The Highs: High end components, impeccable build quality, feature rich design

The Lows: There’s a price to be paid for all this goodness

The Verdict: An utterly fantastic bag for 3 to 5 day – or longer – trips

There’s something deeply satisfying about using a piece of equipment or product that’s thoughtfully designed and perfectly executed:  the positive, precise feel of the switchgear on any Acura; the silky operation of a Kirk tripod head; the perfect heft and balance of a high end chef’s knife; and dare I say, the new Tom Bihn Tri-Star.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star logo patchThe Tri-Star is so well thought out, so beautifully made, its materials so obviously rich, its stitching so perfect,  it practically redefines the state of the art for lightweight carry-on bags.   Bihn may have a dilemma on its hands:  the Tri-Star raises the bar for all soft sided, non-wheelie bags…  including the company’s other models.  The Tri-Star is that nice.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star

My wife, who clings tenaciously to her $39 Olympia 22″ expandable wheelie and thinks carrying a bag over ones shoulder or on your back is the dumbest idea imaginable, has never issued a single comment on any of the bags that’ve shown up in my home office.  Until the Tri-Star arrived.  “Hey, that red bag in your office is really nice,” she commented one night.  After picking my jaw off the floor, I asked why.

“Uh, the size of it, and the design – the zippers, the way the pockets are – it just looks a lot nicer than those other bags, which are all sort of industrial looking,” she said, “This one’s just nicer.  It looks good for a weekend trip.”

I’m by no means convinced she’s about to convert to a non-wheelie, but I found her reaction interesting.  This bag simply oozes quality.  Let’s take a closer look…

The Basics

The Tri-Star (the name is apparently a reference to the bag’s three carry modes) is a mid-sized, soft sided carry-on that fits between the Western Flyer and Aeronaut in the Bihn line:

Tom Bihn Western Flyer, Tri-Star, & Aeronaut

The Western Flyer is suited to quick overnight or 3d/2n trips; the Aeronaut, for longer, 5-7+ day journeys.  The Tri-Star fits the middle of the spectrum.  For business travelers, it’s perfect for 3-5 day trips with business casual attire, workout gear, and the requisite folders and laptop; for those who go the minimal, washable lightweight clothing route, it can work for week and a half – or longer jaunts.  (For an example – a Bihn customer who went to Europe for 18 days with nothing more than her Tri-Star – click on this link:  Europe 2009 on 17 lbs. )  By the way – click on any of the images in this post for a close-up view.

Let’s take a look at the specs and then go on a guided tour:


  • 19″ x 13″ x 8″ (480 x 330 x 205mm)
  • 3.4 lbs.  /  1550 grams
  • Volume:  2000 cu. in. / 33 liters
  • Exterior:  1050 denier Ballistic nylon.  Available in 4 colors: Indigo, Crimson, Steel, BlackIndigo, Crimson, Steel, Black
  • Lined with ultra light Dyneema/nylon ripstop fabric
  • #10 & #8 YKK Uretek “splash proof” zippers
  • Comes with metal zipper tabs; cord pulls also included, should you prefer them
  • Meets domestic and most international airlines’ carry-on size requirements; fits in overhead on CRJ commuters; meets Heathrow luggage requirements
  • Converts to a backpack
  • Carry handles feature Poron foam for comfort
  • Heavy gauge double plated D rings for optional shoulder strap
  • Compartments feature numerous O rings for securing key tabs and small Bihn pouches; bag comes with one key tab
  • Grab handles on both ends for retrieval from overhead compartments
  • 3 primary compartments:  front – 19″ x 13″ x 2½”; center – 19″ x 13″ x 2¾”; rear – 19″ x 13″ x 2¾”
  • Front compartment is zippered on 3 sides, features the Bihn zippered divider
  • Center compartment’s zipper spans the top of the bag and extends 3″ down each side; this compartment features clips to secure a Bihn “Brain Cell” (laptop sleeve)
  • Rear compartment is zippered on 3 sides, features compression straps for securing clothing

