E. Travels: The Tom Bihn Tri-Star

July 5th, 2011 § 38 comments

It’s been just about six years since my husband and I discovered Tom Bihn, a company making cleverly designed bags from US Ballistic nylon in Seattle, Washington. Since then, we’ve been devoted fans, especially of our carry-on Aeronaut bags.

But, as much as I love the maximal carry-on capacity of the Aeronaut, it’s a little bit too big for my two or three day conferences and research trips. So, I was thrilled when Tom Bihn offered to let me review their new(ish), slightly smaller carry-on bag, the Tri-Star. For short trips — particularly short trips when you need to hit the ground running off to a museum, archive, or auditorium — this bag is a great blend of briefcase and suitcase, small enough to fit easily in a locker but spacious enough to accomodate more than enough clothes and whatnot for a few days.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Take, for example, my recent research trip to New York City. I needed to go directly from the airport to a museum archive. This meant bringing my luggage with me on a bus, train, and a brief walk to a building with not-generously sized lockers. Besides clothes and toiletries, I also needed to bring my laptop, some reading material, note-taking material, and folders to house my piles (we hope!) of research findings.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

(Did I mention that these bags come in fun color combinations? I have grellow luggage! At last!)

The Tri-Star is basically made of three compartments that can be further sub-divided as necessary. The center compartment is the perfect size for my laptop and other nerdy supplies. Plus, there’s still a little bit of room for a snack in there, too.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

The back compartment has nifty hold-down straps for clothing. I folded and strapped down a pair of knit pants, a cotton button-down, a thin tunic, two skirts, a jersey dress, and a knit blazer. My big soft tote bag fit easily on top of all of that without straining the compartment zipper.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

The front compartment is the one that got my compartmentalized packing self all excited. You could easily fit multiple configurations of packing cubes in there…

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Or, you could choose to divide the compartment with the built-in zipper. Oh look, it’s the perfect place to stash shoes…

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

My remaining clothes (underwear, pajamas, camisoles, a skirt slip, and three knit tops) and toiletries all fit easily into another packing cube. Speaking of, Tom Bihn pretty much makes a little zippered pouch for anything you can imagine: jewelry, toothbrush, a chapter of your dissertation…the usual.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

The front of the Tri-Star has three tiered zippered pockets of varying depths. It’s the perfect place to put things that you need to access easily, like your passport, boarding passes, pens, earbuds, printed directions, phone, etc.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

And then, you could use the additional zippered pocket to tuck a few more sundry items or…you could use the nifty little snapping contraption to create the perfect little pouch for your water bottle or travel mug.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review

As with the Aeronaut, the Tri-Star has easy-to-grip handles and can also convert into a backpack. The very comfortable shoulder strap can be purchased separately as well. I find the backpack orientation to be the easiest way to travel with this bag when I’m boarding an aircraft or rushing to catch a bus or train. Once I’m at my destination, it’s easy to switch to a briefcase carry.

Are these the most aesthetically stylish bags on the market? No. But it’s incredibly well-made, sturdy, smart, and worth the initial output of cash. And I like that in a bag. Oh, and, for you international travelers, the Tri-Star meets carry-on requirements for Europe and Australia as well, since it’s smaller than the Aeronaut.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, partly because I really, truly love Tom Bihn bags and have been on a crusade to convert as many family members and friends to them as possible. But also…we’ll be offering a chance for you to WIN a Tri-Star in Tom Bihn’s newest color of custom U.S. 1050d ballistic nylon: Forest. The giveaway starts on Friday, so be sure to check back for an opportunity to snag your very own Tri-Star in Forest/Ultraviolet. Start dreaming about what perfect little trip you could take…

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§ 38 Responses to E. Travels: The Tom Bihn Tri-Star"

  1. abd says:

    Ooooh! Perfect timing! I was just looking for a travel bag for an upcoming research trip! Thanks for the tip.

  2. Joy says:

    I ordered my 1st Tom Bihn bag this weekend. I cannot wait for it to get here today! We moved 2500 miles away from our family this year & I’m looking forward to using the Aeronaut on my trips “home.” Since my kids are still small (2 & 3), I’m hoping to pack for all 3 of us in one bag for as long as possible. It helps that we’re going in July this year when it will be close to 100 degrees!

  3. pneuwarum says:

    The Tom Bihn bag I’ve hauled around the world (Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada) for the past five years could really use an update. :)

  4. Joy says:

    Love my Aeronaut–it needs a sibling.

  5. Catherine Thi says:

    No way! I’m so excited for the giveaway :)

    Psst: Your Canadian readers can still qualify, right?

  6. Sally says:

    Ooh, nice! I’m currently teaching in Lithuania for a month, and although I love my carryon bag (it was my mom’s back in the ’70s and is remarkably limitless for its actual size), I’d love to try out something with more sections and pockets. Will definitely check back on Friday!

  7. Rita says:

    Oh I just love this!! I just came back from a short research trip to Estonia over the weekend and used just one of my Cath Kidston handbags (http://www.asos.com/Cath-Kidston/Cath-Kidston-Zip-Up-Bag/Prod/pgeproduct.aspx?iid=1263027&r=2) but no space for laptop really. My dog chewed my laptop backpack and I am in urgent need for some replacement! I would just love one of these. It’s ideal for short EU trips. It’s so sad it would be really expensive to order one to the UK :(

  8. Audrey says:

    My husband loves Tom Bihn bags, and at the risk of revealing how lame we are, we love watching videos on cool bags and luggage. This post made MY compartmentalized packing self grow wide eyes….and then I read to the end and my heart skipped a beat when you announced a TOM BIHN GIVEAWAY. OMG.

