Seattle-based Tom Bihn is a favorite travel-related company of ours here at The Vacation Gals, not only because the friendly Tom Bihn marketing folks have steadily supplied us with product, but because Tom Bihn bags are rugged, functional, versatile and stylish. My plum Medium Cafe Bag has been my everyday casual purse for well over a year, and it’s traveled with me to Alaska, Mexico and many U.S. locales in between. My Tom Bihn Aeronaut has been my family’s go-to bag for packing the children’s clothes for long-weekend road trips — it’s the perfect size to house three days’ worth of kids’ clothing, toiletries and shoe needs. The latest Tom Bihn product I’ve been privileged to sample on a couple of recent plane trips: the Checkpoint Flyer. While I’m not as madly in love with it as I am with my other Bihn bags, it’s got some great features. Here are the details:
Checkpoint friendly: The ability to keep your laptop in your carry-0n bag while it sails through airport-security X-ray is a selling point. I absolutely detest putting my naked precious laptop in a grey bin, for fear that it will get knocked off the conveyor belt and smash to smithereens. With the Checkpoint Flyer, you store your laptop in a separate padded case with its own handle, and when you’re ready to put it on the conveyor belt, you unlatch a couple of buckles and flip the bag open “butterfly style,” so the screener has a direct view of the case through his or her monitor. This gives me great peace of mind.
This feature is also the one that gives me the most pause with this bag. Because the latches that secure the laptop compartment are on the bottom of the bag, it’s not easy to pull your laptop out of the case itself, say, when you’re seated on an airplane. It’s quite awkward to unlatch the bag, flip open the front flap — often heavy and stuffed with items (see “Amazing storage” below) — then unzip the laptop compartment. Frankly, there are some other checkpoint-friendly bags that allow for easier removal of the laptop for use on the plane, because you slip it out via a top opening. That said, if Tom Bihn’s Checkpoint Flyer didn’t have the design it does, it might not have….
Amazing storage: This bag can fit an incredible amount of “stuff,” which I love, since I’m known to bring nearly everything but the kitchen sink in my carry-on. (I follow the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared.”) The front flap that lies over the laptop compartment/case has two big front zippered pockets; one is big enough to hold a Kindle. The main part of the bag has a roomy interior with two huge open-top pouches; that section also has a deep exterior pouch for handy access to boarding passes or passports (though I’d zipper the latter away after you get on the plane). A second wide exterior pouch has a zip-open bottom, so you can slip the bag over the handle of a rollerboard (love this feature). Still two more slim zippered compartments and two side pockets allow for even more storage of small items.
Customize your bag: Because not all laptops are created equal, Tom Bihn makes four different sizes of padded laptop cases to use with this bag; order the right size for your Mac or PC. Plus, it’s important to note that you can totally remove the laptop case from the bag if you want; it is its own entity, so if you’ve arrived at your hotel, and you just want to bring your laptop down to the business center, you can detach it and carry it alone with its own handle. Still more ways to customize: the Checkpoint Flyer can accommdate a Horizontal Freudian Slip to help keep papers and files organized, or put clothing in two small packing cubes to best outfit your Checkpoint Flyer as your sole overnight bag.
More highlights: I love Tom Bihn’s hardy splashproof zippers, and the Checkpoint Flyer uses this awesome technology to help keep your belongings protected if the bag gets wet. To that end, the exterior is constructed with heavy-duty, water-resistant 1050 denier ballistic nylon and 500 denier Cordura nylon (those terms mean nothing to me, but I know the bag is super tough).
The Checkpoint Flyer is available for purchase online. It comes in four color combinations and you can buy it with or without a shoulder strap (additional $30).