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  1. #1
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    Tom Bihn Hero's Journey has been terribly disappointing...

    Tom Bihn Hero's Journey has been terribly disappointing...-xp6ibc7-jpg

    So I'm going to start this by saying my Tom Bihn Aeronaut (not an Aeronaut 45, it's an OG from before the Aeronauts were a family) is the greatest bag I've ever owned. As you can see from the picture, it's pretty intensely personal to me, and has provided me with about six years of great service and still looks great. Through study, leisure, and work, my country count is somewhere north of 125, and my Aeronaut has probably logged about fifty. I'm evangelical about my Aeronaut, so I'm responsible for literally thousands of dollars of sales (not hard with Tom Bihn pricing), as people I've converted have bought bags.

    As soon as the Hero's Journey was announced, I decided that it was perfect for me. Recently, I'd been using a simple Nike duffle bag more often, because there were some trips where I wouldn't have access to a washing machine, didn't want the hassle of hand washing, and needed more space than my Aeronaut could provide. This was going to be perfect for me, because it was an aeronaut with a little extra headroom.

    Since it wasn't an absolute necessity, and I wanted to skirt the `10% of sales tax from living on the opposite side of the state from Tom Bihn, I decided I would wait until one showed up on ebay. I had bought my aeronaut on ebay, and due to the fact that the bags are virtually bulletproof, I had no qualms about it. I was hoping for an iberian inside, but was still happy with the northwest gray, for under $400 shipped.

    I've now gone on two trips with this in the last month, so I feel like I've experienced enough to definitively review this. It's been on planes, trains, automobiles, buses, and boats. I want to preface this by saying that my review is based on my experiences with the aeronaut, and hiking with various bags from The North Face and Osprey, and also taking into consideration the $480 price tag.

    Quick review: NOBODY should buy this bag for $480. The value is AWFUL, and it's not nearly as well engineered as the Aeronaut. I've steered a bunch of people to the Aeronaut 45, which at $295 is definitely pricey, but very justifiable if you're a frequent traveler.

    -Understand that if you're going to use this bag, you must use the waist strap. The internal suspension is very poor compared to similarly sized packs I've used from The North Face and Osprey, and the Hero's Journey (I'm just going to use HJ moving forward) when filled becomes unwieldy and puts a fair amount of torque on your back when turning. It doesn't have the natural "stuck to your back" feel that a solid pack does. I made this mistake in Shanghai and tweaked my back, and I'm not a person who generally has any back issues at all.

    -The backpack straps that they've opted for are total garbage. So far as I can tell, they're the exact same as the ones on the Aeronaut, but I feel the Aeronaut is meant to be used as a duffle, and I always use my absolute strap. Contrary to that, I feel that the HJ is meant to be used as a backpack 99% of the time, so their decision to use the same straps is absolutely befuddling. The straps are significantly worse than most quality daypacks, being thin and having no technology of any sort. Given that this is a pack that's about 50% more than anything produced by quality mountaineering companies like Osprey or TNF, it's completely unacceptable. I know that people will argue that it's to save weight and that sort of thing, but it's so essential to the core use of the product that the argument is nonsensical. At a bare minimum, the straps should have been wider to better distribute pack weight on the shoulders.

    -The lack of grab straps is maddening. One of the great things about the Aeronaut is the versatility. One of the maddening things about the Hero's Journey is that the grab straps are in stupid places. So on the bottom, you have one on the end. Perfect. Up top, it's not on the end, it's on the front of the bag. This is frustrating because when carrying it by this strap, the weight is always going to be really unbalanced. There's also a strap on the back, but it's just webbing rather than a legitimate TB grab strap. Most frustrating is that the grab straps on the sides (so one could carry it like a suitcase) are... missing... I know that TB wanted to sell everyone the side roll pockets, but they could've left a grab strap, as it's a very natural thing while traveling to need to carry a bag suitcase/duffle bag style, and it's literally not possible here. (In case it's not clear what I mean here, on the aeronaut the side grab strap would be the one that buttons on "top" of the bag)

    Overall, the pack is well made, but the beauty of the Aeronaut was that it was in my opinion, perfectly engineered, and with the absolute strap, as good of a bag as I could imagine. I even like that one of the side pockets isn't zip closed in the OG version, because I would always grab a newspaper in the lounge en route. Unfortunately, I don't think the superior engineering is true in the Hero's Journey, and I think it's terrible value for the money in comparison to the Aeronaut (You get an extra side pocket for an extra $180?!?) or basically any offerings by the other pack makers. As I articulated poorly before, with a good backpack, it just becomes an extension of your body. The HJ, even when adjusted well (I have an easy torso to fit), is awkward and unnatural. I'd seen the cascade hike review in the forum, and there's literally no reason that you would ever choose the HJ over a real pack at half the price by a legitimate outdoor brand. It would be like recommending dress shoes over snowshoes to clear a powder filled meadow. For travel purposes, I can't think of anyone I would recommend the HJ to over like an Osprey Porter, when the $100 vs $500 value is in play.

    The sad thing is that this pack definitely could be made awesome, with a few tweaks here and there, but I'm already $400 into the one I've got. I've actually considered having my seamstress go to town with some of my older bags, and make this bag awesome with better backpack straps and maybe some grab handles if we can figure out how to do it while doing it in a way that won't compromise the fabric. Does anyone know if it's possible to acquire grab straps direct from GB for mutant bag purposes?

