Guides & How To

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
Games
Donations
Bags
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?

 

Games

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.

 

Kingdomino
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
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
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.

 

Bags

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.

Tote Bags: Frequently Asked Questions

Road Trip Snacks
Road trip snacks in The Truck.

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 rock. So, which tote?

You offer five different tote bag designs (not counting different sizes). Can you tell me a little about each of them?

Sure thing.

The Truck
A true multipurpose carry-all bag. You can use it for groceries, tools, laundry, work stuff—whatever. It’s made out of our durable 525d or 210d ballistic nylon, which can help it withstand years of hard use. That being said, if dirty or sharp tools get tossed in the bag, it’ll eventually develop some character. We think of it as showing its history.

Pop Tote
Our very first zip-top tote bag design. It shines as a personal carry-on bag for air travel and as an every-day-carry tote.

Zip-Top Shop Bag
An updated version of our Original Shop Bag, this time with a zipper closure. It comes in two sizes and makes a great reusable grocery bag whether at home or in faraway lands: fold it up and stow it away in your Aeronaut to serve as a shopping bag at your travel destination.

The Moveable Feast
A purpose-built grocery bag for gourmet chefs and enthusiastic food lovers. It keeps wine bottles upright and tomatoes up high and unsquished. It’s got padded handles and lots of organization. Note: we’ve retired the Moveable Feast for now to give folks a chance to consider the Truck, which is very similar in design. We may or may not make a future production run of the Moveable Feast.

Original Shop Bag
The tried and true classic reusable shopping bag. With padded handles, piping to help it keep its shape, and two interior open-top pockets, it’s refined, simple, and classic.

… There’s also the Swift, but we think of it as a dedicated knitting bag as opposed to a tote bag.

Which of the tote designs is right for me?

Our answer depends mightily on what you plan to carry and in what context. Feel free to emailus@tombihn.com or post in our Forums to ask for advice specific to your situation.

Generally speaking, we’d suggest:

The Original Large Shop Bag if you’re looking for a simple, lightweight reusable grocery bag.

The Truck if you want a heavy-duty tote you can really work out of, and that’ll look even better as it develops character from years of use.

Trying the Small Zip-Top Shop Bag to use as an Every Day Carry (EDC) tote that’s the perfect size for lunch, a sweater, Kindle or small tablet, phone, wallet, and water bottle.

The Pop Tote if you want a tote that can serve both as a day bag at your travel destination and your personal carry-on bag en route.

Why do you offer so many different tote bag designs?

Several reasons. Notably:

Everyone here at TOM BIHN has at least a couple of tote bags. We use them as shopping bags, lunch bags, overflow-of-stuff bags. Tom will often bring one of his original Utility Totes to the factory full of patterns and segments of a new design. Because we use tote bags so much, we’re inspired to make new variations that could prove even more useful to us (or to you…)

Tote bags are universally useful. Nearly everyone will appreciate owning one, which makes them a great bag to give as a gift.

You guys seem to appreciate the tote bags that we make, so it only makes sense for us to make more.

A tote bag can be a very basic, utilitarian, yet thoughtful sack. Because tote bags are so well-loved and so often used, we consider a new tote bag to be a good place to refine features, aesthetics, and materials that may (or may not) be applied to other more complex bags sometime down the road.

Lastly, the development timeline for a tote is often much shorter than that of, say, a briefcase. Or a 787 Dreamliner.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a tote bag with a zipper top?

The main advantage of a tote with a zipper top—such as our Pop Tote, Large Zip-Top Shop Bag, or Small Zip-Top Shop Bag—is that your stuff won’t fall out if somehow the tote is topsy-turvied. We think this is especially important if you plan to use a tote bag as a personal carry-on bag like we sometimes do.

The main disadvantage is that the zippers and the required fabric dome add a small amount of weight to the bag. With the tote zipped shut, you can’t fit tall items like a baguette or ukulele—but, of course, you could simply leave the tote unzipped in those instances.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a tote bag with an open top?

The main advantage of a tote with an open top—our Original Shop Bag or the Truck—is that you don’t need to mess around with zipping a zipper open or closed. The top of the bag is wide and open, allowing you to easily put in and remove your stuff.

Game Night Truck Tote

You can also fold the Original Shop Bag into its own interior pocket, which turns it into an elegant little parcel that can be easily stowed inside of a larger bag. This can sort-of also be accomplished with the Zip-Top Shop Bag, but it’s not nearly as easy.

The main disadvantage to an open-top tote is that, if it somehow falls or tips over, your stuff could spill out.

How do people typically use their tote bags?

All kinds of ways. Here’s how we use our tote bags and how you’ve told us you use them:

Reusable grocery bag
Picnic bag
Tool Bag
Front seat road trip stuff bag (snacks, road map, drinks)
Every Day Carry bag
Personal carry-on bag
Game night bag
Gym bag
Overflow-of-stuff bag (a catch all)
Beach bag


The Small Zip-Top Shop Bag as a personal carry-on item.

Side note: some folks use tote bags as firewood haulers or storage containers. We don’t haul firewood in our totes because we use these firewood haulers Tom made back in the early 80’s.

Tom Bihn's Original Firewood Bag

Which of the totes can be carried on the shoulder as well as in hand?

The Pop Tote, Large and Small Zip-Top Shop Bag, Original Shop Bag, and the Truck can be carried by most folks either over the shoulder or by hand. Note: the Moveable Feast is designed to be carried only by hand.

Have you considered adding shoulder strap attachment points to any of the tote bags?

We have, and we do, but we haven’t found a way to do this with any of our current tote bags designs that meets our own standards of perfection. But we’ll let you know if and when we do.

Have you considered making the handles/shoulder straps adjustable in length?

Same answer as above: we’ve explored this a bit here and there, but haven’t found a way to add such a feature in an elegant way.

What are the key differences between a tote and a duffel bag?

That’s a good question! While some of our tote bags are open-top and others are zip-top, our Yeoman Duffel (and most every other duffel out there) has a zipper closure. So a zip-top tote is sort of wandering over into the land of duffel bags, isn’t it? Guess you could say you know a duffel bag when you see it.

Our Yeoman Duffels feature a classic U-shaped opening that makes packing them more like packing a suitcase. They’re also wide rather than tall, which means they offer shallow, horizontal packing space as opposed to more vertical packing space like a tote bag. The Yeoman is available in four sizes, three of which are quite large and can fit bigger items such as camping tents.

I want to add some additional organization to my tote. Which accessories fit in which totes?

This response really isn’t intended to be cheeky: you can use basically any accessory that fits within the tote’s dimensions—and, if applicable, permits the zipper to be zipped up. That being said, certain accessories fit particularly well:

Pop Tote
The main compartment can fit a Medium or Small Café Bag Freudian Slip or Maker’s Bag/Swift Freudian Slip. The small exterior pockets can accommodate Mini or Small Organizer Pouches, the Pen/Pencil Organizer Pouch, Knitting Tool Pouches in sizes 1-3, the Q Kit, and the Pocket Pouch.

The Truck
The Small Café Bag Freudian Slip can fit in any main pocket; the Medium Café Bag Freudian Slip fits in the center pocket (at a diagonal or by pressing out the sides a little bit), and Organizer Pouches in size Medium or smaller will fit in the front/back pockets.

Small Original Shop Bag or Small Zip-Top Shop Bag
Medium or Small Café Bag Freudian Slip (Note that the Medium size might take away a bit of real estate from interior pockets in the Zip-Top Shop Bag), Small/Mini pouches in interior side pockets.

Large Original Shop Bag or Large Zip-Top Shop Bag
Large, Medium or Small Café Bag Freudian Slip, and up to a Medium pouch in interior pockets.


The Truck with a Small Cafe Bag Freudian Slip, a Size 4 Travel Stuff Sack, and a Double Organizer Pouch.

If I knew I was going to be stranded on a deserted island, which tote bag would you recommend that I take with me?

That’s a tough one, and it kind of depends on what you plan to take with you to that deserted island. So, what do you plan to take? Tom says he’d take the Truck because he’d figure out a way to make a sun hat out of it, plus it would likely carry more water (for a few minutes at least).

I’m planning to take Ulysses by James Joyce, a water filter, my pet rock, a hat, 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?

That helps. We’d recommend the Truck because it will help you keep that wide variety of items contained and, if need be, separate (so you don’t accidentally get rock antibiotics all over your candy).

I'll finally have time to read Ulysses!
I’ll finally have the time to read Ulysses!

Pre-Orders: Frequently Asked Questions

You don’t need to read this FAQ to place a Pre-Order: it’s a pretty straight-forward process, so just go for it if that’s what you’d like to do.

If you’d like to know in advance everything there is to know about Pre-Orders, here you go! Below is a list of questions that we anticipated might be asked. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, feel free to emailus@tombihn.com.

  1. Can you give me a quick summary of how pre-order works?
  2. How do you define “pre-order”?
  3. When is my credit card charged for a pre-order?
  4. Can I ask you for updates on the progress of my pre-order?
  5. Can I cancel my pre-order and receive a refund?
  6. Can I return the bag that I pre-ordered once I receive it?
  7. Can I change the color of the bag I pre-ordered?
  8. I’ve placed a pre-order that will ship in 2-8 weeks. Can I add bags to that existing pre-order?
  9. I placed a pre-order and it shipped earlier than expected! Nice. How’d that happen?
  10. Will all new designs be introduced for pre-order?
  11. What’s the best way to be notified once a new design is available for pre-order?
  12. Can you accept pre-orders (backorders) for stock items?
  13. Hey, didn’t you used to offer backorders and pre-orders up until three or four years ago?
  14. Is it possible for a pre-order to “sell out”?
  15. How long will a pre-order be open?
  16. If a pre-order sells out, when will you offer the next pre-order?
  17. Why can’t you make enough bags to satisfy all pre-orders?
  18. How, and when, does a pre-order design become a stock design?
  19. When a bag is offered for pre-order, will there be any distinction made between limited run and stock items? That is, will it be clear which items will only be offered for a limited time, vs. those you expect to have on hand for the foreseeable future?
  20. Will the color options for pre-orders be the same as a regular run? For example, say I really want Bag X in Steel/Iberian, but the pre-order colors don’t include that combo. Can I find out if the regular run will have it?
  21. What’s all this about some retired designs possibly being offered for pre-order at a later time?

Can you give me a quick summary of how pre-order works?

Yes. And if you have questions, keep reading the FAQ or emailus@tombihn.com

  • We offer a new design for pre-order for one week or until the first pre-order batch sells out.
  • The expected ship date of your pre-order bag is listed as part of the name of the bag.
  • Your credit card is charged for the total amount of your order the day that you place your order. You can cancel your pre-order at any time and receive a refund.
  • You can place one order that includes just a Pre-Order bag or a Pre-Order bag *and* In-Stock bags. If you place an order for both Pre-Order and In-Stock bags, you will see two shipping options at checkout:
    A) Hold In-Stock Bags Until Pre-Order Ships – (one shipping charge: for example, $10 for UPS Ground)
    B) Ship In-Stock Bags Separately – (two shipping charges: for example, $20 for UPS Ground)
    UPS Expedited International shipping will also be available. 3Day/2Day/Next Day options are only available if you place two separate orders for Pre-Order and In-Stock items.
  • You can also place additional orders for In-Stock bags to be added to your existing Pre-Order up until two days before your order ships. At checkout, our system will recognize that you have a current Pre-Order. You will then be given the option to “Ship with my existing Pre-Order” (no additional shipping charge) or, if you want the In-Stock bags to ship immediately, you can choose from any of the regular shipping options.

How do you define “pre-order”?

We may choose to offer a bag for pre-order because:

  • It’s a new design offered for the very first time.
  • It’s a new design that’s already been offered for pre-order but we plan to continue to offer it for pre-order for the time being because it’s either very popular OR we don’t plan to offer the design on a long term basis.
  • It’s the last, or uncommon, batch of a retired design.
  • It is a one-time only offering of a design, fabric, or color.

Please note that not all new designs will be offered for pre-order. For example: debuts of new designs before the holiday season typically won’t be offered for pre-order because there’s a shorter timeline — most folks want to receive orders they place in early December ASAP.

When is my credit card charged for a pre-order?

Your credit card is charged for the full order total at the time you place your order. That means we charge you before your order ships, which, depending on the bag being pre-ordered, can be anywhere from two to eight weeks.

To charge you before your order ships isn’t our preference; in fact, we’d prefer to postpone charging you until the day your order ships. That’s how we used to do it back when we took pre-orders before: our system would authorize your credit card for the total, but we wouldn’t actually charge you until the day your order shipped. However, since then, charging folks in advance of shipment of goods has become such the norm that most shopping carts and payment systems don’t allow for an alternative. This is due in part because of the success of crowdfunding. It’s worth noting that our pre-order system is very different from crowdfunding: we aren’t raising funds to make a product and you can be assured you will receive the bag you’re ordering.

Rest assured that we see charging in advance of shipment to be a serious responsibility and a matter that calls upon our integrity.

And you’re welcome to emailus@tombihn.com at any time up until the day your pre-order ships to cancel your pre-order and receive a full refund.

Can I ask you for updates on the progress of my pre-order?

Totally. Of course. Feel free to emailus@tombihn.com

We also might send you an update or two on your pre-order with some insights on the design and manufacturing process.

Can I cancel my pre-order and receive a refund?

You bet. emailus@tombihn.com, live chat us up or give us a call and we’ll make it happen.

Can I return the bag that I pre-ordered once I receive it?

Yes. You can find our return instructions here. Note: part of what makes pre-order great is that we can more efficiently manage our limited production capacity by building exactly to order. Sometimes folks will order multiple colors and return the ones they don’t like, which makes total sense for In-Stock items but less so (at least for us internally) when we’re building to Pre-Order.

Can I change the color of the bag I pre-ordered?

Sorry, but no. Because we’re building these bags to order, folks can’t change the color of the bag they’ve pre-ordered.

You can, of course, cancel your pre-order — at which point we will refund your credit card. If it is still within the pre-order window — that is, the pre-order has not sold out — you can then place a new order for the color you’d like instead.

Can I place one order that includes both pre-order and in-stock bags?

Yes! You can place one order for Pre-Order bag(s) *and* In-Stock bag(s).

If you place an order for both Pre-Order and In-Stock bags, you will see two shipping options at checkout:

A) Hold In-Stock Bags Until Pre-Order Ships – (one shipping charge: for example, $10 for UPS Ground)
B) Ship In-Stock Bags Separately – (two shipping charges: for example, $20 for UPS Ground)

UPS Expedited International shipping will also be available for selection. However, U.S. domestic UPS expedited shipping options (3 Day, 2nd Day, Next Day) will not be available. If you would like to order a Pre-Order bag and an In-Stock bag and have both ship via one of those shipping methods, we recommend placing two separate orders.

If you choose Hold, we will hold your entire order until your Pre-Order bag(s) are ready to ship and then we’ll ship the entire order.

If you choose Ship In-Stock Bags Separately, we will ship the In-Stock bags that you ordered right away. We will ship your Pre-Order once it’s ready to ship.

Whether you choose to Hold In-Stock Bags or Ship In-Stock Bags, you will have the option of placing additional orders up until two days before your Pre-Order ships. At checkout, our system will recognize that you have a current Pre-Order and give you two options: Hold In-Stock Bags or Ship In-Stock Bags Separately for an additional shipping charge.

This will all make a lot more sense in practice than it does theoretically 🙂 As always, if you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask: emailus@tombihn.com

I’ve placed a pre-order that will ship in 2-8 weeks. Can I add bags to that existing pre-order?

Yes, you can. We will hold bags from any additional orders you place and ship them with your pre-ordered bag once it’s ready to ship.

And adding to your pre-order is easy: place the items you want to add in your basket and, at checkout and in the shipping options, you’ll see an option that says: “Add to my Pre-Order”. Our system will automatically add the new order items to your existing pre-order.

We thought of this too and made it an option in part because we think it will be especially convenient for customers outside of the U.S. for whom shipping costs are higher.

I placed a pre-order and it shipped earlier than expected! Nice. How’d that happen?

You received one of the few PPB bags available — congratulations.

A pre-production batch (PPB) of any new design will be ordered and completed by our production department prior to the new design being offered for pre-order.

The PPB is intended to:

  • Serve as the first large-scale test of the efficiency of manufacturing the new design.
  • Provide photo, review and employee loaner sample bags.
  • Ship a small quantity of bags to a randomized selection of customers who place orders for the first pre-order batch. This will allow folks to post reviews and first thoughts / photos of a new design, which in turn may help other people decide whether a bag is right for them or not.

