New Designs

Pre-Order, The Truck, Zip-Top Shop Bags, Original Small Shop Bag

There’s lots of news and information to share, so let’s get right to it.

New Pre-Order System

This debut’s offerings — The Truck, Large Zip-Top Shop Bag, Small Zip-Top Shop Bag, and Original Small Shop Bag — will be available for pre-order on July 24th with an estimated ship date of early September. All four bags will ship on the same day. Each bag will be available for pre-order from July 24th until July 31st OR until the maximum production batch quantity sells out.

Those of you who’ve known us for a while know that we used to offer new designs for pre-order. The world (and our shopping cart system) have changed since then and there’s a few key differences in the new pre-order system: first, your credit card will be charged for the full amount when you place your pre-order, and second, you’ll be able to add In-Stock bags to your open Pre-Order up until two days before your order ships.

We expect you’ll have a lot of questions about pre-orders and have done our best to answer those in a mini-FAQ on each pre-order product page and in the two blog posts linked below. As always, you’re welcome to give us a call, live chat us, or emailus@tombihn.com if you have additional questions.

On The Design Process: Inspiration, Timeline, Testing

Both Tom and Nik are designing various new bags and smaller items—everything from new backpacks to new travel bags to new organizer pouches. And that, of course, prompts questions: When will they be released? Will all the designs turn into real bags that will debut someday?

There’s an easy answer: we don’t know. But why do we not know? And further, how can we be comfortable with—and actually admit to—not knowing?

First, we might identify the various impetuses behind the new designs, as the origin of their inspiration does impact the design process and timeline of development.

The inspiration for Tom and Nik’s new designs is influenced by:

  • Taking and using bags (current designs or prototypes of new designs) on trips.
  • Observing other people traveling, hiking, or commuting with bags.
  • Feedback from people who use our bags.
  • The intervention of inspiration from an unknown, unidentifiable source. (Sounds lofty, but we’ve all experienced that in our work, haven’t we?)
  • A design problem or challenge that would be exquisite to solve.
  • An aesthetic drive: to first start with building something that looks good.
  • Life events. Best friend having a baby? We’ll make a diaper bag!
  • Recalling an incomplete design that was put aside years ago, and applying newfound knowledge and skills to complete the design.

The development timeline of new designs is influenced by:

  • How busy we are running our small business. Internal projects can sidetrack design. For example: over the past few years, we’ve designed and programmed our own inventory and production management software, implemented our new inventory scanning/tracking system, rebuilt nearly our entire website on a new platform, and reviewed, documented, and improved all customer service and shipping-related procedures.
  • How inspiration waxes and wanes. It may be there for a week and gone the next three weeks—or three years. We don’t push it or force it; in our experience, design driven by inspiration is far superior to design forced to meet a timeline.
  • Research into and development of new materials that’ll make the new design truly sing.
  • Engineering the manufacturing of the design so that it is … manufacturable.
  • Configuring a new sewing machine set-up, folder*, or ordering dies* to make the design efficiently manufacturable.
  • Staff time to either make the bag or make the debut happen. We have decided we’re happy with the size of our company more-or-less—with 47 people, we’re big enough to do stuff like develop custom fabrics and small enough that we’re all still working here together under one roof in Seattle. Having a smaller company/crew means there’s less redundancy—if someone takes family leave because they’re having a baby or someone else has major surgery (these two things have happened recently/are happening right now FYI), we rally to cover their work or make do so they can take time without worrying about it. That can mean that new releases or debuts or other projects get delayed because we don’t have our full crew on deck. With the rare exception around the holiday season, our crew doesn’t work overtime. Tom, Nik, and I often work in excess of forty hours each week, but that’s because we want to.
  • The fact that many design ideas don’t make their way to fruition. This excerpt from Tom’s most recent newsletter update sums it up well: At the same time, we’re experimenting with and developing new fabrics (my Taber testing machine is getting a workout!), new webbing, and new zippers. And I realize (once again), that more often than not, these forays start off with high hopes but yield nothing new that we can actually use—they’re good ideas that turn out to be not-so-good realities. Indeed, life would be much different (though far less interesting, IMHO) if one knew in advance which was going to be a gold mine and which a rabbit hole. But the few fabrics that work well, and the few designs that rise above the others, make it all worthwhile.

