How it started
When 10-year-old Tom Bihn asked his parents for money to buy the equipment he wanted for his nascent outdoor adventures, they suggested two options: get an after-school job and earn the money, or "just figure out how to make it yourself." Up for the challenge, Tom chose the second option. His grandmother had an old Singer home sewing machine which his brother Dan helped get running; Tom's mom taught him how to sew and his dad provided the foundations of the necessary engineering.
More than 40 years later, Tom's still at it — designing and making the best backpacks, briefcases, and travel bags.
What We Make (or What Makes a TOM BIHN Bag a TOM BIHN Bag)
design: 30+ years of design experience.
"The design process is always evolving and varies from one bag to the next. The constant operating principal behind the process is this: I don't want to make something that is already out there. It has to be unique — work better, look better, last longer, fill a niche that no one else has filled. I keep in mind that, because our products last (almost) forever, I have a responsibility to make them be very useful and as handsome as possible as well: I personally don't like being around things that are not pleasing to the hand and eye, especially on a semi-permanent basis. I feel in a small way like an architect."—Tom Bihn
U.S. made, 1050 denier, high tenacity ballistic nylon fabric. YKK AquaGuard® water-repellent zippers. Superstrong Japanese Halcyon ripstop fabric. 500 and 1000 denier U.S. Cordura® nylon. Duraflex® and Nexus buckles. Double-plated, U.S. made metal snaphooks. When we can't find what we want, we design it and have it made — like our 250-lb-tested, acetal shoulder strap attachment rings, made for us in Georgia (U.S.A.).
We don't settle for less than the best: if there's a better fabric, a better zipper, a better anything out there, we'll find it. Of course the best materials don't guarantee a great bag: we've been making bags for quite a while, all along paying close attention to which materials work in specific applications and which may look good today but are likely to fail down the road (or trail).
There's no finer team than our Seattle factory crew. Many of our seamstresses have been sewing backpacks and bags for over 30 years — in fact, we have over 300 collective years of sewing experience in our factory. Tom works closely with the crew on refining the construction of his bags, relying on the crew to alert him to any details of the design or patterning that make cutting or sewing needlessly difficult or inefficient. Tom, Fong, Lisa, and the rest of the crew work as a team, tweaking new designs and refining current designs, adding new machines, binders, tools, cutting saws, and other laborsaving technology to further streamline (and at the same time humanize) our manufacturing process.
Much of the minutiae involved in creating our über-durable bags is so deeply ingrained in us that we often forget to mention it: we finish 100% of the inside seams of our bags; we reinforce critical areas, like where a handle or strap joins the rest of the bag, with multiple bar tacks; all nylon webbing is hot knifed (heat fused) so it won't fray; and though you'll never see it, many crucial panels are overlock stitched prior to being included in the final construction. All to ensure your bag won't give up, ever!
A Variety of Choices,
Lots of Options
We're a small company that behaves like we're a big company: we offer a rather large number of color options in many of our bags. And most of those colors are our own proprietary colors — colors you won't find anywhere else. Plus, you can customize your TOM BIHN bag purchase by choosing which shoulder strap works best for you, which size insert best fits your laptop, which combination of packing cubes will best suit your travel style. Finally, add zippered pouches and color-coded key straps to organize the interior of your TB bag.
Fong: Sewing Floor Manager
Tom says Fong is one of the smartest people he's ever met.
Ben: Materials Manager
History major. Builds his own motorcycles. Was a Naval Aircrewman.
Ling likes to cook traditional recipes and fruit dishes.
Son: Sewing Machine Mechanic
Son can fix anything.
Rudi's idea of the perfect Sunday: reading the newspaper and gardening.
Irma: Fabric Cutter
Irma likes to take vacations (we miss her quite a bit) and listen to Mexican music.
Aravelia: Quality Assurance Lead
Velia's favorite movie is Alice in Wonderland.
Ying: Sub-Assembly Prep
Ying loves to spend time with her family and grandchildren. And she loves watching tv!
Abdul likes soccer. In fact, he plays it every weekend.
Maria's favorite tv show is Sábado gigante
Edelmira: Sub-Assembly Prep
Edelmira prefers Mexican music above all other kinds.
Chun is an expert on Seattle's best Dim sum restaurants.
Wing's passion is music.
Zhong's favorite color is pink.
Lulu: Quality Assurance
Lulu's favorite movie is The Lion King.
Thuy loves to travel, near and far.
Yanhua loves listening to Chinese music.
Kim believes in karma and random acts of kindness.
Kasper is a 2-1/2 year old Irish Wolfhound mix going on six months.
Tao is an accomplished knitter. To relax, she cooks, specializing in amazing seafood dishes.
Yeah, you! You're part of our crew, too.
Tim: Warehouse Lead
Although Tim lives in the city, he'd someday like to live on a small farm.
June: Production Emerita
June can save the life of any houseplant and is pretty much good at everything she does.
Di likes to spend time with her grandchildren. And go shopping!
Andrea: Quality Assurance
Andrea loves to dance (to Spanish music!) and plays volleyball.
Kieu likes to go on urban walks. The secret to her good health? Eating lots of vegetables from her own garden.
Ichiro is a happy and vocal Lab/Husky mix. He's most at home hiking in the mountains but is pretty ok with hanging out at the factory.
Tam loves to watch soccer, travel, and listen to a wide variety of music.
Honguyen bakes amazing things. Amongst her specialties: cupcakes.
Darcy Gray: Chief Creative Officer and CEO
Most unusual hobby: hiking at night.
Lisa: Sewing Floor Manager
Lisa likes traveling to other countries and working in her garden.
Canh is masterful at making delicious Phở. We're trying to get her to share her recipe with us!
Nik: Director of Operations, Designer
Kitties and robots.
Dau loves traveling to and throughout Vietnam.
Matt: Shipping Lead
Matt moved back to Seattle after 5 years in Southern California. Matt is cold all of the time.
If Sheng's not at work, she's probably playing tennis or doing Karaoke.
Mo-Fong is an adventurous traveler and especially likes to visit countries she's never been to before.
Tom Bihn: President, Founder, Designer
Tom's favorite book is Young Men and Fire by Norman Maclean, and he plays the accordion.
Yin Mei: Seamstress
Mei likes to play Candy Crush. She's an accomplished cook and her specialties are baked chicken and cakes.
Candi plays the piano beautifully.
When she's not sewing at work, Luu loves to sew her own projects at home. She's also an excellent cook.
Matthew: Documentation Lead
Matthew loves games of all sorts. When he's not out exploring the city (and sometimes while he is) you can usually find him playing a game of some sort.
Araceli: Fabric Inspector/Spreader
When she's not at work, Araceli likes to sing, dance, and play the guitar.
Esther is an avid reader. Her favorite genres: mystery and romance.
Lily: The Boss
Even now that she's a tripawd dog, Lily navigates through the woods at high speed with grace and ease.
David's a bee keeper and in his spare time he works with us on factory stuff.