i have a new bag, are you surprised?

Warning: Wordy and semi-photo heavy post ahead!

First some background beyond the fact that I have a lot of bags, and if you call it a p—— I will hit you with it. I have always disliked that word and refuse to have one. What I carry is and will always be a Bag.

When the swift bag was just a glimmer (aka a design your dream bag contest) in Knitty in 2005, I learned about a Seattle company called Tom Bihn. I filed this away for future reference.

Returning to the present, with a side journey into the past few weeks:

It should surprise no one that I have a new bag. The previous bag is really nice and still works really well in many situations, but is a half inch too narrow for when I need to add my netbook to the mix. Items would be placed on top of other items and the only way to get anything out would be to unpack everything.

Not very convenient when I’m on the train.

Nor very efficient.

In an attempt to find an in-house solution (I probably have a larger selection than many shops) I pulled out my Timbuk2 Tote. I love road trips with this bag and it’s older, bigger sister, but it really did not suit my needs while running around Manhattan the other day– I popped the zipper after rearranging so as NOT to strain it. Sure, I could probably go up a size, but I like Tetris, and I like my bag to be small, compact, and easy to handle. Something that doesn’t start off weighing 1.5 pounds is a plus too. Technology has lightened over the years, but the grams and ounces add up when walking 3+ miles.

Something had to change. The tablet of my dreams does not yet exist, though legal jailbreaking does make the lone current offering more tempting. In any case, for now, akepa must travel when I need him to. The Sony Touch (which probably should be named at this point) is working better for me and is helping lighten things further. The laptop I use at the office can handle SD cards so I can transfer files at mid-day if necessary without futzing with cables. It’s not perfect, but it’s helped.

I went looking through the usual shops once again. Nothing appealed to me. Then somewhere out of the cobwebs in the back of my mind said “check out Tom Bihn”. So I did.

I fell hard for a brand new product. The Co-Pilot.
new Tom Bihn Co-Pilot.

Geared as a carry-on, what appealed to me the most (this was during the first heat wave of 2010) was the center pocket for a water bottle/umbrella. Swoon! It appeared to be just big enough to hold a file folder (my ideal size) and there were pockets that could hold large moleskines and just ways to compartmentalize all my stuff.

But to spend over $100 on a bag? I don’t think I’d ever spent more than $50. Yes, even given that I’ve owned a few pricey bags including two Tumi’s. I find great clearance sales and often rock the thrift store. I don’t care if it was last seasons or last years. It’s a BAG. I just want it to hold my stuff, not look too hideous, and be ready to live with me, not against me.

I hesitated. I read reviews and watched a video. I pondered on facebook. I asked a question on their forum. I worried this bag would look very touristy. That it would be too small, or too big. That I was looking for a problem that didn’t exist just because it had been a few months since my last bag purchase.

I tried hard to live with what I have. I really do have a lot of bags.

While on a site visit to a client, my bag exploded open spilling its contents across their floor. That sold me that I needed to do something different.

I purchased the bag the next day.

I went with the black ballistic nylon over the lighter weight dyneema (think tent/windbreaker fabric) because let’s face it, the streets of NYC are not kind and gentle. Any extra protection I can gain is appreciated, even if it costs a few grams. The weight difference wasn’t that drastic so I ran with it.

I also, for $20, upgraded to the “absolute strap”. As I’m 5’1″ and have narrow shoulders, straps do NOT want to stay put. I knew I’d need all the help I could get, weirdness of being overkill for a bag this small in size would not fly by me. At worst I knew I could use the strap on other bags. Years of carrying a bassoon around with a terrible strap (and extreme calluses on my fingers) taught me that a good strap is worth it.

While placing the order, I added in a mini clear fronted pouch. I like to keep my library card bar code and monthly rail pass easily accessible without having to open things, so it looked useful. I was curious what it was like and at that low cost, it made sense to try.

Then I waited.

They were back ordered for a week. I survived.

Then it shipped, last week.

UPS ground takes FIVE days (aka a week because there is no weekend delivery) from Seattle to the North East. Speedier shipping isn’t that much more and I do very much regret not springing for it.

Tuesday was another day of testing my ability to wait for things. I was constantly refreshing the delivery status, “out for delivery” is the meanest phrase to see, even if you know the approximate time of the UPS truck. It wasn’t waiting for me when I got home, so I waited very impatiently for the afternoon delivery. My basement office means that it often appears that no one is home. The nice UPS guy didn’t even try to ring the bell, it was just left on the doorstep. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that I retrieved it within three to five minutes of delivery. ;)

Upon opening the box I was surprised at how small the bag was.

new Tom Bihn Co-Pilot.

I put it together (added the strap) and filled it up with what I carried that day. I was surprised at how much room I still had and when I put it on my shoulder, how light it was. And how it didn’t look at all like a touristy bag. Or a computer bag. Or really anything other than a very efficient and well built tool that I could potentially use.

new Tom Bihn Co-Pilot.

I am impressed with everything. The pockets hold what I need them to, there are d-rings in the front, and it shipped with a key strap. I need to rethink my keys (there are 3 rings and the car keys are just absurd, especially since I don’t drive) but it’s nice to finally have my office keys on a strap that I can find early in the morning. My berry is spoiled by a fleece pouch. My pens enjoy their neat home. The ruler doesn’t know what to make of its new abode, it’s used to being on the very bottom. My moleskine planner, writersbloc log books, and the sony LOVE not having to compete with akepa for space. I’m happy that if a post-it is on the cover of any of the books chances are when I next take it out, it’ll still be there because there wasn’t a competition for (something) going on while I put them all together.

new Tom Bihn Co-Pilot.

new Tom Bihn Co-Pilot. new Tom Bihn Co-Pilot.

I’ve now used it for one day, an atypical day where I did more running around than normal. So probably a good day to have to see how the bag works for me.

What are my first impressions?

It looks pretty much how it did in those staged photos above. It held all this stuff and I told E on the train home that I’m now petrified I lost something since it is so much lighter than my bag was the day before! For me this is amazing. Normally by the time I’m on the train home at night (or even in the early afternoon) I’m a mess of index cards, post-it notes, receipts, and my headphones are twisted around everything.

I am still in love. It’s light and very well balanced, I can find what I need when I need it, and can sit in the park between meetings and get things done without turning it into a production and piles of stuff on display for strangers to view in person (‘cuz flickr is for only my bestest of internet buddies </sarcasm>). Actually, I pulled akepa out and drafted this post while I was waiting on Wednesday. The bag shared a chair with me and provided easy access to anything I needed. Later, on the train, it sat quietly on my lap while I knitted. When we were halfway to our stop, I commented to E that for the first time in a while my legs didn’t hurt on the train. The bag sat curled up like Shadow napping. With all my other bags I had to lift with my toes to keep the bag semi balanced and from slipping to the floor.

Oh, right, that nifty water bottle pouch I was enamoured with? Why should Ms Dehydrated carry water when her knitting fits perfectly inside? I haven’t tried a spindle yet, but I suspect the fit will be perfect.

new Tom Bihn Co-Pilot.

The question remains, how long will this love affair last? I hope for many years to come. I’m already plotting my next Tom Bihn acquisition (in steel please) er, acquisitions (kiwi).

Will this co-pilot and I have a perfect relationship? No. Honestly, there is one thing that after 24 hours I would change if I could, I would switch the arrangement in the front pockets. While I’m definitely a paper & pen(cil) girl, I do like easy quick access to my berry. In this current design, the nice fleece pocket for my much abused berry, because I’m right handed and carry the bag on my right shoulder, ends up in back. I’m turning this into a positive development and hoping that it’ll help me break my terrible habit of checking it every 2 minutes, mostly to ascertain the time.. but then I’ll probably have to buy a watch and wear it.

What are the other millions of bags I own doing? Enjoying the AC and keeping the basement expedit unit company and while available for travel. Yes, even the one with the busted zipper.

Update: On July 28, 2011 I wrote One Year Together and on May 1, 2012 A Tale of Two Swifts

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