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  1. #1
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    Review of the new Luminary 15

    First things firstÖ thanks very much to the Tom Bihn crew for gifting me with this beautiful bag to review. I love that they used the weather delay as an opportunity to experiment with a community drawing and I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to try the bag out early and share my thoughts.

    In thinking about what to write, it occurred to me that when I read reviews, itís very helpful to hear how the new bag compares with the bag(s) that Iím already familiar with. In this instance, the obvious comparison is to the old style Luminary. My old Luminary is Deep Blue and the Luminary 15 is Nebulous Gray in the photos.

    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6970-jpg

    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6976-jpg

    I originally purchased a Luminary as an EDC for when I am traveling abroad. When I am at home, I generally only carry a very small purse (currently a Travel Cubelet), but I find that when I am relying on public transportation and my feet to get around, I tend to carry more ďjust in caseĒ items with me. A full size backpack feels like overkill, but a one shoulder bag starts feeling heavy quickly. My old style Luminary is just the right size for a water bottle, snacks, shopping bags, and light rain gear and the vertical pocket feels secure enough that I occasionally use it as a spot for documentation or extra cash that I donít want in my pockets. Itís lightweight and low profile with comfortable straps and seems to disappear on my back when Iím wearing it. Was it perfect? No, but the changes on my wishlist were minor. Like many, Iíd have liked the side pockets to be a little bigger and I would have liked an o-ring tucked up in the top of that vertical pocket, but overall this made a great daily pack for me when traveling.

    After I got home, though, I found myself reaching for my Luminary less often. As I said, at home I generally just carry a small purse. The exception is when I know Iím going to be sitting somewhere and waiting; then I want a bag that will carry a water bottle, snacks, a small knitting project, hat and mittens, and my Travel Cubelet, which is something I generally donít carry in my backpack when traveling. The volume of what Iím carrying isnít that different, but the old style Luminary wasnít working for me because my Travel Cubelet doesnít slide in nicely beside the water bottle sleeve. I can get it in there, but itís a tight squeeze and makes it inconvenient to retrieve my wallet and keysÖ if only I had a couple extra inches. So hereís what Iím looking for in the Luminary 15:

    Are the straps still comfortable and does it still disappear on my back?
    Have the changes to the side pockets enhanced their usability? Ideally, Iíd like them to fit my phone, keys or a compact shopping bag without having to squeeze them in.
    Is there enough space to slide my purse down beside my water bottle, even when the sleeve is zipped in place?
    Is there an o-ring in the vertical pocket?
    How functional is the new pocket inside the main compartment and does it pull down the front of the bag at all?

    First impressionsÖ when I pulled this bag out of the box, two things struck me. First, this is a big bag. I knew it would be larger than the original, that was after all the point, but somehow I was still expecting a small bag. This bag immediately struck me as a full size backpack. In fact, it is about the same width as my S19 and a tiny bit taller, though with a slimmer profile. This isnít necessarily a bad thing, it just came as a bit of a surprise to me.

    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6973-jpg
    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6975-jpg

    And second, I had been second guessing myself about the interior color. Was island going to seem too bright? When I zipped it open, I immediately felt that TB had gotten it just right. Itís a beautiful color combination, classy and bright enough to make it easy to find things, but not so bright that it seems gaudy.

    So how does it manage my gear? I decided to start by packing it as I would for time waiting somewhere as that is how I am most likely to use it when Iím at home. Just that morning, Iíd taken my husband for a medical appointment with two kids in tow. The bag that went along had a water bottle, Clif bars for the kids in case the appointment ran long, my Travel Cubelet, a small yarn stuff sack with a sock project in it, and a little pouch with scissors and notions, so thatís what I put in the Luminary 15 with plenty of room to spare. My Travel Cubelet slides down easily beside the water bottle sleeve and I can unzip the top and reach in for keys or wallet easily. Itís a bigger bag than I need to carry this load, but the added width made it very functional for me. So far so good. The pictures show the same load in both my old Luminary (Deep Blue) and in the Luminary 15 (Nebulous Gray).

