The classic yet ever-evolving TOM BIHN duffel bag.
Tried and proved true over 20 years (with a few updates along the way), the Road Buddy Duffel is our take on the go everywhere, go anywhere duffel bag: tough as nails, easy on the eyes, all with a good amount of built-in organization.
There’s two sizes of Road Buddy: 36 liters (Medium, basically, and that’s the page you’re on now) and 60 liters (Large — go here to see that size). Other than the difference in size, the two bags and their features are identical. Fully loaded, the 36 may squeak by as an airline carryon; unless very under-stuffed, the 60 likely will not.
The main compartment has the u-shaped curved opening we favor for duffels. Unlike a straight zipper across the top, the u-shaped opening allows one to zip open the main compartment, pull back the flap, and have high visibility of the main compartment and unhindered access to your stuff. The underside of this main compartment flap has a zippered mesh pocket that can fit a paperback book, first aid kit, or toiletries bag and two O-rings so you can clip optional Key Straps, Organizer Pouches, or similar for further organization.
On the interior end walls of the main compartment are four open-top organizational pockets (two on one end, two on the other) each with an O-ring directly above (that makes for four O-rings in the main compartment). These handy pockets can fit various small items: power supply, external hard drive, camera batteries, a pair of socks, snacks, etc. If your temperament or particular load don’t require these organizing pockets, no problem: unused, they disappear out of the way. Otherwise, the main compartment of the Road Buddy Duffel is wide, open, and ready for gym clothes, kids’ stuff, camp stove + cookware, or whatever else you need to carry.
The two end compartments easily stow shoes, a sweater or jacket, sleeping pad or other stuff. As you load these two end compartments they’ll act as bookends, providing the whole bag with structure for even easier packing. Each of the Road Buddy end compartments have one O-ring; snapped to one you’ll find the included 8” Key Strap Snaphook/Snaphook in Black. In this compartment you’ll also find a bag of eight Cord Zipper Pulls in Black (follow that link to the Cord Zipper Pulls page to see the other colors we have available).
There are two exterior zippered pockets on the ends of the Road Buddy; one is solid fabric and the other mesh. Both pockets are there ready for you to stow any items to which you need quick access. The mesh pocket, in particular, is useful for shoes, gym clothes, swimwear, your dog’s tennis balls or frisbee, or anything else that’s better exposed to air and sunlight; the facing fabric (the panel which forms the divider between the pocket and end compartment) of the mesh pocket is pleated so that the pocket can expand into its end compartment, giving you the option of using more room to store damp or smelly gear. Each of the exterior organizational pockets has one O-ring just in case you want to add more organization. Both zippers are set on the diagonal, making it easier to wiggle in objects that might otherwise be a little too large to fit in the opening.
External Webbing and Lash Straps
And here’s where things get even more interesting. You’ll find eight webbing loops on the exterior of the Road Buddy: two on the front side, four on the bottom of the bag and two on the back of the bag. Secured to the front loops and two of the bottom loops is a set of two included Road Buddy Lash Straps. Lash Straps are adjustable webbing and buckles that join forces to create a way for you to lash down and secure a jacket, hiking poles, ultralight folding chair, tripod, yoga mat, tent poles, or bedroll or blanket for your dog, or other items to the exterior of the Road Buddy.
This is easier shown than said, so here’s a couple photos demonstrating how this works.
Lash Straps securing a tripod to the side of the Road Buddy:
Lash Straps securing a jacket to the side of the Road Buddy:
As we mentioned above, one set of two Lash Straps is included with the Road Buddy because that's what we figure most folks will end up using. That said, it's possible to add two sets of Lash Straps to the Road Buddy. You can add a second set of Lash Straps to your Road Buddy using the drop-downs to the right or from the Road Buddy Lash Straps page.
Carry Methods: Handle or Shoulder Strap
The Road Buddy is intended to be carried in hand by its handle or via a shoulder strap.
When choosing to carry the Road Buddy via a shoulder strap, you’ll find two different places to clip the strap: two snaphook attachment points on the top of the bag (on either side of the main compartment opening) or two snaphook attachment points on the back side of the duffel.
There’s a couple of good reasons for all of this built-in flexibility and choice:
Want to be able to access the main compartment or end compartments of the Road Buddy Duffel while you’re carrying it cross-body or over-the-shoulder? Clip the shoulder strap to the attachment points on the top of the bag.
Or would you rather be able to access the external side zipper pockets while carrying the Road Buddy? In that use case, clip the shoulder strap to the attachment points on the back side of the bag. This is also the method that gives the duffel its most narrow profile as you carry it with a shoulder strap - a bit more civil when carrying it onto a crowded bus, train or plane.
Last but not least: some folks may choose to buy a second set of Road Buddy Lash Straps to use in conjunction with the set that’s included, and therefore may find themselves with two items lashed to the outside of the duffel — one item lashed to the back side and one item lashed to the front. In this use case, one would find it most comfortable to clip the shoulder strap to the snaphook attachment points on the top of the Road Buddy.
Included with the Road Buddy is our Standard Shoulder Strap. If you plan to carry the Road Buddy over-the-shoulder for extended periods, you may want to upgrade to our even-more-comfortable Absolute Shoulder Strap.
All external zippers on the Road Buddy are the renowned #10 YKK coil zippers. On the inside, you’ll find one #8 YKK coil zipper on the main compartment flap zipper.
Directly above where the end of any zipper terminates or begins (it’s a half full, half empty kind of thing) are webbing loops: grab the loop between your thumb and forefinger for some purchase on the bag while you zip its beefy zippers open or closed.
The History of the Design
The Road Buddy Duffel is a continuously evolving design. It was a quick hit in the mid 90's when it was first designed; people used the Road Buddy as a gym bag, go-to-the-beach bag, and even as a travel bag. Indeed, requests to make an air-travel focused version of the Road Buddy were what inspired the design that eventually evolved to become the Aeronaut 45 — one of our most popular and enduring designs.
Back to the duffels: in 2012, when we launched our Skookum Dog line of dog gear, we took the original Road Buddy duffel design and updated it with two new features: a zippered mesh pocket on the interior of the main compartment flap (like the Aeronaut) and webbing on the bottom and sides of the bag to which an included set of lash straps are affixed — handy for strapping a yoga mat, Camp Mat, tripod, rain shell or the like to the outside of the Duffel. It became the Skookum Dog Road Duffel.
In 2018, we brought it back again, keeping the two clever features we added for the Road Duffel, but making it once again a TOM BIHN duffel and once again a Road Buddy.
Now, nearly 30 years later, folks are still using some of those original Road Buddy duffels - we hope your Road Buddy will serve you well for as many years (or even more!)