Bags

Farewell to the Field Journal Notebook

TOM BIHN | The Field Journal Notebook Returns

Back in 2015 we made the decision to retire a number of designs including the Field Journal Notebook. And then, in 2016, we announced its return. Now, in 2018, we are once again retiring the Field Journal Notebook. This decision was made partly because of two materials supply related reasons: first, the Field Journal Notebook’s three-ring binder mechanism is no longer available, and second, the cost of the specially-produced-just-for-us FJN paper inserts/refills have gone up by a substantial amount that we’d rather not pass on to you.

And so here we find ourselves once again: the Field Journal Notebook is retiring and this time it’s for good. The currently available Field Journal Notebooks, accessories, and paper refills are the last of their kind. No more final batches will be made. (Go here to see the Field Journal Notebook and its accoutrements all in one place.)

Those of you who already own or plan to purchase a Field Journal Notebook may be wondering where you can find paper refills from here on out. The Field Journal Notebook accepts paper that is 5.5 x 8.5” which isn’t a terribly common size but not too rare. Here’s some paper refill options that can be obtained through Amazon:

Avery Mini Filler Paper, 5.5 x 8.5 Inches
Bright White 24lb Bond 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ Sheets
Ampad Graph-Ruled Refill Sheets

In addition, unpunched Half Letter or A5 (different but fairly similar sizes) paper can be acquired and an industrious person could make their own custom pages (or find one that works for them on sites like Etsy) and use a Mini 3-hole punch such as this one by Staples or an adjustable punch such as this one by Swingline to print and punch their own replacement pages.

Finally, there have been some helpful discussions about this on the forums, such as the Where to Buy FJN Insides, Field Journal Notebook Hole Spacing, and Field Journal Notebook threads, all of which are worth a look if you’re interested in more information about planners and hole punching for the Field Journal Notebook.

Many thanks goes out to our volunteer Forum Moderators moriond and Ilkyway for the links / information / tips referenced in this blog post.

And, as always… if you have questions about any of this, emailus@tombihn.com or give us a call at 1-800-729-9607 or 1+206-652-4123.

How to Choose a Bag to Give as a Gift

How To Choose A Bag As A Gift | Made in USA Gifts | Made in Seattle Gifts
Watercolor by Dan Bransfield. And the bag in the watercolor? That’s the Shop Bag, one of our go-to bags to give as a gift.

For the longest time, when folks asked us for advice on which bag to get a friend or family member, our response was: “You can’t go wrong with a Gift Certificate!” Since then, we’ve expanded our range of designs to include bags that will be useful to just about everyone — see this list of our favorite bags to give as gifts. And you’ve shared with us your stories of choosing a particular bag to give as a gift and having it be a hit. And we’ve given countless bags as gifts ourselves. So, here’s our guide to choosing a bag to give as a gift.

Our first recommendation remains the trusty Gift Certificate. That way, the lucky recipient will get to choose the exact bag and color they’d like to have. You can choose to have the Gift Certificate emailed to you so you can deliver it yourself, or delivered immediately to the recipient via email.

Our second recommendation: ask us for advice! Send a note to emailus@tombihn.com and or give us a call to talk with Mike, Kat, Matthew or Cody. We’re experts in helping people find the right bag for them and would be delighted at the chance to help you figure out the perfect gift! You can also crowd-source a winning gift by asking the kind and knowledgable folks in our Forums.

If you’re going the route of choosing the bag for your friend or family member, here are some things to consider:

Who is the bag for?
Think about your friend, loved one, work colleague or whoever you’re buying this bag for. What do they carry now? Do they pack their current bag to the brim, or do they have a lot of extra space? Do they currently carry a messenger bag or briefcase, or a backpack? Are they ultra-organized, do they wish they were organized, or are they happy with their joyful chaos of objects? Spend some time really thinking about the person for whom you’re buying the gift, and, if this isn’t a last minute thing, make a mental note to watch how they carry their stuff. Paying attention is how you can turn the good intention of a great gift into a “How did you know I needed this?! I didn’t even know I needed this!” kind of gift.

Do some sleuthing!
Ask the recipient of your generosity questions about their current bag and what they like and don’t like, and be sure to use a smokescreen so they don’t get the hint. Example: “Hey, Jennifer—I’m thinking of getting a new bag. Just curious… what would you look for in a new bag?”

What is the recipient’s organizational style?
Some people just throw their stuff in their bag, zip it up, and go. Others may prefer a lot of built-in organization, or modular organizers. How a person packs provides another clue about what bag style might suit them best.

Very generally, bags with larger and more open main compartments are great for people who like to cram or toss in their stuff, or for travelers who use the bundle packing method. Bags with multiple compartments can provide more structure, but may require more precise packing in order to look good and distribute weight evenly. Bags with lots of pockets, pen slots, and the like can keep small items organized. Bags of all types can be further customized and personalized with accessories.

Just sharing the love
If you’re still not sure what to get, or if all you really want is to be able to share TOM BIHN craftsmanship and design, we suggest choosing something that’s simple and widely useful.

