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Traveling With Tom Bihn's Checkpoint Flyer 133

Some people care about bags; obsession is a better word. (See the Bags subforum of the Every Day Carry Forums for evidence.) How are the straps attached? Is that 1050 denier, or 1600? Makers like Crumpler, Ortlieb and Maxpedition inspire impressive brand-loyalty, but probably no bag maker has customers more enthusiastic than Tom Bihn's. (There really is a Tom Bihn, too -- he's been designing travel bags since he was a kid; now he has a factory with "all the cool toys" to experiment with designs and materials.) When I started looking for a protective case for my MacBook Pro, I discovered that a few of my coworkers were part of the Bihn Army, and after some Tupperware-style evangelism I was convinced to buy a few items from the Bihn line-up: a backpack (used); then a messenger bag (new); then a mid-sized briefcase, used, which is now my portable filing cabinet. (Take this bias for what you will; I stuck with my previous messenger bag for more than a decade.) For a just-completed trip to Israel, which I couldn't quite make in true one-bag travel fashion, I brought along one of the newest Bihn Bags — the Checkpoint Flyer — and found it to be worth its (considerable) price. Read on for my review.

The Checkpoint Flyer was one of the earliest bags released (perhaps the first) to take advantage of one TSA effort to slightly reduce the hassle of getting through airport security in the era of picayune and fickle rules about everything from nail clippers to shoes to shampoo. The TSA program, by outlining certain requirements, lets travelers skirt one annoying consequence of traveling with a laptop: instead of removing a laptop at the security line and putting it into a bin to be scanned, a passenger with a bag meeting certain requirements (essentially, it must provide an x-ray viewing window free of obstructions such as metal zippers) can send it through without first removing the laptop. I've seen at least one laptop dropped and damaged by a passenger who was trying to put it into a bin, which has to be infuriating. There's still plenty of security theater to go around, but anything that keeps computers in padded carriers until necessary and as long as practical is a good thing. If we're lucky, checkpoint friendly may become the norm instead of a novelty; that may be the closest to friendly you'll find at a TSA counter.

Bihn bags are made by the waterfront in Seattle, Washington, on an bright, quiet, surprisingly small factory floor. Tom Bihn himself, when time allows, is happy to show visitors the small factory and tiny showroom, open one day each week so locals and dedicated Bihnophiles can actually try the various bags on for size. (Otherwise, the company is essentially a catalog store, taking orders by phone and online.) I visited the factory to pick up an all-black Flyer for review; front panels in bright red or silver are also available, and I grudgingly admit these look fine, but my personal taste in luggage holds black to be the One True Bag Color. Even before Seattle was slammed by weeks of paralyzing snow, the Bihn factory was rushing to fill holiday orders, and had run short of shoulder straps, so I needed to supply my own from a different bag. The Checkpoint Flyer has a briefcase-style handle, but a shoulder strap is up to the buyer to choose (and purchase); this enhances choice, but it also pushes a $220 bag to just under $250, shipping inclusive but before taxes, if you include the most basic factory-supplied strap. It's slightly more for the shoulder-gripping Absolute shoulder strap ($30), one of which I cannibalized from a different bag. Bihn points out reasonably that many purchasers already own a bag with an appropriate strap, so he'd rather not force them to buy another, but I wish the "real" (and most obvious) price instead included a strap, and users who already have one could choose a discounted price by eliminating it from the package.

Clever design (and a few gripes):
Bags that meet the TSA's specs for going through airport scanners are allowed to fit any of three categories: a sleeve or pouch style; a bi-fold (clamshell); or a three-part folder. The Flyer is of the three-part variety, comprising a semi-rigid laptop shell of closed-cell foam, a main compartment suitable for papers, or clothes, power adapters, etc, and a thinner outer section with two pockets big enough for things like plane snacks, paperback books, and small electronic items. In normal use (that is, when not going through an airport X-ray machine) the laptop compartment is snugged between the other two sections; the laptop section also has a briefcase-style handle, which slips through an opening in the junction of the outermost sections, to be grasped at the same time as the handle on the main compartment. The laptop shell is also removable (making the bag much slimmer), and replaceable with a different size shell; one shell is included in the price of the bag. Mine's sized to hold a 15.4" last-generation PowerBook Pro.

With two Fastex buckles released, the bag's compartments lay flat: the laptop container at one end, followed by the main compartment and then the outermost layer. For the crucial security line process that it's built for, that means a traveler puts the bag on the scanner's conveyor belt, looses the buckles, and unfolds the bag like a garment carrier. Reassembly is just as simple and nearly as fast, but requires a warning: carrying by the handles works fine even without the Fastex buckles refastened -- not so with the shoulder strap, because the laptop container is liable to slip down and dangle in the fashion of a Jacob's ladder. Yes, I did this, and Yes, it was embarrassing.

