Hollie is a longtime user of TOM BIHN bags, she's a former employee, and she was the main tester of the Luminary 15 (L15) design. Tom would like to thank Hollie for her valuable feedback -- it helped finalize some key details of the fit and features of the pack. - TB Crew
When I first heard that Tom was designing a larger Luminary, I was excited to hear of a new bag (like any Bihnion, I’m always happy when I know something new is coming down the pike), but having been obsessed for so long with my versatile and basically perfect Synapse 19, I wasn’t sure I’d really need a 15 liter backpack. Ohhhhhh, I was wrong. This bag is gold, everyone. Let me tell you.
I feel obligated to say that I’m a former Bag Guru (customer support person) at TOM BIHN. I asked Darcy if it was okay that I disclose this, and she said that it was just fine, since people reading the blog probably suspect that anyone writing a bag review has to be at least a little biased! Am I biased? Most definitely! Am I biased more after my time as a Guru? Yes! I loved my job, and I loved seeing how the bags I use every day were made with such quality (and employee happiness - speaking from experience!).
But the truth is, I was biased before I ever worked there. I’ve been obsessed with travel bags and backpacks ever since I was a kid, and it’s only gotten worse with age (I’m 44 -- it’s pretty nuts at this point). I love to travel and have adventures, even just around town, and I love carrying my stuff with me, despite my sincere attempts at minimalism. I discovered Tom Bihn bags in 2009, and have been a groupie ever since. I’ve carried them all, but the Luminary 15 has really blown me away.
The exterior of the bag sets new records in sleekness and minimalism, and I just love that. It doesn’t look or act like a bulky backpack, which means you never feel like you’re hauling around the kitchen sink (even if you are). I can take this thing anywhere. It’s in no one’s way slung over my chair at a restaurant, it’s unobtrusive over my shoulder at the Seattle Art Museum, and it sits happily under my seat at the movie theater. The profile is so elegant and simple, you’d never guess by looking how roomy and functional the interior is. The straps are made of a super comfy foam, that I can wear comfortably all day.
At first glance the main interior compartment, with its three sections, might seem a bit strange. You might be tempted to unzip the center section to open the bag up, but before you do….try it. The center section is perfect for a water bottle, and those of us who love our Synapses know the joy of a water bottle nestled securely in the center of our bag, and I love that we have this feature in a second backpack. If you don’t carry a water bottle, the center pocket is perfect for a stuff sack, or a jacket rolled up.
The side sections are perfect for sliding in a wallet or phone (although my favorite place for my phone is the right side pocket). But where they really shine is for all the other things we might want to carry as we wander about on our adventures, or head to work or school. I do a lot of urban sketching, and I knit, which means that when I leave the house I usually have my travel sketchpad, my travel palette of watercolors, and my stuff sack with the latest pair of wool socks I’m knitting up. I’ve also started carrying a Traveler’s Notebook, and will sometimes even have my handheld ham radio with me (here in Seattle we have a repeater where hams carry on conversations all day).
The Luminary can carry all of this in stride, and the ability to split up the main compartment means that stuff will stay corralled on whatever side of the bag you pack it, and it’s always easy to find. When I took the train down to Portland for an overnight trip, I took only the Luminary, using one side section for a change of clothes, the center for my bottle of tea, and the third section for my toiletries, knitting, and snacks.
Have a larger notebook, or an iPad, and need a place for that? The ingenious rear panel has your back (haha!). A side zipper along the length of the bag reveals a roomy pocket that can handle an iPad, sketchbook, or paperback. I keep a folded sari in mine, in case I get chilled. I love how sneaky this back pocket is - no one watching you grab things out of the main compartment would realize you could have an iPad hidden away in the back.
For the smaller things, the Luminary has me covered. The side zipper pockets are where I keep my phone, my paintbrushes, an ever-growing number of Micron pens (it’s like they disappear and then reappear once I buy replacements), and things like lip balm, my pocket knife, and the one granola bar I need to have on me at all times.
In short, the Luminary 15 has become the everyday carry of my dreams. A light pack, with an elegant and sleek profile, that goes everywhere but still carries everything I need - it’s amazing.