    PS: I know that there's always brand loyalists who will pooh pooh any negative remarks about their brand, but understand that I am an extreme TB loyalist who is simply disappointed that the HJ didn't meet the high standards I had for it based on previous experience.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by drupha View Post
    Tom Bihn Hero's Journey has been terribly disappointing...-xp6ibc7-jpg

    So I'm going to start this by saying my Tom Bihn Aeronaut (not an Aeronaut 45, it's an OG from before the Aeronauts were a family) is the greatest bag I've ever owned. As you can see from the picture, it's pretty intensely personal to me, and has provided me with about six years of great service and still looks great. Through study, leisure, and work, my country count is somewhere north of 125, and my Aeronaut has probably logged about fifty. I'm evangelical about my Aeronaut, so I'm responsible for literally thousands of dollars of sales (not hard with Tom Bihn pricing), as people I've converted have bought bags.

    As soon as the Hero's Journey was announced, I decided that it was perfect for me. Recently, I'd been using a simple Nike duffle bag more often, because there were some trips where I wouldn't have access to a washing machine, didn't want the hassle of hand washing, and needed more space than my Aeronaut could provide. This was going to be perfect for me, because it was an aeronaut with a little extra headroom.

    Since it wasn't an absolute necessity, and I wanted to skirt the `10% of sales tax from living on the opposite side of the state from Tom Bihn, I decided I would wait until one showed up on ebay. I had bought my aeronaut on ebay, and due to the fact that the bags are virtually bulletproof, I had no qualms about it. I was hoping for an iberian inside, but was still happy with the northwest gray, for under $400 shipped.

    I've now gone on two trips with this in the last month, so I feel like I've experienced enough to definitively review this. It's been on planes, trains, automobiles, buses, and boats. I want to preface this by saying that my review is based on my experiences with the aeronaut, and hiking with various bags from The North Face and Osprey, and also taking into consideration the $480 price tag.

    Quick review: NOBODY should buy this bag for $480. The value is AWFUL, and it's not nearly as well engineered as the Aeronaut. I've steered a bunch of people to the Aeronaut 45, which at $295 is definitely pricey, but very justifiable if you're a frequent traveler.

    -Understand that if you're going to use this bag, you must use the waist strap. The internal suspension is very poor compared to similarly sized packs I've used from The North Face and Osprey, and the Hero's Journey (I'm just going to use HJ moving forward) when filled becomes unwieldy and puts a fair amount of torque on your back when turning. It doesn't have the natural "stuck to your back" feel that a solid pack does. I made this mistake in Shanghai and tweaked my back, and I'm not a person who generally has any back issues at all.

    -The backpack straps that they've opted for are total garbage. So far as I can tell, they're the exact same as the ones on the Aeronaut, but I feel the Aeronaut is meant to be used as a duffle, and I always use my absolute strap. Contrary to that, I feel that the HJ is meant to be used as a backpack 99% of the time, so their decision to use the same straps is absolutely befuddling. The straps are significantly worse than most quality daypacks, being thin and having no technology of any sort. Given that this is a pack that's about 50% more than anything produced by quality mountaineering companies like Osprey or TNF, it's completely unacceptable. I know that people will argue that it's to save weight and that sort of thing, but it's so essential to the core use of the product that the argument is nonsensical. At a bare minimum, the straps should have been wider to better distribute pack weight on the shoulders.

    -The lack of grab straps is maddening. One of the great things about the Aeronaut is the versatility. One of the maddening things about the Hero's Journey is that the grab straps are in stupid places. So on the bottom, you have one on the end. Perfect. Up top, it's not on the end, it's on the front of the bag. This is frustrating because when carrying it by this strap, the weight is always going to be really unbalanced. There's also a strap on the back, but it's just webbing rather than a legitimate TB grab strap. Most frustrating is that the grab straps on the sides (so one could carry it like a suitcase) are... missing... I know that TB wanted to sell everyone the side roll pockets, but they could've left a grab strap, as it's a very natural thing while traveling to need to carry a bag suitcase/duffle bag style, and it's literally not possible here. (In case it's not clear what I mean here, on the aeronaut the side grab strap would be the one that buttons on "top" of the bag)

    Overall, the pack is well made, but the beauty of the Aeronaut was that it was in my opinion, perfectly engineered, and with the absolute strap, as good of a bag as I could imagine. I even like that one of the side pockets isn't zip closed in the OG version, because I would always grab a newspaper in the lounge en route. Unfortunately, I don't think the superior engineering is true in the Hero's Journey, and I think it's terrible value for the money in comparison to the Aeronaut (You get an extra side pocket for an extra $180?!?) or basically any offerings by the other pack makers. As I articulated poorly before, with a good backpack, it just becomes an extension of your body. The HJ, even when adjusted well (I have an easy torso to fit), is awkward and unnatural. I'd seen the cascade hike review in the forum, and there's literally no reason that you would ever choose the HJ over a real pack at half the price by a legitimate outdoor brand. It would be like recommending dress shoes over snowshoes to clear a powder filled meadow. For travel purposes, I can't think of anyone I would recommend the HJ to over like an Osprey Porter, when the $100 vs $500 value is in play.

