Shop Tom Bihn
Tom Bihn Forums: Community discussion on travel bags, laptop bags, and backpacks. Tom Bihn has been designing and making bags since 1972. The best materials and innovative construction.

View Poll Results: How do you use the internal (open top, non-zipped) pockets of your TB bags?

33. You may not vote on this poll
  • I use them all!

    21 63.64%
  • I use some but not all.

    11 33.33%
  • I don't use them much at all.

    1 3.03%
  • I never use them.

    0 0%
Results 1 to 9 of 9
  1. #1
    Forum Member daisy's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2011

    internal pockets in bags - how do you use them?

    Another thread got me thinking, not for the first time, about the in-built pockets in my TB bags. I'm referring specifically to the zipless pockets which are part of the lining of the bag

    I have an (original) ristretto, SCB, Ego, (new) Side Effect and Synapse19.

    Much as I like to have a place for everything to live - I find I don't use all of the pockets in my bags. I have lots of organiser pouches but generally end up with empty pockets in the bag itself as nothing quite wants to live there.

    For example, my non-TB wallet fits nicely in a pocket in my SCB but not in the ristretto, where it moves to the front zipped pocket. It also will not fit in the pockets in the S/E (sad about that) so has to travel in the main section. I rarely carry more than two pens so often there are pen slots empty.. although a tube of lip balm disappeared to the bottom of a pen slot for a good six months.

    How do you use yours? Do you use them?
    List under construction ....

  2. #2
    Forum Member bltkmt's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    In my Smart Alec internal pocket, I keep a Dyneema 3D cube first aid kit (Iberian). Fits perfect.

  3. #3
    Forum Member terayon's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Winnipeg, Canada
    In my LCB pockets, left to right as you look in while carrying:

    - organizer wallet with cards I don't use often, cleaning cloth for glasses
    - work ID badge, pack of gum
    - two pens in one pen slot
    - small Sharpie and stylus for iPad in other pen slot
    - a foot or so of duct tape rolled onto itself

    I have a few OPs and a 3D clear cube (the 3-1-1 size) stashed elsewhere in the bag as well. It's a good mix of built-in and modular storage, IMHO.

  4. #4
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    davenport, ia
    in my imago, i use the open under-flap pocket to carry my phone (though i move it to a more secure location when in potentially pickpockety areas), lip balm and a pen. the two interior pockets carry my sunglasses on one side and on the other is ibuprofen/spare keys/tissues/snacks (hangriness is good for no one!) and other odds and ends of that sort.

    the back pocket (that's kind of external, but open top, so i'll include it anyway), i keep my main set of keys, plus occasionally receipts and bits of paper i collect throughout the day

  5. #5
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    I use the Synapse19 internal pocket for my iPad and smaller loose papers like mail, bills, etc.

    The Smart Alec internal pocket has held my laptop power brick when using it for commuting with work laptop. I think I'll use it for a first aid kit or some granola bars when hiking.

  6. #6
    Registered User enjih's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    With my SE I used the inside open pockets for stuff like mini moleskin notebooks, kleenex packs, my little digital point and shoot or my migraine meds (which come in their own little foil-wrapped packets). I like having those things easy to hand and not floating about in the main compartment.

  7. #7
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Since in most other bags from other companies, the inclusion of internal pockets is usually an afterthought ("oh, we have some empty flat space here, let's sew in a panel of flat pockets"), I almost never use them because I usually want the full use of the compartment that the flat pockets just happen to be sewn to. In other words, the bulging of the compartment makes it impossible to insert anything but flat items into the flat pockets.

    Tom's been smart enough to design the pockets in his Cafe Bags to have a slight bellows to them, so I actually do use them. (If only the front pockets on the Tri-Star had a little more bellows to them too, so that when the bag is bulging, the front pockets are still useful!)

    However, the other big problem with predesigned pockets is that the size and position will never please everybody. Some of the internal pockets in my Large Cafe Bag will never go used because nothing I carry will fit in them.

