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  1. #1
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    tristar or western flyer (or CPA)

    Hi, looking for some feedback from people with experience of these bags.

    Currently I have a Redoxx Air Boss and it is a great bag for extended travel. (Apologies TM, I only came across your stuff recently!)

    My work sees me travelling around Africa (so I need something pretty robust), but I am normally in a suit, so can usually get away with changes of shirts/underwear. I always travel with a laptop and usually a few notebooks/ipads/kindle/etc. I can manage with the Air Boss for up to 2 weeks and haven't yet had any problems with taking it as hand luggage.

    Although I have used it half full a number of times, it doesn't really excel like that, so I have also taken to using an old-style type briefcase that fits my laptop with a change of shirt/underwear or two if I am going for a shorter/overnight trip. Old-style briefcase is getting just plain old however and I don't think it will survive African airports for much longer.

    So, to the actual question!

    I looked at the Redoxx CPA bag, but prefer the style of the Tristar/WF (now that I know about them). The Tristar looks great, but it might be more bag than I really need and I don't want to replicate the Air Boss, however some of the reviews of the WF seemed to imply it wouldn't be the best suited if you need a laptop.

    So that is what I'd like to hear any views on:
    - How the WF holds up with a laptop and accessories and limited clothes (for 1-3 days travel)
    - Whether the Tristar would end up replicating the Air Boss or can I justify using the Tristar for shorter travel

    Apologies if this is covered on another thread and for being long-winded!

  2. #2
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    There is a lot of similarity between the Airboss and the Tri-Star. I had an Airboss which I have replaced with a Tri-Star, so I'm very familiar with both bags.

    Both the Tri-Star and the Airboss are great bags and the material and construction on each is first rate... you will not have to worry about a bag failure carrying either one. The Airboss is a little larger than the Tri-Star, however, I found that most of the extra space was not well utilized so I ended with a bigger bag that did not hold much more for my typical trips. I usually need to travel with suits and both bags work well for this purpose. The single most useful accessory is the Eagle Creek large 18" folder which holds my dress shirts, ties and pants in a wrinkle free compact package. It fits neatly in either bag. The ballistic material of the Tri-Star had a bit more structure than the Red Oxx cordura so its a bit less floppy when not totally full. The main advantage of the Airboss is that the added width can better accommodate a large pair of mens shoes which do not really carry well in the Tri-Star.

    At the end of the day, if you are looking for something smaller than the Airboss, the Tri-Star is not a great choice since it's close to the same size. The Western Flyer seems like a better choice, but as I don't have that bag, I'll be interested to hear some first hand feedback from others.

    The CPA might work well for you. I'd use appropriate size Tom Bihn packing cubes inside to hold your clothing and keep in clean and discretely hidden in your work bag. The Tom Bihn accessories are nothing short of amazing and make using any bag, Tom Bihn or otherwise, so much more organized and useful. The Metro (a thinner version of the CPA) holds far more than dimensions would suggest, and the built in padding eliminates the need for much additional padding around your laptop. If you have a thin laptop like a MacBook Air, the CPA should easily hold shirts & underwear. Also consider the Tom Bihn Freudian Slip inside the CPA if you go that route... it has amazing storage and organizational capabilities to use every inch of space productively.

  3. #3
    Forum Member Pokilani's Avatar
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    You should take a look at this post.

    I also just posted here. I just slipped my MBA in the rear compartment with my clothes in a large WF cube.

    I think it might depend on whether you are packing shoes. Most report that the depth in the WF better accommodate shoes, compared to the TS.

    I'm sure @moriond will chime in with more links. Right now everyone is in a frenzy over the new product announcements!

    IMO, the WF is a brilliant bag and can fit quite a lot. I love it in dyneema, but if you expect rough usage, go for ballistic nylon. And definitely go with some packing cubes and/or the EC Specter II folder.

    ETA: PS Welcome to the forum!

  4. #4
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    The WF will work fine as a slightly larger than average briefcase (it will not look unusually large just a little larger than a typical computer bag). if using it for a laptop and is excellent for a laptop and a day or 2 clothing. The WF offers more flexibility in use than the CPA (tried one and returned it - too structured for my needs). For what you describe, the WF is much better suited than a Tristar. AS was noted the Tristar is similar in size and design to the Airboss and does look kinda funny when used as briefcase alone. If you are always going to have clothing, you can get away with using it but it will look like a clothing bag that is being used to also carry a computer (if that is of concern to you). I have had all the bags mentioned at one time or another (and lots of others). The WF has become and remains my goto bag for 1-3 days of travel by air or by auto.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by TonyPinches View Post
    Hi, looking for some feedback from people with experience of these bags.