Updates on Just a Few of the Designs We’re Working On Right Now

Last month, Tom sewed a prototype of a new backpack/briefcase design so he could use it on a weekend trip. In line at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, the guy standing behind Tom told him that it was a great looking bag and asked him who made it. Tom replied that he, in fact, had made it, and that while he appreciated the feedback, he’d already redesigned the bag over the course of that short trip, and it would end up looking a lot different. Tom made something like five design changes to the bag after using it on trips—that’s how his design process works. Even when that process results in a longer development timeline, we think it’s worth it. We’d rather take our time and meet our own standards of perfection.

Or, take the Luminary backpack: we were 100% sure its design update was done when several different people testing the bag told us an additional interior pocket against its front face would be useful. And, upon first consideration, Tom thought that could be a good idea too. But by that time, he had shifted his focus to working on other new designs, such as the aforementioned briefcase/backpack, which are now nearly done. His plan is to complete those designs and then work on samples of the Luminary with the new pocket so we can see if it’s a good idea in reality.

The same process can apply to materials—and it’s not uncommon that we have to wait on the development of a new material that’s necessary to make a new bag design. Tom’s currently developing a new fabric and a sample of it arrived from our mill. It looked exactly as we had envisioned it, but it didn’t Taber test as well as we had hoped. We expect to spend weeks investigating those Taber results in an effort to identify and solve the problem.

To Sum it All Up…

As usual ’round here, there’s a lot in the works. And when a design is really, really done—and its debut it scheduled—we’ll let you know about it.

Until then, we remain grateful for your feedback, support, and interest in our little company and what we make. The more work we put into what we do, the more we get out of it, and the more you share with us (whether a review of your bag, photos from a trip, or constructive feedback), the more we’re inspired to take on new projects and make things even better than they are. Thanks!

*Dies and die cutting
A die is, most simply put, a sharpened steel edge bent into a specific shape: think of an industrial strength cookie-cutter. We use dies to cut small fabric parts like pouches, as well as foam and plastic parts. Dies allow you cut out parts with a very high degree of accuracy and speed. We use a 20 ton press (called a “clicker”) to push the dies through whatever material we’re cutting. All of our dies are custom fabricated to our specifications.

*Folder/binder
A folder (also sometimes called a binder) is an attachment to a sewing machine, typically made of stainless steel or chrome-plated steel, which sits in front of the needle and feed-dogs (mechanisms that pull the fabric through the machine). The folder/binder effectively mimics the hands and fingers of a sewing machine operator, locating or placing various parts in very specific and consistent orientations relative to one another. Folders allow many of our sewing operations to take place with near-perfect consistency, and at high speeds. We have folders that keep the edge of zipper tape in the same relative placement to the sewing operation, at the same time folding the cut edge of the fabric and holding that folded edge consistent to the seam and zipper as well. We use several folders that fold the various narrow widths and types of fabric tape (effectively light weight webbing) that we use to cover the cut edges of fabric inside our bags, preventing those cut edges from fraying apart. Many of our padded handles are created by using folders. All of our folders are custom fabricated to our specifications.

New: Aeronaut Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt

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

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

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

Aeronaut 30 or 45 Internal Frame

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

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

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

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

Aeronaut Padded Hip Belt

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

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

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

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

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

New Luminary Backpacks Are In The Works


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

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

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

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

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

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


Various Luminary prototypes on Tom’s drafting table.

New Passport Pouches

Passport Pouch that fits four passports

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

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

We also now offer our Passport Pouch in two versions:

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

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

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

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

Passport Holder by TOM BIHN

Passport and Document Wallet

Recently in Photos

Here are a few of the photos you shared with us recently in the forums! (Thanks!)

 

TOM BIHN Blog | Recently in Photos bartleby Caldera Colorada

A cool shot at Caldera Colorada with the Guide’s Edition Synapse 25.

Posted in the Forums by bartleby

New Packing Cubes

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

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

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

Mesh

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

Aether

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

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

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

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

Meet our three latest designs…

The Guide’s Edition Synapse 25

The Pop Tote

Synapse 19 or Synapse 25 Internal Frame

Introducing The Travel Cubelet

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

In Production. Ships on Friday, October 27th at 8:00am Pacific Time. Sign up to be notified on the Travel Cubelet page.

Summer 2017 Debut Guide

June 2017 Debut - TOM BIHN

Today’s Debuts Stowaway Personal Carry-on Convertible Travel Briefcase / Backpack Stowaway Packing Cubes Luminary Backpack Yeoman Duffel Packing Cubes Cubelet Airplane Baseball Cap, Cotton or Wool Updated (O-ring placement was changed to accommodate the new Pouchkins) First/Second Aid Pouches with optional new First/Second Aid Pouchkins And last but not at all least… two new fabrics…

News Briefs

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

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

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

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