It’s been two years since Brad posted a review of the Tom Bihn Tri-Star.. I guess it’s now my turn.
I’m going to cut right the verdict—this is a great bag. It is so versatile that almost anyone who wants to travel one-bag style would probably find this bag easy to use.
Slightly smaller than maximum carry-on size (19” x 13” x 8”) and weighting 3 lbs, 6 oz, the three compartment Tri-Star can be used for both business and leisure travel.
It’s refined look will have most people thinking it’s an oversized laptop bag. By using the middle compartment for “work” and the two end compartments for your “stuff,” the Tri-star will allow you to go from plane to meeting without a stop at your hotel.
For leisure travelers, it allows you to stay organized and compartmentalized so you don’t have to go rummaging through everything to find that extra camera battery.
Made of 1050 denier ballistic nylon and lined with lightweight Dyneema nylon, the Tri-Star has both #10 and #8 waterproof zippers.
A true convertible bag, the hidden backpack straps include a sternum strap and can accomodate an optional waist belt. (I also use this compartment to hold a foldable light jacket.)
The padded backpack straps make it comfortable to carry for a long walk although it’s doubtful you’d walk into a business meeting that way. So, you have two other options: the padded handles or the optional Absolute Strap. (I have a chronically sore shoulder and find it hard to carry most bags using it. However, with the Absolute Strap I seem to be able to carry everything pain free.) There are handles on three sides of the bag helping to make it easy to put in and take out of overhead storage bins.
Let’s take a look at the bag section by section:
The front of the bag has four zippered compartments. On the left are three vertical compartments that go from their zipper closure to the bottom of the bag. These are great for thinner items like keys, magazines, newspapers, a book, 3-1-1 bag , etc.
The zipper on the right can accommodate a water bottle but can also be used for storage as well.
When the bag is full, don’t expect too much give from these pockets.
The front section has an optional zipper that will split the bag into two compartments: one taking up 2/3 and the other 1/3. In this photo you see the medium sized Tom Bihn Tri-Star packing cube and a Tom Bihn Quarter Cube. (The small Tri-Star packing cube is cut to fit into the right side section but I prefer the two-sided quarter cube. One side for toiletries, the other side for my laundry kit. I could also add a small Tom Bihn pouch and connect it to one of the “o” rings. (Be careful if you use the dividing zipper. I was a little too rough and it ripped the first week I owned the bag. As I don’t use it, it wasn’t a problem for me.)
The medium sized cube in this photo is holding my undies, socks and a t-shirt.
This section zips down on three sides with the top capable of folding flat making for easy packing.
The rear compartment is meant for larger clothes. Here is the large size Tom Bihn packing cube holding 4 shirts and a sweater held down by the included luggage straps.Underneath the pack is an additional pair of pants. This section also opens on three sides for easy packing.
The Center section is the hardest to photograph as it only zips down halfway to prevent items from falling out. This section is my office/technology section.
The center section also has clips to attach a Tom Bihn Brain Cell. These are computer sleeves that come in different sizes depending on your computer.
Currently, since I want to travel with only one bag, I put my Tom Bihn Large Cafe bag into the certain section as well as a Tom Bihn 3D clear cube with all those miscellaneous items.
And here’s where it proves you can’t go by size alone to see if something will work for you. In the case, size does matter. I like to pack my day bag into my main carry-on for travel days. This way I only have to be concerned with one bag while traveling.
I thought the Large Cafe Bag would be perfect for this. However, there is one drawback to trying to pack it. The strap. I ordered the larger, heavier, Absolute strap—which is wonderful—but it can’t be detached. So, that strap takes up too much room. I will continue to use the Large Cafe Bag as a day bag at home.
Since a tablet is in my near future, I may have to substitute a different day bag. I’m thinking the Tom Bihn Ristretto. Not only will it fit my needs for what it can hold, the strap is removable. No need for two Absolute Straps. I can use the Absolute Strap from the Tri-Star to carry the Ristretto when my main bag is at my hotel. I’d take the included standard strap should the Ristretto not be that heavy. (I’ll have to talk to the good folks at Tom Bihn to see what they think about this idea. I’ll let you know.)
One other thing. “O” rings. These are tiny round rings sewn into all of Tom Bihn bags. They are great. You can attach pouches, keys, packs, etc and they won’t fall out. There are plenty of them all over the bag.
Now, what about the cons…well….there just aren’t that many. If you pack too much, the bag will go over the 8” side. (I got mine up to nearly 9.5” by really trying.)
All in all, the Tom Bihn Tri-star is excellent for those who take short business trips and want to pack light, for leisure travelers looking for a smaller than maximum carry-on size case and still want quality, and anyone else wanting to go from maximum to less than maximum in carry on size.
It may seem that I use a lot of Tom Bihn products. Guilty as charged. They’re high quality, made in America, and are from a company that offers terrific customer service. I’ve been a paying customer for years.
The Tom Bihn Tri-Star goes for $270. A set of Tri-Star packing cubes (L,M,S) will set you back an additional $55 but weigh only 10 oz. The three sized packing cubes come with a mesh top. The smaller size is also available in all fabric for shoes or anything else you wanted to keep separate.
For more photos and color choices, go to the Tri-star page on the Tom Bihn website.
Tom Bihn supplied all accessories discussed in this review. I purchased the actual Tri-Star awhile ago with my hard earned weekly allowance.