Please note that the design itself is tested and every detail finalized and approved by Tom, Nik, Lisa, and Fong long before the PPB is ordered. PPB bags are in no way “beta” or incomplete.

There is no way to request or reserve a PPB bag. Once the pre-order window is over, we will randomly select orders from the first pre-order batch and fulfill those orders with PPB bags. If your order is selected, we will email you with a heads-up a few days before we plan to ship your order. So, no need to rush to place your pre-order, as this is not first come, first serve.

Will all new designs be introduced for pre-order?

Some, but not all. Whether we choose to offer a design for pre-order or make it a stock bag depends on a variety of factors — most importantly, production efficiency. We probably won’t offer new designs released close to the holiday season for pre-order.

What’s the best way to be notified once a new design is available for pre-order?

Subscribers to our general email newsletter will get the first heads-up on new designs. We send out about one email newsletter per month, but may send two newsletters out when there’s an active pre-order.

Can you accept pre-orders (backorders) for stock items?

Not at this time. It’s just too logistically complex at this point for our small company.

Hey, didn’t you used to offer backorders and pre-orders up until three or four years ago?

We did, so we have a lot of experience doing so. As with anything, there’s pros (for us and for you) and cons (mostly for us in the added complexity). Read our post Pre-Orders: Past, Present, and Future to learn more about that.

Is it possible for a pre-order to “sell out”?

It is possible for a pre-order to “sell out”. If that happens, the product page for the pre-ordered item will be updated to indicate that the first pre-order batch has sold out and that the next pre-order batch will be available for order on a specific date. You will also be able to sign up via email to our newsletter to be notified when the next pre-order batch is available for order.

Our production department is at its most efficient when we produce a batch of bags that’s not too big and not too small — the “just right” quantity in a batch depends on the design (and, occasionally, other factors, such as the production capacity available at that point in time).

When we offer a bag for pre-order on our website, we will set what is basically a total inventory number that equals the maximum production batch quantity. When that number of pre-orders sells, the first pre-order batch will be “sold out”.

Additionally, we promise a specific shipping time frame for each pre-order batch. If we accepted an unlimited number of pre-orders as opposed to constraining the quantity in batches, it is unlikely we could meet the shipping time frame originally promised. We don’t want that to happen.

How long will a pre-order be open?

We will take pre-orders for a new design for one week or until the first pre-order batch sells out.

If a pre-order sells out, when will you offer the next pre-order?

It is likely that we will offer the next pre-order batch *after* the first pre-order batch has shipped — that could be two weeks or eight weeks. This gives all of us a chance to catch our breath and make sure we’ve delivered what we’ve already promised. It also allows us some time to make In Stock bags, which is the majority of what we offer.

Rest assured you can sign up to be notified / reminded via email when the next pre-order batch is available for order.

Why can’t you make enough bags to satisfy all pre-orders?

We’re a small company of 47 people. Our entire company — production, shipping, website, design, IT/programming, production engineering, accounting, HR, customer service — all works together under the same roof in the same 16,000 square feet in Seattle. We can’t possibly make, or be, everything for everyone. We’re not trying to be the next big company. We are doing what we love — and we make sure that, besides the very rare exception, no one other than Tom, Nik, and Darcy work more than 40 hours a week.

The options that would allow us to radically increase our production capacity aren’t appealing to us. For example, if we moved production offshore, we’d lose the connection that’s created by all of us working together under the same roof. Not only does that connection make our work more enjoyable, but we think it results in a better bag and overall experience for you.

That said, we know our business model won’t work for everyone. While the majority of our bags are In Stock and ready to ship same day if ordered by 12:30pm PT, it’s possible that the bag that you want in particular is Pre-Order or In Production. And if you need the bag right away, that’s going to be a bummer. Sorry about that: we know how it can feel to find the perfect item and not be able to get it right away. That said, it’s one of those “it is what it is” type situations.

How, and when, does a pre-order design become a stock design?

That depends on a variety of factors, including but not limited to: the complexity involved in manufacturing the design, its popularity, our production capacity, what other new designs we have waiting in the wings, and, well, whether we want to make it a stock design or not.

When a bag is offered for pre-order, will there be any distinction made between limited run and stock items? That is, will it be clear which items will only be offered for a limited time, vs. those you expect to have on hand for the foreseeable future?

Sometimes we’ll know the answer to this from the outset and we’ll make that clear. For example, we may have a limited quantity of a particular fabric or color, or may want to try offering a current design in a new configuration (see: The Guide’s Edition Synapse 25) without committing ourselves to offering yet another bag on a continual basis — in those two cases, we will do our best to communicate that we won’t be able to make the bag in question on an ongoing basis without hyping the “limited edition” part.

Or, to give another example, Tom or Nik may put a considerable amount of time and effort into a new design and be absolutely in love with it themselves — so much so that our plan is to offer it as a stock bag after pre-orders are over. It may be a design you love too from the outset or it may take a few years of being out in the world to catch on.

Will the color options for pre-orders be the same as a regular run? For example, say I really want Bag X in Steel/Iberian, but the pre-order colors don’t include that combo. Can I find out if the regular run will have it?

We usually offer more color combinations in the first production runs or pre-orders of a design than we do when it becomes a stock design. That said, we offer a lot of different fabrics and color combinations, and it’s possible that down the road we may offer a new color in said bag that we didn’t offer at the time of pre-order. When we choose new color combinations, we let our inspiration guide us, your feedback influences us, and we always make room for new colors or fabrics that we’ve since added to our line up. That means we don’t produce a list years in advance of decided-upon color combinations. You’re always welcome to ask us about specific color combinations but more often than not, our answer will be: maybe, maybe not.

What’s all this about some retired designs possibly being offered for pre-order at a later time?

We don’t like retiring existing designs, but as demand for our bags continues to grow and we continue to release quite a few new designs every year, retiring existing designs is a reality we must face.

Thanks to the new pre-order system, in some cases* we can offer a glimmer of hope to ourselves and, perhaps, to you when we choose to retire an existing design: when the design retires, we will update its product page so you can sign up to be notified via email when or if we decide to offer a pre-order batch and make a very last, or rare (think once a year at the most) production run of the design.

*Sometimes we will retire a design that requires a special component or material that we can’t obtain a small quantity of. In those cases, we will offer it for potential pre-order.

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. How many design updates have been made to the Aeronaut over the years?
  4. Tom designed the Aeronaut so that the end user could carry it via three different methods. In what particular scenarios did Tom imagine one might carry the Aeronaut by hand, via a shoulder strap, or as a backpack?
  5. Does the Aeronaut meet with all airline carry-on standards?
  6. Will the Aeronaut fit under the seat in front of me on the airplane?
  7. Is the Aeronaut a good bag for road trips or train trips too?
  8. Can I use the Aeronaut as a hiking backpack once I reach my destination?
  9. 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?
  10. How much of a difference do the optional Aeronaut Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt make? Do I need them?
  11. Can I use just the Internal Frame or just the Padded Hip Belt, or are both necessary?
  12. Why not just include the Internal Frame and sew in the Padded Hip Belt?
  13. I’m trying to choose between between the Aeronaut and the Synapse 25. Help me out here: what are the advantages of each?
  14. Is a shoulder strap included with the Aeronaut?
  15. How can I pack my Aeronaut so as to maximize comfort for sustained carrying?
  16. Are Packing Cubes necessary for packing the Aeronaut efficiently?
  17. What are the benefits of using Packing Cubes?
  18. How do people use the o-rings in the Aeronaut?
  19. What’s the maximum weight that the Aeronaut can hold?
  20. I use wheeled roll-aboard luggage now. Will the Aeronaut work better than that for me?
  21. Does the Aeronaut have a compartment for my laptop?
  22. Have you considered adding a laptop compartment to the Aeronaut?
  23. What causes the zippers on the Aeronaut to be a little stiff?
  24. Can I lock the zippers of my Aeronaut?
  25. I’m 5’2″ and not so big. Which size of Aeronaut is right for me?
  26. I’m 6’2” and pretty big. Is the Aeronaut for me?
How did Tom come up with the design of the Aeronaut?

The Aeronaut was born from Tom’s desire to make a soft travel bag that would be a significant improvement over a simple duffle. Tom was fond of the Road Buddy series of duffles that he designed and made in the 1990’s, but wanted compartmentalization more tailored to what he carried, which was typically clothing, and somehow always seemed to include at least one pair of shoes. He wanted this new bag to carry comfortably handsfree (as a backpack) when needed for getting across Heathrow or across town. Though Tom sized it to take full advantage of the recommended FAA maximum carryon size (basically a box measuring 9″ x 14″ x 22” / 22 x 35 x 56 cm), he incorporated as many curves as possible – hoping the resulting aesthetic would be a bit more sports car and a bit less ice cream truck.

