I’ve only had the bag a short time, so this is more of a preview and quick comparison, than any sort of review.
The difference between the two is the size. The overall depth the both bags is the same, at 9”, but the foot print is much smaller on the 23. Where the 33 is 14” wide, making it generally huge feeling, the 23 is a more moderate 12.6” wide. Heights are similar, which is one reason the smaller bag still works well for someone with my height: the 33 is 21.7” tall and the 23 is still 19.6”. Where you notice the size difference is in the width, not so much the height.
This all leads to a bag which is an excellent size all around. The 33 is a great size for day hikes, and travel, but the 23 is going to kick butt for everyday carry.
Where people might get tripped up is the laptop compartment, as it loses considerable space when compared to the 33. Here’s the note from Tom Bihn on it:
The Shadow Guide 23 liter easily fits 13” laptops and it may fit some thinner, smaller footprint 15” laptops, such as the last edition of the 15” MacBook Pro. It’s worth noting that the Shadow Guide 23 does not comfortably fit the 16” MacBook Pro.The Shadow Guide 33 liter fits all 15” laptops and many of the smaller 17” laptops such as the Dell XPS 17”.
I have both a 16” MacBook Pro, and a previous generation 13” MacBook Pro in our house here. The 16” will fit, but it is tricky to take in and out of the laptop area. You could put it in a sleeve in the main compartment just fine, but the laptop compartment really should not be considered a good option for those with 16” MacBook Pros. The 13” fits perfectly.
That’s the biggest trade off with the smaller bag, that it will not fit the larger laptops (I have to wonder what most people use, the 16” MacBook Pros are stupidly expensive so I wonder if this is bias because of the tech world I am surrounded by. I have to think most people buy the excellent MacBook Airs.). And it’s not even about the thickness, it’s the footprint of the 16” laptop being only a touch smaller than the compartment itself.
When I got the 33, it came in black, and that’s great, but I lusted after the Ursa color. For the 23, Tom Bihn sent over the Ursa colorway and my lusting was well warranted. This is a fantastic color and my favorite color Tom Bihn has produced in a bag thus far.
What’s nice about it is how subtle it is, playing well with the black accents on the bag, while not being overpowering. A great all around color for those tired of all black bags, but who still want something subtle and versatile.
Fit and Carry
Smaller bags are often tricky for me. With a long torso, bags are often to short to fall comfortably on my back. However the 23 fits very nicely, and I would have no issue carrying the bag comfortably for long stretches.
The rest of the bag is more of the same from the 33. Great shoulder straps, the new back panel is aces, and all around comfortable bag to carry. I love the easy to remove sternum and hip straps, both of which I always remove.
The only use I have had with the bag so far is for testing it out in specific scenarios just to write about it here. So there are only a handful things I can note:
- The laptop stuff above.
- I found that I wanted to hang more stuff from the inside attachment points, which works well. Make sure you have some of Tom Bihn’s little straps and pockets for this, it’s killer in this bag.
- If the lid is too heavy, it compressed the bag down. This is good on the 33, but a little odd looking on the 23. I am not sure why, and will need more out and about experience to dive into further.
The trick will be organizing your gear, but this bag affords for both those who want a black hole and those who want to specialize how they organize thier stuff.
I am looking forward to using it more, as I think the limited use I have had with it only hints at good things to come.
Compared to SG 33
Unless you carry a huge bag, or have a clear need for tons of space, th 23 is is the better size of the two. The 33 is a great travel size, it’s good if what you really carry is very bulky stuff. But for most daily setups, the 23 is going to be a vastly better size — but only if your laptop fits.
Small/no laptop, or carry an iPad only, the 23 is a no-brainer. Carry a large laptop, or want to use it as a single bag for travel, get the 33.
The 33 can be made to look smaller if needed, but that also applies to the 23.
The 23 should afford people enough room for a lunch, water bottle, office gear, and perhaps a change of shoes if your feet are not too large. It’s a fantastic bag and one to watch out for on next year’s Best List.
At $270, it’s a bargain for what you get. Ursa color gets my vote.
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