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Starter bag?

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    Starter bag?

    Hello All:
    I'm lucky to have stumbled upon Tom Bihn when researching a replacement bag for my 13" Macbook (white, purchased at the end of 2007). My dilemma is how to go about selecting a starter bag?

    I'm currently looking to replace a very old and worn daily use backpack that I've not transitioned out of since my college days. My workhorse of a Mac pretty much accompanies me on business travels, both domestic and international. For the long haul flights, I'd load up the Mac in the backpack and then check a wheeled suitcase. BUT. It took a trip to Europe and lugging my wheeled suitcase through the subway/train stations/streets of Germany, Paris and London (no lifts!) for me to realize the benefits of traveling light. So on those international trips (1-2 times a year), I'm hoping to accomplish travels on one bag.

    According to the laptop fit guide, a 13" Macbook would fit: 13" Checkpoint Flyer, Large Cafe Bag, Ristretto, or Size 6Z Cache / Brain Cell. The Tom Bihn YouTube Channel video for the Imago indicates that it'd fit a 13" Macbook. So I've been going back-and-forth between the Imago and Tri-Star; the former being the replacement every day carry bag and the latter for an upcoming 2-week business trip overseas in December.

    My concern with the Imago is for those 1-2 day domestic trips, when I usually take a change of clothes (top + bottom in mesh cube) along with my 3-1-1 toiletries in a zip top bag. From the video, it looks like there's additional space, and I'm hoping I can utilize the accessories such that it'd fit my needs. Would there be enough space to squeeze in a change of clothing in the Imago? Or would I be better off with the Synapse?

    I'm 5'2" on a good day and have a preference for back packs because they don't make me feel unbalanced or smaller than I need to be! I like how there's a stow away backpack strap on the Tri-Star but feel it's a bit too much for everyday use.

    What are your thoughts/comments please?

    Thanks in advance for the patience in reading my long post.

    Hi chenners, welcome to the forum.

    Have you looked at the Western Flyer for your shorter trips? It's smaller than the Tri-Star and is also available with backpack straps. It will fit the Cache or Brain Cell plus a few changes of clothes--and it looks great for business situations where a real backpack like the Synapse might look out of place (depending on your occupation).
    My Tom Bihn stuff: Western Flyer (Black/Steel), Large WF packing cube (Steel), Packing Cube Shoulder Bag (Steel), Absolute shoulder strap, Horizontal Cache, Clear Organizer Wallet (Plum), Small Dyneema pouch (UV), Ballistic Nylon Pen/Pencil Pouch (Steel), FOJ Pouch (Navy), Clear Quarter Packing Cube (UV), Small Yarn Stuff Sack (UV), and the Super Secret Mystery Gift!


      Welcome to the Forums and hold on.

      I have been on the road for the past 2 weeks and really like the Synapse as an everyday carry.
      I do not like Backpacks in general but it is just so lithe and handy it is tough to resist.

      I have been carrying a 13" Macbook Pro,11" Macbook Air and an iPad along with notebooks and a few inches of paper handouts,Lumix Camera,snacks,pens.pencils,chargers for everything and various personal items.
      The Synapse is deceptively capable to say the least.

      I have been in training sessions all day long and the trainer approached me after the second day and asked to see the Synapse?
      He couldn't figure out where all my stuff kept coming from?
      He had a 15" Macbook in a HUUUUGE bag and little else really fit with it.
      When I cary a 17 Macbook in the Super Ego on a trip like this I can easily make it tough to carry at all as it just holds so much.

      I also had the Super Ego and Tri-Star and all I needed for the 2 weeks fit in the SE and Tri-Star as I had the Synapse inside the Tri-Star when flying!

      If I had to limit myself to just one bag for every day use it would either be the Super Ego or Empire Builder though.
      Either can handle enough for a 2-3 day summer trip and both look like a business case.
      Or the TriStar,or the Flyer or.......

      Just pick one,you won't regret it!

      Last edited by AVService; 08-28-2011, 01:24 PM.


        I believe a Synapse/Western Flyer combo would be great!

        The Synapse as an everday backpack and the Wester Flyer for European trips, the Western Flyer has stowable backpack straps.

        Forum members who are petite can fit an amazing amount of things in the Western Flyer.

        I don't know about the Imago capacity and while I played with the Synapse at the store, I didn't try to place clothes in, because I need a Brain Bag for that.

        Product pictures of the Imago, picture a shows the interior of the Imago with a 13" laptop.
        The Imago - A Laptop Messenger Bag by: TOM BIHN

        Picture of a Western Flyer and an Imago


          Wow, that's a tough one. For a replacement for your backpack the Synapse would be great. I use it as my personal carry on for leisure travel and it holds a lot of stuff for a "small" backpack. If you wanted something that would maybe handle both business and pleasure the Western Flyer is a possible option. My better half just bought one and used it as her personal item. It fit under the seat of a typical American Airlines domestic plane (737?). I do own the Imago but I have not used it for a trip. I suppose it might hold enough but it could be close.

