Q&A with Tam

Tam | TOM BIHN Bags

Tam, we wanted to post Q&A with you on our blog. We’re grateful for your skills as a sewing machine mechanic and we think our customers would be interested to learn about what you do here.

How did you learn to repair sewing machines?

I learned to repaired sewing machines in Vietnam over the course of 4 years. During that time, I learned to repair all types of sewing machines — single needle or double needle, overlock, binding, bartack, etc. Pretty much all kinds of machines!

You also sew and bartack in our factory. In what ways does your knowledge and skill when it comes to sewing and bartacking impact or influence your work repairing sewing machines?

I learned how to sew and bartack after learning how to repair — and sell — sewing machines. In order to do those jobs well, I wanted to learn how to sew and bartack. That was all about 30 years ago, so I’ve had many, many years of experience since then. You could say I know sewing machines quite well by now.

What are the difficulties in repairing industrial sewing machines like ours?

Definitely the electronic aspects of the machines.

Random question: name something you like to do outside of work.

I have my own garden and I specialize in growing flowers, so I like to go on YouTube and explore and learn about the latest techniques and tips in gardening. 

Portable Culture Portrait: Mausermama

Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member Mausermama. The previous editions featured Forum members platisc, ceepee, sea_otter3, NWHikerGal, widepipe, Rocks, JonC, cdh, Badger, haraya, imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.

Portable Culture Portrait Mausermama TOM BIHN Blog

What’s the most useful item that you carry?

That’s a very challenging question for me! I guess if I had to distill it down to one item, it would be the key strap as paired with the magical o-ring. As a child, I frequently heard my parents tell me, “You’d lose your head if it wasn’t attached.” They were right. It seems until I found TOM BIHN, I was always misplacing one item or another, usually my keys.

I’m a longtime knitter, and I first read about TOM BIHN and the Swift through the Knitty online knitting magazine. It sounded like a great bag, reliably sturdy and intelligently designed, and it had these things called o-rings. I especially liked that it’s a domestic company that pays its workers a living wage. I was intrigued, but the price tag made me hesitate for a couple of years (I can be slow sometimes). Eventually I pulled the trigger, but it was on a different bag, the Imago. I ordered it along with an extra key strap. When it arrived, I loaded my knitting and EDC items into it and discovered something wonderful. I no longer left my keys or wallet behind because they were now tethered. What I gained by buying that bag was not just a fabulous bag, but extra time in my day and peace in my life. From that point, I became a TOM BIHN convert.

Portable Culture Portrait Mausermama TOM BIHN Blog

I eventually did buy a Swift (and a lot of other TB bags and accessories), but the Imago and those awesome key straps and o-rings paved the way. I really love how modular they make the entire TOM BIHN system. I don’t have to be married to any one particular bag. It only takes a few seconds to slide my basics out of one bag and into another. Case in point, my Maker’s Bag Freudian Slip. It travels from my Swift to my Maker’s Bag to my Pop Tote effortlessly.

Portable Culture Portrait Mausermama TOM BIHN Blog

What’s your most treasured item?

I’ll break it down into non-TOM BIHN and TOM BIHN categories. For non-TOM BIHN, I think I would have to say my wedding ring. This upcoming spring my husband and I will have been married for twenty-five years. We married young and have been married for more than half of our lives. To me my ring is a tangible symbol of our love and commitment to each other. A close second would be my mother’s wedding ring. I lost her a few years ago, and my father gave me her wedding ring. They were married for forty-six years. When I look at her ring, I’m reminded of the love they shared in their time together.

My most treasured TOM BIHN item would have to be my Imago. It’s a lovely Navy/Cork/Wasabi combination, and every time I carry it, it makes me smile. Sadly, I don’t carry it as often as I used to because cross body bags are physically a little harder on me these days. Instead I tend to favor either my Luminary, Synapse 19, or the new Pop Tote (my new favorite bag, by the way!). I love the Pop tote because it is reminiscent of the Swift, but it’s lighter and zips closed.

Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?

Oh, that’s an easy question! Definitely my Travel Trays. It started with one and has quickly blossomed into several, each in a different color. I bought it because so many people on the forums raved about them, but I didn’t really see the appeal. Then I got it and plopped in my yarn and tools. Voila! It was another way to keep me organized and from losing knitting tools like stitch markers, cable needles, etc. My “obsession” with Travel Trays has grown. I now have at least one in most of the rooms of my house. My office boasts two: one to catch loose change and other pocket detritus, and the other to keep track of my stapler, binder clips, lip balm, tape, paper clips, and what-have-you.