    Audrey @ Putting Me Together

  9. Jen says:

    That would be the perfect carry-on for my trip to Albania!! I’m carrying mapping equipment over for an excavation, so that leaves one personal item to carry my laptop and a change of clothing in case my luggage goes astray…

  10. jen. says:

    I have this bag (in the same grellow combination) and I just looooove it. It is seriously the perfect size.

  11. penny says:

    wow, this carry-on is the mary poppins bag!!i love it!

  12. Kandace says:

    How could I not have heard of these bags?? I’ve made 5 trips in the last 4 months to conferences and to present papers and am SO tired of inefficient luggage! Must be the philosopher in me that longs for the Platonic ideal of a carry-on :) I’ve marked my calendar to enter the contest on Friday – kudos to you!

  13. Em says:

    How fabulous! I’m always traveling and would find this bag unbelievably efficient and convenient. I appreciated all of the pix you included in this post.

  14. Bruce says:

    Great find! Now I’m curious to see what else that have available. Thanks.

  15. nuri says:

    People just don’t understand my love of my medium Cafe bag and why it is my ONLY everyday purse. Just don’t get it. Right until I tell them I have used it every day for 3 years and it is still going strong.

  16. Rachel HB says:

    This bag looks amazing. I have done a lot of research travel (I’m a cultural anthropologist) and I’m always on the lookout for the perfect travel case. All of those zippered sections make me swoon!

  17. R says:

    Impressive, there is a LOT of stuff in there…

  18. LeRoy Archer says:

    This would be a great alternative to the Kifaru pack that I use to go to work with. 200 mile commute into the bush north of Edmonton, Alberta. 7 in, 7 out.

    Thanks for the great review!


  19. LaDonna says:

    seems like a great travel bag

  20. cc says:

    Totally loving this bag. I have to go to HongKong and I don’t want to bring a lot of stuff simply because I know that I’ll be shopping like crazy when I get there. This is just perfect. I can still buy another luggage…

  21. [...] speaking of travel, make sure to check back on Friday for our awesome Tom Bihn Tri-Sta bag giveaway! ~ [...]

  22. paisleyapron says:

    What a great bag. I know just the person I would gift this to. Thanks for such a nice giveaway.

  23. grace says:

    Wow, that really looks like the perfect short-trip bag. I am definitely bookmarking it in case I don’t win–seems like a worthwhile thing to buy!

  24. Lauren says:

    me me me! looking ahead to plenty of traveling and this little bag would be the perfect accompaniment.

  25. Peacock Princess says:

    Awesome! I love the many diffferent pockets this bag has!! :D

  26. Sara says:

    Nice, I’ve never heard of these but I suddenly need one. Haha

  27. Maureen says:

    I’m a big Tom Bihn fan. I’d love this green & purple tristar.

  28. Isotta Ricci Bitti says:

    This bag’s amazing!!! I’m about to go to Kosovo for a couple of months and this would be the perfect bag for short trips once in the region!


  29. [...] this week E. reviewed Tom Bihn’s Tri-Star carry-on bag. Now we’re giving YOU a chance to win your own little bag of organizational fantasticness, a [...]

  30. Angela says:

    Love this bag, would be great for my trip to DC.

  31. [...] and the money in your wallet decreasing, you might be looking for a cheaper way to travel. Recently Academichic tipped me off to a perfect weekender carry-on bag. Carry-on = no checked bags = more money in your [...]

  32. Lisa Graham says:

    I fell in love with this bag after reading a local news article – I bought a ‘grellow’ Tri-Star 12 months ago, and take it everywhere – it’s always half-packed, ready to head off on the new trip. The comfy backstraps make the back-pack option a real plus, navigating airport terminals. Also, it fits snugly under seat in front, on Qantas planes. Love it! Lisa G in Melbourne, Australia

  33. Elaine says:

    I ADORE my Tri-Star! I agree with everything you said… it IS possible to use it as a lone bag for a longer trip. Was in Panama for 11 days, conference in Panama City, then roaming the countryside. I had my Tri-Star, loaded with Brain Cell for the laptop, and all my clothes and toiletries, and my large Swift in Cork, which was hiding my Ristretto holding my iPad. I had a knitting project and other Tom Bihn pouches snapped into the Swift, as well as in the Tri-Star. Used the backpack straps to navigate the terminals and planes for connections, and actually managed to use the Ristretto with light strap as a combination iPad carrier and held my cell phone, divided wallet pouch and a few other necessities. I lived well and light. Cannot convert people to Bihn Bags fast enough!

  34. Chenners says:

    Thanks for the detailed review! It’s been so helpful as I was having the darnedest time choosing between the Steel/Solar and Indigo/Navy/Solar color combinations and your images helped. I love grellow!

  35. [...] Here are some additional shots of the bags with packing cubes in them: Tristar [...]

  36. Diane says:

    I need one! I recently bought the TB Zephyr and I am a convert for life. I was actually able to pack a skirt, sweater, and other necessities for an overnight business trip. My trips are usually 3-4 nights (in business attire). The Western Tri-star is next on my list, and I can hardly wait.

  37. [...] Washington. Since then, we’ve been devoted fans, especially of our carry-on Aeronaut bags.” Read the entire review at ACADEMIchic. See also: the [...]

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