    The sad thing is that this pack definitely could be made awesome, with a few tweaks here and there, but I'm already $400 into the one I've got. I've actually considered having my seamstress go to town with some of my older bags, and make this bag awesome with better backpack straps and maybe some grab handles if we can figure out how to do it while doing it in a way that won't compromise the fabric. Does anyone know if it's possible to acquire grab straps direct from GB for mutant bag purposes?

    PS: I know that there's always brand loyalists who will pooh pooh any negative remarks about their brand, but understand that I am an extreme TB loyalist who is simply disappointed that the HJ didn't meet the high standards I had for it based on previous experience.
    I have had my eye on a HsJ for a while but I have reservations about the way the top part visibly pulls back in the pics, among other things.

    Could you name a couple of specific things you would improve? And if it is fit related, your height/back length?

    If you sewed on the bag you would void the warranty. You could sell it instead?

  3. #3
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    The HsJ should have one, maybe two, removable grab handles for the sides. Did yours not come with the removable grab strap?

    I agree with most of your assessment about the bag in terms of value vs. price for most people. I think the people it works best for are those who are going to be one bagging on trips along with doing some hiking/backpacking. Comparing for example the HsJ at $480 with the A45 at $295, depending on uses I think they both occupy certain niches with the A45 being a better choice for most people. Personally I think a better example is comparing the A45 + either a DLBP/PCBP with the HsJ.

    Having had both though, I found the HsJ to be a vastly more useful bag for me personally if only because, in my opinion, itís still a backpack first. If Iím hiking during a trip abroad, the HsJ is perfect since I can actually use it for that purpose and feel comfortable unlike the A45 which I think is an awesome travel bag but one I would never use for daily use or for backpacking. I donít know how tall or large you are, but I found the HsJ plenty comfortable when loaded (40-60lbs) even without a hip strap. I do think that the HsJ could have better grab handles on it, but the removable side handle, top handle when the top pack is off, and mesh webbing handle above the straps were fine when I needed them. Iíve never been a person to carry a bag by handles though, so it isnít as big of an issue to me. Iíll always use the backpack straps or a shoulder strap for carrying a bag; the grab handles are there to help me get the bag on or off.

    Could you elaborate on the internal suspension in the pack being poor? Are you talking about a lack of organization inside for packing or how things fit when the bag is full? I would say that HsJ is a little less forgiving of other hiking bags in that there are certain packing styles that suit it better. For me, what worked the best is making sure I kept heavy items up high and against my back as much as possible. I donít like using waist belts, so making sure all my lighter, bulkier items were on the bottom to support my heavier items up top made a huge difference in the comfort of the bag.

    I think I disagree on the shoulder straps being worse than other bags. I have yet to find a bag, other than Goruck, whose straps stay comfortable after hours of lugging 30+lbs around. Whether itís the Brain Bag with its thicker and wider straps, the S25, the A45, or the HsJ, when Iíve loaded them up with weight Iíve been able to adjust the straps in such a way that theyíre comfortable for me. I do know that everyone is different though, so what works for me wonít work for everyone.

    As to price, yeah I think the HsJ is quite expensive. Comparing it to the A45 is unfair in my mind though as itís not only larger, it is two (one could argue even three) separate bags like an A45 with a Daylight Backpack or Packing Cube Backpack. Yes, the HsJ is still more expensive, but the top pack of the HsJ was much nicer as a backpack than the PCBP and a nicer shoulder bag than the Daylight Briefcase. Plus you could use it as waist bag if needed, but that was never comfortable for me. Comparing price to TNF and Osprey is also going to end in favor of those other brands. Made in the USA products arenít automatically better than imported products, but for a company like TB, I think that holds true. The price reflects that as well. Looking at other MiUSA bag companies such as Mission Workshop, Waterfield Designs, Duluth Pack, RedOxx, Goruck, Rivendell, the list goes on; they all command a higher premium. Are they all worth the premium? Not for everyone.

    I agree that the HsJ has a high sticker shock, but I disagree that the value isnít there. I think it targets a group of people who find it very much worth the price, and to say that is an awful value or poorly engineered compared to the A45 is an unfair statement. If I were only traveling, then yeah the A45 is a better value than the HsJ. But since Iím not just traveling and Iím backpacking, hiking, camping, the HsJ is far and away the better value.
    Boots, Bags, and Beer. (And Coffee)

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by DubbySmurf View Post
    The HsJ should have one, maybe two, removable grab handles for the sides. Did yours not come with the removable grab strap?

    I agree with most of your assessment about the bag in terms of value vs. price for most people. I think the people it works best for are those who are going to be one bagging on trips along with doing some hiking/backpacking. Comparing for example the HsJ at $480 with the A45 at $295, depending on uses I think they both occupy certain niches with the A45 being a better choice for most people. Personally I think a better example is comparing the A45 + either a DLBP/PCBP with the HsJ.

    Having had both though, I found the HsJ to be a vastly more useful bag for me personally if only because, in my opinion, itís still a backpack first. If Iím hiking during a trip abroad, the HsJ is perfect since I can actually use it for that purpose and feel comfortable unlike the A45 which I think is an awesome travel bag but one I would never use for daily use or for backpacking. I donít know how tall or large you are, but I found the HsJ plenty comfortable when loaded (40-60lbs) even without a hip strap. I do think that the HsJ could have better grab handles on it, but the removable side handle, top handle when the top pack is off, and mesh webbing handle above the straps were fine when I needed them. Iíve never been a person to carry a bag by handles though, so it isnít as big of an issue to me. Iíll always use the backpack straps or a shoulder strap for carrying a bag; the grab handles are there to help me get the bag on or off.

    Could you elaborate on the internal suspension in the pack being poor? Are you talking about a lack of organization inside for packing or how things fit when the bag is full? I would say that HsJ is a little less forgiving of other hiking bags in that there are certain packing styles that suit it better. For me, what worked the best is making sure I kept heavy items up high and against my back as much as possible. I donít like using waist belts, so making sure all my lighter, bulkier items were on the bottom to support my heavier items up top made a huge difference in the comfort of the bag.

    I think I disagree on the shoulder straps being worse than other bags. I have yet to find a bag, other than Goruck, whose straps stay comfortable after hours of lugging 30+lbs around. Whether itís the Brain Bag with its thicker and wider straps, the S25, the A45, or the HsJ, when Iíve loaded them up with weight Iíve been able to adjust the straps in such a way that theyíre comfortable for me. I do know that everyone is different though, so what works for me wonít work for everyone.

    As to price, yeah I think the HsJ is quite expensive. Comparing it to the A45 is unfair in my mind though as itís not only larger, it is two (one could argue even three) separate bags like an A45 with a Daylight Backpack or Packing Cube Backpack. Yes, the HsJ is still more expensive, but the top pack of the HsJ was much nicer as a backpack than the PCBP and a nicer shoulder bag than the Daylight Briefcase. Plus you could use it as waist bag if needed, but that was never comfortable for me. Comparing price to TNF and Osprey is also going to end in favor of those other brands. Made in the USA products arenít automatically better than imported products, but for a company like TB, I think that holds true. The price reflects that as well. Looking at other MiUSA bag companies such as Mission Workshop, Waterfield Designs, Duluth Pack, RedOxx, Goruck, Rivendell, the list goes on; they all command a higher premium. Are they all worth the premium? Not for everyone.

    I agree that the HsJ has a high sticker shock, but I disagree that the value isnít there. I think it targets a group of people who find it very much worth the price, and to say that is an awful value or poorly engineered compared to the A45 is an unfair statement. If I were only traveling, then yeah the A45 is a better value than the HsJ. But since Iím not just traveling and Iím backpacking, hiking, camping, the HsJ is far and away the better value.
    I agree, and I think the HsJ is priced consistently with other TB bags considering you get a lot of things with it that you would have to buy separately with other bags. It is $185 more than an A45, and for that you get a padded hip belt ($30), lash straps ($10), a halcyon OP similar in size to large ($18), and a 15L shoulder bag that can turn into a backpack.

    There is no exact bag to compare it to but there is $127 difference left. The smallest/cheapest dual-carry bag is the 12L Stowaway at $180. The 13L Pilot (shoulder carry only) is $160. Heck, even the 12.5L Maker's bag is $130. Any way you break it down, the pricing seems fair to me.

    But if you find it uncomfortable then fair enough, everyone is different. I know the feeling of wanting a bag to be right and having it just not be. It's frustrating.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cristina View Post
    I have had my eye on a HsJ for a while but I have reservations about the way the top part visibly pulls back in the pics, among other things.

    Could you name a couple of specific things you would improve? And if it is fit related, your height/back length?

    If you sewed on the bag you would void the warranty. You could sell it instead?
    If I could get what I had paid for it ($400 and shipping), I would sell it for sure.

    As far as fit, it's more that the internal frame wasn't made to ergonomically wrap around the body's contours at all, so it is markedly more unnatural than the North Face, Patagonia, and Kelty backpacks I've used for more serious hiking. It's not related to height at all, because at 5'10 I'm at the sweet spot of everything I've ever bought working perfectly.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by DubbySmurf View Post
    The HsJ should have one, maybe two, removable grab handles for the sides. Did yours not come with the removable grab strap?

    I agree with most of your assessment about the bag in terms of value vs. price for most people. I think the people it works best for are those who are going to be one bagging on trips along with doing some hiking/backpacking. Comparing for example the HsJ at $480 with the A45 at $295, depending on uses I think they both occupy certain niches with the A45 being a better choice for most people. Personally I think a better example is comparing the A45 + either a DLBP/PCBP with the HsJ.

    Having had both though, I found the HsJ to be a vastly more useful bag for me personally if only because, in my opinion, it’s still a backpack first. If I’m hiking during a trip abroad, the HsJ is perfect since I can actually use it for that purpose and feel comfortable unlike the A45 which I think is an awesome travel bag but one I would never use for daily use or for backpacking. I don’t know how tall or large you are, but I found the HsJ plenty comfortable when loaded (40-60lbs) even without a hip strap. I do think that the HsJ could have better grab handles on it, but the removable side handle, top handle when the top pack is off, and mesh webbing handle above the straps were fine when I needed them. I’ve never been a person to carry a bag by handles though, so it isn’t as big of an issue to me. I’ll always use the backpack straps or a shoulder strap for carrying a bag; the grab handles are there to help me get the bag on or off.