A quick tour…

The front of the bag features 3 zippered compartments that are 10″ wide and remarkably commodius.  As with the Western Flyer, the top pocket runs behind the other two and is 10½” deep; it easily accommodated a 7½” x 9½” soft cover book (a Kindle will easily fit in this pocket, by the way).  The middle compartment extends downward behind the bottom pocket and measures  9″ deep; it’s perfect for your TSA 3-1-1 liquids bag and perhaps one or two other small items.  The bottom compartment is 6″ deep and is great for keys, snacks, a music player, passport, and other small items.  All 3 compartments feature O rings for key tabs or any of the plethora of pouches offered by Bihn.

Tom Bihn Tri-Star front pockets

On the other side of the front of the bag is a compartment with an elliptically shaped, zippered opening.  This is a great place for boarding passes.  If you prefer, it can accommodate a water bottle, which can be secured with a snap closure.  There’s no need to zip this compartment closed when you’ve got a bottle in it and are using the backpack straps; this end of the bag is on top when in backpack mode; the bottle’s weight (plus the snapped enclosure) will keep it safely in place.   If using it for boarding passes or documents, they shouldn’t fall out, but zip it up anyway; better safe than sorry.   Note that in this picture the pocket is fully unzipped to afford you a better view; in practice it’d be zipped up at least a third of the way:
Tom Bihn Tri-Star:  bottle/boarding pass pocket

The 3 main compartments…

The front compartment features the same zippered divider that we saw on the Western Flyer.  Tom is a firm believer that any good travel bag should accommodate an extra pair of shoes, and that’s what the right side compartment is intended for.  The divider keeps your shoes safely segregated from the clothing or other items stored on the left side.  If carrying extra footwear isn’t something you need, unzip the divider and you have another 19″ x 13″ x 2½” deep compartment that unzips on all 3 sides enabling the bag to open flat for easy packing with packing cubes, rolls, or bundles:
Tom Bihn Tri-Star:  divided compartment

The center compartment is a straightforward affair which features  “Annex Clips” which secure a Bihn laptop case.  Those cases are available in a variety of sizes to handle different laptops; if you’re not going to use the clips, they’re removable.  As I use a netbook on the road, I use this compartment for underwear, extra clothing, folders, and the like.
Tom Bihn TriStar center compartment

The rear compartment is (obviously) zippered on all three sides and features compression straps for securing your clothing.  For the record, the bundle shown here included 4 long sleeve oxford shirts, a pair of chinos, and two golf shirts served as the core.  An O ring is visible at the top (middle right in this image) of the rear side; there are two additional O rings in this compartment – more about this in a moment.
Tom Bihn Tri-Star main compartment with bundle

Here’s a quick shot of this compartment before being fully zipped closed:
Tom Bihn Tri-Star:  main compartment about to be zipped closed

And just a quick example of how the bag might be packed for the type of travel I usually do (business casual) – the aforementioned bundle in the back compartment, underwear, my “dry” toiletry items and a few odds and ends in the middle compartment, and my Asus netbook in its neoprene sleeve on the left, and a pair of running shoes on the right in the front compartment.  As the bottom of each of these compartments isn’t padded, I put a couple of pair of athletic socks beneath the netbook for cushioning.
Tom Bihn Tri-Star with 3 compartments loaded

Nothing new here – backpack straps deploy as you’d expect.  They’re comfortable in use; as you’d expect, the back surface of the bag is padded with dense foam for added comfort.  The straps easily tuck away when not in use.
Tom Bihn Tri-Star:  backpack mode

A removable sternum strap provides added stability and comfort, especially helpful if you’re doing the concourse sprint:
Bihn Tri-Star - backpack mode - sternum strap

