September 22, 2023

Inside The Factory: Fall 2023 Update

Inside The Factory: Fall 2023 Update

Some of you may remember we wrote this Winter 2023 blog in early February, and if you enjoy this type of blog post, keep reading (warning, it’s long!) 

The days are always hectic here at 4750A Ohio Ave – between our internal projects (improving our processes, growing our team, redo-ing our layout to fit more sewing machines, etc. etc.), our efforts to keep our bags in stock, and our initiatives to push out new designs and fun colors, we have a lot going on. Below are a few fun updates we’d like to share with you and hope they provide an interesting glimpse inside the factory. 

New Designs - Recent and on the Horizon

We have debuted some fun new designs since the last update: Bantam (new colorways coming soon!), Side Hustle, a revamped Night Flight Travel Duffel (NFTD), and the long-awaited Trinity. And along the way we hit some milestones: we sold out of five back-to-back batches of the Side Hustle – a feat we’ve never come close to accomplishing with any other bag. We also sold the most number of pre-orders ever for a single bag with the NFTD. 

Coming next, we’re getting ready for the holiday season. Every year on the Monday after Thanksgiving, we launch something special. This year, we have some very fun stuff in the works. One of our existing bags is getting a revamp. A bag that you've been asking us to bring back (we get on average one request a day) will be coming back. And there is also a totally new design that we’re excited to share more details for very soon. Expect a very colorful holiday season.  

Updates to our Existing Bags

We’re always looking for ways to improve our bags, and in case you haven’t noticed, we’ve made some updates!

Since May, we have incorporated sewn-on Strap Keepers into all newly made backpacks. We started selling Strap Keepers in 2019 as an add-on option to tame dangly backpack straps. And after some internal discussions, we think that it just makes better sense for all backpacks to come with Strap Keepers.

Over the summer, we also gave the Brain Bag a mini makeover. The Brain Bag is our oldest backpack (dating back to 1996!) that we sell right now. We haven’t messed with the core design, but we do find spots to improve on every now and then. We decided to add a layer of lining fabric to the front interior panel to hide drill holes and create a more visually appealing appearance. If you don’t know what drill holes are, they are holes that we intentionally add to the fabric for manufacturing purposes – they do not adversely impact the durability of the fabric. Drill holes exist on all bags, you may or may not have seen them since we do our best to place them in discreet spots. In the case of Brain Bag, we found we could be doing a better job.

We also recently updated the shoulder strap on the Medium and Small Cafe Bags – there is now no extra plastic piece on the strap! We received a lot of feedback stating that the plastic piece felt unnecessary and was often obtrusive. We have found that the strap itself remains comfortable without the extra piece.

All About Our Custom Colors

2023 has been a very colorful year for us! After almost three years of supply chain slowdowns, we are finally back to a regular cadence with our custom-dipped 200d Halcyon and 210d Cerylon fabrics. Our goal has always been to keep a few core colors (Island + Northwest Sky) in our factory while rotating in a fun array of limited edition colors (Cerise + Seafoam this past summer!). 

In an ideal world, we’d keep every color and more, but as a small company with limited production capacity, we have to let some things go in order to create room for the new. Here are the 200d Halcyon and 210d Cerylon colors that are currently in our line-up that have now been fully committed to Production with no plans for return. That means that if you have been thinking about making any of these colors yours, we recommend buying them sooner rather than later!

***In July, after lots of teasing, we debuted our two newest 200d Halcyon colors – Cerise and Seafoam! It’s safe to say this was our most fun and highly anticipated debut yet. We have completely used up our Seafoam at this point. Cerise would have been on the same boat had we not set aside one more roll for something special coming this holiday season…

It may look like a lot of colors are leaving, but rest assured more is on the way. We’ve already planned out some of our 2024 colors. Next up, stay tuned for the return of Solaris and Acai just in time for the holiday season. We also plan to keep Zest in our line-up as a core color alongside Northwest Sky and Island.

It’s also been a while since we’ve introduced a new shell color into our lineup, and we’re currently exploring new custom-dipped Ballistic colors – no promises of any colors yet, but we’re having a lot of fun testing our ideas out. 

Updates About Our Fabrics

Over the summer, we introduced Marine X-Pac RX30, starting with the Synik 30, then the Synapse 25, Synik 22, and Synapse 19. We loved introducing something different into the mix of our regular shell colors, but at this time, don’t expect Marine X-Pac RX30 to be part of the regular line-up.

