May 2, 2021

Which Size of Cafe Bag is Right for You?

A person wearing a Beaver Camo Medium Cafe Bag.

The Medium Cafe Bag

Above: the Medium Cafe Bag in Beaver Camo 1000d Cordura.

The Cafe Bag is incredibly simple and versatile. It was originally designed by Tom in 1991— read our Design Q&A with Tom: Cafe Bags blog post to learn more about the inspiration behind the design.

The Cafe Bag is typically available in two sizes: Small and Medium.

A few years back, we retired the Large Cafe Bag to create room in our production schedule for other designs. (As a small company that sews our in-demand bags in Seattle, our production capacity is limited.) Due to popular demand, we're bringing back the Large Cafe Bag one more time as part of our upcoming 5/6 Pre-Order event.

The Cafe Bag is available in an array of colors and fabrics  and it's great for hauling your everyday essentials. Classic and unobtrusive, it’s at home anywhere: the coffee shop, the office, the park, the movies, or on your next country stroll or bike ride to town. You can even use it as a minimalistic overnight bag (we admit that your mileage may vary with this one).

The Cafe Bag fits in any urban environment but is tough enough to take to the beach or on your next light hike. If you want to figure out which Cafe Bag will work for you, you can do what Forum member jujigatame did and fabricate a mock-up. No? Then maybe this guide will help.


Some design elements are common to all Cafe Bag sizes:

Cafe Bags come in three exterior fabric choices:

All three exterior fabric choices are lined with an interior of our 210d HT Ballistic nylon. You can read about each exterior fabric option on the Small, Medium, and Large Cafe Bag pages: scroll down below the description to the "Choosing an Exterior Fabric" section.

Every Cafe Bag also comes with one black 8” Key Strap.

Particulars and usage examples


Small Cafe Bag in Orange 152 Cordura

Small Cafe Bag worn by people of various heights


What fits:

TOM BIHN accessories: Freudian Slip (for Small Cafe Bag), Double Organizer Pouch (Small), Q-Kit (all sizes), Side Effect (it does take up a lot of room though), 3D Organizer CubeStuff Sacks (Size 1, 2)

Stuff: Hard or softcover book, 12-16 oz bottle, hat and gloves, sunglasses, box of 6 granola bars, notebook up to size A5, point and shoot camera, folded newspaper (not the Sunday Times, obviously), small camera



Medium Cafe Bag in Red Blend 1000d Cordura

Medium Cafe Bag worn side-by-side by people of various heights


What fits:

TOM BIHN accessories, in addition to all that will fit in the Small Cafe Bag: Freudian Slip (for Medium Cafe Bag), Double Organizer Pouch (Medium), Travel Stuff Sack (Size 3)

Stuff: Rolled-up T-shirt, 17-20 oz bottle, full-size magazine, notebook up to size A4, a change of socks and underwear, a compact umbrella, DSLR 

Large Cafe Bag

Large Cafe Bag in Olive 1000d Cordura

Large Cafe Bag being worn by people of various heights standing side-by-side


What fits:

TOM BIHN accessories, in addition to all that will fit in the Small or Medium Cafe Bag: Freudian Slip (for Large Cafe Bag), Travel Stuff Sack (Size 4)

Stuff: Rolled-up light jacket/rain shell/cardigan, a texbook, 24-32 oz bottle, a change of clothes minus pants

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: Do these bags count as a “personal item” on an airplane?

A: You bet! The total measurements of all three bags fit within most airlines’ requirements for your secondary personal item. Of course, it's always a good idea to make sure by checking with your specific airline.

Q: What tablets/laptops fit in each bag?

A: While exact fit is determined by whatever protective case you might be using on your device, folks fit the following:

Small Cafe Bag: fits devices up to the size of the 11" iPad Pro.

Medium Cafe Bag: fits devices up to the size of the 13" MacBook Pro.

Large Cafe Bag: fits devices up to the size of the Macbook Pro M1.

Q: Do the Cafe Bags have loops for the Caches?

A: No, they don't. The Caches fit into Cafe Bags they're listed on but they do not attach via the rail clips (though you will still get a pair, just in case you have other bags you want to attach them to!).

Q: What is the Ultrasuede Strap Wrap? How do I use it? In what instances would I need it?

A: The Ultrasuede Strap Wrap is just that, it's a wrap for your shoulder strap that is made of a faux suede called Ultrasuede. It's useful if you find the plastic pad on your Cafe Bag uncomfortable but also still want something other than the bare strap to rest it on your shoulder with.

All you do to use it is slide the plastic pad out of the way, attach the Ultrasuede Strap Wrap where your shoulder would naturally rest, and use it as a shoulder pad!

Q: Does stuff fall out of the top compartment?

A: Hasn't happened in our use of the Cafe Bags, and it's not something we can recall hearing over the years from customers, either. That said, it's possible if the flap is unlatched and the bag gets turned upside down. (While we generally support spontaneous cartwheels, we'd advise against them while one is wearing a Cafe Bag.) In general, items stay put when the bag is in normal use. You might want to secure stuff like your keys to the included Key Strap.

Q: How/What do I need to use the Messenger Stabilizer accessory?

A: You will need the messenger stabilizer and a Gatekeeper Waist Strap. You snap the messenger stabilizer onto the shoulder strap, connect the half of the Gatekeeper Waist Strap with the receiever to your bag, and buckle them together.

Q: Can the Messenger Stabilizer be used with the Absolute Strap?

A: No, the Absolute Strap is too wide for the Messenger Stabilizer to clip onto.

Q: Do the Cafe Bags have roll-aboard luggage pass-throughs?

A: No, the none of the Cafe bags have roll-aboard pass-throughs.

Q: Can I use the Stroller/Wheelchair Straps with these bags?

A: With the Large Cafe Bag, yes, as instructed! With the other two bags, no as they do not have the d-ring connection pieces needed to hook the bag.

Q: Red Book Cafe Bag when?

A: When the Creator becomes an Outlaw and the Jester becomes a Sage.



TB Crew - November 19, 2019

@MarkS We hear you: we treasure our Large Cafe Bags, too. Nonetheless, it won’t be returning. Maybe we’ll have to design something new in a similar size…

Jeff - November 19, 2019

@MarkS Try the Ristretto!

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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.