What does Tom consider to be some of the more unique features and aspects of the Aeronaut design?

Though not originally one of the design criteria, it turns out that a cool thing about the Aeronaut’s division of space is that many folks find they can live out of it and never actually unpack it. Once you set it down on a luggage rack/desk/bureau/bed/floor, it’s sort of like a chest of drawers, providing easy access to its contents. This can be particularly sweet when you’re only staying a night or two somewhere, or when your accommodation lacks a closet. We even added two simple webbing loop handles just inside the main hatch opening so you can easily pick up your Aeronaut and move it around your room without needing to zip it shut; these grab loops can also come in handy if, for example, your bag is inspected at an airport security checkpoint, or any time you might want to move an open Aeronaut with some alacrity.

How many design updates have been made to the Aeronaut over the years?

Whew—too many to count! Since its inception circa 2003, we’ve added features and nudged things around a bit, but its basic layout and size remains the same. Of particular note are the Late-2014 and 2017 design updates.

Tom designed the Aeronaut so that the end user could carry it via three different methods. In what particular scenarios did Tom imagine one might carry the Aeronaut by hand, via a shoulder strap, or as a backpack?

Tom wanted to have all three options, and to be able to choose which mode was most appropriate at any given moment. Having the backpack straps zip away is great: when stowing the Aeronaut in the overhead bin, it’ll slide in and out without getting caught; if you need to check it, there’s less reason to worry about what baggage handlers and conveyor belts might do to it; the Aeronaut looks relatively tidy and presentable with straps stowed and carried by hand (or with a shoulder strap attached), so that when you’re making an appearance at a four star hotel you’d perhaps be less likely to be given the bum’s rush. Carried as a backpack, the Aeronaut can make navigating a crowded plane, bus, or subway easy-breezy; a short hike through town to the hostel or pension is no biggie.

Does the Aeronaut meet with all airline carry-on standards?

The Aeronaut 45—with exterior dimensions of 21.9” (w) x 14” (h) x 9.1” (d)—qualifies as a maximum carry-on main bag on most U.S. airlines. Technically speaking, the Aeronaut 45 exceeds the stated dimensions for carry-on requirements for some European and smaller airlines. That said, the Aeronaut 45 is soft luggage, which means that if it’s underpacked, it can compress to meet those requirements. Many people successfully underpack the Aeronaut 45 and use it on European or smaller airlines, but we can’t guarantee this will work for you.

The smaller Aeronaut 30—with exterior dimensions of 19.7” (w) x 12.6” (h) x 7.9” (d)—qualifies as a main carry-on bag for U.S. as well as European airlines, small airlines, or regional jets.

It’s always a good idea to look up the luggage requirements of the particular airlines with whom you’ll be flying. We’d be glad to help, too: emailus@tombihn.com

Will the Aeronaut fit under the seat in front of me on the airplane?

The Aeronaut 30 will fit under the seat of many airlines. The Aeronaut 45 probably won’t—you’ll need to store it in the overheard compartment.

Is the Aeronaut a good bag for road trips or train trips too?

You bet. Darcy went on a two week road trip and basically lived out of her Aeronaut–she never had to unpack.

Can I use the Aeronaut as a hiking backpack once I reach my destination?

We suppose you could, and some people have and do. We’ve even tried it ourselves and it worked… OK. In short, it works in a pinch, and with the Padded Hip Belt and Internal Frame the Aeronaut is more comfortable as a hiking pack—but most people probably won’t be happy using the Aeronaut as a day hiking pack, so it’s not something we recommend.

Instead, we’d recommend packing an Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Backpack or an Aeronaut 45 Packing Cube Backpack, or even a rolled-up Daylight Backpack. All three can be easily deployed to serve as great lightweight day hiking packs.

Or, if you’re going on a trip that will, in part, be focused on longer day hikes—for example, a trip to Alaska with three days visiting people and working in Anchorage and 4 days hiking in Denali National Park—you may want to take a Synapse 19 or Synapse 25.

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?

Probably not. Instead, we’d recommend one of these two options:

1. Pack a Daylight Briefcase or Daylight Backpack in your Aeronaut. The Daylight Backpack can fit up to a 15” laptop in a Cache sleeve; the Daylight Briefcase can fit up to a 13” laptop in a Cache. Both are excellent minimalist and light-in-weight EDC options—and they don’t take up much room when rolled up or stowed in the Aeronaut.

2. Take a second bag. The Aeronaut will serve as your main carry-on bag and the second bag—perhaps a Pilot, Co-Pilot, Stowaway, Synapse 19, or Synapse 25—will be your personal item. Of course, at this point, you’re not “one bagging” it — but this method does have some advantages. Namely, once your Aeronaut is stowed in the overhead compartment, you’ll still have a personal item bag that you can stow under the seat in front of you that gives you easy access to your tablet or laptop, phone, books, and other amenities during your flight. Plus, you can use the second bag as your EDC at your destination.

How much of a difference do the optional Aeronaut Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt make? Do I need them?

That depends on what you carry, the weight you’re used to carrying on a regular basis, and your own personal idea of comfort.

Some people won’t feel they need the internal frame and padded hip belt.

Some people–especially those who appreciate these two features on other packs, like outdoor backpacking packs–will likely enjoy the internal frame and padded hip belt.

Can I use just the Internal Frame or just the Padded Hip Belt, or are both necessary?

You can use one or the other, or both. Using both will likely give you the greatest sensation of reducing the amount of weight you’re carrying; however, using either the Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt will shift some of the weight of a pack onto your hips.

Some folks just like the way an internal frame feels against their back—it’s less about a perceived reduction in the amount of weight they are carrying and more about the tactile experience of the frame. It’s worth noting that an internal frame can be an especially potent way to increase comfort in bags that beer-barrel out when overpacked/overstuffed; however, the Aeronaut’s design ensures that it hardly beer-barrels at all.

Others may find the additional weight or stiffness of the internal frame unnecessary, but the comfort of the Padded Hip Belt to be essential.

Why not just include the Internal Frame and sew in the Padded Hip Belt?

Not everyone wants to use an internal frame, and it would add both weight and cost to the Aeronaut if a non-removable frame was incorporated into the design. Additionally, the internal frame’s rigidity might make it more difficult to underpack your Aeronaut in order to squeeze it into an airline baggage sizer or get it into a nearly-full overhead compartment.

It’s the same thing with the Padded Hip Belt. And, perhaps worse, if you didn’t want or need to use the padded hip belt, it’d either be flopping about on your left and right, potentially knocking into other people or objects, or you’d have to buckle it behind your back to get it out of the way, which can make for an awkward carrying experience.

By design, the Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt are optional and removable, allowing you to customize your carrying experience.

I’m trying to choose between between the Aeronaut and the Synapse 25. Help me out here: what are the advantages of each?

The Aeronaut 30 or the Aeronaut 45 offers the flexibility of three carrying options: by hand as a duffle, over the shoulder or cross-body with a shoulder strap, or as a backpack. In various travel contexts, these options can prove beneficial (we talked more about that in Aeronaut FAQ #4). The Aeronaut’s design basically allows you to live out of it as if it were a dresser drawer of sorts, meaning there’s no need to unpack, and you’re much less likely to have to pull out some stuff to access other stuff. It gives you wide, unfettered access to your stuff similar to a clamshell opening (but, perhaps, without what some folks find irritating about clamshell openings—namely, that if you open them all the way, your stuff burps out).

The Synapse 25 is a backpack. It has a comfortable handle at the top, but it’s intended to be a grab handle (say, picking up the bag to move it from one room to another) as opposed to a carrying handle. If you want a travel backpack—and you’re either a current or aspiring minimalist traveler—we’d recommend the Synapse 25. Part of what makes carrying and traveling with the Synapse 25 so great is that its fairly narrow main compartment means you can’t pack too much stuff. This gives you more of a sense of the bag being conformed to you—and perhaps even an extension of you.

Feel free to emailus@tombihn.com with your unique packing list and travel plans. We’d be glad to give you additional advice more tailored to your unique needs. You’re also welcome to share the same information in our Forums and get a wider variety of feedback.

Is a shoulder strap included with the Aeronaut?

