If there is anything that I have learned about the logistics of my travels, it’s the fact I am missing that perfect piece of luggage that fits my needs. When I travel, the only time I EVER check a bag is if I am bringing back a “beverage” that exceeds what is allowed in a carry on. Usually that amounts to checking a bag every 1 in 5 trips. So it’s critically important that I have effective carry-on luggage. On a typical trip I pack my beloved Rimowa Bolero “Lufthansa Edition” Cabin Trolley and a soft-sided carry on tote that I alternate between a TravelPro or Tumi. Having an effective second carry-on has become something that I needed to resolve since I am not happy with either the Tumi or TravelPro!
For what ever reason I have never been 100% satisfied with my choice in totes. The TravelPro Crew bag that I have is on the large side, and seldom fits in an overhead bin on small to medium size aircraft and the Tumi Presidio Lombard Tote tends to be just not quite large enough, and the zipper layout is a bit awkward.
This gap in luggage led me to trawl the internet searching for options that would suit me better for my needs. It was through a few hours of searching and reading reviews that led me to Tom Bihn and their collection of luggage. Based in Seattle, their products are made in the USA (yes, you read that correctly) and are available in a variety of styles, colors and configurations suited for virtually any kind of travel.
A little bit about Tom Bihn from their website:
Tom Bihn has been designing and making bags for well over 20 years. Tom designs all TOM BIHN bags. You’ll often find him in our Seattle factory consulting with our sewing crew, designing a new bag, or making patterns. If he’s not in the factory, he’s probably hiking, listening to Yves Lambert or Moxy Fruvious, playing his accordian, or working on his MacBook. He’s currently reading “This is Your Brain on Music” and “Dersu, the Trapper”.
After going through their on-line product catalog, I was still not sure if they had something that would fit my needs. I had narrowed down a list to a few of their bags and decided to send them an email letting them know what my wish list was when it comes to an ideal tote. I described my travel habits and what I usually pack and asked them to make their recommendations. Within a day, Katy replied suggesting the Tom Bihn “Super Ego” bag as their best idea. How did they know about me and my ego!?
After one or 2 more emails regarding bag specifics and availability of colors, I took her suggestion and placed my order which arrived within a week. The fedex 2 day shipping was a nice touch!
I’ve had the bag for a couple of days, and am EXTREMELY impressed with it. Katy’s description was spot on, and it looks like it will be the perfect compliment to my way of traveling.
I chose to go with the Black/Blue/Wasabi Color option. The black/blue combination matches my Rimowa Trolley perfectly, and the Wasabi interior color was a suggestion by my wife. She thought it would be a good contrast color against the colors of the contents and would also tip me off if the bag was open or closed. Smart woman!
One “upgrade” that I did make was to improve the shoulder strap from the standard nylon strap to “The Absolute Shoulder Strap”. This strap has a unique elastic padding that makes it effortless to carry even a heavy bag. This padding absorbs the shock when you walk, and gives you a sensation of the bag “bouncing” with your step which made it very comfortable even when fully packed. I recommend this strap HIGHLY and is worth the few extra dollars!
The light colored strip you see going down the center of the bag is actually a reflective strip. This strip is interchangeable and Tom Bihn offers many different colors that allow you to further customize your bag. The strip is velcroed and slides easily into place. There is a buckle at the bottom of the strip that clips the outer flap shut.
Images showing the Super Ego right out of the box: (click images to enlarge for detail)
What I really like about this bag is the amount of zippered pouches, sleeves and pockets that are placed throughout the bag’s interior and exterior. I especially like the 2 water bottle pouches on either side of the bag. These pouches are made from an elastic material that allow for different bottle sizes to fit. Also handy is a strap that you can manage with one hand that allows you to control the tension of the pocket:
Other pockets and pouches….Great for all of the little odds and ends like keys, maps, wallets, etc.:
The back of the bag has a pocket suitable for your largest magazines and newspapers. You’ll also notice a strap at the bottom. This strap acts as a belt that you can cinch around your waist. A nice feature of this bag is it’s ability to function as a “messenger bag” that you can hang off your back similar to a back pack, and you can you use this strap to hold it in place while using it this way. This was a major feature that I liked because when we travel, I usually carry around a tote to hold things we buy or my camera. Now my carry on converts into a back pack.
Finally, the zippers. You can usually tell the quality of a bag based on the little things like zippers, sewing, seams, etc. In the case of the Super Ego, the zippers are outstanding. They are bind proof and self sealing. I love a bag where the actual zipper is hidden which prevents dirt from clogging up the tracks. Usually an overlooked detail, but not with Tom Bihn. In terms of construction, this is probably the best constructed bag I’ve ever seen. The stitching is perfect and symmertrical, the seams line up perfectly and to my eye, it looks flawless. You can tell there is pride in this USA made product!!
OK, now that you are familiar with the bag, its time to see how well it functions!
To confirm my suspicions, I decided to take the bag through a “Dress Rehearsal” and see what the bag is capable of carrying. For this test I gathered all the things I usually carry with me and threw in a few items that normally don’t get a chance to travel on my trips.
The Packing List:
I-pad w/wireless keyboard case, DSLR Camera w/Case Logic case and 2 lenses, 2 cell phones (work and personal), point & shoot camera, Bose QC-15 headphones, Amenity Kit Case, Cords/Chargers pouch, extra pair of shoes (normally don’t pack them, but was curious if they’d fit), Folio that holds itineraries/receipts, travel wallet, 2 bottles of water, Pen, Eyeglasses, Sunglasses, notebook for jotting down names/numbers/addresses etc. (Usually stays home), and a baseball cap.
As I’ve mentioned throughout, I am very pleased with this bag. It is built from the highest quality ballistic nylon and is assembled very well. I absolutely love the pockets and compartments that exist throughout the bag. With my travel habits, I tend to build up a lot of little bits and pieces like ticket stubs, loose change, etc. and now I have a lot of convenient places to stow those things!
I could not find any flaws with it’s construction and look forward to traveling with this bag. Being made in the USA is a big bonus as well. Nice to see the pride and craftsmanship in the piece!
I would rate this bag a “Must Have”! You will not be disappointed.
WHAT I LIKED (in no particular order):
1. Construction. Flawless!
2. Intuitive storage compartments/pockets/sleeves.
3. Made in the USA.
4. “The Absolute Shoulder Strap”
5. Easy access to all compartments. Usually only took one hand to reach or open any compartment.
6. The ability to convert to a back-pack style bag.
7. It looks good. This bag will be just at home in Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal in Frankfurt or on a day trip to your favorite beach.
8. Price. At only $170.00, I think it is a PHENOMENAL value. This bag will last for years!
9. Customer Service: Quick replies and great recommendations!
10. Lifetime guarantee for workmanship and defects.
WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO SEE:
1. Wifi (Just Kidding).
2. I would like to see the bag adapted with a sleeve on the back so that it could slide down over the telescoping handle on a typical cabin size roller suitcase. Minor thing, but it would just add to the perfection.
I’ll come back in a few weeks and “re-review” the bag after a few upcoming trips.
For more information including real world photos, color combinations, dimensions and optional accessories please visit the Super Ego Homepage on Tom Bihn’s website.