The Cafe Bag is incredibly simple and versatile. Available in three sizes (Small, Medium, and Large) and an array of colors, it’s great for hauling your everyday essentials. Classic and unobtrusive, it’s at home anywhere: the coffee shop, the office, the park, the movies, or on your next country stroll or bike ride to town. You can even use it as a minimalistic overnight bag.

The Cafe Bag fits in any urban environment but is tough enough to take to the beach or on your next light hike. If you want to figure out which Cafe Bag will work for you, you can do what Forum member jujigatame did and fabricate a mock-up. No? Then maybe this guide will help.

Design

Some design elements are common to all three Cafe Bag sizes:

  • A large open-top main compartment
  • An asymmetrical flap that closes with a sturdy Duraflex buckle
  • A front zip pocket beneath the flap
  • A slanted, open-top pocket on the back of the bag
  • Attachment points for a waist strap (which comes standard on the Large Cafe Bag and is optional for the Medium and Small sizes)

Cafe Bags come in two fabric choices: a 1000D Cordura exterior with a 420 HT nylon Parapack lining, or a 400D Dyneema exterior with a 200D Dyneema lining. Every bag also comes with one black 8” Key Strap.

Particulars and usage examples

Small
Specs:

  • 350 cubic inches / 6 litres
  • 1.5” nylon webbing shoulder strap with grippy shoulder pad (optional upgrade: Ultrasuede Shoulder Strap Wrap), adjustable to 54″
  • 2 o-rings in the main compartment and 1 in the zip pocket
  • 4 pockets in main compartment: 3 for pens, 1 for a phone or tools

What fits:

TOM BIHN accessories: Freudian Slip (for Small Cafe Bag), Double Organizer Pouch (Small), Organizer Pouch (Mini, Small, Medium), Spiff Kit (Standard), Knitting Tool Pouches (all sizes), Q-Kit (all sizes), Side Effect (it does take up a lot of room though), Packing Cube (for Night Flight Travel Duffle), Clear Quarter Packing Cube, 3D Organizer Cube, Pocket Pouch, Stuff Sacks (Size 1, 2), Yarn Stuff Sacks (Size Small, Medium)

Stuff: Hard or softcover book, 12-16 oz bottle, hat and gloves, sunglasses, box of 6 granola bars, notebook up to size A5, point and shoot camera, folded newspaper (not the Sunday Times, obviously), micro 4/3 camera

In use:

jujigatame organizes his EDC essentials in the Small Cafe Bag.

Medium
Specs:

  • 475 cubic inches / 8 litres
  • 1.5” nylon webbing shoulder strap with grippy shoulder pad (optional upgrade: Ultrasuede Shoulder Strap Wrap), adjustable to 54″
  • 2 o-rings in the main compartment and 1 in the zip pocket
  • 4 pockets in main compartment: 2 for pens, 2 for a phone or tools

What fits:

TOM BIHN accessories, in addition to all that will fit in the Small Cafe Bag: Freudian Slip (for Medium Cafe Bag), Double Organizer Pouch (Medium), Packing Cubes (Tri-Star, Small; Western Flyer, Small; Aeronaut 30, Small or End Pocket; Pilot, Small), Stuff Sack (Size 3)

Stuff: Rolled-up T-shirt, 17-20 oz bottle, full-size magazine, notebook up to size A4, a change of socks and underwear, a compact umbrella, DSLR

In use:

DaMacGuy uses his Medium Cafe Bag as his work bag.

ncb4 squeezed in a ton of DSLR equipment into her Medium Cafe Bag.

Toblerhaus packed her Medium Cafe Bag in tandem with her Brain Bag as carry-ons for a trip to Europe with her two kids.

Large

Specs:

  • 675 cubic inches / 11 litres
  • Removable Standard Strap with ergonomic shoulder pad (optional upgrade: Q-AM or Absolute Shoulder Strap)
  • Removable waist belt
  • 3 o-rings in the main compartment and 1 in the zip pocket
  • 5 pockets in main compartment, sized for a variety of pens, tools, and small electronic devices

What fits:

TOM BIHN accessories, in addition to all that will fit in the Small and Medium Cafe Bags: Freudian Slip (for Large Cafe Bag), Spiff Kit (Deluxe), Stuff Sack (Size 4), Snake Charmer

Stuff: Change of clothing (depends on size and specific items), bottle up to 375ml, DSLR plus an extra lens or two (once again, depends on specifics), binoculars, baby gear (extra diapers, dry bag, changing pad, spare outfit)

In use:

yohopee uses her Large Cafe Bag as her urban carry-all.

And here is Rillinki’s comparative review of her Large Cafe Bag, Small Cafe Bag, and Side Effect.

FAQs:

Q: Does stuff fall out of the top compartment?

A: It’s possible if the flap is unlatched and the bag gets turned upside down. In general, items stay put when the bag is in normal use. We recommend that you secure valuables inside a pouch with a Key Strap—that way, even if the pouch falls out of the bag, it will stay attached.

Q: Do these bags count as a “personal item” on an airplane?

A: In general, yes! The total measurements of all three bags fit within most airlines’ requirements for your secondary personal item. The Large Cafe Bag might technically be too big, but should pass muster if it’s not packed to bursting. Please make sure by checking with your specific airline.

Q: What tablets/laptops fit in each bag?

A: While exact fit is determined by whatever protective case you might be using on your device, members of the Forum report the following:

Small Cafe Bag: iPad mini; 7” tablets; iPad/iPad Air (very snug fit)

Medium Cafe Bag: all Small Cafe Bag items; plus iPad Pro, MacBook Air (or other 11” slim laptop); Macbook (12”)

Large Cafe Bag: all Small and Medium Cafe Bag items, plus MacBook Air (13”), MacBook Pro (or other 13” laptop) or iPad Pro

Q: I am a guy. Will a Cafe Bag make me look like I am carrying a purse?

A: This is highly subjective, of course, but we think the answer is no. Lots and lots of guys on our Forum carry Cafe Bags of all sizes and colors. The general consensus, though, is that darker colors (Navy, Grey, Black) and larger sizes tend to look more “manly.” If it helps, don’t think of it as a bag; think of it as a “satchel.”

Got a question we didn’t answer? Ask the helpful denizens of the Forum.