Clever, thoughtful touches abound…

One of the neatest things about checking out any Tom Bihn bag is discovering all the neat features that have been included.  The Tri-Star is loaded with such features.  Some are new; some are old favorites, like the fact that the latches for the backpack straps are tucked away in little hidden pockets:
Buckle pocket for backpack strap

The D rings are double plated and robustly designed; this shot also gives you a good look at the #10 YKK splashproof zippers used on the main compartments:
Tom Bihn Tri-Star:  D ring & zipper detail

As with the Western Flyer and Aeronaut, padded grab handles on both sides of the bag make retrieving it from overheads a snap; these are particularly well designed:
Tom Bihn Tri-Star:  grab handle detail

The stitching and detail work throughout are impeccable.  Kudos to the folks in the Bihn sewing department:  these bags are flawlessly sewn!
Tom Bihn Tri-Star:  stiching / zipper detail

I mentioned earlier that there’s an O ring on the back wall of the “main” compartment; on the other side, there are two more.  These a great for securing pouches with small items or important documents.  Another really neat feature:  the compression straps are removable via “gatekeepers” on the strap anchors  (note the metal clasp, below right) – a really thoughtful touch:
Tom Bihn Tri-Star:  main compartment detail

Wrapping up

I’ve used a lot of different bags over the years, and this is one of – if not THE most – carefully conceived and executed bags I’ve seen.  I find myself going back to certain bags, time and time again, when it comes time to pack.  The Air Boss is one of those bags, for instance; there’s no doubt the Tri-Star will fall into that category as well.  A few final thoughts and observations as we wrap up:

  • A couple of features I haven’t mentioned:  the briefcase handles are comfortable and distribute the bag’s load evenly.  The D rings for a shoulder strap are offset:  one is located on the seam between the rear and middle compartments and the other is located on the seam between the middle and front compartments.  Good news:  this helps evenly distribute the bag’s weight.
  • As I alluded to earlier, this is a great bag for 3-5 business casual trips…  or longer, if you go the minimalist, washable clothing route.  This is not, however, a bag you’re going to pack a suit in.  Some Tri-Star owners may disagree, but if you’re packing a suit, the Aeronaut or other mlc-type bag is the way to go
  • Although I’ve totally drunk the Kool-Aid with regard to bundle packing, I should mention that Bihn has designed a set of packing cubes expressly for the Tri-Star; they come in 3 sizes and are reasonably priced
  • Unlike many other soft sided bags, the Tri-Star has enough structural integrity to stand upright when empty, adding to its impression of quality and durability
  • This is not a bare bones bag with a few simple compartments and little else; rather, it’s fully featured with a lot of built in extras and conveniences. As I mentioned at the top, all these features – and all the associated materials and labor – add up.  The Tri-Star costs $240.  Is it worth it?  That depends on how – and how often – you travel, and the degree to which you’re willing to pay for quality, convenience, and durability. As is the case with all Tom Bihn bags, the Tri-Star is backed by a lifetime warranty and is made at the Bihn factory in Seattle, Washington
  • You can see the Tri-Star at the Tom Bihn website:  Tom Bihn Tri-Star

I’ll be making a quick trip to the west coast this week, and will use the Tri-Star.  I’ll try to take a few photos as I pack, and will update this post as appropriate once I’ve put it to the test.  If you’ve used the Tri-Star or other Bihn bags, please join the conversation by commenting!

The Fine Print:  I have no connection to Tom Bihn

Follow-up: Traveling with the Tri-Star was a pleasure.  The only thing I’d mention to business travelers is that if you’re packing dress shirts using the bundle method, fitting the bundle into the main compartment can be a bit tricky; I had to pack a tighter bundle than normal in order to make it work.  Upon arrival, I steamed shirts a bit in the bathroom and all was fine.   The Tri-Star will definitely have a place in my regular bag rotation – it’s a keeper!!

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39 Comments on First take: Tom Bihn Tri-Star

  1. Steve says:

    Thanks for another great review, Kevin. I’ve been eying this bag for awhile, but wanted to wait for your review. Knowing the size of the bundle you were able to put in it was particularly helpful as was the shot comparing the size of the 3 Bihn bags.