    Could you elaborate on the internal suspension in the pack being poor? Are you talking about a lack of organization inside for packing or how things fit when the bag is full? I would say that HsJ is a little less forgiving of other hiking bags in that there are certain packing styles that suit it better. For me, what worked the best is making sure I kept heavy items up high and against my back as much as possible. I don’t like using waist belts, so making sure all my lighter, bulkier items were on the bottom to support my heavier items up top made a huge difference in the comfort of the bag.

    I think I disagree on the shoulder straps being worse than other bags. I have yet to find a bag, other than Goruck, whose straps stay comfortable after hours of lugging 30+lbs around. Whether it’s the Brain Bag with its thicker and wider straps, the S25, the A45, or the HsJ, when I’ve loaded them up with weight I’ve been able to adjust the straps in such a way that they’re comfortable for me. I do know that everyone is different though, so what works for me won’t work for everyone.

    As to price, yeah I think the HsJ is quite expensive. Comparing it to the A45 is unfair in my mind though as it’s not only larger, it is two (one could argue even three) separate bags like an A45 with a Daylight Backpack or Packing Cube Backpack. Yes, the HsJ is still more expensive, but the top pack of the HsJ was much nicer as a backpack than the PCBP and a nicer shoulder bag than the Daylight Briefcase. Plus you could use it as waist bag if needed, but that was never comfortable for me. Comparing price to TNF and Osprey is also going to end in favor of those other brands. Made in the USA products aren’t automatically better than imported products, but for a company like TB, I think that holds true. The price reflects that as well. Looking at other MiUSA bag companies such as Mission Workshop, Waterfield Designs, Duluth Pack, RedOxx, Goruck, Rivendell, the list goes on; they all command a higher premium. Are they all worth the premium? Not for everyone.

    I agree that the HsJ has a high sticker shock, but I disagree that the value isn’t there. I think it targets a group of people who find it very much worth the price, and to say that is an awful value or poorly engineered compared to the A45 is an unfair statement. If I were only traveling, then yeah the A45 is a better value than the HsJ. But since I’m not just traveling and I’m backpacking, hiking, camping, the HsJ is far and away the better value.
    Debby,

    Thank you for your response. It was well thought out, and I feel we agree on most points.

    First of all, I travel roughly 5 weeks a year, with a mix of civilized and uncivilized destinations, so if the bag was essentially the well engineered, scaled up Aeronaut I thought it was going to be, I'd have no hesitations about the price. I consider my aeronaut to be one of the best investments I've made in my life. I think the HJ is not nearly as well designed, and at the price, makes it a kick in the groin.

    So you say that you're a backpacker/hiker/camper, so it actually really surprises me that you're not more critical of the HJ. When I talked about the internal suspension, I was talking about the frame and body fit. With any good hiking pack, the frame is made so that it contours to your body and basically sticks to you as you move. The HJ is very poor in that regard, so if you're accustomed to a good hiking back, it's like adjusting from the handling of a BMW to a truck.

    The backpack straps in particular are awful compared to a normal pack. The straps are fine on the aeronaut, given that the aeronaut is designed to be a duffle bag first and foremost. Given that the HJ is primarily a backpack, it's almost unforgivable that it doesn't have the technology you'd find on even a starter quality pack. For example, wider straps, with ventilation so it doesn't trap sweat, load lifters, etc. There's a reason that you won't find a single outdoors pack with straps like the HJ, and that's because if you're meant to have a bag on you for an extended period of time, there are much better ways to go about it.

    For the grab straps, I do have the detachable one, but it's kind of garbage. By the nature of how it attaches, it has a propensity to get caught on everything as you go by, and it has a super low quality look and feel to it. While I'm not carrying my bag like a briefcase everywhere I go, there are moments every day in a trip where I use them. For example, carrying the bag to the house from the car, from the overhead bin to the terminal, etc are just a couple of the many times where it's easier to momentarily briefcase it, rather than putting it on your back.

    At the end, I wanted to write this review, partly because collectively, we as Tom Bihn users have drank the kool-aid, and I want people considering it to know that there are some very real drawbacks to consider prior to purchasing. I'm not at all saying that the HJ sucks. I'm merely pointing out that there are some serious points of questionable design, and that as an owner of the bag, I would not recommend this bag to ANYONE for price of admission. I think it's particularly ill suited for outdoors use compared to the many superior offerings available in the market.

    I would give it an 8.5 out of 10 for the purposes of travel compared to the alternatives
    I would give it a 3 out of 10 for the purposes of outdoors use compared to the alternatives (For real, if you're accustomed to camping with this, a mid to high-end Osprey will make it feel like you're ascending to heaven)
    I would give it a 5 out of 10 for value compared to the alternatives

    (For the record, I would give the Aeronaut a 10/10 for travel, NA for outdoors use, and an 8/10 for value)

  7. #7
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    Ah ok. I think I might have been less clear than I meant to be on my thoughts as I agree with yours.

    I think I’m probably even close to your evaluation on the ratings, except in the value toward outdoors use and alternatives. Alternatives I’d rather higher because I view it as inline with TB pricing in general, considering the points above of what’s included.