The materials facing the outside world are 500 denier Cordura, and 1050 denier ballistic nylon; a lighter-weight fabric called Dyneema (still very strong) lines the inside compartment and its pockets. For ease of finding the small items that shift during flight, I'd prefer this was in the bright yellow ("Solar") version of Dyneema that is used for some Bihn products (or in red), but a white-grid-on-grey isn't bad.

The main compartment — not the laptop shell — is well sized to hold a medium-sized packing cube. I bought some cheap ones from eBags; though I'm new to the concept, I am a convert: for me at least, the value of a packing cube as an inner, organizing layer far exceeds its price.

There are pockets everywhere. The two outside pockets (which are not symmetrical; my little mind was briefly bothered) are probably where cellphones, MP3 players, snacks and keys will end up for most people. The back of the bag (the part closest to the user when carrying it) features a two-pocket design that Tom Bihn told me he's especially pleased with, and which will show up in more Bihn products in the future. There's a wide open-topped pocket to the left, big enough for magazines or small file folders (a good place to stash reading material for the security line or the flight). For slipping over a rolling case's handle, there's also a slot ordinarily closed by a zipper. Unzip, slip over, and roll away -- but lose the use of the pocket as a pocket. To the right, there's a smaller open-topped pocket, intended for maps, boarding passes, etc. Open pockets are convenient, but I'll admit always make me long for snaps, velcro, zippers, toggles, or some other way to close them unless their contents are actually poking out the top. The convenience is nice, though, and the sizes are well chosen; just bear in mind that these pockets *aren't* meant for documents like passports, where loss by pickpocketing could be a trip-wrecking nightmare rather than just a bother.

My gripes are small, but I did develop a few peeves. The biggest of these: I craved a different spot to attach the shoulder strap. There are exactly two attachment points, both on the top edge of the bag, facing the outer pockets. I'd like to see a matching set of these on the other side of that same edge. I'm no bag designer, and perhaps having the attachment points where they are is structurally or functionally important; if that's not the case, I think the bag would ride more comfortably if the strap attached on the inner (body-side) edge rather than the outer. I'd also like to see a zipper (or even snaps) for the big flap pocket on the back; I was afraid to put anything more valuable than a magazine in here for long, especially when I used the bag as a shopping tote in a crowded market. There are two tiny external pockets on each side, where some bags have an expandable mesh to hold things like a bottle of water. These edge pockets on the Checkpoint Flyer are seemingly indestructible -- but I'm not sure what they're for, since they're too small for even the slim water bottles I've tried, and too shallow to carry a flashlight. If they were a tad bigger or more expandable, they'd do a lot toward making this a better every-day, do-everything bag as well as a superb travel briefcase. (To be fair, that's how I used it anyhow, with water bottle stashed inside.)

In use:
Some pictures of the Flyer make it resemble a bundle of presents stacked not-quite evenly, with middle and outer compartments riding up and out a bit (one reason I wish the shoulder strap met the bag on closer to the body); I find that unless the bag is stuffed very full, it doesn't look quite that bulgy. Looking slimmer can prove useful, especially when a bag is perhaps on the threshold between small (as in "a small personal item") and not-so-small; ever-tighter airline restrictions favor a bag that looks slender enough not to draw attention to itself. For that reason, and because I knew I'd be carrying a backpack travel bag as well, I tried at first to pack mine so that it looked like a conventional computer case. In the end, I chose to be at least a bit cruel to both bag and back, but even with the bag comfortably stuffed, had zero problems getting it onto any of my flights (full-sized jets, some fully booked, but none fancy enough to have computers taking up the foot room) or under the seat in front of me.

People vary in what they "need" for travel; I enjoy pointing out this guy, who eschews bags altogether — I can't match him by a long shot: my modest goal is to generally not check any luggage. I took notes on what I carried in the Checkpoint Flyer (this leaves out the stuff in my eBags Weekender backpack), because "one change of clothing" or "toiletry kit" can mean considerably different things to different people. (Skip ahead if you hate detailed packing lists.)

In the main compartment, I was able to stuff the following without straining the zipper: 1) eBags medium packing cube, holding, bundle-wrapped: khakis (size 34/32), 1 pair cotton boxer shorts, 2 pairs of cotton ankle socks, one cotton t-shirt, and 1 button-up oxford shirt 2) baggie with a small assortment of toiletries: 2 toothbrushes; 2.7 oz toothpaste container; 2 oz small lexan bottle, full of Dr. Bronner's soap; 2.7 oz. stick deodorant; 2oz bottle of shampoo; toenail clipper 3) zippered pouch (thrift-store find) containing an extendable ethernet cord; AC adapter and cord for Eee laptop; 2 USB keys; lexan spoon; gum; and a few odds and ends. 4) travel document pouch containing passport; extra gum; boarding passes (three flights each way); 1-page travel manifest, printed in minuscule characters which are readable for me; and some cash.

In the smaller outside pocket, I stashed Sony noise canceling headphones (in their pouch); a 1 oz. container (plastic cylinder) with a few aspirin; and a 3 oz plastic cylinder of almonds. In the other, slightly larger pocket, I had a small trip journal (approx. 3x5"); compact camera wrapped in a hiking sock (replaced by a small LowePro case toward the end of my trip); 3 pens, 1 mechanical pencil; batteries in a flat pack which can hold 8 AAs; my house key (on built-in key strap); and a Zebra AA headlamp. I put a few business cards in one of the small flat zippered pockets, and nothing in the other.

In the large open pocket on the back, I kept a bit of reading material (a few paperbacks for the plane); and a few scraps of paper for note-taking. The smaller open pocket next to this I usually kept empty, except while actually waiting in lines to board a plane or a bus, at which point it's the most convenient place for boarding passes and schedules.

In the center (laptop) compartment, rather than the MacBook Pro, I had an Eee 10" laptop, running Ubuntu Linux 8.10. The MacBook Pro-sized space is much bigger than the Eee, so I also squeezed in a neoprene sleeve. I went with this because my Eee has a more powerful battery than my Mac, gets better wireless reception, and is quite a bit lighter and handier.

For three weeks, I used the bag daily, to carry a notebook, map, pen and pencil, cell phone, guidebook (sometimes two), and usually either a fleece or a light jacket; with those few things, the inherent volume of the pockets and compartments meant that it looked about the same as it would have empty. I did not remove the laptop compartment (an oversight -- this would have actually made it slimmer and lighter), and in this state the Checkpoint Flyer is a bit stiff compared to a courier bag, but still quite comfortable. On several days, it turned into an impromptu market bag, too, and easily held more than 20 pounds of groceries (cheap, delicious oranges, bread, pastry and olives were all tempting), although I had to keep the main compartment unzipped to hold that much.

In a pinch, though, the fabric and seams seem content to carry anything you can coax the zipper around. For a two-night weekend trip to see Petra, I stuffed in books (a thin hardback and two thin paperbacks), travel documents and money, travel journal, 2 pens, 1 pencil, a small digital camera, AA batteries and a case for them, headphones in a case, tiny MP3 player, cell phone, house keys, toiletries, headlamp, and enough clothing for the trip (scarf, 2 t-shirts, 2 oxford shorts, 2 pairs of boxer shorts, 2 pairs of socks, 1 pair of clean pants) along with some snacks (2 huge oranges, a handful of candy, 100 grams of pistachios and pine nuts, 100 grams of dried fruit). Here, too, I left the laptop case attached, but used it as a storage spot for socks and underwear, while my laptop was safe in Jerusalem. While in Petra itself, the bag started out with my water bottle, camera, scarf, hat, gloves, more snacks, and travel documents. Over the course of the day, I squeezed in my jacket and a few postcards, too -- this made the main compartment bulge, but only slightly.

The big question, though, is how it actually worked out in the airport. The answer is a happy "As expected, with caveats." Flying from Seattle, the Flyer was fantastic; with my bomb-free shoes and thoroughly dead belt in a plastic bin, I unfastened the buckles and laid the Checkpoint Flyer out on the X-ray machine conveyor belt. Not a blink from the personnel here, either; the "checkpoint-friendly" campaign seems to have trickled through. On the other side of the inspection line, I refolded and refastened the bag, and that was that.

However, "checkpoint friendly" is not a universal language. On transferring planes in Madrid, I was asked to remove my laptop and place it in a bin by itself. And on leaving Israel, I got the attention from Ben Gurion Airport's security forces that I'd been warned about as a young(ish) male traveling solo with no checked baggage. Both my backpack and the Checkpoint Flyer were put under several kinds of electronic scrutiny, my passport was given a very close eye, and I was given a several-minute exit interview by three different people, before I even reached the check-in line for my flight. (Where did I stay? With whom, spelled how, and how did I know them? Was I absolutely certain that no one had given me a package to carry, not even a small one? Is this really all my luggage, for a multi-week trip? What was my business in Israel, precisely?) At this stage, my laptop was opened and run through an X-ray machine, as were my backpack and the otherwise packed Flyer. After ticketing and an exit stamp on my passport, I went through another set of machines, where there was a several-minute inspection of my bags, and again there was no option to keep the laptop in the bag. Perhaps one day! In the meantime, US domestic travelers can revel in one small nicety.

Oh, and the Checkpoint Flyer handles rain like you'd expect from a bag out of Seattle. For reasons that do not here bear examination, I ended up taking a very long walk through empty parts of Haifa for much of one Saturday night, during which time it mostly alternated between drizzle and downpour. Even for someone used to living in Seattle, this was a wet night to walk. And though the Checkpoint Flyer was in no way protected from the rain, all it did in that ongoing rain was get very wet -- on the outside. The fabric is tight enough that most of the water just rolled off; none of the paper, food, or clothing I had stuffed in there at the time saw a drop of rain, and after an hour or so in my hotel room I couldn't tell it had ever been wet. So I had zero worries about walking in milder rain over the weeks that followed.

