The Tom Bihn Brain Bag: A Day of Travel

Today I'm traveling cross-country with the the Brain Bag.  So far, so good.

Today's commute is from the sunny metropolis of Virginia Beach, VA to the rather shaky and only-sometimes-sunny metropolis of San Francisco, CA by way of Charlotte, NC.  As I noted in a previous post, I had received and packed out my Brain Bag a week or so ago, but today I'm testing it out in the real world.

My goals for purchasing the Brain Bag were to have a single bag to contain all of my clothing for up to four nights as well as my not-inconsiderate mobile engineering gear.  On this trip, which is Monday to Thursday, I have the following in my bag:


  • Pair of jeans
  • 2 button up shirts
  • 2 random (and funny) t-shirts
  • 5 undershirts
  • 5 pairs of underwear
  • 3 pairs of running socks
  • 3 pairs of cotton dress socks
  • A pair of men's size 11 running shoes
  • A pair of men's size 11 Sanuks
  • Toiletries
  • Medication (including the ever important tylenol/ibuprofen combo)


  • 15" retina MBP
  • Full-sized iPad 4
  • Small notebook for notes
  • 4 phones
    • iPhone 4
    • HTC One (M7)
    • Nexus 4
    • Nokia Lumia 520
  • Audio Technica headphones w/ case
  • Various cords for power and connectivity (all in the Snake Charmer)


  • Two apples and a chocolate peanut butter bar
  • Large airport purchased bottle of water

The Good

It all fits in the bag, every single bit of it.  It's even not hard getting in and out of the bag!  That's to say, sometimes you can pack a bag and you get everything in it, but you have to pack it so bass-ackwards that you can't actually access everything.  With all of the above in the brain bag I can get to whatever I need when I need it.

The bag, while heavy with this packing, is manageable and even comfortable.  It probably weighs around 25 to 30 lbs, all told.  I can walk around comfortably without bowing over like some kind of heavy-lifting serf.  

I've not had any problems getting through the airports and getting through security was a breeze with only one bag.  So far as the plane goes, everything fits in the overhead bins, which is something I was concerned about.  The one caveat here is that I haven't been on any regional commuters on this trip.  I'm still uncertain if this configuration will fit in the overhead bin on a smaller commuter jet.

Since I'm on my second (and longest) flight, I'm willing to stamp this one as "mission successful!"  I have the bag that I need, it's only one bag and getting around is much, much easier than having a heavy backpack along with a carry-on.  It's all on my back this go-round.

The Bad

It's not all roses, though.  

In particular, I'm not so sure about this middle-of-the-back water bottle thing.  There are two problems with it.  First, and foremost, I tend to not carry my own bottle and just pick up something large in the airport.  The real problem here, though, is that the loops for the water bottle are so far apart that my water bottle keeps falling out.  And, when I say falling out, it's typically when I'm putting the bag on my bag, all of the sudden I get a water bottle in the achilles.  Not pleasant.

The other niggle I have here, and this is super minor, is that I can't get to my water bottle while I'm walking around.  On my previous bag, I could do that, but this time around, I'm left taking the bag completely off.  Not a deal-breaker, by any means, but it's a bit annoying.

The final, and oh-so-who-freaking-cares-about-this problem is that the chest strap rides a bit high on my chest.  So much so that I'm having to consider, on occasion, whether someone is garroting me.  While I would like to attribute this to my overly large and so-incredibly-manly pecs, that's not the case. ;)  But, really, this is probably more of a "getting used to it" kind of thing.  The chest strap is actually making the bag easier to carry, so I'm not going to penalize anyone on this one.

If I had to recommend one optimization to the folks at Tom Bihn, I would recommend that they add a third strap for smaller water bottles.  Given that I don't have that option, I'm going to go out and purchase a larger, probably metal, reusable water bottle.


"The Bad" aside, this is a great bag and I recommend it without reservation.  Along with some TB packing options, this is a great bag for a minimal one-week trip.  I anticipate that I'm going to use this for quite some time and I'm already keen on the fact that I have both hands free while walking through the airport.