    I’d also agree with the assessment that there are better bags suited for outdoor use. And yes, if I were doing a thru hike or something longer than a week give or take in the wilderness, it would be a hard decision to pick the HsJ over an Osprey, Rivendell, or dedicated hiking pack. But when I’m going abroad and hiking or flying somewhere and then hiking, I prefer the HsJ because I think it’s a great mix of the A45for travel and an osprey for hiking. Does it do both equally well, for me yes. Does it do both well enough for it to be my go-to bag? Meh. However if i could only have one bag and needed to make it work for everything, this would be the Bag.

    As to the internal frame, straps, and other such things, it would probably be more true and honest of me to say that they don’t bother me. Again, I don’t usually use a hip belt which makes quite a bit of the technology around Straps useless for me. In terms of how it carries on my body type though, it’s plenty comfortable with loads up to 60lbs for an hour or two and loads to 40ish for much longer. I do wish that it had, at the very least, the same Straps as my BB which are thicker and wider. As for the mesh back and how it deals with sweat, you are 100% correct: it’s not great. Thankfully it is great at cooling off, but airflow and wicking? Not so much. I’ve found that with all of my TB bags though, and it’s something that with the aerospace mesh I’m normally ok with. Maybe it’s something to change on a bag that’s meant for more outdoor use?

    I imagine you’ve tried to fit the internal frame to your back as well, but if not it could be worth a shot. I don’t have a problem with the fit, but again we all have different tolerances toward fit and what works for me won’t always work for others.

    Finally, thanks for sharing this. It’s nice to hear other’s perspectives on it as there aren’t many reviews out there, so hopefully this will help others who are on the fence about it. Its important to realize too that as much as we all love TB, sometimes it happens that a product just isn’t to our liking or standards. It’s unfortunate that you’ve invested so much in something that doesn’t work for you, but you can always try selling it. They seem to hold value for the few that pop up on eBay.
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  8. #8
    Forum Member weirdguy's Avatar
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    Thanks @drupha for sharing your valuable insights and experiences with HsJ. I appreciate the way you wrote and replied.

    Yes, I am one of those that you mentioned - interested with HsJ.
    But I have yet to own one, even have yet to experience a similar bag of other brand - though I'm dying to try but all aren't locally available! Not anyone fault :)

    I really like one bagging, than baggage-trolley for my non-hike travel. While I am still waiting for the right opportunity, I really appreciate your insights and will keep in mind to evaluate when I have opportunity to try HsJ and others like Osprey Farpoint 40 and Kelty Redwing 40.

    I have both Aeronaut, the 45 (last Solar batch) and the 30 of Gen1 batch. I usually only backpack my Aeronauts, rather shoulder strap for a better/even weight across my both shoulders. However, I still do find the weight of A45 to be unbearable especially if it is a medium to long walk. While A30 is understandably comfortable due to less weight (30L), I still find it is surprisingly comfortably "fitted". Hence, I think I could understand what you meant with "contour" and "fit". The feeling is vital and I believe it helps a lot, when one doing is a medium-long walk.

    I consider myself generally a typical Asian build. As I mentioned, my experience with A45 could be unbearable though it is said that it is more of a bag for like between airport and taxi. I'm not sure others but my experience with Airport arrival can be a journey on its own from exiting plane, transferring between terminals, immigration queue, baggage wait (if applicable), public transport queue or taxi queue. Yeah, one may argue that while queue or waiting, one could slide down his/her bag. Nevertheless, a frame and padded waist strap with HsJ or similar bag would be more helpful and allow one to enjoy all the journey along.

    I will be visiting TB Showroom on mid February. HsJ is definitely on my try-list.
    After reading your review, I think I'm going to bring my filled packing cubes and A45 to the Showroom to give the HsJ a real try and evaluate.

    Also, appreciate others' added input and reply.
    Solar/Yellow: A45 Navy, CP Black, SA Black, SCB
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    Quote Originally Posted by drupha View Post
    For travel purposes, I can't think of anyone I would recommend the HJ to over like an Osprey Porter, when the $100 vs $500 value is in play.
    I love Bihn and wish the forum had a specific section for "things I don't like" because it's fun to geek out over cool new toys and share in the excitement, and it's awkward to disturb that, so a special section for those steely-eyed enough to enter would be nice ...

    With that, there's no mistaking what this thread is about so if you're here, you knew what you were getting in to :)

    Proceed with caution ...
    ----------

    Bihn makes some great bags like the S25, A30/45, and then some me-too bags like the Tristar. Others like the HsJ ... I think you nailed it: who would I recommend this bag to?

    The only people I can see that should have the HsJ are those that want style over function - they want a bag that sounds like big intentions but really is never far from a bellman. (The Stowaway falls into this category too - I have no idea what the user persona is ... someone who wants a tiny bag that's 90% zippers? I kid ... kind of. )

    Back to the HsJ - I looked at that thing from every angle; I tried super hard to convince myself. Just couldn't do it, and for all of the reasons you mentioned. There are bags from Osprey, Deuter, TNF, and others that have real suspension systems. Custom mountaineering and hiking bags from boutique US shops. When you wear those bags, one look at the HsJ and you can't understand what's going on - you want to believe there's some genius in there but ... honestly it just seems like a frankenstein of a aeronaut with various flourishes to make it just different enough but not any more usefully functional.

    I guess my concern is, that may be EXACTLY what the HsJ was designed for ... Am I going to far to suggest it may be purposefully designed as a poseur bag?

    If not ... it's not a good design for any use-case I can see but maybe there's something I'm not seeing. Otherwise it just seems like a $480 Aeronaut that's a bit more annoying to use.

    As an example, here's a hand made ultralight 400D bag from a boutique US company that retails in the high $200s
    Last edited by GrussGott; 12-19-2017 at 09:43 PM.

  10. #10
    Forum Member weirdguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrussGott View Post
    The only people I can see that should have the HsJ are those that want style over function - they want a bag that sounds like big intentions but really is never far from a bellman. (The Stowaway falls into this category too - I have no idea what the user persona is ... someone who wants a tiny bag that's 90% zippers? I kid ... kind of. )
    I agreed. The HsJ is quite stylish, compare to the rest in the Frame category I'd seen. But I wouldn't comment (neither agree, disagree or even neutral) about the bag functionality because I have no hands-on experience with HsJ and such type of bag.

    Haha. Yeah, I read about the zippers in Stowaway.
    I haven't try it yet but I am still looking forward to try, as the dimensions is what I been wishing - a mini Empire Builder or a thicker/deeper Daylight Briefcase. Just the transformation to backpack is a quite unusual.
    Solar/Yellow: A45 Navy, CP Black, SA Black, SCB
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrussGott View Post
    I love Bihn and wish the forum had a specific section for "things I don't like" because it's fun to geek out over cool new toys and share in the excitement, and it's awkward to disturb that, so a special section for those steely-eyed enough to enter would be nice ...

    With that, there's no mistaking what this thread is about so if you're here, you knew what you were getting in to :)

    Proceed with caution ...
    ----------

    Bihn makes some great bags like the S25, A30/45, and then some me-too bags like the Tristar. Others like the HsJ ... I think you nailed it: who would I recommend this bag to?

    The only people I can see that should have the HsJ are those that want style over function - they want a bag that sounds like big intentions but really is never far from a bellman. (The Stowaway falls into this category too - I have no idea what the user persona is ... someone who wants a tiny bag that's 90% zippers? I kid ... kind of. )

    Back to the HsJ - I looked at that thing from every angle; I tried super hard to convince myself. Just couldn't do it, and for all of the reasons you mentioned. There are bags from Osprey, Deuter, TNF, and others that have real suspension systems. Custom mountaineering and hiking bags from boutique US shops. When you wear those bags, one look at the HsJ and you can't understand what's going on - you want to believe there's some genius in there but ... honestly it just seems like a frankenstein of a aeronaut with various flourishes to make it just different enough but not any more usefully functional.

    I guess my concern is, that may be EXACTLY what the HsJ was designed for ... Am I going to far to suggest it may be purposefully designed as a poseur bag?

    If not ... it's not a good design for any use-case I can see but maybe there's something I'm not seeing. Otherwise it just seems like a $480 Aeronaut that's a bit more annoying to use.

    As an example, here's a hand made ultralight 400D bag from a boutique US company that retails in the high $200s
    I have just fallen down a Google rabbit hole trying to find that red pack, just out of curiosity (unsuccessfully!). Would you drop a hint?

    I completely agree with you regarding the incredible suspension seemingly standard among other rival brands. I hate the internal organization of my non-TB main travel bag but I still use it because its harness is so good and that matters to me.

    You mentioned the difficulty in naming who the HsJ is for. The defining feature of a HsJ is its transformative nature. Every single feature on the bag can change and do something else. That is both it's best and worst feature. Someone who doesn't like the bag might say it's a jack of all trades master of none. Someone who does like the bag will appreciate that it can adapt to different travel conditions.

    At anything over $100, stylishness matters. I am happy that in the last five years there have been several packs released that are aimed at urban travelers who want the comfort of a backpacking pack but don't want to look like a backpacker. This is especially true outside of the US where sportswear and hiking gear are far less common for casual / everyday wear.

  12. #12
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrussGott View Post
    I love Bihn and wish the forum had a specific section for "things I don't like" because it's fun to geek out over cool new toys and share in the excitement, and it's awkward to disturb that, so a special section for those steely-eyed enough to enter would be nice ...
    We get where youíre coming from, I think ó you want for there to be a place to share constructive feedback and criticism, as well as appreciation, for what we make. Makes sense to us.

    Our experience of this community is that it already is a place for that. People share feedback about how the designs we put out there work for them ó or donít. Or, what theyíd like to see us make, or what theyíd like to see us change. We pay attention to that kind of feedback: sometimes we choose to include and incorporate it into our final designs and decision making, and sometimes we donítÖ. either way, that feedback is respected by everyone here.

    The disconnect might be simply a difference of styles. Which is to say: thereís a different kind of feedback out there on the Interwebs thatís more of an entertainment form - itís snarky, often quite funny, and tends to champion an individualís personal opinion and experience as objective reality. Iím not sure about others, but for us, weíre often not sure what to make of that kind of feedback or criticism ó is it an opinion for the sake of opinion, or can we filter it and find the nugget of useful feedback to put towards our goal of continual improvement?

