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Tom Bihn Aeronaut Maximum Carry On Bag & Accessories

on August 15, 2006 9:55 am

When Darcy, the VP of Marketing at Tom Bihn,
wrote asking if I would like to take a look at their new
Aeronaut Maximum Carry
On Bag
, her offer couldn’t have come at a better time. My family was in the
process of getting ready for our California vacation, and I was in the midst of
a bag quandary. I was planning on bringing the usual heavy
load of travel electronics, along with a Fuji laptop and my new (and as yet
mostly unconfigured) DualCor cPC. As I started gathering all of my gear
together, it was quickly becoming obvious that my regular bag was not going to
comfortably handle the oversized load.

Now here’s the thing, the Aeronaut is not billed as
being a gear bag or a laptop bag. But I could tell by the website’s
description and some of the available optional items that the bag could likely
be configured to be just what I needed.
According to the Tom Bihn site,
"the Aeronaut is hard to categorize: Is it soft luggage? A
duffel bag? Or a backpack? The Aeronaut is all of the above. It takes the best
of all of those bags and combines them into what may be the most versatile
travel bag yet."

Available in Black, Steel, Crimson, Grape, or Hunter, the Aeronaut measures a
generous 22" wide x 14" tall x 9" deep. Empty, the bag
weighs 2.71 lbs, and has a volume of  2700 cubic inches. This is the
largest legal sized carry on for most US airlines, meeting the sum of 45"; a

handy list of most airlines’ carry on limits may be found here
. Keep in mind
that after the latest latest terrorist scare last week, some non-US airlines are
not allowing passengers with any size carry on bags.

As with every other Tom Bihn bag, only the highest
quality materials have been used. The Aeronaut is composed of 1050 Ballistic
nylon, and its interior is lined in 200 denier nylon "with a Dyeema (like
Spectra) ripstop."

The substantial straps which compose the top handles
are made of a tightly woven nylon webbing, similar to an automobile’s seat belt
- though not as slick. The padded handle that wraps the two straps to form a
comfortable grip can be unsnapped; the wrapping portion is securely sewn to the
rear strap for immediate retrieval when the straps need to be joined together
again.

Those D-ring hooks seen in the following picture are
not heavy duty plastic as one might expect; they are solid steel and are made to
accept either of the optional shoulder straps, which I will cover further in the
review.

The only branding present on the bag is the iconic Tom
Bihn Portable Culture fabric label sewn to the lower right front.

Zooming in on those zippers reveals that they are
YKK, the best in the
world.

Not immediately evident – until closer examination – is
that the decorative contrasting black trim following all of the zipper tracks is
actually the YKK Uretek "splash-proof" zippers themselves. This design keeps
water from easily entering the bag through what would normally be porous cloth
on either side of a typical zipper’s teeth.

Each of the bag’s three main compartments have double zippers with easily
grasped 1" long metal zipper pulls. Each zipper pull has a 1/4" hole, through
which a  lock can be attached. Each side of the bag as a built-in 7" long x
1" wide reinforced handle which allows the bag to be grabbed when it is sitting
on end.

The right side of the bag has a very handy zippered pocket measuring
approximately 7" wide x 13" tall. Built into the top of the pocket is a
removable snap lanyard which can be attached to keys or one of the smaller sized

Organizer Pouches
sold on the site.

The back of the Aeronaut has an arched zipper concealing what looks to be yet
another handy pocket…

But instead it is actually the cover for the backpack harness system. Hidden
inside the pocket are two padded adjustable shoulder straps.

The ends of the straps have heavy duty plastic clips which snap into their
hidden receivers built into the fold at the base of the bag.

Once the shoulder straps have been snapped, the Aeronaut becomes the ultimate
quickie backpack – ready for a hike from the airport to the cab line, from one
hotel to the next, or wherever the wearer needs to go.

There is even a handy strap handle built into what is now essentially the top
of the backpack.

There are two versions of the Aeronaut, both exactly the same in every aspect
but one – their straps. The Standard Aeronaut straps are modified to fit people
that are around 5’8" and above, or those with larger frames. The Aeronaut
Breve’s straps will better fit those that are under 5’8", or those that have a
smaller frame. Here is Steve wearing my Breve. He said it was pretty comfortable
and liked that the backpack option was available for times when his hands were
full.

Here is a shot of it on his back.

That pretty much covers the bag’s exterior – now let’s take a look at what’s
inside…

Both the right and left sides of the bag unzip to reveal an open compartment
measuring approximately 14" tall x 9" wide x 3" deep. The zipper unzips along
the top and almost all the way down the front of the compartment offering easy
access without the type opening that would encourage everything to spill out.

