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Imago or Large Cafe: good large purse/carry bag?

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    Imago or Large Cafe: good large purse/carry bag?

    Greetings Everyone:

    About four years ago, I needed a daily carry bag and happily purchased a Medium Cafe Bag. My "purse" has gone everywhere with me since then and has been the best bag I've ever owned. Compared to the "disposable" bags I see all the time, the Cafe Bag is almost freakishly well-built. It always draws compliments and people want to know where I "just" got it as it still looks brand new despite hard daily use (I ordered it in the black exterior and an interior color that doesn't seem to around anymore, a very light shade of purple-grey or violet.)

    I seriously thought I'd wear out any bag before I outgrew it, but short of taking a blowtorch to my Cafe Bag, I don't think that will be possible!

    Here's my dilemma: I naturally thought about upgrading to a Large Cafe Bag, but I'm not sure it will be quite big enough for all the stuff I'm carrying around now vs. four years ago. The Imago looks like it might be perfect, especially as I can order it with an Absolute Shoulder Strap to make it even more comfortable.

    Here's what I'm attempting to haul around in/with my overstuffed Medium bag (having to carry a few things now!) and also what I'd like to haul around in either a new Imago or Large Cafe:

    --wallet (large size)
    --eyeglasses in hard case
    --business card cases (three -- I wear a lot of "hats")
    --four pens
    --two notebooks (both about 9" x 5")
    --various reading material including hardback books
    --occasionally my Powerbook 12" (already have a sleeve for it)
    --power adapter when PB is present
    --"medicines pouch" (basically like TB's large accessory pouch)
    --cell phone and handsfree headset (wired)
    --Buddhist prayer beads in their own medium pouch
    --meditation texts (like little bound spiral notebooks about 9" x 6" or smaller)
    --and various little things like lip balm, lotion, kleenex, etc.

    So, what do you folks think? Would an Imago make a good large "purse" or would the large Cafe Bag be more suitable? I think both are exceptionally good bags and this really might be more a question of which of the best would be best for me. It might help to know that I'm tall guy (6'4") so overall size isn't a big issue with either bag, although I am little concerned about the Imago's width vs. the Cafe's more vertical orientation. The only real issues are the daily use factors (which would be more convenient, easier to tote around, etc.) and which seems better at holding all my stuff for easy access.

    Any ideas or suggestions will be most appreciated especially from folks with either of the two bags. Thanks!

    Best regards,

    I purchased an Imago bag after 1st buying a medium cafe bag. Go with the Imago b/c it is larger and offers you more flexibility.
    Tom Welch > Mesa, Arizona, USA

    Travel Lite & Smart


      Imago. More organization for your stuff, and definitely easier to carry that 12" PB around in.


        I just made the move from Large Cafe bag to Imago and I don't carry nearly the stuff you do.

        You might find the Imago a little large if you're not carrying the laptop.

        I found that the Large Cafe bag didn't handle the occasional overstuffing as well as the Imago has.

        My main beef (such as it is) with the Imago is that there aren't dedicated pen slots. I was surprised that it bugged me as much as it did. I'm over it now, though.

        You really can't go wrong with either bag, IMO, but the Imago will give you some extra room if your carrying needs grow as much over the next four years as they have over the last four.
        is my blog.


          I am in general agreement with the Imago suggestion. More so than size and orientation is the structure you have with an Imago vs the lack of structure and more of a large soft pouch that the Cafe bag is. You might find a large pile of stuff in the bottom of the cafe bag unless you are really good at clipping in organizer pouches. I have a Large Cafe bag and it will take my Macbook in a sleeve, but there is not a lot of room after the laptop is in there. If your needs of having one big pocket then cafe bag or lots of pockets (Imago).
          Also do you want a tall bag or a wide one, the orientations are 90 deg. of each other.


            As an owner of both the Imago and the Large Cafe bag, I'd say go with the Imago. I haven't used my large cafe bag since I got my Imago, because the Imago's just better organized and, as someone said, better suited to the occasional overstuffing.

            It's also easier to get stuff out of the Imago, I find. The vertical orientation of the Cafe bag makes things more likely to get lost under each other. Well, maybe that was just me, but it did get a bit annoying.
            Owner of:
            Imago in Cocoa/Cocoa/Wasabi, Large Cafe Bag in Black/Wasabi, Various organizer pouches/stuff sacks/travel trays, Small Shop Bag in Steel and Iberian, Synapse in Steel/Steel, and a Medium Cafe Bag in Plum/Wasabi.


              Ditto to pretty much everything the other posters said. To me, the Cafe Bags are purses, while the Imago is for more serious hauling.


                Thank you!

                Hello All:

                Thank you all very much for the replies! They helped me to make my choice on what to order on Friday: a ballistic Imago in Hunter/Steel/Steel with an Absolute Strap (I'd almost prefer the Black/Steel/Olive but it doesn't seem to be available at the moment.)

                The big deciding factor, which you all helped out with, was the worry that everything would indeed end up in the bottom of the Large Cafe Bag. I've already got a similar problem with the Medium, and adding several vertical and horizontal inches wouldn't help fix that.

                For anyone else looking, I also looked at Waterfield Designs' Cargo bag. It is sort of similar to the Imago and Waterfield has many of the same design/production philosophies in practice as Tom Bihn. However, the Cargo as equipped would be almost twice as expensive as an Imago. While Waterfield makes excellent stuff, I think, I don't know if I'd call their bags "twice" as good as Tom Bihn's! In fact, when you take final cost into account, it's not really even a contest. Tom Bihn is making exceptional quality bags for what really seems like a fair price.

                So, yay! On Friday when the funds in my bank account magically increases I'll be ordering a spiffy new Imago. Thanks again to everyone who replied for your experience and most helpful comments.

                Best regards,
                Adi, who, if he had a wish, would be able to order the Imago in Grape. ;-)


                  If you don't mind the difference in orientation landscape Imago versus Portrait
                  Cafe Bag.

                  Go for the Imago, It is gorgeous and this style of bag is wonderful to have if you overstuff.

                  But if you really like the weight distribution a landscape bag allows, I suggest you look into the Brain Bag.


                    Originally posted by backpack View Post
                    But if you really like the weight distribution a landscape bag allows, I suggest you look into the Brain Bag.
                    You're reading my future plans. :-) I'm likely going to be traveling a lot this fall and I'm definitely going to be replacing my current cavernous-but-uncomfortable backpack with either a Brain Bag or an Aeronaut, depending on how I end up using the Imago and what all I'll be carrying.

                    Adi, who seems to be developing "bagaholic" tendencies. And happily so.


                      I have the Large Cafe Bag and the Brain Bag, I also plan to add an Aeronaute,


                        About 3 years ago, I purchased a wallet from Waterfield Designs.
                        The wallet arrived with a rip on the inside and frankly I didn't care
                        for the colors Waterfield Designs offer, very limited.

                        Waterfield Designs bags are not as functional TB bags.
                        Tom Welch > Mesa, Arizona, USA

                        Travel Lite & Smart


                          Well, after the new colors came out, I had to wait a bit! But in the end I decided to order the Hunter/Steel/Steel with the Absolute Strap. It's just classically good looking in my opinion and will go with just about anything I happen to be wearing.

                          I may have to order another color, though, as well! The new Sapphire looks great and the more I look at it, the Cocoa looks like a classic, too.

                          Thanks to everyone who chimed in with comments. They helped a lot.

                          Adi, now awaiting the friendly UPS folks.


                            New Imago Arrived: VERY happy customer

                            Hello All:

                            To follow-up, my new Imago in Hunter/Steel/Steel arrived two days ago exactly as promised. (The bag is the "older" slightly more conservative style on the front without the swoopier color panel.)

                            Initial Impressions:

                            --freakishly well built compared to any other bag I've seen that does not have the Tom Bihn name on it. I decided to go over every stitch just for fun and they're all perfect.
                            --colors are wonderful -- the Hunter as shown on 72dpi web pages can't capture the deep richness of the actual material in Ballistic nylon. Richly elegant yet subtle.
                            --the Absolute Strap option was worth the extra $15 and more to me. I'm carrying twice as much stuff around as I was in my Medium Cafe Bag but with this strap, I hardly notice I'm carrying anything at all. The contact the bag makes with my hip is actually more noticeable than the load on my shoulder!
                            --ordering a medium Organizer Pouch with the bag was a very good idea for me. Well-made and the ability to click it onto one of the Imago's rings makes it at-the-ready all the time.
                            --having a more landscape organization seems to definitely be better (for me) than having it more vertical as it would have been in a Large Cafe Bag. With the Imago's pockets and space setup there is no digging around for anything. It's all just there exactly where it needs to be.

                            I usually don't think much about singing the praises of consumer goods, but when something comes along that is this good & from a company that seems to be doing a lot of good things, it's worth my time to pass on my experience. I hope it helps others!

                            Best regards,


                              Originally posted by Adi View Post
                              Initial Impressions:

                              --freakishly well built compared to any other bag I've seen that does not have the Tom Bihn name on it. I decided to go over every stitch just for fun and they're all perfect.
                              I'll be sure to pass this on to our factory crew.
                              Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

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