Bags

Tote Bags: Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of questions (and answers) that we’re asked — or anticipate we will be asked — about our various tote bag designs. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, feel free to emailus@tombihn.com.

  1. You offer five different tote bag designs (not counting different sizes). Can you tell me a little about each of them?
  2. Which of the tote designs is right for me?
  3. Why do you offer so many different tote bag designs?
  4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a tote bag with a zipper top?
  5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a tote bag with an open top?
  6. How do people typically use their tote bags?
  7. Which of the totes can be carried on the shoulder as well as in hand?
  8. Have you considered making the handles/shoulder straps adjustable in length?
  9. What are the key differences between a tote and a duffel bag?
  10. I want to add some additional organization to my tote. Which accessories fit in which totes?
  11. If I knew I was going to be stranded on a deserted island, which tote bag would you recommend that I take with me?
  12. 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 pet rock. So, which tote?

New: Aeronaut Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt

We present for your use two new accessories for the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45 convertible travel bags: the Aeronaut 30 or 45 Internal Frame and the Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt. Tom and Nik designed both accessories to work with all versions of Aeronauts.

Both frame and belt are designed to add comfort and structure to the experience of carrying a more heavily-packed Aeronaut in backpack mode while waiting in long lines (well, let’s hope not) at the airport or choosing to make a long trek across town to one’s hotel on foot.

We figure most folks will pair the Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt with the Aeronaut Internal Frame, but some may use just the Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt or just the Aeronaut Internal Frame. For more about all of that, see our Aeronaut: Frequently Asked Questions post.

Aeronaut 30 or 45 Internal Frame

The Aeronaut 30 or 45 Internal Frames are made of die-cut 0.055” / 1.4mm thick High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), with a nylon webbing sleeve sewn down the center that encases a 1” / 25mm wide 6061 aluminum stay pre-bent to achieve a generic spinal curve.

Both sizes of frame feature four pie-slice cut-outs that save a bit of weight, but more importantly allow the frame to flex/twist with you as walk.

Installing the Aeronaut 30 and 45 Internal Frames is pretty straight-forward; see our step-by-step instructions here.

Both Aeronaut Internal Frames are in-stock and ready to ship.

Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt

The Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt is designed to allow you to carry some of the weight of a loaded Aeronaut on your hips rather than on just your shoulders.

Tom and Nik worked together to engineer a design solution that allows one to add the Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt to any version/generation/era of Aeronaut while offering a truly integrated carrying experience — almost as if the Padded Hip Belt was integrated into the design of the Aeronaut all along.

Note that the Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt will perform best for folks between 5’2″ – 6’0″—depending, of course, on the length of the person’s torso. If you’re on the shorter end of that range and have a short torso, the Padded Hip Belt may hit you a little lower than you’d like. If you’re on the taller end of that range with a longer torso, the Padded Hip Belt may ride a little higher than you’d like.

The Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt is in-stock and ready to ship.

More reading:
Aeronaut Frequently Asked Questions
How to Install the Aeronaut Internal Frame + Padded Hip Belt
Our Guide to Internal Frames
History of Padded Hip Belts

The Aeronaut Travel Bag: Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of questions (and answers) that we’re asked — or anticipate we will be asked — about the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45 travel bags. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, feel free to emailus@tombihn.com

  1. How did Tom come up with the design of the Aeronaut?
  2. What does Tom consider to be some of the more unique features and aspects of the Aeronaut design?
  3. Does the Aeronaut meet with all airline carry-on standards?
  4. Will the Aeronaut fit under the seat in front of me on the airplane?
  5. Is the Aeronaut a good bag for road trips or train trips too?
  6. Can I use the Aeronaut as a hiking backpack once I reach my destination?
  7. What if I’m traveling to a conference and I want to “one bag” it—will it work to carry my Aeronaut as my Everyday Carry (EDC) bag?
  8. How much of a difference do the optional Aeronaut Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt make? Do I need them?
  9. Can I use just the Internal Frame or just the Padded Hip Belt, or are both necessary?
  10. Why not just include the Internal Frame and sew in the Padded Hip Belt?
  11. I’m trying to choose between between the Aeronaut and the Synapse 25. Help me out here: what are the advantages of each?
  12. Is a shoulder strap included with the Aeronaut?
  13. How can I pack my Aeronaut so as to maximize comfort for sustained carrying?
  14. Are Packing Cubes necessary for packing the Aeronaut efficiently?
  15. What are the benefits of using Packing Cubes?
  16. How do people use the o-rings in the Aeronaut?
  17. What’s the maximum weight that the Aeronaut can hold?
  18. I use wheeled roll-aboard luggage now. Will the Aeronaut work better than that for me?
  19. Does the Aeronaut have a compartment for my laptop?
  20. Have you considered adding a laptop compartment to the Aeronaut?
  21. What causes the zippers on the Aeronaut to be a little stiff?
  22. Can I lock the zippers of my Aeronaut?
  23. I’m 5’2″ and not so big. Which size of Aeronaut is right for me?
  24. I’m 6’2” and pretty big. Is the Aeronaut for me?

Previously unreleased videos (Part II: Synapse 25 and Western Flyer)

In this series, we’re sharing some packing videos we’ve had but never posted.  In Part I, we featured the Aeronaut 45 and Aeronaut 30.  Today we’re bringing you Part II: Synapse 25 and Western Flyer.

The Synapse 25 and the Western Flyer are organizational powerhouses.  They both have clever internal and external compartments and pockets that make them easy to pack and carry with little forethought or additional accessories.  We show them here with a number of cubes and pouches** to give you an idea of what they can hold and different ways you can use them.

** Click the links below to see updated versions of this item.

Synapse 25

Accessories used:

00:15   Tri-Star Medium Packing Cube **
00:24   Packing Cube Shoulder Bag
01:09   Cubelet
01:34   Side Effect
01:51   3D Clear Organizer Cube

Western Flyer


Accessories used:
00:10   Cubelet
00:22   Key Strap, 8”
00:33   3D Clear Organizer Cube and Key Strap, 16”
00:56   Western Flyer Medium Packing Cube **
01:29   Cache (Tablet) **
01:46   Western Flyer Large Packing Cube **
02:01   Medium Halcyon Organizer Pouch and Key Strap, 16”

If you want more Packing Cube info, check out our Packing Cube FAQs.  For packing-related discussion and banter, head over to the Forums.

Birds, Coffee, and a Limited Edition Cafe Bag

TOM BIHN Limited Edition Cafe Bag for Birds & Beans
The limited edition Birds & Beans Cafe Bag out in the wild.

I grew up on the central coast of California, and remember being particularly excited to see any birds of prey. Mostly I’d see red-tail hawks and sparrow hawks—now called American Kestrels. At the time I didn’t realize that all was not as it should be in the world of raptors; I didn’t know that these were the days when farmers still used DDT, and the paucity of birds of prey was the sad effect of DDT’s biomagnification. Happily DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, and now these many years later when I return to my old stomping grounds, I see not only my old friends the red-tailed hawks and American Kestrels, but peregrine falcons, ospreys, and bald eagles. Their return is really quite amazing, a testimony that when it comes to wildlife conservation, there is reason for hope.

However, DDT is still used outside the U.S., and habitat loss, light pollution, wind turbines, and feral cats are having devastating impacts on bird populations. With so many challenges, where do we begin? My personal recommendation is to begin as one would with any difficult task: with a strong cup of coffee.

Our friends over at Birds & Beans coffee roasters partner with organic and shade-grown coffee growers in Central America, helping their coffee plantations to not only produce great coffee, but be great bird habitats as well.

Tropical forests in Latin America have been disappearing at an alarming rate for decades. Without these forests as winter refuges, many bird species that migrate to and from North America for the nesting season, like Veeries and night hawks, are suffering dramatic population declines. Traditional shade coffee farming offers a buffer for the loss of these important forests, and scientific studies prove that these types of coffee farms are nearly as good as full forest for the biodiversity that provides both migratory and local birds with the habitats they need to thrive. Organic, shade grown family coffee farms that are Smithsonian-certified as Bird Friendly® are amazing habitats for the birds we love. Indeed, not just birds, but the family farming that supports viable local rural communities in Latin America are under ongoing threat of giving way to large-scale “sun” farms. Sun farms require clear cutting trees and use heavy chemicals to grow coffee, resulting in less work for farming communities. Buying and drinking Bird Friendly coffee such as Birds & Beans helps save birds, family farms, local rural communities and the Earth we all share.

Every bean in every bag of Birds & Beans coffee is certified shade grown, Bird Friendly, USDA Organic and Fair Trade.

