2018 Knitted Wearables For Our Crew

For several years now the wonderful people over on the TOM BIHN Ravelry group have made us a trove of hand-made gifts — hats, gloves, scarves, shawls and other wonderfully knitted, crocheted, and woven items.

The day of the holiday party is a busy one here at the TOM BIHN headquarters and factory in Seattle, and this year was no exception. We had vegetarian Chinese food (salt and pepper tofu, chow mein, fried rice, vegetable braised dry stir fry chow fun) and egg tarts and gluten-free, vegan red velvet brownies for dessert. It was also the day of our annual employee bag giveaway — when the rare bags with (very) minor flaws collected throughout the year from the factory floor are given away to each TB crew member via a number draw.

The real highlight of our party is when each crew member gets to choose a knitted/crocheted/woven item (this year, it was hats, scarves, cowls and shawls). And new this year, which added a lot of excitement: Forum member G42 gifted our entire crew with hand-made earrings. Each crew member was able to choose a knitted scarf, shawl, or cowl and a pair of earrings.

Photos of the party (taken by Jenny and Joe) — the crew, the food, knitted items, and earrings — are below, as are individual photos of each and every knitted item made for us.

Many thanks goes to the TOM BIHN Ravelry group for their dedication to this tradition. As you can see in the photos, it brings a lot of joy to us. Special thanks to Annie, a knitter and Ravelry member local to Seattle who coordinates the whole effort and delivers the knitted items.


2018 Recap

TOM BIHN Crew 2018
This is us at our holiday party! Note the guest of honor in the photo: June Johnson, TOM BIHN Production Manager Emeritus.


How we used to accept backorders and pre-orders, why we stopped, and why we began again to do so.

The really long FAQ all about how our new pre-order system works.

You guys told us you like the new pre-order system for new design debuts and we worked hard to make it as efficient as possible on the production/shipping/customer service side of things. To us, that means it was a success. We expect most major design debuts going forward (with the exception of the Cyber Monday debut) to be pre-order debuts.


Updates on the Luminary backpacks

We shared two updates on the Luminary backpacks:
New Luminary Backpacks Are In The Works
Update on the Luminary backpacks

And a third update — today (Tuesday, January 8th) Victor and Irma spread and Irma cut the PPB (pre-production batch) of the Luminary 14:


New or Updated Designs

On the left is Nik’s Minimalist Wallet #3 in Island. On the right, the wallet from which our photographer downsized.

Nik’s Minimalist Wallets
The Truck
Small Zip-Top Shop Bag
Large Zip-Top Shop Bag
Shadow Guide
Road Buddy Duffel 36
Road Buddy Duffel 60
Aeronaut 45 Internal Frame
Aeronaut 30 Internal Frame
Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt
Mesh/Aether Packing Cubes
Freudian Slips in 210d ballistic nylon colors
Tom’s Firewood Carrier

We debuted new Mesh/Aether Packing Cubes. Design criteria: packing cubes that don’t weigh much, allow one to see the contents of the Packing Cube without revealing too much and provide enough body and structure to make packing the cube easier. This also marked the debut of a new color of Aether: Island blue.

Based on feedback shared in our Forums, we adjusted the size of our Passport Pouch and decided to offer the new size in two versions: RFID-blocking and non-RFID-blocking.

We introduced totally optional internal frames and a padded hip belt for the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45 travel bags.

Our first pre-order of 2018 was for The Truck, Zip-Top Shop Bags, and a special production run of the Small Original Shop Bag.

We made Freudian Slips in a variety of 210d ballistic nylon colors.

Our last debut of 2018 featured four designs: Nik’s Minimalist Wallets, the Shadow Guide, Road Buddy Duffels, and Tom’s Firewood Carrier.


Retired Designs

The Field Journal Notebook bid its final farewell after returning from retirement one last time.

We retired the Packing Cubes sized specifically for the Pilot, Night Flight Travel Duffel, Stowaway, Hero’s Journey and Yeoman Duffels. We also made a list of the Packing Cubes and Stuff Sacks that work great in the place of those bag-specific cubes.


Essays, Reflections, Notable Posts

Tom sewing in the factory

Over the past several years, interest in designing bags has increased. We’ve given several tours to folks who want to become bag designers (including an eight-year-old who wanted to become a bag designer to earn enough money to help her family adopt a sister for her!) In this blog post, Tom shared his advice for prospective bag designers.

Darcy’s blog post On The Design Process: Inspiration, Timeline, Testing shares some insights on Tom and Nik’s design processes and explains a little bit why some new designs take so darn long to make their way to you (ahem, Luminaries….)

Chef Simoni shared another recipe with us and we got to interview him this time.

Tom’s thoughts on top-loader packs and why some people love ’em and others…. don’t.


Bag FAQs

Our Packing Cubes FAQ answers everything from “How necessary are Packing Cubes?” to “Should I fold, roll, or bundle pack my clothes in Packing Cubes?”

The Aeronaut 30/45 Travel Bags FAQ answers questions ranging from “What does Tom consider to be some of the more unique features and aspects of the Aeronaut design?” to “Why not just include the Internal Frame and sew in the Padded Hip Belt?” and “Can I lock the zippers of my Aeronaut?”.

Tote Bags: Frequently Asked Questions answers common wonderings such as “Why do you offer so many different tote bag designs?” and “If I knew I was going to be stranded on a deserted island, which tote bag would you recommend that I take with me?” and “I’m planning to take Ulysses by James Joyce, a water filter, my pet rock, an antique sugar bowl, a small adze, a picnic blanket, a jumbo bag of salt water taffy, and some antibiotics in case I need them for my rock. So, which tote?”



The photo posted by bouncing in the Forums that kicked off the “>”Post your favorite travel photo” thread.

Countron made its debut on the Forums.

kathryn on our forum asks for some bite-sized happiness, and the forum delivers!

Some amazing photos from our forum members!

A great discussion about why our members’ EDCs are their favorites.

Great suggestions from our forumites for two-bag travel combinations.


Guest Posts and Portable Culture Portraits

TOM BIHN Blog - Patti Digh Alexandria
Life is a Verb Campers Alison Campbell, Susan Lucas, and Jeanne d’Orleans on a meetup in Alexandria, Virginia. Photo from Patti Digh’s guest post for our blog.

Libraries Endure
Celebrating libraries with fun library factoids and a list of libraries to visit.

Patti Digh wrote a guest post for our blog all about how bags can create community.

Portable Culture Portraits
An interview series with members of the TOM BIHN Forums.




We released some previously unreleased videos that demonstrate some packing scenarios and tips for the Aeronaut 30, Aeronaut 45, Synapse 25, Western Flyer.


2018 Not Just Bags Gift Guide

A gift guide published on December 13th? Yeah, this year is feeling pretty last-minute to us. This is basically a list of what we’re giving this year so either click a link down below of the type that grabs your interest or just keep reading! We’re still searching for the just-right gifts for a few people on our lists, so feel free to share your gift ideas in the comments (maybe you’ll inspire us!) and if you want more gift-giving inspiration, check out our 2016 Gift Guide (Bags and Beyond) and Tom’s Simplified and (nearly) Painless 2017 Gift Guide.

The Gift of Trip Planning
Cookbooks and Coffee-Table Books
Small Gifts


The Gift of Trip Planning

Kat (part of our customer service crew here at TOM BIHN; artist behind one of the art cards that comes with Nik’s Minimalist Wallets) had everyone’s favorite gift idea so far and we wanted to highlight it:

I’m planning on gifting my dad with a “Trip Plan” (A couple of long weekends where we go off exploring the small towns on the Olympic Peninsula and then Eastern Washington in 2019). My dad likes travel but hates planning. 🙂

Clever, eh?



The folks at Meeples — a Seattle gaming cafe for table-top gamers — helped us come up with this list of tabletop games to give in 2018.

Cat Lady
Being the best cat lady you can in this Sushi Go-esque drafting/collection game.


Dinosaur Tea Party
A restored classic with updated rules from 1976, “Guess Who” (with a couple of tricks up its sleeves) with dinosaurs or; a game of civilized deduction.


Dungeon Mayhem
A quick game of tactical card combat to see who gets the party’s treasure from the makers of Dungeons and Dragons.


A tile drafting and laying game where the goal is to make your kingdom better than your friends’.


We also asked Matthew what his picks for 2018 were:

Betrayal Legacy
A game about wandering around a haunted house trying to solve the hauntings and get out. This is the legacy version of the hit game Betrayal at House on the Hill, so you’ll want a dedicated group (5 is recommended but you can have as few as 3) to play it.


Gloomhaven is a tactical strategy game that came out last year and soared to the top of #1 lists and was very difficult to get a hold of even with its high (for a board game) price tag of $140. It’s finally easily obtainable and a ton of fun. Like Betrayal Legacy above, it’s a legacy game so you’ll want a dedicated group of players (3-4 is best) to play it.


Cryptid and Decrypto
Similar sounding games and both deductive reasoning games but very different otherwise and both very good. Cryptid is about beating your fellow cryptozoologist to finding cryptids like Sasquatch and Nessie whereas Decrypto is about breaking your opponents codes while keeping yours secure.


Azul came out late last year and has been running a victory lap around the board game awards circuit this year, including earning the coveted Speil des Jahres for 2018. It’s on Matthew’s list to pick up since it’s as great 2-player game.

There’s so many worthy causes and great non-profits out there; we can’t possibly list them all. Nonetheless, here’s a few that are favorites of various folks here at TOM BIHN.

Several of us here at TOM BIHN plan to give gift donations this year. Darcy wanted a way to give a gift donation that’s tangible — something that she could hand to the recipient, or put in a stocking. (Additionally, she didn’t want to enter the recipient’s address lest they receive solicitations for future donations in the mail.) So, she worked with Designs By Reese to come up with the following generic gift donation card. (It’s possible something like this already exists out in the world; if it does, let us know about it in the comments.)

Download the gift donation card:
Greeting Card Size

Printing out the above file on your home printer will result in two greeting card sized donation cards. (A note on printing: these should be printed two-sided and horizontally to come out correctly.)

We also make the Donation Crane as a way people can give a tangible gift along with a donation to a non-profit. 100% of the $20 of the Donation Crane is donated to your choice of the following non-profits: Seattle Vet Center (Homeless Veterans Program), WildEarth Guardians, Electronic Frontier Foundation, NAACP, Equality Now, UNICEF, Human Rights Campaign, Feeding America.

Note: if you know that the recipient of your gift donation itemizes their tax return, makes large donations themselves, or if the gift donation you plan to give them is very large, you may actually want to enter the recipient’s name and information when you make the donation on their behalf so they can also receive the tax credit. We personally are making donations in the magnitude of $50-$200 and, according to our understanding of the tax code, the tax credit for that level of donation is not much. That said, we’re bag experts, not tax experts, so feel free to correct us if we’re wrong.

Speaking of Equality Now: they have their own holiday gift guide that features our Donation Crane amongst other items. Shopping their gift guide means a percentage of the sale goes directly to Equality Now.



For more bag-related gift-giving inspiration, see our blog post How To Choose A Bag As A Gift.


Large Zip-Top Shop Bag
Small Zip-Top Shop Bag

It’s one of those basic facts of the universe: everyone can use a good tote bag. Here’s how we’ll be gifting the Zip-Top Shop Bag this year: it will be part of the gift and the actual gift wrapping. Think about it: it zips at the top and can totally hide what’s inside, making it the ultimate reusable gift wrap. Pretty cool, eh?

There’s also our Original Large Shop Bag.


The Truck

Same thing applies with The Truck: everyone can use a good tote bag. And this one is meant to be quite the hauler: it’s tough and looks better the more you use it (and the more character it develops). The fact that it has an open-top and stands up on its own makes it a breeze to load.

One of our favorite ways to give The Truck is to put additional gifts inside of it. It’s like a gift basket, but the basket is way more usable, because, well, it’s The Truck. Ideas:

  • Cookbook, bottle of wine, olive oil, pickled and preserved ingredients
  • Board games, card games, snacks
  • Craft and unusual/rare beers
  • Beginner Knitter’s Kit: yarn, needles, knitting books and magazines


Road Buddy Duffel 36
Road Buddy Duffel 60

The duffel bag — yet another bag just about anyone can use. How is the Road Buddy different, you may ask? It’s incredibly well-made (thanks, Seattle factory crew!), made out of the best, most durable materials, and features a surprising amount of thoughtful, built-in organization. The Road Buddy 36 is great as a gym bag and the Road Buddy 60 is the ultimate road trip duffel.


Travel Tray

It’s been several years since we debuted the Travel Tray and we still get a ton of positive feedback about it. It’s often the first TOM BIHN item that someone who already uses our bags gets someone who doesn’t (yet).


