, SCB, FJN, BB, FoJ, RS, F.O.T., LSB, S25, PCSB K, LS, I w/AS, A, PP FJN, SE, 3-DC, MCB, PCBP-T/WF, PCSB, CQPC, S19, LSB, SB, TT, SE, S, C-P, P, WF, UT, LSB, CQPC, PCBP-T/WF, SE2, MCB, RiPad, SB, LSB

  9. #9
    JLE
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    Quote Originally Posted by atarango1 View Post

    I am also considering maybe getting the western flyer with the backpack straps instead of the sleeve for the roller board. How heavy can it get when fully packed? I am thinking that maybe the backpack option may be the better one, because often my shoulder gets sore when toting things around. I do really like the aubergrine though....
    I find that my WF tends to be consistently in the weight range of 6.5 to 7.5 kgs when firmly packed. That always includes a pair of shoes (or even two), hair straightening irons and toiletries/makeup. I carry my technology separately though - that would increase the weight if it was in the bag as well. For me, this weight is quite comfortable to carry by hand or on my shoulder, so I have never wished I had the backpack version of the bag.

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    hello there:
    1. I would recommend getting the small yarn stuff sacks to carry your food compactly and without chance of spills. I have been using them as handy lunch bags for a long time now and absolutely love how versatile they are. In my opinion, better than the average lunch sack out there, and better than the travel sacks.
    2. Personally, I think these stuff sacks stack up better in a Synapse; and can also carry water bottles better than the WF. The WF with backpack straps is alright, but then the orientation is different than the pockets, and I don't like that design. I have been a bit surprised that Tom would design it that way since he is usually so careful about these details...but that is just my two cents. I have the very old WF with the open pocket; and it is not handy when i use it as a backpack. I am not sure that having a zipped pocket makes it easier unless you have a really rreally tight closing bottle top.
    3. For conferences: yes, MCB would be good. Shoulder strap is not the greatest--unless you use the wrap; or you are not carrying a lot of weight. Otherwise, they are perfect for all that you want to lug. Carrying food in it is fine too.
    Co-Pilot: like most have said, I have a love-hate relationship with it. I love the size for most things, but really do get annoyed that I can't carry a 8.5/11 inch paper in it without having it squished. It is great for a MacBook Air 11; or an Ipad + kindle; and other assorted stuff. So if you are free of letter size paper it is great.
    Most conference materials are bullky though many are going digital for schedules..so hopefully...

    shiva


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