The following bags and accessories are cited frequently as ones that Forum members reach for again and again. They’re designs we think many people will find useful and enjoy.

The zip-top Pop Tote is the new tote on the block. People have been requesting that Tom design a zip-top tote bag since, well, since before the turn of the century. He always thought it was a good idea, but none of his prototypes were substantially better than all the other zip totes out there—there were plenty of those, and if folks wanted them, there they were. But in the spring of 2017, Tom again applied himself to the task, and he came up with the Pop Tote, which, if we may say so ourselves, is the best zip-top tote in the world. Many people agreed and the first production run of Pop Totes sold out; more are being made and are estimated to ship by or on December 14th.

We designed the Travel Cubelet to serve as the perfect travel purse, and according to the early feedback and reviews, we just might’ve nailed it. (Shhh: our plan is to pack the Travel Cubelets we plan to give as gifts with our favorite travel-sized toiletries and necessities to create mini-amenities-kits.)

Because it folds up so teeny tiny, Pocket Travel Pillow is a great stocking-stuffer (or tuck it in a Travel Cubelet amenities kit — see above) for anyone who travels or commutes by bus, ferry, or train. The idea is this: take your down jacket or sweater and stuff it into the Pocket Travel Pillow. Voila!

Aeronaut 45 Convertible Travel Bag
Whether they travel by plane, train, or as part of a camel caravan, any astute adventurer will appreciate the durability of our three-compartment Aeronaut, which can be carried as a backpack, shoulder bag, or with the handles as the situation dictates. The 45 can hold a surprising amount of clothing and gear; if your recipient is a bit smaller in stature or wants to travel super light, we recommend the scaled-down Aeronaut 30.

Yeoman Duffel (sizes Mini, Small, Medium, and Large)
Hardworking and good-looking, the Yeoman Duffel is available in four sizes. You’ll be sure to find the perfect size to use for the gym, car or boat, or any time you need to haul gear. Made from 1050d Ballistic nylon, the Yeoman is prepared to survive almost anything, including the cargo hold of a plane.

Buying a gift for a person in your life who is outdoorsy, has dogs, and loves good quality gear? We recommend considering the Skookum Dog Camp Mat, Skookum Dog Citizen Canine and the Skookum Dog Road Duffel. Fun, functional, and Made in USA, these items are loved by canines and the human company they keep.

Cafe Shoulder Bags (sizes Small and Medium)
A quintessential “grab it and go” kind of bag, the Cafe Bag holds all of life’s little essentials. Comfortable to wear over the shoulder or cross-body, the Cafe Bag is available in a pleasing array of colors.

The Sprout Kid’s Backpack
Sized especially for kids between 4–8, the Sprout has all the thoughtful craftsmanship you’ll find in our adult-sized backpacks. It’s just smaller. And very cute.

Shop Bags
Made of bright and cheery Halcyon fabric, Shop Bags come in two sizes and are equipped with handy side pockets and comfortable padded handles. Not only for shopping, they make great toy organizers, car totes, and beach bags. (If you think they’d appreciate a beefier bag, check out the sturdy wonder that is the Moveable Feast Reusable Grocery Bag, made of 1050d Ballistic nylon.)

For the hiker on your list, you can’t go wrong with The Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 or The Guide’s Pack. Both are classics and will stand the tests of time in both looks and form. Choose The Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 for the person who you think will also use it as their EDC or The Guide’s Pack for a pack totally dedicated to the trail.

Travel Tray
The humble Travel Tray is a favorite of the TOM BIHN Forums: it holds all manner of little things you need when you travel; it’s flexible, squishable, and capacious, making it easy to tuck into your bag; and it’s brightly colored, so you won’t leave it behind on the hotel nightstand. It works well as a catch-all and organizer at home, too. And it’s now available in two sizes: Small and Large.

Travel Stuff Sacks
Available in four sizes, these stuff sacks can be used in any bag or around the house. They’re useful for color-coding different items, and are especially handy for holding things that don’t fit into flat or cube-shaped pouches. Great for stocking stuffers—or even serving as a stocking themselves!

Q-Kit
A good friend to anyone who’s got lots of little things to organize, the Q-Kit comes in two sizes to fit any bag. The Q-Kit is good for stuff like earbuds, change, phone chargers, laundromat tokens, kid treasures, and even dog (or human) treats.

Daylight Backpack 
A lightweight backpack that fits bigger kids and most adults, the endlessly-customizable Daylight Backpack is great for day trips, overnights, and daily carry.

Side Effect
A small bag that can be carried over the shoulder, worn around the waist, or carried by an optional loop strap. Loaded with pockets, it can be used as a purse or an organizer inside another bag. It’s also great for holding in-flight essentials.

RFID Passport Pouch
Carry up to three passports in this handy pouch, which blocks RFID chips from being scanned or read without your knowledge. You can wear it around your neck or waist, or clip it into your bag.

Still can’t decide? Crowd-source a winner by asking our Forums, send a note to our bag experts Mike, Matthew, Kat, and Cody at emailus@tombihn.com, or give us a call at 1-800-729-9607 (U.S. & Canada) or +1-206-652-4123 (other countries).

New: Guide’s Edition Synapse 25, Pop Tote, and Synapse Internal Frames

Meet our three latest designs…

The Guide’s Edition Synapse 25

The Pop Tote

Synapse 19 or Synapse 25 Internal Frame

Click the above links to go directly to the pages for the new designs to see all the details: photos, videos, specifications, full descriptions and more. Or, read on below for a summary of each of the new designs.

All three new designs are in production at our Seattle, Washington, USA factory. They will be available for order on Monday, November 27th at 8:00am PT and will ship the same day if ordered before 12:30pm PT (as long as they’re still in stock).

The Guide’s Edition Synapse 25

Status
In Production in Seattle, Washington, USA

Ready To Order / Ships On…
Monday, November 27th at 8:00am Pacific Time

Colors
Mars Red, Deep Blue, or Black (all with coyote trim and lining)

Sign Up To Be Notified When The Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 Ships
Go to the Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 page, click on any In Production color combination, and add your email address to the input field that appears below.

The Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 takes all of the same clever features, bountiful organization, and top-shelf build of the original Synapse 25 and walks it all a bit further up into the mountains, a bit deeper into the woods.

Rather than the all-too-common black zippers, hardware and webbing, the Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 has gone terrestrial: it’s trimmed and lined in Coyote brown. The resulting aesthetic might be taken as an homage to another time, but to our sensibilities, bags trimmed in Coyote seem to be a little more at home in the great outdoors. Brown blends in more readily with natural surroundings and doesn’t show dirt as much. When it does get a bit dusty or dirty, it looks like it’s supposed to. You might also find that the Guide’s Edition S25’s rugged good looks solicit more than a few smiles of appreciation when you’re back wandering the canyons of Gotham.

And it’s not just about the practical and handsome coyote trim–we’ve added several features to the Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 that allow you to carry gear specific to slightly more adventurous outdoor adventures:

— Included Removable/Adjustable Internal Frame with Pre-Bent Aluminum Stay

— Ice Axe Loop

— Accessory Strap Holders

See the Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 for more on these new features.

The Pop Tote

Status
In Production in Seattle, Washington, USA

Ready To Order / Ships On…
Monday, November 27th at 8:00am Pacific Time

Colors
Mars Red, Black, Olive, Cloud, Deep Blue, or Alphaviolet

Sign Up To Be Notified When The Pop Tote Ships
Go to the Pop Tote page, click on any In Production color combination, and add your email address to the input field that appears below.

People have been requesting that Tom design a zip-top tote bag since, well, since before the turn of the century. He always thought it was a good idea, but none of his prototypes were substantially better than all the other zip totes out there—there were plenty of those, and if folks wanted them, there they were.

But in the spring of 2017, Tom again applied himself to the task. The challenge of making a open-top bag that can zip securely shut is not perhaps self-evident, as Tom explains:

“The zipper and surrounding fabric—that is, all the material that allows the thing to shut up, also gets in the way when you desire a bag with a big, wide opening. Somewhat of a Catch-22. But sitting at my sewing machine with some scrap fabric and scissors, and finally a bit of time on my hands, I was able to create what I think is a successful compromise.”

By the end of summer Tom was satisfied. More than satisfied, he was stoked. Pop!

Synapse 19 or Synapse 25 Internal Frame

Status
In Production in Seattle, Washington, USA

Ready To Order / Ships On…
Monday, November 27th at 8:00am Pacific Time

Sign Up To Be Notified When The Synapse 19 or Synapse 25 Internal Frame Ships
Go to the Synapse 19 or Synapse 25 Internal Frame page, choose the Synapse 19 or Synapse 25 Internal Frame in the drop-down selection menu, and add your email address to the input field that appears below.

We present for your use these optional, removable internal frames with aluminum stays for the Synapse 19 and Synapse 25 backpacks. They’re designed to work with any generation of Synapse 19 or Synapse 25 that has rail loops.

The frames are made of die-cut .055” thick High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), with a nylon webbing sleeve sewn down the center that encases a 1” / 25mm wide 6061 aluminum stay that’s pre-bent to a generic spinal curve.

See also: our Guide To Backpack Frames.

Our Guide To Backpack Frames

Tom and Nik in the Seattle Factory

As with many things in life, deciding whether to use an internal frame—or if you even need one—is subjective: it’s based on how you plan to carry your backpack, what you plan to carry in it, and how carefully you’re willing to pack it. A lot of folks will find an internal frame useful, but not everyone will, and certainly not everyone needs one, especially those who carry smaller/lighter packs or less gear.

Our Hero’s Journey, Guide’s Pack, and Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 backpacks all come with internal frames included. Versions of the same internal frame are optional for our Synapse 19 and Synapse 25 backpacks. But just because we offer internal frames doesn’t mean they’re required; our goal with this guide is to give you the facts as we know them (experientially, theoretically, and historically) so you can make the decision as to what’s best for you and your carrying comfort.

Before we really dive into this, let’s start off making sure we’re all on the same page with the definitions:

External Frame
Many of the first “modern” outdoor packs (starting in the 1960s) utilized an external frame made of tubular aircraft aluminum – basically a lighter version of the old Trapper Nelson wood frame. The innovative addition of a padded hip belt allowed the user to transfer most of the load to their hips. The bag was generally packed with the heavy stuff up high, so the center of gravity could more easily shift to be over the hips. The rigidity of the frame allowed a fabric or mesh back panel to be stretched across it, creating air circulation between the pack and the user’s back. These packs were, and still are, very good for carrying heavy loads on relatively even trails. Off trail or cross-country travel was less fun, as that same high center of gravity became unwieldy with any sort of athletic jumping or clambering around.

Internal Frame
In the early 1970’s, manufacturers began introducing internal frame packs, hoping they could make something that performed better for high mountain and off-trail travel than rigid external frame packs. Many folks found these new packs to be a happy medium between clunky external frames and completely soft frameless packs. There have been numerous variations of internal frames developed over the years, some made of fiberglass, some plastic, some consisting only of one or two aluminum stays. Our version basically takes a frame sheet (see below) and adds a single bendable aluminum stay. Properly bent and shaped to conform to one’s spine, an internal frame (in this case, internal frame = frame sheet + aluminum stay) provides a degree of vertical stability that a simple frame sheet won’t, allowing one to lift some of a pack’s weight off the shoulders and onto the hips (even with just a 1″ webbing waist belt or a padded hip belt). This is in addition to the two benefits offered by a frame sheet: prevention of an overstuffed bag barreling out and a created barrier between pointy objects and the user’s back. Some users also like the way the stiffness of a pack with an internal frame can make it easier to load, as the pack won’t schlump over when it’s not on your back.

Frame Sheet
A “frame sheet” is a piece of thin plastic (something along the lines of what a milk jug is made from) that rides inside the backpack, against the back, separated from the user typically by some foam padding. The idea is that with a frame sheet, you needn’t be so concerned about hard or pointy objects in your pack poking through the foam padding and causing discomfort, plus your bag will be less likely to round off and become a beer barrel when over stuffed. Because a frame sheet doesn’t add significant vertical stability or rigidity, whether used with a hip belt or not, a frame sheet won’t do much to transfer the weight of the pack onto the user’s hips.

Frameless Pack
A pack without a frame sheet or internal frame. A frameless pack might even lack padding on the back panel (ala our Daylight Backpack) or it could have back padding and mesh (like our Brain Bag backpack). Some people choose to carry a large volume backpacking pack that entirely lacks any internal frame or frame sheet – see the Jensen Pack. Carefully and mindfully packing a frameless pack is an opportunity to save weight: the gear you carry serves as the support and maybe even the padding too.

Backpack Frame History
Plate from Light Weight Camping Equipment and How to Make It by Gerry Cunningham and Margaret Hansson.

trager-pack
Original Trapper Nelson wood pack frame, circa 1950s.


Early 1960’s Gerry aluminum pack frame — note the unpadded webbing hip belt.


Early internal frame — this one on an Alp Sport climbing rucksack.


Corduroy back panel of a frameless Jensen Pack.


Tom and Nik work on the internal frame for the Synapse: the evolution continues.


Synapse internal frame with our unique T-bar attachment.

Benefits of an Internal Frame

• On bags with a webbing or padded hip belt, the vertical stability facilitated by an internal frame with an aluminum stay can help to lift some of the pack’s weight on to one’s hips.

• It creates a hard back panel that prevents less-than-carefully packed objects like a thermos or DSLR from poking one in the back.

• It can prevent an overstuffed bag from barreling out against one’s back.

• To some folks, a rigid frame against their back (with padding between the frame and their pack) just feels right.

Why You Might Not Want to Use a Frame

• A frame adds weight to a bag. Our Synapse 25 internal frame weighs 9.6 oz / 272 grams and our Synapse 19 internal frame weighs 6.9 oz / 195 grams. In many cases, you can save the weight of a frame with careful and thoughtful packing.

• The rigidity offered by the internal frame becomes a liability when you’re squeezing your pack into the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you, or when you’re packing your backpack inside other luggage. (This is one of the reasons we design our internal frames to be removable.)

• Some folks simply prefer the feeling of a frameless or soft-back pack.

The TOM BIHN Approach to Internal Frames
Make them true internal frames with an aluminum stay, and make them optional.

In case you’ve just tuned into this station, we here at TOM BIHN have always advocated for exercising thoughtfulness when packing, taking care to pad some objects by wrapping them in clothing, and positioning others inside your pack just so for optimal carrying comfort. While this somewhat monastic approach to packing certainly has some acolytes, there are as always apostates as well, and thus we’ve had more than a few requests to offer a frame sheet option with our backpacks. Each of us pack differently, and paying attention to those differences helps us design options to meet the needs of the user, whether they’re a careful packer (like Tom) or more of a throw-it-in-and-go packer (like Darcy).

With this in mind, we designed a light and simple internal frame, originally for The Guide’s Pack, and then modified for the Hero’s Journey. So far so good. However, some of our customers, who, like us, seem never able to leave well enough alone, requested some sort of similar frame for our other packs. So there you have it: we’ve gone ahead and done it, and are now offering internal frames for the Synapse 19 and the Synapse 25 (as well as the Guide’s Edition Synapse 25).

They all feature the same basic materials and construction as the internal frames we’ve been making since 2015: die-cut .055” thick High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), with a nylon webbing sleeve sewn down the center, encasing a 1” /25mm wide 6061 aluminum stay. In all cases we’ve bent the stay to a generic spinal curve: we recommend you re-bend and/or adjust the curvature to best fit your own back. The stay is removable, in the unlikely case you are still an unbeliever and just want a frame sheet.

Both The Guide’s Pack and the Hero’s Journey are designed specifically to accept their purpose-built internal frames, with “pockets” in the lining to accept the lobes of their respective frames. Because the Synapses were not originally intended to accommodate an internal frame, they lack any particular allowance for the attachment of such a frame, and some modifications to the frame design were required. We took advantage of the loops for the Cache rails system to allow for retaining the internal frame inside the tops of those packs: a clever “T” bar holds the frame in place relative to the loops. (Watch this video to see how it works.)The lower edge of the internal frame floats free in the Synapses—we’ve found this isn’t much of an issue as the contents of the bag tend to hold this lower extreme in place.

These TOM BIHN bags include (come with) a removable internal frame with aluminum stay:
The Guide’s Pack
Guide’s Edition Synapse 25
Hero’s Journey

These TOM BIHN bags can be (optionally) purchased with a removable internal frame with aluminum stay:
Synapse 19
Synapse 25
(See also: the Synapse 19 or Synapse 25 Internal Frame page, where those frames can be purchased separately.)

So, do you need an internal frame for your backpack?

Our goal is to provide options in order to do our best to include everyone and help them carry a bag comfortably. In the end of course, it’s your call. We’d recommend considering the information we’ve outlined above and using your own discernment: figure out what’s best for you as opposed to whatever might be the current dogma in the world of outdoor gear. That might be carrying the heavier, classic external frame pack you’ve always loved, or going totally frameless and minimalist. You might mix it up depending on the load, the season, or length of trip. The Synapse’s internal frames are pretty easy to install and remove, so you may find yourself adding the frame for a long hike and removing it for a short weekend getaway.

We’ve made an effort to offer internal frames that provide all of the benefits without requiring a firm commitment: it’s totally optional whether you use one of our included or add-on internal frames. A bunch of us here at TOM BIHN are avid hikers and sometimes backpackers, and we choose to carry frame or frameless packs depending on where we’re going and what we’re carrying.


Perhaps the most important thing of all: going out into the world. The gear we take with us is continually evolving; our experience dictates what we carry.

Introducing The Travel Cubelet

The Travel Cubelet

Status
In Production in Seattle, Washington, USA

Ready To Order / Ships On…
Friday, October 27th at 8:00am Pacific Time

Colors
Island Halcyon, Northwest Sky Halcyon, Viridian, Mars Red, Grass, Black, Alphaviolet, Dawn

Sign Up To Be Notified When The Travel Cubelet Ships
Go to the Travel Cubelet page, click on any In Production color combination, and add your email address to the input field that appears below.

Shipping Options
U.S. — UPS Ground ($10) or USPS First Class or Priority Mail for orders under $49 ($7)
International — UPS Expedited ($30) or USPS First Class International for orders under $49 ($14)

Meet the Travel Cubelet—we humbly present it to you as the elusively perfect mini travel purse (maybe not so humbly after all…). ​It’s not too big…and not too small. It has ​lots of pockets—four, to be exact, including the main compartment—but not so many pockets that they would confound in use.

But wait, let’s go back to the beginning of the story! This summer, we introduced the Cubelet, a new style of Organizer Pouch. You guys liked it as much as we did, and gave us some feedback too: “The Cubelet is great. I’d like one that’s slightly bigger to fit my phablet” and “maybe with a little more organization” and “can you make it fit my 15-inch MacBook Pro?”

When we heard all that (well, except for the last one), a lightbulb went off: perhaps a larger Cubelet, with more organization, could be our elusive mini-travel-unicorn-bag?

Prototypes were made. Prototypes were tested. And we found our answer: yes.


It’s amazing how much can fit in the Travel Cubelet. In the photo above, it’s packed as an in-flight amenities bag.


The flight is over, you’ve reached your destination, and a few items are swapped out to make the Travel Cubelet your main carry.


The Travel Cubelet needn’t be stored away waiting for its next trip: it can also be used as an every day carry.

The First Bag I Made

Tom Bihn's G.I. Joe External Backpack and Ice Axe

When I was first learning to sew, I made backpacking equipment for my G.I. Joe. I was about ten years old at the time, and I had already moved on from “playing” with G.I. Joe: he got dragged out of early retirement as a model for my first attempts at making outdoor gear.

He was one of the “up-to-dated” versions of GI Joe, more or less as pictured with the flocked hair instead of plastic, and a matching flocked beard (see this article about the evolution of Joe).

I made a sleeping bag for Joe too. I don’t know what happened to that; I do recall it was a bit snug on Joe and its half-length side zipper barely closed.

Fast forward to 2015. As we embarked on the redesign our Seattle Factory Showroom, we decided to devote the only real wall in the showroom to our history: early designs, a down jacket I made, photos from over the years, and even the collection of letters of recommendation I received from various jobs that I had before starting my own business making bags. (Though you’re always welcome to come visit our factory, there is an online version of the History Wall just in case you can’t make it.)

Darcy asked me if I could remember the very first bag I ever made, and I shared the story of Joe’s pack. She asked if the original might be around somewhere and I said no. Seldom willing to take no for an answer, she then asked if I could make a replica, and I said sure.

When I set out to recreate Joe’s external frame backpack for the history wall in our Seattle Factory Showroom and headquarters, I had nothing but my memory to go on. On eBay I scored a G.I. Joe action figure of the same vintage of the one for which I had made the original. Having Joe back brought more memories of the pack itself, and I was able to re-create something thematically quite similar. I couldn’t help adding the tiny label, which of course the original lacked, and when I found some very small side release buckles, my internal 10-year-old couldn’t say no.

(And eBay yielded another tiny item which I’m pretty sure I never had: a GI Joe ice axe. It was too good to pass up, so it got incorporated into the new version as well. Interesting to note that I was only 13 – a few short years later – when I got my own ice axe for a backpacking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington: it’s an ice axe I still own and occasionally use.)

The 21st century version of the pack is yet an homage to that era as well: I made it from our 420 Parapack fabric, which back in 1970 was becoming a ubiquitous backpack fabric.

Tom Bihn's G.I. Joe External Backpack and Ice Axe

Tom Bihn's G.I. Joe External Backpack and Ice Axe

One Month In Italy

Zeke, the filmmmaker behind many of our videos, documented a 30 day trip through Northern Italy with his wife and son. In this post, Zeke shares an essay about the reasons for the trip, as well as the videos he captured: how his family packed for the trip, their favorite travel hacks, and their tour of Italy. 

The Videos

Episode I: How To Pack For 30 Day Trip Without Checking a Bag

Episode II:  Zeke’s Top Travel Hacks

Episode III:  One Month In Italy

The Essay

Ten years is a long time. That’s why my wife and I wanted to do something really special for our 10 year anniversary. We took a 30 day trip through Northern Italy with our 7 year old. With our 7 year old? Yes. Turns out, spending a month in a foreign country, changing towns every 3 to 6 days, and bringing along a 7 year old can sometimes make 30 days feel longer than 10 years! Of course, that’s nothing a bit of gelato can’t fix!

We started our adventure in Venice. Now, as a filmmaker and an entrepreneur, I’ve traveled all over the world, but Venice is unlike anyplace I’ve ever seen. At times it felt like we were in the middle of movie set, or a weird dream. Other times it felt like if we sneezed all the buildings would crumble to dust around us. Everything was beautifully old. The buildings and bridges that carry foot traffic over the canals are held together with what look like iron staples. There aren’t any cars. I mean, none. No bikes—at least, we didn’t see any. Everyone, and everything, moves around on foot. Everything about Venice was magical.

From Venice we took the train to Bellagio. If I could pick any place in the world to live all year long, it would be Bellagio in the summertime. It had all the magic and charm of Venice, but with 100 times the beauty. The town climbs out of a giant lake that is surrounded on all sides by mountains. Stunning. There’s no point in me describing it in detail. Watch the video. One of my favorite moments from the entire trip was when we were taking the ferry boat from one side of the lake to the other. A massive rainstorm rolled in on top of us. It turned the lake black. Most people on the ferry ran for cover, but I decided to stand out in it, getting soaked and soaking up the incredible views that surrounded me.

From Bellagio we went to Milan, then up almost to the northern border of Italy where my wife had planned a surprise. After a long drive, we started winding up a hill and arrived at a castle. Like going from one dream to another, we got to spend two nights IN a castle. It once belonged to one of the first kings of Italy. There are only a few guest rooms there, so it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves.

We were in Italy during Ferragosto, a holiday where most places close and most of the people go away on vacation. This was perfect for us as it meant small to no crowds almost everywhere we went. Enough stores and restaurants were open that we never went without. We were in Parma at the height of Ferragosto. So instead of crowds, it was mostly empty. The food in Parma was—never mind. I don’t want to rub it in, and it’s making me hungry just thinking about it. Parma was lovely and charming and that’s where our 7 year old realized that he and his friends at home all dress like slobs—his words (superhero T-shirts and silky basketball shorts). He decided from that point forward he wanted to dress sharp like the people he saw all over Italy. We bought him his first suit and that was that. It’s almost a year later now, and he has worn a blazer and a tie or bow tie nearly every day since. If you look close in the video, you’ll see the moment he went through this mental change. It’s when he’s trying on a suit for the first time. It’s become so much of his personality, I’m really happy that I caught the moment on film.

