View Full Version : I'm New to Bags--Please Help Me Make a Selection (what to purchase?)

11-03-2017, 01:49 AM
Greetings, everyone

I'm hoping to make a bag purchase, but I do not know what model/construct of bag would be best for my intentions.

I am in need of a backpack, for the purpose of bringing home groceries and other like things (I do not require any laptop compartment).

The bag needn't be too roomy--if it can carry a six-pack, bread and some vegetables, I'm good!

I plan to walk with the bag, as opposed to biking with it, so it needs to be fairly durable.

I have done some perfunctory research. Per my understanding, 1050 nylon is preferable over 1680 as the former is twisted (doubled) and therefore resists tearing.
That said, I don't necessairy need a slash-resistant bag. My prime concern is it will pull apart under the stress of grocery toting. Nothing lasts forever, but I would like at
least a few good years out of it (reasonable?). I go to the store about trice weekly and my trek, one way, is about two miles. I suspect my cargo would be roughly ten/fifteen lbs or so.

I discovered Tom Bihn while Googling information about nylon (etc). I had, hitherto, been shopping the Nordstrom site for their offerings. Most of these didn't go into much depth in describing the construct of the products, describing their material as 'nylon'/'ballistic nylon', but not offering a grade of such. Additionaly, the Tumi bags offered there seem unsuited for my needs and the BR bags look cheap/Chinese.

Tom Bihn seems open about what goes into its products and confident in their quality, hence my presence here.

Im looking, presently, at 'The Guides Pack'. I like that the bag is, effectively, an abyss I can drop things into. However, it seems a mix of materials: Exterior and lining: 420d HT nylon Classic Parapack and Bottom: 1050 denier HT ballistic nylon... wouldn't the stronger of the two pull upon the other (think 'weakest link')?

Concisely, I think I need the backpack equivalent of a tank (and only a 100% 1050-nylon bag will provide this)... but that could merely be a refection of my newbieness.

So my questions are:

1. based on the above, would The Guides Pack be appropriate for my needs?

2. is a 100% 1050-nylon bag overkill (for me)?

3. anything else I should consider when shopping for a bag?

Please and thank you for any insight/advice. :)

11-03-2017, 05:22 AM
Hi, @Eevee, and welcome to the forums.

All of the Tom Bihn bags are well-constructed and strong. They should all last for years, regardless of material. Deciding on which fabric is more of an issue of function and aesthetics, and for a lot of people, whether or not they attract pet hair and lint (cordura can, to some extent, though it isn't a huge problem; the Halcyon and nylons are a bit more "slippery" and stay cleaner naturally). Both the ballistic nylon fabrics are quite durable. I'd suggest focusing on which backpack will be the most comfortable for you and the load you'll be carrying.

I don't have personal experience with the Guides Pack, but I know it is more of a hiking pack than the others, with a frame to help mold it to your back. Other options would be the Synapse 25 or the Brain Bag. What type of things do you carry on a daily basis besides the groceries, or would this bag be solely for trips to the store?

11-03-2017, 06:19 AM
None of the TB bags will pull apart. I load up halcyon shop bags with heavy bottles and cans, and there is no strain on the seams. The backpacks are even more robustly built.

I don't think you need to worry about strength of fabrics, but you need to choose which backpack has the pockets that will hold your groceries, and which backpack will fit your body best.

11-03-2017, 06:41 AM
Thanks, both!

Yes, the bag would almost be exclusively used for grocery runs.

Seems TB is the pack of choice, then. I'll read up a little more before choosing a model.

I'll probably buy one by day's end! lol

11-03-2017, 07:10 AM
My suggestion would be take a look at the soon to be discontinued Smart Alec and snag one before they are all gone. It works great for that sort of scenario. I have a halcyon one that has easily carried heavy loads of groceries, and I love the bungee on the front.

11-03-2017, 07:15 AM
I don’t have either the Smart Alec or Guide’s Pack, even though I want both, but both would be very suited for your needs. As to robustness, I routinely carry 30-65lbs in my Brain Bag for hours on end and have had no issues with the construction.

11-03-2017, 07:40 AM
I would also recommend the Smart Alec. It’s a “black hole” type of bag, allowing you to easily drop in odd shaped items. The Halcyon fabric makes the bag sag a bit if it is not full, but the bungee can be pulled to reduce that effect. The Ballistic Nylon is gorgeous and holds its shape much better. You might consider adding a shop bag for overflow light things on a heavy shopping day. Shop bags are the best!

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

11-03-2017, 09:49 AM
Since you're going to be walking with groceries for several miles (I do that too), you might want to seriously consider a padded hip belt with whatever pack you decide on.

My suggestion (if you have the resources), is to wait a week or so for the ballistic Smart Alec's to be released... buy one of those plus the Guide's Pack.... add the padded hip belts... and practice loading each one with your heaviest groceries.
TB has a good return policy, so if you leave the tags on and just cleanly practice load ins at your house/apt, you'll probably be able to decide pretty quickly and return the one you don't want.

With all that being said, I routinely carry 25L of groceries in a non-TB traditional laptop/work backpack that I already have. It definitely works but it's not nearly as comfortable as a pack with an internal frame and a padded hip belt. It also doesn't have the benefit of high level of water resistance that the TB packs have.

Good luck!

11-03-2017, 10:46 AM
Up to last year, I was in your place and didn't really know much about bags. I would usually just get the cheapest one I could find. Zippers broke, things got wet, shoulders ached.

Here's a few things about bags:

Fabrics in general are very strong and can hold a lot. Even a bedsheet should be able to hold up 50kgs of stuff without tearing.Think of hammocks for example.
Zippers and seams (like backpack strap attachments) are the first to break for 90% of bags in general. It's not the fabric that tears first, it's where you join fabric A to fabric B that is weakest. Zippers. Seams. The point where backpack straps are attached to the bag. Etc.
The best zippers in the world are YKK. Tom Bihn only uses YKK zippers.

So, to answer your questions if you're using this for casual use:

The Guide's pack should work for you. (I don't own it though). As @G42 mentioned, a hipbelt could be useful for "heavy groceries + long walks". The Guide's pack does have one. Look at Smart Alec and Aeronaut 30 as well. Although I actually think my Western Flyer could easily take a 6-pack, bread and veggies and still only use up half the bag.
100% 1050 ballistic nylon is not required. Any of the fabrics Tom Bihn uses is strong enough for your needs. More importantly! The way they sew the seams and the zippers they use will be strong enough for your needs. However, I do like the ballistic nylon for my bag. Just choose the fabric that you like the look of.
As @G42 mentioned, a hipbelt. Also, try to think of what other use cases you might have. Travel? Bringing to work/school? Blending in/ making a statement? I think you mentioend grocery runs exclusively. If so, then the only thing left is to choose a colour combo!

Please update us on what bag you got in the end!

11-03-2017, 09:15 PM
Hi @Eevee, and welcome to the forums,

I'd suggest that you take a look at the thread titled Smart Alec Vs Brain Bag (Vs Synapse 25) with special attention to groceries (https://forums.tombihn.com/general-bag-discussion/10374-smart-alec-vs-brain-bag-vs-synapse-25-special-attention-groceries.html);

In particular, read through @tpnl's summary: (https://forums.tombihn.com/general-bag-discussion/10374-smart-alec-vs-brain-bag-vs-synapse-25-special-attention-groceries-post112689.html#post112689)

I have all 3 backpacks and I have found that the Smart Alec (SA) was the easiest to use for grocery work (and the most protective if carrying a laptop). YMMV, but these are my thoughts on why I prefer it for carrying a lot of non-clothing stuff:

1) I like to be quick when packing my groceries (so I am not a bottleneck to the cashier). I can just "throw" things in easily without thinking so much about "front" or "back" compartment, etc.
2) The bungee cord is very useful to "strap in" larger things (compensating somewhat for the larger internal volume of the Brain Bag (BB)). I also bring shop bags if needed
3) It stands up on its own - easier loading
4) Built in padding on the bottom - more protection for glass jars / soft items
5) I have found it the most comfortable of the 3 backpacks (may be just individual preference because of my shoulder / back)
6) Dyneema interior is easy to clean (BB has Parapack which is more a weave that Dyneema which looks like laminated - ie waterproof fabric)
7) You can use an Upper Module Pocket (UMP) to hold phone / wallet, etc without impacting interior space
8) It can hold the biggest items

Now, having said that, the Brain Bag, by virtue of its 2 compartments is good to separate Meats or Chemical items (Laundry detergent, etc) and of course has more interior volume. It looks better IMHO than the SA if not full (does not "look" angry as @Ilkyway funnily commented in the past).

The S25, if stuffed full - gets to be more of a beach ball and not as comfortable to wear (as is with most backpacks) and does not naturally stand up on its own always as @Rocks stated.

I would be remiss if I did not say that it is good to take some care in packing a lightly loaded SA to keep it from looking strange IMHO. There are some good techniques to keeping the SA's shape if there is little or nothing in it.
First off, the Ballistic Nylon version holds its shape well as @Rocks wrote earlier. The current Ballistic Nylon for the past few years seems to be stiffer than in previous years (@moriond - any past history info on this?) making it even better. TB has also slightly altered the shape of the top flap over the years to make it better to.
Secondly, I find using the top flap pockets to hold light to medium light items helps to keep the angry "grumpies" away .
Thirdly, cinching the Bungee as @Maverick said helps too.
Finally, packing vertically really helps the most with the SA.

(I have not tried to cut and paste the pictures in that post; please read through the whole thread)

I have the Smart Alec in both 1050d Ballistic Nylon (Aubergine/Wasabi) and Halcyon (New Black 400d/Island). My inclination is to recommend the Smart Alec in Ballistic Nylon for many of the same reasons @tpnl summarized.

The Guide's Pack is another possible choice, that has larger capacity (31 liters vs 26 liters), and a design that will allow you to use that backpack for wilderness hiking with add-on side packs, and the option to lash on additional packs outside with lash straps. For your purpose, the main additional features would be the addition of a frame that you can mold to your back for additional support, and a wider hip belt for supporting additional loads (like extra sleeping bags or externally lashed on additions). In either case, I would get the padded hip belt. In the case of the Smart Alec, you might find the Upper Modular Pocket a convenient addition for easy access to items without opening the main bag compartment.



11-03-2017, 09:23 PM
If you at all plan on ever (even once!) carrying heavy things like a gallon of milk I recommend a frame, hip belt and then the guide pack is your only (reasonable) TB option.

Personally I do a LOT of grocery hiking and I use a Mission Workshop Rambler (you can email and ask for a 20% off code) because it's expandable from 22 to 45L, got a frame, load lifters, and huge hip belt. I can (and do) easily carry 80 lbs in it, but when it's just a small run the interior is smaller than the S25.

With that said, if I was buying a grocery hike bag from Bihn, it would definitely be the guide's pack, with the hero's journey a distant second. The others are great for loads in the 10-20lb range, but I need flexibility for a gallon of water or wine or beer (or all of those) plus the whole Thanksgiving dinner (did that last year actually including the turkey, potatoes, everything! in the MWR).

11-04-2017, 05:21 AM
"Thank you for your order! We're going to get to work processing it for you."

Thank you all--you've all been a great help in boosting my confidence in TB! :D

I watched video reviews of the SA and guide pack both. I then slept on it and I went with the guide pack (I like that it's basically a laundry type bag that has a back support).

I'm sure I'll love it!