No. Here’s our thinking on that one: as we’ve discussed elsewhere, inherent in the design of the Aeronaut are three carrying options — by its handle as a duffel/valise, worn as a backpack with its hide-away backpack straps, or carried over one shoulder with a single strap (such as our Absolute Shoulder Strap). A good percentage of people will choose to carry their Aeronaut via the first two methods only, and including a shoulder strap with the bag means they’d pay for — and have — something they wouldn’t use. Additionally, we offer several options for shoulder straps, and if we did choose to include one with the Aeronaut we’d be sure to disappoint some folks. Also, many folks already have a shoulder strap from some other bag that they’ll want to use. So, we chose to make the shoulder strap optional.

How can I pack my Aeronaut so as to maximize comfort for sustained carrying? ?

In our experience, we have found the best ways to improve your comfort carrying a bag to be:

1. Take less stuff. Do you really need five pairs of pants? Maybe—or maybe not.

2. Replace some items with lighter weight versions. Five pairs of jeans weigh a lot more than five pairs of lightweight travel pants.

3. Take care to pack your bag so that its load is balanced. See our blog post Packing for Ideal Weight Distribution.

4. Adjust the pack so that it fits you. Make micro-adjustments to the sternum strap and shoulder straps (and Padded Hip Belt, if using one) over the course of the time you’re wearing the pack.

5. Shift your perspective. We can at least tell ourselves that carrying a reasonable amount of weight in a backpack can prove to be a good bone-and-muscle-building workout. 🙂

6. Add an Internal Frame + Padded Hip Belt to shift some of the weight of the pack onto your hips.

Are Packing Cubes necessary for packing the Aeronaut efficiently?

No. Tom designed our travel bags to make Packing Cubes optional; that’s why he added tie-down straps (useful for cinching down / keeping flat folded pants, shirts, or even a blazer) to our Aeronaut 30, Aeronaut 45 (and Tri-Star) travel bags.

The Aeronaut is designed to be a bag you could basically live out of and never have to unpack. Its end pockets do a great job of keeping rolled clothes neat and you’ll find that folded clothes don’t shift around too much in the main compartment. Unlike bags with clamshell openings, you can set the Aeronaut on the bed/chair, zip it open, and have full and entirely visible access to your stuff—without worrying about it unfurling or falling out. In short, we think the design of the Aeronaut especially lends itself to packing sans Packing Cubes.

What are the benefits of using Packing Cubes?

See our post Packing Cubes: Frequently Asked Questions.

How do people use the o-rings in the Aeronaut?

Wait, let’s back up for a second for those not in the know: o-rings small, round, plastic rings sewn inside many of the compartments and pockets of our bags to which one can clip and tether additional pouches and organization — such as Organizer Pouches and Key Straps. O-rings are so unobtrusive that it’s totally optional whether you utilize them or not.

Included with the Aeronaut (and most of our other larger bags) is one 8″ Key Strap attached to an o-ring — we figure most folks will clip their keys to this Key Strap.

Here’s an idea of what could be clipped to the o-rings in the Aeronaut:

Left to right: included 8″ Key Strap, Double Organizer Pouch w/16″ Key Strap, 3D Clear Organizer Cube w/16″ Key Strap, Passport Pouch w/16″ Key Strap.

What’s the maximum weight that the Aeronaut can hold?

The Aeronaut is durable and strong enough to hold way, way more weight than you’d ever want to—or should—carry. So, the answer to this question is: how much weight is it comfortable for you to carry? We recommend practice packing and using one of those inexpensive nifty little luggage scales you can get all day long on Amazon. Does 30lbs feel like too much? Remove some items, or replace them with lighter weight versions, and see how much weight you’ve saved and how different that feels.

I use wheeled roll-aboard luggage now. Will the Aeronaut work better than that for me?

Maybe, maybe not. It’s important to acknowledge that carrying one’s one luggage as opposed to wheeling it isn’t possible for every person and every body. And some folks may just prefer traveling with rolling luggage.

That said, we hear quite often from folks who have made the switch from rolling luggage to carrying their own bags and find it liberating. More easily navigating cobblestone streets, saving weight and space, and not risking the impoliteness of taking up double the physical space around you—these are just a few of the benefits people have shared with us.

Does the Aeronaut have a compartment for my laptop?

It does not: the Aeronaut is not intended to carry a laptop. Most people who use the Aeronaut use it as one bag of a two bag system. Clothing and toiletries are packed in the Aeronaut, which is then stored in the overhead compartment on the plane. A laptop/tablet, snacks, phone, glasses, etc. are stored in a personal carry-on bag that fits under the seat in front of you and kept easily accessible in flight. For a true “one bag” travel solution, please see our Tri-Star, Western Flyer, or Synapse 25.

That said, some people choose to work around this and carry their devices in the Aeronaut. Smaller tablets can fit in the mesh zippered pocket in the inside flap of the Aeronaut or the side exterior zippered pockets. If you unzip one or both interior main compartment zippers in the Aeronaut 45, you can fit a 15″ laptop in a Cache in the bottom of the bag. And, if you unzip one or both interior main compartment zippers in the Aeronaut 30, you can fit up to a 13” laptop in a Cache in the bottom of the bag.

13″ MacBook Pro in an Aeronaut 30. Note that underneath the laptop is its appropriately sized Cache. We don’t recommend putting a laptop without a protective sleeve in any bag — we’re just showing the laptop on top of the Cache in this photo so you can see the laptop itself.

Have you considered adding a laptop compartment to the Aeronaut?

We have, and we’ve come up with some options as to how we’d incorporate room for a laptop in the Aeronaut, but we don’t like any of them (so far).

What causes the zippers on the Aeronaut to be a little stiff?

We use YKK AquaGuard water-repellant coil zippers on the Aeronaut because we wanted it to have the greatest possible weather resistance; however, these zippers can be a bit harder to open and close than standard coil zippers. We feel it’s a reasonable tradeoff.

Can I lock the zippers of my Aeronaut?

Yes, the zippers on the main (center) compartment as well as both end compartments feature lockable sliders. Zip any of these compartments entirely shut and butt the two sliders together so the small eyelets overlap, then slip a small luggage lock (or zip-tie) through the eyelets to secure that compartment. If you choose to lock all three compartments you’ll need three luggage locks. Also remember that the TSA requires access to your luggage “without the passenger being present” so even if you’re not checking your bag, you should consider using TSA-approved locks. Keep in mind that any time your bag is not in your sight someone could potentially cut the bag open or otherwise access its contents, locked or not, and that the idea behind locking your luggage is A: to “keep honest people honest,” as they say, and B: so that if your bag is opened you’ll know about it. There’s plenty of on-line discussions about the pros and cons of locking your bag—we provide the lockable sliders so you can choose.

I’m 5’2″ and not so big. Which size of Aeronaut is right for me?

We’d recommend the Aeronaut 30. That said, if you’re used to carrying a bag as big as the Aeronaut 45, that should work just fine too.

I’m 6’2” and pretty big. Is the Aeronaut for me?

You bet. However, if you’re that tall or taller and have a long torso, you may find that the optional Padded Hip Belt rides too high to be comfortable.

Here’s a video we made that shows more people of various heights and sizes wearing both the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45:

And here’s some photos of various people wearing both sizes of Aeronaut….

Aeronaut 30

How the Aeronaut 30 fits various people

Aeronaut 45

How the Aeronaut 45 fits various people

Still have more questions? emailus@tombihn.com and Kat, Matthew, or Cody will be glad to help.

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.

Some Thoughts for the Prospective Bag Designer

Tom Bihn in the Dave Meeks Bee Barn, Santa Cruz
In my garage, Santa Cruz, circa 1983.

The other day, someone stopped by the factory just as I was leaving – they are learning to design and make bags, and were hoping to look around. I was glad to give them a brief tour and answer some questions. Surprisingly, this request is not that uncommon: we’ve recently had more and more inquiries from people who’d like to start their own bag businesses or become bag designers, and are hoping I might give them some advice or wisdom to help them down their path. Of course, the thing about any map is that, while it can show you where someone else has been, it cannot show you where you’re going to go.

I’ve been very fortunate myself to have had some great mentors along the way, folks who were willing to share their time and their opinions – not so much about the specifics of design or running a bag business, but about business in general, and even more broadly, this bigger thing we call life. Dave Meeks was a big influence, as were many friends, family members and early customers (such as my math teachers Gary Rominger and Randy Smith!)

