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Advice: The Latest Installment of the "Which Bag is Right For Me" Show!

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    Advice: The Latest Installment of the "Which Bag is Right For Me" Show!

    Hi, folks, new to the forums and to Tom Bihn. I'm getting ready to buy the first bag ever that has been a planned and not walk-into-a-shop-and-grab-something decision.

    I want to be able to carry these three things:
    1) My 13" Macbook (with its power cord)
    2) My To-Go-Ware tiffin box, roughly cylindrical: 7.3"H x 6.5" diameter at base, narrows a little toward the top.
    3) My vacuum thermos (Zoijirushi, 1L... I could downgrade to a .5 L but I LIKE carrying that much cold water or hot tea with me, dammit!)

    Anything else I'd want to carry will probably fit into a roughly cigarette-pack sized space... my camera or my phone, depending on how short I am on pocket space that day.

    The other thing I'm wondering about is carrying style. I've been carrying an Ivar backpack for a year and a half now, and before that I used slingpacks, and essentially I've never found anything that's properly balanced and doesn't hurt after awhile. I like the grab-and-go style of messenger bags, but I think the unbalanced load would be my undoing.

    The question I bet no one ever asks on these forums... Which Tom Bihn Bag is Right for Me?

    (Tangent: You should make that a YouTube game show. Take two contestants, and give them each a description of the victim's personality, habits, and lifestyle, and one object the victim wants to be able to carry. Let the contestants pick out a bag for the victim. The contestant who gets it closest to right, wins!)

    Hey cavanaugh,
    For what you're looking to carry, I think the Ego would be a really nice bag to go with if you're also thinking about purchasing a Brain Cell for your Macbook (which I would highly recommend doing). I've got that and an Empire Builder so far, and I've been using the Ego to carry my 14" Dell (w/ large and bulky power cord), a horizontal freudian slip for my school papers, external hd, pens, snacks, bottle of water and a bottle of Orangina (love that stuff), iPod, and other assorted items, and plenty of room to stuff more. If you still like the style of messenger bags, the Ego and Q-AM strap should be perfect. The Q-AM strap really is a clever piece of work, you should have no problem with balancing or comfort. I think the water bottle pocket on the side should be able to fit your thermos but not really sure...
    If you're looking for something a little smaller maybe look at the ID, or if you're looking much smaller maybe the imago or a cafe bag with a softcell to protect the Mac (although I'd seriously recommend a Brain Cell)... If you have trouble deciding, some suggest purchasing multiple bags and returning the bags you dont want... For me that wouldn't work since I'd probably end up keeping all of them...lol
    No matter what bag you get I'm sure you'll be more than satisfied, plus the customer service at TB is absoutely top notch. I've never dealt with a company with more helpful or friendly customer service. Ok time to go to bed I think I'm starting to ramble... Hope this helps you in your decision...
    Last edited by rkub; 03-04-2008, 12:44 AM.


      Great suggestions, rkub.
      Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

      Current carry: testing new potential materials in the form of Original Large Shop Bags.


        I don't think the Ego will accommodate the To-Go Ware tiffin. I have a Macbook (in Soft Cell) and a To-Go tiffin, and I've seen the Ego in the store. It isn't deep enough. The tiffin is 6.5" diameter and Ego is 6.3" deep. Even if you account for the ability of the Ego to bulge a little, I can't imagine fitting a Macbook with a sleeve in there. Or even if it does fit somehow, I wouldn't want my Macbook wedged so tightly in there. Maybe the Super Ego at 6.75" deep?

        I can carry all those things (plus my Sigg water bottle) in my Smart Alec, which is currently being redesigned. I don't think any of the other TB bags are deep enough for all those things (except the Swift or Utility Tote, but I don't think that's what you're looking for). The tiffin is great but awkwardly shaped. You could check their site for their new carry bag if you don't mind carrying two bags (which I do mind). Once you take the tiffin out of the equation, just about any of the TB bags (from Imago all the way up) would do.

        Hope this helps, best of luck!


          Thanks for the suggestions, rkub. Just a clarifying question... The Ego says it's only 6.3" deep (thick?), and the tiffin box says it's 6.5" in diameter. So it looks as though I'd be safer going with the SuperEgo? But even that's only 6.75" thick, which leads me to believe that even it probably won't actually hold a 6.5" diameter cylinder, especially not with a BrainCell already in it.

          Well, I'll keep looking and thinking and rethinking my strategy.

          ETA: Wow, long cross-post with readmore. You think even the Brain Bag won't do it? I have the bag that comes with the tiffin and it's a little... pursey, which is why I don't use it much. I don't really like the style of the Smart Alec, either.
          Last edited by cavanaugh; 03-04-2008, 07:03 PM.


            Hi cavanaugh,

            I totally understand about not caring for the Smart Alec style. I really did not like it when I saw it online. It looked strange to me. Then I was at the store for something else, saw it in person, and walked out with one of the last Smart Alecs in sage.

            Since I bought it, I have used it way more than I thought I would. It is my go-to travel backpack. The fact that it is one big compartment, for me, is a plus. It lets me use it for many purposes. I am a grad student and I use it whenever I am on campus. It carries a ton, and I am never uncomfortable wearing it. Plus it's being re-designed - no harm in waiting to see if you like the new one better.

            I don't think the Brain Bag would work for the tiffin because the main compartment is divided into two sections.

            That darn tiffin makes it hard, doesn't it? But it's worth the trouble. The only other bag I can use with it is my very old Timbuk2 messenger bag (one big compartment), but it's not very structured so you have to put other stuff in there to make sure the tiffin doesn't roll around much. Not a problem with the Smart Alec, which is more structured (has foam padding on back and bottom). Plus I can't recommend Timbuk2 products anymore; I think their quality has gone way down (although my 9 yr old bag is going strong).

            Good luck, the right bag is out there somewhere.


              You don't like the Smart Alec's style?

              Wow. I think it's the handsomest bag out there, and I'm always looking at what people carry. Mine is black, the official color of New York, so there's no "blobby" color effect on the lid. I use it every day.

              I think of it as a duffle bag. I don't usually carry a computer, but the Freudian Slip lives in it, keeping sheaves of paper orderly. When I first got it, I thought I was putting on a jet pack—did I need that much backpack?—but the space sure comes in handy for trips to the green market. When I change for dance class, it holds my street clothes. One time I carried sixteen pounds of dumbbells.

              Did I say that three people have asked me where they can get one? Maybe it's a New York thing.


                Your dumbbells comment made me consider substituting in my Smart Alec for my Brain Bag when carting that 24 pack of Aquafina from the store... hmm! Really hadn't thought of doing that before. Thanks!


                  Hm. I guess the smart alec looks kind of like a gigantic compression sack for a sleeping bag to me, because it's all cylindrical and hermetically sealed with no real outer sign of pockets. That makes it look really huge because compression sacks aren't supposed to be that big.

                  But the comment about using it for green market trips did make it seem more worthwhile. And I'm definitely interested in seeing if the redesign changes my mind. If not, it's no big deal; it's just a matter of taste.

                  Anyway, another idea I came up with for the tiffin is to attach it to the outside of a bag somehow, possibly in a yarn stuffsack or attached to the handle itself (because it closes pretty firmly). But I know I'll get tired of it flopping around.

                  My other alternative is to get over the pursey look of the bag it comes with, and just get a more streamlined bag for my computer and water. Which is looking more likely.

                  I really appreciate everyone helping me brainstorm!