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Thread: Laptop Briefcase in a Tri-Star

  1. #1
    Registered User sheeshoo's Avatar
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    Laptop Briefcase in a Tri-Star

    I am new to TB and have ordered a TS in the hopes of going one (easy) bag for my business travel. I'd always managed to do it with no problem on longer international trips but have struggled with the domestic business trips (not sure why). One piece that I am still looking for is a laptop briefcase to fit in the middle section of the TS.

    What do I need? I have a 15" Mackbook Pro Retina. When I head out for a day of meetings, I need: my laptop, mouse, power brick (I wish apple would make a smaller one), iPhone + charge cable, pad of paper about the size of a composition notebook, pens, and a few cards (business cards, ID and credit card for lunch). Occasionally I need to add a small point-and-shoot camera and/or an external hard drive. I want briefcase style, both for semi-professional look and so I can just unzip the middle section of the TS and top of the briefcase at airport security to quickly pull out my laptop.

    While I love the protection that the Brain Cell offers, it's not something that I can pull out and take to meetings - which is my goal. I see that it has a stretchy pocket on the outside, but I don't want all of my stuff exposed or in a bunch of dangling organizer pockets. I did find somewhere (I didn't bookmark it) that the Cadet fits in a TS, sort of, but it looks like it would really encroach into the front and back packing areas and is really a little bit more than I need and a little bulkier that I want. I think something slim and about the size of a TS large packing cube would be ideal.

    One option I have found that seems to fit the bill is the booq Taipan superslim 15 - booq | Taipan superslim 15 - to give you an idea of something I *think* will fit my needs.

    I've searched the forums at great length but couldn't really find any clear answers or suggestions. I know I am asking for a non Tom Bihn bag (or perhaps designs for a future TB bag) but would love to hear what you use and/or any suggestions.

  2. #2
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    I have an (old) Incase laptop bag that my 15" Macbook Pro Retina fits in, although a little tightly (it was purchased for my previous 15" Macbook Pro). It is ~15x12x2" and does fit easily in the center section of the TriStar. I am curious, though, about the "too large" power brick. Mine is 3x3x1"; is that what you are using? I never take the cord, I remove it and use the plug attachment.

    However, one of the beauties of the TriStar is that you can use a checkpoint friendly cache with it, and not have to physically remove the laptop, just slide it out for the X-ray. The TriStar is *probably* more than you want to carry to a meeting, but it's not too much fatter unloaded than a large brief case. It might be an option, then, to unpack your clothes from the TriStar at the hotel and carry just the laptop and other items to your meeting. (Not an option if you need to leave the meeting for the airport, I know.)

  3. #3
    Registered User sheeshoo's Avatar
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    Yeah, the TS, unless I'm flying right out and have it all with me (a great perk of the TS) is more than I want to carry on the client-site days. Yes, I have the same power brick and do the same. I just (wishful thinking) would love for apple to design one that was as thin and elegant as the Macbooks.

    I've looked at the cache and it is a brilliant design especially with the rails system. I've also looked at this Incase - Amazon.com: Incase CL57483 Nylon Sling Sleeve 15-Inch - Black: Computers & Accessories

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    That looks like the one I have. Your original Booq link looked like the bag would fit too. I believe that bag was about half an inch wider than mine, and there was certainly that much extra room in the TriStar. My Incase is not checkpoint friendly, though. It does have pockets that hold the power supply, pencils, paper, etc., and should work for you.

    I've heard of Binn bags that fit in the TriStar center compartment, but can't remember if any held a 15" laptop.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Auntie Em View Post
    I've heard of Binn bags that fit in the TriStar center compartment, but can't remember if any held a 15" laptop.
    One option that might be a bit 'out there' is to consider a TB Ristretto 13. I suggest this for a few reasons.
    1. Although it is designed for a 13 inch laptop, I carry a 14 inch and it fits fine. I've heard a 15 inch also works but sticks out a little from the padded pouch but the bag still closes.
    2. If you use a shoulder strap on the Tristar, you can leave the ristretto strap at home and use the same one when you get to your destination. Saves on weight and space in the middle compartment off the Tristar.
    3. The Ristretto looked very professional and has a great front pocket which can be loaded up with your accessories when working.

    I find it just about right as a balance of size, function and professional image when I get to the destination. A good overall solution with very few minor compromises.

    Good luck with your search.
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  6. #6
    Volunteer Moderator tpnl's Avatar
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    @sheeshoo

    Concerning the Cadet, I agree that it might crowd into the other compartments depending on how it is packed. But, I also look at it this way:

    1) You need a place for all your electronic accessories - so, overall, it would still “crowd” into some part of the bag if it were that much. It is generally unavoidable, IMHO, as the space your “stuff” takes up is still the same. Only having less stuff or packing efficiently will help with that – using or not using the Cadet would not impact that too much.

    2) Use the Cadet as another packing cube to carry at least 1 set of cloths – so less space is needed in the other compartments

    3) By doing the above, you have the option to just pull the Cadet out and use it as a personal item if the check-in people get really fussy about the size or weight (usually the main concern these days) of your luggage. They should be more likely to accept the Tri-Star with the Cadet removed as carry-on.

    4) If, on the off chance, you need to check your Tri-Star, you can pull out the Cadet to use as a carry-on with some emergency clothes in case your luggage is lost.

