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Backback v. Hybrid Bag - Need Advice

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    Backback v. Hybrid Bag - Need Advice

    I’m new to this board and in need of some assistance in choosing a Tom Bihn bag. What I’m looking for is a bag to serve as a jack of all trades. My search began last month when I traveled on a 4-night vacation with my family. Because my wife and I have two young children flying can be a bit of a chore. Before you can even think about luggage you have to consider that you will be lugging around several car seats. Thus, begun my search for the perfect travel bag.

    After some brief internet research I ordered a Patagonia MCL bag, which arrived the day before the trip. I was able to pack clothing for both myself and my young son in the MCL. I thought this was rather impressive. The trip went as smooth as a trip can go with two young children. The most satisfying moment was when I was running through the airport (late for a connection of course) with the kids in a stroller and the MCL on my back. Put simply, we never would have made the flight without the MCL or similar type bag.

    Although I was impressed with the MCL’s ability to store my clothing, I was not completely sold. First, the primary handle on top was flimsy and I rarely used it for this reason. Second, I was not impressed with the material and hardware used. Third, the front pocket is designed in such a way that it is virtually worthless – the zipper is not long enough to access the pocket (apparently this was not an issue on older MCL bags). Finally, and most importantly, after reflecting on the trip I realized what I liked most about the MCL: its ability to be carried as a backpack. It was the form and function of the bag that I liked, not the execution. Once I came home the bag was promptly returned.

    After spending many hours and reading countless reviews, it appears that Tom Bihn makes the best bags money can buy. Having never seen one in person I would love some help in finding the right one for me, so here it goes….. I am open to both backpacks and hybrid type bags. I rarely travel overnight for business (like 1-2 times a year). Therefore, most of the clothing I will be carrying will be somewhat casual. Also, I also rarely carry a laptop (or any sort of electronics for that matter) Most of my trips are long weekends, but I would like a bag that could be used for both long weekend as well as week long trips (if I pack really light). Also, to throw another wrench in the mix, ideally the bag could double as a gym bag.

    Does anyone here use the WF, TS or Brain Bag for this purpose? Also, has anyone taken any of the above listed bags on a cruise? Any and all suggestions are welcome. Sorry for the long post.

    I'm not sure about the gym bag part, but I think a Tri-Star could meet your needs. It has such a versatile arrangement, that it works well for a vacation without a computer, or a business trip with one. The TS is very comfortable as a backpack, and you also have the option to carry it by the (very sturdy) handles or with a shoulder strap. I've only taken mine on a few short trips so far, but I have found it very convenient to travel with. Next month (is it next month already?!!) I'll be taking it on a 34 day trip to Europe. That and a Co-Pilot will be my only luggage. If it doesn't fit in the Tri-Star, leave it behind!


      Hi spartanlaw,
      I have a Western Flyer. The longest trip I've taken with it has been about seven days. I also had my Synapse with me. The WF is a small bag but more than enough for an extra long weekend. I put an extra pair of shoes in half the front section toiletries in the other half along with under garments in a small packing cube. Everthing else goes in the back section. I put all my books, snacks, 311 bag in the zipper pockets. It works perfectly for me. I also admit I see a steel/ultraviolet Tri Star in my future. With regard to Tom Bihn bags being "the best money can buy" you are absolutley correct. I've owned a LOT of bags over the years and TB bags are far and away the best available. No doubt they are bags you will pass on to your kids. Welcome to the forums. I look forward to hearing about your travels.
      Take care,
      List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!


        I would say TS (my personal choice) or the WF. I do lust after the Brain Bag, but I find trip packing in a pure backpack a bit challenging. Of course, packing cubes do make that easier.

        I can go for about 8 days max (without laundering) in the Tristar so I would assume the WF could be pushed to about 5. The backpack straps work well on the TS.

        To be completely honest though, i am not sure I would take the TS to the gym. So...I would suggest a WF for travel and a Smart Alec for a gym bag!


          It sounds like I really need two bags. One for travel and a different one for the gym. As far as the travel bag goes is there anyone who bought the WF and wished they got the TS, or vis versa? Also, what is the best bag for the gym? Smart Alec? Synapse? Does anyone use a messenger type bag for this purpose? Thanks again for the suggestions.


            I ordered the Steel/Ultraviolet TriStar Today and I already have 3 Brain Bags an EB and Super Ego.

            At one time or another I have used all of my Bihn Bags as something other than intended.
            I use all of them to carry communications and support gear for Amateur Radio Emergency Service. I even have a Radio Enclosure I have fabricated for them allowing me to install mobile 2-way radios and huge batteries in them.
            I have carried Monitors,Speakers,Projectors,Food and emergency supplies and tools in all of them.
            I have also used them for clothes and electronics for short and long trips alone and all together.

            Now I think the TS will fit the scheme nicely.
            Oh and I ordered a Synapse too.



