Those of you that have read my blog over the years and did not know how big of Tom Bihn fan I am, raise your hand. In my opinion, Tom Bihn is the top maker of quality luggage and gear bags in the country. Since 1972 Tom Bihn has been working out of their Seattle factory making bags by hand and making certain every bag you get from them is top quality.
I have been one of the lucky people over the past years to review many of their bags. Here is a list of some of my favorites:
CheckPoint Flyer Breifcase:
Ristretto for the iPad (My Favorite):
And the unique Field Journal Notebook:
Today we’re looking at their latest offering to the laptop/briefcase market, The Cadet. First the basics:
The Cadet is a minimalist briefcase designed to fit your laptop, a few files or magazines, power supplies, pens, notebooks, and other small accessories.
The Cadet is available is two sizes: 15/13 and 11/iPad. Both sizes feature a removable protective laptop sleeve (called the Cadet Cache) in sizes designed specifically to fit Apple laptops and the iPad: the 15/13 size fits both the 15″ and 13″ MacBook Pro, the 13″ MacBook, and the 13″ MacBook Air, while the 11/iPad size fits the 11″ MacBook Air and the iPad/iPad 2.
The Cadet is made with an exterior of 1050d U.S. ballistic nylon, which has twice the abrasion resistance of 1680 denier fabric, and an interior of ultra-lightweight Japanese Dyneema/nylon ripstop fabric, made for us in Japan. In between the exterior and the lining is .25″ / 8mm closed cell foam on the front, back and bottom – this gives the Cadet its shape and provides additional protection for your laptop (and if you choose to go au naturale, this foam will provide some protection for an unprotected laptop). The Cadet features #10 and #8 YKK splash-proof zippers with metal pulls.
The Cadet has three exterior access compartments, six interior organizer pockets (five on the 11/iPad size), and one exterior open-top pocket (on the back). The small, front horizontal zippered pocket of the Cadet is lined with Ultrasuede® and designed to fit an iPhone or iPhone simulacra. Like the other compartments of the Cadet, this pocket zips shut with a YKK Uretek splash-proof zipper.
Inside of the main compartment of the Cadet clips a Cadet Cache: a specially modified version of our popular Cache laptop sleeve. Using two Gatekeeper clips, the bottom edge of the Cadet Cache attaches to two vertical pieces of webbing sewn into the Cadet. When passing through a TSA checkpoint, you can easily slide your laptop/iPad (still in its protective Cadet Cache) out of the Cadet for X-ray inspection; your laptop remains protected and attached to the Cadet. Also inside the main compartment is a large open-top pocket: your files or magazines won’t come along for the ride when you slide the Cadet Cache out at the checkpoint.
Of course, the Cadet works well as briefcase for those who eschew laptops and just want to carry files or a book or two; you can buy it sans Cadet Cache and save $30.00. The retail price with the Cache is $170.00.
The Cadet is one of those bags that doesn’t claim to be the perfect answer to all your carrying needs, but when you spend time looking at the layout, the construction, the thought and the expansion capabilities built into the briefcase, you realize it’s all you’ll need for 90% of your day to day work. This is not a “minimalistic” offering from Tom Bihn, it’s a top class laptop, briefcase bag. The inside was as impressive of material and look and feel of any bag I’ve seen. It’s built to stand years and years of abuse, in fact, every one of the bags I’ve reviewed above are still all in great working condition.
Whenever I review a Tom Bihn bag I receive feedback about the pricing. They are not inexpensive laptop cases. They are hand sewn, hand stitched and locally made superior luggage. Whether you’re looking for a laptop bag, an iPad bag, a briefcase, or maybe something larger, Tom Bihn has the perfect option. The only problem is this, choose carefully, you’ll probably own the one you purchase for many, many years to come.