Back in early 2022, we announced that we were starting to transition from 525d High Tenacity Ballistic Nylon to 630d High Tenacity Ballistic Nylon to ensure we are able to get a continuous supply of the fabric (our partner mills have phased out 525d). The two fabrics look and feel very similar, and the weight difference is almost indistinguishable to most, but for those that are curious, at this time, the 525d is essentially gone with the exception of Cloud. 

Since July, all the new 630d Ballistic Nylon fabric we’re bringing into our factory now has C0 DWR! (DWR, or Durable Water Repellent, is a protective finish applied to our fabric that enhances durability and repels water, oil, dirt, and alcohol, while maintaining breathability and fabric stability.) Due to the timing of when C0 became available, the transition from C6 to C0 started with Wilderness, Deep Blue, and Ursa. Our goal is to fully transition all our 630d Ballistic Nylon colors from C6 to C0 by next year.

A quick note about 1050d High Tenacity Ballistic Nylon: due to supply chain changes that happened pre-COVID, we anticipate that we will only be able to offer this fabric for our large travel bags in Black going forward. We do have a handful of our custom colors left in 1050 (all procured before the supply chain changes) and will continue to include that in the production of bags until we run out.

A quick update on 400d Halcyon substitute: we’re testing new fabrics but have not yet made a decision. Curious why this search is taking so long? Well, the ideal fabric we’re searching for is not something readily available off the shelf and not something that every mill is willing to make, so the process of getting samples can take a long time. And just like every new material we receive, we have to run it through a sufficient amount of testing to make sure it is “the one.”

Our last remaining 400d Halcyon right now is Taiga and a very small amount of Night Walk, which has all been committed to the Synik 30.

Production Updates

We’ve been getting these questions a lot recently: “Why are your bags taking so long in production?” “Why are so many bags out of stock?” If you’re a keen observer of our company, you may have noticed, the time it takes us to restock out of stock bags feels longer than usual. To put it simply, you guys are buying some of our bags faster than we can make them.

We’re still a small company dedicated to making the best quality bags in the world right here in Seattle, Washington, USA, and we offer an incredibly wide variety of designs and colors. We are doing our best to keep bags in stock in lots of fun colors, but we’re also committed to growing in a measured and sustainable way. 

New Hires

Speaking of growing, we’ve recently added some new hires to our team! On the Production side, we’ve welcomed nine new expert members to QA, bartacking, joining, and subassembly. We’re gradually expanding our Production capacity, even growing into our overflow warehouse space to make sure we can accommodate additional machinery. More bios will be added to our site soon! 

The summer has also been a great time for us to bring on interns from local Seattle universities to our team. They’ve been sharing their creativity with us in Design and Social Media. Lots of new content is being released almost everyday on our Social Media channels, stay tuned if you want to keep up with the latest. 


carol - April 17, 2024

I’m not familiar with the bag in the photo at the top of this blog post. Can anyone enlighten me? Thanks!
Great post by the way. So loving my Side Hustle!
TOM BIHN replied:
Hi Carol!

That’s the Bantam <>! We have some in the works, but they’re a little ways out still. If you have to the Bantam page on the website, you’ll be able to sign up for an email alert so we can let you know the moment they’re ready to order. =)

Please let us know if there’s anything else we can help with!


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gordon - December 17, 2023

I ordered a daylight backpack just days before the halcyon 400 option appeared. Trying to be stoical about it, and I think I’m going to be OK, but that taiga looks soooo nice. Really hope you find a replacement for the 400. Some bags are OK in ballistic, but some are so much better in halcyon. Specifially thinking about the synapse. Looks fabulous in halcyon, but looks seriously dadcore in ballistic. Hopefully the minimalist vibe of the DLBP will smash it in Aubergine ballistic.

Laurey - November 8, 2023

What I wish for is a well-designed, zippered international travel wallet. I currently use an Eagle Creek version and it fits my needs reasonably well, but it does not attach readily to my bags and is too big where it doesn’t need to be. I’m now looking at a Bellroy, which has style and utility, but no way to hook it and no coin section. The latter is vital, even in our contactless world, as tipping, bathrooms, laundry, etc. often require change – sometimes lots of change. I usually go for a low-key color in wallets so as to not advertise my money, but lately I’ve wanted more color to make my wallet rapidly identifiable out of the other items in my bag, on my hotel bed, in my rental car, etc. If anyone is up to the challenge (and has the colors), you guys are :)

Noa - October 25, 2023

Hi! I’m still trying to save up for and decide on which bag. I know the Night Walk hue is no longer being made but a color like that with the moss interior in a makers bag or Synik would be heavenly! As would the other messenger bags. Keeping tabs on eBay but some are going for way more than I can spend:/

Bob-o - October 17, 2023

That is some sad news about 1050d ballistic. . .

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We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.