Tom Bihn Custom Down Jackets
The business card from my days as a student at Aptos Junior High, circa 1972.

Doing my best to be helpful, I first try to dissuade those who want to “follow in my footsteps”: there’s nothing easy about what we do here, and there’s got to be about ten million easier ways to earn a living than by making bags. All that said, if you’re still interested, what follows are a few words of advice, such as they are . . .

Ernest Hemingway said, “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” Similarly, the best way to find out how to make bags is to make bags.

I’ve been making outdoor equipment since about 1972. I was 11 or 12 years old and I just wanted to spend more time outdoors. I thought all that fancy gear coming out of Berkeley, Boulder, and Seattle was pretty neat, but I was just a kid and all that stuff was a bit expensive. Somewhere in there my parents suggested I try making my own gear. My mom taught me the basics of using a sewing machine, and after that I was just winging it. I started off more or less just copying traditional styles, over time adding my own touches until ultimately I was truly “designing” my own products. I never went to design school; engineering was a bit inherited from my dad and otherwise self-taught, and the aesthetics were largely my own.

Read this book: Light Weight Camping Equipment and How to Make It by Gerry Cunningham

It now seems quaint and somewhat out of date, but it’s a great way to get some basic information about, as the title suggests, how to make your own gear. Gerry Cunningham was the “Gerry” behind the company of that same name, and he had figured out a bunch of stuff already.

Tom in Yosemite
Solo backpacking trip in the back country of Yosemite, 1977. I built the pack hiding behind me; it’s mounted on a classic Kelty external frame.

Learn to sew
Take a class or just get a machine and start tinkering around. Nik (COO/Designer here at TOM BIHN) more or less taught himself to sew over the course of a few months, mentored a bit by Lisa, Fong and myself. It’ll make a world of difference in your designs if you can actually sew them yourself: the cycle of sketch/prototype/test, sketch/prototype/test is so much faster and easier than if you need someone else to make your ideas real. Plus, you might invent a whole new way of making a bag if you do it yourself.

What type of machine, you may ask? I made everything on a walking foot Consew 206RB for years. If you can get one with a servo motor instead of the old clutch drive, you’ll be ahead of the curve as you learn (it’s sort of the difference between an automatic and a stick shift in a car: especially in the learning phase, you’ve got enough other things to distract you).


My Consew 206RB is still in use in our Seattle factory.

Start small. Don’t quit your day job. Not yet, anyway.
Times have changed and this advice may not be as relevant, but here goes: I attribute part of the success of this business to the fact that I had modest expectations and never planned to make a lot of money making bags. For years I held down other jobs and made bags on the side, renting a loft above my friend’s garage for almost a decade while I developed my designs and learned to run my own business.

Tom's letter of recommendation
A letter of recommendation from the Frick winery. I had over 30 jobs before I officially started my own business.

Listen to everyone’s advice, but take little of it.
Everyone will give you their opinion about what you make. It’s important to pay attention to this feedback: after all, the idea is not to just make bags for yourself. But it’s also good to develop a filter that helps you sort through all the opinions before they confuse and sidetrack your own vision.

Remember as well that your designs and skills will evolve: there’s always more to learn from yourself, your critics, your supporters, and often by just watching people use their bags.


I (most of the time) welcomed the feedback of friends and family who used my packs on their hikes and travels. Here, Brooke wears the Sack of Spuds backpack.

And perhaps most importantly…
Though it might just remain an avocation rather than a full-time career, if you love making things, don’t give up. Had Etsy been around when I was starting off, you can bet I would have had an Etsy store. What cooler way to to see what people like and don’t like than to offer your ideas for sale to the whole world?

While living in a loft above a friend’s garage is perhaps a bit glamorous at age 20 or 30 (as opposed to age 50), there were plenty of times I thought about getting a “real job”. I’m glad I didn’t. And frankly, I’d rather still be living in that loft than doing something for work I didn’t really enjoy.

TOM BIHN Crew
Look at us now: we’re a company of 47 people all working together under one roof here in Seattle. We made it. And you might, too.

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.

Packing Cubes: Frequently Asked Questions

Aeronaut 45 Travel Bag with Packing Cubes by TOM BIHN
The Aeronaut 45 with its Aeronaut 45 Packing Cubes.

Below is a list of questions (and answers) that we’re often asked about Packing Cubes. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, feel free to emailus@tombihn.com If you’d like to see all of our Packing Cube offerings, go here.

What are the main benefits of Packing Cubes?
What are the downsides of Packing Cubes?
How do I use Packing Cubes?
How necessary are Packing Cubes?
Should I fold, roll, or bundle pack my clothes in Packing Cubes?
Are Packing Cubes only for clothes?
How do the Laundry Travel Stuff Sack and Laundry Packing Cubes work?
Travel Stuff Sacks vs. Packing Cubes: can you explain the differences, and which should I choose?
How do the Packing Cube Backpacks work?
What are the differences between All Aether and Mesh/Aether Packing Cubes?
Will you ever make “compression” Packing Cubes?
Could you make Packing Cubes out of the fabric used to make your Pocket Travel Pillow? It’s light and silky.
Some bags have Packing Cubes specifically designed and sized for them. Which Packing Cubes do I use for bags that don’t, like the Synapse 25 or Maker’s Bag?

What are the main benefits of Packing Cubes?

Packing Cubes Help Keep Your Clothes Neat and Tidy

Depending on the bag that you use, you might find that your clothes end up unfurling inside of your bag.  Packing Cubes corral your clothes in a neat fabric cube.

Packing Cubes Organize Open Space in Your Bag: They Are Additional Compartments

Packing Cubes help to divide the space inside of your bag and ensure what you pack doesn’t shift too much (provided that the Packing Cubes you choose are sized to fit the bag that you use). This is especially important if you carry a bag that has a clamshell opening, in which the zipper zips all the way down, allowing the bag to “butterfly.” While clamshell designs open all the way and give you a good look at the contents of your bag, they also tend to allow stuff to fall out.

Packing Cubes Offer You the Ability to Craft a Packing Strategy

Our Packing Cubes are available in a variety of colors, which allows you the option of color-coded organization. Perhaps socks and underwear go in a Small Packing Cube in the color Wasabi and t-shirts/workout clothes go in a Small Packing Cube in the color Island; when you zip open your bag, you’ll see Wasabi or Island, and know immediately which Packing Cube to grab to get the clothes you need.

Ever feel paralyzed by the choices of which clothes to take on your trip? Packing Cubes can help offer structure that makes that decision-making a little easier. Depending on the size of clothing, you may find that you can fit three pairs of slacks and two t-shirts in one Aeronaut 45 Large Packing Cube. In effect, Packing Cubes can serve to curtail the number of clothes you pack. Limit yourself to one Large Cube and two Small Cubes and you might just be amazed at how you were able to take enough clothes (but not too many!).

What are the downsides of Packing Cubes?

The downsides of Packing Cubes that we can think of are:

They add weight to your bag—but not all that much. For example, a pair of men’s size medium cotton briefs weighs 2.8 ounces. The Small Aeronaut 45 Packing Cube weighs 1.8 ounces.

They are an additional cost and you might not find them useful. FWIW, Tom travels quite a bit and hardly ever uses them. Conversely, Darcy always uses Packing Cubes (now, anyway).

You might be convinced you need them because they’re all the rage when really you don’t need them: they’re just one more thing to deal with. Some people use Zip-Lock plastic bags or plastic grocery bags and that works for them.

An Aeronaut 30 using built-in organization; zip-lock bag for toiletries and a plastic grocery bag for packing shoes

How do I use Packing Cubes?

Such a good question! With so many organizational options, it can be difficult to know where to start. Below is a quick guide / our recommendations. We plan to expand this into its very own blog post in the future.

Aeronaut 45

Minimum Packing Cubes: None, or one End Pocket Cube (for running shoes / a second pair of shoes). Use the tie-down straps to secure slacks/shirts and roll t-shirts to put in one of the end compartments. Use a zip-lock bag for toiletries*.

Maximum Packing Cubes: Two End Pocket Packing Cubes (one in each End Pocket Compartment), and either two Large (regular or Laundry), one Large and two Small (regular or Laundry), or four Small. Use a 3D Clear Organizer Cube (attached via a 16” Key Strap) as a 3-1-1 liquids/toiletries bag.

Aeronaut 30

Minimum Packing Cubes: None, or one End Pocket Cube (for running shoes / a second pair of shoes). Use the tie-down straps to secure slacks/shirts and roll t-shirts to put in one of the end compartments. Use a zip-lock bag for toiletries.