              HI spartanlaw,
              I did purchase a WF but as I mentioned, its small. I wished later I'd gone with the TS. The WF works and I do like it but my next bag will be a TS. I have a Synapse and a Brain Bag. I wish there was one in between. At 16X11.5X7.9 the Synapse is a bit small for my every day bag but I make it work. The BB is really big at least for me. Its plenty big enough for at least two days, probably more. I have an Ameribag large Fusion backpack. Its 14X19X8 compared to the BB at 14X18X9. It seems like it shouldn't be a huge difference but when I carry the BB is seems much larger. I like the Ameribag but it is in no way comparable to the BB in terms of materials and construction. Its not bad but its no Tom Bihn. I think a WF would make a good gym bag. Its small but big enough to get the job done. It is study enough to hold up to lockers, water and whatever else a gym might dish out. Its classy looking too.
              Last edited by Moose; 07-15-2011, 05:19 PM.
              List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!


                I found the Smart Alec handy as a dance bag. My street clothes went inside, and I brought the bag into the studio.


                  If I may suggest Tri-Star with a Tri-Star/WF Packing Cube Backpack. You can use both for travel purposes and the the PCB for a gym bag.



                    If you haven't already ordered, you should also look at the Aeronaut. If you think the TriStar or WF will meet your clothing needs, then you will have room for your own things as a single carryon for several days if not longer depending on the type of trip. You will also have room to throw in crap at the last minute (small children and car seats-- been there, done that, thank you! we used to bring our cats too!). I am constantly packing it as a one-bag trip, but my wife keeps insisting that I check stuff so I'll have more room to aid and abet the massive overpacking of her and our daughters. So I pack everything I need if my bags get lost in the Aeronaut and check a small rolling bag for the family dirty laundry on the way home. You could easily bring it to the gym, using the center compartment for anything you could want and an end compartment for stinky shoes. If you travel with a laptop occasionally, throw it in a neoprene sleeve and get a padded pouch for the accessories and you are good to go with room for at least two days (and likely well more) casual business clothes, toiletries, and an extra pair of shoes. Two summers ago I went to France for almost two weeks on a fancy trip with my in laws and brought everything in an Aeronaut and a Western Flyer, including a linen suit (Mens size 44). Last year I did a solo Sunday-Friday ski trip. I didn't take skis. Took a little finagling, but I wore my ski jacket on the plane, packed all my clothes and my ski helmet in my Aeronaut, carried on my boots and didn't check anything. Transferred in Denver, used the backpack straps and threw the ski boots around my neck and drank a cup of coffee while I walked from gate to gate. Really, short of doubling as a briefcase, that bag can do anything. And if you already ordered something else, enjoy that and get an Aeronaut next time!
                    Western Flyer (Crimson); 4Z Brain Cell; Swift (wife); Empire Builder (Black/Steel/Wasabi); Aeronaut (Black/Steel); Side Effect (Black), 3D Cube (Olive); lots of cubes/pouches/kit; Synapse (Navy/Solar); Smart Alec (Cardinal/Steel)


                      I don't have children but I agree with Keb an Aeronaut with the Packing Cube for the Aeronaut as a gym bag is perfect for you.

                      The Aeronaut is going to swallow all your clothes, kid stuff (essential and last minute) and can even hold one or more outfits for your wife.
                      It is carry on size on non-commuter U.S domestic flights, has easy to stow backpack straps, in case they make you gate check it, but usually people have no problem taking them in the cabin.

                      If you need to take some of the small commuter planes, the Tristar is a better fit.

                      My husband and I have used our Brain Bags on all our domestic flights (Southwest), it swallows enough casual clothes for a week. Best bet if you and your wife can squeeze in a weekend getaway.

                      I used to fly legacy airlines on longer and varied weather trips which were extremely stressful due to the fact that I didn't own Tom Bihn bags and legacy airlines have a way to assign connecting flight gates at opposite side of terminals or another terminal altogether.

                      The worse was the trip when we had to go to immigration then take a tiny tiny CRJ full to the brim with monster rollerboards and overhead crammed with coats, briefcases, makeup cases, shopping bags...

                      We were not going to a small airport but a big international airport in the midwest so I didn't understand the logic of using a CRJ.

                      But back to you, Aeronaut with Packing Cube Backpack (Aeronaut) 2 or one of each color, would be great and 1 or 2 Packing Cube Shoulder Bag.

                      Why multiple of Packing Cube Shoulder Bags and Packing Cube Backpacks?

                      Packing Cube Backpacks: one can hold your gym clothes, one your wife's clothes and one for each child.

                      Packing Cube Shoulder Bag: play things, activities, favorite blanket/toy, foundation garments or diapers color coded for each child.

