Review: Tom Bihn ID

by on October 26, 2005

A few months ago, we checked out Tom Bihn’s Brain Bag, an excellent product, but not for everyone. If you’d rather have a messenger bag format, the ID offers similar features at a lower price.

The ID is priced at $100, but also does not come with a Brain Cell for holding your laptop. Considering that the whole package can be had for around $150, this is not bad. Although there are far cheaper laptop cases, both products are very well made and offer quite a bit of flexibility. The ID bag is made of 1050 denier ballistic nylon, with 500 denier Cordura nylon on the inside.

ID Placeholder
ID Front

ID Placeholder
ID Back

ID Placeholder
ID Inner Pockets

Since the ID is a messenger bag first, with laptop capabilities second, you can safely carry it around without advertising that there’s a $2500 PowerBook inside. The bag looks good, though, so you won’t mind carrying it around. It’s available in a multitude of color combinations, but still has a somewhat “mature” look, so it fits the 35-and-under demographic well (or anyone who acts like it).

The bag features a multitude of pockets—more on that later—as well as two straps. One is a very sturdy shoulder strap. Besides being well-padded, it also offers two adjusters, unlike one found on most cheaper bags. They also are somewhat tough to adjust when wearing the bag, but gave me the impression that they won’t slip when you’re carrying a bunch of stuff. Another removable strap is located across the back to go around your waist and provides a bit of extra support when carrying a lot of things or when on a bike/motorcycle. Also, a handle is located on the top for “briefcase mode”.

I especially like the flap, as it provides an added level of protection of keeping out the elements and makes the bag look a bit nicer. Besides a zippered outside compartment on the flap itself (it even has the water-resistant zipper, like the one found on the eM²), there are quite a few pockets inside for pens/pencils, PDAs, digital cameras, business cards, an iPod, or anything else you might have lying around. There’s also a little clip for keys. On the back of the bag, there’s an open pocket for magazines, papers, or the like.

The three-inch-thick main compartment features a zipper on top, as well as two clips along the back side. The two clips are designed for the Brain Cell—it locks in place to turn the ID into a very good laptop bag. The size 4 or 5 Brain Cell will fit in the ID. Also, the ID itself is not padded, except for one side of the main compartment, so it is a good idea to keep things in their cases inside the ID bag, especially a laptop with the Brain Cell.

Along with the Brain Cell, Tom Bihn offers the Snake Charmer and the Laptop Screen Protector, which complement the ID nicely.

I received the ID back in August and have used it as my main bag since then. Some tests included being out in the rain, a few road trips, carrying some heavy books, and stuffing in every gadget I could think of for a weekend. I’ve found that despite the ID being a fairly large bag, once you add the Brain Cell with a laptop and a few accessories, it starts to feel rather small. If you do have a larger laptop, and want to take the whole show on the road with you, perhaps you should take a look at some of their larger offerings.

Overall, the ID/Brain Cell combo is great for most people who want to carry a laptop, their gadgets, some papers, books, and a few accessories. The durable construction, lifetime warranty, and little extras are icing on the cake. If you’d rather go with a more traditional design, the Brain Bag might be more to your liking.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

The ID is a well-made messenger bag that can masquerade as a laptop case, provided you have the Brain Cell.

Pros: Quality construction, lots and lots of pockets, flap design, waist/hip strap, all zippers have pulls, lots of colors

Cons: Not much padding, Brain Cell extra

The Facts

4/5Product: ID
Company: Tom Bihn
Price: $100 (Brain Cell an extra $50-$55)

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