Nik’s Minimalist Wallets

The reviews and photos are coming in and so far, it seems folks appreciate Nik’s Minimalist Wallets as much as we do. To give the Wallets as gifts: put a gift card in one side and a Donation Card in the other. Even one of our Donation Cranes can slip inside a pocket of the wallet.


Cookbooks & Coffee Table Books

Ottolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi
Ottolenghi. Simple. 30 minutes or less. Need we say more?


Season by Nik Sharma
We’ve been fans of the recipes Nik Sharma shares in the San Francisco Chronicle (see: Upside Down Fig Cake) and on his blog (see: Avocado Fries Two Ways) for a while now, so it was really exciting when he came out with Season.


Cooking in Iran: Regional Recipes and Kitchen Secrets by Najmieh Batmanglij
This is way more than a cookbook. It’s a journey, an adventure, and full of beautiful photography. It’s one of those cookbooks you sometimes cook with and sometimes just read through while on the couch with a glass of a wine.


Caribou Rainforest by David Moskowitz
In this new book from biologist, outdoor educator, and photographer David Moskowitz, the story of the possible extinction of the last mountain caribou herds found in Canada and the United States is told. It’s a story of heartbreak, hope and of learning with room for redemption. There’s no bad guys here: we’re all part of what happens and we can all be part of what happens next. A companion documentary and a list of actions one can take can be found at CaribouRainforest.org


Cut in Half: The Hidden World Inside Everyday Objects by Mike Warren, Photography by Jonothan Woodward
Have a person in your life who likes to take apart everything to see how it works? This book is for them.


Writers and Their Cats by Alison Nastasi
The philosopher Wittgenstein said — or I’ve seen him quoted as saying — that if a lion could talk, we would not understand it. This is an interesting thought, although the more I think about it the less I agree with what it seems to imply about either language, or lions, or both. But my 365 Day Cat Calendar recently gave me an excellent quotation along somewhat the same lines. Nan Porter (who ought to be a philosopher) said: “If cats could talk, they wouldn’t.”

— Ursula K. Leguin
(who is one of the writers featured in this book)


Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies by Dave Addey (Foreword by Matt Zoller Seitz)
For the person who loves fonts and science fiction movies.


Small Gifts

Maratac Peanut LED Flashlight
A very, very small LED flashlight. Secure to your keychain split ring or our Split Ring Key Strap.


Marley’s Monsters
Reusable facial rounds, unpaper towels, bento bags, and more. Check out their “Zero waste on the go” kit. Made in Eugene, Oregon.


Cycle Dog and West Paw Stuffed Dog Toys
It was all Skookum Dog Bats for the dogs of TOM BIHN until the Bat retired. Now where do we get quality Made in USA dog toys? Answer: Cycle Dog (Made in Portland, OR) and West Paw (Made in Bozeman, MT).


Critical Thinking Cards
These cards are a fun stocking stuffer for the right person (AKA someone who you know will appreciate checking their own biases or using the cards to point out yours!)


TOM BIHN Sketchbook & Pen
A unique square sketchbook and mini Bic blue and white writes-in-four-colors pen (the last of their kind; when these are gone, they’re gone for good).


Rumi Saffron
Started by a team of US military veterans, Rumi sources saffron from local Afghan farms and employs more than 1900 women in Herat, Afghanistan to hand-harvest the delicate crimson stigmas of the flowers. 0.5 Gram samples of their saffron are available and make a great small gift.


Camamu Soap: By Hand, With Heart
Handmade soaps with naturally-sourced scents. They also have sourced interesting accessories such as hand-knitted hemp wash cloths, Turkish towels, and handmade wooden soap dishes.

This post just wouldn’t be complete without an Ichiro photo bomb.


News Briefs

We posted a very early heads-up on our March 1st, 2019 (roughly 6%) price increase in the Forums along with news of Shop Bags in 210d ballistic nylon.

Ben Brooks has published a review of Nik’s Minimalist Wallets and @everydaycommentary posted about his every day carry step up (hint: it includes a Minimalist Wallet!)

Our 2018 Holiday Schedule is up. Check it out for important shipping deadlines and our holiday hours. P.S. Our Seattle Factory Showroom will be open the rare Saturday on December 8th from 10:00am until 2:00pm Pacific Time.

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