Tom Bihn Pilot & Co-pilot: An Honest Review

PSX_20171021_140630Many avid travelers know of Tom Bihn and swear by their bags for quality minimal travel luggage. Even if you aren’t such a traveler, chances are you have heard of the company if you are a knitter, bag enthusiast, or covet organization for work or everyday carry (EDC) bags and accessories. Many video reviews exist for Tom Bihn products; this is not one of them. While I may make video reviews in the future, written reviews are all I currently have time to accomplish. In this review, I will cover an overview of the bag, what I like about it, what I do not like about it, and my personal recommendation.

Overview

The Pilot is a 13 liter EDC and personal carry-on bag. The Co-pilot is the exact same bag, only in a 10 liter size. Since both bags are designed the same, I will be reviewing these bags as one.

Construction

You can get either bag in 1050 Ballistic nylon or 400 Halcyon fabric, in a variety of colors. Color availability will change, so I recommend pulling the trigger on your favorite before it sells out since you never know if they will make it in that color again.

PSX_20171021_133142The bags can withstand a good amount of daily abuse and clean easily. Neither fabric is particularly rigid, so expect some malleability out of both with the Halcyon being particularly pliable. The bags can stand up on their own; however, they are prone to tipping when fully loaded and tend to bow in the middle.

I have not experienced any broken stitching, rips, fraying, or other defects in materials or craftsmanship in my units.

Overall rating: 10/10

Design

I love the look and feel of these bags. The size is just right for EDC and travel. The color choices and fabrics are excellent. You can truly tell the difference between these bags and what you might find from Amazon or Walmart.

Some people have issues with the center caving in a bit when fully loaded, or the tipping issue I mentioned previously. However, I find these issues to be minor complaints. They don’t bother me, I suppose, because I don’t expect any bag to be 100% perfect. With that said, these bags do have a major flaw that most reviews fail to mention.

PSX_20171021_133613The center pocket that Tom Bihn advertises as a “water bottle/umbrella” pocket does not work as advised. And no, it is not just on my bags. The hole on the bottom is supposed to allow spills or condensation to drip out and prevent water from pooling in the pocket. It is true that water will not pool, but not due to the drainage hole. The sides of this pocket are mesh. When my water bottle popped open and spilled, everything got wet. The Dynema interior is not waterproof either, so every compartment shared in the wealth. For this pocket to work as advertised, the pocket needs to be lined with TPU and not mesh or Dynema as it is currently.

Overall: 9/10

Organization

Tom Bihn excellently displays why they are known for organization. Pockets contain ample space for everything you need without cutting into the space of the other pockets. Each pocket contains O-rings to clip additional pouches and accessories. The older version of the bag contains faux suede pockets in the front, whereas the newer versions do away with the suede for standard Dynema material.

PSX_20171021_133518I was able to load my current Co-pilot with a Surface laptop, 2 hard drives, digital camera, Field Journal Notebook (also made by Tom Bihn), portable charges and battery packs, pens and ink refills, cleaning cloths, headphones and earbuds. During my honeymoon (3 years ago), I was able to take a ton of gear and games with me in my Pilot and still had room enough to bring back a few souvenirs.

Overall: 10/10

What I Like About It

PSX_20171021_133411I truly love the organization of Tom Bihn products. The look is more casual than your leather crafted items; however, I still feel that the design and fabrics work well enough for most professional settings (I am a teacher, so it works perfectly fine). The materials are excellent and the craftsmanship is second to none. Best of all might be the fact that these bags are made in the USA, in Seattle, WA. If you order at the right times, you can even get the staff to draw pictures on your shipping box (I got Fresh Prince and  Robot Steve Urkel).

What I Do Not Like About It

I can’t complain much about these bags. My only issue is that center pocket. Aside from the water issue, the zipper can be a pain at times to fully close–often requiring two hands. I DO NOT recommend putting a water bottle or umbrella in that pocket. However, it does work great to store cables and chargers when combined with a Stuff Sack.

Final Recommendation

PSX_20171021_133233Student: Yes, but go with the Pilot if you have anything larger than an 11″ laptop. Also, it can be a bit pricey, so you may want to check the used market first.

Travel: Yes. You will not regret it.

Professional: Yes. However, if you are a lawyer or deal with expensive accounts or high end clients, then you may want to look for a leather bag. These bags are best for weekend EDC or less formal professions (e.g., teachers, designers, engineers).

 

Upcoming Reviews: More Tom Bihn products–Cadet, Empire Builder, Makers Bag

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