    Currently I have a Redoxx Air Boss and it is a great bag for extended travel. (Apologies TM, I only came across your stuff recently!)

    My work sees me travelling around Africa (so I need something pretty robust), but I am normally in a suit, so can usually get away with changes of shirts/underwear. I always travel with a laptop and usually a few notebooks/ipads/kindle/etc. I can manage with the Air Boss for up to 2 weeks and haven't yet had any problems with taking it as hand luggage.

    Although I have used it half full a number of times, it doesn't really excel like that, so I have also taken to using an old-style type briefcase that fits my laptop with a change of shirt/underwear or two if I am going for a shorter/overnight trip. Old-style briefcase is getting just plain old however and I don't think it will survive African airports for much longer.

    So, to the actual question!

    I looked at the Redoxx CPA bag, but prefer the style of the Tristar/WF (now that I know about them). The Tristar looks great, but it might be more bag than I really need and I don't want to replicate the Air Boss, however some of the reviews of the WF seemed to imply it wouldn't be the best suited if you need a laptop.

    So that is what I'd like to hear any views on:
    - How the WF holds up with a laptop and accessories and limited clothes (for 1-3 days travel)
    - Whether the Tristar would end up replicating the Air Boss or can I justify using the Tristar for shorter travel

    Apologies if this is covered on another thread and for being long-winded!
    I think the Tristar could definitely replace your Air Boss, you can use the center compartment for your laptop and pack clothing and shoes in the two outer compartments. Also, I'm not sure if you can really see how truly beautiful Tom Bihn bags are in pictures. The US made 1050 denier high tenacity nylon comes in several rich colors and the slight sheen to them is something to behold. You really need to see and touch the bag in person to judge yourself. Also, not to insult Red Oxx bags but I wouldn't be comfortable carrying them into a business setting, they look very childish. As you can tell I'm a big TB fan, as long as they keep making bags, I'll keep buying them. Don't wait, order a TB bag and see the difference yourself.

  6. #6
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    I recently purchased the WF and TS but returned the WF. The reason was I couldn't get my clothes, laptop and accessories in the WF. I also found the dimensions of WF also to be a tad small for my needs; those extra inches made a big difference. My laptop is on the large size (15x10.5x1.5) which is a problem also. The 18" EC folder just fits in the back section of the WF. If you were going to go with a separate laptop case, the WF should work fine for clothes and such. In my case I wanted 1 bag for everything that was still an easy carry on, could hold 2-3 days of cloths and didn't look totally out of place in a meeting; that was the TS for me. My clothes go in an EC folder in the back section, laptop + neoprene pouch in center with some room to squeeze power cord on the side, toiletries, notepad, tablet, etc go in the front sections and pockets. If I take the bag into a meeting, it doesn't look out of place as its just a big briefcase but I can just use the neoprene sleeve for the laptop, notebook and such without a problem also. I've only traveled with it twice so far, next week will be 4 day trip which will be a good test; two puddle jumpers on monday night, train on tuesday and a comfy jet back friday.

    As for the Red Oxx, I never seen one up close but I do have the EC Adventure Weekender (ECAW) which I believe is similar (20 x 13 x 8 in). The biggest issue with the ECAW vs the TS is the TS seems to hold its shape much better. If the ECAW isn't full, stuff is flopping all around. The TS seems to expand and contract as needed though that may be a function of it being new still. The ECAW can definitely hold more but its a pain when its not full. One trip I had 2 days worth of clothes, laptop+case, accessories and a full length wool overcoat all stuffed into the ECAW; functional but not stylish.

  7. #7
    Volunteer Moderator tpnl's Avatar
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    If I understand your post correctly, the issue with the Air Boss is that it does not work well when half full. You want a bag solution that well work well if filled with the equivalent of half the capacity of the Air Boss and perhaps serve as a briefcase as you are doing now with your "old" briefcase.

