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Carry-On Traveller's bag

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    A Carry-on bag to be envied by all who see it

    Once again I had a week-long business trip and once again my Smart Alec was incredibly perfect. I guess what I'd want in a superduper carryon to accompany it would be somewhere in the neighborhood of this, from Red Oxx: http://tinyurl.com/9ejqk/ ,though of course I'd be happy to see what Tom's working on. If my business travel schedule starts heating up over the next few months (as I suspect it will), I'll be seriously in the market for one of these critters. I agree with what's been said above: ballistic nylon, the kinds of zippers my beloved red Smart Alec has, and as much interior space as possible, since this is a bag that would have to support me for up to a week, and include some bulky stuff I can't leave at home. Oh, and definitely no frame!
    It's worth considering that your entire purpose in life could be to serve as a warning to others.


      Originally posted by aakepley
      Another unrelated suggestion I have for this bag is to have at least two compartments: one for clothes and another for a computer. With more than one compartment, you can take your computer out in the middle of a meeting without worrying about your underwear spilling all over the conference room table.
      Ditto! I often have to travel for business just for a night, and I spend the night before, pack up, and carry some sort of luggage to whatever I'm attending the next day. It would be fantastic to have a front panel for just biz stuff... in my case, iBook and usually a couple of one-inch-thick manuals.

      Usually I make do with a duffel (which tends to cause the whole panties-on-the-conference-table scenario), or a small wheeled suitcase, which is better with the panties but I still have to dig around, because I can't fit my manuals in those small front pockets. I used to have an unstructured (no frame) backpack from REI that converted into a duffel, and that was good except it just doesn't work when image is important.

      Anyway, kudos that you're undertaking this project! Rock on, and I can't wait to see the results.


        Overnight bag

        I've had an ID for about a year and love it. I am now looking for a carry-on overnight bag to hold a change of clothes and some toiletries and it's pretty much a requirement that I buy a Bihn. Do you guys think the SmartAlec would be sufficient for this (too cramped?) or should I wait for the Aeronaut?



          I recently took a trip to Canada and carried a Smart Alec as my sole piece of luggage. I had with me 2 pairs of pants, 4 shirts, a jacket, my 12" Powerbook, Jimi wallet, all necessary documents, a toiletry bag, a book and various assorted undergarments. I could have carried a couple other small items as well. I would say it will definitely accommodate what you're looking to carry for an overnight trip. Of course, you might want to wait and be the first cool kid on your block to own an Aeronaut. It just depends on the immediacy of your need.

          As always, I hope to have been helpful.

          Your friendly Tom Bihn Shipping Manager,


            Love Tom's stuff, and enjoy contributing my $.02 whenever new designs are mentioned, so here goes:

            Ballistic Nylon only as needed -- you certainly know the wear spots for your products, and can make sure it's used where needed.

            Internal compression/organization systems are an interesting thought. I always liked the Freudian Slip, although my Snake Charmer is all I really need with my Brain Bag and Lap Dog.

            Eagle Creek already makes excellent organizational stuff for the inside of your bag, but Tom could probably make a more minimalist take on their stuff, for the true "weight weenies" among us.

            I think waterproof zippers and DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coatings certainly have their place. I like the idea of DWR, a fabric treatment the user can refresh as needed. Perhaps a waterproof zipper or DWR pouch for one section of the bag that simply MUST stay dry.

            My vote is for Tom to make an intelligent shell, that doesn't beat up the user when it's loaded to it's best carrying capacity. The velcro sling that's integral to the Brain Cell/Lap Dog design could be very effective here. Of course, we seem to be asking Tom to reinvent the stuff sack, or at least make us one in Wasabi .

            Another thought -- is "bulletproof" a requirement for a bag we want to ride in the cabin with us? I'll be damned if Samsonite's Gorillas will ever get their simian mitts on my carry-on bag.


            - Matthew Z.


              After carrying a SmartAlec through a few African airports and on a few African airlines -- yeah. If you travel anywhere but cosmopolitan cities, the bag is going to get the piss beaten out of it, even if it's just in the cabin. I've had Air Cameroon flight attendants shove the SmartAlec into the back corner of a luggage bin past all kinds of ragged bin parts, stuck it under my seat in an African minibus taxi, had it strapped to the top of a retired school bus serving as the same (that time it got stuck next to a crate of chickens, though it's probably better than the goat that was *inside* the bus), and had it tumble down the stairs of an Air Gabon flight when the attendants insisted on looking at it on the landing to "make sure it would fit" (read: see if there was anything inside that they might like to have). I guess if I was only doing consistent JFK-CDG travel on nice subways and in clean cabs, the durability wouldn't matter . . . but anything I own has to be able to take a serious, third-world style beating. Both the SmartAlec and the Buzz have performed like champs (and the splash-proof zippers are a Godsend in rainy season -- which it is right now here in Cameroon).


                Nice feedback there. Yeah, I've been fortunate to travel to more "civilized" locales for the most part. Got a great 3-lb. backpack, but the shell is light, and it simply wouldn't survive the abuse of regular luggage. Never mind how much fun it is to bring a back with a full harness and sternum and waist straps on an airplane, then stow it.