There’s really too much to write about: a 14 hour lightning storm in Tuscany where we stayed in a 500 year old tower, a view of ancient ruins from our balcony in Bologna, the food—everywhere. So much more.

During the few moments a week that my brain isn’t focused on what’s in front of me, it quickly drifts off to vivid memories from our 30 day trip through Italy. The moment is always followed by a deep feeling of peace and happiness. A smile. I’d do the trip all over again at least 100 times.

You asked, so here’s a list of some of the bags and accessories that Zeke and his family took on their trip. — TB Crew

Aeronaut 45
Night Flight Travel Duffel
Synapse 19
Shop Bags
Spiff Kits
3D Clear Organizer Cube
Side Effect
Key Straps
Clear Organizer Pouches
Q-Kit
Packing Cubes
Clear Quarter Packing Cube
RFID Passport Pouch

Summer 2017 Debut Guide

June 2017 Debut - TOM BIHN

Today’s Debuts
Stowaway Personal Carry-on Convertible Travel Briefcase / Backpack
Stowaway Packing Cubes
Luminary Backpack
Yeoman Duffel Packing Cubes
Cubelet
Airplane Baseball Cap, Cotton or Wool
Updated (O-ring placement was changed to accommodate the new Pouchkins) First/Second Aid Pouches with optional new First/Second Aid Pouchkins

And last but not at all least… two new fabrics in many new colors!
525d HT ballistic nylon
210 HT ballistic nylon

525 colors: Mars Red, Deep Blue, Black, Cloud, Alphaviolet, Olive
210 colors: Viridian, Dawn, Canyon, Grass, Cloud, Black

Debut Items That Are Ready to Ship…
Cubelet
Yeoman Duffel Packing Cubes
Airplane Baseball Cap, Cotton or Wool
First/Second Aid Pouch
First/Second Aid Pouchkins

Debut Items That Are In Production…
The Stowaway (Estimated Shipping Date: Early August)
Stowaway Packing Cubes (Estimated Shipping Date: Early August)
The Luminary (Late July)
Synapse 19 in 525 / 210 HT ballistic nylon (Late August)
Synapse 25 in 525 / 210 HT ballistic nylon (Mid-August)
Shop Bag in 210 HT ballistic nylon (Early September)
Small Cafe Bag in 525 / 210 HT ballistic nylon (Late July – Mid-August)
Medium Cafe Bag in 525 / 210 HT ballistic nylon (Late July – Mid-August)

New Videos
maverick’s Stowaway video
Stowaway
Stowaway Features
Luminary
Luminary Features
First/Second Aid Pouch + Pouchkins
Small and Medium Cafe Bag Features
525d HT Ballistic Nylon video for our Materials Glossary
210d HT Ballistic Nylon video for our Materials Glossary

The Debut In Photos

Stowaway

The Stowaway | TOM BIHN

Luminary

The Luminary | TOM BIHN

Cubelet

The Cubelet | TOM BIHN

Small Cafe Bag in 525 / 210 ballistic nylon

Small Cafe Bag in 525 ballistic nylon | TOM BIHN

Medium Cafe Bag in 525 / 210 ballistic nylon

Medium Cafe Bag | TOM BIHN

First Aid Pouch with Pouchkins

First Aid Kit | TOM BIHN

Second Aid Pouch with Pouchkins

Second Aid Kit | TOM BIHN

Airplane Baseball Cap, Cotton

TOM BIHN Cotton Baseball Cap

Airplane Baseball Cap, Wool

TOM BIHN Wool Baseball Cap

Yeoman Duffel Packing Cubes

Yeoman Duffel Packing Cubes

Design Update: Aeronaut 45

TOM BIHN Aeronaut 45 Design Updates

You know us: we can’t leave good enough alone. Our Aeronaut 45 maximum carry-on travel bag has been updated with a couple of new features and a few materials updates.

All Aeronaut 45s available for order have these new features.

#10 YKK Aquaguard Coil Zippers with Lockable Sliders

We’ve changed the #10 zipper sliders on the main compartment and both end compartments of the Aeronauts to be the same #10 YKK Aquaguard Coil Zippers with lockable sliders found on the Hero’s Journey — you can now easily add a luggage lock to any or all of these compartments. You might want to do this to add some security when your Aeronaut is unattended or out of sight. For example: leaving it with a concierge, walking with it on your back in crowds, or checking it with the airline. We recommend any of the commonly available TSA certified luggage locks. Don’t ever lock your bag? Es bueno — simply don’t use this feature.

TOM BIHN Aeronaut 45 with Locking Luggage Zippers

#8 YKK Aquaguard Coil Zippers

The diagonal end pocket zippers now feature #8 zippers, which are a bit easier to open and close than the #10 zippers. Nice when you’re trying to access those pockets when your Aeronaut is wedged into an overhead bin or under a seat. They’re still water repellant AquaGuard zippers, so we’ve got you covered.

