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Thread: The Utility Tote: Newly resdesigned and NEW PICTURES!

  1. #1
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    The Utility Tote: Newly resdesigned and NEW PICTURES!

    The Utility Tote

    First, the Utility Tote has been redesigned and it's better than ever. It's one of the simplest Tom Bihn bags but it's also one of my personal favorites. Sometimes I just have a lot of extra junk to bring to work (props for photography, books for people to borrow, clothing to return, etc.) and I grab my Utility Tote, put it all in, and go.

    It's the first bag available in the two new colors we've added to our palette: Kelly Green and Navy Blue.

    It now has a much-requested interior zippered pocket. The pocket is made out of Dyneema®, a ripstop fabric that you'll be seeing on more and more products (it is currently also used on the ID bag) because of its strength and light weight.

    The handles are made with the same Poron® foam we use in the Empire Builder and LUX handles. In side-by-side drop weight tests, Poron® materials outperformed vinyl sponge, neoprene sponge, sponge rubber, latex foam and other materials.

    Second, pictures of all available color combinations aren't available yet, but we do have pictures on the Utility Tote page that show the amount of stuff that the Utility Tote can hold, what the inside of the bag looks like, and a close-up of the zippered pocket.

    What do you think of the redesigned Utility Tote? What do you think of the pictures -- are these pictures you'd want to see of every product?

    Click to see the bigger versions of the pictures on the Utility Tote page:
    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

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    I like the new pictures a lot...especially the one with "this is what it fits" items. Most of your bags should have that to give an impression of size. A good example of that is the Smart Alec which might in some ways be regarded as a small backpack. That's not true of course as it's simply smaller than the brain bag, but since the brain bag often looks smaller due to compression straps the Smart Alec is a lot bigger than you might beleive.

    In the utility tote description there is an order organizer pouches here link which is just plain text.

    Cobos
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    Pineapple!

  4. #4
    Joy
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    What is intended to be different about the usage of a utility tote vs a Lux?

    Also, the "what can this hold" is potentially helpful, and it seems like the items have been chosen to be random and cute. But, practically, I'd find it more helpful if it just showed (for example) how many groceries fit into it so I can figure out whether it'll be a useful bag to get for this purpose. I don't often need a drill, a pineapple, and some textbooks at the same time.

    Also, does the bag collapse nicely when nothing is in it?
    Last edited by Joy; 11-22-2006 at 11:11 AM.

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    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joy View Post
    I don't often need a drill, a pineapple, and some textbooks at the same time.
    But that's what I carry everyday! You never know when you might need a pineapple and a drill. Just kidding...

    I see your point. I think because of the way I use the Utility Tote (dump everything I can into it) I chose more random items that would still be familiar as to what they are.

    I'd love to have a series of those kind of photos. Everything you can fit into the Utility Tote: groceries, beach stuff, gym stuff, pet stuff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Just
    Pineapple!
    That pineapple has a very good home now - in our freezer as smoothie makings! Stan, our rocking cleaning guy, took home the baguette, and other employees took home some Kettle chips (they're inside the Crimson/Navy tote but you can't really see them!) and the rest of the stuff is here being saved for use in upcoming pictures.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cobos
    Most of your bags should have that to give an impression of size. A good example of that is the Smart Alec which might in some ways be regarded as a small backpack.
    I agree. I want to add that kind of picture to every bag. The awesome Imago Metrics reviews/pictures of our products are what inspired us to take pictures like that. And thanks for letting me know about the broken link.

    Any votes for the kind of items you all would like to see as props for these pictures? Water bottles, umbrellas, etc?
    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

  6. #6
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joy View Post
    What is intended to be different about the usage of a utility tote vs a Lux?
    The LUX is smaller than the Utility Tote, and the bags just have different looks to them.

    I think the LUX is a very feminine bag, while the Utility Tote is unisex.
    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

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy View Post
    The LUX is smaller than the Utility Tote, and the bags just have different looks to them.

    I think the LUX is a very feminine bag, while the Utility Tote is unisex.
    I'm not sure if Joy was asking about that, but I thought about asking this myself in my first post and since obviously more people wonder a few words on both the Lux product page and on the Utility tote page about the other would be appropriate. Something along the lines on the Utility tote page: "if you are looking for a smaller and more feminine bag take a look at the Lux".

    Cobos
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    Comparing the LUX Bag with the New Utility Tote

    Joy asked
    Quote Originally Posted by Joy View Post
    What is intended to be different about the usage of a utility tote vs a Lux?
    and Darcy responded
    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy View Post
    The LUX is smaller than the Utility Tote, and the bags just have different looks to them.