The Checkpoint Flyer is not the most comfortable shoulder bag I've ever carried, even with the Absolute shoulder strap -- but it is the most comfortable bag I've found with its degree of protection and travel convenience. Based on an admittedly small sample set, it also the most comfortable bag I know that can be considered a briefcase, and the only checkpoint-friendly bag with an interchangeable laptop case. Soft messenger bags like my Super Ego -- which so far wins my personal "most comfortable" award -- can't be considered in the same category without adding some sort of substantial laptop sleeve or shell. These shells exist (for most Bihn bags, you can order a carrier called a "Brain Cell" to fill this role), but for plane travel they suffer in comparison because of their bulk, and because most such holders don't allow for in-bag airport inspection (when that's an option at all).

Still, you could have a Hershey bar every day for a year for the price of a Checkpoint Flyer. There are (low-end, but credible) laptops that cost less than this bag. Meanwhile, there are now a rash of cheaper "checkpoint friendly" bags from quite a few vendors, and more are on the way: I've seen one clamshell design on sale for less than $20, delivered. Does that mean the Bihn bag is overpriced? My opinion: pricey here does not mean overpriced. The quality and flexbility of the Checkpoint Flyer make it the current king carry-on laptop bags, and I suspect that most of the ones bought now will still be in use in 2019.
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Traveling With Tom Bihn's Checkpoint Flyer

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  • Book reviews first, now we're doing hardware and accessory reviews.

  • Damn, I just flipped back from perezhilton and didn't even notice the difference. What are a bunch of geeks and nerds doing discussing bags and fashion accessories? ^_^ Oh yes, I know, laptop bags are important, protecting the baby and all that. Still, I think it's a slow news day here.

    • Re:Eh? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Chabil Ha' ( 875116 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:31PM (#27184059)

      I can't wait till we see the review for #006666 nail polish!

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        I can't wait till we see the review for #006666 nail polish!

        Teal-colored nail polish doesn't really work on anyone with a pale or mixed complexion. It's just too damned dark and clashes...

        Oh sorry, were you joking?

    • As a frequent traveler it is easy to begin to obsess over bags a bit. You basically live with these things and they are like a portable house to you. How convenient, comfortable and easy they make your life is important. And from an absolute perspective things like airport security are a non event. So what if it takes me an extra 3 minutes? Even if it took an extra 3 minutes and you took 100 flights / year that is only a mere 300 minutes! Well convenience in travel matters. There is something nice about sli

  • by Anonymous Coward

    "Maybe he's just a big fan."

    "Yeah, a big fan of his paycheck. Which says 'Tom Bihn'."

    (with apologies to Penny Arcade)

  • by PHPee ( 559830 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:08PM (#27183739) Homepage
    Slashdot has a fashion section now?
  • Holy crap!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by sunking2 ( 521698 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:08PM (#27183741)
    A bag review? Is this Slashdot, new for sissies???? The only bag I need is the brown one with my 40 in it.
    • There's only one bag that I truly need, care about, and make sure it's consistently safe from harm.

      And there certainly isn't any alcohol in it ;)

      Just saying....

  • Executive Summary (Score:3, Informative)

    by sjf ( 3790 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:14PM (#27183813)

    An excuse to show off about how well travelled he is, and, very incidentally, by the way be buys bags that have straps that cost more than your bag.

  • Wow. Only 5 comments and the site is already returning 500 errors.
    • by syousef ( 465911 )

      Wow. Only 5 comments and the site is already returning 500 errors.

      All the geeks want to point and laugh at the bag that stupid people with too much money buy. I'm dying to know what it looks like!

  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:24PM (#27183969)

    The Checkpoint Flyer Laptop Briefcase is available for pre-order through the TOM BIHN Web site and ships by late September. $220. Available in three colors.

  • by secretplans ( 1489863 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:25PM (#27183977)
    But have you guys seen my purse?
    • But have you guys seen my purse?

      It's called a man-bag - bitch!

    • You joke, but among non-suit wearing people, I don't see the advantage of a shoulder bag over a backpack.

      • Shoulder bags can be easily slung to the side or front if you ever want to do this thing called "sitting in a chair or seat" or if you want better control of the bag (for those of us without eyes in the back of our heads). Most backpacks become rather uncomfortable if hung off of just one strap and look plain silly carried in front of you.

        • Yeah, I've always found taking a backpack off before sitting in a chair to be effective, but I suppose if you want to sit and carry a bag at the same time, a backpack is inferior. I'll give you that.

          I'm not sure a shoulder bag would fare better in a mugging, but maybe it makes a more mobile shield? I wouldn't try it, myself. I've never had any problems with pickpockets, even in eastern Europe, but maybe there's something about a pale lost skinny guy that keeps them away.

        • You can mod a normal back pack to use an additional shoulder bag strap, so you can carry it appropriately as the situation requires.

    • Jerry: [referring to George's stuffed wallet] Your friend is morbidly obese.
      George: Well, at least I'm not carrying a purse.
      Jerry: It's not a purse! It's European!

  • "In the center (laptop) compartment, rather than the MacBook Pro, I had an Eee 10" laptop, running Ubuntu Linux 8.10."

    Since Ubuntu adds some length and girth to your e-penis, that's why this comment is relevant in the bag's functionality.

  • Congratulations (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by melted ( 227442 )

    Caring about bags is the ultimate indication of douchebaggery. About as sure as wearing a bluetooth handset all the times, popped collar or a mullet.

    There's no cure from this, either.

    • by Chabo ( 880571 )

      Personally, if I see a person nowadays with a mullet, that's not what I think.

      I think Joe Dirt is a pretty cool guy. eh kills rats at the dump and doesn't afraid of anything.

    • So being concerned about the equipment I use to carry around a $5000 laptop is douchebagery? And I bet all of these haters drive Hyundais and dismiss anything more expensive as extravagant douchebagery as well?
      • First, if you carry around a $5000 laptop, you have bigger issues. Not even Apple sells laptops that expensive.

        Second, an $40 bag would do just as well.

        Third, even if you have cash to burn on a $220 bag, you don't have to write a 18KB puff piece about this or "care" about it on such a deep level. If you want to wipe your ass with 20 dollar bills, that's fine with me. But bragging about it would certainly land you in a douchebag category. As would bragging about your $5K laptop.

  • Brand loyalty (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:36PM (#27184119)

    People either understand brand loyalty, or they don't. Me, I've inadvertently turned into a Crumpler bag collector. They're very well made, thoughtfully designed, and priced to match (much like Tom Bihn's stuff, or Waterfield's). I realize not everyone agrees spending $100, $200 or more on a computer or camera bag makes sense; but I think this is one area where you truly get what you pay for.

    Those of us that are photographers (whether hobbyist or professional) get hit with a double whammy. The search for the perfect camera bag is relentless, and ultimately futile. We all know this, but like an addicted gambler each of us thinks we're somehow going to beat the odds - so it doesn't stop us from trying. So far I've collected four different Crumpler camera bags, a Tamrac, and even an old Case Logic (which holds an old Pentax K1000 film SLR). Not to mention the various wraps and other oddball solutions I've tried... If I spend much more, the cost of my bags will start rivaling the cost of my equipment!

    • by Splab ( 574204 )

      From reading other posts apparently we are douchebags for wanting something practical (that looks nice).

      Now you can obviously get something that does the job for less than $100 a crumbler sets you back, but when you have tried it you know why it costs so much more.

      Also when you have tried dropping a $2000 laptop, because your $50 bag had a faulty strap you start to appreciate the better quality of a crumbler.

      • I have this faint suspicion the same people that are lampooning the very idea of a quality bag are the same ones that would cut their own heads off if it would prove their argument of why they *NEED* four $1000 octo-core video cards to play a video game.

    • by syousef ( 465911 )

      Those of us that are photographers (whether hobbyist or professional) get hit with a double whammy. The search for the perfect camera bag is relentless, and ultimately futile. We all know this, but like an addicted gambler each of us thinks we're somehow going to beat the odds

      Speak for yourself. My SLRs live in $20 SLR bags that are fantastic. In 4 years a zipper's been replaced on one of them. I'd much rather spend money on a lens than a bag, since I can get a bag that does the job well without breaking t

      • I'd much rather spend money on a lens than a bag, since I can get a bag that does the job well without breaking the bank. Wish I could say the same for the damned lenses.

        Yeah, quality glass doesn't come cheap for sure. I have found that used lenses can save me some money, as long as I'm cautious; although with some lenses that aren't made anymore the used version can actually cost more than when they were new!

        • *cough* Pentax *cough*
          • *cough* Pentax *cough*

            It's certainly true of some great old Nikon glass as well.

            • It more or less holds true for the systems where you can use the old lenses on new cameras, such as Pentax and Nikon. If you want a manual focus system where the used lenses are cheaper, go for an "obsolete" mount like Canon FD or Minolta MC/MD. Though there has been some interest in these older lenses more recently as there are now digital cameras which can easily accept many old mounts like the Canon FD with a simple adaptor that maintains infinity focus.

              As for me, I'm still looking for a reasonably pri

    • Waterfield man here. Oh and Thinktank too for the photo equipment. I've had my share of Targus, Case Logic, and STM bags, normally from company provided equipment or a stipend to order when placing a laptop. When I got my first TiBook in 2002 I splurged for the Waterfield messenger bag and accessories. Pushed $300 for the bag, sleeve, and a couple stuff pouches. Since then I've bought two additional sleeves for different laptops and had the original airplane seat buckle replaced with the smaller parasaili
    • The small niche of people that actually need the protection of a $100-$200 bag is a small percentage of the slashdot population. But we also have groups of people that spend ridiculous amounts of money on video games/ video cards/ mice/keyboards/ TV's/moniters/ Phones/ Media players. Very few of them really need any of those devices. If you ask me, I think you're all dumb, But equally so.