    The picture below may help as it compares the Air Boss, Aeronaut 45, Tri-Star and Western Flyer:

    tristar or western flyer (or CPA)-bag-comparison-jpg

    I agree with some of the others that the Tri-Star may be duplicating your Air Boss as they are close in capacity (Tri-Star 2000 cu. in. vs Air Box 2184 cu. in.).
    However, if you are ok with the size of the Tri-Star (just a bit longer than the TB Empire Builder briefcase and 2" shorter than your Air Boss), it works well, IMHO when half or not very full as per the above picture IMHO. So, with the Tri-Star, you perhaps get the one-bag solution that you wanted in the Air Boss where it holds what you need for your 2 week trip and works well for you 1-3 day trip. I personally use a Tri-Star / Synapse 25 solution for 3-4 day business travel and it works well. The Tri-Star is easily allowed on the plane with me even when there are tight restriction because it looks so much like a briefcase. If you are worried about the size looking to big for a briefcase, I would say that it would only be an issue if you were short in stature. See the review below and the picture near the end to see the proportions on the reviewer:

    Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review - Loaded PocketzLoaded Pocketz

    Ultimately the Air Boss has a bit more capacity so the Tri-Star does not fully duplicate it. However, it gives you more options when not needing a full bag of clothes.

    If you really like the idea of a separate bag for the 1-3 day trips and use the Air Boss for the longer trips, the Western Flyer may work for you IMHO. Here is a review of the Western Flyer and a comparison picture to the Air Boss:

    First Take: Tom Bihn Western Flyer bag

    I think the Western Flyer makes a good briefcase and works well to hold a laptop. You did not mention the size of your laptop but if 13-14", you have several options to carry it - as designed, putting it in a Brain Cell (or cache) and then into the back main compartment or in the pocket for the backpack straps. If only carrying a tablet, it may even fit in the front pocket. I like that there are a few good options for laptop carry. I am not sure what the reviews you mention that indicate it is not good to carry laptops. Note that the Western Flyer, if not fully packed, can pass as a Personal sized item. So, in theory, you could carry your Air Boss and Western Flyer onto the plane with you if you need it.

    Hope this helps

    Cheers!
    Last edited by tpnl; 03-11-2015 at 11:34 PM.
    TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!

  8. #8
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    As someone who owns the TriStar, AirBoss, CPA, Metro and Gator - and as a former owner of a Western Flyer, I have some pretty firm opinions about all of them.

    The RedOxx bags are very rugged and come with a "you break it, we fix it free" warranty. Like with TB, you won't be needing that warranty for manufacturer's defects because there won't be any, but unlike TB, they'll also fix stuff that airlines break. I had my CPA mangled by some handling equipment (something sliced clean through the material) and RedOxx replaced that.

    TB bags are incredibly rugged in a more civilized way. The TriStar looks much smaller and more business like than the AirBoss and can be taken without reservation into any boardroom. The AirBoss looks like a suitcase.

    The big conceptual difference between RedOxx and TB is organization. With the RO bags you get a big bag with a mesh pocket pocket sewn on either side on the inside, two flap pockets on the front, a zippered pocket on the back and a water bottle pocket on either end. The CPA, Metro and Gator are all like that and the AirBoss isn't much different. If you want organization you'll have to look elsewhere - like TB.

    Each TB bag has different organization and most are designed to hold both "briefcase stuff" and clothing in design that doesn't look out of place with a suit. My only complaint with the TriStar/Western Flyer is that I can't seem to fit shoes in. For the life of me, I cannot fit ANY of my size 10 shoes into that compartment behind the bottle holder. It must be me because everyone else seems to get them in fine - maybe they all wear ballet slippers...

    But I digress. The TriStar, when paired with a brain cell, holds a computer nicely and several changes of clothing. If you need more clothing, I split it into two packing cubes, put one in the front compartment, one in the rear, roll a t-shirt up and put it on the bottom of the center compartment and the clothing on either side cushions the computer nicely even without a brain cell. The TriStar looks fine half full.
    When in trouble, obfuscate.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for all the great feedback (particularly the photo comparing some of the options) - you guys know your bags!

    I think that the WF would most accurately replace the existing old briefcase that I use and I could probably make that work well, but I am pretty tempted by the TS anyway for a number of reasons (my work laptop is stone-age in dimensions and despite liking to travel light, I still tend to take a pair of running shoes that I invariably don't use - also, I just love the way it looks).

    I'm still a bit on the fence as to which way to go, but I have a few weeks until I am in the US and can pick one up, so will continue to enjoy dithering.

    Thanks again

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