    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6979-jpg
    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6978-jpg

    Next I loaded both bags with another common carry for meÖ water bottle, snack, binoculars, a bird book and my Travel Cubelet. It handled this equally as well with room to spare for hat, gloves, a discarded layer of clothing, sunscreen or whatever little items I want in the field, but out of my way. This is a good size for a field bag for me as I tend to end up with extra layers to stash as the day warms up or wanting to carry along a sandwich and an apple. This bag has plenty of room to add those things in.

    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6982-jpg
    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6981-jpg
    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6980-jpg

    Then I thought, what if I really load it up like I would if I was taking a plane flight with kidsÖ a book, knitting project, Travel Cubelet, iPad, rainpants, water bottle, plenty of apples and nutrition bars to keep to keep the grumpies away, my binoculars because I would never put them in a checked bag, and a 3D Organizer Cube that carries an assortment of OTC medications, band-aids, etc.

    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6988-jpg

    I loaded it up and then I popped it on my back and carried it around the house for a while. It definitely didnít disappear on my back as my old Luminary does, but then my old Luminary wouldnít carry this load, so thatís not a fair comparison. I moved the same items to my Synapse 19 and compared how it felt. The S19 felt better on my shoulders (the straps laid flatter) and against my back (I think because the iPad could go in the elastic pocket and didnít make the back of the pack quite so flat), but the Luminary 15 wasnít bad and packing a bag is always a learning curve for me. I imagine that after playing with this bag a bit, it will get easier to optimize its comfort and I think itís likely that the straps will relax a bit as they break in and lay flatter. I do feel like, for me, at 5í5Ē, this bag might be a little longer in the back than I prefer, but this is just my first impression and Iím not ready to write it off until Iíve had a chance to thoroughly play with the adjustments. Surprisingly, the other difference that I noticed was that it was easier to fit everything into the Luminary 15 Ė less fiddling to get things into the right spot and easier to zip shut. This surprised me because it has significantly less volume, about 20%, but it also has less compartmentalization, which for me made it easier to pack. This is a real selling point for me on a day to day basis. Much as I love ďeverything in its place,Ē I can see this bag getting used more often just because Iím in a hurry and itís easy.

    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6984-jpg

    A couple other things that I noticedÖ

    I really liked the larger vertical pocket. While my iPad fits into that pocket in my old Luminary, I do have to slide it in at an angle and then turn it upright to get it in. It was really noticeable to me how much easier it was to slide it in the Luminary 15 pocket. So much so, that I took it out and tried it in the old Luminary just to be sure that I wasnít imagining things. As an added bonus, this pocket is now big enough that I can easily slide in a stack of 8.5x11Ē paper and keep it flat.

    The side pockets are definitely roomier. I could fit my phone and keys in the side pockets on the old Luminary, but didnít because they didnít seem big enough. Itís not that things didnít fit, more like a feeling that it was such a close fit that if I didnít zip it shut properly, Iíd lose something for sure. I donít feel that way about the side pockets on the Luminary 15. I can definitely see them getting used for little stuff that I donít want to dig for; the larger pocket size is a big improvement.

    The asymmetry of the pockets is neither a pro nor a con for me. I donít think itís noticeable unless you know to look for it and even then, it looks just fine; but I donít see it enhancing the functionality (or limiting it for that matter). While the asymmetrical zippers give one side about an extra inch and a half of clearance to get something into the pocket, the pockets themselves appear to be identical in size. Perhaps the extra clearance would allow some almost too big items to slide in.

    I also noticed that the finish between the segments of the long zipper is much improved. On the old Luminary, the break between the main zipper and the side pocket zippers is just a thread bar tack. Mine is frayed from the zipper slide bumping up against it. On the Luminary 15, there is a fabric piece covering this area, which I expect will keep it looking nice longer.

    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6977-jpg
    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6972-jpg

    Additionally, perhaps because of its narrower profile, this bag stands up nicely. My Synapse has a tendency to tip over if I donít set it down intentionally; with the bottom of the bag loaded, the Luminary 15 seems to stand upright by default.

    So the verdict from my initial impressions is this:

    Are the straps still comfortable and does it still disappear on my back? This bag doesnít seem to fit me quite as well as the older Luminary or the S19, but I feel like that may be at least partly because I havenít learned where itís sweet spot is yet. And, the tradeoff in ease of packing is likely to make it a common bag choice for me.

    Have the changes to the side pockets enhanced their usability? Yes! The larger pockets seem like they are going to be a good fit for small items that I donít want to hunt for. And as an added bonus, the o-rings in these pockets are easier to get to than they were in the old design.

    Is there enough space to slide my purse down beside my water bottle, even when the sleeve is zipped in place? Yes, the Travel Cubelet fits well, as does the Side Effect. A Side Kick wonít fit down beside with the water bottle sleeve zipped in place, but with it unzipped it fits in nicely behind the water bottle with enough room to make it easy to access the contents.

    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6983-jpg
    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6985-jpg
    Review of the new Luminary 15-img_6986-jpg

    Is there an o-ring in the vertical pocket? Alas no, but a girl can dream.

    How functional is the new pocket inside the main compartment and does it pull down the front flap at all? I havenít quite figured out what Iíll use this pocket for. Perhaps keys or little things like lip balm, gum, and a lens cloth. Regardless, I did play with putting a variety of things in it to see if it made the front droop and even with my phone in it, the front stood up just fine.

    In short, this is another nice bag from Tom Bihn. For me, it functions more like a full sized backpack and I donít see it taking the place of my smaller Luminary as a light, two shoulder everyday bag when I am traveling. However, I do see it getting a lot of use as a lessons/appointment bag that I can load in a hurry and easily find things in, which is a niche that I hadnít satisfactorily filled with another bag.

  2. #2
    Volunteer Moderator aedifica's Avatar
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    I enjoyed your review! I liked how you started out with questions and then answered the questions.

    It looks like several of us chose the Nebulous Grey/Island combo. It's very nice!

  3. #3
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    Really great and detailed review, thank you!! I sold my luminary 12 because it was too small for day to day use, since I have a big wallet and like to carry my planner, water bottle, sweater, and stuff. I am really excited for the Luminary 15!! Pretty sure I'll get the aubergine.

    I'm really surprised that the Luminary 15 is so close in size to the S19. I was just about to order the S19 to use for work, but I'm wondering if the Luminary 15 would suffice. I think I'll end up ordering both to try haha. I'm considering the nebulous gray for the S19 since it seems professional and beautiful.

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

  4. #4
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    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by aedifica View Post
    It looks like several of us chose the Nebulous Grey/Island combo. It's very nice!
    Yes, I noticed that too. The grays and blues, both Island and Dawn seem to have been in demand.

  5. #5
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    Glad it was helpful. I too was surprised how close they were in size. I think whether it will all fit will depend on the size of your wallet, planner, etc., but it seems likely that it will. I hope you'll post your comparison after you've tested the L15 and S19 to see how they handle your load as I'm curious if others will find it magically holds more than expected as I did.

  6. #6
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    Yes! For sure I'll post a review. I'm an adjunct professor teaching on four different campuses so I basically have to lug around a mobile office. That's why I wanted the S19. But if since the L15 will also hold a 13" laptop... Fingers crossed!

    Sent from my SM-G960U using Tapatalk

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the in-depth review!

    I'm 5'2", and I love my Original Luminary. Do you think this bag will be too tall for me? I use a Smart Alec as my Travel Bag, but this looks like an excellent I'll-Be-Out-All-Day-And-Want-To-Bring-Extra-Stuff bag. I also love to carry a Travel Cubelet as my EDC, but this could be great for clipping that in and still having nice, organized room for the rest of my Stuff.

    I'm having a really hard time resisting the preorder, especially after seeing your review!

    Cheers,
    Amanda

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ovis Obscura View Post
    I'm 5'2", and I love my Original Luminary. Do you think this bag will be too tall for me? I use a Smart Alec as my Travel Bag, but this looks like an excellent I'll-Be-Out-All-Day-And-Want-To-Bring-Extra-Stuff bag. I also love to carry a Travel Cubelet as my EDC, but this could be great for clipping that in and still having nice, organized room for the rest of my Stuff.
    I'm 5' 4" and have the original L12, the new L15, an S19, and a SA. I think if the SA fits you well, the L15 will be fine

    The lengths of the packs:
    L12 15"
    L15 16.5"
    S19 16"
    SA 18.5"

    HTH
    I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...

  9. #9
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    thank you so much for this detailed review! i also have an original luminary and a synapse 19, so i really appreciated the comparisons!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ovis Obscura View Post
    Thanks for the in-depth review!

    I'm 5'2", and I love my Original Luminary. Do you think this bag will be too tall for me? I use a Smart Alec as my Travel Bag, but this looks like an excellent I'll-Be-Out-All-Day-And-Want-To-Bring-Extra-Stuff bag. I also love to carry a Travel Cubelet as my EDC, but this could be great for clipping that in and still having nice, organized room for the rest of my Stuff.

    I'm having a really hard time resisting the preorder, especially after seeing your review!

    Cheers,
    Amanda
    Glad it was helpful.

    Regarding the height of the bag. I think that's a personal thing, which probably has to do with both torso length and personal preference. It does feel longish on me. It's not uncomfortable and I need to play with it a bit more before I decide how I feel about its length. For reference, I am 5'5" and when I wear it, the bottom of the bag hits right at the waistband of my trousers. I don't have a Smart Alec, so can't compare the feel of the two. I'll defer to G42 on that one, who seems to have experience with both.

  11. #11
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    I just wanted to update my review now that I’ve had a chance to experiment with the Luminary 15 under real life conditions. As I mentioned in my original review, I generally only carry a Travel Cubelet on a daily basis. I use a larger bag when I expect to sit somewhere and wait or when I know I’ll be carrying things for a while (i.e. when I’m out for the day on foot). Since this bag arrived, I’ve had a half dozen appointments where I expected a wait, as well as an evening concert and a couple of music lessons. I also took a week long trip to visit a friend in FL, which gave me ample opportunity to try out the L15 as a inflight personal item, general touring bag, and light pack for day hiking. Here are my impressions of the bag:

    As a waiting room bag

    The good:
    • The spaces on either side of the water bottle sleeve in the main compartment are perfectly sized for my Travel Cubelet on one side and a Cubelet and a small reusable shopping bag on the other, with my knitting tossed on top. The spaces are big enough that I can easily get what I want, including fishing stuff out of my Travel Cubelet, but snug enough that everything stays in place, including the still attached shoulder strap, which I just stuff down behind my TC. There is enough room to slide my knitting project out of the way to access the bottom level and the bag opens wide enough to knit right out of the bag without the yarn snagging in the zipper.
    • I am finding the vertical back pocket very convenient as well. While I don’t normally take a laptop or iPad with me when I’m just going to be waiting for a short period, it’s a great place to put my pocket calendar, my bullet journal with to do lists…, and I’m finding it useful as a place to put receipts or paperwork and keep them flat.
    • I also appreciate the now larger side zip pockets. I am finding the current size very usable. One size has a pack of tissues. The other has a key strap and I often stick my keys in there instead of looking for them in my purse later.
    • I am really liking the narrow profile of this bag. It gives it a grown up look instead of looking like I’ve repurposed my high school backpack. It has nothing to do with its usability, but I appreciate the aesthetic of it.

    The bad:
    • The extra strap ends are excessive and I find them dangling places that I’d rather they didn’t. This is an easy fix – they are rolled up and held in place with rubber bands now and will get black elastic keepers when I remember to pick up some black elastic.
    • The water bottle pocket is now slightly wider. While I normally carry a 1.5L bottle, I occasionally just grab the smaller water bottle that I use around the house. When I did so the other day, I found it laying across the bottom of the bag. I think the wider sleeve allows a smaller bottle to tilt sideways enough that it just slid out the bottom of the sleeve. Not a deal breaker, but not ideal.

    Other thoughts:
    • While this bag is working for a waiting room bag for me, I think personally my preference in this situation is for a wider and shorter bag like a shop bag. This is in no way a criticism of the bag, just a reflection on my personal preference. I think if I lived in an urban environment and could get from place to place walking or on public transport, I would find that I preferred this style of bag over a tote.
    • The one situation that arose that I did not use this bag for was the evening performance. We took the whole family and as we were getting ready to leave, the kids started handing me things. Sensing danger, I went to look for a bag to contain it all. In this instance, the Luminary 15 just felt like too much bag to take into the theater. It wasn’t a formal event, but it was a formal enough event that I didn’t feel comfortable with a regular backpack. Again, not a criticism of the bag, just a circumstance where it didn’t feel like the right bag for the situation. In this instance, I instead reached for my old Luminary, which handled the job well and somehow felt purse-like enough that I didn’t hesitate to carry it into the theater.

    As an inflight bag

    It held a remarkable amount of stuff on the plane.
    • A box worth of granola bars (6 bars, not the box) in one of the small side pockets.
    • The other side pocket had a pack of tissues, a buff, a small plastic box of knitting notions, my keys, a tin of solid lotion and a few miscellaneous hygiene items.
    • The main compartment held my binoculars, travel cubelet, a cubelet with first-aid type supplies, a Baggu bag, a small yarn stuff sack with a sock project, a refillable water bottle, a sandwich and an apple to eat on the plane, and swallowed my stuffable coat when I was on the warm end of the journey.
    • The vertical zip pocket held my kindle and a medium clear organizer pouch with a print out of my e-tickets, boarding pass, spare circular needles for magic looping the sock toe, and a small journal.
    • Earbuds and receipts in the tiny pocket at the top
    • With all this inside, it was full, but not over stuffed and in a pinch I could have squeezed in a few more items.

    Not surprisingly, the flight attendants didn’t give it a second glance as a personal item.
    • It fit under the seat in front of me with no problem. It fits nicely in the under-seat area with it’s flat back up against the side leaving plenty of room for my feet. It also fits flat on it’s back with room for a foot on each side. I think I prefer a tote for under the seat because there is less strap dangling around, but I had no problem tucking the straps out of the way.
    • With its low profile, it was easy to navigate the plane aisles with it on my back.

    For touring and day-hiking

    I spent quite a bit of time out and about with my friend, including several 3-5mi. day hikes, a parade, concert, fundraising event, paddling. I generally don’t carry a lot, but I do carry water, snacks, wallet, phone, first-aid Cubelet most places and like to have space for discarded layers. When day hiking or touring in natural areas, I also carry binoculars and a bird book. On rainy days, I added in a light weight raincoat and rainpants as well, which I folded and put in the vertical back pocket, which kept them out of my way when I was looking for other items. I found the L15 managed this load easily with room to spare and even when hiking, it was comfortable on my shoulders, though a little hot on my back. I did notice that the tiny pocket at the top tended to work it’s way open. I assume that I was brushing the zipper pull putting things in and out, but I found myself re-zipping it frequently, so I probably wouldn’t put anything that I wanted to be super secure in that pocket.

  12. #12
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    I just posted a quick and detailed review of the luminary 15 myself as well if anyone is interested.
    Quick https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pu867u379Kk
    Detailed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QsvXCb9x27A

  13. #13
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    This bag looks really appealing to me. I am currently using a Pilot for office carry and a Synapse 25 for when I need to carry stuff for a longer time (to prevent neck issues as messenger back usually tend to strain my neck too much). However, the Synapse 25 is most of the time overkill since it is fairly big and it is essentially half empty most of the time.

    However, my main concern with the Luminary 15 would be whether it fits a 15 inch MacBook (with cache) -- in the main compartment of course. Anyone knows whether this would work?
    Thanks!

  14. #14
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    I have a mid 2014 15" mbp I can try and fit tonight, but I dont know how that compares to yours.

  15. #15
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    thanks, I would be really curious to know before I order. I have a 2015er and a 2018er 15 inch model, the 2015er has the same dimensions as yours, I think. The difference is minimal though but can be very noticeable (e.g., only the 2018er fits into the pilot without squeezing). (I use the same cache for both laptops, which is the 2015er cache). If your 2014er fits relatively comfortable (such that it feels somewhat natural to slide it in there), then it would also be perfect for the 2018er.

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