Tom Bihn makes great bags, and I can say that with absolute confidence. My husband has a Tom Bihn Empire Builder bag that he has used every single day for the past 8 years. After seven years, we bought him a new Absolute Shoulder Strap, but the bag itself looks as good as the day he opened up the package. I’ve owned a Zephyr bag, which is a slightly smaller version of the Empire Builder, for several years. While mine doesn’t get as much use as Butch’s does, my bag also looks brand new. When I saw that Tom Bihn was selling the Breve, a minimalist bag for iPad/iPad 2, I knew I had to try one. Tom Bihn was kind enough to provide me with a Breve. They even threw in one of their new screen cleaning cloths. So, does the Breve live up to my expectations?
Some photos, including the top one, can be clicked for an enlarged view.
The Breve has a 1050d ballistic nylon exterior; the interior is soft, brushed nylon that almost feels like a microfiber cleaning cloth. I measured the bag at about 12.5” wide X 9.6” tall X 0.3” thick. The bag is bound with a black fabric tape that extends about 1.25” past each end. These tabs are topped with a heavy-duty black plastic ring; the strap connects here. The strap is made of 1” wide black belting material. It is flexible enough that the edges are soft. No strap pad is needed because the strap doesn’t feel like it’s cutting my skin. There are heavy-duty, large black plastic and metal clips at the ends and a length adjustment buckle that seems to be made of the same plastic. The strap adjusts from 31.75” to 56.5” long, including clips. It allows the bag to be worn as a shoulder or a cross-body bag. The bag plus strap weighs about 10 oz on my digital scale.
The Breve is available in Black, Kiwi, and Steel. (Navy, Cardinal, and Forest colors should also be available in late July.) I asked for the Kiwi because I want a little more color in my life. The Kiwi is a nice, bright green that looks good with the black accents and zippers. It’s not a fluorescent color, so it should fit in all but the most conservative of businesses.
The front has two zipper compartments that form a shallow V. The strip of black belting sewn on the front separates the zippered area into two pockets. As you look at the bag, the pocket on the left is very narrow; anyone with hands larger than a child’s will have trouble reaching in to get something at the bottom of that pocket. There’s no gusseting in the pockets for a little extra room. When my iPad 2 was in the back pocket, I found that my iPhone 4 in the bumper case was a very snug fit in the left pocket. I decided I’d just use that narrow pocket for the iPad charging cable. My phone and the Tom Bihn Screen Cloth fit in the larger pocket on the right. It’s big enough that you’ll be able to reach in and hunt for a small item that fell to the bottom of the pocket.
The back of the Breve has a full-width zipper. This zipper, like the two on the front, has plastic teeth and a metal slider body. This compartment holds an iPad or iPad 2. The interior of this compartment is made of 0.25” open-cell foam laminated to brushed nylon. Both sides of the iPad pocket are made of this material, which means the front pockets also have this material at the back. (The outside of the front zipper pockets has no padding).
The back of the Breve has three stitching lines. I’m not sure what the purpose of this is. I guess this very minimal quilting could make the back more protective for the iPad inside. Or it could simply be the stitching holds the ballistic nylon exterior fabric to the interior padding.
The Breve is designed to work with both the original iPad and the iPad 2. I keep my iPad 2 in both the Smart Cover and the HyperShield back cover all the time, and I was very happy to see that it fit in with room to spare. The pocket is deep enough that my iPad 2 fit completely below the zipper, so I don’t have to worry about the zipper’s metal slider body scratching anything. I also tried the original iPad in the Belkin Grip Vue case; it fit in the pocket and stayed below the zipper as well, but it was a tighter fit.
I love the Tom Bihn Breve! I haven’t had it long enough to say that it will wear as well as the Empire Builder and the Zephyr have. However, I trust the quality of the Tom Bihn products I’ve owned to think that the Breve will still be in great shape long after the iPad has been replaced by the next great thing. It’s big enough to carry my iPad 2 without having to strip off the cases I normally use. I could put my keys and phone in the front pockets, attach my small wallet with a wrist strap to the Breve’s strap and have everything I need while doing errands. The color isn’t one that I would have chosen in the past, but I really like it. The Breve is as sleek as the iPad it was designed to protect. I can’t think of a thing that needs changing other than perhaps resizing the front pockets to give the left one a bit more room.
I’ve mentioned the Screen Cloth a few times, so I’d better give you some more details. The cloth is made of UltraSuede, and it comes in Lapis Blue, Peony Pink, and Asphalt Gray. I received the Asphalt Gray. The cloth has a swoopy, flag-fluttering-in-the-breeze shape. It measures about 8.25” X 8.25”. It’s thicker than most screen cleaning cloths I’ve used, and its suede-like surface helps it clean my iPhone and my iPad 2’s screens quickly, no matter how smudgy they are. You can add a Screen Cloth to your order for only $7.00.
I don’t think you could go wrong with the Breve. It’s just big enough to carry what you need for meetings or for doing errands around town. It’s light enough that it doesn’t break your back, even when you’ve got it loaded up. And there are enough colors available that you should be able to find one that fits your style.