To help support the Bird Friendly coffee mission, we made a special edition Small Café bag, available only from Birds & Beans.

TOM BIHN Limited Edition Cafe Bag for Birds & Beans

TOM BIHN supplies Birds & Beans coffee to our production and fulfillment crew here in Seattle. Stop by and we’ll pour you a cup to try.

New Luminary Backpacks Are In The Works


Tom sews one of the new Luminary prototypes in his design studio.

Tom has made a couple of design updates to the original Luminary. Most notably, he’s made the right side pocket large enough to fit phablets such as the iPhone Plus and the HTC U Ultra; the left side pocket is a bit bigger too (wider actually) than the first iteration of the Luminary. The asymmetrical height of the pockets makes the main compartment zipper extend further down one side than the other, which we think looks kinda cool. Yet Tom was able to nudge things around so that the new Luminary’s main compartment zipper still opens just as wide as the older version – about 44 cm or 17.4”.

Concurrent with the redesign of the Luminary was the development of a new, larger Luminary—the Luminary 14. Its shoulder straps and over-all height are intended to better fit taller and/or broader folks, and its padded back compartment can fit up to a 13” laptop. The Luminary 14 can hold noticeably more than the original Luminary (henceforth to be known as the Luminary 10), yet is still quite a modest sized pack. (For those paying close attention: we re-measured the volume of the original Luminary when we were measuring this new size, and the original came in at a perfect 10 liters. Both were measured using our new volume measurement protocol, so we feel very confident abut these numbers — more on that some other time….).

Both the Luminary 10 and Luminary 14 are in the final stages of their creation: pattern adjustments are being made and Tom is working with Lisa, Fong, and Nik to ensure both bags are efficiently manufacturable. We expect the new Luminaries will be available for order sometime between July and September 2018. 

To sign up to be notified when the new Luminary 10 is available, visit the Luminary 10 page.

To be notified when the Luminary 14 is available for order, subscribe to our general mailing list or to our blog posts (that sign-up box is on the right). 


Various Luminary prototypes on Tom’s drafting table.

Previously unreleased videos (Part I: The Aeronauts 45 and 30)

Some months ago, we experimented making some packing videos but never got around to sharing them.  So here they are: a series of videos demonstrating how to pack a few of our popular bags.  Let us know what you think—if people like them, maybe we’ll be inspired to make more.

Part I: The Aeronauts 45 and 30

Besides snacks, dogs, and naps, there’s nothing we like more than the pleasure of packing a well-organized bag.  We’ve designed our travel bags (like both sizes of the Aeronaut) with strategically-placed compartments and pockets so they’ll pack like a dream right out of the box.  At the same time, using a few or several accessories allows you to customize your bag’s organization, whether a little or a lot.  That’s why we offer accessories in a bevy of shapes, sizes, styles, and colors.

These two videos demonstrate packing strategies for the Aeronaut 45 and the Aeronaut 30 using just a few accessories.**  Then the same stuff gets packed again, this time with the help of several more accessories.

** We’ve updated the design of a few items since making the videos; you can see the new versions by clicking on the links.

Aeronaut 45

Accessories Used

Just a Few:

00:50   Key Strap, 16”

A Few More:

03:01   Cache, Tablet **
03:38   Side Effect
04:09   Key Strap, 8″

Aeronaut 30

Accessories Used

Just a Few:

00:44   3D Clear Organizer Cube

A Few More:

02:32   Key Strap, 8”
03:01   Cubelet
03:43   Halcyon Organizer Pouch, Small [**It’s listed as Medium in video but seems smaller to me]
03:51   Key Strap, 8”

 

If you want more Packing Cube info, check out our Packing Cube FAQs.  For packing-related discussion and banter, head over to the Forums.

New Passport Pouches

Passport Pouch that fits four passports

We’ve increased the size of our original Passport Pouch so that it fits passports in protective plastic sleeves, thick passports with many pages, or as many as four passports—without making it too big to comfortably wear cross-body or around one’s waist. (The Passport Pouch can also simply be stowed inside of a bag.)

The previous dimensions of the Passport Pouch were 5.0″ (w) x 6.3″ (h) / 125 mm (w) x 160 (h).
The dimensions of the new Passport Pouch are 5.5″ (w) x 7.1″ (h) / 140 (w) x 180 (h) mm.

We also now offer our Passport Pouch in two versions:

Passport Pouch, Standard
A simple, straight-forward and well-made passport pouch, it gets the job done well. $22. Ships by April 13th.

Passport Pouch, RFID Blocking
Underneath its interior lining of Aether fabric, this version features a layer of a special metalized fabric that will effectively block detection or reading of RFID chips. $25. Ships by around late April.

You can sign up on the Passport Pouch page to be notified via email the moment either version of the Pouch is ready to ship.

Many thanks to Walker, Artdime, pammy, Cristina, and  habanero for providing feedback in the Forums about our Passport Pouch sizing.

Passport Holder by TOM BIHN

Passport and Document Wallet

New Packing Cubes

Our new Packing Cubes combine two of our light fabrics—Mesh and Aether—to achieve our goals of a Packing Cube design that doesn’t weigh much, allows one to see the contents of the Packing Cube without revealing too much and provides enough body and structure to make packing the cube easier. 

They’re available — in-stock and ready to ship — in sizes designed specifically to maximize the space and packing efficiency of our Aeronaut 45, Aeronaut 30, Tri-Star, and Western Flyer travel bags.

Wondering about the differences between our various Packing Cube options? Check out our Packing Cube Guide + Frequently Asked Questions.

Mesh

Our high-quality U.S.-made Mesh fabric offers two main benefits: first off, it allows you to see what’s inside the Packing Cube, but doesn’t make the contents so visible that the person behind you in line at the TSA checkpoint will know if you prefer boxers or briefs. Secondly, by its very nature (being mesh and all), it is a fabric that is mostly about its lack of fabric—it’s very light in weight.

Aether

Aether is an ultra-light, 100% nylon fabric from Japan. It has a unique and complex construction, combining 30 denier monofilament (warp and weft) with both 100 denier and 200 denier yarns in a micro-ripstop weave to further increase its tear strength. Aether is very light in weight yet provides an almost paper-like structure that we find helps to add some body to our Packing Cubes—which, in turn, makes them easier to pack.

New: Aeronaut 30 and 45 Laundry Packing Cubes
You asked for a Packing Cube version of Tom’s Laundry Stuff Sack, and here it is in two varieties: Small (fits t-shirts, socks, underwear, swimwear) and Large (fits pants, dresses, skirts and shirts). Basically, it’s a Packing Cube with two zippered compartments: one side is Mesh, one side is Aether, and between the two sides is an Aether divider. Clean clothes go in the Mesh side and dirty clothes go in the Aether side.

New: Island Aether
When the color swatches for our Aether fabric in Island came in, we knew we had a winner: not too dark, not too light, yet as vivid and inviting as tropical lagoon. It’s a perfect, utopian blue, and an excellent match to our 200d Halcyon in Island (though it’s worth noting that the Aether Island lacks the white grid of the 200d Halcyon and hence might be perceived as a bit darker). Island Aether joins our other colors of Aether: Wasabi, Ultraviolet, and Carbon.

Packing Cube Recommendations for the Pilot, Stowaway, Yeoman Duffel and more

We’ve decided to retire the sizes of Packing Cubes designed and sized for the Pilot, Night Flight Travel Duffel, Stowaway, Yeoman Duffel, and Hero’s Journey.

Choosing to retire designs is never an easy thing to do, but in this case, here’s why we made this choice: we offer a wide variety of Packing Cubes, Stuff Sacks, and Pouches that work well to organize these bags. Additionally, we’re a small company of 50 people who all work under the same roof here in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A and our production capacity is limited. Retiring these Packing Cubes will help free up production capacity so we can make more of other existing designs as well as new designs.

We’ve come up with a list of recommendations of alternative Packing Cubes for the aforementioned bags; read more to see that list.

News Briefs

The Pre-Order window for The Truck, Small + Large Zip-Top Shop Bags and Original Small Shop Bag has closed. Our factory will now begin making the pre-ordered bags. All but the Original Small Shop Bag (due to low numbers ordered) will be made available for pre-order once again in September.

We don’t have any current plans to make future production runs of The Hero’s Journey or Moveable Feast. You can sign up on their pages to be notified if/when we make more.

Three of our most popular briefcases are back in-stock: the Pilot, Cadet, and Daylight Briefcase.

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