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View Full Version : Brain Bag or Tri-Star for a log trip?



LauraA
04-14-2012, 11:13 AM
Hi all, I'm new at posting here, and only got registered thanks to help from Darcy! I have had my Brain Bag for quite a few years, and it is always my only bag when I travel to Tanzania for a month each year to work at The Rift Valley Children's Village - Tanzanian Children?s Fund (http://www.tanzanianchildrensfund.org/). I am able to take all of the clothes that I need, an iPad, an iPhone, toiletries, camera, extra pair of shoes, etc.
I also own a Tri-Star, and use it for trips here in the US. I'm now planning a longer trip - Tanzania and some other countries with my daughter and her family. We actually hope to get around the world tickets. I've been comparing the two bags, and the Brain Bag is slightly bigger. Other than that, the main differences are that the Tri-Star looks more "professional" (I'm retired, so that doesn't matter), and there are more straps and things that might tend to be in the way if the bag isn't on my back. The Tri-Star is sleeker, but when used as a backpack may not be as supportive. I'm 65, and I'll need to keep up with some grandchildren, so I want it to be as easy as possible for me to lug my stuff around. I always travel light, so that's not really an issue. I think that the size of either bag would be fine. Any opinions? Most reviews that I see of the Brain Bag seem to deal with carrying two computers and lots of business stuff. It is great just for clothes and toiletries. Thanks, and take care, LauraA

TavaPeak
04-14-2012, 12:35 PM
Hi Laura. I'm feel pretty new here too, though it's probably been a year. ;-) A little extra "real estate" in a bag is not a bad thing when you are traveling for such a long time. Sounds like you know how to make the most of that Brain Bag. (I'd love to see your packing list sometime. I took my Tristar to Uganda last summer, and learned that I have a lot to learn about packing for Africa! ;-)

I'm biased towards the Tristar, because I love how the three sections organize me (like a filing cabinet for clothes etc), and love that the bag can stand up on its own when packed. I like how wide-open the bag is when I unzip the two outer sections - makes it easy to pack and find stuff. I really like the rectangular format - I pack better with that. For me, a backpack tends to become a black hole. However, if you are used to a backpack and how to organize your stuff in it, it sounds like you can't get much better than a Brain Bag for the type of travel you are doing. It's designed to be so comfortable for carrying stuff. It's low key, looks like any other backpack, but is packed with a lot of functionality. If I were in your position (round-the-world travel, woohoo!), honestly I'd probably opt for the Brain Bag. Maybe you could even treat yourself to a Brain Bag in a new color? ;-)

That said, there may be issues if the Brain Bag is too big for certain smaller aircraft you might encounter around the world, like the things folks have posted about Asian or European budget airlines. I can't speak to that, but perhaps someone will chime in.

Hope you will post about what you decide, and perhaps what you decide to pack it with. Thanks, Sherry

LauraA
04-14-2012, 02:56 PM
Thanks so much, TavaPeak - Here is my most recent packing list. The bags are pretty much the same size, because you can make the Brain Bag much thinner. One issue that I hadn't thought about, though, was living out of the bag. In Tanzania, I go to one place, totally unpack, and don't repack till time to leave. I do use packing cubes thought, so that might make the Brain Bag a little easier to deal with. I mostly want to go with the one that would be easier to carry. Take care, LauraA

PACKING LIST

MED PACKING CUBE
3 pair pants (1 or 2 cropped)
1 thin sweater
1 set thin long underwear (for sleeping or layering if cold )
4 pr panties, 1 bra
MED PACKING CUBE
4 tee shirts
2 long sleeve button shirts
1 tank top
4 pr thin ankle socks
thin travel towel
SMALL CLEAR CUBE FOR LIQUIDS
SMALL PACKING CUBE
toiletries, chargers, adapter, flashlight, small camera, small mirror
EXTRA ITEMS
hat, extra shoes (teva type sandals), oatmeal packets, green and herbal tea bags, flax seedpackets, hair brush, for kids – stickers, balloons, small books
SMALL FRONT POCKETS THAT I CAN GET TO ON THE PLANE
chap stick, pens, paperwork, vitamins, malaria drugs, advil, iPhone (has alarm)
WEARING/CARRYING
panties, bra, tee shirt, long sleeve button shirt, light weight jacket with pockets, socks, sturdy shoes, watch
PASSPORT HOLDER AROUND NECK (or in pocket)– room for passport, money, credit cards, boarding passes, pen

NOTE – When I travel to Tanzania, I don’t need any first aid supplies, because The Children’s Village has all of that kind of stuff.