Both the larger sides of the compartment are lined in the
200 denier ripstop nylon. According to the Tom Bihn site,
"
these end pockets can easily accommodate size 12
running shoes, so now maybe you can take all the shoes you need with you.
The end pockets also are great for segregating the clean from the un-clean, or
perhaps socks and underwear from everything else."

The main interior compartment is accessed through the large U-shaped flap.
This compartment measures approximately 17" wide x 14" tall x 9" deep. A 10"
wide x 11" long zippered mesh pocket is built into the compartment’s flap.

Inside this cavernous compartment are four snaps which are helping to anchor
the side walls.


The Aeronaut Maximum Carry On Bag retails for $175.00
.

Here is where things get interesting. Made to perfectly compliment the
Aeronaut are four different types of

Packing Cubes
which are available in several configurations, and all are
looped for hanging.

This is the small all mesh pocket, which is perfect for storing folded socks,
underwear and other unmentionables. Four of these can be stacked "like bricks"
inside the main compartment of the bag, or two can be stacked on top of the
large bag.

This is the end pocket which fits perfectly inside one of the outer Aeronaut
pockets. Four of these can also be used inside the main compartment of the bag,
stacked "like books on a shelf."

I found that this cube was perfect for holding all of my electrical cables

This is the Large cube; its rear is made of the ripstop material and its
front is mesh. Two of these will fit in the main compartment of the bag.


Packing Cubes range in price from $15 to $18 each
.

Another possible configuration is to take one Packing Cube and use it in
conjunction with a
Size 5 Horizontal Brain Cell
.

This protective case cocoons the packed laptop with 8mm
of thick padding and a design which suspends the laptop in a "4mm hard
corrugated plastic insert that protects from the front, back, and bottom. The
sides are protected by dense cross-linked closed-cell polyethylene foam."


The Horizontal Brain
Cell retails for $50.00
.

A big bag needs a substantial shoulder strap, and Tom Bihn offers two styles.
The first is the

Absolute Shoulder Strap
, which is my favorite. This strap features a
neoprene pad with a stretchy backing and it is specifically made for heavy
loads. Wearing it on my shoulder makes even a totally packed bag feel
manageable; the strap is so wide and springy that it never feels like it is
digging into my shoulder.

The clips which attach to the bag are heavy steel with a secure snap lock.


The Absolute Shoulder Strap retails for $25.00
.

The second option is the

TerraGrip Shoulder Strap
, which according to the site, is "the only strap
we’ve come across that won’t slip off your shoulder. The TerraGrip is also an
excellent strap to use with our maximum carry on bag, the
Aeronaut. The
TerraGrip Strap is made with state-of-the-art soy-based soft-touch polymer
materials. It will remain completely flexible to -40 F and is U.V. stabilized
(no fading or cracking).

However, "Please note that the TerraGrip Strap is built
for grip more than for comfort. We recommend it for loads under 16lbs (7kg). For
heavier loads, the
Absolute Shoulder Strap
may be a more comfortable option."

Here is a picture of the wide rubber grip which composes
the TerraGrip shoulder pad.

Once again a steel slip is used with a locking spring bar.


The TerraGrip Shoulder Strap retails for $18.00
.

I used the bag as a carry on for our trip, and I found
that it easily fit under the seat of both our smaller commuter jet and the
larger cross country airplane. Even though I had it loaded down with electronics
on the trip to California, there was still plenty of room left to pack souvenirs
and a couple loaves of Boudin Bakery
‘s

Chocolate Raisen Baguettes
, which I brought home and used to make the most
delicious Bread Pudding ever

The Aeronaut is a big bag, and it holds a lot of things. But it is not
hard to handle, and it is not so large that it becomes a burden while traveling.
If anything, it makes travel easier because depending upon how efficiently one
packs, it may be the only bag that is needed.

The beauty of the Aeronaut is that it can be configured to work in whatever
way the owner needs. If it is needed as a piece of traditional luggage with
clothing and shoes stored in its compartments, then it can be that; if it is
called upon to hold a plethora of electronics along with other packed items, it
will adapt. This bag can be personalized and customized to be exactly what the
owner wants – even if the owner’s needs change upon a whim. The Aeronaut, in
combination with its packing cubes and the other Tom Bihn accessories, is the
ideal travel bag for anyone that wants a quality piece of luggage that will
adapt to their travel needs.

Aeronaut FAQ
Tom Bihn Guarantee

 

Product Information

Price:
Manufacturer:Tom Bihn
Retailer:Tom Bihn
Pros:
  • Extremely well made with quality materials
  • Can be configured for almost any travel needs
  • All zippers have pulls & are "splash-proof"
  • Ability to add a "Brain Cell" to transform into a laptop bag
Cons:
  • Expensive to completely customize - but the bag will last for many
  • years

Comments

  1. 1
    Robert Nicholson says:

    Re using a Brain Cell…. are there any snaps for it to stay put?

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