Maximum Packing Cubes: Two End Pocket Packing Cubes (one in each End Pocket Compartment), and either two Large (regular or Laundry), one Large and two Small (regular or Laundry), or four Small. Use a 3D Clear Organizer Cube (attached via a 16” Key Strap) as a 3-1-1 liquids/toiletries bag.

Tri-Star

Minimum Packing Cubes: None, or one Medium Packing Cube. Use a zip-lock bag for liquids and toiletries.

Maximum Packing Cubes: One Small and one Medium Packing Cube in the front main compartment, one Large Packing Cube in the back compartment. You can either put another Small and Medium Packing Cube or one Large Packing Cube in the middle compartment, or use that compartment to carry your laptop in a Cache. Use a 3D Clear Organizer Cube (attached via a 16” Key Strap) as a 3-1-1 liquids/toiletries bag.

Western Flyer

Minimum Packing Cubes: None, or one Small Packing Cube. Use a zip-lock bag for liquids and toiletries.

Maximum Packing Cubes: Four Small Packing Cubes (two in each compartment), two Large Packing Cubes, or two Small and one Large.

*The notes on packing liquids/toiletries assume you’re traveling via plane; if you’re on the road or traveling by rail and don’t have restrictions on liquids, check out our Spiff Kits, which offer more space and organization for toiletries than the 3D Clear Organizer Cube.

How necessary are Packing Cubes?

Tom designed our travel bags to make Packing Cubes optional; that’s why he added tie-down straps (useful for cinching down / keeping flat folded pants, shirts, or even a blazer) to our Aeronaut 30, Aeronaut 45, and Tri-Star travel bags.

If you don’t want to use Packing Cubes, we’d recommend the Aeronaut 30 or Aeronaut 45 over the Western Flyer or Tri-Star.  Tom designed the Aeronaut to be a bag you could basically live out of and never have to unpack. Its end pockets do a great job of keeping rolled clothes neat and you’ll find that folded clothes don’t shift around too much in the main compartment. Unlike bags with clamshell openings, you can set the Aeronaut on the bed/chair, zip it open, and have full and entirely visible access to your stuff—without worrying about it unfurling or falling out. In short, we think the design of the Aeronaut especially lends itself to packing sans Packing Cubes.

The Tri-Star and Western Flyer, on the other hand, are designed to be checkpoint-friendly laptop travel bags that offer you the ability to carry up to a 17″ a laptop in a Cache—in addition to your clothes and toiletries.

So, really, it’s up to you: some folks swear by Packing Cubes and others find them unnecessary.

Should I fold, roll, or bundle pack my clothes in Packing Cubes?

Your call on this one. Rolling and bundling are popular methods and with good reason; they’re clever ways to keep clothes neat and utilize space that would be difficult to utilize with folded clothes. Still, many of us continue to use good old-fashioned folding as our primary method.

There are lots of great videos online that offer tutorials on the main packing methods; our video for the original Aether Packing Cubes demonstrates folding, rolling, and bundling:

And we love this video which demonstrates some really clever ways to maximize space with folding techniques.

Are Packing Cubes only for clothes?

Our Packing Cubes are designed primarily for clothes and shoes and are made of light, garment-weight fabrics. Most people put cords/cables/chargers, toiletries, make-up, hair thingies, snacks and the like in our Organizer Pouches, 3D Cubes, or Travel Stuff Sacks—or just in the built-in pockets of the bag itself. That said, there’s no rule about not mixing clothes and those other items; if that’s what works for you, go for it. It can be a smart strategy nestle delicate items or souvenirs in between layers of clothes. However, it’s worth noting that it’s easier for the TSA to screen bags in which items are segregated by type—no mixing of clothes and cords, for example. Theoretically, you can do your part in making the TSA line go faster by organizing your stuff.

How do the Laundry Travel Stuff Sack and Laundry Packing Cubes work?

Tom designed the first version of the Laundry Travel Stuff Sack back in 1981 during a trip hosteling around Europe. A few years ago, we brought the design back from the archives; it’s now available in sizes for the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45.

People like the Laundry Travel Stuff Sack so much we decided to make Laundry Packing Cube versions for the Aeronauts too.

The idea is this: you’ll start your trip off with the sack full of clean clothes, and as they become dirty, put them in the other end of the same sack. A floating divider midway keeps the clean and the dirty clothes separated. The volume of the clothing doesn’t change, but the ratio of clean to dirty does. You don’t need separate sacks for clean and dirty laundry anymore! Yeahh!

Laundry Packing Cube and the Laundry Travel Stuff Sack

Travel Stuff Sacks vs. Packing Cubes: can you explain the differences, and which should I choose?

Travel Stuff Sacks excel at utilizing little nooks and crannies of space in your bag that would otherwise go unused. They’re great for stuffing (and somewhat compressing, but more on that below…) underwear, swimwear/workout clothes, rolled t-shirts or a rain shell or down or synthetic vest/jacket. Picture this: stuff your down jacket in a Size 2 Travel Stuff Sack and wedge that guy into the far corner of your Aeronaut main compartment (behind a Large Packing Cube).

Packing Cubes are, generally speaking, what you’ll want to use for packing slacks or pants, skirts, dresses, button-down shirts, or any clothes that need to be folded to kept neat.

Travel Stuff Sacks make use of nooks and crannies of space in your bag

Use Packing Cubes for folded or bundled clothes and Stuff Sacks for rolled or compressible clothes

Some people find that a combination of Packing Cubes and Travel Stuff Sacks is ideal.

How do the Packing Cube Backpacks work?

It’s pretty nifty: once insided-out, the Packing Cube Backpacks become Packing Cubes that you pack with your clothes / put in your larger travel bag. Upon reaching your destination, you unpack the Packing Cube Backpack, turn it right-side out, and voila: you have a light, minimalist daypack to use sight-seeing, museum-hopping, mountain or urban hiking, or shopping.

We make three varieties of Packing Cube Backpack:

Aeronaut 45 Packing Cube Backpack

Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Backpack

Tri-Star/Western Flyer Packing Cube Backpack

What are the differences between All Aether and Mesh/Aether Packing Cubes?

We primarily make All Aether End Pocket Packing Cubes so people can put shoes or other typically dirty items in them; the 100% fabric walls help keep those items separate from everything else and help you keep the inside of your bag clean to boot (ha ha… meh). We also make our Laundry Packing Cubes with one Aether/Aether side for that same purpose; that’s where dirty clothes go so they’re separate from the clean clothes on the other side of the Laundry Packing Cube.

The majority of the Packing Cubes that we offer are Mesh/Aether because Mesh allows you to see what’s inside of your Packing Cube and it potentially encourages air circulation to keep your clothes from getting musty (especially important in tropical or humid climates.)

Will you ever make “compression” Packing Cubes?

If you’re looking for a way to compress certain clothing items, we’d recommend taking a look at our Travel Stuff Sacks. They excel at compressing rolled t-shirts or underwear or items that are big and floofy when not compressed (a down or synthetic puffy jacket or rain shell). Basically, you put your jacket or rolled items in the Stuff Sack and use your brawn to cinch it as tight as possible. Note that when using a Travel Stuff Sack in an effort to compress clothing, it’s important to choose the right size: if you put your down jacket in a Travel Stuff Sack that’s too big, it won’t compress as much.

We don’t have plans to offer compression Packing Cubes. Here’s our thinking on this: first off, it’s seldom a good idea to try to use a zipper to force a bag shut, as you’ll be likely to bust the zipper (or the seam, depending on the quality of the item and its sewing) before its time. This may not matter as much in a less costly and more replaceable Packing Cube as it does in, say, a backpack or travel bag, but we’re a bit stubborn and old-fashioned on this point—we don’t want to make disposable products.

In our humble opinion, the ones we’ve seen and used add weight without adding much function: they allow you to take a stack of clothing and, using a zipper, squeeze some air out of it. It seems like a really cool idea, but in our tests, compression cubes don’t seem to do much more than what can be achieved by loading your cubes into your bag and pushing down lightly before you zip your bag shut. To each her own with compression cubes: they may totally work for you—they’re just something we don’t see worth the added weight. That said, maybe someday we’ll come up with a clever way to better achieve the intended effect.

Could you make Packing Cubes out of the fabric used to make your Pocket Travel Pillow? It’s light and silky.

