The Highs: Bihn quality; super lightweight; secure in backpack mode; attractive price
The Lows: Need to compress items before packing to fully leverage its effectiveness as a cube
The Verdict: A double-duty product that doesn’t over-compromise
I’ve always looked at multi-function products with a healthy dose of skepticism. A Swiss Army knife is a neat little tool, but if you want a good pair of scissors, or a great knife, or a capable screwdriver, let’s face it: a Swiss Army knife is about the last tool you’d look to. Yes, it’s handy in a pinch, but the compromises involved in packing a dozen tools into a tiny package are significant, and I’d argue it’s a tool that does nothing particularly well.
What then, to make of a product that seeks to serve as a packing cube and as a daypack? The direct result of customer feedback on the Bihn website forum, the two available models of Bihn Packing Cube/Backpacks are simple rectangular daypacks which also function en route as packing cubes. Unlike top loading packs, these unzip practically all the way on 3 sides, making packing them a snap as well as making retrieving items from them when used as a daypack quite easy.
Recently a question arose as to how secure these packs are when used in the backpack mode, so when I shot a simple video overview, I also addressed that specific issue:
As mentioned in the video, the Bihn Packing Cube/Backpack is available in two sizes: one designed to fit the Tri-Star and Western Flyer, and one spec’d for the Aeronaut. One clarification: the cube/packpacks feature an O ring for a key tab, but the key tab is not included; my bad – sorry for any confusion. They are quite similar dimensionally, and of course will work with a multitude of bags from other manufacturers.
Tri-Star/Western Flyer version
- Same specs as above, except:
- Overall dimensions (as a packing cube): 13.5″ x 13.5″ x 4.25″ / 345 x 345 x 105mm
- Volume (as a backpack): 16 liters (975 cu. in.), ASTM Standard Measure
- 9.2 oz / 260 g
A photo tour
The reason why the bag is stable in the backpack mode stems from the location of the backpack straps themselves. At the top of the bag, they’re located near its center, and at its bottom, near the outside edges; as a result, the straps tend to fit snugly beneath your arms:
#5 YKK coil type zippers are used throughout, and there are double pulls on the main compartment of each bag, allowing you to use small locks, if you prefer. (Both compartments on the Aeronaut cube/pack feature double pulls.)
As you can see in any of these images, the stitching quality is superb, and where required, key seams & attachment points are heavily bar tacked:
The buckles are of high quality, and adjusting them was a cinch (ha, I amuse myself). The backpack straps are a full 1-7/8″ wide, and are actually quite comfortable, given the relatively light loads the bag will see as a daypack:
The cube/daypack is also fitted with a top loop handle which is fine for occasional use:
To determine how much I could place in one of these packs, I used the Tri-Star/Western Flyer model and packed the following items:
- 2 long sleeve turtleneck shirts
- 5 tee shirts
- 2 Ex-Officio v-neck undershirts
- 3 pair Ex-Officio underwear
- 2 pair athletic socks
- 3 pair travel socks
- 1 Capilene long sleeve baselayer shirt
Here’s the cube, loaded with these items; note that I’ve used rubber bands to compress some of the smaller items. It looks as though everything won’t fit, because the side of the cube has collapsed a bit…
… but here’s the cube zipped shut, and there’s still a bit of room left over for a few additional squishable/stuffable items:
And, just for reference, here’s a shot of the Aeronaut cube/backpack version in my Aeronaut; there’s an inch or two of additional space still available above the cube/backpack:
Packing cubes serve two functions: they help organize your packed clothing and items, and they can be used to compress clothing, thereby maximizing storage space. A “packing cube” as large as these is a bit of an oddity, in that they’re nearly as large as the main compartments they’re intended to fit (see image above).
By compressing individual items (as I’ve done above by rolling smaller items and rubber banding them) and frankly by filling the cube/pack to a point where it looks as though you’ve exceeded its capacity, you can still achieve some degree of compression and thereby help maximize storage space. One might also consider packing larger articles of clothing in compression bags prior to loading into these packing cube/backpacks in order to maximize the remaining space in the bag.
As a bonus, each of these can also serve as simple yet effective daypacks. They may not have the cachet of a Black Diamond Bullet or a Marmot Kompressor, but they weigh much less, cost less, are perfectly functional, and are super easy to pack – and unpack. Moreover, if you’re navigating a neighborhood that’s a bit sketchy, they won’t attract undue attention (unless you opt for the solar color!). At the price, they’re a solid value. Both are available in a variety of colors, and are backed by Bihn’s excellent warranty and service.
See them at the Bihn website:
The Fine Print: I have no connection with any of the companies mentioned in this post. I was provided sample packing cube/backpacks to assist in the preparation of this article.