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Revamping the WF/TS

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    Revamping the WF/TS

    Warning: Long Post!

    I have been traveling with either a TS or WF as my one-bag for around 10 years now. And I LOVE these bags. At the same time, I have some observations I’d like to offer on issues and potential improvements after a decade of near constant use. Now that I have some time due to the lockdown I finally typed them up.

    As background, since 2013 I have lived abroad in a second-world region, traveling with the TS/WF to 20+ countries for both business and pleasure. I originally got the TS as a “jack of all trades” bag that could be both packed light for shorter trips and business travel, or packed heavier for longer trips (up to 1 month).

    Having refined my packing strategy / loadout over the years, 18 months ago I downgraded to a WF (and sold my TS) and use it in the same capacities. All told, I’d guess I’ve lived out of these bags well over 6 months over the past decade. Beyond countless destinations in Europe, I have slept with a Tristar as my only bag in a yurt in Turkmenistan, used it while hiking in the Carpathians in Ukraine, and took a WF on a week-long trip through Iran. I’ve also taken them to meetings in financial capitals like Singapore and London. They have come through with flying colors with just a wipe down between trips to remove dust. I couldn’t be happier overall.

    Here a few observations I’d like to offer as “food for thought” based on my own personal usage, which is one-bag traveling. I see some cool opportunities to make a few slight tweaks (e.g. Synapse->Synik) to further refine these for the next generation.
    1. First, the number one differentiator of the TS/WF line for me is the separated rear full-footprint rectangular compartment. In my experience this is critical for packing a suit, and even for leisure works better for casual clothes if you prefer a folding packing strategy for pants/ shirts. For this kind of packing style, the TS/WF are superior to all other TB bags. This is a basic point, but it’s what distinguishes these bags from the Aeronauts / Duffels / Backpacks and should always be kept in mind when thinking about changes.
    2. At the same time, the back compartment nearest the shoulder straps is naturally used for folded clothes. That means heavier items — such as shoes, toiletries, and electronics — are logically placed in the front dividable compartment, which is furthest from your back/hip. Therefore, in the most natural loadout this leads to a sub-optimal weight loading for both side-strap or shoulder-strap carry.
    3. When fully packed, the TS is extremely bloated and tends to take on a spherical shape. In particular, it seems too thick in overall dept, leading to an almost comically brick-like outline when stuffed (I have been the subject of snide remarks when wearing a full TS in backpack mode). Combined with point (2) on the weight issue, in my experience it’s not usable for side-carry when packed full. (For refence, I am a 5’10” 200+ lb male). That was one of the reasons I switched to a WF + Synik. If the TS is only usable as a backpack when full, I’d rather just use a real backpack.
    4. Personally, I have never unzipped the front compartment divider. That's because it provides a critical structural role in containing the "bulge" in the depth direction. Moreover, when one one-bagging, folding clothes are never more than 50% of my loadout. There are always toiletries, electronics, documents, shoes, etc. that do not require a full-width/length compartment. It is hard for me to imagine a scenario where two full-length compartments are required. Again, usually depth is the limiting dimension — for overall loadout as well as for individual bulky items you may pick up along your journey such as a gift box.
    5. In addition, when fully loaded, the middle compartment of the TS tends to be very pressured in the center, with extra space on the edges because the two outside compartments tend to bulge inwards. It’s a natural place for a laptop, and I understand the design philosophy of protecting delicate electronics in the center, but the compartment is very wide on the outside seams (most laptops are ~1” or less these days) and I always seem to have extra wasted space, unless I carefully roll up socks/underwear and stuff them in there.
    6. The three front pockets on the TS are excessive, especially when you try to use all of them at the same time. This is because they share internal depth space with the front compartment. Depth space tends to be the one you really have to manage when packing these bags (width/length is more forgiving). The WF front pockets, in contrast, feel much more usable without running into problems.
    7. For the same reasons as the front pockets, it’s hard to use the water bottle pocket (shares internal depth space). I use this instead for fold-flat sunglasses and a crushable cap. A water bottle will only fit if the compartment behind is underpacked.
    8. Even though I have packing cubes, I rarely use them given the already extremely ample compartmentalization. The one exception, however, is that I always use the PCSB as a “laundry bag” in the small compartment. It starts with clean underclothes, that get stuffed at the bottom of the compartment (outside the PCSB) as they get used. Overall, I find that folding clothes (button-down shirts, pants) do not require separation during travel, while underclothes (which pack in the front) definitely do.

