Nov 14 2006
Tom Bihn Super Ego Messenger Bag
Without delving too deeply into Freud’s structural models of the psyche, I would like to discuss the Super Ego as it relates to the ID. When we’re talking about personalities, the Superego and Id relate much in the way that the little angel and little devil coexist on the shoulders of characters in animated cartoons: the Id tells Daffy Duck to screw over his friend Bugs while the Superego tries to talk some sense into him. When we’re talking about Tom Bihn messenger bags, the Super Ego is everything the ID is and much, much more. If you could order the ID bag via a Tom Bihn drive-thru window, and if you could order it “super sized”, when you reached the last window, the guy in the paper hat would hand you a Super Ego.
The designers at Tom Bihn have been reading my mind, intercepting my iChats or maybe they’ve just bugged my office. However they did it, all the little things that I didn’t even realize were bothering me about Tom Bihn’s ID have been addressed in the Super Ego …not to say that I don’t love the ID bag–I do! But I love the Super Ego more.
The ID was certainly big enough but, as I remarked in my review, it could have been a bit bigger. The Superego is bigger. The Super Ego is available in eight different color combinations that build on its black nylon foundation. The structure of the bag is strong and durable as have been the last two Tom Bihn bags I’ve reviewed. The handle is robust. The shoulder strap is strong but comfortable. In the laptop bag market, Tom Bihn is a name I trust and have no reservations about recommending. It is really obvious when looking at Tom Bihn’s bags that they are intelligently designed for the purpose of serving the needs of notebook users.
If you really desire access to your notebook to be slick and simple, get the optional Brain Cell (add USD$50-$55). It does add one more step to the notebook retrieval procedure (a simple — RIP — of the Velcro flap), but it also puts your laptop where you’ll know to look for it–secured to the outer wall of the Super Ego’s main compartment. It also prevents your notebook from unexpectedly slipping out of the Super Ego when you open the compartment to get at it. The Brain Cell is a removable notebook sleeve available in sizes to fit the six most common sizes of portable computers and in five different colors (You can also add a shoulder strap (add USD$10-$25) to the Brain Cell if you anticipate taking your laptop for a stroll away from the Super Ego).
The ID’s flap was your gateway to your notebook computer storage, which is great …unless you’re currently wearing the bag and have nowhere to set it down to open it up. You have to contend with pulling the flap up toward you, fighting past it to get to the zipper beneath it and finally getting to your gear; not at all impossible. But the procedure is simplified to one step with the Super Ego–ZIP!! Tom Bihn has put the splash-proof zipper to the main notebook compartment on the top of the bag apart from the area covered by the flap. It’s right there where you need it. And, I gotta say, we just went through some torrential rains here in BC and that splash-proof zipper does the trick.
The flap itself has been improved since the ID and is now more structured …I’m not quite sure how to describe it, but the side of the flap curves in to better encase the loose toys inside the front compartment that it covers. Gussets!? Is that what they are called? Anyway. It’s good. I like it. Very smart. One thing the Super Ego is missing that the ID and other bags have is a pocket in the flap but, believe me, you won’t miss it.
Added to the flap of the Super Ego is a strip of fabric that runs down the front leading to the buckle. The strip is removable and can be swapped out for other strips that are available in 15 different colors (I like the retro-reflective one …shiny objects delight me). My only quips on the strips is that the top end (the end that doesn’t attach to the buckle) could use some stitching to keep the edging from fraying away. This hasn’t actually happened to mine but since the strips are meant to be removable and interchanged, repeated removal is bound to strain the seams. The actual interchanging of the strips is another weak point. The strips thread under a series of wide bands and over a panel of Velcro. It is a bit of an ordeal threading the strip through the loops when the Velcro underneath is grabbing the whole time. I’d suggest you find a strip color you like and stick with it …did I mention I like the retro-reflective one?
The ID buckle was heavy duty but could be difficult to snap in place sometimes. In this area Tom Bihn has outdone themselves. The Super Ego can (and should) be ordered with an optional seatbelt buckle (add USD$10 …pfft…do it!) in place of the heavy duty plastic one. No-nonesense bucklage — CLICK — done.
The Super Ego also differs from the ID in that it features two exterior water bottle pockets which are adjustable and also then able to fit an insulated food and beverage container (commonly known as a ThermosÂ®) or sealed travel mug in case you like your bottles filled with coffee flavored water.
Another aspect that makes the Super Ego a winner (and, indeed, every Tom Bihn bag I have ever looked at) is how customizable it is. I’ve already mentioned the colored strips and the options for buckles, but there are other add-ons like the Brain Cell removable notebook sleeve (see sidebar), Organizer Pouches, Cat Eye Reflector (add USD$12 …apparently not sold separately, like the other accessories, but can be purchased as an option when buying the Super Ego online), and micro-suede Keyboard Covers. I highly recommend getting a few Organizer Pouches with your Super Ego. The Super Ego has a lot of un-segemented space and the Organizer Pouches attach to different parts inside the bag via ball-socket clips affording all kinds of options for your organization needs. Organizer Pouches are available in at least seven different colors (Wasabi, Steel, Crimson, Deep Blue, Sapphire, Olive, Black…as well as the “as available” colors of Periwinkle, Grid, and Cocoa) and three sizes–Small (USD$5), Medium (USD$7) and Large (USD$9). They are all smart ideas to make your bag work for your specific needs.
The Super Ego sells for a respectable USD$140 and, with the custom options I’ve mentioned here, can easily cost you over USD$100 more. But the Super Ego is not an impulse buy, it’s the kind of purchase you make when you’re tired of trying to make do with those other bags and want to finally get something that does the job right. It’s kind of like switching to a Mac, actually. The Superego might have been the “lil angel” of Sigmund Freud’s structural model of the psyche, but in Tom Bihn’s messenger bag line-up the Super Ego kicks ass and takes names. I’m carrying around some serious psychological(ly themed) baggage here.