    5) You can use the Cache with rails system in the Cadet while still inside the Tri-Star – thereby retaining the TSA Checkpoint Friendly functionality.

    Here are a few posts about the Tri-Star and Cadet for your reference:
    Cadet inside a Tri-Star
    Tristar and a Day Laptop Bag

    Another option – use the Pilot instead of the Cadet. All the above points still would apply. There are even specific packing cubes for the Pilot to make it easier. Though not officially recommended by the TB crew, many forum members have been able to put in a MBP Retina in a Cache in the Pilot.

    BTW – you could also “stuff” a Founders Briefcase or a Zephyr but it is tight (there are posts for the Founders Briefcase in a Tri-Star and I have tried a Zephyr in the Tri-Star – doable but tight and not a perfect solution). See the link below for someone putting a Founder’s Briefcase in a Tri-Star:
    Founder's Briefcase in Tristar?

    Now, concerning using a Brain Cell. This is what I have done most in the past. I completely agree that is not professional looking to have cables exposed in the web pockets. There are ways I address this:

    1) I bought a thin tablet hard case to hold all the cables, power supply and slide that into the webbing – looks uncluttered and smooth.

    2) When I wear the Brain cell to a meeting, I turn it around – mesh pockets towards my body. That way, all people see are is the “clean” backside which looks fine IMHO in a professional environment.

    3) For the Camera, I got a carabiner or S-Binder to hook to the camera case to where the Annex Clip loops are. You can also just strap it to the shoulder strap (there is usually a section that where the webbing goes back on itself – hook it through the opening between the webbing.

    Note, that the Brain Cell has always been TSA checkpoint friendly for me (not officially as per TB) as long as the see through webbing pockets have nothing in it during travel. If you really want the rail system to work with the Brain Cell, you just need to sew in two strips of 1” webbing attached at the top and bottom of the brain cell and 7” apart centre to centre. Then you just purchase a pair of Gatekeeper Rail Clips, assemble together and you are off to the races!

    Here is also a link to someone using a Brain Cell and Snake Charmer clipping together. I sometimes do the same thing except with a Lead’s Pocket (If I get the waist strap, it doubles as a waist pack when I switch to tourist mode – usually after the business part of the trip is over):
    Laptop in Brain Cell in Tri Star Question

    If none of the above appeal to you, here are a few other options that may be good for you:

    1) Brenthaven Edge II (discontinued but excellent laptop protection – on par with the Brain Cell, IMHO) – get the original version without the front outside pocket for best fit to your Macbook Pro. This has the advantage of being a work in case as well. In fact, I am typing this post on my patio while my laptop is in the Brenthaven . Also, any of the slim Brenthaven bags may work and still provide excellent protection. Note that they use 1680D or 840D Ballistic Nylon - not as strong or durable as the 1050D in the Cadet or Pilot.

    2) Booq – the Taipan you mentioned is good. I think the Mamba Slim or Cobra Slim would be good too and fit in the Tri-Star – but I have not tried them. But, the material and workmanship have gone downhill over the past few years. Also, they use 1680D Ballistic Nylon - not as strong or durable as the 1050D in the Cadet or Pilot.

    3) Waterfield – their Sleevecase works and you can get their “Piggyback” to hold your cables, camera, power supply, etc. However, the sleevecase does not nearly have the protection afforded by the Brain Cell. The Hardcase or Cityslicker may be good too and offer better protection. However, please note that Waterfield cases, IMHO, are for mimimal electronics accessory carry so you should plan out where you could fit things before buying.

    Overall, I think the Cadet or Pilot are your best options IMHO. I really like that they both could maintain the TSA Checkpoint Friendly option of the Tri-Star and give you a place to pack some clothes and use it as an emergency carry-on if you need to check your Tri-Star. Also, it gives you the option to pull out the bag when on the plane, put the Tri-Star in the overhead and put the bag under the seat for easy access to some of your electronics. However, the Brain Cell option still provides the best in terms of laptop protection – something that is prime for me.

    Sorry for the long post - Hope this helps

    Cheers!
    Last edited by tpnl; 06-01-2014 at 01:32 PM.
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  7. #7
    Registered User sheeshoo's Avatar
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    Thank you for the long post - this helps! A lot.

  8. #8
    Registered User UK-Limey's Avatar
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    I use my Cadet inside my Tri-Star every other week UK to Germany via Birmingham & Frankfurt. Works like a dream !

    But because both of these airports insist on the laptop being completely 'naked' for the security scan, I have stopped using the cache inside the Cadet inside the Tri-Star. It was just adding extra bulk. The Tri-Star middle section provides enough protection whilst travelling and the Cadet is OK when walking backwards & forwards to the office.

    When using a 2-bag strategy for the USA (Cadet outside of Tri-Star), I keep the cache in the Cadet. This is because the TSA are OK with the Checkpoint Friendly functionality.
    mjo and sheeshoo like this.

  9. #9
    Registered User sheeshoo's Avatar
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    Thanks everyone. After (too) much hemming and hawing, and thanks to everyone's wonderful feedback - I decided to invest in a Cadet (black with steel dyneema interior). It just made more sense to have this as both my in-town local meeting compact brief and my travel one. I decided sacrificing quality for a few bucks and 1/2 an inch would leave me disappointed in the long run. So, thank you everyone... now the TBAS begins as I wait for my new TS and new Cadet to arrive (hopefully before my next run of travel because I sure was wanting them on my most recent trips).


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