Portable Culture Portrait Mausermama TOM BIHN Blog

I have three in my bedroom. One holds my essential oils, another keeps my watch, rings, fitness tracker, and phone in one spot for the next day. The other, alas, catches junk that I should put away but don’t. Once a week or so I take it around the house and put everything back where it belongs.

Travel Trays have become my go-to gift for birthdays and Christmas. I love their price point, and people who receive them always tell me how much they love and use them. They’re cheery and colorful organizers. I doubt I’m done collecting them, either. There’s always something else I can corral.

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I am finishing up educating my three children, who I homeschooled from the beginning. My oldest is in college double majoring in English and Philosophy. My middle kiddo is graduating this spring. He wants to major in computer science. My youngest is starting dual enrollment this January. She’s currently in her sophomore year. Eventually she hopes to work either in veterinary medicine or as a park ranger in our national parks system.

Now that I don’t have to spend quite as much time with my children teaching, I spend my time teaching other students. I tutor students with dyslexia using a special Orton-Gillingham program called Barton Reading and Spelling. Additionally, I work virtually for the Institute for Excellence in Writing in a number of rolls. I am the content editor of their blog, one of their homeschool educational consultants, and a moderator on their forums. When I’m not doing those things, I teach high school composition and literature to a small group of homeschooled students.

Portable Culture Portrait: ceepee

Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member ceepee. The previous editions featured Forum members sea_otter3, NWHikerGal, widepipe, Rocks, JonC, cdh, Badger, haraya, imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.

TOM BIHN Blog | ceepee Fantastic Four

What’s the most useful item that you carry?

I would have to say my phone just because it is the single most used item I own. It has a place in my Side Kick but is rarely put away.

By far the most used app is Messages (2.7 hours in the past 24 hours, apparently). But it’s also my planner, notebook, reference library (Internet), eReader, music player, camera, photo album, financial planner, it gets me outside most days (PokémonGo) and I can even use it to pay for my shopping …… on very rare occasions I have been known to use it as an actual phone 🙂

I also never go anywhere without a flashlight, even in summer. It’s a well know fact that any dropped item will gravitate towards the darkest area in any given space.

Since my phone is also my camera, here’s a photo of my second most useful item instead ….. I attached a tritium fob to it so I can find it in the dark.

What’s your most treasured item?

I once spent several days scanning several shoeboxes full of photographs, before disposing of them to free up space. It wasn’t long after that I managed to completely lose them from my computer …… no back-up! Years of ‘memories’ completely gone! However, despite the initial tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth, it occurred to me that I didn’t really look at them that often anyway. I subsequently realised that nothing (as in noTHING) is really indispensable. Whilst I certainly have things that I am very grateful for or that are really useful, I can’t think of one item that I would feel truly devastated about if I lost it or that I value significantly above anything else.

Although …. I’d be quite miffed if I lost my phone.

I’m also partial to having the odd tchotchke hanging from my bag, usually small fluffy critters, often a gift or souvenir from somewhere recently visited. These are probably the closest I get to items carried for purely sentimental reasons.

My Side Kick is currently sporting Fluffy the unicorn and an Ankh Morpork City Watch shield.

Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?

Probably my passport. For a few years, when I was young(-ish), free and single my work required (and paid for) me to travel and it was Fun! For some reason, as I got older I developed an aversion to flying, which eventually turned into a phobia. It was so bad, I bought a car so that I could drive home (to the UK) from my posting in Naples, Italy, rather than fly!

So, it’s quite surprising just how often I’ve found myself bimbling off to Gatwick Airport during the past two and a half years. Thanks, in no small part, to the TOM BIHN forum which introduced me to the friends that I had to initially overcome my phobia in order to visit.

I will also chip in here about the Moveable Feast. I was loaned one to try shortly after they debuted, I was a little skeptical. So, I was very surprised that my partner, who does most of the weekly shopping, made it his shop bag of choice …… every trip, without fail. It has to be the single, most used Tom Bihn bag that we have ever owned. Sorry Ilkyway, it’s probably not coming back.

TOM BIHN Blog | ceepee Moveable Feast
The only Tom Bihn bag my partner consistently remembers the name of!

What’s in your bag?

Currently, my main EDC bag is the Side Kick. When the weather was nicer, and I would spend afternoons in the local parks or wandering along the River Thames, it was my Brain Bag. For air travel I will switch to my Synapse 19 (it fits under the seats easily and so eliminates some of the anxiety associated with flying budget airlines; namely the scrum for overhead space). When I’m traveling by car, I’ll also take my Mini Yeoman for extra rummage space. I’m looking forward to the arrival of my Travel Cubelet and expect that these bags will cover me for all future eventualities. It’s taken a lot of trial and error (and eBay listings!) to get to this point though.