    Based on these observations about size, functionality, weight distribution, I wanted to share a few possible suggestions for consideration, keeping in mind this is based on my personal use case.
    1. As has been mentioned on the forum before, a new “Bi-star” hybrid that is intermediate in size between the TS and WF would be an optimal size for most people. In particular, I would cut the depth of the bag to roughly WF proportions, while preserving the length/width of the TS. This would maximize the rectangular area while packing suits or folding clothes, while avoiding the excessive bulging issue of the TS. It would also mean that the final bag would be able to be comfortably carried in both modes (back/shoulder) even when fully packed.
    2. I would strongly, strongly advocate for a thin laptop compartment between the strap hideaway and back compartment, as in the Synik. Electronics are more rugged these days (solid state drives) and protection would be adequate if a hard back insert is added (which I also would recommend). Moreover, this would help alleviate the weight distribution issue. Even an iPad here would help, and a laptop would resolve it entirely).
    3. Likewise, the front compartment could be improved. One idea I have seen before that I would encourage is to consider the pilot/co-pilot layout for the front. That would preserve the balanced two-compartment layout of the WF, while at the same time improving the water bottle pocket. A middle bottle pocket is superior, as inserting a bottle in a relatively full bag will push stuff laterally toward the edges — not share depth space, which is the most precious.
    4. I also think laundry management might be better managed somehow. As I said, the fold-flat outwear clothes at the back tend not to need dirty/clean separation. In contrast, underclothes (which I carry in the front) do need to be kept apart, and this requires at a minimum some kind of internal organization. I don’t have an ideal solution to offer, but a custom stuff stack with internal baffle would be perfect (I prefer stuff sacks to packing cubes as drawstrings compress more naturally than zippers).
    5. For the side handles, I personally don’t mind the WF handles, but I understand the TS design is more loved. At the same time, in terms of construction the stitch for the TS handle relies on the width of the middle compartment. If the compartment is eliminated, the natural default would be the WF handles, although most of your customers and reviewers rave about the TS handles so maybe there is some way to square that circle.

    So that’s it, just some morsels for thought. I hope that gives some insights from a heavy user in the wild who has really put these bags through their paces. Happy to brainstorm some more and bounce more ideas off people.

    For reference, here is my current loadout — which has been gradually refined over the years. I carry a black ballistic WF, with:
    • Back compartment: folded pants / button-down shirts + a removable cache for my laptop when needed;
    • Front right compartment: A PCSB stuffed with underclothes. Used for day walks / hiking when needed.
    • Front left compartment: A sidekick with electronics + in-journey essentials (headphone/kindle) plus a small toiletry kit with all essentials. Behind these is a clipped-in medium organizer pouch for documents + cards + cash (kept securely attached to the bag away from an outside pocket and out of sight even when the bag is open).
    • Waterbottle holder: sunglasses + crushable hat + sunscreen. Not even used most trips, but great to have just in case.
    • Top outside zipper pocket: iPad (when not bringing a laptop) + clipped mesh bag with some extra electronics (cables, sim cards) that rarely get used.
    • Bottom outside zipper pocket: pens, mini-notepad, micro flashlight, pills (tums+antidiarrheal), sewing kit, and various “rarely used” small sundries.

    EDIT: I should add, I've only had two (very minor) issues. These are really more about my use than any fault with construction.

    1) When leaving home, I clip my keys on a key strap in the bottom front pocket. Over time, the metal has worn down the ballistic nylon because it bulges out and that bulge gets rubbed on things. No holes, but noticeable wear.

    2) Due to the extreme pressure when packed full on the zipper divider in the front compartment, the stitching on the bottom edge did begin to loosen on my TS. It did not come close to failing, but was noticeably stretched.
    Last edited by observant_hobo; 06-03-2020, 06:54 AM.

    Welcome to the Forums observant_hobo! Glad to see a long term TB user join the conversation and share such a detailed post!
    I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...


      Originally posted by G42 View Post
      Welcome to the Forums observant_hobo! Glad to see a long term TB user join the conversation and share such a detailed post!
      Thanks! I had an account here years ago but hadn't used it in a long time. I am hoping the design guys at TB see this and incorporate it into their thinking. I offer just one data point but I hope an interesting (and informed) one.

      A few other comments thinking some more on this:

      1) The weight distribution issue even impacts the bag when setting it down horizontally (from the top handle). Sometimes the front is so heavy the bag is destabilized and naturally rolls over toward the front (less common on the TS since the base is so fat it's pretty stable). Again, adding a laptop slot (and eliminating the middle slot on the TS) would push the center of gravity back. There would still be some disbalance as most heavier items still need to be in the front of the bag for access reasons (electronics, water, toiletries). But shifting at least some weight to the back (flat items - tablet/laptop/book/whatever) would help.