      Now, please excuse me while I finish my $7.00 latte.
      • What roaster prepared the beans? Do you happen to know the particular blend that they use for their espresso roast? Do you know what kind of grinder was used? Was the espresso machine automatic or manual? How many seconds did it take the barista to pull the shots? How many ounces is the latte and how many shots of espresso were used?

        Did you ask for skim milk, 2%, whole, or half-and-half? Do you prefer a dollop of foam on top of the latte or do you forgo it? Did the barista steam the milk before or af

        • Of coarse the $7.00 latte was a poetic expression for my coffee obsession. My current coffee is from costa rica, I've actually visited the plantation where the beans come from, seen the roaster at work, grind them myself with a burr grinder, prepare in a french press and drink black.
  • I know, this is America, and there's no accounting for personal preference, and all, but...

    Who wants a shoulder-bag anyway?

    Know how to increase your chances of surviving a fall from extreme heights?
    Smack. A. Different. Part. Of. Your. Body. At. Each. Opportunity.

    You're wondering, "What's this have to do with a shoulder bag, troll"?

    Well, I have experimented with shoulder bags, messenger bags (Yecch), European Military surplus packs, purpose-built computer backpacks, and I have found *my* winner, and it has n

    • I know, this is America, and there's no accounting for personal preference, and all, but...
      Who wants a shoulder-bag anyway?

      Steers and queers and I don't see any steers around here...

        • Ah, so instead of a bag that was gay in the sleek, urban, waxed-bikini-line way, you wanted a bag that was gay in the hairy, gun-polishing, unwittingly homoerotic, paramilitary-camaraderie, "let's practice jiujitsu so we can protect our families" kind of way.

          Personally, neither way works for me, so I'm only gay in the "rarely has sex with women" kind of way.

          (P.S. My current carry-on sucks, and I might end up buying a Tom Bihn Aeronaut as a result of this review, but why is this on Slashdot?)

  • [] Its great, It fits UBUNTU ! i believe its scary that anyone can write so many words about a bag.
  • This is a timely article. I'm actually looking for a new messenger bag. Can anyone lend a hand? I'm looking for the following:

    • Over-the-shoulder messenger bag
    • Not leather
    • Must have a handle at the top of the bag in addition to a shoulder strap
    • Must have large zippered external pockets in addition to the main compartment. I like to keep small maps, snacks, and other stuff in external pockets when I'm travelling
    • Must be able to hold a 15" notebook.
    • Should look nice
  • So you get to keep your laptop in a bag (though not the one you're carrying it in, because that one has zippers). You still have to
    • Take off your shoes
    • Empty your pockets
    • Remove any coat you may be wearing
    • Take off a watch if you have one on
    • Wait for your train of bins - including the all-important laptop-only bin - to all make it to the scanner before you walk through the scanner yourself

    So really, that saves you how much inconvenience? I think I'd prefer to go with a cheaper bag and keep the remainder for

    • by Pope ( 17780 )

      While outside the security area, I put all my crap (watch, wallet, phone, etc.) into either my carry on bag or jacket, while keeping only my ticket & passport in my pocket. When it's my turn to go through security, I don't have to spend very much time doing what I need to do to get through. Makes life so much easier.

    • I was going to make some snarky comment about leaving my laptop in the front sleeve of my backpack and putting all that "stuff" in the side pouches before I get to TSA, but then I realized that I use a $150+/- Kelty backpack for my trips, so going holier-than-thou on a $220 bag isn't exactly going to win me any points.

      Personally, I practically never take a coat _on_ an airplane and I pre-pack my pocket bits, watch, and belt in the pack. That leaves slipping the laptop and pre-separated fluid bottles out of

      • Personally, I practically never take a coat _on_ an airplane

        Generally I would say that is a good idea. And being as winter is almost over it soon won't matter. However, in my own experience I would say I tend to end up boarding from the tarmac (rather than the jetway) on average about 60% of the time, and that fraction doesn't change appreciably one way or the other as the seasons change. While the tarmac isn't that bad on its own, I seem to always end up delayed on the tarmac waiting to get on the plane, while they position the staircase, deal with gate-check (

  • and get one of these [] These bags are great, and you could buy 2 of them for the price of the one in the review and have 50 bucks left over.
    • by timothy ( 36799 ) Works for Slashdot

      Those are nice-looking -- though for some reason (against BBP's helpful diagram ;)), when I had a small backpack for school (long ago) I liked the way it carried better when it was quite high on my back, rather than low down -- just feels more maneuverable that way.

      The bum pad these have is one thing that the Checkpoint Flyer lacks (by design, for size reasons), but that I like on another bag I've got (a Targus -- $5 at Goodwill ;)). More bags should have attachment points for one of those to be snapped on!

  • I am rapt (Score:5, Funny)

    by CopaceticOpus ( 965603 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:44PM (#27184217)

    Fascinating story. Can you tell us about other times that you put things into other things?

    • by ExRex ( 47177 )

      Oh, like you've never told anyone about how you put your thing into another thing.
      Then again, maybe you never have.

    • Well, if you RTFA you'll find out that they did indeed put a bag in his bag, so he can carry while he carries, and even lay them flat so the TSA can check it while they check him.

    • Can you tell us about other times that you put things into other things?

      This is Slashdot. No one here gets to put his thing in anything other than his hand.

    • by Saeger ( 456549 )

      Indeed. Curious minds want to know how many douchebags and printouts of book-length reviews of fucking bags, you can fit, in a fucking bag.

  • I'm a HUGE fan of the waterfield bags. The laptop sleeve remains the laptop when it's going through the xray machine at the airport. And honsetly the level of protection, organization, and convenience offered by a Waterfield mambo combo is just what a nearly $3K laptop and accessories needs.

    Certainly a couple hundred dollar bag is overkill for an eePC, but less than %10 for protection of your computer seems reasonable to me.

    There's also the aversion to the bland freebie Dell cases that drives me to look f

  • Without a rhinestone option, this thing is a no go in the South.
  • Anecdotal support (Score:5, Interesting)

    by grepdisc ( 1352977 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @02:58PM (#27184455)
    When calling Tom Bihn about a broken clasp on a two year old bag, the phone was answered, "Hello this is Tom." The bag was repaired quickly and free of charge (paid shipping one-way). This is a bag from a local company worth supporting.
  • appears down. Probably ./'ed

  • the Bihn factory was rushing to fill holiday orders, and had run short of shoulder straps, so I needed to supply my own from a different bag

    "Great bags as long as you can fly to the factory and give them a new strap!"

  • Bags Bags Bags (Score:3, Informative)

    by FooGoo ( 98336 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @03:28PM (#27184871)

    As someone who travels a lot bag design and quality are very important. I've had highly reviewed pieces of luggage fall to bits on their first trip as well as missing zippers (yes the whole zipper was gone), torn pockets, missing wheels, and bizzare stains.

    After doing tons of research the best gear i've found for use and abuse is:
    Laptop case: Booq Boa with Vyper sleeve
    Camera case: Crumpler Karachi outpost (carried this through thailand, burma, and India) They make excellent stuff.
    Luggage: Osprey Meridian Series (carried these through most of asia with only one problem. The zipper pulled away from the fabric. Sent it back to Osprey and they replaced the bag with a new one at no charge and my bag was almost 2 years old at the time)
    Good bags can make a trip more enjoyable and hassle free.

  • What an overpriced piece of rubbish. This bag belongs in the Bihn-liner. What the heck is wrong with this guy? Thanks to this idiotic post, I am never, ever going to even remotely consider buying a Bihn bag. What kind of a moron is unable to transfer his laptop from his bag to the security bin without dropping it? I use this ( and here's a review I wrote about it: "IT W
  • Wow - talk about a slash-vertisement!

    Anyway, my two pet peeves with laptop bags:

    1. If the manufacturers would consider the moment arm of the straps/bag, they might make the straps adjustable on both sides so that they can be adjusted to the shortest length. Most of the bags I've gotten have straps that are adjustable on only one side, so if I adjust them to the shortest length, the pad ends up at one end of the strap or the other instead of centered on the strap as needed for it to sit on my shoulder.

    2. T

  • Never underestimate the power of a good accessory...

    When did Slashdot become "Fashion for nerds, things that matter"?

  • by John Pfeiffer ( 454131 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @04:10PM (#27185485) Homepage

    Seriously. They are. They're at LEAST as important as what's in them. Because if you have a cheap crappy bag, it doesn't matter HOW good your laptop or camera is...eventually it's going to kiss the sidewalk.

    When I needed a new messenger bag and a more compact camera bag (A big semi-rigid foam and nylon THING riding against my hip is a maneuverability issue.), I found the Tenba large messenger bag. It's REALLY nice. It looks good, it has more than enough places to put stuff, it has a pull-out semi-rigid liner with repositionable dividers, for camera equipment, and a padded section for laptops up to 17". The bottom is rubberized and waterproof, so you can set the bag down without worrying too much. It has an exceedingly comfortable shoulder strap. And it has a huge 'slash pocket' zipper on the flap that lets you extract lenses and stuff from the main compartment without actually opening the bag. The backside of the bag is a huge pad covered in a breathable mesh. No matter how much crap I stuff in there (I actually tested filling the bag to capacity with large magazines) the pad makes it rest comfortably against my hip or back, like it isn't even there. (And it stays put!) It also has some webbing loops on the ends of the bag, which I commonly use for carabiners to attach various things. It even has a laser-engraveable metal tag that screws to the flap where the Tenba logo would go. The build is excellent, too. Great materials, perfect stitching, rugged as hell, great zippers, even the custom rubber-booted zipper pulls really add to the feeling of quality. The price put me off a little, because I'm exceedingly cheap, but for $100 it was more than worth every penny.

