The main thing I hate about traveling is going through airport security. You know the drill, take off your shoes, jacket, metal items in your pockets and place them in a tray. Then remove the laptop from your shoulder bag and place it in another tray. It’s always a hassle once your items come out the other end of the Xray machine because you have to hurry up and gather them before you hold up the line. How would you like to make your life a little bit easier with that task? How about if you didn’t have to remove your laptop? Well now you don’t have to thanks to the Checkpoint Flyer laptop bag from Tom Bihn.
In the past, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) required that all passengers traveling with a laptop computer to remove their laptop from their bag and place it in a bin for screening. To help streamline the security process and better protect your laptop, the TSA has changed their security guidelines so that you can leave your laptop in your bag when you send it through the X-ray as long as the bag offers a clear and unobstructed image of the laptop when undergoing the X-ray screening.
The Checkpoint Flyer is made of U.S. 1050 denier ballistic nylon and 500 denier Cordura, lined with Dyneema/nylon ripstop. It’s available in three colors combos: Black/Crimson, Black/Steel, Black/Black. I was sent the Black/Crimson bag for review.
As you can see, this bag has a nice unisex design, with dual rolled and padded grab handles. It also has Black metal shoulder strap attachment loops. Unfortunately, the bag does not include a shoulder strap. You have to buy that separately and have a choice between a $20 and $30 strap. The strap pictured above is the $30 Absolute Strap, which is very comfortable, even with heavy loads.
The front flap of the bag has two zippered compartments. Both compartments have zippers that go across the top and down the outside edge of the pocket. This allows for better access to the contents. The Left pocket is a bit taller than the one on the Right and is large enough to hold a 1.5 inch thick standard sized paperback book. The larger pocket also has a key clip attached to a short strap. FYI: This front flap is not padded.
If you flip the bag around to view the back side, you’ll find a large vertical open topped slot that is large enough for standard sized magazines and file folders. The bottom of this pocket has a zippered passthru, that can accommodate the handle of your rolling luggage.
To the Right of the magazine slot, you’ll find a narrow open topped pocket that is perfect for holding your boarding pass, passport or other papers that you might need quick access to.
The main storage area of this bag can be seen after unzipping the dual metal zipper pulls along the top edge. Inside you will find a very roomy area, with two open topped pockets sewn into the back wall of the bag. The pockets and interior of the bag are made of a checkered patterned material that makes it pretty easy to see objects at the bottom of the bag.
There are two small plastic loops sewn into the top front corners of the Checkpoint Flyer. You can use these to clip various items that you might need quick access to.
A nifty pull out organization panel called a Freudian Slip can be purchased separately for $30. It is padded and has several pockets, pen/pencil slots, as well as large magazine / file folder sized slots on the back. A handy loop at the top allows you to easily pull it out of the bag when needed.
If you look at the Checkpoint Flyer from the side, will find a narrow slot directly below the Tom Bihn logo. There’s a matching slot on the other side of the bag. The material feels slightly stretch, but the slot is probably only useful for small items such as pens, pencils, a flashlight, etc. From this view, you can also see the unique ‘sandwich’ design of this bag.
The laptop section of this bag, which is really just a modified version of the Tom Bihn’s Archetype sleeve, can is accessed by unclipping the two plastic squeeze clips at the bottom of the front flap.
Once unclipped, the laptop sleeve folds out. This is how you would feed the Checkpoint Flyer through the X-ray conveyor belt at an airport. You won’t need to place it in a plastic tray, just unclip the front flap, fold out the laptop section and slide the whole thing through. :o)
The first time I used this bag was at the Indianapolis International Airport, on my way to Florida for a vacation. The security person saw it and said “If there’s a laptop in there, you need to take it out…” and I told him “This is one of the new TSA approved bags that allow me to leave it in”. At that point, I unclipped it and sent it through. He shrugged and walked over to help someone else. The guys running the X-ray machine didn’t say a word about it. The second time I used it, was on my way back home. This time the folks at the Tampa Florida Airport didn’t say anything at all about the bag or my laptop. It was so nice having one less item to fool with while going through security.
When you order the Checkpoint Flyer, you have to specify the laptop size that you need. I specified a 15″ Macbook Pro. The sleeve unzips like a book, is padded on the top and bottom and has a soft plush interior. It’s really meant just for the laptop, and has no extra space for other items.
If you like, you can actually disconnect the laptop sleeve from the main bag, by unclipping two plastic clips that connect the bags.
With the laptop section released, you will find two more zippered pockets on front of the main part of the bag.
These pockets are lined with the same material used in the rest of the bag.
Wearing the bag is comfortable – but that requires that you buy a shoulder strap. Other than the price, I would have to say that my main complaint about the Checkpoint Flyer is that a shoulder strap isn’t included with it. Tom Bihn explains why they do this in a blog post, but I have to say that the reason is somewhat lame (sorry guys…). I mean the bag by itself costs $220. For that price, I don’t think you should have to fork over additional cash for a shoulder strap. It seems a bit greedy to me. Other than that, I have nothing but praise for this bag. It’s made very well, with quality material, zippers, clips, etc, and should last many many years. If the total price doesn’t scare you off, then you will enjoy the convenience of this bag for every day use and definitely during your next trip through airport security.
I review a lot of bags that I end up giving away during my epic gadget giveaway days at my day job. But this is one bag that I continue to hold on to because it’s perfect for when I travel. Actually that’s the only time I use it, when I fly. The convenience of not having to take my laptop out of the bag when I go through gate security is my favorite feature of this bag along with the narrow pocket on the back which is perfectly sized for my boarding pass. It’s been 7 years since I reviewed this bag, but it still looks as nice as the day I received it. Tom Bihn knows how to make a quality bag that holds up over time and use.
The bad news is that it seems that Tom Bihn is no longer selling this bag. This is unfortunate because it’s a really good bag. I’m going to try to get more info and will add another update.