TOM BIHN Blog | ceepee Fantastic Four
The Fantastic Four.

My basic EDC consists of:

  • Phone
  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Tissues
  • Hand wipes
  • Flashlight
  • AirPods
  • Notebook & pen
  • Battery pack
  • Cable/s
  • Food (flapjack, cereal bar or other, non-melty, snack)
  • Eating implements
  • Comb
  • Umbrella
  • Packable bag (tote or backpack depending on what the bag of the day is)
  • Essentials Kit: Plasters (BandAids), antiseptic wipe, pain relief pills, lip balm, nail clippers, tweezers, Victorinox Swiss Card, sewing kit.

TOM BIHN Blog | ceepee Side Kick
All packed up.

TOM BIHN Blog | ceepee In My Bag
Everything bar my phone.

If my plans for the day warrant it, I will switch the Side Kick out in favour of the Brain Bag and add the following items:

  • Water bottle
  • Extra snacks
  • Extra layer of clothing
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Folding cup (for takeout coffee)
  • Matador picnic blanket
  • Qliplet
  • Handkerchief/screen cloth
  • iPad Pro, Pencil and Smart Keyboard
  • Aid Kit: basically an extended ‘Essentials Kit’ with a few extras like wired ear buds, extra cables plus adaptors, AA batteries and extra first aid stuff like Neosporin and bandages.

TOM BIHN Blog | ceepee Brain Bag
This doesn’t even come close to filling the Brain Bag. But the side compression straps allow me to keep everything cinched up nice and tight for a comfortable carry.

For traveling I’ll add the following to my usual EDC items. These fit in the outer pockets of my Synapse 19, leaving the main compartment empty. If I’m not taking my Yeoman, the main compartment is where my clothes fit. I should mention that I generally stay where toiletries and towels are provided:

  • Toiletry kit (if I’m flying I’ll opt for solid toiletries over liquid)
  • Charging kit
  • Clothes
  • Folding water bottle (replaces my usual stainless steel insulated bottle)
  • Passport (if required)

TOM BIHN Blog | ceepee Q-Kit
Small Q-Kits make excellent places to stash a mini toiletry or tech kit, and they fit nicely in the side pockets of the Synapse.

TOM BIHN Blog | ceepee Charging Kit
In conjunction with the battery pack I carry all the time, the MU International folding travel plug and micro-USB cable is all I need to charge any tech I travel with. It fits easily in a small Q-Kit along with a spare AA battery or two for my flashlight.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I left the Royal Navy a little over 3 years ago and we moved to Abingdon (just outside of Oxford) so that my partner (of 17 years) would no longer have to commute between here and Portsmouth every day. I’m originally from a small town just south of Nottingham, where my family still lives.

After 22 years in the military, I left with no idea of what I wanted to do next. So, I’m currently calling myself ‘retired’.

I spend a lot of time reading, most recently I’ve been enjoying, and feeling very motivated by books on minimalism and downsizing. I also like to travel (actually, it would be more accurate to say that I like to ‘arrive’, the actual traveling part is not so thrilling).

I discovered TOM BIHN whilst searching for for a way to carry my (original) iPad, the first bag I bought was the original Cordura Ristretto.

Portable Culture Portrait: sea_otter3

Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN community members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features sea_otter3. The previous editions featured community members NWHikergal, widepipe, platisc, Rocks, JonC, cdh, Badger, haraya, imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.

TOM BIHN Blog | Antonia Sketch Kit

What’s the most useful item that you carry?

That’s the 3D Organizer Cube. In fact I have four of them – the Wasabi one is for all the small items in my daily carry, so I can easily move these little essentials from bag to bag as needed. There is an Iberian one for geocaching supplies. The Island one is the perfect size for my travel sketching kit. A Burnt Orange one is for geocaching trackable items. Second to the 3D Organizer Cubes, on a daily basis I could not be without my large Shop Bags. Their cheerful colors make me feel better about having to go shopping, and they hold a lot of stuff!

TOM BIHN Blog | sea_otter3 Shop Bag

What’s your most treasured item?

From Tom Bihn – that’s a tough one, as I have lots of TB items, and all have their individual parts to play in my daily carry or on particular adventures. The flexible, modular nature of TB bags and accessories is one of the things I most love about them. However, my most treasured item has to be my Synapse 25 in Navy/Solar. This was my first Tom Bihn purchase, several years ago. It’s a color combination I love, and as a person with less than perfect eyesight who has scared herself silly on many occasions by losing her wallet in the dark and fathomless depths of other bags, I really appreciate the light-colored bag interiors that TB offers. The Synapse 25 has proven a faithful and indispensable companion on trips to Germany, Italy, and Iceland. It’s acquired a bit of character along the way (haven’t we all?), and it’s as sturdy and reliable as it was on day one. Although the bags feel quite secure, if I’m in an urban area I will put a small padlock on whatever bag I’m using.

