Story by Randy | Photos and Captions by Bethany
I’ll never forget the moment I first laid eyes on the TOM BIHN Tri-Star.
Freeing the bag from its cardboard shipping cage, I held the midnight blue luggage into the air as if it were a newborn cub and I was its proud father.
“My god, this is a piece of work,” I thought to myself, just then realizing Beth had the same gleam in her eye too.
The bag was sleek, cool and had more pockets than a 1980s Michael Jackson jacket. Immediately, I had visions of being that minimalist traveler you see strolling through the airport with only a carry on. Confident, light and happy, they step on and off the plane with ease, slipping their luggage easily into and out of overhead bins.
I wanted to be light and airy too. Even more so, I wanted to be light and airy in Europe. And that’s when it hit me. “By George,” I exclaimed silently, “could I take this bag on our upcoming Hazy Shade of Autumn Tour?”
Unzipping the bag, I got my answer: ‘Yes!’
The TOM BIHN Tri-Star (19″ x 13″ x 8″) is deceptively cavernous. Its design is more representative of a messenger bag than a traditional rectangle suitcase or even its slightly larger brethren, the Aeronaut, which is the company’s innovative take on a duffel bag.
While the Tri-Star as well as the Aeronaut, which I’ll discuss later in this review, could certainly work without packing cubes, I think to get the most out of the bags it’s best to use the specific cubes TOM BIHN has designed for each piece, especially the packing cube backpacks, which make great, extremely light and packable day bags and fruit market bags.
For example, with the help of a large packing cube and the aforementioned packing cube backpack, I packed five t-shirts, four pairs of socks, four pair of underwear, two long-sleeve thermal shirts, two pairs of jeans, two dress shirts, a fleece, beanie and a pair of long underwear into the Tri-Star for our three month/three continent trip. Additionally, I packed a pair of Vans classics and flip-flops in the front pocket, which has a vertical zipper to split the pocket into two.
With my clothing packed in the front and back pockets, I turned my attention to the middle pocket, which would serve as my mobile office. In fact, one of the main reasons I chose the Tri-Star over the Aeronaut was so I could test out its functionality for the working traveler. When TOM BIHN sent us the bags to review, they were kind enough to include the Horizontal Freudian Slip—an insert for organizing files and accessories— and a hard sided laptop case known as the Horizontal Brain Cell, which fit perfectly into the Tri-Star’s center pocket. By utilizing the aforementioned additions as well as a 3D Clear Organization Cube for wires with the Tri-Star, it was like converting that section into a messenger bag.
The Freudian Slip & Brain Cell. Both have plenty of pockets and on the other side of the Slip there are two large pockets big enough for magazines, spread sheets, newspapers, etc. This slip held all of our office supplies and paperwork when we traveled. It was a great go-to spot for keeping everything organized and streamlined.
By setting up the mid-section with our work materials—files, pens, notepads, business cards and computer—I could grab the Freudian Slip and my computer easily from my bag before hoisting into the overhead bin on flights and trains. However, if I were to use the Tri-Star for a multiple month trip again, I would swap the Brain Cell with a slimmer neoprene laptop sleeve to free up space in the mid-section.
OK, Randy, so it packs up like a dream, but how did it handle the road?
Like a champ! The Tri-Star passed the durability test with flying colors. During the course of our three month trip, the bag rode in nearly a dozen overhead bins on trains and airplanes—it fit perfectly every time and I never once got a second-look from a flight attendant, even when it was stuffed to its maximum. The Tri-Star racked up more than 60 hours in the dusty, rustic underbelly of public long-haul buses and was checked in several times because of carry on restrictions for budget flights that only allowed one carry on bag, which had to be a gear bag for each of us. Looking at the bag now, it’s hard to imagine that it endured anything other than a weekend trip; the exterior is free of abrasions and scuff marks and the zippers work as good as the day it was delivered.
Another feature I loved about traveling with the Tri-Star was having the option to easily hide-away the backpack straps (you can see photos of these on the Aeronaut below – the straps are the same on both bags) during times when it was easier to carry the bag with its shoulder strap or by one of the three soft handles—top, left and right. (I used the upgraded Absolute Strap, which is a stretch neoprene that does a fantastic job of distributing the weight; however, any shoulder strap will work with the Tri-Star or Aeronaut.)
Having several different options to carry the bag made transportation days that much more easy and stress free. Keep in mind, though, that the backpack straps and waist strap are more akin to what you would find on a daypack than an internal frame multi-day pack, meaning they don’t distribute the weight as well. I assume this approach helps the weight and flexibility of the bag as well as the functionality of the hide-away strap system. And while Beth preferred carrying her internal frame pack because of the extra support, I found the Tri-Star’s straps to be more than adequate for our urban treks through subway and train stations and city streets.
Apparently also the perfect size for Chachy to travel in!
While the Aeronaut’s design is simple—one main center compartment (think: duffel bag) complemented by smaller left and right side compartments—its versatility is huge. Coming in at 22″ x 14″ x 9″, the TOM BIHN Aeronaut blends the elements of soft luggage, a duffel bag and a backpack (it also features hide-away backpack straps) into a carry-on bag that, according to Tom Bihn, meets most non-commuter domestic airlines’ carry-on size standards and many international carry-on standards, including Heathrow. In fact, looking back, if I were to do a multi-month trip again, I would choose the Aeronaut over the Tri-Star because of its extra space and more flexible design. I loved traveling with the Tri-Star; however, its one drawback is also one of its main assets. Because the Tri-Star is made up of three compartments, it doesn’t have the volume of the Aeronaut, which makes packing souvenirs (excluding books and vinyl LP’s) into an already full bag difficult.
The above photos show how the backpack & waist straps tuck away seamlessly into the back of the bag. Both of the bags have this fantastic feature. Below are photos using the shoulder strap and the backpack straps.
Whether you are embarking on a weekend trip to the coast or a multi-month, overseas journey, TOM BIHN’s Tri-Star and Aeronaut are more than capable of handling all of your luggage needs. Intuitively designed with impeccable craftsmanship the Tri-Star and Aeronaut are instant classics. Manufactured in the United States, Seattle to be exact, TOM BIHN’s stylishly hip collection of travel bags make packing fun again.
He really looks cute in these bags – doesn’t he? I do believe Chachy is tired of being left behind when we travel. Whenever we pull out a bag he jumps right in it ready to tag along. I think it’s time to take Chachy on the road with us.…
*Our stay was complimentary; however, our thoughts and opinions are entirely our own.
*Get the first glimpse of our new travel photos & posts! Subscribe by email and get new travel articles delivered straight to your inbox:
*Please remember all photos on this website, unless otherwise noted, are copyrighted and property of Beers and Beans Travel Website, Nariko’ s Nest Weddings & Bethany Salvon. Please do not use them without my permission. If you do want to use one of them please contact me first because I do love to share and I would be flattered. Thanks!
MORE UNIQUE TRAVEL STORIES FROM AROUND THE WEB: