How to Choose a Bag to Give as a Gift
Watercolor by Dan Bransfield. And the bag in the watercolor? That’s the Shop Bag, one of our go-to bags to give as a gift.
For the longest time, when folks asked us for advice on which bag to get a friend or family member, our response was: “You can’t go wrong with a Gift Certificate!” Since then, we’ve expanded our range of designs to include bags that will be useful to just about everyone — see this list of our favorite bags to give as gifts. And you’ve shared with us your stories of choosing a particular bag to give as a gift and having it be a hit. And we’ve given countless bags as gifts ourselves. So, here’s our guide to choosing a bag to give as a gift.
Our first recommendation remains the trusty Gift Certificate. That way, the lucky recipient will get to choose the exact bag and color they’d like to have. You can choose to have the Gift Certificate emailed to you so you can deliver it yourself, or delivered immediately to the recipient via email.
Our second recommendation: ask us for advice! Send a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and or give us a call to talk with Mike, Kat, Matthew or Cody. We’re experts in helping people find the right bag for them and would be delighted at the chance to help you figure out the perfect gift! You can also crowd-source a winning gift by asking the kind and knowledgable folks in our Forums.
If you’re going the route of choosing the bag for your friend or family member, here are some things to consider:
Who is the bag for?
Think about your friend, loved one, work colleague or whoever you’re buying this bag for. What do they carry now? Do they pack their current bag to the brim, or do they have a lot of extra space? Do they currently carry a messenger bag or briefcase, or a backpack? Are they ultra-organized, do they wish they were organized, or are they happy with their joyful chaos of objects? Spend some time really thinking about the person for whom you’re buying the gift, and, if this isn’t a last minute thing, make a mental note to watch how they carry their stuff. Paying attention is how you can turn the good intention of a great gift into a “How did you know I needed this?! I didn’t even know I needed this!” kind of gift.
Do some sleuthing!
Ask the recipient of your generosity questions about their current bag and what they like and don’t like, and be sure to use a smokescreen so they don’t get the hint. Example: “Hey, Jennifer—I’m thinking of getting a new bag. Just curious… what would you look for in a new bag?”
What is the recipient’s organizational style?
Some people just throw their stuff in their bag, zip it up, and go. Others may prefer a lot of built-in organization, or modular organizers. How a person packs provides another clue about what bag style might suit them best.
Very generally, bags with larger and more open main compartments are great for people who like to cram or toss in their stuff, or for travelers who use the bundle packing method. Bags with multiple compartments can provide more structure, but may require more precise packing in order to look good and distribute weight evenly. Bags with lots of pockets, pen slots, and the like can keep small items organized. Bags of all types can be further customized and personalized with accessories.
Just sharing the love
If you’re still not sure what to get, or if all you really want is to be able to share TOM BIHN craftsmanship and design, we suggest choosing something that’s simple and widely useful.
The following bags and accessories are cited frequently as ones that Forum members reach for again and again. They’re designs we think many people will find useful and enjoy.
The zip-top Pop Tote is the new tote on the block. People have been requesting that Tom design a zip-top tote bag since, well, since before the turn of the century. He always thought it was a good idea, but none of his prototypes were substantially better than all the other zip totes out there—there were plenty of those, and if folks wanted them, there they were. But in the spring of 2017, Tom again applied himself to the task, and he came up with the Pop Tote, which, if we may say so ourselves, is the best zip-top tote in the world. Many people agreed and the first production run of Pop Totes sold out; more are being made and are estimated to ship by or on December 14th.
We designed the Travel Cubelet to serve as the perfect travel purse, and according to the early feedback and reviews, we just might’ve nailed it. (Shhh: our plan is to pack the Travel Cubelets we plan to give as gifts with our favorite travel-sized toiletries and necessities to create mini-amenities-kits.)
Because it folds up so teeny tiny, Pocket Travel Pillow is a great stocking-stuffer (or tuck it in a Travel Cubelet amenities kit — see above) for anyone who travels or commutes by bus, ferry, or train. The idea is this: take your down jacket or sweater and stuff it into the Pocket Travel Pillow. Voila!
Aeronaut 45 Convertible Travel Bag
Whether they travel by plane, train, or as part of a camel caravan, any astute adventurer will appreciate the durability of our three-compartment Aeronaut, which can be carried as a backpack, shoulder bag, or with the handles as the situation dictates. The 45 can hold a surprising amount of clothing and gear; if your recipient is a bit smaller in stature or wants to travel super light, we recommend the scaled-down Aeronaut 30.
Yeoman Duffel (sizes Mini, Small, Medium, and Large)
Hardworking and good-looking, the Yeoman Duffel is available in four sizes. You’ll be sure to find the perfect size to use for the gym, car or boat, or any time you need to haul gear. Made from 1050d Ballistic nylon, the Yeoman is prepared to survive almost anything, including the cargo hold of a plane.
Buying a gift for a person in your life who is outdoorsy, has dogs, and loves good quality gear? We recommend considering the Skookum Dog Camp Mat, Skookum Dog Citizen Canine and the Skookum Dog Road Duffel. Fun, functional, and Made in USA, these items are loved by canines and the human company they keep.
Cafe Shoulder Bags (sizes Small and Medium)
A quintessential “grab it and go” kind of bag, the Cafe Bag holds all of life’s little essentials. Comfortable to wear over the shoulder or cross-body, the Cafe Bag is available in a pleasing array of colors.
The Sprout Kid’s Backpack
Sized especially for kids between 4–8, the Sprout has all the thoughtful craftsmanship you’ll find in our adult-sized backpacks. It’s just smaller. And very cute.
Made of bright and cheery Halcyon fabric, Shop Bags come in two sizes and are equipped with handy side pockets and comfortable padded handles. Not only for shopping, they make great toy organizers, car totes, and beach bags. (If you think they’d appreciate a beefier bag, check out the sturdy wonder that is the Moveable Feast Reusable Grocery Bag, made of 1050d Ballistic nylon.)
For the hiker on your list, you can’t go wrong with The Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 or The Guide’s Pack. Both are classics and will stand the tests of time in both looks and form. Choose The Guide’s Edition Synapse 25 for the person who you think will also use it as their EDC or The Guide’s Pack for a pack totally dedicated to the trail.
The humble Travel Tray is a favorite of the TOM BIHN Forums: it holds all manner of little things you need when you travel; it’s flexible, squishable, and capacious, making it easy to tuck into your bag; and it’s brightly colored, so you won’t leave it behind on the hotel nightstand. It works well as a catch-all and organizer at home, too. And it’s now available in two sizes: Small and Large.
Travel Stuff Sacks
Available in four sizes, these stuff sacks can be used in any bag or around the house. They’re useful for color-coding different items, and are especially handy for holding things that don’t fit into flat or cube-shaped pouches. Great for stocking stuffers—or even serving as a stocking themselves!
A good friend to anyone who’s got lots of little things to organize, the Q-Kit comes in two sizes to fit any bag. The Q-Kit is good for stuff like earbuds, change, phone chargers, laundromat tokens, kid treasures, and even dog (or human) treats.
A lightweight backpack that fits bigger kids and most adults, the endlessly-customizable Daylight Backpack is great for day trips, overnights, and daily carry.
A small bag that can be carried over the shoulder, worn around the waist, or carried by an optional loop strap. Loaded with pockets, it can be used as a purse or an organizer inside another bag. It’s also great for holding in-flight essentials.
RFID Passport Pouch
Carry up to three passports in this handy pouch, which blocks RFID chips from being scanned or read without your knowledge. You can wear it around your neck or waist, or clip it into your bag.
Still can’t decide? Crowd-source a winner by asking our Forums, send a note to our bag experts Mike, Matthew, Kat, and Cody at email@example.com, or give us a call at 1-800-729-9607 (U.S. & Canada) or +1-206-652-4123 (other countries).
We’ve retired Canyon 210d ballistic nylon and Carbon Aether. See a list of bags still available in these two colors and fabrics here.
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