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Last night, I finally took the plunge and.....

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    Last night, I finally took the plunge and.....

    cut the tags off my Brain Bag, Freudian Slip and Vertical Brain Cell. The decision is final, this is my new laptop backpack. I posted on another thread about my quest to find the perfect pack. I demoed 4 other packs. Well, 5 if you include the Smart Alec my wife just got. After getting the Brain Bag I was reasonably sure that was 'the one', but wanted to wait until her Smart Alec arrived before making the decision final.

    This is just a great bag, beautifully constructed, functional, tough as nails but still has a beauty to it. It's such a unique design, it doesn't look like any other backpack out there, which I think is part of its appeal.

    Someone asked me on another thread to compare it to the Smart Alec. They're really VERY different bags. I couldn't be happy with the Smart Alec. I need the vertical brain cell and the freudian slip, and once those two things are in the main pocket, it's not that you don't still have room to put in a bunch of stuff, but given that there's only one main compartment, access to that other stuff is a bit too cramped for my tastes. The Brain Bag's dual main compartments gives me options. I will say, I found the Smart Alec to ride more comfortably on my back and shoulders. It's a very comfortable pack. My wife is still in the evaluation stage, but so far she feels good about this pack.

    One final note.....

    In my searches, I tried a number of very well made and well designed backpacks. But as most of you already know, there is just 'something' about a Tom Bihn bag. I was thinking about that, and here's where this 'review' wanders a bit into the metaphysical. Now bear in mind, I'm a pragmatic guy. I'll be 51 in May, I own a small business, have a family. But here's my thinking on this.

    First, there's the obvious. These bags are beautifully designed and constructed by expert craftsmen using world class materials, and supported by a customer service group that is second to none. No doubt about that. All the physical attributes are in place to create and support an exceptional product.

    But there's something else. And I think that something else is heart and intention.

    From everything I can tell about this company and the people who comprise it, these bags are designed, crafted, sold and serviced by people who genuinely enjoy and care about what they're doing, who genuinely want to create something exceptional, and to bless the people who receive these creations. They've invested THEMSELVES into these bags. They aren't thrown together in a factory in China or Vietnam by people who I'm sure are perfectly nice people but for whom this is "just a job", and who really don't care all that much about the product or the people who receive it.

    Maybe this sounds nuts. Maybe it is nuts. But there's something special about these bags, and it's a genuine pleasure to use something that was created with a high level of not just craftsmanship, but with care and pride. In a marketplace where all too many products are just commodities, bland materials going into bland designs constructed by people who genuinely don't give a rip, it's a joy to use something that is the result of love and intention. I can feel the passion of the Tom Bihn company for this product every time I slip it over my shoulders.

    Thanks to the Tom Bihn folks for striving for excellence, and giving me the opportunity to add something special into my normal day. One of my favorite books, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", talks about the greek word "arete", and its rich meaning regarding excellence in the pursuit of fulfilling a destiny or mission. This product is truly "excellent" and it's a joy both to use it, and to find a company that still cares enough to go the extra mile to create such stuff.

    Originally posted by conejo23 View Post
    Maybe this sounds nuts.
    No, it's not nuts at all. Every Tom Bihn product has a little bit of heart in it. The good people at Tom Bihn believe in what they're doing, and you can FEEL the spirit of the company (and its people) in every single one of their products. Each little item is like a mini Tom Bihn, and when they pack up their boxes and ship the items off, you can almost see them waving good-bye to their children as they go off into the big world. As customers, we each receive those products with open arms, and like adoptive parents, all whisper "Thank you" in our minds as we our own hearts are filled with happiness.

    Tom Bihn (the company) has managed to keep it personal. It MATTERS that it's a small company, based not in a no-name place but in Seattle. It matters that the employees post on the forums. It matters that we get to see photos of the seamstresses/sew people.


      It starts at the top. If you're determined to make the best product you can, you don't cut corners.

      Time, money, quality—pick two.


        @conejo23, congratulations on your BB and accessories. The BB holds a soft spot in my heart - it + a brain cell were my first TB purchase about 15 years ago. Its waist strap is not detachable and the brain cell connects to the BB with snaps. It served me well for over 6 years, carrying the heaviest laptop Dell ever made, overhead projector + power cords + extra power bricks for both equipment + files + etc.

        When I moved to a job that did not require hauling all that, I gave it to my brother who uses it to haul electronic stuff around like I did. Last time I saw the BB a few years ago, it still looked great.

        I do not have a BB, but I buy them as presents. Lately, the camo version has been calling to me.


          Oh man...where is the "love" button for this thread? Congrats conejo, I think most of us are on this forum because we feel exactly the same way you do.

          It is why we stop people in airports who we see with TB bags. We feel like they are family and we know we would want to be stopped!


            Conejo has been on a very interesting journey over the past couple of weeks as we know, and one that of itself probably reinforced the thoughts expressed in this thread. I'm a lawyer. I am not especially sentimental (although since having children I have started to tear up at kleenex advertisements on TV :)), and I am mostly unmoved by the "cooked with love" sentiments expressed on the cooking reality shows that dominate free-to-air TV here in Australia at the moment. But there is something more to a TB bag than the materials themselves.

            It's so hard to put your finger on why a TB bag is better than another bag. As conejo says, there are lots of well made and well designed bags out there. I love my Rimowa bag, but I don't get excited about it the way I do about my small (but growing) TB collection. I didn't spend hours agonising over which Rimowa colour to choose and stalk the interwebs reading endless reviews before I bought it. I don't feel part of a Rimowa family now that I have bought it.

            I think part of it is the freedom that this small company has carved out for itself to do what it believes in, and ONLY what it believes in. That freedom has been earned through passion, know-how, a commitment to excellence, and belief in the product. It means the business is built on sincerity. And, for me, I think, it is also that the underlying thought that drives the bags' design embodies my aspirations for what travel should be and I feel I am buying the bags from people who designed and made them with similar aspirations in mind. It's a product with a point of view. Little wonder that it is such a pleasure to support this business! Other faceless brands struggling to maintain their position in an increasingly fast-paced, globalised on-line world would do well to seek to understand why the TB village flourishes.


              Great post, JLE.

              I'm looking at this company and their products not just as a consumer, but from the perspective of a small business owner. What lessons can I learn and take back to my company? And there are many here. At our clinic, we try to go the extra mile, to develop genuine relationships with our clients and to create an environment where they feel cared for, and that someone is truly trying to serve them to the best of their ability. What I love about Tom Bihn is their generosity of spirit, their desire to surprise and delight, to really serve.

              As I mentioned on another thread, I own and operate the Egoscue clinic in Austin, Texas. We're essentially a franchised clinic, the corporate headquarters being in Del Mar, founded by Pete Egoscue a few decades ago. Pete is both a mentor of mine and a good friend and I see a lot of him in Tom Bihn. About a year after we opened our clinic (coming up on 9 years ago), Pete told me "stop offering a service, and instead, strive to be OF service". Few companies get this and fewer still do it. The Tom Bihn company does a great job of this. they offer terrific products, but their relationship with their customers goes WAY beyond selling a bag.


                Wanted to share one more experience with this bag versus others.

                Tumi finally got back to me about my old laptop briefcase and said the zipper that was pulled off the broken seam was "normal wear and tear, but possibly wear and tear that happened prematurely". So instead of just fixing it or replacing it, they offered to send me a new one (retail cost of $395) for $100. I figured I'd have them send me the same thing in the backpack configuration, was curious just to check it out, and if I didn't want to keep it (which I assumed I wouldn't) I should be easily able to sell it on ebay for more than I was paying for it.

                the bag arrived today and it's a very nice bag. Classical Tumi. Here's the bag I'm referring to, the Tumi Alpha Compact Laptop Brief Pack. It's well designed, well thought out, with the appearance of being well constructed (as was my last one that was disintegrating after 7 years of use). it will hold a deceptively large amount of stuff, but nowhere near the capacity of the Brain Bag. And because the bag is so rigidly constructed, the plus there is that it stands on its own beautifully. The minus is that the size of the bag is the size of the bag. At all times, regardless of whether you have it packed full, or it's empty. In both cases it literally looks no different.

                But after using the brain cell, there is no way I'd trust the laptop compartment of this thing with my laptop. Oh, and do you have files? Well forget about putting them in there horizontally the way files are designed to be held. They gotta go in vertically into a separate file pouch that you have to remove and open to even see your files. There are a ton of little compartments here and there to stash stuff, which 2 months ago is something I would've loved. But now that I've been using the Brain Bag for awhile, I'm appreciating not having to remember which of 17 different storage pockets did I put something. Between the built in organizational capability of the bag itself combined with the Freudian Slip (which is a deceptively powerful accessory), and then you throw in a few organizer pouches? I know exactly where everything is, it's protected and secure, life is good.

                And the Brain Bag just rests better on my back. The Tumi has no sternum or waist strap. Honestly, I'm probably going to be removing the waist strap on my Brain Bag. Will use it for when I take it hiking, but I don't see using it going through an airport, and I certainly won't use it in its EDC capacity.

                So even if both bags were made in America, even if both bags had the same warranty, even if both bags had the same level of integrity and passion from the company standing behind it, even if both bags had the same community of users along with it, I'd still pick the Brain Bag. But with all those other things as differentiators? This is a very, very easy decision. This puppy is going up on ebay.

                As a side note, I gave my wife the opportunity to make it her pack if she wanted it. She got it out, looked at it, put it on the table next to her Smart Alec, then took her purse out fo the Smart Alec and put it into the Tumi. "This doesn't swallow my purse the way the Smart Alec does."

                "Is that a good or bad thing?", I asked.

                "It's a bad thing. My purse literally disappears into the Smart Alec. With this, it's right there. It means when I travel, there's not much room for anything else. And this enclosure for the laptop? It literally doesn't offer half the protection of the brain cell. This thing has too many different zippers and pockets. Go sell it on eBay, I'll keep my Smart Alec."

                And one thing that's funny is her purse? It's a Tumi. She loves the brand, but I think we have another convert on our hands.
                Last edited by conejo23; 04-02-2012, 06:37 PM.