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Opinions: Empire Builder or Western Flyer?

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    Opinions: Empire Builder or Western Flyer?


    I stumbled upon Tom Bihn the other week while I was looking for a new laptop bag and I love the collection – I'm now trying to find a way to justify buying half the website! Until then I need some advice please.

    I'm looking for a bag that I can use when I go away for a night (or two) with work. I'm trying to find something that looks smart enough to carry around an office but doesn't look like I'm moving in! I already have a large bag for when I'm away for a whole week, but I just want something a bit slimmer for the overnight stays.

    I originally came across the Empire Builder and I think it looks great - it’s basically a big laptop bag. I've also found the Western Flyer which is a bit bigger, and has a nice 50/50 split which would be perfect for my laptop etc in one compartment and clothes in the other. I'm really looking for people’s opinions on how much can fit into each bag. My thinking is that the Western Flyer has plenty of room for what I need and may be the way to go; but I just really like the Empire Builder and I'm wondering how much it can hold.

    As an example I’d be carrying: a laptop (with charger and mouse), note-pad, ipad, a text book, toiletries, jeans and shirt for the evening, and a work shirt for the following day. I think this would be fine in the WF, but maybe a bit snug in the EB.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated!


    Last edited by Joew5421; 09-28-2012, 11:36 AM.

    I don't have either of those bags but I here a link of reviews from external blogs, magazines, newspapers, and websites that Darcy has pinned.

    The bags are in alphabetical order and there are a good number of reviews about the Empire Builder and Western Flyer.


    It would help, if you would tell us about your height and if you have a small or large frame.

    Other helpful links are Tom Bihn sets on Flicker

    The first is the Empire Builder:
    Empire Builder - a set on Flickr

    The second set is for the Western Flyer:
    Western Flyer - a set on Flickr

    And video of those two bags on YouTube.

    Empire Builder:
    The Empire Builder Briefcase from Tom Bihn - YouTube

    Western Flyer:
    Western Flyer - Bags for Apple iPad - TOM BIHN


      I have had my Empire Builder for about a month now, and used it every day for my office commute. I love, love, LOVE my EB. it is the perfect companion for my daily grind. Great capacity, intuitive design, brilliant organization... Yeah, it's that good.

      Having said that, however, I would look hard at the Western Flyer if I was one-bagging for overnight work trips. The backpack straps are a big plus for me when slogging through airports. I also like the idea of separate compartments for the work stuff vs. clothes & overnight gear. I have a Brain Bag, and the two-chamber design is one of my favorite features for traveling.

      I uploaded some first impressions of my EB and pics of my daily payload in the forums that may help. I agree that you might be a bit more snug in the EB based on the layout. I am pretty sure it will fit everything you describe. If I get a chance this weekend, I'll test it out & drop some pics!
      Bob P.
      Magic Tiki Studios

      Empire Builder (black/steel), Brain Bag (steel), Small Padded Organizer Pouch, Clear Wallet, Soft Cell, Snake Charmer (cayenne) and assorted trimmings.


        Thanks for the replies guys, I'm halfway through reading the reviews and I'll keep going. In answer to your question I'm about 6ft and fairly broad so I should be OK lugging either bag around.

        So far I'm still leaning towards the EB based on looks. Maybe the WF reviews will change my mind!


          Joe - If the Empire Builder will hold all you need to carry, then I think the EB is the way to go. I've had one for a few years now and I am continually impressed with how much it will accommodate. While it only has one main compartment, the file dividers are not just for files and effectively allow you to create several smaller compartments - great flexibility. Also, I really like the padding which not only protects its contents, it also provide structure for the bag.



            Thanks Mike,

            That was my plan, to use the dividers to split the bag between my laptop and clothes. I'll keep looking at the pictures and reviews to see whether the EB will hold my things.



              Originally posted by Joew5421 View Post
              So far I'm still leaning towards the EB based on looks. Maybe the WF reviews will change my mind!
              I'm having the same dilemma...yet I keep remembering my Dad's lesson to me about form follows function. As much as I understand being attracted to the look of one bag over the other, wouldn't you be cheating yourself if you gave up features in favor of cosmetics??
              Owner, Fool On The Hill Recording, Nashville TN


                Sorry - I thought I'd posted this reply!

                I think i'll be better off with Western Flyer for that very reason!