The uncoated and breathable 20d Nylon Ripstop fabric we use to make our Pocket Travel Pillow is indeed light and silky; it’s exactly the kind of fabric we’d want to use for a pillow. But it’s not the kind of fabric we’d want to use for a Packing Cube.

When we made a sample of one of our Packing Cubes out of the 20d Nylon Ripstop fabric, we found the Packing Cube felt slippery and flimsy—and that made it difficult to pack. Conversely, the Aether fabric is very lightweight while offering a paper-like structure that allows us to make Packing Cubes that provide enough structure to make packing easier yet aren’t overbuilt or over-engineered. Packing a Mesh/Aether Packing Cube is almost like packing a small (and ultralight) dresser drawer:

Structured Packing Cubes Can Make Packing Easier

In effect, we can rely on the natural structure provided by Aether so we don’t have to put a lot of excess material, stitching, or structure into the Packing Cube itself. This is all why we’re so crazy about the Aether fabric (can you tell?)

Some bags have Packing Cubes specifically designed and sized for them. Which Packing Cubes do I use for bags that don’t, like the Synapse 25 or Maker’s Bag?

That’s a great question. We’re working on a guide to which Packing Cubes, Stuff Sacks, and Pouches fit in which bags, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you might want to check out this post which recommends specific sizes of Packing Cubes and Pouches for bags that previously had their own dedicated Packing Cube sizes.

A TOM BIHN Cocktail for New Year’s

When @icarusrex posted his “TOM BIHN Travel Bar” set-up on the Forums, we had an idea: we could ask him to craft a TOM BIHN cocktail.

We polled the crew here at TB about their favorite cocktails and mixed drinks and shared that with
@icarusrex for inspiration. Here’s the cocktails he came up with (of course, we had to test the recipes, and yes they’re very good) plus a couple of amateur creations of our own, just in time for New Year’s.

Alcoholic Drinks

TB Cocktail (Sweet & Spicy)

1 1/2 oz. bourbon whiskey (@icarusrex used Elijah Craig 12 Year; we used Woodinville Whiskey Company)
1/2 oz. Zirpenz Stone Pine Liqueur (see note below)
1/2 oz. real maple syrup
3 oz. ginger beer (@icarusrex used Goslings; we used Trader Joe’s)

Shake bourbon, pine liqueur and maple syrup with ice and pour in a glass with ice. Top with ginger beer. Substitute honey syrup for maple syrup for a different flavor.

Note: We had difficulty finding the Zirpenz Stone Pine Liqeur, so we got a little creative; we brewed Douglas Fir tea, made ice cubes out of it, and added that to the drink, replacing the liquid with…. more whiskey.

Northwest Sky AKA Seattle Seagull* or “tastes like you’d expect”) (our own amateur cocktail creation)

1 1/2 oz. Tito’s Vodka
Sparkling water to fill the glass

Salt the rim of a small mason jar, camping mug, or whatever you happen to have around. Add ice cubes, packed snow, or icicles. Pour in vodka and sparkling water.

*Years ago when Tom managed the AYH hostel in Santa Cruz, he met a laconic young man from Denmark who claimed to have been raised in Greenland.

“Wow… tell me something about life in Greenland. What do you recall from living there?”

After some moments of thought, the young man replied “I remember we ate seagulls.”

“So… what do seagulls taste like?” Tom had to ask.

After some further long moments of reflection, the young man shrugged and said “pretty much like you’d expect.”

Seagulls, it turns out, taste like you’re expect them to.

Ever since then Tom has used this story to illustrate a situation when something is more or less self explanatory.

Non-Alcoholic Drinks

TB Non-Alcoholic Cocktail

2 oz. apple juice or apple cider
1/2 oz. real maple syrup or honey syrup
3 oz. ginger beer

Mix in a glass of your choice. Garnish with curled lemon or orange peel.

Cucumber and Fir Non-Alcoholic Cocktail

Sparkling water
3 Cucumber slices
Douglas Fir for garnish
Optional: Douglas Fir Ice Cubes*

Combine sparkling water with two cucumber slices and ice in a glass. Cut the third cucumber slice as a garnish and add it to the rim of the glass along with a piece of Douglas Fir. This very simple drink is quite refreshing, especially for those who prefer a less sweet taste.

*Douglas Fir Ice Cubes
To make: brew Douglas Fir tea. Either collect your own Douglas Fir spring tips (the very bright green, new growth of the tree; take care not to collect all of the tips from the same tree, or same section of the tree) in the spring and dry them for use year ’round or purchase this ready-to-go tea from Juniper Ridge. Let the tea cool and pour it in an ice cube tray. Freeze.

Many thanks again to @icarusrex. See also: his article on Mile High Bartending.

Tom’s Simplified and (nearly) Painless 2017 Holiday Gift Guide

Tom Bihn Listening to Audibooks While Designing

Much has been said and written about giving gifts that are not things, and about how experiences ultimately mean more to us than stuff. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve observed that more than ever before, I cherish time spent with family and friends, travel to new and old places, fresh air, wildlife, and nature more than a garage full of objects. With that in mind, I’ve in years past given movie, concert or opera tickets as gifts, or even a gift certificate for a massage or kayak rental. So far, so good.

As we set out to create a 2017 version of our Bags and Beyond Gift Guide, we realized we couldn’t improve much on the list of things already in it, and that some of us were giving other types of gifts this year – food, drink, experiences, and…. books.

I am very fond of books and I’ve begun to give them as gifts. The thing of a book is often more the experience of reading it than the possession of it. Coffee table books of art, wildlife, and photography, as well as illustrated works like Eric Sloan’s A Reverence for Wood or Roger Jean Segalat’s How Things Work series, (and yes of course graphic novels, my dear friend Erin the librarian) are exceptions.

My advice this year is: if you feel compelled to give a gift that is a thing, find your way to your local bookstore and buy books. If you see nothing there that seems appropriate to the person on your list, or if you’re like me and everything looks wondrous and beguiling, gift certificates are there for you. Shopping remotely for an out-of-towner? Go to Indie Bookstore Finder and then call the bookstore closest to your friend and buy a gift certificate. Seriously consider the local bookstore rather than the easy way out of online shopping — remember, if you don’t support your local bookstore, it may not be there the next time you look.

Now, back to where I was headed with this…

These past few years I’ve become rather addicted to audio books. I listen when I drive, while I do housework, and even in my studio as I’m working on a new design. I listened to 57 hours of Sherlock Holmes while designing The Hero’s Journey (though I guess I really ought to have been listening to Joseph Campbell); Anna Karenina and The Boys in the Boat while designing the Luminary; News of the World and A Brief History of Time while designing the Pop Tote; Far from the Madding Crowd and The Heart of Everything That Is while working on The Moveable Feast. When a story has really grabbed me, I’ve even been known to listen, unbelievable as this may sound, as I hike. (One must exercise some reasonable caution: as I listened to Sissy Spacek read To Kill a Mockingbird, I had to pull the car over and wipe the tears from my eyes.) I’ve always a few books in queue loaded on to my smartphone, along with some language lessons to break things up (Cantonese and Swahili: I just want to be able to say “hello” and “thank you”.)

I love my audio books.

So with that in mind, and in the spirt of giving things that are not things, this year I am offering up what is perhaps the simplest gift guide ever: after you’ve pillaged the local book store, give Audible.com subscriptions. Yes, I know they are part of Amazon.com, and are therefore somehow cahooting with Darth Vader, but it’s an amazing service: there are not enough hours in the day to ever make a dent in their selection. [Editor’s note: we sent Tom’s post out to our email newsletter list yesterday morning and reader H.C. wrote back to offer an independent bookstore equivalent of Audible — Libro.fm.]

Best wishes to all of you for a grand holiday weekend with friends, family, dogs, cats, and anyone else who is dear.

– Tom

We asked around and here’s the books the rest of the crew here at the factory plan to give this year:

Cookbooks
Six Seasons: A New Way With Vegetables by Joshua McFadden
The How Not To Die Cookbook by Michael Greger
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America’s Most Imaginative Chefs by Karen Page
Clean Cakes by Henrietta Inman

Coffee Table Books
Where The Animals Go: Tracking Wildlife with Technology in 50 Maps and Graphics by by James Cheshire, Oliver Uberti
Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapesby Thomas Rainer, Claudia West
The Philosophy Bookby Will Buckingham

Books For Kids
Big Red Barn and Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
Matilda by Roald Dahl

Magazines (print or digital) 
Astronomy 
Nautilus 
The New Yorker

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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