          I don't think you can go wrong with anything you pick. But since your old reliable bag was a backpack the Synapse might be a good place to start.
          Owner of : Imago, Aeronaut, Brain Bag, Smart Alec, Synapse, Co-Pilot


            I would highly recommend the Synapse. It is deceptively simple and holds a ton; and even on international flights, I have been able to bring that along with another small carry on. Western Flyer and Synapse will pass muster easily everywhere. Synapse holds stuff more compactly and there is no chance of water getting in at all. I also have the Imago and it is a great little messenger bag and will carry Macbook plus accessories; plus a half cube etc.,


              Hello everyone. Many thanks for the input! I know that the backpack doesn't really 'look' professional--I got looks when bumped to first class on US Airways yesterday, but that could also be cause I look young for my age--but it's perfectly functional. I really liked the video that showed a backpack used within another backpack and then within yet another backpack (Tom Bihn bag heaven!). When filled does the Synapse get puffy or bulky? My current backpack was pretty full after I decided to pack food cause airport food prices are not budget friendly or healthy. Unfortunately, those extras made my backpack just fit under the front seat of an airbus A321. I'll look at the Synapse some more after this trip that I'm on now. Thanks again!


                I would definitely recommend the Synapse as an everyday bag as well. As for it being "puffy" or "bulky" I would definitely say no. It's designed in such a way that it uses space on the inside of the bag, rather than expanding outwards, when stuffed. And as all other Synapse users will say, it can hold a ton!

                I just got back from a two week trip to the UK and used the Synapse and my Aeronaut for all my travel; they were great, and I'm defnitley not as light a packer as I'd like to be.

                I would recommend the Synapse in steel becuase it gives it an urban look which is great if you need to use it for any professional occasions. I've used it a number times travelling for business, but still wanted the convenience of a backpack for sightseeing, etc.


                  Steel is great; so is Black. It looks very clean and not backpacky--if you know what I mean! It does not have all the bells and whistles of certain backpacks---that scream "tourist."


                    I will also add that the Synapse lines are very streamlined which makes it stylish in pretty much all colors, in addition to style, Steel and Black have a very classic look.

                    Lots and lots of pictures of the lovely Synapse on the Blog
                    TOM BIHN Blog - Synapse


                      Let me start this by saying I love my Imago. I adore it. It's my daily-use bag, and it does a better job of holding things than one might expect. That said, I don't think I'd feel comfortable using it as a travel bag. That could just be my packing skills, but I currently have 3 small pouches, one pen/pencil pouch, a small padded pouch, a trade paperback, a thick (fantasy) regular paperback, a small half-filled yarn stuff sack, an ipod, and my phone in my bag, and I'd guess that it's 75-80% full. That's a fair amount of stuff, but if I took it all out and wanted to put in a laptop, toiletries, and clothes? I'm really not sure how well that would all fit. Your packing could be better than mine, though!

                      For an overnight bag, I'd suggest the Synapse instead. Part of what I like about the Imago for a daily bag is its one large section to hold things, but the various compartments of the Synapse make it a better travel bag, in my opinion. You can put toiletries in one spot, clothes in another, a laptop in another, and still have a couple pockets to put other things into. To me, that is a truly valuable feature in a travel bag.

                      That said, I also have a Tri-Star, and if you want a bag that can hold SO MUCH STUFF, that is the one for you. I packed clothes, books, toiletries, tea, pajamas, and an extra pair of jeans for a four day trip last month, and that took up... one of the three compartments. So I packed two blankets and a teddy bear in the other two sections, and it still looked only barely stuffed. The Tri-Star would be a bit too much for everyday use, but it is a wonderful, wonderful bag for travel.


                        Oh WOW. I'm reviewing the thread comments in detail and just gushing over the Synapse. The pictures from the forum--especially before it's debut--shows the Synapse is quite well traveled (reminds me of Amelie and the gnome; Alaska! Canada! North Carolina Mountains! Swiss Alps! India! etc.) So exciting. Next up: colors! Thanks again.
                        Last edited by chenners; 09-02-2011, 12:15 AM. Reason: links that helped me decide


                          So my order has been placed. *So excited*

                          I checked out the Synapse in use (in the blue color family - Navy/Indigo):
                          Three Apple products in one bag? Yep.
                          How apt! A Tardis Bag!, with more pics.

                          I checked out the Tri-Star in use (in Steel):
                          Grellow is the new black.
                          Didn't see this option, but still love the Steel.


                            Starter bag acquired!

                            You guys - I got my Tom Bihn Imago bag. This is terrible because I adore it so much already.


                              Great post, chenners. I just shared it on our blog!
                              Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

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