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Thread: Ristretto vs. Cafe Bag

  1. #1
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    Ristretto vs. Cafe Bag

    So, as I look to add another TB bag to my collection, I am forced to asked why I would buy a Ristretto that is almost the same size as a Cafe Bag and twice the price? Now, if I buy a medium Cafe bag and a cache for the 11" MBA, I'm at $95; the new Ristretto is $135. Any experience/opinions out there? (I'm sure there are...)

  2. #2
    Registered User ArnieJB's Avatar
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    I thought the same thing. I believe the Ristretto is more padded as it is expressly for tablets and laptops. I was looking for a bag for my wife that she could use for a personal carry on for travel that would fit her iPad. I opted for a medium cafe bag.

  3. #3
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    Hi Anka,
    Maybe the Ristretto takes twice the amount of time to sew (chunkier zippers, thicker materials, more bits and pieces), thus causing the retail price to be higher?
    Or maybe the look-and-feel of it is much nicer so it's worth the extra money?

    Just guessing.

    I like the look of both bags. If it were me, I'd pick the ballistic even though it's more expensive, because it holds its shape, doesn't attract pet hair, and generally doesn't show dirt (well, my gray ballistic doesn't. not sure about the brighter colors, although I bet they're fine too).
    My little set of TB stuff:
    Western Flyer (steel/ultraviolet)
    Small Pouch (cork)
    Large Shop Bag (solar)
    packing cubes

  4. #4
    ceb
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    Anka. A few things come to mind:

    The material. Ristretto is ballistic, Cafe bag is Cordura
    The padding. Ristretto has the integral padded sleeve.
    The design. Ristretto's front zippered compartment is "added" to the front, while items put into the front zippered compartment of the cafe bag take away from the space in the main compartment.
    The strap. Ristretto has a removable strap while the cafe bags have permanently attached straps. The Ristretto comes with a waist strap.

    Cafe bags do come in more colors but it does attract pet hair and dirt more. I suspect that the Ristretto will look "new" longer.

    Both are probably nice bags (I don't have any cafe bags (but I had a very similar design from Kensington) and the cafe bags are more traditional "book bags" while the Ristretto is designed as a computer bag.

    Me? I got a Ristretto because it fit my (non Mac) computer perfectly and that bag would always go with the computer. I wouldn't carry a bag like that unless it had a computer in it, but if you will be carrying only books (and a computer only periodically) then the cafe bag might be "your bag" - but - consider upsizing to the large bag as it gives you room next to the cache for things like water bottles, camera lenses, chargers and so forth. Oh, consider dyneema too.
    When in trouble, obfuscate.

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    I just got a Ristretto (for my 11" MBA). For me, it was the material - same outer construction as my Smart Alec - and the front pocket features, with dedicated MacBook cache. It's pretty slim, and the dedicated nature of it (with the cache) and size keeps me from overloading it.

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    I have Large and Small Cafe Bags.


    I suspect that the difference in price comes from the Cache because it is basically sewing one bag inside another bag.

    The hardware is also more significant and there is more pockets.


    Oh goodness, I should have never looked at the Aubergine/Steel Dyneema for iPad!


    So one more difference is that Cafe Bags are in Cordura and they have recently been introduced in all Dyneema.


    But, the Ristrettos are in Ballistic and Dyneema, the more expensive custom dyed just for Tom Bihn ultra strong fabrics.



    Note that I just discovered the new Cordura/Dyneema Ristrettos and when I saw the difference in price, I was really surprised but now, it makes sense.



    What I love about my Cafe Bags is their pliability, lightness and incredible toughness.

    My Large Cafe Bags were my personal bags to my Brain Bags during many many car, plaines trips.

    Large and Small Cafe Bags are the ideal commuter companions, I only have experience with buses and trains but let me say that I breathed a sight of relief when I used my first Cafe Bag, a Large in Plum/Steel for my first commute.


    The Small Cafe Bags help me deal with the summer heat, yet keep my essentials with me.

    The All Dyneema Small Cafe Bag is a perfect ultra light travel purse-size bag, as it can be placed into the carry on and, used as a Packing Cube then. play stylish purse at the destination.


    I think that the main difference between the Cafes and the Ristrettos come down to the user.

    People who do mainly analogue stuff (use pen, paper, books, the Field journal Notebook) would be delighted with the lightweight Cafes but people who surf, e-read, type, email, phone, text and are always carrying some kind of electronic device and usually no analogue one, would be happier with the Ristretto.
    ncb4, ceb and luskwater like this.

  7. #7
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    Awesome replies. Ceb, thanks for the incredible detail.

  8. #8
    Registered User nukediver's Avatar
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    Hi Anka, I use both a Medium Cafe Bag and a new Ristretto for 13" MacBook Pro. I sold my Large Cafe bag because I found I really needed a more structured bag at the bigger size. I don't put my laptop in the Ristretto frequently, but prefer it for its durability (ballistic) and more professional look for work. I use the padded sleeve to hold my iPad with Smart Cover along with my Kindle Paperwhite in a sleeve. I also put loose papers in there. The rest of the bag is more than roomy enough for the rest of my daily essentials. The outer zippered pocket hold a lot of little items, including my phones, wallet, and a small organizer pouch with essential toiletry items. I got my Ristretto in Navy, which is GORGEOUS on the ballistic material. I've gotten many compliments on it in the short time I've had it.

    On weekends, I usually grab my Medium Cafe Bag or Synapse, since they're more casual. Hope this helps :-)


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