In my daily carry, my most treasured non-Tom Bihn items are fountain pens. I love the aesthetics of them, how they make writing a pleasure, how they make my writing more legible, and how they are more environmentally friendly than disposable pens. I try to ink up and use all the pens in my collection. At the moment I’ve got a Kaweco Brass Sport, a Lamy 2000, and an Edison Nouveau Premiere in rotation.

TOM BIHN Blog | sea_otter 3EDC

Here are some of the items on rotation in my Medium Café Bag. Usually all the smaller bits and bobs go into the Wasabi 3D Organizer Cube. If I need to make a cut-down version of that, I’ll put the most crucial things into the Cubelet.
Daily carry contents:

  • GeoKnots nano log roller (to make rolling up tiny geocache logbooks much easier)
  • Fountain pens: currently in use are the Lamy 2000, Edison Nouveau Premier from Goulet Pens, and Kaweco Brass Sport. They live in a Nock ‘Sinclair’ pen case. I keep a wee box of ink cartridges and a notebook in there too.
  • Hobonichi Weeks planner
  • Traveler’s Company ‘passport’-size notebook
  • Santitizer
  • Lip balm/floss/comb to make me presentable
  • Paracetamol for when life gives you a headache
  • Victorinox SwissCard Lite multi tool
  • Change purse
  • ‘Qliplet’ carabiner/hooks by Lulabop (thanks Perseffect for bringing these to my attention!)
  • Tisserand lavender essential oil roller
  • Gardener’s Hand Therapy by Crabtree and Evelyn
  • Microfiber cloth, lens cleaner, and mini screwdriver for glasses
  • Fisher Space Pen in lime green

TOM BIHN Blog | sea_otter3 Medium Cafe Bag

Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?

The Daylight Backpack, which I take on many of the same trips as the Synapse 25, to use as a daily backpack at my destination. It’s the perfect size for a small excursion. It’s light, comfortable, holds a surprising amount, and is very sturdy. When I met Suzanne, an American friend, for the first time, we immediately bonded over our Tom Bihn bags and matching lime green Fisher Space Pens – we even took a picture of them together on the steps of the Bodleian Library in Oxford!

TOM BIHN Blog | sea_otter3 in Oxford

An utterly crucial travel item is the Travel Tray. At the end of a long day’s travel, it’s great to have a safe place for small, easily lost items and bits of jewellery, or things that I may need at night. The Travel Tray will happily accept all that stuff. It’s also a great yarn bowl, for the knitters and crocheters amongst us.

TOM BIHN Blog | sea_otter3 Knitting

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I live in the south of England, and work in both public and academic libraries. I love coffee, rain, knitting, and books. I love animals, too, and have a golden retriever and two Siamese cats. This year I’m doing Country Walking magazine’s challenge to walk 1000 miles in 2017. On Instagram I am @sea_otter3.

TOM BIHN Blog | sea_otter3 Clementine

Portable Culture Portrait: NWHikergal

Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member NWHikergal. The previous editions featured Forum members widepipe, Rocks, JonC, cdh, Badger, haraya, imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.

What’s the most useful item that you carry?

The most useful item that I carry is my iPhone. Whether checking emails, mapping a run or bike ride, using travel apps, checking TB forums, or trying to beat the terrible Seattle traffic with navigation apps, I have likely grown way more reliant on it than I would have ever imagined. And I use it multiple times a day for quick photos of myriad things, which I can easily text, email, or post online. I also have to carry a work phone, which is less of a blessing! Even though I rely on my iPhone often, I am extremely grateful when I have the opportunity to disconnect from emails when I am out of cell range or enjoying the outdoors, though I still snap pics.

What’s your most treasured item?

I would have to say several photo albums of older non-digital family photos, as well as a book of family recipes that my mother gave me. Those are irreplaceable items. While I may have many items of greater financial value, these have the most personal value.

Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?

Tom Bihn shop bags! I honestly don’t think one can have too many. I use them every single day for everything from grocery shopping to travel/road trips to dealing with the miscellany that pops up each day. And no matter how much weight I load them with – even items like heavy cat litter and cases of cat food in one bag – they never struggle. I can throw a large shop bag over each shoulder and haul away, which is particularly handy when I am bulk shopping or moving lots of items and don’t want to make tons of trips up the stairs.

