A review of Tom Bihn’s Checkpoint Flyer – Day One

I have been a customer and fan of Tom Bihn’s bags for many years.  You can find a link to them in my Blogroll.  Recently, Tom (yes, there really is a Tom Bihn who is the top guy at Tom Bihn) developed a new computer bag which complies with the new TSA rules and allows you to put your bag through the X-ray machine without removing your computer.  Darcy, who handles customer relations for Tom contacted me and asked me to evaluate this new bag – the Checkpoint Flyer.  Yes, I get to keep the bag, so I am being compensated for this review, which was prepared for their forums.  With that out of the way, here is day one of my experiences with the Checkpoint Flyer.


—————————————-

When I arrived home today after running some errands, our one-eyed Irish Setter SUE let me know that she had rescued a box from the clutches of the UPS man.  She told me that it was from somebody named Tom Bihn (actually it was from Darcy, but SUE’s reading skills aren’t always top notch).

 

SUE rescues the box from the UPS man!

SUE rescues the box from the UPS man!

Let’s see what’s in it.  The box contains (1) Absolute Strap, (1) Packing Cube: Western Flyer Small Mesh, (1)  Packing Cube: Western Flyer Small Fabric, and (1) Checkpoint Flyer.

 

What's in the box?

What is in the box?

 

Here it is unpacked.

Here it is unpacked.

 

That certainly is a nice looking bunch of loot.  I really like the Crimson outer flap on the Checkpoint Flyer.  I’m not as enthused about the grey/white checked interior color scheme, or that the Packing Cubes are identical to the interior of the bag itself.  But that is awfully minor nit-picking so early.

Let’s take a closer look at the bag.  Figure 4

Figure 4 - closed up and empty

Figure 4 - closed up and empty

 shows the bag empty and all closed up as if ready for travel.  To get it ready for the X-ray machine, you just unbuckle the two buckles at the bottom of the bag an spread it open as shown in Figure 5

Figure 5 - opened up

Figure 5 - opened up

and lay it on the belt.  Flip the (red) flap back into it’s original position and it is ready to go (Figure 6).

Figure 6 - ready to scan

Figure 6 - ready to scan

  Your laptop, in my case a 17-inch G4 Mac PowerBook, fits very snugly into the part that is flipped out (Figure 7).  The laptop case is clearly labeled “THIS SECTION FOR LAPTOP ONLY” on a tag in the case.  This is the magic trick that allows the Checkpoint Flyer to fly through the X-ray machine.

Normally, I carry all of my computer related gear in one of Tom Bihn’s fabulous Empire Builder cases.  The Empire Builder is a huge bag.  Because it has so much carrying capacity, I tend to bring everything (often including the proverbial kitchen sink) with me – see Figure 8.

I knew that the Checkpoint Flyer would not hold EVERYTHING that I normally pack into my Empire Builder.  But I was really surprised at how little I had to leave out.  Figure 9

Figure 9 - what I had to leave out

Figure 9 - what I had to leave out

 shows the three things that didn’t make it into the Checkpoint Flyer – a Radtech bluetooth mouse, my Kensington universal power adapter kit, and a firewire cable that apparently I didn’t need to be carrying anyhow.

So what did make it into the Checkpoint Flyer?  Simply all of this (Figure 10):

Figure 10 - my full kit load

Figure 10 - my full kit load

 

 

Now, let’s dissect how all of that made it into the bag.  Into the front flap (Figure 11)

Figure 11 - the front flap

Figure 11 - the front flap

 went my reading material for the trip (2 large paperbacks), my travel alarm clock, my iPod, and my earphones (Figure 12).

Figure 12 - books and music

Figure 12 - books and music

 

 

In the two compartments under the front flap I put some cables, some pens, a couple of MMC cards, the power supply for my Mac and my Airport Express.  They are laying on top of the laptop compartment in Figure 13.

Figure 13 - stuff under the front flap

Figure 13 - stuff under the front flap

 

 

In the large interior compartment (Figure 14)

Figure 14 - large interior compartment

Figure 14 - large interior compartment

 I put a lot of stuff.  It should be noted that the two packing cubes would fit side-by-side into this compartment.  I didn’t end up using them for this trip, but I will probably explore that in a future load-out.  There are two large pouches at the back of this main compartment.  Into one of them went an old blue Snake Charmer filled with the cables, stand, etc. for my Maxtor firewire external drive and my Kensington mouse.  Into the other pouch went the drive itself, snugly wrapped up in a grey Domke wrap.  I also got a zippered folio/notepad with some papers, my beanbag wrist rest, a mouse pad, and some more cables.  It all fit, but was very crowded as you can see in Figure 15.

Figure 15 - the jam packed main compartment

Figure 15 - the jam packed main compartment

 

 

In Figures 16

Figure 16 - fully loaded front view

Figure 16 - fully loaded front view

and 17

Figure 17 - fully loaded side view

Figure 17 - fully loaded side view

you can see what the fully loaded Checkpoint Flyer looks like.  In Figure 18

Figure 18 - Dad and SUE ready to go

Figure 18 - Dad and SUE ready to go

, my father graciously models the loaded bag, while SUE sniffs the load.  Just for reference, Dad stand 5-foot, 9-inches tall (SUE is somewhat shorter).

 

 

 

And just for completeness, Figure 19

Figure 19 - check out that backside

Figure 19 - check out that backside

 shows the backside of the bag.

 

If this is going to be my primary bag, I’m going to have to either reorganize in some miraculous fashion or carry less stuff.  The real test will begin tomorrow (or actually just a few hours later this morning) when I start carrying it through airport checkpoints.  Will the convenience be worth the trade off?  Tune in later on this same Bat-channel and I’ll let you know what I find.

Pros:

Looks great

Holds more than I anticipated

Good organizational capabilities

Checkpoint fly-by (to be tested)

Awesome Tom Bihn construction will last forever

 

Cons:

Doesn’t hold as much as an Empire Builder (is that really a con?)

Pricey – but not really for the quality and innovation

I apologize if some of my Figures got pretty out of synch with my text.  It’s early, and I have to go catch a flight soon.  

A more detailed set of photos can be found at:

 Flickr set

 

 

 

Figure 8 - a fully overloaded Empire Builder

Figure 8 - a fully overloaded Empire Builder

 

 

Figure 7 - a snug fit

Figure 7 - a snug fit

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One comment on “A review of Tom Bihn’s Checkpoint Flyer – Day One

  1. Sam Nash says:

    Good bag. Love the Freudian Slip. Keeps all my material organized in hotel rooms. Hard to remove the laptop easily so it’s not my day to bag. That being said it’s perfect for travel.

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