    @drupha We're sorry the Hero's Journey didn't work for you, and your feedback is noted. I think a bag like the one that @GrussGott posted a photo of might work better for you. The people weíve heard from who truly love the Heroís Journey see value in the compromises it makes to be both a front and backcountry bag, but those compromises certainly wonít work for everyone. And on that note: there are lots of bags in the world... if one of our bags isn't right for someone, thereís likely a bag out there made by someone else that is "the one".
    Current Carry: The Hero's Journey, Skookum Dog Citizen Canine, Founder's Briefcase, Synapse 19 (day hikes), Guide's Pack (longer day hikes), Yeoman Duffel (winter/emergency stuff for the car), Aeronaut 30 (travel), Night Flight Travel Duffel (camera bag), Moveable Feast + Shop Bags (food)

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy View Post
    We get where youíre coming from, I think ó you want for there to be a place to share constructive feedback and criticism, as well as appreciation, for what we make. Makes sense to us.

    Our experience of this community is that it already is a place for that. People share feedback about how the designs we put out there work for them ó or donít. Or, what theyíd like to see us make, or what theyíd like to see us change. We pay attention to that kind of feedback: sometimes we choose to include and incorporate it into our final designs and decision making, and sometimes we donítÖ. either way, that feedback is respected by everyone here.

    The disconnect might be simply a difference of styles. Which is to say: thereís a different kind of feedback out there on the Interwebs thatís more of an entertainment form - itís snarky, often quite funny, and tends to champion an individualís personal opinion and experience as objective reality. Iím not sure about others, but for us, weíre often not sure what to make of that kind of feedback or criticism ó is it an opinion for the sake of opinion, or can we filter it and find the nugget of useful feedback to put towards our goal of continual improvement?

    @drupha We're sorry the Hero's Journey didn't work for you, and your feedback is noted. I think a bag like the one that @GrussGott posted a photo of might work better for you. The people weíve heard from who truly love the Heroís Journey see value in the compromises it makes to be both a front and backcountry bag, but those compromises certainly wonít work for everyone. And on that note: there are lots of bags in the world... if one of our bags isn't right for someone, thereís likely a bag out there made by someone else that is "the one".
    Thanks @darcy for always being so willing to accept customer feedback.

    I think even the harshest criticism here often comes from a place of love, like "this bag is 99% perfect but whyyyy is there this one feature missing?" We all care so much about the bags we carry and TB have honestly raised the bar for many of us, expectations-wise. And because TB listen to us and are always trying to improve sometimes our own little bugaboos are resolved (see: S25 internal frame, yay!). And sometimes they're not.

    Thanks for always engaging with us in the process and letting us feel heard.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cristina View Post
    I have just fallen down a Google rabbit hole trying to find that red pack, just out of curiosity (unsuccessfully!). Would you drop a hint?
    Ha, sure! That's a ULA Camino2 - although be warned those aren't Bihn-type bags but rather ultralights which, as you may know, are a whhooolllle different thing from the more urban Bihn bags. There are at least 20 of these craft ultra-light makers whose use similar materials to Bihn but for other purposes, usually specific to serious hiking / packing / trekking.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy View Post
    Our experience of this community is that it already is a place for that.
    ...a difference of styles ... tends to champion an individual’s personal opinion and experience as objective reality. I’m not sure about others, but for us, we’re often not sure what to make of that kind of feedback or criticism ...
    Thanks for the reply Darcy, but I have to admit I don't understand it ... other than you're saying there won't be a "constructive feedback goes here" sub-forum. Fair enough and obviously your call.

    Attempting to interpret the rest of your post ... of course we could have fun in the off-topic sub-forum debating if physics and metaphysics even allows for objective reality, but where we'd have to end up is each of our experiences must be our own objective reality.

    For example, you mentioned that "Our experience of this community is that it already is a place for [constructive feedback and criticism]" - that sounds like you're saying that's your objective reality ... and whether you are or not, it's going to be all of ours since this is your forum :)

    In any event, skipping past that point which I'm sure I missed, I don't think it's a difference of styles as much as this forum has a lack of cognitive diversity - and IMO that's not your responsibility - just my explanation of my experience in the forum.

    For example, I'm on many other product forums and the bulk of the posts are from people with problems and/or complaints ... which makes sense: if a product is working great, one isn't as inclined to seek out and post about that as is if something is unexpected. This forum is the exception to that in my experience as there are only very very occasionally posts like this versus the more everything-is-just-great posts. And, maybe Bihn is just that good for those willing to post, or maybe that's due to how the forum is run - I can't say.

    As for constructive feedback: please please please make an 18L-20L WF/Syapse type bag as it's the biggest hole in the line up. The use-case is someone with an A45 on their back who wants a 20L shoulder bag (for under the seat) that can also convert between a backpack or briefcase for solo duty. I feel like the stowaway was going in that direction and then didn't.
    Last edited by GrussGott; 12-25-2017 at 05:29 PM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by GrussGott View Post
    Ha, sure! That's a ULA Camino2 - although be warned those aren't Bihn-type bags but rather ultralights which, as you may know, are a whhooolllle different thing from the more urban Bihn bags. There are at least 20 of these craft ultra-light makers whose use similar materials to Bihn but for other purposes, usually specific to serious hiking / packing / trekking.
    Thanks! I only recently found other companies who use Dyneema X or whatever other names there are for it. I am not interested in the rival bags but I did find that some, like Mountain Laurel Designs, make pouches that would complement my Halcyon TB bags. MLD and ULA (thanks for that!) make Dyneema pouches that go on the shoulder strap of a backpack. I am always looking for little ways to add to my S25! (Though of course I would prefer matching TB black Halcyon pouches)

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