One item that I did not anticipate using as much as I do is a kiwi Clear Organizer Wallet. While I do not use it for daily carry, it accompanies me for all of my adventures on land and water, whether I am hiking, biking, paddle boarding, or traveling. It gives me peace of mind to bring the basics with me in it: driver’s license, insurance card, one credit card, and a little cash. I don’t have to worry about dragging around things I do not need, but I have enough items to cover most scenarios. I keep the cards in one section, cash in another, and I can put receipts in the other if needed.


My weekend carry bag is a navy parapack/solar Synapse 19, and during weekdays I generally carry a medium café bag (previously original halcyon/wasabi, now mars/dawn), though I have recently alternated this with a black/fjord Little Swift.


For work travel I tend to use either a halcyon Co-Pilot or a halcyon Maker’s Bag for all day meetings, depending on how many items I need to carry. And I use a Smart Alec for my clothing items.


My daily carry items include:

  • Allett women’s ultra slim wallet
  • Revo sunglasses in cheery aftermarket case
  • Lipstick, lip balm and small hand sanitizer in a kiwi mini Q kit
  • Tissue packets
  • Small first aid kit (I recently switched my FAK items from a small double organizer pouch to a mars cubelet)
  • EpiPen
  • Work cell
  • Personal cell
  • Fenix E12 flashlight
  • Keychain
  • Benchmade Mini Griptilian knife (unless I am flying/headed to places where I cannot bring it)
  • Work ID on paracord quick release lanyard
  • Miir 27 ounce water bottle
  • Miir 8 ounce tumbler for coffee – as needed
  • Either small or large shop bag – as needed

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I currently live in Northwest, and in my spare time I try to get outdoors as much as possible to enjoy the mountains, water, and scenery the area offers. I also love sampling the local cuisine, discovering new restaurants/food trucks/coffee shops/microbreweries, as well as returning to old favorites. I travel occasionally for work, but I prefer traveling for fun, and I have lived throughout the U.S. and worked overseas. If I could have a fun second job, I would love to be a full-time gear tester!

Portable Culture Portrait: widepipe

Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member widepipe. The previous editions featured Forum members Rocks, JonC, cdhBadger, haraya, imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.

What’s the most useful item that you carry?

I’m going to skip over my iPhone, even though I don’t know what I would do without it.

TOM BIHN Blog | widepipe Hydroflask

The item I pull out my bag more than any other is my Hydro Flask water bottle. When I’m at home, I do a good job of drinking a lot of water, but I struggle when I’m out. With other water bottles, the water became too warm after a bit of time. It is amazing how long the Hydro Flask keeps water cold. Anytime I see a water fountain, I refill my Hydro Flask.

What’s your most treasured item?

I LOVE my Apple AirPods. I have gone through a bunch of wireless headphones over the years. They are almost always underwhelming because of fit, connection or charging issues. Sometimes, all three. When the AirPods were announced, I didn’t have crazy expectations. I also wondered about how ridiculous I would look wearing them. After one week with them, I knew I had found the perfect wireless headphones. Since they charge every time they go into their case, they’re always ready when I need them. They sound great and fit well. I don’t care if I look ridiculous wearing them.
Even with the carefree charging, I carry a pair of wired headphones just in case 🙂

Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?

I bought the Snow Peak Cutlery Set mostly because I thought it was a beautiful product. I didn’t realize how often I would use it. While I work at home, I need to get out of the house at least once a day to bring my mind back to some equilibrium. This trip out is often lunch. I use the cutlery set a few times a week to eat everything from salad to soup. My sushi habit has me considering the Snow Peak Chopsticks as another addition to the bag.

TOM BIHN Blog | widepipe Bag

Left to right, top to bottom:

  • TB Medium Cafe Bag – I just started using this after using an original TB Ristretto for a while.
  • Gum/breath mints
  • Protein bars – either Epic or EXO cricket flour bars (yes, crickets!). This is all about avoiding the tempting carb-loaded treats at coffee shops.
  • Snow Peak Cutlery Set
  • Hydro Flask water bottle

TB Freudian Slip for Medium Cafe Bag containing:

  • Field Note notebook
  • Uni-ball Signo Dx
  • Apple 10.5″ iPad Pro – Even though I do a bunch of design work, a meaningful part of my job is writing. I’m finding the iPad to be a more calm, distraction-free place to do this work.
  • Apple Smart Keyboard – To make the above easier.
  • Apple Pencil – I used to enjoy drawing as a kid. I’m hoping to pick it back up 30 years later.
  • Apple iPhone 7 Plus
  • Kindle Paperwhite
  • Apple AirPods
  • TB Clear Organizer Pouch – I skinnied up the wallet I carry in my pants to only include cash, ID and a credit card. The rest of my cards go in here.
  • Collapsible, reusable grocery bag
  • Sunglasses

TB Organizer Pouch for electronics/etc:

  • Business cards
  • Keys for the car I don’t usually drive
  • Leatherman Squirt
  • Extra wired headphones

TB Organizer Pouch containing personal care/first aid stuff:

  • Tissues
  • Chapstick
  • Tylenol
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Band-aids – a must have with 2 boys under 10
  • Aquaphor – to heal anything!

