Main TOM BIHN website
 
emailus@tombihn.com

COMMUNITY FORUMS

Welcome! We're glad you are here. This is the place to ask for bag advice, help other people out, post reviews, and share photos and videos.

x

First, select your desired search engine:

  • Google Search
  • DuckDuckGo
  • Original Forum Search Engine

User Tag List

Results 1 to 5 of 5
  1. #1
    Forum Member Chicagoan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Share
    Chicago Suburbs, Illinois
    Posts
    84
    Mentioned
    15 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    The Icon, or “A Crossbody for Backpack Haters”







    Below are my initial impressions of the Icon, along with some pictures.

    The single biggest reason I bought this bag is because it’s NOT a backpack.

    My biggest complaint about Tom Bihn backpacks is breathability. Every single backpack I’ve taken hiking on a warm summer day has given me heat rash: the DLBP, L15, and even the S19 (which has a mesh-covered foam back panel).

    Why use a backpack even if it gives me heat rash? A couple reasons:

    1.) I need something large and deep enough to hold a waterbottle and sunscreen.

    2.) I have a bad back, and prefer the weight distribution created by supporting a load across two straps instead of one. Thinner straps, especially overloaded, can make a bag painful to carry.

    My preferred EDC is usually a crossbody bag.

    The first one I ever bought from Tom Bihn was a Side Kick. If I don’t need to carry as much, an Everyday Cubelet. If I need a little more organization, an HLT1 (or HLT2). The trouble is, none of these crossbody bags is large enough to hold a standard size water bottle. Now, why not a Cafe Bag? Or a Maker’s Bag? Because I prefer the security of a zipper over a flap, and both the aforementioned bags were too large - I literally was able to pack an entire business trip into the Maker’s Bag one time, and after after emptying most the bag had to carry it around the rest of the trip. So I was frustrated and found myself in a Goldilocks position. Nothing felt “just right.”

    The easiest solution to breathability would be to carry a crossbody bag instead, but I couldn’t find one just big enough without being too big, that also carried comfortably when packed full. It frustrated the hell out of me.

    Then the Icon came along.

    Bigger than a Side Kick. Smaller than a Maker’s Bag. The pockets closed with zippers, not flaps. And an actual, full-width shoulder pad. Amazing!

    I didn’t buy it.

    Then they started making the Icon in Coyote...well, dammit.

    I bought it.

    My typical, most minimal EDC is an Everyday Cubelet. Keys get clipped inside the front pocket. Inside the interior pocket is a Mini Halcyon OP (I use this as my wallet) and a full-size 4-color BIC Pen. The largest part of the main compartment holds a digital camera [inside a soft case], travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer, V1 face mask, pocket comb, and an Apple lightning cord and charger. That’s it. It cannot fit a waterbottle or sunscreen, much less both.

    However, if I size up to a Side Kick, or an HLT2, there’s no good way to carry a water bottle or sunscreen without leaving the bag open and having it stick out the top. Not ideal if the bag tips, or it starts to rain. Can it fit a waterbottle or sunscreen? Yes. Does it carry them securely? No. I don’t carry liquids in bags unless I can carry them upright.

    The Icon is deep enough to fit both items.

    I had a little spare time this weekend to take the bag out of the box and test pack it with items similar to what I carry on a daily basis.

    One of the biggest little changes? The abbreviated shoulder pad.

    Now, Tom Bihn offers a few different styles of shoulder straps/pads.

    My quick opinion of them:

    1.) Simple Strap. Small, hard, and with bumps for grip. Removable strap. The pad is permanently threaded through the strap. While it’s compact and the best style to stash away if you seldom use a shoulder strap, it’s the least comfortable. And on the Cafe Bags, this style strap is permanently sewn onto the bag, leaving the user to either slide the pad down out of the way, or cut it off completely (potentially replacing it with another pad). Not my favorite.

