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Absolutely strapulous

Tom Bihn has improved the best shoulder strap available. The new and improved Absolute Strap is beefier, has a slightly longer padded area, and is even more comfortable since it now has an ergonomic curve. I tested it this morning with a leather case that I use for carrying tools. With the 20-pound load it was a delight. Some have noted that you could buy a similar, slightly cheaper strap from OpTech, the company that manufactures this strap in the USA. Truth be told, that strap always always lacked the heavy Tom Bihn hardware. The new Absolute is absolutely exclusive according to Darcy at TB:

The ergonomic curve - and the added 1-1/2” length to the strap - as well as the high quality U.S. made nylon webbing AND the double-plated U.S. made metal snaphooks are all exclusive to us.

As I’ve said many times this strap is an instant upgrade to any bag and is a great gift idea. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t need one. Read more here from the TB blog.

I’ll post comparison pictures of the new and old Absolutes soon.

Reader Comments (14)

Putting a CURVE into a shoulder strap seems similar to what Lowe-Pro did with their camera bag straps in the past.

A COMPARISON some might appreciate would be between the new Tom Bihn Absolute Strap, and the CLAW that comes with the various REDOXX bags. One other comparison might be relative carrying comfort using the Absolute Strap, as compared to the backpack straps on the Tom Bihn bags. Those of us whose shoulders have always suffered from a deltoids deficit will be interested!

October 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Birnbaum

There's really no comparison between the TB Absolute and Red Oxx Claw straps as far as comfort goes (TB also sells a version of the the Claw strap known as the Terra Grip). The Claw is made to stay on the shoulder and be really durable - it provides almost no cushioning and is probably half the width of the Absolute. I understand this approach. When I was a news photog I used narrow straps precisely because they would dig into my shoulder no matter what I was wearing, thus ensuring that my $3500 lens/camera combo didn't hit the ground. The beauty of the Absolute/OpTech material is that it is tacky and cushioning. I do have a Claw I can include in the comparison photos.

October 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Brad, as an owner of the original Absolute Strap....is there really that much of a difference? Mine is only a few months old and I'd hate to retire it this soon......

October 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBuzz

Oh, if you already have one you're in good shape. When I can test them side-by-side I'll have more to say on the bounce issue. My thought is the new one bounces a little less, not that the old one was bad in that regard. My wife - ever picky - always raises the point when I present her with a different strap - she doesn't like bounce.. Someone who carries a really heavy bag certainly might notice a comfort difference. More to come.

October 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

I suppose that I should seriously consider the new Tom Bihn strap, now that I recall my first adverse experience with straps, circa 1976. I was a medical student then, toting heavy histology and neuroanatomy books, for which I purchased from REI a then $10 French Sacs Millet rucksack. This was WAY before backpacks for textbooks and the like became universal, down to the first grade level. The shoulder straps were rather simple, cotton duck webbing, plus some felt. I made the fatal mistake of not using both, and instead, just doubled the straps and carried the books over one shoulder, my right shoulder.

BAD idea. One morning, after about three weeks, I awakened with a painful introduction to peripheral nerve compression. After about three clinic visits, the Chief Resident in Orthopedics at Vanderbilt University diagnosed me as having a "winged scapula," from a long thoracic nerve palsy. Acutely, my shoulder was so destabilized that I had problems lifting microscope slides, during a histology examination...and the darned professor didn't believe my excuse!

Yes, likely I'll get the best strap I can for the Air Boss recently purchased. I can always call it a MEDICAL expense. Anyway, off to do some nerve conduction tests. BAD STRAP, career in neurology, there's a connection for you!

October 27, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Birnbaum

See my post and comments regarding the re-introduction of the LL Bean Quickload Travel Pack. Taking another look at that unit, it ALSO has a CURVE in the shoulder strap, though I'd expect that probably it's not quite as nice a strap as the new Tom Bihn.

October 28, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Birnbaum

Seduced by the many glowing reviews of the Absolute strap, I just purchased the Op/Tech version (non-updated, non-upgraded) to try out.

As an fyi, the Op/Tech S.O.S. strap is available from Amazon for $18.19 (plus tax/shipping). While it lacks the incremental upgrades and double-plated hardware, it is half the price.

Happy hunting.

October 29, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJay

I'm a huge fan of the Domke post office shoulder pad. It straps on to any strap and uses angled foam to fit your shoulder - super comfortable. I use it for a messenger bag so I'm not sure how it would work on a carry-on (planning to try my first one bag trip early next year). But thought I'd mention it.

October 30, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

I just checked and the original OP/Tech S.O.S strap is on Amazon for $15.68 + 1.02 postage = $16.70 delivered.
It maybe true this strap does not have the heavier hardware that is on the TB Absolute strap but in my opinion the OP/TECH strap is better because it weighs less and is strong enough to handle any bag.
The only thing the Absolute does is weigh more and cost much more.

November 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTA

Well, after due consideration, I've ordered the OP/Tech version from Amazon due to that $16.70 price TA mentioned, we'll soon see how good/bad the hardware is. I normally don't use shoulder straps, and I have a somewhat stretchy one I bought a few years ago (wish I knew the brand) but that price finally tempted me.

Happy travels,

November 1, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

I ordered one of the OpTech straps, too, for my outdoor products bag. Couldn't justify paying the same for the strap as I did for the bag. ;) Will report back on how it works!

November 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBerg

Just a follow up, I received the Op/Tech strap a couple days ago and have been using it on my laptop bag for work (I have a good distance to walk from the parking lot to my office). I will say that it does make a noticeable difference.
I currently use a older generation Rick Steves 'Veloce' carry on type bag with a Victorinox semi-rigid laptop sleeve for my Dell Lattitude (it's a perfect size) , and have been using one of the backpack straps slung over my shoulder.
I noticed a immediate improvement in comfort using the new strap, and the 'give' is very noticeable. The hardware is similar to most of the other spare straps I have floating around, and should be durable enough (and the best part is that it would be east to replace if something breaks, since the hardware is not stitched into the strap webbing).
I can say that this, especially for the price, is a excellent deal. As an aside, I can also say that the shoulder straps that come with Rick Steves bags leave a lot to be desired (I have a couple of them since they came with the bags).
Happy travels,

November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

The newer version of the Absolute Strap has appeared in my small cache of Christmas gifts, and will replace the original "Claw" strap on my Air Boss, with that strap in turn headed for a smaller bag.

December 25, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Birnbaum
Op/Tech has a new curved version of the S.O.S. strap on their website now:


I haven't seen it for sale anywhere online as yet so we will have to see if the discounts are similar to the original. The list is $26.95 USD which is the same as the original straight S.O.S. model.
February 10, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrank

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