Let’s think for a minute about what we want in a great travel bag. Sturdiness, of course, comes to mind. A dainty, pretty piece of luggage may look nice in the store, but will be useless as we drag it from place to place. For me, the best travel bags are small enough to be carry-on (those fees for checked luggage are so annoying), yet designed well enough to expand with my travel needs, look nice, and hold up under the vagaries of travel. In short, the best luggage for me are Tom Bihn travel bags.
Now, let’s be perfectly clear here: Tom Bihn is the official luggage of The Vacation Gals, and the company generously supplied my family with review travel bags. That being said, The Vacation Gals want everyone to have great travel experiences, and would never recommend destinations, types of travel, or gear we don’t value for ourselves. Tom Bihn travel bags are a case in point; I received my Tri-Star in August, but thoroughly tested it out on three separate trips before writing this review.
The Tri-Star is like the Western Flyer (which I also have), in that there are two sides that zip open, and straps to convert the bag easily into a backpack. The Tri-Star also has a third middle compartment, perfect for – and meant for, in fact – laptops. I took it from Los Angeles to Hawaii and to Syracuse; both trips involved layovers, and switches to smaller planes. At no time was the size of the Tri-Star questioned by airline staff; it’s a carry-on, even on those little island-hoppers that take us from Maui to Kauai.
I also crammed it in the trunk of our car for a Santa Barbara road trip. In all cases, it held up perfectly. My similarly-sized Travelpro wheelie, to compare, is now looking quite a bit worse for the wear, and it had to be checked and stowed on the smaller airplanes. No exaggeration: The Tri-Star is so well made, it’s hard to tell the bag has suffered the indignities of being sat on/bounced on by bored children, hauled across the Pacific Ocean and the United States, and stuffed with what is likely the legal limit of wine bottles to be driven across county lines.
Tom Bihn is steadily making a name for itself as a maker of reliable, solidly constructed travel bags. Both the Tri-Star and the Western Flyer have more pockets than I could use – this is a huge positive, by the way, as they lay flush when not in use. Made in Seattle, USA, the Tri-Star repels water, has a key clip and water bottle pocket, and besides backpack straps, there is a handle and a long Tom Bihn Absolute Strap for lugging around on one’s shoulder: This is enormously versatile luggage.
At $240, the Tri-Star is something of an investment. However, you get what you pay for: The reliability and durability that the Tom Bihn name represents, indicates that the Tri-Star carry-on travel bag will last for years longer than its cheaper, less well-made competitors. This Vacation Gal heartily recommends the Tri-Star as just about the best carry-on travel luggage on the market.