JLE
04-14-2012, 03:52 PM
It sounds as if you have a lot of experience of travelling with both bags. I have a TS but not a BB. A TS would certainly work, bearing in mind that the backpack straps are designed for quick hops rather than extended use (eg on long walks). But I would go with your instincts on which you prefer. On a long trip you want the bag that you know works best for your travel style.

One other consideration. If you are worried about being forced to check a bag on flights with limited carry on allowances, the TS would probably be better, as you can zip the backpack straps out of harm's way. Maybe you could put flight essentials and valuables in a packing cube shoulder bag inside your main bag and then just pull that out for the flight if you are required to check the main bag.

Have a wonderful trip!

moriond
04-14-2012, 05:35 PM
Hello Laura,

You might want to read conejo23's recent thread, My Tri-Star Review (with comparisons to the Brain Bag) (http://forums.tombihn.com/bag-reviews/4712-my-tri-star-review-comparisons-brain-bag.html). If you're looking for the most comfortable carrying experience, I suspect that the Brain Bag you've used will provide it, but you might find it slightly easier to access the Tri-Star. Lots of people have traveled with the Brain Bag, both before the Aeronaut (of similar capacity, and pre-dating the Tri-Star) was designed, and after. I don't have a Brain Bag, because I feel the bag is too big for my height (just under 5'4") and build. But certainly, we've seen this bag carried by lots of people, and most recently in these images in The Bag Wizard of Seattle thread (http://forums.tombihn.com/customer-pictures-video/4670-bag-wizard-seattle.html#post35783) by cromulent's seven-year old daughter.

I suspect that backpack and others will weigh in with recommendations on using the Brain Bag as your primary travel bag. Have a wonderful trip.

moriond

AVService
04-14-2012, 08:07 PM
Welcome Laura,

I am somewhat confused.
You have both bags already?

Ed

LauraA
04-14-2012, 08:29 PM
Hi all, and thanks for all of the help and ideas. I posted one reply that included my packing list for the month in Tanzania, but it hasn't shown up yet. When I post, I get a message that my post needs to be approved. Does everyone get that message? Just wondering, because I posted my reply soon after my first post. Anyway, yes, I already have both bags.I want to figure out which one I will use for our long trips to decide if I need any other accessories. I usually use the Tri-Star for trips in the US. I'm often just visiting grandkids or going to New York City, and I don't have to carry the bag around too much. I got the Brain Bag specifically for my trips to Tanzania or other off the beaten path trips. I have to carry the bag much more, and I really like the comfort of the sturdy straps. I used to do some backpacking, and I feel that I could carry that bag pretty much indefinitely. I'm not too worried about having to check it. I won't pack it real full, and I'll have the sides cinched in some. If I do ever have to check it, I think that I could find a way to tie the straps together and close to the bag. If my packing list doesn't show up, I'll try again tomorrow. All ideas are appreciated. Take care, LauraA

LauraA
04-14-2012, 08:41 PM
OK, I'm posting my packing list again, because when I posted the last post I didn't get that strange message, and the post showed up right away. This packing list is what I take to Tanzania. Things would be slightly different for the trip to several countries. I pretty much wear dark pants, a tee shirt or tank top with a light sweater or opened button shirt over. For dressing up for the family trip, I would probably just throw in a silk type blouse.
I used to need to take a small lap top and a kindle, but now I have the iPad. I also used to take some big camera equipment. Now I just take a point and shoot. I used to take a small personal bag, and don't need that anymore because I take less equipment.

PACKING LIST

MED PACKING CUBE
3 pair pants (1 or 2 cropped)
1 thin sweater
1 set thin long underwear (for sleeping or layering if cold )
4 pr panties, 1 bra
MED PACKING CUBE
4 tee shirts
2 long sleeve button shirts
1 tank top
4 pr thin ankle socks
thin travel towel
SMALL CLEAR CUBE FOR LIQUIDS
SMALL PACKING CUBE
toiletries, chargers, adapter, flashlight, small camera, small mirror
EXTRA ITEMS
hat, extra shoes (teva type sandals), oatmeal packets, green and herbal tea bags, flax seedpackets, hair brush, iPad (filled with books and magazines), and for the kids – stickers, balloons, small books
SMALL FRONT POCKETS THAT I CAN GET TO ON THE PLANE
chap stick, pens, paperwork, vitamins, malaria drugs, advil, iPhone (has alarm)
WEARING/CARRYING
panties, bra, tee shirt, long sleeve button shirt, light weight jacket with pockets, socks, sturdy shoes, watch, large cotton scarf that can serve as blanket, pillow or shawl on the plane- or elsewhere
PASSPORT HOLDER AROUND NECK (or in pocket)– room for passport, money, credit cards, boarding passes, pen

NOTE – When I travel to Tanzania, I don’t need any first aid supplies, because The Children’s Village has all of that kind of stuff.

moriond
04-14-2012, 08:58 PM
Hi Laura,
I thought that I'd approved your earlier post, but apparently this didn't take, and one of the other moderators didn't pick this up in the meantime. (There are some drawbacks to doing this all on an iPad screen.)
moriond

LauraA
04-14-2012, 09:10 PM
Oh thank you, morlond. Mostly it is just me not fully understanding the forum. I'll get used to it. Take care, LauraA

TavaPeak
04-14-2012, 09:36 PM
Wow LauraA. You really are a black-belt in packing light. I tried to pack light for my 9 days in Kampala (speaking in a conference for 3 of them, so had to look nice)...and even though I did a lot of hand-washing, I still ran out of shirts! I also took a Macabi skirt (which dries so quickly), but never wore it - it wasn't "smart" enough for our activities in Kampala. Thanks for posting all that detail! -- SW

LauraA
04-14-2012, 09:55 PM
TavaPeak - I can get away anywhere, anytime in very thin nylon black pants ( from Tilley- I've had them forever) and black or colored tank top. I can wear several kinds of shirts over the tank top or over a tee shirt. I also have a couple of colors of very thin casual pants and cropped pants from Chico's. They look sort of like cargo pants with some pockets and zippers. The best thing that I take on trips- always- is my Fluxus Nomad Scarf. It is stretch cotton jersey (like an old tee shirt), and it is very thin, but huge. I use it as a blanket and or pillow on the plane, as a shawl, or wrapped around my neck as a scarf. It is like an adult security blanket! Oh, and you probably look a lot nicer than I do!! I sort of look the same every day! Take care, LauraA

gmanedit
04-14-2012, 10:56 PM
I sort of look the same every day!

That's smart of you. I bet you look great.

TavaPeak
04-15-2012, 11:32 AM
TavaPeak - I can get away anywhere, anytime in very thin nylon black pants ( from Tilley- I've had them forever) and black or colored tank top. I can wear several kinds of shirts over the tank top or over a tee shirt. I also have a couple of colors of very thin casual pants and cropped pants from Chico's. They look sort of like cargo pants with some pockets and zippers. The best thing that I take on trips- always- is my Fluxus Nomad Scarf. It is stretch cotton jersey (like an old tee shirt), and it is very thin, but huge. I use it as a blanket and or pillow on the plane, as a shawl, or wrapped around my neck as a scarf. It is like an adult security blanket! Oh, and you probably look a lot nicer than I do!! I sort of look the same every day! Take care, LauraA

Wow, love that scarf. More practical than a pashmina, and way more fun. What color do you have? (That scarf is long enough even for me...I'm nearly 6' tall. Love the "sol" green! :-)

Again, thanks for sharing your packing list. It's great to know it's been tested and tweaked for so long, and that it really works. Sounds like you could rock that Tristar no problem. I think the main issue would be which bag is more comfortable to carry, and which is more convenient for accessing stuff. Please keep us posted about your decision. And maybe post pictures of what you pack? ;-)

LauraA
04-15-2012, 01:29 PM
Thanks, gmanedit, I think that I look 65 and a little heavy, but I'm fine with that!! Teva Peak, you have inspired me to really find out which bag I prefer. And the Tri-Star wins, hands down!! Actually I was betting that it would be the Brian Bag, so I'm surprised. I actually got out all of my "stuff" and packed today. I don't yet have the Tom Binh iPad case or their clear case for liquids, but I sort of filled in with other stuff. Each bag, fully packed, (and with the sides cinched in quite a bit on the Brain Bag), weighed about 20 pounds. The Tri-Star looked way smaller and sleeker, and was way easier to move around off of my back. We already know that it is easier to get to stuff in the Tri-Star. The big surprise was when I put each bag on my back. The Tri-Star was way more comfortable, and I didn't expect that. I often carry it without ever putting it on my back, so I really didn't remember how it felt. The shoulder straps on the Brain Bag sort of cut into the front of my shoulders. Maybe it is made more for wider shoulders? Anyway, I'm set, and I don't know when I'll use the Brain Bag again, because the Tri-Star is now going with me to Tanzania in June. That will be her first international trip, and I've had her for a few years. My Tri-Star is the red color with the dark gray. I love red, and it also still looks brand new, so I won't even be thinking of getting a new one. I am wondering, though, about getting Tom Bihn bags for my daughter, her partner, and their two kids. They live in Seattle, so we could visit the showroom! I have emailed a question in to customer service, and I didn't get an answer yet (probably because of the weekend). The Tri-Star now comes with an optional waist strap. That was not an option when I bought mine, but I would love to have that. They have a way to order a waist strap for older Western Flyers, but they don't mention that it would work for the Tri-Star. If I can get it, I will. Oh, and about the scarf: mine is sort of a pale purple, and I don't see it as a color listed now. It might actually be the light gray, I'm not sure. I love the red, but that might be too strong a color to have on the whole time that I'm traveling. My bag and my coat are already red! Thanks all, and take care, LauraA

Moose
04-15-2012, 04:11 PM
LauraA, is there a bowing icon? That's some packing list. I do pretty well but you've obviously nailed it. I LOVE that scarf. Great, another thing on my gotta have list. :) I love my Brain Bag. It's always comfortable no matter how much stuff I cram in it. I really really wish I could speak to the Tri-Star. A steel/ultraviolet one tops my "gotta have" list. Like TavaPeak I would LOVE to see pictures of what you're packing. I'll take any opportunity to improve what I'm doing.
Take care,
Moose

TavaPeak
04-15-2012, 05:49 PM
LauraA, My Tristar really liked Addis Ababa and Kampala. ;-) There were women from Tanzania at our training conference, as well as women from 6 other East African countries. I loved having my Tristar bag stand up on its own in the hotel room (off the floor), and it was so easy to keep things separated once I go there. I was there 9 days, and liked how I could use the 3 sections in different ways, and keep clean clothes in a separate section of the bag from the dirty ones. BTW I packed the thinnest cotton-blend knit tops I could find, and they still took 3 days to dry after sink laundry. I couldn't bear anything polyester in the humidity. I'm rather tall for Tilley clothing, but I need a different solution for next trip!

I hear the packing cubes for Tristar really make a difference. I have a TS large packing cube on order (arriving on Wed, I hope). I've been using my old Eagle Creek packing cubes, which aren't bad, but they don't make the most of those Tristar inches. I have a kiwi Breve for my iPad2, which "files" neatly either horizontally or vertically in the center section once my TS is packed with clothes. The pockets on the Breve are finally stretching out a little bit, and now it's a little easier to store cables and chargers.

I was inspired by the clever person here who attached their 3-1-1 bag (the 3D clear organizer bag) to a strap, and just pulled it out of their Bihn bag and left it attached, while going through security. That makes SO much sense. No chance of forgetting it that way. I'm definitely trying that on my next trip.

Moose - sure wish I'd gotten an UV Synapse to match my steel/UV TS. (Clearly, T-birds have great taste.) I ended up ordering a navy Synapse last week, but I'm fairly sure my teenagers will see it and raise a ruckus. Keep hoping that the UV Dyneema Synapse will return one day. Until then, I'll use my old but dear Rick Steves Civita.

LauraA
04-15-2012, 05:56 PM
Thanks Moose. Once I get the other things that I've ordered from Tom Bihn, I'll take some packing pictures. My next trip is Seattle to see grandkids and maybe take them to the Tom Bihn showroom, and then after a week and a half there, on to NYC for a week. I'll pack most of the same stuff for that trip, so I'll do the pictures then. That trip starts the second week in May. I've been packing light for a long time. The reasons that I got started where 1. we have 8 kids (6 of them were adopted), so there can get to be a lot of stuff pretty easily, and 2. When I go to Tanzania, I always take a huge duffle of donations, and that is all that I can check. The donations are mailed to me from their main office in the U.S. - that's how they get stuff to Tanzania - just have each worker carry a duffle. Take care all, LauraA

JLE
04-15-2012, 07:54 PM
TavaPeak, the packing cubes for the TS are virtually indispensable IME. I couldn't imagine packing my TS without them! I find using them makes it easier to optimize the available packing space within each compartment. Even the large cube, which on one view could be said to just add weight without packing value, I find is particularly useful in the rear compartment, to keep tops and pants, skirts etc organized and tidy inside the bag. And it's amazing what a small cube will hold!

LauraA
04-16-2012, 07:19 AM
Teva Peak - What type of training conference? Sounds interesting! I hadn't seen the idea of attaching the 3-1-1 bag with a strap- I'm going to do that for security - great idea!
Teva Peak and JLE- I love the packing cubes. I seem to always fit two medium ones into one compartment of the Tri-Star, although all of the reviews say that you can just fit a medium and a small into one compartment. I'm thinking of getting either the cube to use with a shoulder strap, or the large one that is a backpack. I don't have a large cube, but it might be good for my loose stuff that is usually in the middle compartment. Take care, LauraA

moriond
04-16-2012, 09:26 AM
Sounds interesting! I hadn't seen the idea of attaching the 3-1-1 bag with a strap- I'm going to do that for security - great idea!
Teva Peak and JLE- I love the packing cubes. I seem to always fit two medium ones into one compartment of the Tri-Star, although all of the reviews say that you can just fit a medium and a small into one compartment. I'm thinking of getting either the cube to use with a shoulder strap, or the large one that is a backpack. I don't have a large cube, but it might be good for my loose stuff that is usually in the middle compartment. Take care, LauraA
Hi Laura,

TavaPeak is speaking about using a handle loop (http://www.tombihn.com/page/001/PROD/ACC/TB0517) attached to a 3D Clear Organizer Cube (http://www.tombihn.com/page/001/PROD/ACC/TB0917). TXGirl posted a picture of the handle loop attached to a plum Side Effect (http://www.tombihn.com/page/001/PROD/ACC/TB0412) in this forum discussion about the Side Effect (http://forums.tombihn.com/bag-reviews/3909-side-effect-tom-reading-my-mind-when-he-designed.html#post26717). A number of forum members adopted using the handle loop for the 3D Clear Organizer Cube, as well. You can see some pictures of the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag (http://www.tombihn.com/page/001/PROD/ACC/TB0921) in use if you scroll through Janine's Packed for the Hospital thread (http://forums.tombihn.com/customer-pictures-video/3742-packed-hospital.html). (Check the second page for views of the packed contents.) Janine's pictures of obit the PCSB and the Side Effect are also a few posts up from TXGirl's picture in the first post link. I expect Lani will weigh in with comments about the Packing Cube Backpacks.

I have a Tri-Star, and I agree that the packing cubes are really useful for this bag (and also for the other Tom Bihn travel bags, such as the Aeronaut and the Western Flyer. Even when I use the Tri-Star for a lightly packed trip, I'll use a small packing cube to separate out worn underwear and other such clothing items. I was really surprised to hear you say that you found the Tri-Star more comfortable to carry, though. The Brain Bag is too big for me to use, but I expected, as you did, that this would be the more comfortable backpack for you. A great discussion thread.

moriond

TavaPeak
04-16-2012, 11:33 AM
I ordered my Storm 3D organizer after reading in this thread about just tethering the 3D to the bag (using the o-rings) and leaving it outside the bag for security. The less loose stuff in those gray bins, the better!

http://forums.tombihn.com/questions-about-bags-accessories/4095-3d-organiser-airport-3.html

lonestar6
07-17-2012, 07:47 PM
LauraA how did your trip go?