      2) I feel like there must be some creative approach for the front compartments. For example, using the zip-down baffles of the aeronaut series to create a kind of expandable/shiftable divider*— which could in theory even add a clean/dirty clothes divider. Personally I would be fine with just 2 sections and skip the water bottle pocket entirely. But I do think some structure is good (2 or 3 compartments) beyond the rear compartment, as I don't see utility in two full-footprint compartments.

      3) I forgot to mention, but as for top handles, the tri-star is superior as the multiple force points of the two handles gripped together gives an incredibly solid feel. Hard to describe, but the bag doesn't swing/pivot when being moved, unlike the WF which hinges at the handle. That said, the WF handle is great too, although for a theoretical Bi-Star maybe there is some other approach. The stitches matter though, so if only 2 main compartments it's hard to see how two-point straps/handles could be incorporated. I also like how the shoulder strap attach points are staggered on the tristar across the middle compartment. It's a great design touch, but in reality symmetrical works fine for a smaller bag, and again the tristar easily gets too heavy to shoulder carry (also can get too big for European regional carry-on size).
      Last edited by observant_hobo; 06-03-2020, 01:09 PM.


        From what I've heard, it seems like at least points 1, 2 and 5 are going to be addressed in the upcoming Trinity line! Hopefully we'll be able to see it soon.
        Guide's Edition Synapse 25, Pilot, HLT2


          Originally posted by Skirata44 View Post
          From what I've heard, it seems like at least points 1, 2 and 5 are going to be addressed in the upcoming Trinity line! Hopefully we'll be able to see it soon.
          Wow! Just searched for this and that is super cool! I didn't know they were already planning an update. Seems like the plan is to address the bulging issue and put in a more narrow laptop pocket in the middle. I would still prefer a laptop compartment at the back instead, to balance electronics/toiletries in the front, although I guess for those packing the front with gym clothes and the like the bag is probably already mostly balanced. For one bagging though, I tend to have a decent amount of non-clothing items (and go super light on clothes), which tends to front load the bag.

          Anyways, will be great to see what the final design is like! Looking forward to buying one next time I'm able to travel stateside.


            Originally posted by observant_hobo View Post
            Wow! Just searched for this and that is super cool! I didn't know they were already planning an update. Seems like the plan is to address the bulging issue and put in a more narrow laptop pocket in the middle. I would still prefer a laptop compartment at the back instead, to balance electronics/toiletries in the front
            Bumping this thread for the Trinity content and great TS/WF feedback observant_hobo posted ... some of his key points:
            • A rear laptop compartment to balance the bag
            • Address the tendency towards bulging when fully packed
            • Fix the front pockets - maybe with a pilot design
            Here's a picture of my well-used WF stuffed full:

            Click image for larger version  Name:	wf.png Views:	11 Size:	1.03 MB ID:	331373

            Leaning / Unbalanced:
            You can see despite the chair leaning backwards, the bag tips forward - overall this is a slight annoyance, but never been a big deal for me. If I carry a laptop, it goes into the shoulder strap compartment so that helps. When hip carrying it's fine and in backpack mode I don't notice it.

            The bag is also bulging somewhat, and maybe the WF tends less and I bet Halcyon helps a lot, but overall this also has really been a problem for me with the WF.

            Front Pockets:
            Rebuilding the front pockets into a giant version of the pilot would be AWESOME! I'd sign up for that for sure.

            And, of course, the WF side handles have always been an annoyance - I wish they were mini-version of the top handle or like the TS.

            I can't wait to see what the Trinity holds!
            Last edited by GrussGott; 04-24-2021, 05:51 PM.


              I wish I was just a one-bag traveller, but after some trial and error I've found my "sweet spot" for two-bag travel is the WF + Synapse 25 (WF in Verde green, Synapse in Aubergine).

              (Let me just say, I've never been a backpack person, but when I wear something on my back I prefer it to be a bag designed specifically as a backpack, rather than a bag with straps. The Synapse 25 blew me away in terms of what I could stuff into it. That main compartment feels like a black hole! And the beauty of the Synapse is that the more you stuff it, the more it actually maintains its beautiful clamshell shape.)

              That said, because I'm able to use the Synapse 25 as more of the "workhorse" and the WF as the "second" bag, I don't need to overstuff it. As a result, I'm able to save the WF's main compartment for the dressiest of folded clothes in a loosely-packed WF packing cube, plus the Freudian Slip, with my (unprotected) MacBook Air slipped in the middle of it all.

              Because I've got my laptop in the main compartment, I've found it solves that frontheavy balance issue that others have mentioned.