Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer Laptop Bag Review

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer
Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

If you like, you can actually disconnect the laptop sleeve from the main bag, by unclipping two plastic clips that connect the bags.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

With the laptop section released, you will find two more zippered pockets on front of the main part of the bag.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

These pockets are lined with the same material used in the rest of the bag.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer

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.

 

Product Information

Price:220.0
Manufacturer:Tom Bihn
Pros:
  • No need to remove laptop to go through airport security
  • Lots of compartments
  • Rugged
  • Removable laptop sleeve
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Does not come with a shoulder strap
Posted in: Gear

{ 12 comments… add one }

  • rick November 7, 2008, 7:59 am

    All these new bags are very nice and would be useful if the TSA would allow for wires and peripherals to be in the bag when it goes through the xray unit.
    This requirement pretty well makes the use of these bags useless at this time.
    The TSA officer can also require you to still remove your computer as there are no rules on using the new technology and it is up to the individual TSA guys if they will allow the computer to stay in the bag.

    1
  • Julie November 7, 2008, 8:37 am

    Rick:

    You can still carry wires, adapters, etc. in the other part of the bag. It’s just the laptop section that should only have the laptop in it and nothing else.

    You’re right, the officers have the final say and it’s not a good idea to argue with them, unless you want a cavity search ;o)

    2
  • Hai November 7, 2008, 11:07 am

    This bag is very nice:

    • It looks good
    • I like the separate laptop compartment to make the TSA guys happy
    • The material is of high quality (at least from the photos)

    However, I also don’t like:

    • Most bags places your laptop near the back (near your body) for added protection. On the contrary, this bag places the laptop near the front, where it is likely to absorb bumps.
    • Access to the the laptop is cumbersome for daily commute: you need to un-latch the clips, flip out the laptop compartment, then unzip the 3-side zipper. For that, I think this bag is fine for short trips, but not daily commute.
    • The high price. I am sure that there are bags out there that rival its quality and design for less.
    • The costly extras: $30 for the slip, $20-30 for the strap

    [Edited at November 07, 2008 11:07:28 AM.]

    3
  • Julie November 7, 2008, 1:10 pm

    Hai:

    I agree with all of your cons except for the first one. There are multiple layers of material on both sides of the laptop to protect it, not to mention that the actual laptop sleeve has padding on all sides.

    4
  • Darcy H November 7, 2008, 9:23 pm

    Darcy from TOM BIHN here -

    Our bags are carefully constructed of the best materials and
    components in our own Seattle factory. They’d be less expensive if we
    had them produced in China or Vietnam, but then we’d lose control over the quality of the finished product and the quality of the jobs we create.

    We could use cheaper materials, but we’ve been making bags for a long time and plan to make them for a lot longer still: we don’t want folks complaining about a part breaking or wearing out prematurely. That would be bad for you, the customer, and it would make us feel bad, too. There are plenty of less expensive products on the market: it’s up to you, the consumer, to decide if the quality of our products justify their expense.

    We specifically designed the Checkpoint Flyer so that the highly
    protective laptop insert is removable, so that, when you purchased a new
    laptop every year or two or three, you would only have to buy a new
    insert – and not an entirely new bag. Why? The Checkpoint Flyer will
    last 10+ years for the average person. We figured that the customer shouldn’t be forced to buy a whole new bag simply because they bought a new laptop.

    This bag is an investment that you can count on: “buy the best and cry once”. Instead of buying a cheaper bag every year or do, you can choose to buy a bag that’ll last (almost) forever.

    Regarding the shoulder strap not being included in the price of the bag – I asked Tom to elaborate on our blog post that addressed the question. Tom said: “I look at it this way: we could give you a some rudimentary strap and raise the price of the bag $5 or $10 – then people would complain about the strap not being padded enough or whatever. Or, we could include a strap with the comfort, durability and reputation of the Absolute Strap and raise the price $30. I’m sure some people would be OK with that, but others don’t want a strap at all or already have either an Absolute Strap (many of our customers own several of our bags and most of our bags can use the Absolute) or some other strap that they prefer – those folks would probably complain at being charged an extra $30 for something they don’t want because they already have it.” In the end, we offer the strap as an option so that people can decide for themselves.

    5
  • Hai November 7, 2008, 11:20 pm

    Julie: You have a point there.

