Review: Tom Bihn Brain Bag

As a WIRED product reviewer, I am surrounded by at the least a dozen backpacks at any given time. Most of them are astonishingly beautiful( to someone who likes containers, anyway ), made from upcycled materials in eye-catching colors, or with Japanese-inspired architectural lines, or studded with gleaming buckles that parajumpers use on their harnesses.

But when I had to go to two trade displays in two weeks–events that require travel, a lot of walking, and working on your feet–the suitcase that I reached for was the Tom Bihn Brain Bag.

The Brain Bag isn’t the fairest of them all. In fact, my husband says that when I put it on, I look like a fourth-grader taking her Trapper Keepers to her first day of school. But this suitcase has everything you &# x27 ;d want out of a backpack–it’s capacious, has a lot of pockets, and can expand or compress as needed. Sometimes, style isn &# x27; t so important, and the Brain Bag surely puts utility first.

Born In The U.S.A.

Tom Bihn has been inducing suitcases since 1972, tweaking each constantly to stimulate them as durable, easy to use, and comfy as possible. The suitcases are all manufactured entirely in the United States so that Tom can keep an eye on the manufacturing process, and from the highest-quality materials. The Brain Bag is one of the company &# x27; s classic pouches. It &# x27; s made from 525 -dernier ballistic nylon to reduce weight, with abrasion-resistant 1050 -dernier ballistic nylon on the bottom.

You won &# x27; t find any raw edges or unreinforced load-bearing seam here. As befits a purse designed in rainy Seattle, it has flaps to cover the zippers, treated with environmentally-friendly DWR, and with a urethane-coated interior. The only way this backpack should coming apart is if you stuff it in a litter compactor. And even if it did get snagged and torn, Tom Bihn has a lifetime guarantee.

The Brain Bag started as Bihn &# x27; s take on his father &# x27; s knapsack. Bihn Senior was a pilot for Pan Am and needed to carry a bunch of maps and charts to and from work. The suitcase has a 36 -liter capacity, as much as a backpack that I would take camping for three or four days! It &# x27; s divided into two main compartments. For travel and my daily commute, I pack my work items in one compartment and personal items, like my breast pump, toiletries, and lunch, in the other.

Organizing your items is a highly personal process that can take years, and lots of dolla bills. But even if you’re remain convinced that your system is the best for you are the only one who, you have to admit that Tom Bihn &# x27; s accessories are top-notch. In the back main compartment, I use the Freudian slip to coordinate my pens, steno pads, planners, Kindle, battery banks, charging cables, business card, and pamphlets( twelve organizational pockets lets you store a lot of things ).

I maintained my MacBook in the 13 -inch Vertical Cache. The laptop lawsuit hooks into Tom Bihn’s rail system, two pieces of nylon webbing that run down the back of the bag &# x27; s main compartment. If you have to take your laptop out at security, you can slide the laptop out without detaching it from your bag.

Tom Bihn is also famous for peppering his purses with o-rings. These are tiny, O-shaped rings( duh) that are stitched into the top of every compartment, and they seem silly, until you actually use them. I relied on two O-rings in the main compartment keep clip pockets in place, one for my travel documents and one for receipts, so it would be easy to expense overpriced smoothies once I got home.

The small pocket at the front comes with a key strap, where I hooked my keys while traveling. Commonly I keep my keys in a small pouch with other personal items. But this one detail instantly stimulated that habit seem like too much work( I detest keys anyway, but that &# x27; s another story wholly ).

Two vertical front pockets are large enough to store multiple thermoses of coffee or water, and the purse also has a mesh front pocket. It has two lash straps on the front for tying down a jacket and they should also fit a yoga mat. A snap hook on the front seems perfect for a pair of climbing shoes.

You can stuff the purse until it &# x27; s as big as a home, and you &# x27; re limited only by whether or not your back will collapse from the weight. It won &# x27; t be the suitcase &# x27; s flaw. The shoulder straps are made from plush, closed-cell foam. It also has a removable waist belt and sternum strap to distribute some off that heft. Even the grab manage is thickly padded and easy to grab.

Take A Load Off

Of course, everything in life comes with a tradeoff. The price that you pay with Tom Bihn is in weight. All that durable textile, luxurious padding, extra straps, and pockets weigh in at almost three pounds. That &# x27; s before “youre starting” adding accessories like the Freudian slip, which weighs 10 ounces, and the Vertical Cache, which weighs five.

Tom Bihn listings all the specs for every single item, so you can determine exactly how much organization you can stand to lug around.

The bag is as endlessly mutable as X-Men villainess Mystique. Or perhaps this is the Mary Poppins of bags–practically perfect in every way. No matter where I go or what I’m doing, the bag compresses down or expands to suit my needs.

Function Over Form

The Brain Bag isn &# x27; t cool or flashy. It &# x27; s not made of space-age materials, and it doesn &# x27; t have the elegant, stripped-down profile of a Roman emperor. In fact, if your friends saw this bag sitting next to your desk, day in day out, with so many more beautiful bags to choose from, they might sniff sadly and walk on by.

But that &# x27; s okay. If you buy this bag, you &# x27; ll have it for the rest of your life and it will do exactly what you need it to do. If you, reader, were my friend and needed a travel bag, and I knew you cared more about function than fashion, I would tell you to buy this one. I can &# x27; t speak any more highly of it than that.

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