    I've seen a few other bag companies from the military/tactical side use modular systems where you can buy the pockets and pouches you need and put them into a larger bag. Blackhawk! does this a lot, with entire walls of Velcro loop inside to which you can attach pretty much anything from any company that comes backed with Velcro hooks. One of my favorite bags is a small shoulder bag from a different military bag company that is fully Velcro paneled inside; I've customized it the way that I actually use it with their inserts and modules, so I am getting the full use of that bag and every cubic inch inside of it.

    I doubt Tom likes Velcro. He seems to have purposefully avoided it in all his designs, probably due to the added weight and thickness but possibly also do to its unsightliness. But he could pull off some of the same things with O-rings to tie modules into compartments. Unfortunately, though, O-rings are far more limited in configuration than a wall of Velcro: any modules would have to be the same size to fit the same O-rings. With Velcro, it's possible to put any number of different sized pockets anywhere on the Velcro panel--you could put just one pocket for an iPod in exactly the right position so that you can depress the controls through the fabric of the bag and feed the headphone cord out of the zipper, but you can't do that with O-rings.

    The other problem Tom faces is that with modules, the number of SKUs can get way out of hand. What he could do is start with modules, determine which modules become the most popular, and then purposefully dump all but the two most popular modules. But still, it divides up his labor force to deal with all these SKUs, even after the pruning. That's where Velcro would come in handy, because then the compartment becomes "open source." Customers could buy pockets and pouches from other makers to customize their bags the way they want without tying up Tom's labor force on making anything but the stuff they're best at making.
    Last edited by dchang0; 07-11-2013 at 03:19 AM.

  8. #8
    Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Kyiv, Ukraine
    I will not be answering the poll because I feel that answering "I don't use them" or "I use some but not all" could be misconstrued as a statement about whether I need those pockets at all. I might be needing them, but they might be located in places where they are not easily accessible to me or easily accessible to a pickpocket. E. g. I rarely use all of the pockets in regular backpacks, where those pockets are usually in the outermost small compartment—simply not safe. I am especially thrilled when these outer compartments contain a ring or a carabiner for attaching keys. Seriously? Keys are _the_ most important thing that has to be kept safe. That's why I often carry keys just in my pockets—which destroys those pockets sooner than I'd like.

    However, when the pockets are located in the place that's easy accessible for me and are not "too much outside", I do use and over-use them, sticking 2 pens in a single pen-loop, two phones in a single phone pocket (if it's large enough), a phone and a couple of pens behind it, napkins, etc.

    I agree with dchang0 that the pockets are usually added as an afterthought, which is a pity. The situation with Tom Bihn products is better. I like it when, e.g., pen pockets are in something which is either the main compartment or one of the main compartments (within the "bag body proper"), because when I want to write down something, I want to open just ONE zipper to get at both my pen and my notebook (which is often too large for the small outer compartment, or if the bag is otherwise empty, having the main weight in the outer compartment throws off the weight balance of the bag).

    My favorite bag (a non-TB one, one about which I posted once, but that post was deleted for violation of forum rules ) has one main compartment divided by a pretty stiff divider, and the line of pockets is sewn on one of the outer walls inside this main compartment. When I open the bag—a single zipper—I can get at everything, and this everything is organized and in pockets. I pull out a pen, my phone and notebook, and am set to make a call and take a note of something.

    I was looking at Hurley backpacks that are sold on Apple's website (e.g. this one), and am very tempted by those backpacks with their amount of pockets in 2 main compartments, although the regular pocket panel is in the smaller outer compartment. Sadly, I don't find a messenger-style bag (without a flap) with a similar array of various inner pockets.

    I was recently thinking about a certain pocket idea that I have never seen implemented. Namely, I've already mentioned above how amazed I am by keyrings in outer compartments. Pickpockets, welcome to my home and make me have to change the locks... Anyway, sometimes (that's usually the case with women's bag) there is a zipped pocket in a bag on the inside back wall. This pocket is usually fairly large (for keys) and would be better used, e.g., for money (sometime one needs to carry larger amounts of cash which wouldn't fit into my small daily wallet). Well, I use it for keys. This whole pocket is thus more or less wasted for everything else. And it's not accessible either, since the pocket is located sort of in the middle of the wall, and is too deep, so I really have to open my bag wide and fish for something that is deep down there behind my other stuff. And the bulge these keys make which rubs against the other stuff has made a hole in the lining in at least one of my bags with a similar design.

    While at the same time there would be e.g. O-rings in a Tom Bihn bag (in a main compartment) to which one could clip the keys on a keystrap but then again even with a long keystrap the keys would be loose and could damage the spine of a paperback book or whatnot... these are metallic objects, after all.

    So if I were making my own bags (which I feel I will soon have to start doing), I'd add a small pocket inside the main compartment, similar to a TB phone pocket but smaller—somewhere on a front or back wall but close to the side (where the O-ring would be somewhat higher), practically at the bottom of the bag, so that one could both clip keys to a long keystrap and then place them in that pocket so that they do not move around and do not scratch, tear or otherwise damage other things I'm carrying there. Just for keeping them in place. Once I get home, I pull at the keystrap, and it comes out, and I don't have to fish for anything.

    I have a cheap souvenir backpack which I once bought for 20 euros in the Royal quarters in Vienna. It has a pocket like this, although too small, and it is sadly too high up—almost at the top of the back wall. See pic:

    internal pockets in bags - how do you use them?-the_sisi_backpack_inner_pocket_2-jpg

    But I often feel this place is safer to carry my keys than in the front outer compartment.

    Back to the general subject of pockets and the corresponding pet peeves, I'm usually particularly incensed when, instead of pen pockets, there are just pen loops. For Christ's sake, how does one put a pencil there? And why does anyone think that every pen should be single-body with a clip? There are a lot of pens with detachable caps (what a novelty), and it is on these caps that the clip is. The clip stays in the loop, the body of the pen falls out. Even if the cap is screw-on, it doesn't help. I have a fountain pen with a screw-on cap, and it is designed to unscrew pretty easily. So when it is in those loops, with stuff moving around in the bag and the bag itself being moved aroud, the pen just unscrews (and falls out of the cap).
    Last edited by myroslava; 07-11-2013 at 03:27 PM.

  9. #9
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2013

    Your story about keys and other valuables is SPOT ON for me too.

    Basically, there are these 3 simple rules:

    1) I want to be able to get at small objects quickly and one-handedly, both in removing and reinserting them. Nearly all the small items we carry for travel are things we need to get to in a hurry but also happen to be valuable: keys, sunglasses, eyeglasses, iPods, smartphones, tablets, cameras, passports. Thus, it should be fast for the OWNER to get to, not pickpockets.

    2) The small objects should be well-organized (in the same place within the bag at all times) and protected from one another (one item per pocket, enough padding to prevent damage such as keys scratching sunglasses or smartphone screens, no easy way for water to reach electronics, etc.).

    3) The pockets/pouches should be configurable or replaceable. Not everybody has the same size smartphones; not everybody carries pens/pencils; not everybody carries a water bottle, etc. I carry tools in my Large Cafe Bag that are too long for the pockets in there, so they stick out about halfway and catch on things, etc. Yet, I've had bags where the pockets are too deep, so it takes fishing around in the pocket to grab the item. Sometimes the mouth of the pocket is too small for my hand, so I have to turn the pocket upside down to shake the item out.

    It's almost like we need a way to shorten or lengthen pockets at will, like a movable seam. Either that, or inserts that can be used to plug the bottom of the pockets to control the height.

    Like you said, it's probably time for us to simply sew our own pockets... I could sew in a wall of Velcro, covering up the built-in pockets, then buy all the Velcro-backed pockets I want...

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts