View Full Version : Tri-Star or Western Flyer for multi-day travel/laptop bag

10-19-2017, 02:48 PM
Hi everyone,

My Tom Bihn collection is gradually expanding (Ristretto, NFTD, Synapse 25, Guide's Pack plus a myriad of accessories...) and I'm now looking for a bag to use for multi-day travel that can also carry a laptop. Primarily this will involve a lot of long distance air travel; the bag will also need to look reasonably smart and allow me to take my laptop plus some documents to the office. I will probably also have a checked bag but most likely due to long distance flights/multiple connections that will be checked in to my final destination and I'll be living out of my carry-on for a few days.

To me, it looks like my choices are down to the Tri-Star or the Western Flyer for this purpose so I'm trying to decide between the two options. Initially I thought just to go for the Tri-Star 'just in case' the Western Flyer was too small but I have a few questions about what people manage to pack in either of these bags.

I will carry a laptop in a Cache in the middle pocket of the TS or rear pocket of the WF. I currently have the 13" MacBook Vertical cache that I use in my Synapse. Will this fit in both the WF and TS? Looking at the dimensions it seems like only the TS would take the Vertical cache. A Horizontal cache seems like an inefficient use of the space though as the bags are both quite a bit wider/taller than my small laptop. What pouches/accessories do people put either side of their laptops to efficiently use this pocket?
Does the horizontal Freudian Slip allow for full A4 size documents/folders to be put inside? This is one of the things that frustrates me about the Freudian Slip in my Synapse 25. Is there a Freudian Slip that fits inside the WF?
For packing cubes/accessories, what combination do people use? I will be putting some clothes in the front/back pockets of the TS or in front pocket of the WF. I have a medium TS packing cube, a few size 2 travel stuff sacks, 3D clear organiser cube for toiletries, small Q-kit and large Snake Charmer for electronics. It seems like the WF wouldn't allow for many clothes once there are some pouches with electronics and my toiletries inside. In theory for the WF I'd use half the front pocket for clothes in a medium packing cube and the other half for my toiletries and some electronics. In the TS I could use the back pocket for clothes and the front pocket for toiletries/accessories.
I have a 9.7" iPad to take as well. How well does this fit in the front horizontal zip pockets on either bag? It seems like it would fit in the largest of the 3 pockets on the TS quite nicely.

Looking forward to your feedback and comments!


10-20-2017, 02:36 PM
Tri-Star is probably overkill for long-haul layovers and such. I am 6'-3" and find the Western Flyer to be about as big as a briefcase should be for regular business use. My usual travel set up is this:

Rear Pocket: Surface Pro in a Cache and clothes in a PCBP. Depending on wardrobe I can do up to 5 days in this configuration.
Front Pocket:
-Medium packing cube with running shoes, 3D organizer with all toiletries, eyelasses, and a medium clear pouch for things like first aid, emergency Ny-Quil and Advil etc.
-Medium mesh cube with adapters, overflow clothing, other accessories. Often I will pack a 3D mesh cube with headphones, USB cables, computer mouse and other in-flight accessories. I will clip this to the seatback pocket so I can avoid dropping things in the seatback pocket.
-Front Pockets; Large Anker battery for laptop and phone backup power, and an in-flight accessories if I'm not using a 3D cube as above. Collapsible Vapur bottle in the bottle pocket, filled before boarding. I have used the large pocket for a Dell Venue 8, but not sure if your Ipad will fit.

If I were travelling like you, I would put transit clothes in a medium cube, and nest it with the other medium cube with shoes/toiletries in the PCBP. It gets all my personal effects into the PCBP and leave the entire front pocket for a full-size FS or a folder organizer for A4 papers, as well as iPad and other accessories. Anything up to 11x17 paper usually can fit in the backpack strap pocket when the straps are deployed.

Snake Charmer fits vertically in the WF, I have used it in the past for tools or overflow undies and socks for a long one-bag trip. It allows for some "soft" packing space between it and the divider in the front pocket, and keeps things from falling out.

10-23-2017, 04:06 AM
Thanks imperator,

I'm really torn, I was searching the forums and online reviews and it seems that 50% of people think it's too big to carry as a briefcase and the other 50% of people say it's fine. The same goes for the photos I've seen; half of them the TS looks a reasonable size and the other half it looks pretty large. It's a tough call. My ideal goal is to keep either bag packed as thin as possible and I thought due to the 3 pockets of the TS vs 2 pockets of the WF I'd be less likely to have a bulging bag.

Do you find that the rear pocket with a cache and a PCBP fit in the rear pocket of the WF without any bulge? I assume you sub-divide the cube with two small WF cubes as you suggested to me? That could work well to have one with clothes and one with toiletries/additional clothes.
For the TS I planned something similar; PCBP/large cube in the rear pocket, laptop/snake charmer/q-kit in the middle pocket, medium cube/toiletries kit in the front pocket. In the WF it looks like all the clothes/toiletries in the rear pocket and electronics in the front pocket would work pretty well too.
The iPad is about 25cm tall and 17cm wide vs the Dell 21cm tall and 13cm wide. It would be very convenient to have the iPad in the front top zip pocket but it looks like it might be too tight. The same for my laptop in the 13" sleeve, I suppose for the WF I need to buy a horizontal Cache to fit it in...
What size of FS do you have in the WF? I don't see any WF-specific FS available for now.

I hope someone with an iPad (9.7" or 10.5") or 13" MacBook Retina can help to let me know if they fit in the WF the way I'm hoping for.


10-23-2017, 07:22 PM
My 2cents as I've owned a TS and currently own a WF (guess which one I recommend ;) )

I've found the TS to be just a bit too big for a briefcase while the WF seems to work better. Also, I find the WF to be a bit more flexible as it has 2 wider sections versus the TS's 3 narrower sections which can complicate where things go. For 1 or 2 nights worth of clothes, I can fit a horizontal 6z cache in the back compartment attached with gatekeeper clips along with an EC medium folder (shirts, pants, suit, sportcoat, etc) and/or WF large packing cube. My supporting gear goes in the front left section (charger, cords, etc) while my toiletries and understuff go in the front right section EC specter clean/dirty half cube)+3-1-1 bag. For some trips, I'll actually have an EC med folder and WF packing cube in the back without room for the cache and I'll unzip the divider in the front, put the cache there along with gear. I don't travel with and extra shoes which would not work with current packing style.

Most of my trips are 1-2 nights so the WF is all I need for them. For longer trips, I'll typically have a roller along and one of the other dozen or so backpacks and bags I have laying around for my laptop and gear. For just a laptop and equipment, I think the WF is too big as just an EDC but it works great for 1 bag travel. That said, I've started to use the WF as an EDC as I'm lazy and don't like moving my gear from it to a different bag. I work from home when not traveling and sometimes will hangout at the local starbucks or panera for half a day and work there; it doesn't look out of place there.

Some pics from a recent trip.

10-24-2017, 11:14 PM
Thanks hachkc,

You guys are definitely making me lean towards the WF when I was pretty certain the TS was the right bag!

What throws me off are the dimensions and volumes of the bags. I previously bought the Synapse 25 to use as my carry-on bag with electronics/toiletries/clothes in there. I found it great for the electronics and organisation but that then left very little space to pack any clothes. I posted about it on the forums here (https://forums.tombihn.com/questions-about-bags/11781-best-bag-frequent-long-distance-air-travel-laptop-gadgets-toiletries-clothes.html). I have quite a lot of electronics that I travel with so my concern was that the WF would be full with that before I even put any clothes in it as it's only 1 litre larger than the Synapse 25.

Tri-Star - 19" x 13" x 8" / 33 litres
Western Flyer - 18" x 12" x 7" / 26 litres
Synapse 25 - 20" x 13.4" x 9" / 25 litres

If anyone has a photo of all 3 bags side by side that would be great :D I found these two photos on the forum which seem to show both bags looking larger than the Synapse 25 even though their measurements state otherwise :confused:


Your packing style makes sense and seems pretty much like what I planned. i.e. laptop/2 small cubes with clothes/toiletries in the rear pocket. Front pocket left section with a Medium Cafe FS for stationary/iPad, front pocket right section with Q-kit/Snake charmer for electronics. Then the 3 outer pockets can be used for passport/phone/wallet etc. I thought to keep my Side Effect either in the water bottle pocket or the front pocket right side with electronics. I don't think I need to travel with a pair of shoes for my needs.

Good to know that the WF doesn't look out of place as an EDC/in the office.


10-25-2017, 07:14 AM
The +1" dimension on the TS does make a noticeable difference as you are getting around 25% more space. The big issue with Synapse in my opinion (I have an S19 & S25) is the layout just isn't as optimized for packing clothes. Its tapered in several points while the TS and WF are basically square; its much easier to pack things into squares versus egg shapes. I've done 1 night with just an S25 but the WF being just slightly larger can easily handle 2 nights.