  • Too much time? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by dave562 ( 969951 )
    What kind of douche bag spends that much time writing a review on a stupid bag? Of course he's a Mac user, who cares about crap like fashion accessories and who makes his bag. I can hear it now, "Oh yeah, so I had my NEW, BIHN BAG... and have I mentioned HOW COOL I AM yet?"
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What kind of douche bag spends that much time writing a review on a stupid bag? Of course he's a Mac user, who cares about crap like fashion accessories and who makes his bag. I can hear it now, "Oh yeah, so I had my NEW, BIHN BAG... and have I mentioned HOW COOL I AM yet?"

      Spoken like someone whose idea of a major trip is coming up from the basement into Mom's kitchen for Ding Dongs.

  • Transactions = $0 E-mail = Full Boss = Pissed Wanna get away?!?!
  • Some people care about bags; obsession is a better word.

    So, it should be "some people obsession about bags"?

  • by tombihn ( 1500089 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @05:43PM (#27186763)
    Stating the obvious: our site ( is down. We're working on getting it back up as soon as we can.

    In the meantime:
    Call us 1-800-729-9607 (if we don't answer, all lines are busy so leave a message - we will call you back today.)
    Send us an email: [mailto]
    Read our blog: []
    Visit our forums: []

    Or, if you're in Seattle, visit our store (we're here until 5 today): 2203 1st Ave S. Second Floor Seattle, WA 98134

    Thanks to everyone who emailed us to let us know that our site was down.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Seraphim_72 ( 622457 )
      Tom, oddly enough I had been considering a bag from you. You sealed the deal by having the intestinal fortitude to post back on slashdot. My purchase is slatted for May ... I will be a happy bihner I am sure.
  • by chappel ( 1069900 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @06:01PM (#27187033) Homepage

    I don't own a tom bihn product. I'd only just first heard of them a couple weeks ago, and happened to be on their site when it got /.'ed. Weird.

    As for you guys whining about overpriced bags - I'm guessing you haven't tried traveling with cheap shit. When I first started working on the road I got a Thinkpad and a portable printer, and a Targus bag ($80! I thought that was pretty steep). After ONE TRIP the targus bag was starting to sag, and I doubt it would have lasted more than a couple months. My boss (at the time) recommended a HUGELY expensive Tumi bag - which was apparently all the rage at the time. I got one, and have put 10 YEARS of hard travel on it, without so much as a ding in any laptop it's ever contained - they use a 'sling' design that sounds exactly like what Bihn uses. In that time I've lost track of the laptops I've had - at least 10 (job changes, upgrades), and the bag is still in great shape, although I understand Tumi as a company doesn't make stuff that well anymore, and dropped the cushioned sling (as far as I can tell)... too bad.

    I'm considering a Bihn bag to get something a little more modular that is a better fit for my new netbook - and after 10 years I think I've gotten my moneys worth out of the Tumi.

    I hear a lot of stories about how the US economy is doomed because no one makes anything USEFUL anymore - it's all services and marketing and IP and entertainment - it's nice to see someone who is successfully making good products from solid material that people really enjoy using on a daily basis.

  • Dyneema (Score:3, Informative)

    by lopgok ( 871111 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @07:14PM (#27187913)
    Real Dyneema is ultra high molecular weight polyethylene, and is always white, though it can be waterproofed and dyed to a light grey. It is much more expensive than nylon, and its main claim to fame is it is roughly 10 times more abrasion resistant than nylon. It is commonly used in bullet-proof vests, replacing kevlar as the material of choice.

    Since the Tom Bihn site is down, I can't check their use of spectra. A common use is as a ripstop which is used along with nylon. A common name for such ripstop is Spectrum. It is very expensive to coat (as most things don't stick to polyethylene) and always has white grids.

    I am not sure what the reviewer is referring to when they say 'bright yellow ("Solar") version of Dyneema that is used for some Bihn products (or in red), but a white-grid-on-grey isn't bad.', but they are clearly not referring to Dyneema fabric, as there is no such thing as yellow or red Dyneema fabric.

    For info referring to backpacks made of spectra, see [] or []
    • Re:Dyneema (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tombihn ( 1500089 ) on Friday March 13, 2009 @08:37PM (#27188825)
      We use "Dyneema" as shorthand for our ripstop fabric which is 91% nylon and 9% Dyneema. The nylon part can be dyed: ours is either grey (Steel) or yellow (Solar); the Dyneema part indeed is always white. Dyneema and Spectra are the same chemically, but made under different patents (as I understand it).

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