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  1. #1
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    Which bag is best for me? Seeking advice from the people who carry these.

    Greetings Bihnions!

    So, in the quest for a new daily carry bag, every road leads me to a Tom Bihn bag. While I save my pennies, I figured the best people to talk to would be you, the users of Tom Bihn bags! Or Tom's Bihnions I've dubbed you over the last month of reading these forums and other reviews. Not sure if that's been used or coined already, but I felt clever none the less, so I'll pretend it was an original thought.

    I am in need of a new daily carry bag and I've narrowed down my choices, but having no experience with a Tom Bihn bag or held one, thought I'd list what I carry, the bags I'm considering and asking for your input as to if it will fit comfortably.

    The bags I'm considering is either the Empire Builder, Zephyr, or the Pilot.

    I plan to eventually have a Pilot + Tristar combo for airline carry for myself and possibly the same for my fiance. This is something to keep in mind in regard to packing cubes.

    I currently have a severely uncomfortable cheap nylon buckling briefcase style bag and a separate lunchbox. I'm tired of having loaded hands and a crowded work station.

    I work for a television station doing IT work. I live in Florida but my work station and the control room I work in is kept at 65 degrees (lots of equipment running 24/7, can't afford anything to overheat), a light jacket or hoody is a must.

    What I need to be able to fit into the bag:
    Water bottle

    Lunchbox - Ebag Slim Lunchbox, link provided for reference. Amazon.com: eBags Slim Lunch Box (Titanium): Kitchen & Dining

    Multitool(s) - Leatherman Wave, extender + bit kit. Possible another Multitool or two (making sure I have all functions across a few different tools so everything I need is a grab from the bag away).

    Work stationary - pens, highlighters, Sharpies, White Out roll of strip tape.

    Spare toiletries - I like to keep a toothbrush, toothpaste, small bottle of cologne, etc. I'm always paranoid of coffee breath, as well as being a cigarette smoker, so I like to keep some essentials on me so odors don't offend coworkers and others I associate and talk face to face with.

    Coffee tumbler - carry coffee into work and toss in my bag when it's empty.

    Spare change of clothes - generally just a pair of shorts, tee shirt and light shoes, usually sandals. Often I'll stop at friends houses or meet at a pub for a drink, I like having a change of clothes as my work attire is generally a collared shirt, under shirt, slacks, dress shoes. Not comfortable for outdoor venues in Florida. I need room in the bag for the light change of clothes as well as room for the heavier clothes from work to exchange space with.

    Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 in an Otter Box - Sleeves or cache aren't necessary for purchase at this time, thanks to the Otter Box. I don't want to use a bare tablet pulled from a cache as I carry my tablet around the control room and to the equipment racks and don't want to risk dropping a naked tablet.

    First Aid Kit - Medicines, bandages, antiseptic etc. I have a small one currently but planning to buy a new one for a better fit and organization. (recommendations?)

    Paperback books - I carry a book or two with me for occasional reading material, nothing too big but fills space none the less when considering a new bag.

    Charger cables for cell phone and tablet.

    Eventually I will be purchasing a new light laptop, more than likely a 13 inch. PC platform, planning to keep it to a light thin travel laptop to possibly go into this bag. Charger and mouse would be added to the daily carry when the laptop is acquired.

    Would like to be able to stuff my light jacket or hoody in the bag when I walk out of the building. Going from 65 degrees inside to 98+ outside, I want my jacket as far away from me as possible. Not wanting to drape it over my arm.

    Files - I come home with random paperwork from work sometimes. I need room to keep some legal files for papers to go into to stay in tact and not get folded/crinkled in transit (current bag buckles really easy so papers are sometimes compromised, I hate being the guy having to ask for fresh copies due to this).

    Legal pads/notebook - jotting down notes

    A pistol - I will sometimes need to be able to put my daily carry pistol in a holster sleeve into this bag, not looking for a CCW compartment but something to take into consideration when thinking of what will be filling the bag space.

    Hopefully a bit of space leftover for random items possibly acquired in a day. Stop by the store on the way home, etc. My goal is to have just one bag for everything. Obviously not everything will go in there, but when on a motorcycle occasionally, I'd like to just stuff my couple random items into the bag for easier carry.

    I've read the Empire Builder is big, will it fill my needs? Is it not quite big enough? Sorry if this is a dumb question, but until it's in front of me to put my stuff down into, I'm kind of in the dark. Considering the money spent on a Tom Bihn bag, I'd like to make sure I get the purchase right the first time and not have to pay for return shipping.

    I have no interest in a backpack style at this time, I try to keep it professional at work. I could get away with a backpack, but I'd rather not. Also, the flap of messenger bags are unwanted. I would get one if it's what's needed, but I'd like to avoid it. I like the solid structure and easy access that the Tom Bihn briefcases offer.

    Would the PILOT be able to handle this load? I don't think so, but considering I'd like to get one eventually as a personal carry on bag to go with a Tristar, I'd kill two birds with one stone by acquiring the Pilot now.

    What pouches/organizers would you recommend from the Tom Bihn store? The options are a bit overwhelming, so just looking for some feedback from other members. Basically, what would you use to pack this load up? What packing cube(s) do you recommend to carry my spare clothes/shoes in?

    Again, eventually I do plan to get the Pilot + Tristar for myself and either the same setup for my fiance or the Copilot + Western Flyer for her. Packing cubes from the Tristar would be great for compatibility later down the road. We get married at the end of the year and plan to do some traveling/sight seeing across the country before we start a family and travel plans are put to a halt. :P

    Thank you for your help and advice in this matter, again just trying to make sure I buy the right bag the first time and not have to pay for return shipping.

  2. #2
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    Well I'd say at my company (a fortune 50 company), some of our highest level execs wear backpacks so backpacks can be professional and TB backpacks come in an array of sizes and colors. But if you prefer a messenger (my husband does), then obviously there are a variety of choices. With all the things you have mentioned, I think the pilot would be too small. I ordered my husband the pilot but after realizing that it'd be too small for his laptop and other things, I ordered him the ID, but it definitely has a flap. Not that this is very helpful but I do think the pilot would be a good travel bag, but it is a bit on the smaller side especially if you want to put a laptop in it and lunch and clothes and other stuff.

  3. #3
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    A lightly loaded Tri-Star really looks like a slightly larger briefcase, and that might be convenient if you plan to buy one anyway. The Pilot is likely a bit small for what you've described. It MIGHT work, but it would be pretty overloaded.

  4. #4
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    I figured the Pilot would be too small for this, but a lot of people end up surprised at the amount these bags carry, so figured it was worth a shot to ask.

    Would the Zephyr or Empire Builder accommodate this load?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by BagIt View Post
    I figured the Pilot would be too small for this, but a lot of people end up surprised at the amount these bags carry, so figured it was worth a shot to ask.

    Would the Zephyr or Empire Builder accommodate this load?
    Have you considered the Ego or even the Superego? I have been contemplating a new bag for a similar load and the Ego seems like its perfect. Although a bit big for an airline personal item, some people report using it that way witness no problem. It has lots of pockets to accommodate all the small items and a large main compartment with a top zipper entry which will hold some clothing, a computer and other items. I'd be interested in feedback on the Ego as an EDC bag and also as an airplane personal item (which I'd be carrying with my Tri Star).

  6. #6
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    Wow, don't I feel stupid. I didn't even realize the Ego had a zippered main compartment, at first glance I ruled it out, thinking it was similar to Chrome and Timbuk2 bags I'd previously looked at, requiring the flap to open to access anything in the middle section of the bag. Now the Ego is certainly on my radar, but my only reservation is that it's too "floppy" for my liking.

    Sorry to seem like a nitpicker.

  7. #7
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    To get a better idea of your space requirements, I suggest you pile everything you want to carry on top of a table or in an open top box, measure the length, width and height of the pile, calculate the volume and compare the volume to the specified volumes of the bags you're interested in.

    It won't be exact but will give an idea if a bag is too small, about right or too large.

    My feeling is that you're going to need a Western Flyer or an Empire Builder.

  8. #8
    Registered User terayon's Avatar
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    I have an Ego and I am pretty sure though not certain it would handle your list. It has a lot of pockets which could easily handle the water bottle, coffee cup, first aid kit (if it fits in a small OP, the small OP fits nicely in the exterior front zip pockets), pens/etc, chargers and cables (I like a clear 3D org cube for those), toiletries, Leatherman and paperbacks.

    Fitting a change of clothes, files, notebooks, jacket, laptop, lunchbox and gun seems... tight. I think it could be done with some stuff sacks, but you'd probably have to be willing to try it and if necessary either pare things down or pay for the return shipping.

    Having said that, I really like the Ego, particularly for all the pockets. I suggest getting an Absolute strap (and the cheater-d's and metal snap hooks, which allow the ends of the strap to swivel, but that's maybe a personal quirk).

  9. #9
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    Terayon, do you have experience using the Ego as an airline personal item? I know it is somewhat bigger than what most airlines allow for a personal item, but I'm wondering if carrying the Ego along with a Tri-Star would be allowed on most flights, especially since I sometimes fly regional jets where they tend to be picky. I've never had an issue with the Tri-Star and a conventional briefcase. Does the Ego "look" big when you carry it? Also, is it comfortable when you need to carry it for an extended period?

