We're glad you are here. This is the place to ask for bag advice, help other people out, post reviews, and share photos and videos.

TOM BIHN Forums Statistics


Topics: 15,182   Posts: 196,639   Members: 7,108   Active Members: 219
Welcome to our newest member, ULEPATHOME.


No announcement yet.

Travel Backpack with Panel Opening

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    Travel Backpack with Panel Opening

    My ideal bag for traveling by foot, car, plane, train, or boat, would be one that is a full time backpack, but that has panel opening, similar to a WF or TS. That way it could be carried for long distances if necessary. I want it to be small enough to be a carry-on.

    I'm curious as to whether either of the two new bags that are supposed to be coming out sometime soon (spring? summer?) will fulfill this wish.

    I've been looking at back packs at other sites, but most of those are top-loading and many are not carry-on size. There is the Voyageur travel pack: http://www.meivoyageur.com/
    I think it's about the size of the aeronaut and it is very tempting, the downfalls being that it's just a big floppy open space. It might be workable with packing cubes. I think it would be good for longer trips, as would the aeronaut, I would just really like the option for longer distance carrying. I'm also not sure what size bag that I really want. I may go small to start, WF size. In that range I wonder which option is more versatile, the WF or the Smart Alec backpack. I've looked at a lot of pics, and read a lot of descriptions of packing lists for the WF and some for the Smart Alec. I'm leaning toward the WF for short, 3-10 day trips. I'm also still reading about the Brain Bag trying to figure out both whether it would be convenient for travel (packing and unpacking) and a good fit for me (smaller woman 5'3")

    I really like the Tom Bihn style, construction, and quality. But, it's just a trick figuring out exactly what my needs are and which bag would take care of them best.
    Last edited by addiopolis; 02-12-2010, 12:14 PM. Reason: punctuation
    Everyday bag = Navy/Solar Synapse

    Hi, addiopolis.

    For me, if I were traveling primarily by foot, with everything on my back most of the time, I would go with something like the MEI Voyageur because of the frame, padded hip belt, and interior and exterior compression straps. Hiking is what this kind of bag is made for.

    For car, plane, train, or boat, it doesn't matter much. The bag spends most of its time lying down somewhere.

    I like the open space of the Aeronaut; my idea of a vacation souvenir is knitting yarn. If I had to do a fair amount of carrying, I would take the Brain Bag—a backpack versus luggage. In both cases, I would want to bring along the Synapse, leaving the bigger bag somewhere safe while I did the town. I love the Synapse. It's perfect for everyday carrying without being overloaded.

    I don't have the Western Flier but do have the Smart Alec. Again, luggage versus backpack. I don't like weight hanging off my arm or on one shoulder. I find the Smart Alec a little large for doing the town; again, the Synapse seems the ideal size.

    Packing cubes, stuff sacks, and pouches make a lot of sense in transit, when you don't want to rummage through everything to find what you want.


      Thanks for the input Gmanedit. Have you used either the Smart Alec or the Brain Bag for travel? In particular, have you used either one or the other as a primary travel bag for short or long trips?

      When I first started looking at Tom Bihn bags I really liked the Aeronaut and thought it looked just about perfect. I'm starting to find packing light to be really appealing, thus my interest in the Western Flyer.

      I like hearing that you love the Synapse. I think that could be really useful for me, enough space for daily stuff, good for a day-hike, but not too big. Do you have the Dyneema or the Cordura?
      Everyday bag = Navy/Solar Synapse


        It all depends on what you carry, really. I find the Western Flyer to be really versatile, and it holds helluva lot more than you think it will. I am not a big person, so that does make a difference. However, I can easily put in a large cube fairly fully packed, plus a few flat items in the main compartment; or even a half cube with underclothes. The front pocket (undivided) carries as much if needed, or divided can be used for shoes, a half cube. The front pockets swallow up toiletry and other stuff.

        I find the WF + Smart Alec to be more than enough for a week of travel--including carrying laptop, other e-accessories, papers, and books. And they both fit under the 45 inch + 36 inch limitation of most carry ons (you are allowed one carry one that measures 45 and one that measures 36).
        But gmanedit is correct: if you are going to be walking all day with a backpack, these are not as ergonomic as some travel packs. I like the Lowe Alpine myself.


          Hi, addiopolis. I don't travel much anymore, except for family graduations and funerals, so no, I haven't used them for travel. If I were to travel, I would lay out everything I wanted to take and see which bag it would all fit into better and how heavy it would be (would I want to start subtracting things?). Probably I'd go with the Brain Bag, because you can cinch it in when it's not filled, so there's extra space available just in case.

          Before I was laid off, I walked to and from work with a Smart Alec, a mile each way, every day. Along with the work stuff, I carried exercise clothes and purchases from the greenmarket. You should check out Shiva's wonderful photo of her Smart Alec's shopping trip, a current post. Before I got the Shop Bag, I used it for groceries and cat litter.

          I'm really happy with the Synapse. I'm 5'6", with a long trunk, but still prefer the Synapse to the bigger bags for everyday. (It's like a handbag versus a weekender.) To me, the bigger bags are for when I need the space—like Shiva's trip to the grocery store—and the Synapse is what I grab automatically on my way out, like a purse, with my regular items kept inside (I don't empty the bag at the end of the day). "enough space for daily stuff, good for a day-hike, but not too big": exactly. Mine is Cordura, in black.

          The Western Flyer is no doubt a fine bag, but I'm a backpack-only person.


            The Western Flyer transforms into a backpack.

            For plane, boat, train, bus and car travel a Brain Bag is ideal.


              Hi addiopolis,

              You mentioned some interest in the Brain Bag. You might be interested in looking through a couple of threads: Brain Bag for Small Woman contains a number of viewpoints; Imago, Large and Medium Cafe Bag, Shop Bag and Brain Bag on 5'3" girl contains followup pictures by timarelay, who participated in the earlier discussion thread, and tried ordering a Brain Bag, but decided it was too large for her. (She now uses a Synapse). There are also some pictures with other bags you've mentioned (like the Shop Bag).