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Confessions of a Bagaholic

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    Confessions of a Bagaholic

    I have owned more bags than shoes. I am constantly looking for a better one that fits my needs. Over the years, I have owned:

    Lands' End
    Eagle Creek
    North Face
    Overland Equipment

    I've tried messenger bags, backpacks, and sling bags. Leather, ballistic nylon, codura. Single compartment, multi compartment.

    I fly between 50,000 and 75,000 miles a year. I have developed very strong opinions on what makes a good travel bag. I have learned to pack very light and prefer a single backpack style bag that can carry my laptop, assorted work items, cables, clothes for 1-3 days and dopp bag.

    I have finally found a company that "gets it" and understands what a bag needs and more importantly, what a bag doesn't. The Smart Alec is the best example of minimalist design with human form-factor that I have found in a bag. I am absolutely amazed what this bag can hold and how comfortable it is. Every detail, right down to the zippers seems to take the best of what I liked from other bags and combined them.

    The versatility of this bag really adds to the best-in-class design. I ordered the Monolith and am very surprised how well it fits in the bag and doesn’t seem to be an add-on at all. The size 4 is a very good fit for my laptop, apparently making the different sizes really allows the Monolith to give a custom fit. I am eagerly awaiting the Freudian Slip. Maybe I can dig one up on the used market to reduce my wait.

    The company is first class. I called with some very specific questions; the typical person on the other end of the phone would normally just read from a script. I was shocked with the in-depth answers I received from Darcy. She knows the product and understands what customers are looking for. My order arrived quickly with the Monolith already installed. Nice touch!

    I would say I’m now a big fan of Tom Bihn products; a more accurate term would be evangelist!
    Last edited by gtie97; 10-19-2005, 08:19 PM.

    Bagaholic Followup

    Having found Bihn bags, I have tried several other of their bags. I should have just placed one large order for one of everything and kept what I liked best or traveled out to the retail store but I enjoyed the sight of the familiar box arriving on my front porch.

    The Buzz is a terrific design, I have used this type of bag for day hikes and this version really stands out because it doesn't shift on your body and doesn't require a waist strap. This is indeed a small bag and will only fit a very limited range of laptops. I imagine quite a few people use this bag without a laptop. With a laptop, you can carry a few folders and a small book. The front pocket is a good organizer, but again you are very limited to what it can hold. This is basically a day bag for people who need something larger than a purse but don't want to carry a backpack.

    The Empire Builder is very underrated. This bag will hold a lot and the front zipper pocket and the rear open pocket are seemingly bottomless. The front pocket holds an amazing amount of stuff without affecting the front flap closing. The design is great for travel with the exception of having only one center pocket. This prevents access to your laptop or documents without having your clothes and toiletries exposed at the same time. If you were very organized, you could put your non-business items in your rental car but you run the chance of forgetting them, as you are inevitably late for your flight and don't grab them as you turn in the rental car. This bag would be dead-on perfect if it had two pockets versus the one.

    The Brain Bag works very well for trips as a single bag because it has the two zippered compartments. Laptop and files in one pocket with clothes and toiletries in the other. The three front pockets do a great job of holding everything else. Believe everyone when the say this bag will carry everything you want to take with you. I used this bag for a 4-day trip, clothes, toiletries, laptop, electronics etc. I could have stuffed more but couldn't think of anything else to take. It will be interesting to see this bag when it gets updated. Splashproof zippers and internal compression straps would be a great addition. The very reasons I love the Smart Alec are the reasons I struggle with the Brain Bag. This bag has a lot of external straps. I may eventually take a knife to them because it is a very practical do-it-all bag.

    The Soft Cell would be an interesting alternative if you could clip it in. Less bulk than the Brain Cell or Monolith but the current configuration doesn't work for me as it flops around in the bag. One of the best design features of the Bihn bags is the ability to clip in the laptop bags.

    The Snake Charmer is one of those simple but effective items. It does a good job of conforming to what you put in it so it only takes up as much space as needed. The two-sided design allows you to configure what you put in it, laptop stuff on one side, chargers etc on the other. The Organizer Pouches work really well with bags that have d-rings. As the bags get updated, all of them should include d-rings.

    I was able to make a real improvement to the Smart Alec. Even though my laptop is listed as a size 4, the size 5 Brain Cell actually fits my laptop. This makes a significant difference in the available space of the Smart Alec versus a size 4 Monolith. The front pocket of the size 5 can still hold folders so it works fine as a standalone bag. This is definitely my favorite bag, adding a steel version would seal the deal.

    I ended up keeping the Smart Alec, size 5 Brain Cell, Snake Charmer, Organizer Pouch and Brain Bag. The Smart Alec works great for 80% of my needs, the Brain Bag covers the rest mainly multi-day trips and when I need to carry everything for the family on a day trip. Believe me, this thing will carry all the jackets, a 5-course picnic, cameras, and doggie treats with room for anything that you pick up over the day as well.

    Two items I am looking forward to receiving are the Freudian Slip and Aeronaut. I expect the Freudian Slip will really complement the Smart Alec and help its organization approach the Empire Builder. It will also be a good addition for the Brain Bag, as it really doesn’t have a good place to carry business cards and other small items. The Aeronaut will definitely be a good addition, especially for weeklong or overseas trips.

    The team in Port Angeles is great. I know these bags aren't cheap but the customer service is outstanding. They are very patient and answer questions and will do whatever is needed to serve customers. I hope in the future they offer training classes for other retailers and manufactures in how to be profitable while treating the customer with the highest level of service. I know a couple of airlines they can start with.

    Very few companies still combine great products with a great customer experience.


      Your thorough reviews are amazing! May we link to them on our product pages?

      I'm glad you had a good experience with our customer service team. All of us order products online too so we know exactly what makes customer service great and we try to apply our experiences to our jobs.

      Which laptop do you have? We'd like to update our laptop fit list based on your experience of using the Size 5 instead of the Size 4.
      Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

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


        Feel free to link to my comments.

        I have a Dell Latitude D600. The Size 5 is snug, and the D600 is a little taller making the velcro very tight to close but it does fit. The Brain Cell leaves so much more room in the Smart Alec than the Monolith and the Size 5 is the only Brain Cell that will fit the Smart Alec. I find that I can still fit file folders in the front pocket as well as the power supply and mouse.
        Last edited by gtie97; 12-04-2005, 07:09 PM.


          Hello again, my friend. It's great to hear you've had such a good experience and finally come to some conclusions about which bags best suit your needs. Your comments and suggestions are very helpful and very much appreciated. We also look forward to having the Freudian Slip back in stock and to the release next year of the Aeronaut which judging by customer comments and suggestions should prove to be a very popular and useful bag. Your thoughtfulness and enthusiasm will most certainly help us in our efforts to make great bags and do our very best for our customers, yourself included. As always, I am at your disposal and you know where to reach me.

          Thanks again,

          Your friendly Tom Bihn Shipping Manager,