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I am the head of product for a review website. I started out as a web designer. I still get to do some design work when I’m not working on the product side of things.

I live in wonderful Pittsburgh, PA with my wife and two sons (age 6 and 9). After college, we moved to Washington, DC, to put some distance between us and the place we grew up. We never thought we would move back to our childhood home. But on visits back from DC, we started to see the beginning of the transformation the city would eventually undergo. We decided it was time to get back here. We have now been back for an amazing and exciting 10 years.

I got bitten by the Tom Bihn bug more than 10 years ago when I bought a Small Cafe Bag. I still use it regularly. I have many of the same productivity hack tendencies of the Tom Bihn faithful. I love finding well made, thoughtful items that will provide joy when using them. I think that is why Tom Bihn has held a lasting place with me.

I can be found online at, or @widepipe on Twitter.

Portable Culture Portrait: Rocks

TOM BIHN Portable Culture Portrait - Rocks

Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member Rocks. The previous editions featured Forum members JonC, cdhBadger, haraya, imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.

What’s the most useful item that you carry?
The most useful item I carry is probably my iPhone. It has a lot of information, not to mention many diversions. Chief among them, Words with Friends.

What’s your most treasured item?
The most treasured item that I carry is in the Micro Padded Pouch, which is a brand new acquisition. In it is my little clay rabbit constant travel companion. He doesn’t come with me daily, but he comes on every trip. He’s well protected in the “puffy pouch”.

Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?
I didn’t know how useful it would be, but I use the Side Kick every day. It’s pocket nirvana! I transfer it from bag to bag. I carry my phone, wallet, Hobonichi Weeks, Traveler’s Notebook, pens, pencils, Kindle, work badge. When I get to work, I take the Sidekick and my book out of my backpack, and I’m all set to work a three hour show.

TOM BIHN Portable Culture Portrait - Rocks

In the photo:
-Original grid Synapse 19. It will always look like Tron to me.
-windbreaker in the bottom pocket
-Niterider Solas rear bike light
-Nordic/ wasabi Side Kick with wallet, notebook, pens, iPhone, and micro padded pouch
-I always have a book to read backstage. I read all the time.
-kiwi mini Q kit with inhaler and microfiber cleaning cloth for my specs

TOM BIHN Portable Culture Portrait - Rocks
Another bag in the stable, my steel Smart Alec. Pressed into service to bring a six pack to a party. Here we’re waiting for the light rail.

TOM BIHN Portable Culture Portrait - Rocks

And my other most carried bag, the original grid Daylight Backpack, which I love. In that is a book and a wasabi Spiff Kit, which is sort of like an in between Side Effect and Side Kick. Also a souvenir from a trip to London this year, a Paddington from Paddington Station. I love train travel, so I made sure to take several train trips while I was in London.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I work backstage in a big regional theater in Minneapolis. I like to read while waiting for cues.
I bike, walk, or take transit everywhere. I also give tours at the Walker Art Center. I love museums and contemporary art. My travels are mostly art and museum exhibit focused. Bonus, though, if there’s an ocean nearby.

Portable Culture Portrait: JonC

Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member JonC. The previous editions featured Forum members cdhBadger, haraya, imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.

What’s the most useful item that you carry?
The most useful item that I carry daily is my iPhone. Currently I use the iPhone 7 Plus and it helps out with many day-to-day activities, including planning work meetings and tasks, sharing shopping lists with my wife, project planning, photography, and listening to music and podcasts.

What’s your most treasured item?
My wedding ring. It is always with me and it is my good luck charm.

Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?
My Navy Side Effect. I use it as part of my Everyday Carry in my work bag (which is a Black/Northwest Sky Pilot) along with a Snake Charmer in the outer pockets so everything stays organized. On some day trips where I don’t want to take a large bag I use the Side Effect for carrying an extra phone battery, cables, and documents with a cross-body strap.