Short answer, buy both, test pack them and then return the one you don't like. I switched from a TS to a WF but other folks swear by the TS. I just felt the WF looked more like a traditional briefcase which was important for me while the TS just seemed a bit big for that role. I also liked the 2 wider section sections of WF versus the 3 narrower sections in the TS. Now if there was a TS sized WF, that might a trickier decision. There are times that the WF could be just a tad deeper but I like the 18x12 width and height.

10-26-2017, 02:31 AM
That's my experience with the S25 as well. Fantastic as an EDC for all my gadgets but I can only take a minimal amount of clothes with me if I'm on a long-haul flight so not ideal for that.

I would love to be able to buy both but I live in Far East Russia and shipping here is usually >$100 so I don't have that luxury. I think you've both convinced me anyway, looks like the WF is the bag for my needs. Now I just need to decide on the colour :D probably black/iberian in ballistic will be the safest bet for work purposes. Though I do like the navy...

11-17-2017, 11:31 AM
Going on 4 years exclusively using the WF as an EDC briefcase and travel one-bag. Probably put about 350,000 miles on it in that time, mostly in 3-5 day work trips. My record was 4 days for work, followed by 6 days international vacation visiting family (summertime, with laundry facilities). I have the Steel/Iberian combo, both professional and unique for the EDC role. At 6'-3", it is about as small as my clothes can handle in a reasonable packing/folding arrangement, and most of my size 12 shoes will fit in half of the divided pocket. Unless I am travelling with kids, I have rarely had reason to bring another bag.

11-21-2017, 07:07 PM
I have all four major TB travel cases. TS, WF, A45, A30. One-bag as much as possible. I would say that the TS gets the most use. The usual decision for me is whether I am packing any shoes (men’s size 11). If I pack shoes, TS is what comes with. If I don’t, that usually means one or two nights and I take the WF. If I pack two pairs of shoes, it is A45. A30 gets the least use (almost never).

The TS certainly does not look like an EDC case. The WF is much more in that size range. However, I go into major meetings at my company with the TS and no one flinches until we head the airport and folks ask me where I left my roll aboard.

12-06-2017, 03:00 PM
Sorry, I missed the follow up questions from the earlier post:

Do you find that the rear pocket with a cache and a PCBP fit in the rear pocket of the WF without any bulge?

If I'm only packing an overnight, or I use spacebags for a larger trip, there is no perceivable bulge. The pockets tend to balance out and bulge into each other first, so if one is bulging, but the other is not, the bag overall still looks normal. It's only when you pack both of them tight that the bulging becomes noticeable; but even then, it is more square than any backpack :)

The iPad is about 25cm tall and 17cm wide vs the Dell 21cm tall and 13cm wide. It would be very convenient to have the iPad in the front top zip pocket but it looks like it might be too tight. The same for my laptop in the 13" sleeve, I suppose for the WF I need to buy a horizontal Cache to fit it in...

iPad might need to go in one of the main pockets on the WF; I used to do this when I had an Asus Transformerbook and a W-series Thinkpad to haul around. In either type of cache it could fit loose with the front pocket split. The 12" Surface and Horiz. Cache works well on the rail system in the rear pocket though, so the Dell would go well there.

What size of FS do you have in the WF? I don't see any WF-specific FS available for now.

I have used a full size horizontal, and now use a medium in half the front pocket (h/t Perseffect for that one). I use the other half to keep a sweater, or knicknacks, or lunchbox. I don't usually take the FS on my overnight travels, using pouches instead.

12-08-2017, 11:34 PM
FWIW, I also have the WF and I can fit 3-4 days in it even if I need suits. The trick is to use the Eagle creek medium folder (or two!) in the back pocket. You can also use a DLBP as a packing cube for the rear; fits perfect.

For now, if I need 5 days I add the S25 but I'll probably buy a 2nd WF as well as I'm thinking that's the perfect setup for travel - inside the second bag front pocket I'll have my in-flight ditty bag (PCSB) as well as the Pilot rolled and packed for my briefcase onsite. Then I'll stow the two WFs in the overhead and pull out my ditty bag on the way up. Thinking that's the perfect setup, but I'll wait to see if they make changes in the next few months.

In the meantime I use my S25.