Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review.

Front-view of the Tom Bihn Tri-star.

Front-view of the Tom Bihn Tri-star.

Its been quite a while since I’ve done my last gear review. I’ve been busy with a full travel/work schedule and simply not had time to write a proper review.

I recently got a Tom Bihn Tri-Star ($240 retail) convertible carry-on bag for a week long trip to China. The bag has a similar 3-compartment design to the Red Oxx AirBoss I’ve reviewed before, but is slightly smaller. Measuring in at 19″x13″x8″, the Tri-Star is the perfect size to meet all airline carry-on size regulations. In fact, the bag will fit comfortably underneath the seat of a 737 (assuming no video equipment is in the way). Thoughtful features like grips on all sides of the bags make taking the bag out of overheads or out from under seats a breeze.

Side View: Note the convenient handle for pulling the bag out of overheads.

Side View: Note the convenient handle for pulling the bag out of overheads.

Carrying options:

The bag comes standard with two ways of carrying.

Author carrying the Tri-Star as a shoulder bag.

Author carrying the Tri-Star as a shoulder bag.

1. Padded suitcase handles (great for carrying the bag down narrow-body aircraft aisles).

2. Padded/stowable backpack straps. These straps are great for longer likes down the terminal. (Cleveland Hopkins D terminal, I’m talking about you).

The bag also features metal attachment points for a shoulder strap (not included). I prefer to shoulder carry the bag so I used the $30 Tom Bihn Absolute Strap with the bag as my primary way of carrying.

Author carrying the bag in backpack mode.

Author carrying the bag in backpack mode.

Compartments/Pockets:

The bag feature three “main” compartments and four smaller outside pockets. The back of the bag features an additional zippered pocket where the backpack straps are stored when not in use. This pocket backs up to the “main” compartment. The main compartment is meant to hold your clothing and features two nice tie-down straps to keep your clothes in place and compressed to save space

Main compartment with tie-down straps.

Main compartment with tie-down straps.

The next compartment is the center compartment. I used this compartment to store all of my electronic goodies for the trip. (Netbook + Charger, iPhone+Charger, adapters, camera and a few other nicknacks. I still had plenty of room in this compartment. I could easily have fit a pair of shoes in here too.

The final outer compartment features a zip-out divider. The divider splits the compartment 1/3 – 2/3 and can be unzipped to create a single large compartment. I liked having the compartment divider as it kept my eagle creek pack-it cubes separate.

Front compartment with zip-out divider.

Front compartment with zip-out divider.

The outside of the bag features four more pockets. Three standard pockets for storing everything from airplane tickets/passports to keys. There is even a built in keyring in one of the pockets to hold your keys in place. One of the pockets is designed to hold water bottles but is useless IMO. Other people swear by this feature.

How did it work out?

I took the bag for a week-long business/leisure trip to Asia and had plenty of room to spare. I didn’t pack a suit but I did pack a combination of leisure and business casual wear for late summer early fall. On this trip, I saved space by wearing my dress shoes full time, but I certainly could have squeezed an extra pair into the bag.

My payload included:

*Asus Netbook + Charger

*iPhone + Charger

*Camera

*2 pairs casual pants + 1 pair business pants

*3 pairs Ex-officio underpants

*3 pairs quick drying socks

*2 button down dress shirts + 2 casual shirts.

*Toothbrush+Toothpaste

*1 Gillete Mach 3 razor (Hate these, but the TSA frowns on my double edge razors of choice)

*1/2 stick Speick shave soap

* 1/2 Bar Ivory soap (to be used for sink laundry) –More on this in a future review

* Surgical Latex Travel Laundry line.

Total weight: 15.5 pounds.

Comparison:

I’ve previously reviewed a Red Oxx Air-Boss bag on this site. The AirBoss is slightly larger but features a very similar design. I think if I had to carry a suit with me, I’d have opted for the AirBoss, any other trip and the Tri-Star works just as well if not better (due to the backpack straps).

In the past I’ve tried Red Oxx’s convertible bag the “SkyTrain” but was less impressed with the two compartment design. I really love being able to have two compartments for clothes and one for electronics. This three compartment design really allows me to live out of a suitcase.

Conclusison:

It looks like Tom Bihn has a hit on their hands! The bag worked out great for me. This bag is a worthy competitor/companion to the Red Oxx AirBoss and would be the bag of choice for those who opt to backpack-style carry their bags.

While the bag may look small it holds more than enough for the experienced one-bag traveler to live out of for two weeks.

See more images of the Tri-Star at the flickr stream I’ve posted: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lordhamster/sets/72157622530474090/

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3 Responses to Tom Bihn Tri-Star Review.

  1. John says:

    Andreas,

    How does the worksmanship compare with the Air Boss? I’m very impressed with the strength of the zippers, the construction of the bag and the attention to detail that went into the American made Air Boss.

    The main attractions of this bag over the Air Boss for me would be the removable back pack straps and slightly smaller size, which are not deal breakers. Where is this bag made?

    Thanks,
    John

  2. Andreas says:

    Hi John,

    This bag is also made in the USA. Tom Bihn bags are all hand made in their Seattle factory. Check out their site for photos.

    The workmanship on the bag is superb and they also use metal strap attachment points (for the shoulder strap, not the backpack).

    I’d say the only difference in materials are these:

    The Tri-star uses a thicker more self-supporting material. The Airboss has more robust zippers… albeit not water-resistant like those on the Tri-star. I guess a result of Tom Bihn being in Seattle is fear of rain.

    I’d say both bags are on par with one another as far as quality. The Red Oxx definitely looks more over-engineered and bomb-proof. If you want backpack straps look into the RedOxx Skytrain as well, it does not have 3 compartments but is also a damn good bag.

  3. John says:

    Hi Andreas,
    Thanks for the additional info. I’ll check out the Tri-Star. The waterproof zippers are attractive to me as well. I had already checked out the Skytrain online when doing my original research, but rejected it over the Airboss for my needs.
    Best regards,
    John

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