I also add a Gatekeeper Waist Strap to the Side Effect and use it to carry my phone and keys when running. I am training for my second marathon and it is large enough that I can carry energy gels with me if needed on longer distance runs and it isn’t too large so it never gets in the way.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m from the UK, and always had a strong interest in software development. After I got a masters degree, I took a job in the IT industry as a consultant where I have worked for nearly 10 years.
Some of that time was spent in the US where I met my wife and we are expecting our first child in September.

We are both incredibly excited and this will definitely put our everyday carry items to the test. I have a Large Cafe bag, which will be used as a diaper bag.

I first heard about Tom Bihn from a colleague. After I ordered my first bag, and saw the quality and the thoughtful design it wasn’t long before I ordered more so that my wife and I are prepared for all kinds of travel adventures.

Portable Culture Portrait: cdh

Portable Culture Portrait: cdh

Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member cdh. The previous editions featured Forum members Badger, haraya, imahwaki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.

What’s the most useful item that you carry?
Setting aside the obvious answers (phone, laptop, Kindle), the most useful item is probably my crossword puzzle book. It keeps me occupied for hours on the plane.

What’s your most treasured item?
I try not to treasure items, but I do like my Rainbow sandals a lot. I’ve been wearing Rainbows ever since high school and get a new pair every few years. They function as my only pair of sandals. They wear in nicely and the leather develops a nice patina. They remind me of growing up in Southern California and going to the beach.

Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?
Ibex Indie Hoody. I wear this thing all the time. It’s 100% merino wool, so I never have to wash it.

Portable Culture Portrait: cdh

I use my Synapse 25 (Grey/Iberian) for non-business travel. The items in the photo are what I intended to pack for a 6-day trip to the American Midwest in early May 2017. The forecast ended up predicting warm weather (correctly!), so the actual pack list was a little different than what is shown in the photo. I switched out the puffy jacket for a smaller rain jacket, among other small changes.

1. Clothes (bottom left): Jeans, merino tee, merino hoodie, socks, underwear: I wear these on the plane, along with a pair of sneakers.
2. Extra clothes: Shorts, workout shorts, merino tee, workout tee, socks, underwear: these go in a Tri-Star medium packing cube in the main compartment of the S25.
3. Rainbow sandals. These go in the front “mouth” pocket of the S25.
4. Mouse and laptop charger cord. These go into a 3D packing cube in the main compartment of the S25.
5. Kindle. I put this into the elasticated flap in the main S25 compartment.
6. Laptop, crossword puzzle book, devotional. Main compartment next to the Kindle.
7. Toothbrush, small Maglite, 4-color pen, marker, case for sunglasses and prescription glasses (glasses not shown). These go into the left-side outer pocket of the S25, utilizing the pen slots, too.
8. Deodorant. I am constantly looking for this in a small travel size, but never find it. In this large format, it fits nicely in the phone sleeve inside the right-side outer pocket of the S25.
9. Small Q-Kit with small electronics stuff (USB cords, dongles, etc.). This goes into the right-side pocket of the S25.
10. Toiletries. The 3D Clear Organizer Cube with toiletries goes into the water-bottle pocket of the S25 with lots of room to spare.
11. Ear buds and ear plugs. These go into the small front pocket.
12. Jacket. Normally I would stuff this into a medium Yarn Stuff Sack and put it into the “mouth” pocket.
13. Not shown: goggles and swimsuit for lap swim. “Mouth” pocket.

Photo of everything pre-packed:
Portable Culture Portrait: cdh
1. Toiletries in 3D Clear Organizer Cube.
2. Jacket in medium Yarn Stuff Sack.
3. Swimsuit and goggles in a Baggu sack.
4. S25.
5. Small Q-Kit.
6. 3DOC with mouse and laptop charger.
7. Medium Tri-Star Packing Cube with clothes.

Photo of everything mostly packed:
Portable Culture Portrait: cdh

Portable Culture Portrait: Badger

Our Portable Culture Portrait blog series features TOM BIHN Forum members, the bags they carry, and the items they carry in their bags. It’s inspired by our Portable Culture tagline. This edition features Forum member Badger. The previous editions featured Forum members haraya, imahawki, Amy, Perseffect, jujigatame and bchaplin.

What’s the most useful item that you carry?
TOM BIHN item: The Organizer Pouch in Mini and Small. While I do have multiple pouches in other sizes, I find myself turning to the Mini and Small sizes again and again. They’re just the right size for any bag, and can hold a lot without taking up too much space.

Organizer Pouches are also a low-risk way to check out a new or different color. I’ve discovered many colors I like by just trusting that the Crew will pick something good; even when I determine that I probably wouldn’t want a big item like a backpack in a certain color, the pouches still get a lot of use. I really like them (as the photo below attests).

