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Thread: IMAGO VS GATOR

  1. #1
    LSJ
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    Lightbulb IMAGO VS GATOR

    Hi,
    Ive been looking for a good gear/shoulder bag for everyday use and im torn between the Imago and the Red oxx Gator bag.
    They are both well made bags that would withstand everyday wear and tear, lots of pockets in the right places, good shoulder straps.
    If i could, i would buy both but at the moment can only afford one, and i cant decide. Im hoping someone will be able to tip the balance.
    Anyone got any first hand experience with either bags, any suggestions. thanks.

  2. #2
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    See PM4HIRE's response to your question posted in a different thread.

    A few of the features that differentiate the Imago include:

    *The choice between three different high quality shoulder straps: Standard, Q-AM, or Absolute.

    *The Imago has an exterior of either 1000 denier Cordura or 1050 denier ballistic nylon (depending on which colors you choose) and is also lined with 500 denier Cordura fabric.

    *The exterior zippers of the Imago are durable, YKK splash-proof zippers.

    *Side zippered pockets for your cell phone/iPod that are lined with Ultrasuede.

    *Double-coated black hardware.

    *The design and look of the bag is uniquely TOM BIHN.

    Hope that helps!
    Current Carry: Skookum Dog Citizen Canine prototype, Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  3. #3
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    Imago vs. Gator

    Hi LSJ,

    Looking over the specs for the Gator, one main difference that strikes me is the wider form factor of that bag compared to the Imago. The Gator would probably be better for carrying heavy wide-lens cameras, for example, where you need to accommodate bulkier items. The Imago has a more stream-lined design that I like as a general-purpose everyday bag. This would allow me to carry my 12" PowerBook or a 13" MacBook (should I choose) -- something that would not fit in the Gator. Here's a site that will help you visualize the differences in the sizes of the two (14.5"x12.25"x3.5" for the Imago vs. 12"x9"x6" for the Gator). As PM4HIRE noted, Red Oxx products tend to be heavier (the weight of the Gator is 2.35 lbs vs. 1.56 lbs for the Imago).

    I think this really comes down to what your style preferences are, and what you are going to be carrying. Darcy has pointed out that their are also different strap options for the Imago, and I would especially recommend the Quick-Adjust Messenger strap (whether or not you use the quick-release feature). I got this strap for my second Imago, and I really like it for the extra comfort of the padded region. (The absolute strap is fantastic for heavier loads and I use it on my ID bag and Aeronaut, for example, but it's not needed on this bag.)

    Hope this helps. I also ran an earlier comparison on the Sizeasy web site with the Imago and the Gator in vertical orientation.

  4. #4
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    Really, it seems unfair to compare the Imago and Gator, where a better comparison would be the Imago v. Chica (13"x9"x3.5"), since they are both 3.5" wide, the other dimensions match better, and the style is a LOT more similar.

    If you were to compare a TB bag to the Gator, the Zephyr at 16.7"x12.4"x6.3" would be the closest in terms of size and style.

    (Though probably a lot farther apart re: intended uses.)
    Last edited by Just; 07-17-2008 at 12:09 AM.

  5. #5
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    I have a Gator and a Zephyr. Here's my thoughts:

    You didn't list what you want to carry in the bag. That is the most important thing to decide. The Imago/Zephyr is better at carrying documents than the Gator, since it's not really made to do that. The 'floating pockets' aren't expandable enough for thick file folders, so the corners often get mangled in the Gator. If you have a THIN laptop of small enough dimensions you could slide it in the free-floating bottom mesh pocket, but it's not easy to do if your computer is anywhere near the max capacity of the slot. (Trust me, most laptops couldn't do it.)

    I've found that many of my electronics won't fit the Gator's sewn-in pockets on the mesh pocket/dividers. I often have anything BUT electronics in them. Many phones won't fit while in a case. If you don't have a flip phone with a cover, take that into consideration.

    The Gator is kinda unwieldy; the thin but perfectly adequate foam takes up space even when empty. If you travel on public transport you might sideswipe people if you don't remember it's on your shoulder. However, the Gator makes a fine camera bag when you have a lot of gear and want one open, padded bag. Lunch, a small jacket, and camera equipment will all fit in nicely (as will a phone and all the rest). Be advised the bottle pockets on the ends don't securely stow the aluminum Sigg bottles (they slip), although the plastic Nalgenes work just fine, and the metal shoulder-strap hardware clinking on the metal bottles will drive you nuts. The bellows pockets on the one side are great for little stuff, but they can't be locked. If that's a concern, the Imago is a better choice. It's a little harder for wayward fingers to get into. You do have a lockable full-width exterior pocket on one side of the Gator, though.