                I definitely prefer my bags with minimal straps and such on the outside. The Smart Alec came along some time after I got my Brain Bag, or I'd be using a Smart Alec myself.

                Can't wait to see what Tom has in store for us next.

                Matthew Z.


                  I trust this new bag will have room and clips for a braincell/monolith...


                    Even in the continental US, I have to gate check my larger carry-on bag when I fly on smaller planes (regional jets, turboprops, etc.), so I think a tough bag is essential for travel.

                    Although previously I had indicated that I might like the carry-on to hold both my computer and my clothes, after further thought I think it's not necessary. Most of the time I travel with two bags: my carry-on, which contains all my clothes, etc., and my personal item, which contains all my electronic goodies. That way if I have to gate check a bag I don't have to root through my carry-on to get out my computer. I know this goes against the "one-bag" mentality, but it does allow me greater flexibility with my bags, both in the airport and out of it.

                    Security is also a concern. I'd like a bag that I can easily lock. While locks aren't going to deter a serious thief, they do prevent someone from unzipping the bag (especially when its on your back).


                      long-haul traveler's carry-on needs

                      Dear Tom:

                      A good carry-on bag is greatly needed. It is a subject which has been much on my mind, since I just replaced a 15-year companion which finally wore out..

                      I ultimately settled on two choices: a Red Oxx Air Boss and a Patagonia Maximum Legal Carry-On (MLC). for now, I am using both bags interchangably , though the Patagonia gets a little more travel time.

                      First, my travel has its quirks, which color my needs. I often go for short trips–say, a weekend-- but my main travel is on fairly long voyages, often lasting three to twelve months. Thus, I need not only a good carry-on bag, but also one which can do double or triple duty while I am away.
                      I am a researcher, and when I travel, the carry-on bag has to hold a computer, and whatever research notes I make, as well as a change of clothes. This means I need a bag which is capable of carrying a very heavy load over a long distance. The shoulder strap attachments MUST be robust. (sorry to shout, but this is one point where often very good bags fail miserably), and it needs a comfortable and balanced handle. To give you an idea of what I mean, I just returned from a two-month trip, and my carry-on bag weighed just under 30 pounds when I walked through my front door.
                      I also have an absolute requirement for a bag I can use for shopping at the grocery or farmer’s market–part of the double-duty I mentioned. That means washable, lightweight, not flashy and with a fairly large main compartment. As an example, three days ago I walked to the local grocery, and came back with six 1.5 liter bottles of water (that’s nearly 20 pounds by itself), a bottle of wine, two boxes of cookies, 12 lamb chops and a dozen peaches. and on my way back home, I stopped at the bakery for bread, a total of 20 minutes of on-shoulder carry time.

                      I have other requirements for a bag:

                      1. It must fit real-world carry-on requirements. Even packed, it has to fit in the overhead bin. (Though I actually once ordered a custom version of a commercial bag, which is just a bit over-sized when I pack all the pockets full. For airplane travel, I simply leave a pocket empty....)

                      2. It needs a large main compartment, which is capable of holding my large, European leather book bag/briefcase. Hiding the book bag/briefcase/computer bag so that what you carry doesn’t scream “steal me”is a main function of a good carry-on bag. (See #8 below).

                      3. It must have an easily accessible, but reasonably theft-proof external pocket for plane tickets and ID. My two current bags each have this feature. One has the pocket oriented horizontally and high-up on the outside of the bag, and this seems to work best–items inside are always easily accessible, whereas with the vertically oriented pocket, a full bag puts enough pressure on the bag that the contents are compressed, making them sometimes difficult to extract, and small items at the bottom are very hard to fish-out.

                      4. It also needs an easily accessible large pocket for magazines, and any other quick purchases made while running through an airport. This also makes the magazine (etc) accessible during the trip. This pocket should remain accessible and open while the bag is being carried (see #5).

                      5. Of course, a carry-on bag needs a comfortable and robust carry handle on one side and on one end (or both ends), plus a robust and comfortable shoulder-strap. Handles and strap need padding, but also must be balanced, so that the bag tends to ride in the hand or on the shoulder without slipping or twisting.
                      Some bags have a single handle, others have a two-part handle with one on each side of the bag, which mate in the middle to be carried. The two-piece handle has the advantage of being better balanced, sharing the load better between the two pieces. It also, if the straps are long enough, has the advantage of being able to carry a jacket or sweater or coat by laying it on the outside of the bag between the two handle sides. This is actually very useful: often I wear a coat until my bags are checked, then take it off for the trip. This way, I can carry an extra and often bulky but necessary piece of clothing, without sacrificing valuable suitcase-space, and in a very accessible manner. (This is the one major problem with one of my current carry-on bags: it only has a one-piece handle, and so carrying a jacket is difficult.)
                      But a bag with a separable, two-piece handle must leave at least the “magazine” pocket free outside the handles. Otherwise, it is too difficult to quickly stick something in an outside pocket without stopping, separating both handles, and then re-closing them, particularly if one is also carrying a jacket between them.

