Travel is a pain. Business travel, with all its quick itineraries, endless lines and muddled schedules, is even more so. In order to cut down on fatigue and increase speed, seasoned road warriors carry as little as possible while still maximizing their flexibility. The laptop bag is a common place for business flyers to get bogged down. And, manufacturers of these bags don’t seem to be focused on providing the business traveler an efficient, compact, easy-to-carry bag that can zip through airports and security check points. The Tom Bihn company bucks that trend. Since 1972, the company has focused on providing made-in-the-USA, high quality, well-designed bags to the discerning traveler.
The Tom Bihn Cadet is a minimalist bag done well. Designed to hold a laptop, a few documents, power supplies and a few other accessories, this surprisingly robust, flexible and well-made bag delivers in spades.
The exterior of the bag is built on a foundation of super-tough 1050 denier ballistic nylon. With nearly six months of daily use and over 50,000 airline miles, my Cadet has no visible signs of wear. The stitching is impeccable with absolutely no loose threads or visible flaws. The zippers are super-tough YKK zippers with a special rubber gasket that prevents water ingress in the event of rain (leave it to a Seattle-based company to think of that). The case is divided into three compartments: a tiny, phone-sized, fleece lined compartment on the very front, a small front compartment, and the main compartment. The shoulder straps connect to very robust, resin attachment points that are rated at 260 pounds of strength, each.
The phone compartment is a quick place to stash your phone, especially when trying to get through security checkpoints. Your phone is padded and protected by microfiber fleece and is a snap to slide in and out of the pocket.
The small front compartment is the place to store all the knickknacks the savvy business traveler needs. The bright-green (other colors available) compartment lining provides much needed contrast to see items at the bottom. Tom Bihn manufactures organizer pouches — key to keeping your bag clutter free — which connect, via lanyard, to o-rings sewn into the front pouch. Just stash your cords and adapters in the pouch and stuff it in them in. The lanyard makes it easy to retrieve the pouches and keeps them attached to the bag.
The main compartment holds your laptop, your iPad and a small notebook. To help get you though security quickly, Tom Bihn has designed an ingenious “rail” system on which some metal clips on the laptop pouch ride. Just open the top of the bag, pull out the pouch and lay the whole thing on the conveyor. The bag and pouch stay together. Once through security, just push the pouch back into the bag — the rails guide it into place. The pouch, or “cache” (in Tom Bihn parlance) is padded and securely holds your laptop. And no, you don’t have to remove the cache from the bag to access your laptop — just flip the cache open and remove your computer.
Additionally, on the back of the bag is an open compartment perfect for a newspaper or magazine. Cleverly, the bottom of this compartment unzips, allowing you to thread the Cadet onto the handle of a rolling suitcase.
For an extra $20, order the Absolute shoulder strap. Quite possibly the most comfortable strap ever — it gently stretches over the shoulder with a high-friction neoprene strap that almost never slips and distributes the weight comfortably.
The Tom Bihn Cadet is the ultimate compact laptop bag for the discerning and demanding user. It is exceedingly well-designed, flexible and durable. The bag retails for $175, although with pouches and the Absolute strap, the price quickly can exceed $200. Worth every penny. Available exclusively through their website at www.tombihn.com