Mar 17 2007
|I was very excited when I found out I was going to get to review the next generation Tom Bihn ID Messenger Bag (USD$130); this will be my fourth review of a Tom Bihn bag and my second review of the ID bag in particular. The company has made several improvements to the design. I have to give Tom Bihn kudos because when you come out with a successful product like the original ID bag, most people wouldn’t think to say, “Oh well, back to the drawing board.” But Tom Bihn did and, now that I see changes they have made, I’m glad they took a crack at gilding the lily.|
Keeping your stuff in
Many of the features that impressed me about Tom Bihn’s Super Ego bag have made their way into the new ID design. The first one that I’d like to tell you about is the structure of the front pocket. The opening has been made to curve in at the sides and form to the contour of the bag making it more efficient at keeping your stuff in the bag. And, after all, that is a bag’s prime directive no matter if it’s a messenger bag, a lunch bag or a barf bag–the point is, that whatever you put in it shouldn’t come falling out. This is a welcome feature indeed. The front pocket also has smaller inner pockets that you can use to hold and organize your stuff. In addition, there are two small plastic rings distributed strategically on the front of the bag that you can use to clip the ID’s key snap strap (included) or any Organizer Pouches (USD$5, USD$7 or USD$9) you wisely purchased with the bag.
The main compartment, back pocket and the Brain Cell
The business end of the ID is its laptop compartment which is located under the pocketed flap (unlike the Tom Bihn Super Ego) and provides ample room for a notebook the size of a 15″ MacBook Pro or smaller, some books, maybe a Wacom tablet and even a light jacket.
The back of the ID has an additional open-top pocket that is great for flat items like magazine, books or papers, or anything you want to be able to get at quickly.
If you are going to use the ID to tote around an Apple notebook computer, you should consider a few things first. One, the ID is not large enough to accommodate any of Apple’s 17″ notebooks: past or present. Secondly, you should seriously consider adding a Tom Bihn Horizontal Brain Cell (USD$50) notebook sleeve to your order. Consult the Brain Cell Fit List for the ID Messenger Bag to find the appropriate notebook sleeve for your portable. The Brain Cell notebook sleeve ingeniously snaps into place within the ID’s main compartment and also “holds its own” as a light-weight carrier for your notebook when you aren’t traveling with the rest of your paraphernalia.
One beef I had with the old ID design was the way in which Tom Bihn incorporated support for the Brain Cell. At that time, the Brain Cell attached via metal snaps, which was very handy when you wanted to pop it in and out. But it meant that if you didn’t buy the Brain Cell, you had two snaps inside your messenger bag waiting to scratch the dickens out of your laptop. Well, since then, the Brain Cell has changed and, with it, the way it connects to Tom Bihn’s various bags. Though I highly, highly, highly recommend getting a Brain Cell or some sort of laptop sleeve, if you do decide to forgo that extra line of defense, the ID is much less abrasive to laptops “going commando” in its main compartment since the Annex clips used to attach the Brain Cell are removable.
The ID is certainly a strapping example of a fine messenger bag. And as far as straps go, you now have a few to chose from. The previous ID bag design had the strap built in. It was adjustable, but that was about it. Now Tom Bihn has made the strap attach via a 1.5″ toothed slide that allows you to use either the standard strap that comes with the ID or the cushy Neoprene Absolute Shoulder Strap (USD$15).
The Starbucks Strap
One new feature of the ID Messenger Bag is something Tom Bihn calls the Q-AM or “Quick-Adjust Messenger” strap. I’m a big believer in giving things names that immediately tell you what they do and why you need them. For this reason, I call this strap the Starbucks Strap. Have you ever driven to Starbucks, realized you couldn’t leave your laptop in the car unattended while you went in and got your over-priced specialty coffee? That meant that you had to bring the bag into the coffee shop, which, is no big deal until you actually get your coffee and you have to customize it over at the cream and sweetener table. Because, as you reach over to get the carafe of half-and-half off the back shelf of the table, your messenger bag slides from behind your back, swings around and smacks your grande decaf half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino off the table and across the room. The Q-AM strap prevents this kind of tragedy. It effectively secures the messenger bag to your back by connecting one more point on the bag to the shoulder strap perpendicularly under your arm. It’s hard to explain, but after you use it, it will be harder to explain why other bags don’t have this feature. I’m told that this will also keep your bag on your back while you ride your bike like one of those guys who deliver documents downtown. Sure… I guess…
Like the Tom Bihn Super Ego I reviewed last time, the ID now comes with a water pocket that allows you to securely carry a water bottle with you. If you like your water filtered through roasted beans picked by Juan Valdez, the water pocket is adjustable and can accommodate a travel mug… just make sure it’s a water-tight one or you’ll be testing the ID’s splash-proof zippers in no time.
All in all, I am very happy with the changes in the new ID bag–in particular the Q-AM strap (aka Starbucks Strap), soft pockets and the structured front pocket. The construction of the bag, like every Tom Bihn bag I’ve reviewed yet, is second to none.
The ID carries a smaller load than other Tom Bihn bags. So, if you carry a bit more stuff than most, you might want to wait for my review of the Tom Bihn Ego Messenger Bag. And if you have a 17″ notebook computer, or if you carry around a bit more stuff than your Chiropractor would approve of, you’re probably going to find happiness in the Tom Bihn Super Ego that I reviewed last year.
If you travel fairly light and are looking for a quality messenger bag for your 12″ or 15″ notebook, I think the Tom Bihn ID Messenger Bag is perfect for you.