                      6. I actually like one large main compartment, with one, preferably two smaller but still reasonably large compartments, one on each side of the main compartment. All major compartments need internal compression straps. (one bag I have uses a floating mesh panel with adjustable straps and clips on each corner. It is removable and csn be adjusted for irregular loads).

                      7. The bag’s zippers should open all the way, so the bag can lay flat for packing. (See the comments on the onebag web site: http://www.onebag.com/home.html)

                      8. I don’t like to stand out when I travel, and don’t belong to the fancy-suit and limousine-set. that means I don’t want a bag which is too flashy. The bag shouldn’t scream “computer”, “gringo”, “drugs”, “valuables to steal” or anything else. By all means, make the new bag in lots of colors, but please also in basic black. And though it may sound a little odd, I also don’t want a bag which looks too military. In some parts of the world, that invites unwanted attention. Please, make it sleek and “plane-Jane” on the outside. For this reason, I am also against water bottle pockets: they look stupid, and they indicate (rightly or wrongly), that the carrier is from the US. If you need a bottle of water, put it inside.

                      9. I agree with the comments in the thread on “no-wheels”. Wheels only add weight and steal space from a carry-on bag. (But I’ll never travel without wheels on my checked luggage, if I can help it).
                      But the same can be said about both padding and dual, backback-style shoulder straps. I seldom if ever carry a carry-on bag like a backpack (though that would add to its versatility, another of my requirements...) If I am going to hump a backback, I’ll use a real pack for my carry-on bag. No carry-on compromise can ever come close to the comfort of a real backpack suspension, at least not without adding a great deal of weight which is unnecessary in everyday use.
                      Still, many people like the option. If such straps are included, they should be robust (do you see a theme, here?), but as light in weight and as unobtrusive as possible. If padding is considered necessary in the bag, then please, please make it removable for those of us who like an unstructured bag. (A thick, narrow piece of foam which can be velcroed to the bottom is actually a good idea, and not only for computer-carriers). Another problem with backpack-style straps is that they rob you of a useful pocket on half of the bag. But this is probably as much a question of habit and taste than anything else. One of my current bags has back-pack straps, which I never use–but I do use their compartment for magazines and newspapers. The foam padding is fairly light, while having one side of the bag smooth does make it easier to carry. So I am not completely against straps and padding, provided they are robust, removable, and unobtrusive. (But note that my other carry-on comes standard with non-removable padding, and I had to special order it without any.

                      Sorry for such a long post, but I’m a real bag freak, and just came home from a long trip where I put two new bags to the test. I love my Tom Binh Café bag and my Brain Cell, and can’t wait to try a Tom Binh carry-on.




                        Aeronaut - an update

                        Hey folks-
                        I've built one prototype that I used on three trips in July (a busy July!). I wondered around downtown Oakland California for most of an afternoon with the thing fully loaded and as a backpack it carries quite comfortably (I went to Smythe's Accordion Center http://www.smythesaccordioncenter.com/ to look at a single-row button accordion). As soft luggage it was a dream: either of the "end" compartments (which are top & bottom compartments when it's on your back) easily hold my size 12 running shoes, and the main compartment swallowed all my clothes for a week away from home. In a pinch I was able to squeeze my Buzz with my 12" PowerBook into the main compartment as well, which was great for riding the bus and walking around town.
                        Traveling by AmTrak to the city of Vancouver (for the Vancouver Folk Music Festival) again the bag was pretty much all I could want: taking the SkyTrain and walking about downtown was all good; on a car camping trip to the north end of Vancouver Island I used it simply to organize all my personal clothing and gear in the back of the car . It carries fine by its padded handle (same as on the Brain Bag), and rides on a should strap OK too.
                        I'm calling it the Aeronaut and will be working on further prototypes for some freinds to test on a trip to Chinqua Terra in Italy.
                        Stay tuned!


                          Sounds cool!

                          Ooooh, Tom, the Aeronaut sounds intriguing. Can't wait for more details.
                          It's worth considering that your entire purpose in life could be to serve as a warning to others.


                            Tom, you're my hero. I can't wait to see the finished product.


                              Hi Tom:
                              As others have voiced, I'd prefer the bag not have a dedicated section for a laptop. Would a separate section (water proof) for dirty clothes be posssible? They're pretty handy. And definitely Ballistic nylon or at least most of it. Compression straps in the inside, as well as outside would be great. But I think they're more useful in the inside.

                              I'm really looking forward to the Aeronaut! Could you post some pictures? :-)


                                Carry on bag must carry 2XL Brain Cell

                                My carry on bag must hold my computer -- which requires a 2XL Brain Cell bag. I currently use a Brenthaven bag which is OK, but I would much prefer to clip my 2XL Brain Cell into my carry on -- as I do with my Brain Bag for my smaller laptop. That way I can just pull the Brain Cell out for commuter flights, carry my 'puter on board, and gate check the carry on bag.
                                Ballistic nylon is a must, as is the option of an all black exterior. A color interior would look nice, and make it easier to find things on red eye flights.
                                And the back of the bag has to fit over the handle of wheeled luggage securely -- for those times when I have checked a wheeled bag.