    I think the LUX is a very feminine bag, while the Utility Tote is unisex.
    One difference is that the LUX is made of ballistic nylon like the Aeronaut, Smart Alec (colored portion), Empire Builder, ID, and Yang Imago, while the Utility Tote is made of cordura like the Buzz and Yin Imago. A second difference is that the LUX was envisioned to work with different inserts that could be zipped into the bottom of the bag -- including ones for laptops, for knitting, and for diapers (according to the original thread).

    Cobos' suggestion about differentiating these two bags on the web page for the utility tote makes sense, but I'm baffled by Darcy's statement that the LUX is smaller, when the web page for the Utility Tote states:
    From Utility Tote page
    Made of 1000 Denier Cordura®
    Weight: 12.15 oz.
    Overall measurements: 13-1/2" x 12" x 7"
    while the LUX web page specifies:
    From LUX Tote Bag page
    Over-all measurements of: 7 1/2" x 12 1/2" x 13 1/2"
    Made of 1050 Ballistic Nylon
    I'm guessing that Darcy is saying that because of the flaring design of the utility tote, it's actually wider than the measurements given on the web page (maybe because they measured the 12" at the base?). Otherwise, the dimensions in the description suggest that the LUX is larger. It would help to see these bags side by side!

    Here is my post on the LUX bag. And here's a link to the blog posting that shows pictures of the LUX filled with groceries (and with wool).

    The newly redesigned utility tote looks as though it borrows from some of the features of the LUX bag (padded handles, and maybe the line of the handles to the bag; different shaped base?) and the Imago (colors and fabrics). This is just from memory, but they may have either changed the fabric for the utility tote (or perhaps the new pictures are just getting better), or else the cordura just looks different as a result of structural reinforcing by the interior pocket and changes to the design shape, so that it gives the impression of a different fabric weight or texture in the photos. The ability to stand up when empty is new.

    Some other differences between the two bags: the inner pocket on the LUX only goes half-way down from the top, in order to accommodate the planned zip-in modules, while the utility tote's inner pocket is full size. The Utility Tote has an outside pocket that seems to work well for magazines. From my point of view, probably the biggest difference in selection for usage between the two bags results from the choice of ballistic nylon and the straight vs. wider-at-the-top design of the Utility Tote. Simply put, I find that a great deal of the utility of the LUX bag comes from its free standing nature even when empty or partially loaded. The combination of light weight with the fact that it packs very flat then also make it a natural addition for use with my Aeronaut.

    Most bags will stand up if heavily weighted (the pineapple! or maybe the drill <grin>), but you can put fairly sprawly things into the LUX (like cables with ends that would normally poke out at the sides of a bag) and still have it maintain its shape and stand upright. A lot of that is due to the ballistic nylon material and the diagonal criss-cross line edging the two color sections and wrapping down to the base. (Take a look at the side view of the LUX or, even better, the 360 degree rotating view, and think of bias-cut seams.) I'd guess that the LUX does this upright standing and shape maintaining better than the Utility Tote, but that the Utility Tote would be better for grocery shopping (long baguettes or celery can go in slant-wise) or a picnic at the beach. Since one of the items I'll occasionally carry in the LUX is my 12" PowerBook, I prefer the stability features! The ballistic nylon also holds up better in rain, and is easier to keep clean (if you do put this bag on the ground). Color selection is better in Cordura, though. (I got the Imago in the same colors that Just chose -- cocoa and wasabi. The only down side is that if I'm only carrying the PowerBook the Cordura will sag. This isn't an issue if you have a larger laptop or if you're carrying other items in the Imago that spread the load; it just demonstrates the differences between Cordua and Ballistic nylon.)

    Darcy, I don't know about the LUX being more "feminine", but depending on enivisioned usage the standards might change: the diaper bag function, one of the envisioned inserts for the LUX, might make the LUX a lot more acceptable carry-all for men to use than an alternative that sports the title "Hot Mama" ;-). And for all the commenters who allude to giving totes to their mothers, aunts, etc. rather than using these themselves, there must really be a generational thing -- because I can remember turning down many offered tote bags from my mother, too. This doesn't detract from the practical usefulness of the LUX. (I usually carry it on my shoulder, like the Knitty Award winner does. It easily switches to a hand tote and works comfortably each way.) Look at this as one of the "stealth-value" aspects of the Bihn design, where a product just turns out to be more useful than you'd envisioned from the description/photos because of the myriad small design details. I find that I use the LUX a lot as a second bag, when I want to dump in library books or gather up odds and ends when I already have another bag packed. I've even dumped in a size 4 Brain Cell (with laptop) when I've been consolidating extra things to carry. (The main reason that size 4 laptops aren't matched to the LUX is that depending on the long dimension of the laptop, it probably sticks up slightly above the low point of the curved side of the LUX -- especially when in a reinforcing case.)

