How To Pack Light For A Family Trip to Hawaii

Zeke — the person behind the camera of many of our videos — recently took a trip to Hawaii with his wife and son. Each of them took a Daylight Briefcase and a Daylight Backpack in the spirit of packing light. The first video below shows what and how they packed; the second video is of the trip itself.

Our Q&A with Zeke:

What do you wish you had packed that you didn’t?
I’ve been ultralight packing for a long time — over 100 trips by now to all different climates and with stays of all different lengths — so I’ve got it pretty dialed in. But I still learn something on just about every trip. For example, I’ve never owned a strap/band for my sunglasses. You know, those things that keep them from falling of your head. It was so lovely and sunny there I wore my sunglasses to float in the ocean. Next thing you know, a wave plucks them right off my face. They’re really nice sunglasses and I felt like a dope. Fortunately my wife is a superhero and when she went in the ocean about 20 minutes later, she found them!

Is there an item that you packed that you didn’t end up using?
I picked up these really cool looking swim trunks for the trip. Turned out they are good pool trunks but terrible ocean trunks! The first big wave rendered the Velcro useless and my trunks around my ankles! Needless to say, we went to a shop and got a proper pair of board shorts for the rest of the trip.

Question for all three of you: what was your favorite part of the trip?
The Wife: Shutting off and relaxing on the beach.
The Husband: The ocean. Floating for hours and hours in the ocean — and getting to spend quality time with my family.
The Son: Shaved ice for breakfast!

Your trip seemed like the ideal mix of exploring and just totally relaxing by doing nothing. Does that come naturally to you guys or do you have to make an effort to unwind?
We’re a type A family. So if we’re going to relax we have to work at it. And we’re going make sure we do a darn good job of it, too. 🙂

Full Packing Lists:

The Wife

In the Daylight Backpack:
Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube End Pocket
Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Small Laundry
Shorts & Sarong
Shampoo, Conditioner, Gel, Essential Oils
2 Pair Flip Flops

In the Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube End Pocket:
Rash Guard
Tank Top
Bathing Suit Cover-up

In the Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Small Laundry Packing Cube:
2x Bathing Suit, 4x Underwear, Bra, Skirt, Dress
Bathing Suit Cover-up

In the Daylight Briefcase:
Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Small
Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Mini
Spiff Kit – Deluxe
Travel Cubelet
Key Straps & Pen

In the Cubelet:
Eye Drops
3x Lip Balm
Mirror & Hairbands

In the Small Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch:
Glasses & Cleaning Cloth

In the Mini Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch:
Noise Canceling Headphones

In the Deluxe Spiff Kit:
5x Make-up, 4x Make-up Brushes,
3x Face Cream, Hand Lotion,
Conditioner, Contacts, Lens Case,
2x Soap, Floss, Toothbrush,
Q-tips, Razor

In the Travel Cubelet:
Credit Cards, Cash, Cell Phone
Lip Gloss, Keys, Sunglasses

The Husband

In Daylight Backpack:
3D Organizer Cube, Clear
Aeronaut 30 Packing Cubes – Small Laundry
Packing Cube Shoulder Bag
Flip Flops
Small Tripod & Book

In the Clear 3D Organizer Cube:
Shampoo, Conditioner, Bodywash, Toothpaste, Toothbrush

In the Small Laundry Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube:
Rash Guard, 4x Socks, 4x Boxers

In the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag:
Swim Trunks, Shorts, Belt, 3x T-Shirts

In Daylight Briefcase:
3D Organizer Cube Mesh
Travel Fork & Spoon
Water Bottle
Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Super Mini
Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Mini
Key Straps
Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Small
GoPro w/ Handle
Noise Canceling Headphones

In the Mesh 3D Organizer Cube:
4x Camera Batteries, Memory Card, ND Filters, Camera, Battery Charger

In the Cubelet:
USB Adaptors, Pen, Earplugs, USB Cable, Phone Charger, Backup Battery
Handkerchief, USB C Cable

In the Super Mini Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch:
Vitamins, Peppermint Oil, Lip Balm

In the Mini Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch:
GoPro Accessories

In the Small Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch:

The Son

In Daylight Backpack:
Fins, Flip Flops, Travel Stuff Sack Size 3, 2x T-Shirts,
Travel Stuff Sack Size 2, 3x Shorts

