In the pursuit to find the ideal travel bag last winter, I conducted an extensive Internet search, which ultimately led me to develop astigmatism (joking) and come to the conclusion that Tom Bihn manufactures the ultimate in quality and spaciousness regarding carry-on bags. With seemingly infinite room for expansion, I coaxed my boyfriend into gifting me the Black/Iberian Aeronaut for Christmas. Since unwrapping the contents of my present, I have yet to stray from its superior craftsmanship and am constantly amazed by how much I can pack within its spacious compartments. With Summer lending itself well to weekend getaways, my Aeronaut has firmly secured its place as my constant companion.
As airlines increasingly charge passengers with extraneous baggage fees for checked bags, investing in a carry-on has never been more cost efficient. Nothing can possibly incite more panic in me than the loss of a checked bag while traveling. Thankfully, Tom Bihn’s Aeronaut has eliminated any desire for me to ever check a bag again.
Inspired by his boyhood in Santa Cruz, California, president and namesake Tom Bihn grew up in the ’60s as a self-described “outdoor fiend.” As a child Bihn could not afford the outdoor gear he obsessed over in catalogs and at his parents’ prodding, began making the goods himself. After receiving sewing lessons from his mom and an old sewing machine from his grandmother, Bihn began constructing the ever popular down jacket for his friends. Eventually he realigned his talents to focus his attention on bags and in 1990 Bihn started manufacturing his products in a storefront in Santa Cruz. Realizing the power of the Internet afforded him the ability to abandon his storefront, Bihn relocated to Port Angeles, and again quickly relocated to Seattle once he discovered his efforts were futile in finding experienced sewers and machine repair technicians in Port Angeles.
Still operated out of Seattle today, Bihn continues to manufacture his products in the U.S. Costumers visiting the Seattle retail store (which is open every Wednesday, select Saturdays and by appointment) have the opportunity to view the company’s amazing factory crew in action.
Each Tom Bihn bag is carefully constructed of durable materials and components. Keeping its products manufactured in America has allowed the company to maintain strict quality and control over the items it produces while ensuring the brand only sells items that were made by fairly compensated laborers. Tom Bihn is just as dedicated to creating quality products as it is to producing quality jobs. Not to mention, keeping the products made in the U.S. has allowed the brand to avoid “feature bleed” - the tendency for products from different companies to coincidentally end up looking alike since they all come from the same contract manufacturing plants.
Once the bags have been assembled, each care label is inscribed with the Latin phrase “Siquid mantica non capit, domi relinquendum est.” Translation: If it doesn’t fit in your knapsack, leave it behind – which may explain why I systematically wish I was gearing up for an international back-packing sojourn every time I slip the straps around my shoulders and hoist my bag onto my back (pathetically, I have even started to develop Aeronaut-guilt for when I merely take my bag to visit my parents’ house, knowing full-well the bag was intended for worldly adventures). As a recovering over-packer I now strictly adhere to this inscribed motto. No other bag has enabled me to feel like I have somehow jammed everything I could possibly need into a bag without it bursting at the seams (countless costumer reviews express the same sentiment). The attention to quality is what makes Tom Bihn, Tom Bihn. The brand prides itself on durable materials and design, with the intention that Tom Bihn bags will last a lifetime and I have no problem testing out this product guarantee.