TOM BIHN Aeronaut 45 #8 YKK Zipper

Interior Grab Handles

We added two simple webbing loop handles that are accessible only when the main hatch is unzipped. Tom noticed he wanted grab handles when he needed to move his Aeronaut in the middle of packing/unpacking it, like from the bed to the bureau. They drop to the inside and are only there when you need them.

TOM BIHN Aeronaut 45 Interior Grab Handle

3/8″ / 10mm Thick Removable Back Panel Foam Padding

The back panel foam padding is now 3/8″ / 10mm thick (it was originally 1/4″ / 6mm): this will provide you a bit more comfort if you’ve any pokey items in your Aeronaut. The additional thickness also translates into a tad more vertical stability/rigidity — it’s not an internal frame, but will provide a more comfortable carry when carried as a backpack. The foam wraps around the bottom a bit more as well, which yet again adds a bit more comfort when it’s on your back. It also is removable/swappable (thanks to a zipper hidden inside the lining) so you can replace it if it ever gets creased or crushed (unlikely, but foam can age over time with lots of heavy use), and/or remove it entirely if you don’t find you need it and want to save the weight/bulk.

Aeronaut 45 Padded Back Panel

#5 YKK Vislon® Molded Tooth Zippers

Finally, the short zippers that create and define the interior compartments are now molded tooth Vislon rather than coil. You’ll find they are a bit easier to zip and unzip, in case you do that sort of thing much.

#5 YKK Vislon® Molded Tooth Zipper TOM BIHN Aeronaut 45

The new Aeronaut 45 is also the first bag to mark the return of our Portable Culture logo label; more on that here.

Design Update: Parental Unit

TOM BIHN Parental Unit Design Updates

Tom has made several design updates to our Parental Unit diaper bag inspired by feedback posted on our Forums, shared with us by friends and family who use the P.U., and Tom’s observations of it in use.

All Parental Units available for order include these new features and updates.

We’ve also introduced a new accessory — Wheelchair or Stroller Straps — that allows one to hang the Parental Unit on the back of a stroller. As the name indicates, the Wheelchair or Stroller Straps can also be used to hang a bag on the back of a wheelchair. The straps work with any of our bags that have 1-1/2″ d-ring shoulder strap attachment points; see the Wheelchair or Stroller Straps page for a complete list of those bags. We’re working on photos and videos that demonstrate this new accessory in use with both strollers and wheelchairs: stay tuned!

Interior Handles
The updated P.U. has two simple 1” / 25mm webbing handles, just inside the zipper of the main compartment. These two handles give you an easy way to grab and move or carry the P.U. while its main compartment is zipped open. This is mostly to use while loading/unloading the Parental Unit, moving it from kitchen to nursery for example. Because the handles are sewn inside, they politely disappear when you zip the bag shut; they give you a nice way to hang the P.U. up on a coat hook as well. (New Aeronauts have similar handle loops to facilitate moving while packing.)

TOM BIHN Parental Unit Design Updates: Interior Grab Handles

Longer Main Compartment Zipper
Tom has extended the length of the main compartment zipper by over 4” / 100mm. This will not only make packing and unpacking your stuff easier, but allows a better view as you down into the depths of the bag. That main zipper now has two sliders as well.

TOM BIHN Parental Unit Design Updates: Longer Main Compartment Zipper

Snap Divider Becomes Zipper Divider
The main compartment divider has changed from a snap closure to a zipper closure, much like the one in the front compartments of the Western Flyer and Tri-Star. This closure, as you may recall, joins the two interior pouches together to form a divider: if you choose to use it, the main compartment of the Parental Unit goes from one big expanse to four smaller divisions – depending on your packing style, it can be an nice option. It’s a #5 YKK Vislon® molded tooth zipper, in case you were taking notes.

TOM BIHN Parental Unit Design Updates: Snap Divider Becomes Zipper Divider

A Little Wider, A bit More Volume
The bottom of the original P.U. was about ~7.1” / 180mm thick; we pushed that out to ~7.9” / 200mm. This of course gives you a tiny bit more room (13.5 liters / 825 cu.in. as opposed to 13 liters / 795 cu.in.), and depending on what you pack and how you pack your P.U., it will now tend to stand upright better on its own.

TOM BIHN Parental Unit Design Updates: More Volume

News Briefs

EveryDayCommentary, Fatih Arslan, and Living One Handed have new reviews Nik’s Minimalist Wallet. Dominique reviewed the Synapse 19. Shoba Narayan reviewed the Aeronaut 30 + Synapse.

Early reviews of the Luminary 12 / 15 from the Forum community are in. See L15 reviews by logan_g, G42, Lia, anna2222, Quiltmama, and L12 reviews by marbenais, awurrlu and L12/L15 comparison reviews by Cristina, aedifica, bartleby.

The new Luminary 12 and Luminary 15 backpacks + bags in 210d ballistic nylon will be up for pre-order on 02/26. Details here.

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