In the Travel Stuff Sack Size 3:
2x Swim Trunks, 4x Socks, PJ’s

In the Travel Stuff Sack Size 2:
3x Underwear, Rashguard

In Daylight Briefcase:
Book, Earbuds, Ereader, Sunglasses, Chapstick,
Spiff Kit, Water Bottle

In the Spiff Kit:
Mini Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch Filled w/ Lucky Rocks
Toothbrush w/ 2 Heads, Card Game, Belt, Swim Goggles

Zeke Kamm is a filmmaker; he’s the person behind the camera of many of our bag videos. His latest projects: The Last Blockbuster and the Unwinder podcast.

Dream trip to New Zealand: Packing List + Tips

Zeke had always dreamed of visiting New Zealand.

Here’s what he packed when the trip became a reality:

On the Plane
Carbon fiber buckle Grip 6 belt
Olukai Eleu Trainer shoes – Later switched to Vans slip ons
FITS Ultra Light Runner socks
Bluffworks Chino
Bluffworks Meridian shirt
Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
Synapse 25

In the Synapse 25
2x Hydro Flask 18 oz Wide Mouth
RFID Passport Pouch & Passport
Sungod Custom Classics2 Sunglasses

In the 3D Organizer Cube, Clear
Electric Toothbrush,
Tooth Powder & Hair Puddy
in Contact Lens Cases,
Soap & Shampoo Bar in Zip Lock
Deodorant Stick,
Sunscreen Powder & Stick
Kent KFM4 Folding Brush

In the 3D Organizer Cube, Fabric
Nomad USB Key w/ adaptor
USB C cable
Plug Adaptors
Vitamins In Altoid Tins
USB Charger
Cables, etc.

Reef Flip Flops in a grocery bag

In the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag
Thunderbolt Shorts
Thunderbolt belt buckle
3 pair Smartwool
3 pair Fits socks
3 pair
Wool & Prince
boxer briefs
4 T-Shirts

In the Side Kick
A Key Strap
Mini Halcyon Organizer Pouch w/essential oils & lip balm
USB Battery
Retractable USB Cable
Bose QC20 Noise Canceling Earbuds
Kobo eReader
Dreamweaver Eye Mask
ER•20 Earplugs
Big Idea Design Ti Pocket Pro Pen
Phone Stand
Pocket Travel Pillow
WIZO Foldable Keyboard
Tray Note

In the Mini Q-Kit
Eco Dept. Travel Towel

In the 3D Organizer Cube, Mesh
Smartwool Hoodie

Last but not least…
Size 4 Travel Stuff Sack for dirty clothes

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.

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.

One Month In Italy

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

The Videos

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

Episode II:  Zeke’s Top Travel Hacks

Episode III:  One Month In Italy

The Essay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Labels 1975 – 2017

TOM BIHN History of Labels

A brief history of TOM BIHN logo labels over the years. See also: History of Portable Culture

To Mexico City

Zeek (you know him from SHEP, the people who make our videos) and his friends went to Mexico City. With their TOM BIHN bags, of course. Here’s a video that Zeek made of the trip and, below the video, some of his tips for bringing cameras and shooting stills and video while on vacation.

– When I travel, I try to reduce my camera setup to the absolute minimum. For Mexico City, I picked a single prime lens that made it easy to take a few steps back for wider shots and a few steps forward for closeups. It was incredibly compact and it was far more important to me to have something I could easily pop in and out of a bag to take shots quickly and discreetly — and not have my mobility inhibited whatsoever.

– I think the biggest thing while traveling is to try to find that zen place where your camera doesn’t get in the way of your experience. If you go into the mentality that you are under no obligation to capture everything and only take your camera out when it feels natural, you’ll ultimately be more in tune with your environment and get better stuff. I find myself particularly not worrying about the big stuff. Famous monuments have been photographed millions of times — do I really have a unique perspective to offer? Why would I worry about getting a subpar version of what my friends and family have already seen in National Geographic quality? I’m far more interested in noticing small, weird details or spontaneous moments of everyday life. When you’re producing images you always have to remember you will have an audience — whether it’s an actual publication, family, or just your future self remembering the trip.

The Bags We Carry

In 1990, after 18 years of designing and making bags at night and on the weekends, Tom opened his first shop in Santa Cruz and founded TOM BIHN. Today there are almost 50 of us working here. To us, it’s a number that means a lot. That’s a lot of steady growth and hard work over the years. We’re proud of our designs. We’re proud of using the best materials we can find or have made for us. And we’re proud that we’re creating careers.

You share with us how you use your bags—in the Forums, on Facebook, via Insatgram and Twitter. It’s inspiring, validating, and a learning experience: you figure out ways to use bags and accessories that we, as the designers, didn’t even think of.

So, we thought we’d make a video that shows you how we use our bags. You can watch it below, and, as always: let us know what you think!

Ben’s Knot Tutorial

After we debuted our new Cord Zipper Pull options, some of you asked for a written tutorial on how to achieve the Robust Knot seen in our how-to video. Here you go!

The Robust Knot is a simple knot that can be customized to the desired length of the loop as well as the pull itself.

As seen in the video below, fold the line in half with the bottom facing yourself. Keep in mind that the knot builds downward, so make the loop longer than you will want it when finished. We recommend starting with about 2″-2 1/2″, depending on the desired loop and knot size. Loop the right arm across the front so that it is perpendicular to the original large loop, forming a horizontal line. Take the left arm down over that horizontal line, around the back of the original large loop, and back through the loop created by your first fold. Pull tight but do not cinch, as this will pull the slack out of your large loop. Repeat the above process from the left side. Now cinch all ends, including the large loop, as tightly as possible. This can be repeated as many times as needed for the desired length of the knotted pull, simply alternate the side that is pulled down to begin the process.

We recommend that you repeat the process at least three times. This will leave a knot roughly 1/2″. When the knot is cinched tight, clip the remaining string ends as close to the body of the knot as possible and lightly burn the ends with a lighter, using care not to melt the body of the knot. Loop through the end of your metal zipper pull and enjoy!

The Parental Unit Diaper Bag

The Parental Unit is the result of Tom’s resolve to build a “diaper bag” that does more than just assist parents with changing diapers: it’ll help organize and mobilize any parent or parents that participate in the modern world with their young kids. One of our goals in designing The Parental Unit was to make trips to the store, to the in-laws, daycare and even the museum less stressful and just as much fun as they should be. That, and making sure you won’t look like a dork with some huge encumbrance slung over your shoulder, whacking nice people in the face as you navigate the narrow aisles of public transit or cozy restaurants. We particularly eschewed goofy printed fabrics: if you want a bag that screams “I’m a parent!”, you’ll have to look elsewhere. The Parental Unit was designed to be as svelte as possible, and equally stylish for all genders: long after the kids are out of diapers and on their way to college, the P.U. might still be your favorite go-to bag for everyday carry.

As a parent—or, if you’re expecting, you’ve probably heard this from other parents—you know that being organized and prepared (or not) is the deciding factor in what can make an outing with baby a great one (or not). The Parental Unit is loaded with organizational abilities, ready to assist. It is symmetrical front-to-back: both facets have gently curved zippers that open to generous, but not excessive, organizer compartments. Both of these are further divided into three vertical sub-compartments; the dividers themselves are more generous at their tops so that the wearer can easily see down into the sub-compartments. The center of the three is sized to fit most diapers, wipe dispensers (travel or home size both fit) and/or a changing pad; the spaces on either side are good for baby bottles, water bottles, or snacks.

The center compartment opens with a top zipper: we assume you’ll leave that unzipped most of the time for fast access to a toy or a spit-up cloth, but you can zip it shut in bad weather or if you need to stow it during travel. Two billowy open-top pouches are sewn front and back inside this main compartment—you can choose to leave them empty and just take advantage of the large space, or you can use them to further organize changes of clothes and more diapers, or stash food, wipes, rags, etc. The outer surfaces of these pouches have three plastic snaps that allow you to join them together, dividing that one big space into four smaller and complete separate ones (we know that’s hard to picture—watch The Parental Unit video to see how that works).

And we’ll admit it: a TOM BIHN diaper bag was a bit overdue. Thanks for your patience while we worked on designing the best diaper bag that we thought could be made.

The Parental Unit | TOM BIHN

The Parental Unit Diaper Bag | TOM BIHN

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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