Early one morning I was going through OmniFocus to see what I needed to change into a project and what I needed to delete from my life. I was brain dumping a bunch of stuff for my upcoming adventure to SXSi and I realized that the kit I wanted to carry around with me, while in attendance, doesn’t fit in my current bag. Crap.
At the very least I determined that I needed to carry my iPad, MiFi, and Canon G9 with me (iPhone in my pocket). I have two bags and even the biggest one is too small to carry the bulky Canon G9. I was stuck trying to decide if I should get a new camera or a new bag to carry this stuff. Common sense won out and I decided that if I get anything it should be a new bag…
This thought killed me — just sold five bags, two of which would have worked. My desire to own less stuff came back to bite.
It’s late for me, 9:00pm or so and my wife is intent on watching a TV show that I prefer not to watch — I am looking at bags. I decide that no matter what, I better pull the trigger — I need a bag that can hold extra stuff for all the travel I hope and plan to do this year. I buy a bag from a local Seattle company…
It will be at my door soon.
For whatever reason UPS in my neighborhood doesn’t deliver goods until 7:30pm or so — a major bone of contention I hold as an official stock holder in the company.
A knock at the door, with some scuffle. The bag is here.
I decide that I should try out the bag so that I can write about it and return it if needed. The bag is both bigger than I expect and, yet, somehow smaller than I thought. I fret that it won’t hold what I need it to.
I unpack my ‘old’ bag and surprise myself that there is only a few items that need to be stowed elsewhere. I carefully plan how I want to organize the new bag — it’s a zen moment for bag lovers.
I carefully load the bag.
I notice that unlike my old bag there is less compartments and it has more of an open feel. Things could fall out if not stored in a proper location — or if you decide to stupidly flip the bag upside down with the lid closed (it happens).
I load the bag with the following:
- 13” MacBook Air
- iPad w/ Apple Case (get over the fact that I like the Apple case)
- Micro USB to USB cable (6”)
- Dock connector cable
- Two credit cards
- Office key
- Apple microfiber cloth for cleaning everything
- 5 USB thumb drives (emergency back up and data off loading tools)
- Business cards
- Bose In-Ear headphones
- One of those slim floppy Moleskins
- Pilot G2, Blue
- Monte Blanc rollerball
- iPad camera connection kit
Everything fits beautifully, but then I knew that it would.
The real test is when I go to put in the last item: the Canon G9.
I carefully take stock of where everything is and decide that I should put the G9 into the main compartment — seems like a good spot right with my iPad. It slides in, barely, and after looking at it I pull it back out.
I then slide it in the front compartment where my pens and MiFi is held in place. Ohh it fits right there rather nicely. The bag snaps shut and everything looks ready to rock and roll. (I am already late for work.)
I go to put the bag on and notice a strap at the back of the bag. It has one of those straps that can go around your waist if you decide that petrol based transportation is not for you.1 This helps to keep the bag securely on your body, but I doubt I will need it for walking up and down a few flights of stairs — it also won’t help when I bank onto the freeway at 70 MPH. Luckily, unlike with most bags, you can quickly remove this strap with what is a rather ingenious buckle system.
I head down the five flights of stairs and notice immediately that this bag is far more comfortable on my shoulder than my current Booq Taipan Slim2 and I rather like the way it feels. The bag feels like it is rolled to conform with my body, but it is too early to tell.
Arriving at my office brought about the next crucial task for this new bag: unpacking. I have had bags where getting my goods back out of them becomes a real chore and that is never fun. This bag unpacked quite nicely and in fact I had no problems at all. Everything was in place where I put it, which honestly surprises me since nothing really fits snuggly in any of the compartments.
When I pulled the MacBook Air out of the only padded sleeve on the device I noticed that unlike my other bags the compartment is actually only a soft material on one side (the side that would touching the top of the laptop if you stowed the laptop with the bottom of the laptop facing your body). I found this odd and slightly concerning — I don’t expect anything in the bag to give scratches to my Air, but a plush velvety compartment is always welcomed..
With everything out of the bag I tossed it into the corner where it will sit until it’s time to head home — I noticed something else when I did this. Most of the bags I have used are fairly rigid in construction — when they are empty you would be hard pressed to see the difference between when they are full. That is not the case with this bag, it is only semi-rigid and will not fold in half when it is leaned against a wall, but it also looks empty when it is, in fact, empty.
After a long day standing at my desk it is finally time to head home. Interestingly I have only pulled two things out of my bag all day, the MacBook Air and my iPad. In the past I would have to make sure that I put the iPad in the bag first, then the MacBook Air — otherwise it was too tight of a fit to easily get the iPad into my bag. I put the new bag on my desk and load in the Air, toss in the iPad and latch the flap.
Then I notice that because I have a lot of extra room in the bag, the strap at the front can and should be tightened up a bit. I doubt this flap will ever be snug enough for me not to worry about a thumb drive that is kicking around not falling out, but it doesn’t hurt to tighten the strap.
The last test of the day is the carry from my car, up five flights of stairs, and into my place. I typically move up the stairs as quickly as possible to get the blood pumping, today was no exception. In the past when I have worn a bag using a shoulder strap I would notice that it would bounce around and sway from side to side as I climb the stairs — not this time though.
Given the vertical orientation of the bag (versus the horizontal orientation that most messenger bags take) I found that the bag actually seemed to hug my back and stay in pace more readily. There was still some movement, but not enough to be annoying by any degree. When I wore a bag over my shoulder there would usually be some part of the stair climb where my bag would inadvertently bump into the railing — not with this bag though and that is a huge relief.
I was a tad nervous ordering from Tom Bihn since I had never seen one of their products in person. To call their bags beautiful would be a stretch — these are utilitarian bags, beautiful to a select few and just another bag to everyone else. The materials, fit and finish of the bag is very good and I think these bags are a great value for the cost (this one was $120). There is very little metal on the bag, preferring plastic for the connectors and shoulder strap — there are drawbacks to both metal and plastic:
- Plastic tends to break easily.
- Metal tends to bend and at times squeak.
I think the connectors on this bag will hold up just fine — they are made from incredibly thick chunks of plastic. After using the bag for a few days I think the only thing I wish the bag had was a fully padded bottom. As it is the only padded area is the compartment for your computer — the rest is just one layer of nylon. The benefit of doing it this way is a slim and light bag — the cost is that items like your iPad and Camera are susceptible to dropping the bag. Really, if you think about it, most of us are prone to setting our bags down to quickly on tables — an action that could damage your gear inside without a fully padded bag.
I highly recommend this bag and I suspect I will get a lot of use out of it in the coming year, oh yeah — the bag I bought was a Tom Bihn Ristretto for 13” MacBook/Air.