    The Chica is a nice bag, but I chose otherwise due to wanting the padding in the Gator. The Chica does look a little purselike, though, men! The Imago might not be as strictly 'business' as the Zephyr, if that's a concern. Of course, that depends on where you work...

    The Zephyr makes a fine briefcase and second travel bag, and the Imago just wasn't what I needed. It was just a tad too small for my electronics. I had it down to the two of them before I finally went with the Zephyr. You may need to get your gear, sit down with both bags, and pack them up to decide between them, if you're not sure. I use the Zephyr for business and the Gator for rough stuff (not that the Zephyr couldn't handle it, I don't want to get it filthy!). If you haven't actually seen an Imago, measure out the dimensions on paper and assemble it. If it's too small, do it with the other bags and decide if one of the others would be a better fit. A slightly too-small bag will drive you insane.

    Whichever one you decide on, the Absolute Shoulder Strap is the one to get. Even though the Gator comes with a nice strap from Red Oxx, get the Absolute. Once you carry any bag with it you'll never go back.
    Last edited by aiethabell; 07-19-2008 at 03:25 PM.
    Indigo Co-Pilot w' Cache, Sapphire/Olive Medium Cafe bag, Sapphire/Black and Indigo Ballistic Swifts, 50+ assorted Stuff Sacks/Pouches/Key Straps, 4 Shop Bags. 2 Absolutes, 2 Strap Wraps, a #5 Brain Cell, 3 Clear Quarter Packing Cubes , 3 Aeronaut cubes, a 3D, a Kit, a Convertible Shoulder Bag and Convertible Backpack for my Indigo/Solar Aeronaut. Last, 3 Lifefactory Bottles and my Plum Field Journal! Plus a blue (natch) FOT. All bags decked out with Tom Bihn luggage tags .

  6. #6
    LSJ
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    Thanks for your comments aiethabell, good descriptions.
    I am looking for something more as a multi purpose, easy to get to shoulder bag for everyday use, as opposed to a briefcase for documents, laptop etc.
    I think i will go with the Gator because of the open design. It will be easier for me to get things quick when i need them whilst still being on the shoulder as opposed to taking off the shoulder and/or unclipping the flap etc. I know this might sound lazy, but im sure you can appreciate when you have kids you need things fast and with the Gator i can get everyday things including my camera, fast. Still love the Imago and Cafe bags though, I hope ive made the right choice. Thanks.

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    It'll be a great kids' bag! Red Oxx DOES advertise it as a diaper bag even Dad would carry. Even my cat thought it was his - he slept in it when it wasn't packed up! It's been to enough dog shows, too.

    For those who know me on other forums and just HAD to point out I was either asleep or just plain *wrong* let me mention I was a bit wrong on my paragraph about the dividers. I also own a Red Oxx Metro briefcase, and it is the one with the floating divider, not the Gator. The Gator's mesh pocket/divider is sewn along the bottom edge.

    I also prefer the Zephyr rather than the Metro for lots of paperwork; it does a better job of keeping manuscripts and photos neat and tidy. The Gator won't hold standard 8.5"x11" papers without mangling quite a bit of them; the Metro is my corner crumpler with thick files. But the comment about the laptop being a tight fit in the side pocket is only accurate re the Metro; I use a Brain Cell inside it and... well, I guess I'm what you would call a gear-happy person. For those who wonder, unless you get one of the mini laptops, or one of the larger handhelds, no laptop will fit into a Gator.

    (too many bags, not enough sleep... mea culpa.)

    However, let me also mention the Gator is a way to reconnect with your pen and/or pencil. The inside mesh pocket is perfectly sized for a full-size Moleskine! (But, then, so was my Cafe Bag. Dig, dig at the unknown person who thought I wouldn't miss it was gone! Hah. You are so in trouble when I find my bag!)
    Last edited by aiethabell; 07-21-2008 at 09:42 AM.
    Indigo Co-Pilot w' Cache, Sapphire/Olive Medium Cafe bag, Sapphire/Black and Indigo Ballistic Swifts, 50+ assorted Stuff Sacks/Pouches/Key Straps, 4 Shop Bags. 2 Absolutes, 2 Strap Wraps, a #5 Brain Cell, 3 Clear Quarter Packing Cubes , 3 Aeronaut cubes, a 3D, a Kit, a Convertible Shoulder Bag and Convertible Backpack for my Indigo/Solar Aeronaut. Last, 3 Lifefactory Bottles and my Plum Field Journal! Plus a blue (natch) FOT. All bags decked out with Tom Bihn luggage tags .