    I always pack the LUX with my Aeronaut. The only change in usage from my earlier post is that it always goes in last. The flattened case also acts to smooth over the other packed contents so there are no bulges against the zipper. And it is perfectly matched to the opening size of the Aeronaut so that it easily pulls out when I unpack. Just works for me. YMMV.

    And is there any word on the status of LUX inserts?
    Last edited by moriond; 11-26-2006 at 03:30 PM. Reason: Fixed typo in a link

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    I was all set to order the utility tote. Your comparison of the lux and the tote just made that more difficult. Now I'm not sure which would be best.

  10. #10
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moriond View Post
    I'm guessing that Darcy is saying that because of the flaring design of the utility tote, it's actually wider than the measurements given on the web page (maybe because they measured the 12" at the base?). Otherwise, the dimensions in the description suggest that the LUX is larger. It would help to see these bags side by side!
    We clearly have some volume measuring to do, because the Utility Tote can hold quite a bit more stuff than the LUX. The Utility Tote also looks bigger when you see it in-person side by side with the LUX. Part of it is the flaring of the sides that you mentioned with the Utility Tote.

    I think a picture of the two bags side by side is a great idea, and so is explaining the differences between them on their respective product pages. For now, I've added a link to this forum thread on the Utility Tote and LUX product pages.

    If I'm choosing between the LUX or Utility Tote as the bag I'd use everyday or almost everyday, that I'd grab going out the door without thinking about it if I were going out to lunch or going to work, I'd choose the LUX. I switch between the Imago, LUX, and ID as my everyday bag.

    If I was going to the farmer's market, or on an overnight trip, or any other planned outing where I knew I needed to carry or keep in one place quite a few things, I'd take the Utility Tote. I really like being able to just stuff the Utility Tote full of a bunch of stuff and throw it in the car.

    Or, if I was taking my everyday bag (the Imago or ID) but needed an extra bag for more stuff, I'd take the Utility Tote. Basically, the Utility Tote is a great bag to have around. You end up using it more than you thought you would.

    The inserts for the LUX -- these may end up being a better idea than reality. Tom made a few prototypes of a knitting insert for the LUX, and the
    knitting experts that tested them felt that the insert idea just didn't work. Right now the knitting insert design has evolved into a special knitting version of the LUX that doesn't have a zipper at the bottom for an insert but has sewn in pockets and places for knitting gear. We'll see how prototypes of other inserts go, but the diaper bag insert might have the same problem the knitting one did.
    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

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    Quote Originally Posted by mrae View Post
    I was all set to order the utility tote. Your comparison of the lux and the tote just made that more difficult. Now I'm not sure which would be best.
    I didn't mean to make this harder. As I recall, you also wanted a bag to use at meetings, but the issue with the LUX is that your laptop uses a size 4 Brain Cell, and it wouldn't be accommodated in the yet-to-appear laptop inserts for this model of the LUX. I think that Darcy's statement that the Utility Tote is larger comes from a measurement of a 13-1/2" width at the base (vs. 7 1/2" for the LUX) and then, possibly, a design which flares out even wider towards the top of the Utility Tote. The Utility Tote should work well for picking up material at meetings, and I'd expect that it also packs flat. The issue for you might be whether this is something you'd feel comfortable carrying your laptop around in, too, and there you might want to ask for inputs from Darcy. And certainly, there are a lot of bags that you might use for your laptop (cafe bags, imago, etc.) where you don't require that the bag be free-standing and stable.

    Maybe this will help clarify the larger laptop issue with the LUX. I can carry my size 4 (Horizontal) Brain Cell inserted on end in the LUX. (A size 4 Vertical Brain Cell would have the same dimensions; the handles would stick up the top rather than sideways.) The side of the Brain Cell sits level with the high point of each side -- where the handle straps join the bag -- or maybe even slightly below. That's about half an inch above the low point at the center of each panel, or about the thickness of the trim/handles between the top of the Brain Cell and the low point of the front or back. When the Brain Cell sits in the LUX, the corners are just barely visible (on either side of the point where the handles join to the bag) seen from the front or back. This looks less aesthetic from the side view because the criss-cross design drops the low midpoint of the side to ~8" instead of ~13.5". But this is mainly an effect of the thickness of the Brain Cell. Chance are, the Brain Cell may be thicker and longer than your laptop needs. At least, that's the case for me with my T60p and T21 IBM ThinkPads, and newer laptops have been getting thinner. The Brain Cell for the 13" MacBook is both shorter and thinner than the Size 4 Brain Cell, and would probably be even less obtrusive. These laptops are probably better used with the LUX with a Soft Cell or a reinforced sleeve.

    Even with the Size 4 Brain Cell you have at least half the volume of the LUX to spare -- actually, slightly more than half, because although the edge of the Brain Cell (in its thickness dimension) sits at the half-way mark in the center of the LUX bag, leaving half the volume free, you also have about half an inch or so of additional space between the opposite side of the Brain Cell and the front of the LUX to insert papers, etc. This is because the oval (well, rectangular with circular ends) shape of the bottom of the bag doesn't allow you to push the Brain Cell exactly against the edge. If it were less wide, as in the case of the Brain Cell for the MacBook (13.78" x 10.78" x 1.88" vs. 14" x 11.5" x 2" -- 0.72" less wide) you'd probably get a better fit, as well as having a slightly thinner Brain Cell.

    With my 12" PowerBook the "length" of my laptop is about the "width" of the size 4 Brain Cell, so the laptop can sit horizontally much lower in the LUX. The size 5 Soft Cell is a little loose on my PowerBook, so I use a Tucano Second Skin (for PB12" vs. Macbook Pro 15" shown in review). (The size 5 Soft Cell is well-sized for the 12" iBook, though.)

    To summarize, both the LUX and the Utility Tote are likely to be good choices for general carryall functions, and both bags should collapse nicely with nothing in it (Joy's question). Darcy can probably affirm this for the Utility Tote. From memory, previous incarnations of the Utility Tote were even more foldable when collapsed. That's probably less true now with the interior pocket reinforcement, but I think the new design of the Utility Tote is a decided improvement. For folks who like the many compartments of other Bihn bags (cafe bags, imago, ID bag, etc.), these two totes are designed more for the "throw it in" school of organization. (Maybe this will change for the LUX when the various laptop, knitty, diaper, etc. inserts appear).

    I don't know whether anyone is using the Utility Tote for carrying laptops around. Maybe the Tom Bihn staff can comment on this use? I suspect that if I wanted to carry a larger laptop occasionally with a tote, I'd use the LUX and some sort of sleeve or Soft Cell combination. And I do like the ballistic nylon of the LUX, which also makes for a great "flat pack" at the top of my Aeronaut. Maybe Tom can also bring out a Utility Tote version in ballistic nylon? (I don't know whether the inner pocket would work well then; Tom really optimizes his designs for the materials he uses!)

    I didn't mean to highjack this thread for a discussion of the LUX! Hope this helps, mrae. YMMV
    Last edited by moriond; 11-30-2006 at 01:21 PM.

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    I like the photo with "what it can hold," and would like to see that for other bags.

    I'd also like to see photos of the bags in real-world situations, like being worn or carried by an average-sized person. I need something to give me a visual indication of how big it is -- against a standard white background, the Super Ego and the ID look to be the same size.

    It might also be useful to see some group shots of similar bags for comparison purposes. The Super Ego next to the ID next to the Imago, and the Brain Bag next to the Smart Alec next to the Buzz.

    I was able to find the photos I needed by searching for reviews across the Web (which are ALL favorable, by the way), but it would have helped me much more in the beginning if photos like that were on the website.

  13. #13
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moriond View Post
    I don't know whether anyone is using the Utility Tote for carrying laptops around.
    I put my Size 4 Horizontal Brain Cell in my Utility Tote and carry my Powerbook that way from time to time. The Utility Tote isn't specifically designed to accept a Brain Cell, and the Brain Cell won't clip in to the Utility Tote, but it does work in its own kind of way.

    Quote Originally Posted by BJ Nemeth
    I'd also like to see photos of the bags in real-world situations, like being worn or carried by an average-sized person. I need something to give me a visual indication of how big it is -- against a standard white background, the Super Ego and the ID look to be the same size.
    Totally agree. I hope we can add photos like that soon.
    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

  14. #14
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    New volume measurements for the LUX and Utility Tote:

    LUX volume: 15.5 liters / 950 cu.in.

    Utility Tote: 24.8 liters / 1500 cu.in.
    dorayme likes this.
    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

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    I've always wondered, HOW do you do volume measurements of your bags ? You fill them up with water or ?

    Cobos
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