  10. #10
    Registered User Moose's Avatar
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    Like JohnDel, while reading through your list I was thinking a Western Flyer was the way to go. Do you mind sharing the type or size of the weapon? They can, with extra mag's, be real space hogs. As for organizers I love the dyneema 3D cubes. One for tools an iberian one for your first aid kit and prehaps toiletries. Another for bits of clothing, undergarments, socks and such. A black ballistic WF is classy looking and appears to be a large briefcase. Add on an absolute strap, get the backpack strap version, you'll have versitility and be all set.
    Moose

    Until Tom builds us one a Maxpedition, or similar, organizer would work well for your tools.
    Last edited by Moose; 04-19-2014 at 12:26 PM.
    List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!

  11. #11
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    After reading other threads/reviews about using the Western Flyer as a briefcase, the more I'm liking the idea. That didn't even dawn on me as a possibility. Absolute strap/briefcases handles for to and from the car. The backpack straps for motorcycle carry just make it icing on the cake. The more I toy with the thought, the more I like the sounds of it. I guess I just ruled it out as an EDC briefcase due to (my own) defaulting it into the "luggage" category. The split compartments sounds like a good fit with the front for clothes/toiletries and the back for business items.

    I will watch a few more videos and dwell on it a bit more, but it sounds like the way to go for my carry needs.

    The handgun(s) used will be a Walther PPQ and a Walther PPS. Rotation dictated by attire and the need for deep concealment.

    A Freudian Slip could help provide the stationary organization I desire, and a good document sleeve could be kept to keep my paperwork from getting crushed in transit. (the file dividers of the EB seemed like the go to choice for this, but realistically, could be done in the WF easily with the right document sleeve)

    Thanks for all the replies everyone! Still weighing my options, but the more I look at the WF as a "briefcase" as opposed to a "suitcase", the more logical the choice becomes.

    I think a black Western Flyer purchase will be happening in the near future. Now just to justify the higher expenditure to the missus! lol

  12. #12
    Registered User Moose's Avatar
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    I use a Side Effect for my CCW. The SE fits in any of my other TB bags. The CCW and four additional mags (two in each pocket) pretty much fill the SE. I can put a small organizer pouch in the back pocket with some money, a key or two and a couple of credit cards in it. A lot of folks use the larger clear organizer pouch as a file holder. If you go with the WF you might consider a packing cube for the change of clothes you mentioned.
    Moose
    List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!

  13. #13
    Registered User terayon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by giantsteve View Post
    Terayon, do you have experience using the Ego as an airline personal item? I know it is somewhat bigger than what most airlines allow for a personal item, but I'm wondering if carrying the Ego along with a Tri-Star would be allowed on most flights, especially since I sometimes fly regional jets where they tend to be picky. I've never had an issue with the Tri-Star and a conventional briefcase. Does the Ego "look" big when you carry it? Also, is it comfortable when you need to carry it for an extended period?
    I haven't had a chance to use it for air travel. If I was traveling, it would probably be with a backpack as a personal item. I haven't actually measured it but I think that the Ego is probably too big to be a personal item, though it should be fine as a carry-on size. I suspect that you'd probably get away with it as a personal item, unless the gate agent was feeling particularly by-the-book that day.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moose View Post
    I use a Side Effect for my CCW. The SE fits in any of my other TB bags. The CCW and four additional mags (two in each pocket) pretty much fill the SE. I can put a small organizer pouch in the back pocket with some money, a key or two and a couple of credit cards in it. A lot of folks use the larger clear organizer pouch as a file holder. If you go with the WF you might consider a packing cube for the change of clothes you mentioned.
    Moose
    Thanks for the tip on the SE and the file holder pouch. Definitely get some cubes for it too.

    Jmoz mentioned a Tristar for carry, if I got that for my EDC (I already showed it to the fiance), she'd probably tell me I already have my one bag for travel and EDC so I don't need another one. Her being unaware of the WF means I can keep its original design purpose under wraps and still obtain another bag down the road.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by terayon View Post
    I haven't had a chance to use it for air travel. If I was traveling, it would probably be with a backpack as a personal item. I haven't actually measured it but I think that the Ego is probably too big to be a personal item, though it should be fine as a carry-on size. I suspect that you'd probably get away with it as a personal item, unless the gate agent was feeling particularly by-the-book that day.
    Thanks for your insight. I'm thinking of a Synapse 19 too and I know that it will pass muster... But there is something about the versatility of the Ego that keeps pulling me in that direction. I may need to get both!

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