    2.) Standard Strap. Large, floppy, and with a grippy rubber underside. Removable strap AND pad. The pad can slide off the strap if desired. This is definitely the more comfortable of the two, but the soft pad is still fairly rigid, harder to store when unused, and doesn’t comform as well to the shoulder. Better, but best suited for travel bags and not EDC.

    3.) Absolute Strap. Removable strap. Non-removable pad: straps are sewn directly onto both ends of the pad. A neoprene pad with a rubber underside conforms best over a shoulder, and sits securely without slipping. It is unquestionably the most comfortable. It is not a stock feature, has to be purchased separately, and I’ve always hated that the metal snaphooks really chew up plastic attachment points over time - if they made Absolute Straps with plastic hooks, I’d buy one in a heartbeat.

    4.) Plain Webbing Straps (1”, 5/8”, etc.). Removable, via Snaphooks. No shoulder pad. These pack away smallest but also offer the least support, since they have zero padding. My biggest complaint are the snaphook attachment points: on certain bags these can twist themselves off an O-ring and cause the bag to fall off the wearer (this has happened to me with the Side Effect and Everday Cubelet, and while I read about the phenomena prior to it actually happening, I didn’t believe it until it did).

    5.) Gatekeeper (“Side Kick”) Shoulder Straps. Detachable, via their namesake Gatekeeper Clips. No shoulder pad. Wider than the strap used on the Everyday Cubelet or Side Effect. Also works well to convert the HLT1 and HLT2 into crossbody bags. Gatekeepers are more time-consuming and require more muscle power to remove than snaphooks, but are the most secure.

    Great news!

    Now that you’ve learned about all those different styles of shoulder strap, I’m going to tell you the Icon doesn’t use any of those.

    The shoulder strap used on the Icon is unique to the bag.

    One end of the strap is permanently sewn to the bag. The other is not. The loose end (excess) is threaded through a locking buckle, and tucked into a built-in pocket they called the “rabbit hole.” After shortening the length of the shoulder strap, you can tuck the excess into that pocket. The adjustment is made with a cam-style buckle and not a slide. Every other style of shoulder strap requires you to feed and retighten the excess through slide buckles, which is slower and tends to slip over time. The only downside to a clamping buckle is that it doesn’t close automatically. If you forget to clamp it back down, the strap can slip through the buckle and cause your bag to fall to the ground.

    The Icon takes the Standard Strap’s pad (The more comfortable of the two) and makes it about half as big. The pad can also can be removed, unlike the pad on the Cafe Bag (which has to be cut off or slid off the shoulder while still attached).



    Another great feature? Not 1, but 2 outside front pockets. And, in typical Tom Bihn fashion, they open on an arc (think of it as a diagonal opening taking the scenic route), which not only allows larger items to fit inside more easily, but allows you to store shorter items on one side and taller items on another - you don’t have to dig as deep to locate some of your things.

    The lower front pocket I’ve used to hold my “wallet” Mini OP, keys, and face mask.



    The upper front pocket (also the main compartment) fits everything else.

    Inside are 2 pockets stitched to the front side, and 2 pockets against the left inside corner for pens.

    One of the pen pockets is a little wider than a typical pen if you wanted to store a different item in that same slot. I am glad they decided to create some internal organization - I always hated the fact the DLBC didn’t have pen loops and I either had to buy a pencil-sized OP or try and wedge them off to the side of other items in one of the 2 pockets. Invariably, the pens would wiggle their way to the bottom of the pocket.

    There’s a ton of room in the main compartment. It can easily fit anything I would want to take along on a day hike. You could probably even stuff a compressible down jacket inside if you wanted, or a packed lunch.

    Now, the opening to the main compartment is NOT on the very top of the bag. It is on the front side, close to the top. Why put it on the front and not the top? The front and back panels of this bag are separated by a gusset at the bottom, but pinch together at the top. The strap attaches to the bag in such a way that it curves the bag around your body, so a zipper along the top edge would curve around your body in the same way and the outside edge of the zipper would compress against the inner, keeping the bag shut. Having an opening you can pull away from your body makes for easier access.





    The back side pocket is probably the feature I am most confused by and haven’t yet figured out how to use best. I own an iPad Mini, and it fits perfectly, but it creates a hard back panel that knocks against my hip.

    It would also be an ideal pocket for carrying a paperback novel if you wanted to store it flat and isolated away from other items.

    To make the case for using this as a day hiking bag, you could also use the outside back pocket for a map, beanie, gloves, or even a spare rain shell. This would also provide some additional padding on the side which comes in contact with the wearer. It’s probably a good spot to store snacks. Well, flat snacks, or snacks you don’t mind making flat.





    Again, this is as much as I’ve learned from a test pack inside my apartment on the same day this came in the mail, but I will try and update this thread with how my opinion of the bag may change with time and use.

    What else have I learned?

    Our cats love a Tom Bihn delivery as much as I do:






    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Chicagoan; 08-22-2020 at 05:56 PM.
    Follow me on Instagram!

    @outside_chicago

    @wright_in_the_midwest

  2. #2
    Volunteer Moderator
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Share
    SF Bay area
    Posts
    2,175
    Mentioned
    107 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Great review & use case study!

    As an FYI, it still has metal clips, but there's a non-TB, mini version of the Absolute strap that many of us have bought & used - I have a couple of them

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0...?ie=UTF8&psc=1
    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...

  3. #3
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Share
    Boise, Idaho
    Posts
    102
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I've carried 10-15 kilos of camera and video equipment over one shoulder for decades. The best thing I did for my back was acquire backpack style professional camera bags.

  4. #4
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Share
    Virginia
    Posts
    914
    Mentioned
    5 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    @Chicagoan , great post! I have been contemplating the Icon for some time. While I prefer backpacks, there are times when those just aren't appropriate. Your photos showing the inside of what you placed in the compartments are very helpful. Thank you. This past weekend, I used my Medium Cafe bag for the first times in ages, and while it worked great, I think I might appreciate the additional compartmentalization options of the Icon.
    "Do one thing every day that scares you." - Eleanor Roosevelt
    "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." -Ferris Bueller

  5. #5
    Forum Member Chicagoan's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Share
    Chicago Suburbs, Illinois
    Posts
    84
    Mentioned
    15 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    It pains me to return this bag, but I am sending it back because - as @Bogiesan suggested - the best support for someone with a bad back is always going to be 2 straps over 1. It was the last one available for sale in the Coyote fabric at the time of purchase, so if anyone was interested in that color, there will be at least 1 returned to inventory in the next couple weeks.

    What else did I discover before making the decision to return the bag? The curved pockets are more difficult than diagonal pockets to open and close (this is felt most trying to open the front lower pocket single handedly). This would be most easily solved by simplifying the path of the zipper to a diagonal, straight line instead of a curved one, but it would change the visual appearance of the bag. The diagonal zipper still accomplishes a larger opening (compared to a zipper running in a horizontal line) and shallow/deep areas while making it easier to open/close with one hand. I own and love the curved zippers on my L15 and S19 backpacks, but curved zippers don’t seem to translate as well to the flat face of a crossbody design. Given the front lower pocket corresponds to the place I store my wallet and keys (the 2 items I need to access most often), it ultimately became a deal breaker along with the fact my back can't really handle a fully-loaded crossbody bag.

    As stylish as the bag looks made from Coyote fabric, and as convenient as it is to carry a crossbody bag as my EDC, my back simply can't support several pounds on one shoulder for the length of time it would take for a day hike. Typically I try to get by only using an Everyday Cubelet as my EDC, and if I need to carry any more than that, I size up to a Luminary 15. There is a happy ending to this story, though, as the latest batch of Luminary 15 backpacks included some made from Coyote 525.
    Follow me on Instagram!

    @outside_chicago

    @wright_in_the_midwest

Tags for this Thread

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •