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Small ZipTop Shop Bag--a multitasker review

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    Small ZipTop Shop Bag--a multitasker review

    In the interests of full disclosure, I loved the small shop bags, and found the large shop bags were simply too big for me (at 5 foot nothing) to carry without dragging on the ground. So, when they were discontinued, I was glad I had what I needed, and wrote off the idea of getting any more shop bags.

    Then along came the Zip Top bags. My first instinct was to say, Why? After all, an open top is more flexible--it lets me carry home a baguette or a stalk of brussel sprouts sticking out the top. And pre-shop bags, I used open top paper bags for years without a problem. What would I need with a zipper across my shop bags?

    Still, they did come in small...so I pre-ordered one. I figured it would be ages before they were scheduled to arrive, so I tamped down any TB anticipation and hunkered down to wait. And then, weeks ahead of schedule, I got an email telling me that a few had been made up early and I had been randomly selected to get one. Unexpected excitement set in, and I drove down to the mothership to pick my newly minted halcyon Northwest Sky shop bag up.

    First thoughts--the zipper isn't at all intrusive if you want a zipless top. And it zips easily and one-handedly if you want the top closed. I used it (along with my solar old skool small shop bags) for a couple of grocery runs and it's every bit as comfy in the hand and sturdy feeling while fully loaded. If you want the world's best shop bags, well, you can't beat these. Really you can't. I still don't think I'd have held out for a zip-top one, but it works fine regardless. And if that was all I had to say, I doubt I would be making this review.

    But...bag hacks are part of Tom Bihn lore, and unexpected uses for bags are in my DNA. So, I was on my way to a two day conference--three overnights all told--and I started thinking, "I wonder if I could go ultra-light in packing and bring just the Zip Top Shop Bag and my Side Effect for a three day trip." I knew I had to take the challenge.

    The Zip Top Shop Bag is ideal as an ultra-light bag because it weighs hardly anything, being halcyon, but it's strong as heck, again being halcyon. And the padded handle means that even if you tuck a couple of not-so-light items into it, you won't hurt your hand carrying it. And here is where the zipper top pays dividends, because you can toss it into the overhead bin of an airplane and not have to worry that the contents will spill every which way into the bin. Or you can leave it under the seat in front of you with plenty of room for a small extra item like the Side Effect. And, since I was flying on an airline where I had no status, I knew I'd be boarding in Group Steerage, when the overhead bins would probably be full, so knowing that I would have that underseat option was golden.

    What I packed in my Side Effect was my tablet, my phone, my kindle--okay, so I need some redundancy there!--and my wallet and a few personal items like chapstick, tissues, toothbrush, etc.

    The small zip top shop bag's inner compartments took my camera and electronix chargers along with a few pairs of socks and undies in one and my rolled up sunhat and extra glasses in the other. The main section easily swallowed a couple of blouses, a small cardigan, a pair of flip flops, some light pajamas, a small travel tray of miscellany, a hair brush, and my standard liquids-and-gels baggie of toiletries and makeup. It was pretty full, but by no means overstuffed, and it never felt too heavy to carry through the interminable terminals. I wore my walking shoes, a neutral blazer, another blouse and black pants on the plane--knowing that the pants and blazer would be my basic wardrobe with different colored blouses making functionally different outfits during the trip.

    Made it through the whole three day trip without any problem at all. I felt so free knowing that I had everything I needed, nothing I didn't, and didn't have to sweat whether my bags would fit on board. In a week and a bit, I'm taking it along as my EDC in a roomette on Amtrak on a mammoth Vermont to DC to Chicago to Denver to San Francisco to Seattle train trip. Betcha it works for that, too.

    Bottom line--it's a dandy unstructured ultra-light travel bag for those three day weekend trips where even the Western Flyer might be overkill. I actually think this bag will accompany me on traveling trips more than for shopping trips!
    Western Flyer (crimsom) with Absolute strap, Zephyr (black), Medium Cafe Bag (steel/olive), Shop Bags (solar, steel), Large Cafe bag (navy/cayenne), Small café bag (forest), Tristars (steel/solar and indigo/solar),Aeronaut (steel), Side Effects (old skool black cordura, olive parapack), Imagos (steel, cork, wasabi, and aubergine, hemp, steel), Dyneema Western Flyer (Nordic/Steel) and miscellaneous packing cubes, pouches, etc.

    Wow! That's so unexpected. It never would have occurred to me to use a shop bag as my one-bag luggage. Great job! Thank you very much for sharing! elisa


      I too recently used my SZTSB 210 Black for a one, possibly two, night trip.....I had played around with all my normal TB bag options and then, like you do, wondered if I could do it with this tiny one!
      The internal pockets are great, the O-rings mean pouches etc can be tethered safely, the zip works beautifully, the handles are soooooo comfy, and the bag is as light as a feather....I used a packing cube for clothes in the centre compartment, smaller items/electronics in the end pockets, and a couple of tethered pouches.
      It really worked well - even room for an iPad in a cache but I did not need to take that in the end.
      I included a small packable backpack in the bottom of the bag - just in case, but I think a DLBP could be rolled/folded as an alternative.
      All in all a successful and fun experiment! Yes, I will use this option again, together with either a TC or SK for the other travel needs!
      Last edited by KAB; 05-02-2019, 01:39 AM.


        I've taken the Pop Tote for a weekend trip. Similar advantages! It was fun to travel like that.
        All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
        Edmund Burke


          I've taken the Pop Tote for a weekend trip.
          The Pop Tote is my weekend bag too. Its usually not completely full, so I have room for any shopping/brochures I've picked up on the way.
          Getting to the point with too many bags to list them all. Current daily carry is my Black Halcyon Zeitgeist with a Cobalt Cerylon 3DOC as my "purse"/


            I've been to a 3-day conference using just my Pilot as my one bag. I think using a zip-top shop bag would give me even more room. Plus, since it looks like a small tote-bag, nobody is going to make you check it.


              Flitcraft, I am utterly impressed by your Tardis packing skills!

              I have used my Large Shop Bag as an under the seat bag, many times, I have to take the Tristar for my clothes.

              Plus size, so I need way more room.

              The Large Zippered Shop Bag is missing from my collection.

              But, the Small Zippered Shop Bag has been assigned, the enviable, art/journaling supplies store, duties. It excels at that job because the side pockets are perfect for pens and the main compartment for paper. I now know that my preferred size of drawing or writing medium is supposed to fit horizontally in the main pocket, if it doesn't it is too big.

              Thank you Tom for designing and The Crew for making and testing that wonderful addition to the line up!
              Last edited by backpack; 05-04-2019, 09:24 PM.