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    Probably too late to help but I own both so here are my thoughts. I'd say you are comparing two similar bags and the comment on the Chica and the Imago is just off.

    It really comes down to one issue for me - padding. The Gator will keep it's form no matter what due to the padding. This is either great or terrible.

    It's great with a camera and lenses as others have mentioned. In fact, my Gator is on the floor by my feet right now with my DSLR and two lenses. I wrap the lenses in padded Domke wraps and just put them in the bag. It's a great camera bag since it protects and also holds form so you don't have any solid objects digging into your side or back. I tried the Imago with my DSLR and it was literally painfull as the camera kept hitting me. Even worse it wasn't protected from hits from the outside world.

    But the solid padding is also a crutch at times. When I walk the dog(s) or take them on trips I like to carry treats, water, a portable bowl for the water and various other items to make sure every situation is taken care of. In this case the Imago is better. I tried the regular strap but the QAM is mostly better imo. When I cinch it up it doesn't flap or swing which is annoying to me, and with a camera is dangerous. I also find it more comfortable than a shoulder bag, no matter how good the strap. A (good) backpack is still the most comfortable but the QAM style is probably second. Another key is that I can run or chase if I have to with this setup, which sadly is needed when with dogs.

    One issue with the Imago and QAM is that on me it becomes less easy to get in and out of due to the shorter hang distance. It's still not bad but to really have something easy to get into it has to be down at your waist or below imo. But that isn't relevant in discussing the bags really.

    I think it really comes down to the stiff padding. You can't really get ultimate comfort imo with a stiff padded bag like the Gator because it will always swing and I find that annoying. If someone could make such a bag that could cling to you messenger style like with a QAM then it might work. So for comfort I don't think you can go with a stiff padded bag. But for protection or carrying bulky or heavy items, I don't think you can go with a non padded bag.

    FWIW I am leaning toward taking my Gator as my personal carry on for my next trip just because it works so well with my DSLR. The Imago would be more comfortable and might hold more, but when I'm off sightseeing and need to lug a DSLR around, the Gator does a great job of keeping my stuff protected when I'm tired or clumsy or not paying attention.

    I'm debating a setup where I take a small case just for the DSLR (like ones made by Lowepro and such) and put that in my Aeronaut and then take the Imago for my personal carry on. That gives me a better option for sightseeing comfort but takes away from my main bag and doesn't really let me take an extra lens with me on the trip. Then again, I shouldn't do that anyway. Or I should give up on the DSLR and go back to P&S.

    Anyway, good luck.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by pretzelb View Post
    I'm debating a setup where I take a small case just for the DSLR (like ones made by Lowepro and such) and put that in my Aeronaut and then take the Imago for my personal carry on. That gives me a better option for sightseeing comfort but takes away from my main bag and doesn't really let me take an extra lens with me on the trip. Then again, I shouldn't do that anyway. Or I should give up on the DSLR and go back to P&S.

    Anyway, good luck.
    Pretzelb... based on your comment to me in the other thread, I can relate! I shoot with a Nikon D300, have some big lens, flash, blah blah blah... it gets ridiculous. I usually end up taking my D300 and the 18-200 VR lens for general travel - very versatile. But I usually want to pop on a filter, maybe change a lens (a fast prime or wide angle), and so I want fairly easy access. If I have to dig it out of my backpack, forget it - and I'll lose the shot. I used to shove things into my Aeronaut, but the Aeronaut isn't a great walkaround bag when you arrive at your destination, and so my current quest to get a good shoulder bag that is convenient to hold easily accessible items, can double for other uses when I'm not shooting, and allows me to carry more weight (e.g., messenger style) than a straight shoulder bag.

    Have you seen these from OpTech for dSLR cameras? Useful for putting your camera in if you're not using a dedicated shoulder bag for camera equipment. http://www.optechusa.com/product/det...RODUCT_SUB_ID=

  10. #10
    LSJ
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    Just received the Gator and first impressions are, it looks like a great all round shoulder bag thats rigid, strong and easily accessible with pockets in all the right places.
    It is wide and chunky but i can live with that, knowing that anything i put in it is well protected.
    For me it will be used as a camera bag / day bag /diaper bag. It looks like it will be a good all rounder. My only gripe is that it would not perform well as a document/ laptop bag, but that wasnt what i bought it for. I would probably use the ID bag for that, i think that might be my next purchase( when i can afford another bag).
    But for a tough, multi purpose little shoulder bag with an unbeatable lifetime guarantee, theres nothing out there that comes close. Im glad i went with the Gator as opposed to the Imago or Chica.


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