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Which Size of Cafe Bag is Right for You?

We published this guide to the Cafe Bag back in 2015, and we're re-posting it now to reflect some changes to the Cafe Bag line.

The Cafe Bag is incredibly simple and versatile. Available in two sizes (Small and Medium) and an array of colors and fabrics, 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 both Cafe Bag sizes:

  • A large open-top main compartment
  • An asymmetrical flap that closes with a sturdy Duraflex buckle
  • A front zip pocket beneath the flap
  • A slanted, open-top pocket on the back of the bag
  • Attachment points for a waist strap (not included)

Cafe Bags come in three fabric choices:

  • a 525D HT Ballistic nylon exterior with a 210D HT Ballistic nylon interior
  • a 1000D Cordura exterior with a 420 HT nylon Parapack lining
  • a 400D Halcyon exterior with a 200D Halcyon lining

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

Particulars and usage examples


  • 350 cubic inches / 6 litres
  • 1.5” nylon webbing shoulder strap with grippy shoulder pad (optional upgrade: Ultrasuede Shoulder Strap Wrap), adjustable to 54"
  • 2 o-rings in the main compartment and 1 in the zip pocket
  • 4 pockets in main compartment: 3 for pens, 1 for a phone or tools

What fits:

TOM BIHN accessories: Freudian Slip (for Small Cafe Bag), Double Organizer Pouch (Small), Organizer Pouch (Mini, Small, Medium), Spiff Kit (Standard), Knitting Tool Pouches (all sizes), Q-Kit (all sizes), Side Effect (it does take up a lot of room though), Packing Cube (for Night Flight Travel Duffle), Clear Quarter Packing Cube, 3D Organizer Cube, Pocket Pouch, Stuff Sacks (Size 1, 2), Yarn Stuff Sacks (Size Small, Medium)

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), micro 4/3 camera

In use:

jujigatame organizes his EDC essentials in the Small Cafe Bag.


  • 475 cubic inches / 8 litres
  • 1.5” nylon webbing shoulder strap with grippy shoulder pad (optional upgrade: Ultrasuede Shoulder Strap Wrap), adjustable to 54"
  • 2 o-rings in the main compartment and 1 in the zip pocket
  • 4 pockets in main compartment: 2 for pens, 2 for a phone or tools

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), Packing Cubes (Tri-Star, Small; Western Flyer, Small; Aeronaut 30, Small or End Pocket; Pilot, Small), 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

In use:

DaMacGuy uses his Medium Cafe Bag as his work bag.

ncb4 squeezed a ton of DSLR equipment into her Medium Cafe Bag.

Toblerhaus packed her Medium Cafe Bag in tandem with her Brain Bag as carry-ons for a trip to Europe with her two kids.


Q: Does stuff fall out of the top compartment?

A: It's possible if the flap is unlatched and the bag gets turned upside down. In general, items stay put when the bag is in normal use. We recommend that you secure valuables inside a pouch with a Key Strap—that way, even if the pouch falls out of the bag, it will stay attached.

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

A: In general, yes! The total measurements of both bags fit within most airlines’ requirements for your secondary personal item. Please 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, members of the Forum report the following:

Small Cafe Bag: iPad mini; 7” tablets; iPad/iPad Air (very snug fit)

Medium Cafe Bag: all Small Cafe Bag items; plus iPad Pro, MacBook Air (or other 11” slim laptop); Macbook (12”)

Q: I am a guy. Will a Cafe Bag make me look like I am carrying a purse?

A: This is highly subjective, of course, but we think the answer is no. Lots and lots of guys on our Forum carry Cafe Bags of all sizes and colors. The general consensus, though, is that dark colors (Navy, Grey, Black) in the larger Medium size tend to look more “manly.” If it helps, don’t think of it as a bag; think of it as a “satchel."

Got a question we didn't answer? Ask the helpful denizens of the Forum.

1 comment

TB Crew

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.

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1 comment

  • Steven Glassman

    I originally bought my small Cafe in 2008, to better carry small electronics like a Kindle. For the last two years, I’ve been using it almost exclusively as a lightweight camera bg- it holds a dSLR with a good sized lens and a few small tools without any problem at all.

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