This article was published on November 8, 2011

TNW Review: The Tom Bihn Cadet laptop bag is a rugged and refined winner

TNW Review: The Tom Bihn Cadet laptop bag is a rugged and refined winner
Matthew Panzarino
Story by

Matthew Panzarino

Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter. Matthew Panzarino was Managing Editor at TNW. He's no longer with the company, but you can follow him on Twitter.

The Tom Bihn Cadet is a newly announced laptop bag from one of the best portage companies in the business. Tom Bihn has a track record of excellent travel bags for computers and equipment all assembled in their US factory located in Seattle.

I’ve been using the Cadet to port around my 11″ MacBook Air for the past several weeks and I’ve had a chance to put it through the wringer.

As with any other Tom Bihn product that I’ve used before, it is evident that they are making some of the most well crafted stuff out there in bags. Every seam on the bag is tucked and rolled for strength, with an exterior of 1050d ballistic nylon and Japanese Dyneema and Nylon ripstop fabric.

Every zipper on the bag is beaded to prevent moisture and automatically seals up when you close it. The zipper pulls are heavy duty and don’t feel flimsy. Both the secondary opening and the main opening are double-zippered for flexible closure around a protruding object. The zippers are classy, but I would really love it if they were self-latching. Because there are 5 pulls on the bag, it tends to jingle a bit. Not Santa Claus level or anything, but its noticeable if inching down the row in a crowded and quiet lecture hall.

The top handles are well attached and comfortable for gripping, if not for the primary method of extended carrying. They also appear to be fixed at the weight-center of the bag, which means it doesn’t tilt forward or back when you’ve got it full up.

The frontmost pouch is lined in suede, making it an ideal carry spot for a phone or other shiny scratch-able object. The next pocket clamshells to half its height, making it decently accessible. A fabric wing might help here, but its not hard to see all the way to the bottom.

There are 3 pen holders and two interior pockets here, all coated in the trademark yellow interior that helps you find things inside even when it is dim. The contrast really helps with tiny dark USB keys and cords.

The main pouch has some extremely clever features. There is a ‘rail’ system that allows you to pull the included Cache laptop pouch out for inspection by airport security. The pouch is detachable by way of two clips, so you’re not stuck using it if you have your own.

There are also two small lanyard attachment points that let you clip on your keys or one of Tom Bihn’s trademark pouches for accessories. There is a rear pocket that allows for quick stuffing of papers or transforms into a luggage handle passthrough if you’ve got a rollaway along with you.

The strap, if you have not had the pleasure of using a Bihn bag before, is magnificent. Incredibly comfortable neoprene with a seamed edge and a grippy bottom make this one of the better straps I’ve used in recent memory. Super stylish? Not per-se, but it’s incredibly effective and blends nicely with the ‘tech functional’ aesthetic of the Cadet.

Carrying the bag fully loaded is an exercise in comfort. The strap takes the impact of your steps well and lengthy toting of a bulging Cadet shouldn’t be a problem. I tested the 11″ Air model myself, which fits nicely into the small of a back or under the arm without feeling bulky. Because the strap is so wide and positionable, it is easily wearable in the 3/4 “messenger” style position.

I’ve found the Cadet to be a genuine pleasure to test and use. While it isn’t my personal style (I tend towards voluminous messenger bags) It is one of the classiest ‘pure laptop style’ bags I’ve ever toted. A combination of absolutely premium materials and visible care in craftsmanship should make the Cadet a part of anyone decision process when shopping for a compact laptop bag.

You can purchase the Cadet from Tom Bihn in 15/13″ or 11″/iPad sizes for $170.00.

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