    Darcy: I agree with you in the quality department: most of my shirts last 10+ years, whereas my light jacket is more than 20 year-old. For that, I will see the bags in person before making haste comments.

    I did not know that Tom Bihn is in Seattle, 3 miles from my work place (Cisco systems, near the Space Needle). I will probably give the Tom Bihn Factory Outlet Store a visit some day as I am looking to replace my current bag. Thank you Darcy & Julie.

    [Edited at November 07, 2008 23:24:40 PM.]

    6
  • Kevin Smith November 9, 2008, 12:47 pm

    I recently purchased a Checkpoint Flyer and I have to say – it is awesome. The quality of this thing is amazing – and that is from someone who migrated from a Tumi case. Before it arrived, I wasn’t sure how well the design would work, but it is really easy. The laptop goes in the center section (which is VERY well protected, by the way) and when you get to the security line, you can very quickly unsnap the claps and flip the bag into “scanning” position. No problems, no hassles.

    Additionally, the layout of this thing is great – lots of pockets all perfectly sized for travel items. This is the only case I’ve had where one of the easily accessible internal pockets actually fits my Bose headset case! If you get one – get the Absolute Strap – it is worth every penny. It is made of a neoprene-type material and has some bounce to it which effectively reduces the apparent weight of the bag.

    Finally – the company – these guys a re great to work with. I had questions after my order, called up, and received a call back from Tom Bihn himself! Very responsive, very helpful.

    For me – this bag was worth every penny. It should say something that upon receiving the Checkpoint Flyer, I immediately turned around and order another TB product – the Aeronaut (also awesome). Highly recommended for people who travel frequently and want a well-designed, super high quality laptop case.

    [Edited at November 09, 2008 12:49:47 PM.]

    7
  • Darcy H November 9, 2008, 5:05 pm

    Hai –
    Please do come by and visit our Factory Showroom! Our store is open on Fridays between 11am – 5pm. If you’d like to see our factory, make sure to come before 2:30pm.

    Kevin Smith –
    I’m glad to hear that you are enjoying your new bags – I will share your comments with our staff. That is exactly what makes us feel good about what we do.

    8
  • Eric Dey November 12, 2008, 6:08 am

    I just returned from a five day, four city trip with my new Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer, and passed through security at each stop without incident — no one at TSA raised an eyebrow, though I did receive numerous uncharitable comments from colleagues who were jealous of how easily I passed through screening with the Checkpoint Flyer while they were wrangling their laptops.

    It does seem odd at first to not receive a strap, but only at first. I simply re-purposed the strap from the Tom Bihn Super Ego I reviewed for The Gadgeteer (it is still my daily driver), and was ready to go.

    Without question this is the best travel purchase I have ever made, and look forward to leaving a big chunk of my security hassles at home from now on. Tom Bihn makes the best bags!

    [Edited at November 12, 2008 06:09:00 AM.]

    [Edited at November 12, 2008 06:09:40 AM.]

    [Edited at November 12, 2008 06:09:51 AM.]

    9
  • Julie November 12, 2008, 7:36 am

    Hey Eric

    I agree, that bag is a keeper! I still think it should come with a strap though ;o)

    10
  • Kate November 26, 2008, 3:06 pm

    My dad is getting one of these for Christmas! We got him a Brain Bag with a laptop sleeve a little over a year ago when he was deployed to Kuwait on a six month assignment; now he’s back stateside and needs a better “frequent flyer” bag — and this is perfect!

    Hai, I agree that the bag probably isn’t ideal for a daily commute — but it appears to me to be as close as possible to perfect for the frequent business traveler looking to reduce time at a security checkpoint.

    11
  • Kyle May 20, 2009, 7:56 pm

    ->Hai
    I have an Empire Builder/Absolute Shoulder Strap that’s been my work bag for over two years now. I’m an anesthesiologist so am in an OR from 4-24h per day. The bag carries my OR shoes/stethoscope/small boombox/iPod/chargers/pens/ID badges/billing books/iPod cables/food/coffee&water bottles/et al. It’s slung directly onto the OR floor immediately upon arrival and is bumped/kicked around several times a day, usually by someone who didn’t see it.

    There’s wear on the zipper pulls. That’s it.

    My Brain Bag has seen much less use but seems built to the same level and I anticipate it will last indefinitely as well. Tom Bihn bags fall into my category of: “Buy the best and only cry once when you write the check.” But as always, YMMV :-)

    12

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