Non-TOM BIHN item: Aside from my phone, the most useful items I carry are a memo book and pen. I usually have a few Field Notes in my Everyday Carry (EDC) lineup: I use one for work assignments and keeping track of my billable hours; in another, I take notes and make bibliographic records of the books and journal articles I’m reading; in yet another, I make lists of various sorts—it’s a catch-all for things I don’t want to forget. They’re a relatively inexpensive indulgence, and work well for me since my handwriting is on the diminutive side.

In addition to notebooks, I love pens and I’m happy I can justify buying lots of them since they’re practical (so I tell myself). I’ve recently become interested in fountain pens, and I’ll often have one in my bag, but Japanese gel and rollerball pens with nice grips are probably what I use most.

Finally, sunglasses—any sunglasses—are vital to my daily functioning and happiness. I’m photophobic so if I lose or forget my sunglasses, I end up flailing around sightlessly like a naked mole rat.

What’s your most treasured item?
I don’t own many things that are irreplaceable. I certainly have belongings that would be irritating to lose or damage, like my laptop, but I don’t feel emotionally attached to them. Ironically, I treasure many of my bags far more than the items they contain. They attain a sort of uniqueness of character from the way I interact with them and the history we share—for example, the way the bag drapes from how I’ve carried it for years, as well as the fabric’s patina and even the way the zipper pulls operate.

I’ve got levels of attachment to my bags and accessories; often, I’m more fond of ones I’ve received as gifts. When I use something that was given to me (like the 3D Organizer Cube in the middle picture above—thanks, Janine!), I’m reminded of my friends’ generosity and thoughtfulness. It’s also kind of a way of having them along with me on my travels.

Which item do you use more often than you thought you would?
TOM BIHN item: Without a doubt, it’s the Travel Tray (pictured above on the right). I wasn’t quite sure what the fuss was about, but once I had one I found all sorts of uses for it. Over the years I’ve amassed four of them, and each is employed daily around the house or as a travel item. It’s great for holding cables, chargers, or other fiddly bits, and is useful in the car or on the plane because it can be cinched closed and carried by the drawstring. Once I’m at my destination, I dump the contents of my pockets into it, along with other things that would be most unfortunate to leave behind (wallet, phone charger). If I ever forget to bring one on a trip, I kick myself.

Non-TOM BIHN item: It seems like it’s some sort of universal EDC requirement to have at least one pocketknife and multitool. Maybe it’s got something to do with that saying that a hammer can always find a nail that needs pounding, but I got one of each a few years ago and I use them so often for little tasks that I keep them within easy reach on my desk when I’m home. So far, I’ve managed to resist the urge to collect them.

Here’s the rest of my EDC lineup:


  • Lighter, a couple of band-aids, Ultrasuede cleaning cloth in Mini Organizer Pouch
  • Hand sanitizer, tissues, eye drops, painkillers, and Badger lip balm (naturally), in Small Organizer Pouch
  • Anker dual USB charger, Jackery Bar, retractable USB-to-Lightning cable, USB-to-micro USB cable, in Small Organizer Pouch


  • A4 Rhodia Ice Pad, Field Notes, Hobonichi Techo Weeks 2017 planner
  • Leatherman Juice multitool, Spyderco Dragonfly pocketknife, Foursevens mini flashlight
  • Page flags, Lamy Safari fountain pen, Uni Jetstream rollerball, Pilot Juice gel pen, Staedtler pigment liners in .05 and .01 tip sizes


  • Keys, MyWalit Wallet (I keep these in my pockets)
  • A light layer (Patagonia Lightweight Capilene long-sleeve crew), Ibex merino wool hat
  • Confectionery—often mints but today, Mango Hi-Chew
  • Sunglasses and their case, Shure SE215 earbuds, in their own case, affixed to a Key Strap

Not pictured: an iPhone 6, with which I took these stunning photos

Anything else?
In my opinion, the most underrated marsupial is the wombat.


News Briefs

Now available for the first time in 525d ballistic nylon: Aeronaut 30 and Maker’s Bag. Coming soon: Aeronaut 45.

We’re retiring our Road Buddy Duffel 36 and Road Buddy Duffel 60 to make way for new designs. If you’ve been thinking about a Road Buddy, you may want to order soon, as we won’t be making further production runs.

We’ve updated our Planet page with additional efforts: we’re operationally carbon neutral, members of 1% For The Planet, we offer a vegetarian company lunch, and over 80% of our materials are bluesign® and/or OEKO-TEX® certified.

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