                      I took the idea from Janine who just had twins in the Spring http://forums.tombihn.com/customer-p...ospital-2.html


                        I have an Aeronaut, and I chose a Packing Cube Shoulder Bag for one of my internal cubes. I chose not to go with the full backpack as I really do like to see what's in the cubes. I have gotten the habit to always pack my Sea to Summit "TravellingLight Daypack". It packs up to a tennis ball-sized stuff sack, and I've used it for a gym bag and a touring bag when I had more than could fit in the shoulder bag. It'll carry about 8-10 pounds of stuff comfortably (very thin shoulder straps, no pockets, extremely light weight material). Eg in London last week, I had my Patagonia R2, a pair of Rohan Fusion chinos I'd just bought, my camera, an external iPhone battery, some gifts for my wife, my sunglasses, several gifts I'd brought over for my London family, etc. It was full but it was comfortable.
                        Black/Iberian Aeronaut, Steel/Wasabi Synapse25, Black/UV Synapse19, Black/Steel Western Flyer, Black Checkpoint Flyer, Steel/Wasabi Side Effect, Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, Travel Tray, numerous packing cubes, organizer pouches


                          I'm not a huge fan of using the travel packs ("hybrid" bags) as gym bags, mostly because they're too big and structured. For example at my gym, the lockers are pretty narrow, so trying to get any of them to fit would mean squishing a lot.

                          Both the Western Flyer and Tri-Star are VERY similar, and I think of them as siblings. If you don't need a laptop, the WF might work for you, but it depends on how lightly you can pack.

                          One thing you might consider if you want a gym bag: Buy either the WF or TS, and then buy a Packing Cube Backpack. Those pack into the main compartment of WF/TS perfectly so for trips, you can use it as your internal clothing stuff sack. It's made of Dyneema nylon so the backpack is very lightweight... and makes a perfect gym bag! Ta-da!


                            The OP also asked about Tom Bihn bags on cruises, the sharing of your experiences will be gladly appreciated.


                              Originally posted by backpack View Post
                              The OP also asked about Tom Bihn bags on cruises, the sharing of your experiences will be gladly appreciated.
                              My husband and I have been on four cruises (all on the Disney Cruise Line--if anyone's interested asked me about them; LOVE them!) and without exception, we have always taken on board at least one Tom Bihn bag with us.

                              On our first cruise, I thought I'd be all savvy-looking by taking a small rolling upright from Travelsmith. A rolling upright was convenient, but actually not as much as you'd think! Corridors are very narrow, there are lots of little bumps you don't even notice when you're just walking around, and there's a lot of stairs (you can wait for an elevator but stairs are much faster during embarkation).

                              If you DO wind up going on a Disney cruise, there's a HUGE HUGE HUGE fanbase community so you can learn about every little thing, or ask any question. For example, if you know which exact ship you're going on and what room you're staying in, people can tell you whether there are drawers under the bed for stashing stuff, or it's an empty space for you to slide your bags into.

                              I am always amazed at the number of bags people want to take on a cruise ship. I think people have some romantic notion like it's steamer-trunk travel, because I see families carrying two large check-in bags each, plus max-sized rolling upright carry-ons. Just crazy.

                              Space is at a premium in staterooms, as you can imagine. Tom Bihn bags will be a tremendous advantage because once you unpack everything, your bags will not need to take up a lot of room. I've cruised with friends where they've got so many check-ins that they are all sitting along a wall of their room, and you can barely walk around.

                              OK so...

                              Minimize clothing that needs to be ironed. They don't want you starting a fire nor do they want to take up that much room in your stateroom, so you will not find ironing boards or an iron in your room. You will need to go to the laundry room for that. If you can avoid it (and take a travel-sized bottle of Downy wrinkle releaser), that is your best bet.

                              Organize, organize, organize. Like the poster in the other thread (http://forums.tombihn.com/packing-li...-co-pilot.html), you want to take Tom Bihn's various organizing pouches and bags to full advantage. Use things like the Yarn Stuff Sack to pack your socks and underwear in, and pack the sacks directly into your dresser drawers.

                              Hang up all your clothes in the closet right away and pack everything away into the dresser drawers. For your bathroom supplies, I'd take two of Tom Bihn's 3D Clear Organizer Cubes: One for your liquids and one for everything else (non-liquid make-up, etc.). They actually pass muster with the TSA as a 3-1-1 bag, so you can stash all your liquids in one for plane travel. Inside each bag, pack a suction cup hook (making sure it's big enough that it can withstand the weight of the bag).

                              When you get to your stateroom, zip open both of your organizer cubes, pull out their hanger hooks, and hang them from the suction cup hangers that you stick on the mirror in your bathroom. You can do it above the sink so in case the suction cup fails, the cube won't fall so far and cause any breakage). Typically, the bathrooms in staterooms are TEENY TINY with barely enough room to turn around, so keeping all your toiletries in a clear cube will help keep clutter to a minimum.

                              If you plan on taking any electronics with you, you might also consider getting a Snake Charmer cable holder. More than likely, you will not have enough outlets to plug your chargers in, so make sure you bring a little travel extension outlet with you that expands one outlet to 4 or more.