    One thing that is not clear to me though. Regarding the strap attachments being offset, you said: “Bad news: when you go to unzip either of the compartments that are zippered on 3 sides, you’ll have to un-hook one end of the shoulder strap – otherwise you won’t be able to fully open the bag”

    I’m having trouble visualizing that. It seems like since the attachments are to the center of the outside compartments, those zippers would open fully, even with the strap attached? Could you explain a bit further so I can see what you’re saying? Thanks.


    Kevin Reply:


    The “bad news” is my drawing a conclusion when I first saw the Tri-Star and not bothering to confirm whether my initial impression was accurate. The position of the D rings in no way restricts ones ability to fully open the compartments with zippers which run 3 sides. I deleted the offending phrase. Thanks for calling it to my attention, and sorry for any confusion.


  2. Michael W. says:

    Manufacturers’ websites pale in comparison to the detailed commentary and pictures you give us, in terms of useful information.

    This makes me wonder if any manufacturer (at least in this niche) has mastered the art of e-commerce. Hey if we can’t inspect a bag in a retail store, the manufacturer sure ought to give us the kind of pictures and details that you give us!

    In the beggars can try to be choosers department, is there any chance you could –

    Line up all the suitcase style carryon bags (not only the Bihns – also the Red Oxx, Paty) you have reviewed to date in order of size in a single picture or two – maybe stuffed with some towels to fill them out to “normal” travel size – so we can put them in perspective, size-wise?

    The picture of the three Bihn bags tells a story right there. I remember you put the Patagonia MLC next to a Red Oxx Air Boss once.

    It would be super helpful to see them lined up by size! Helps us know what we are getting into before we take the on-line plunge…


    Kevin Reply:


    Thanks for your kind words. I did actually take a photo of the Tri-Star alongside the Air Boss, but they are different types of bags for different types of travel, and I thought it a meaningless comparison.

    If I get a chance, I’ll try taking a shot of several of these bags together. Of course the Steves Backdoor Classic is gone, as I gave it to one of my sons.

    In defense of the Bihn site, they do a good job, and I imagine there are some bandwidth concerns when it comes to hosting tons of images. I have the luxury of posting however many images I feel like, as my traffic is miniscule.

    Thanks again…


    Jesper Reply:

    Hi Kevin
    Excellent review! Can you elaborate on how the Tri Star and Air Boss bags are different and what style of travel you think each is best suited for?

    I have used the Air Boss almost exclusively for a couple of years and love the large compartments for bundle wrapping business clothes or even fitting items such as snorkel, mask and fins for vacation. However I find most practical if I can unpack everything at destination as it doesn’t organize well or hold up shape standing upright while partly emptied. Also it is a bit too large for shorter or minimalist trips. I am considering the Tri Star (or Western Flyer) for those situations where I need to pack less, and keep things more organized in the bag at destination. I also like the option for backpack straps for those casual trips.

    Love to hear your thoughts.



  3. Eric says:

    I have a TriStar, an Aeronaut, and a roll-aboard. I definitely disagree with you about packing a suit in the TriStar. I have come to LOVE my Eagle Creek 18″ Pack-It Folder, and this fits perfectly into the main compartment of the TriStar (the one without the divider, and of course would fit in the one with the divider when its unzipped).

    Following the folding instructions on the folding board included with the Pack-It Folder, I have packed both sportcoats and suits with very good results. In fact, I would not hesitate at all to wear a suit straight out of the Folder. It won’t be pristine, but the creases should be in less conspicuous places if you did it right.

    I am working on getting my briefcase load small enough to travel with ONLY the TriStar, but I am not hopeful in this regard :) Because my travel usually takes me only to hotels and airports (no stairs or cobblestones), I often use a bag with wheels plus my briefcase(a Tom Bihn Empire Builder, by the way).


    Kevin Reply:


    Thanks… I’ll have to try it. I found putting a mid-sized bundle in the T-S a bit tight… I’ll have to pick up a Pack-It and test it out. I also need to try Till’s folding method; perhaps either or both of these would address the issue. It might just be a perception issue on my part. Thanks for challenging my thinking!!

    …and I’ll let you know the next time I’ll be making a connection at DIA!


  4. Eric says:

    Just as a side note, I was using a packing method for sportcoats and suitcoats very similar to Till’s method, before I found the EC Folder. I find that Till’s method works well but is very finicky to get all the wrinkles out. With the Folder, you do get creases, but fewer wrinkles. And you can get rid of some of the creases by wrapping the different articles of clothing in the Folder over each other (like a bundle!)

    If you try one, please post!


  5. Till says:

    Guys, which suit folding method are you talking about? There are three now. Thanks to OBOW the Suit-able technique and the “video” technique have gotten a good distribution. I cannot claim to have invented these techniques but feel honored if you want to attach my name to them. :)

    However, there is a third technique that I have never seen described or explained by anybody else. I came up with it when I wondered how to pack my suit in the TX2 or the Easygoing Carry-on.

    It involves folding the suit AROUND the EC shirt folder, the folder being filled with, in my case, shirts and ties.

    See here for the folding technique:
    If you open up the entire thread you will see more tips on how to pack a standard 22″ roller.

    See here for the original shoulder bag shoot-out including detailed packing notes in the comment section:

    Eric’s tip to fold one item into the other when using the EC folder is very good. This works with or without the folder. Basically one item cushions the other to reduce hard creases. So you can do without the tissue paper, silk paper or dry cleaner bag which essentially serve the same purpose, plus adding some slip. To do this you simply put one shirt on the other and fold them together as if they were one.

    Also put the collars on the shirt bundle in alternating directions.


  6. Michael W. says:

    My humble request to Kevin:

    IF you will be reviewing the new edition of the Patagonia MLC … which I hope you do (it’s reasonably priced and relatively widely available in retail outlets for hands-on inspection – not just sold online like many of its competitors)….

    Is there any possibility you could concurrently review the 15″ and 18″ Eagle Creek “Pack-It Folders,” maybe in connection with trial packing the MLC?

    These folding board/wrapper combinations are starting to sound like a reasonable alternative to packing cubes and bundle wrapping, at least where it’s important to minimize dress shirt wrinkles. (I think the added weight of the folding board isn’t worth it, when just packing the more wrinkle resistant polo shirts I usually wear.) The Pack-It may also allow me a way to pack my casual jacket without having it emerge from the flight full of wrinkles.

    Till, thank you for the suggestion on wrapping a jacket AROUND and not inside a Pack-It. I was thinking about picking up a larger Pack-It to handle a jacket, but now you’ve got me thinking that maybe the smaller Pack-It will work fine for the dress shirts, and form the core for folding a jacket around it. Brilliant!


    Kevin Reply:


    great idea… let me see what I can do.



  7. Eric says:

    Hmmm, great idea about wrapping the jacket around the Folder. Currently, I fold my jackets, then wrap them around the other items in the Folder. But the jackets are still inside the Folder. It works pretty well, but they still need a bit of steaming to get back to pristine condition.


  8. Till says:

    Wrapping the jackets around the folder works great. Try it out as explained in the link.

    As far as EC folders are concerned I prefer the 18″ to the much smaller 15″ folder.

    See my “review” or rather critique of the 15 incher here:

    You will most likely find the 15″ model too small (in both dimensions) to wrap a jacket around it.

    My shirt folder usually sees only shirts and ties, rarely Polos. Polos withstand wrinkling much better and I normally don’t even iron mine. I wear almost only and almost daily John Smedley Polos. (I have a source in CH that makes them more affordable but they are still expensive).

    The 18″ is much heavier than the 15″, almost 400g IIRC.

    I have just tried out bundle wrapping shirts yesterday. Used the Valoroso 25″ duffel bag. Very neatly packed (goes without saying) with two bundles. I was not at all pleased with the results. I applied great care smoothing out the shirts that had just been professionally laundered and pressed. Core size was rather big which should be an advantage. Followed the method as outlined on onebag and redoxx. I got more wrinkles than simply folding the shirts and putting them in the bag. Also the wrinkles looked like wear wrinkles and not like fold wrinkles. They were not very deep and might steam out in the bathroom but I didn’t try that yet. Will do so today. I might not be the master of bundle packing but I am pretty good at anything else concerning packing and bundle packing dress shirts would rank as the least desirable method.

    I saw both the old and new MLC live. The old one is better. It was on sale just recently for $90. Check it out if they still have it. The new one is much more common and doesn’t have the oval organizing section that is accessible in any position. A clear step bag. However, the MLC Burrito is quite cool. I just don’t think it will prevent wrinkles.



  9. MtnMan says:

    Will the Eagle Creek PackIt! Folders (15- or 18-inch) work in Tom Bihn bags, such as the Tri-Star, Western Flyer or the Aeronaut? Can you use them to pack, say, a folded sportcoat, a couple of dress shirts, and dress slacks and ties?

    The reason I ask is that I went on an air trip to Washington, DC in March (2 days, 3 nights) to visit legislators’ offices on Capitol Hill, and I took a brand new foreign-made garment bag for my clothes and other essentials. The cheapie garment bag’s zipper partially burst just as I was about to depart my hotel for my return flight home, and I was lucky to make it all the way back without the bag failing entirely.

    I recently bought one of Bihn’s “Super Ego” briefcases with accessories. It sold me on USA-made luggage. I determined that I want an FAA-sized carry-on that’s USA-made, extremely high-quality and thoughtful design, with triple-carry-mode ability (nice tote handles, optional shoulder strap, and backpack-ability). Bihn tops my list.

    The one thing I’m wondering is how I can carry a full suit in any of these bags without ruining it. Will the Eagle Creek folders work in any of those Bihn bags? I’m using my March trip to Washington as the model for what I would carry in one of those bags:

    My shaving/toiletries kit (in ziploc bag)
    Full suit: sport coat, ties, 2 pr. dress slacks, 2 dress shirts, 1 pr. nice shoes
    Undies for 3 days & 2 pr. dress socks
    Regular “civvie” clothes for return trip: jeans, t-shirt, regular socks
    Trash bag to house “dirty” clothes after they had been worn

    I also carried some literature from DC back home with me. But the garment bag was by no means overstuffed.

    What do you think?


    Kevin Reply:


    Thanks for commenting and your questions. The EC Pack-It 18 fits in the Tri-Star, and the 15 fits in the Western Flyer; the Pack-It 18 also fits in the Aeronaut.

    My opinion: if you are going to be traveling with a suit or suits, I’d pick the Aeronaut if you want to stick with Tom Bihn. The Western Flyer is simply too small, and the Aeronaut will afford you more room than would the Tri-Star. (See above, however, for comments from users who’ve used the Tri-Star with suits.)

    Also worthy of consideration is the Red Oxx Sky Train, although I’ve not personally used that bag, and it lacks the (to my eye) more ergonomically designed backpack straps of the Bihn bags.

    Perhaps other readers will comment…



  10. Michael W. says:

    Although not as elegant, it might be a lot cheaper to consider a minimalist $75 “Gypsy Suit Cover” from RedOxx:

    I have one and it is quite well made. I have to admit I have not needed it yet, but if I needed to carry a suit and dress shirts I’d probably turn to it first, and combine it with a medium (1,500 c.i. or so) backpack to carry my other items (backpack so it can “pass” as a personal item on flights where you are restricted to one luggage piece and one personal item for carryon).

    I still like Kevin’s basic strategy, which is to wear your fancy outfit onto the flight – business suit – and just stow the jacket in overhead to avoid wrinkles. This assumes you could get by with a single suit and you don’t end up bumping someone with a latte in their hand. Often business suits come with two pairs of trousers, allowing you to fold one pair up and stuff in practically any bag. Plus of course most hotels have irons so you can touch up wrinkles in your trousers – if they are wool, as most are, it’s easy to wear the same pair multiple times (but don’t tell my wife, she has a phobia about second day wear).

    If there is anything I’ve learned from Kevin’s articles and my own travels and packing and trial packing, there are many, many ways to skin the travel bag, and there is probably no single perfect solution unless you do business travel with virtually the same itinerary (but different cities) every time.

    That having been said, I think that I and a fair number of Kevin’s readers are devoted bagaholics, and Tom Bihn’s line is definitely the champagne of bags (RedOxx being the stout Guinness). Assuming that particular bug has bit you too, you ought to just buy a Bihn instead of working your way up to one through a dozen other lesser bags. It’s probably cheaper in the long run….


  11. MtnMan says:

    Thanks for the replies!

    I have not ruled anything out, and I have looked at the Red Oxx Gypsy. That’s a great price for a USA-made high-quality folding garment bag, but correct me if I’m wrong: it doesn’t make allowance for a shoulder strap, does it?

    My first preference is to find something backpackable that would work as a carry-on rather than as checked luggage. I appreciate the reminder about the Sky Train. I had forgotten the backpack straps on the Sky Train.

    You’ve given me plenty the think about. No travel plans presently, but this makes it the perfect time to start shopping around…

    Thanks again,

    The Mountain Man!


  12. MtnMan says:


    Are you absolutely sure that those sizes of the Eagle Creek PackIt! Folders will fit in those respective Tom Bihn bags?

    I’m getting reports on the FlyerTalk forums that indicate an Aeronaut cannot hold anything larger than 14 inches. I want to confirm this before I go any further down that trail.

    Thanks again,

    The Mountain Man!


  13. DannH says:


    Below is some email between me and the Bihn folks:

    Hi Dann!

    I’m afraid it’s too tight of a fit in the Western Flyer for us to recommend it. The smaller folders will fit.

    You might want to consider the Tri-Star instead – Packing Folder 18 does fit in there.

    Darcy Gray
    1-800-729-9607 (US & Canada) 360-452-0115 (other countries) Siquid mantica non capit, domi relinquendum est.

    > Will the
    > Eagle Creek packet folder 18 fit inside a Western Flyer? I need a
    > new carry0n bag and refuse to give up my Eagle Creek folder.


  14. MtnMan says:

    Yes, I have been checking with Kevin and others about this. This should be enough confirmation. When the time comes to buy the new luggage, I’ll probably get either a Tri-Star or an Aeronaut, along with accessories, including Eagle Creek 18-nich PackIt Folder(s).

    Thanks for weighing in.

    The Mountain Man!


    Michael W. Reply:

    How well does the PackIt 18″ fit in the Aeronaut? And is the PackIt 18″ (rather than the slightly larger 20″) the best choice for a suit?

    The main compartment in the Aeronaut (see Kevin’s First Look) doesn’t run all the way across the bag, the ends of the bag are divided into shoe compartments.

    BUT there are adjustable Dyneema panels on each end of the Aeronaut’s main compartment separating the main compartment from the shoe compartments – and these panels can apparently (per Kevin’s article) be unsnapped to widen the main compartment by 2″ on each side. So the PackIt 18″ surely fits (per Kevin’s response above), but then how usable are the “shoe compartments” thatpartially remain on each end – will they still hold a pair of shoes, or do they become useful only for “stuffing overflow” like underwear and socks?

    Somehow I think the Pack-Its, at least in the more useful 18″ size (and perhaps in the even more useful 20″ size) are better suited for convertible backpacks with main compartments that run all the way from side to side (the typical length of one of these is 19″-22″). It seems like the Aeronaut is a perfect solution to how to carry shoes (one of Tom Bihn’s personal design goals, per Kevin); the PackIts may well be the best solution to dress shirts; but the twain may not meet.

    Take a look at the “Perfect For” tab on the Eagle Creek website:

    The PackIt 20″ is the only one described as “perfect for suits” (under the “Perfect For” tab); the 18″ comes with the caveat “depending on size” (Frodo? women?).


    Kevin Reply:

    MW: are you and MtnMan messin’ with me? I took several photos of the Pack-It 18 in the Aeronaut and Tri-Star last night, addressing this very question.

    The shoe compartments are still quite useful. MM asked this very same (follow up) question today. The P-I 18 fits, whether the snaps are snapped or unsnapped, and shoes will fit in the end compartments either way.

    Like a bundle, the Pack-It has to be inserted into one end of the Aeronaut first, and then coaxed into the other end; it fits just fine.

    I’ll have to throw the pictures out onto Flickr. They ARE the definition of quick and dirty, however!!


    Michael W. Reply:

    LOL. I would not mess with the commander of Practical Hacks Global Headquarters. :-)

    That’s Mrs. Hacks I’m referring to of course.

    Kevin Reply:


    James May Reply:

    Kevin et al,

    You guys are sick, talking about all those different bags and details of what each can or not do, shame on you, don’t you have better things to do with your time and money…..em..Do you guys know anyone who would er…aah.. like to buy a few bags, slightly used..Tumi, Red Oxx, Pat’s.. I really want to get either the TriStar or Aeronaut.

    You know it really is a sickness, maybe we should start a intervention group, could call it..Bag Anonymous Group (B.A.G.) or write a ten step..

    Great info guys really, thank you for the tips and Kevin the most excellent write-ups.

    BTW took advantage of the Magellan sport jacket $29.00 sale tip – a really nice jacket, thank you.


    Kevin Reply:

    Jim –

    Ha. Thanks for brightening my day.

    You can’t go wrong with either the T-S or Aeronaut, they’re both nice bags, but of course each is suited to different types of travel. Personally, I love the Tri-Star…

    Glad you were able to take advantage of the jacket offer – I scan the closeouts at Magellan’s once in a while, and there are some great deals to be had there.

    Thanks for commenting and for your support of the blog.


  15. David says:

    Another great review. Kevin: how often do you actually find yourself using the Tri-Star/ My impression is that you really favor the Air Boss.


    Kevin Reply:

    I like both quite a bit. For longer trips, it’s the AB; shorter, the Tri-Star. But: for my next short trip, an one night trip to Cincinnati, I’ll use the Red Oxx PR4. THAT may be the bag I use most in the future.


  16. Dan Ortego says:

    As a reviewer of travel items and all-around quality geek, I’m also impressed with the Tom Bihn product line. In fact, I placed another order today.

    As for carry-on style bags I also believe there can be ‘too much of a good thing’. There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re running late and find yourself unzipping half-a-dozen compartments, looking for that one thing’ you need quickly.

    In any event, I would love to have the Tri-Star for my Euro visits. Still, the ever-increasing price on the bag is a showstopper. As of 11/2010 the price is $250.00 and despite its premium quality, it’s simply too rich for my blood.



  17. Michael W. says:

    “There’s nothing more frustrating when you’re running late and find yourself unzipping half-a-dozen compartments, looking for that one thing’ you need quickly.”

    I can see your point, but I prefer that my seat-side bag, with all its small items, have SOME degree of built-in organization. Otherwise I end up using small ditty bags, cubes, and pouches to provide it myself. Yes it’s possible to forget where I tucked something away, but over time I’ve gotten used to putting things in the same places and with like-items.

    My favorite “self-organizing” bag is the Gator from Red Oxx, which has the most useful combination of pouches, slots, and panels I have found to date. It rocks – unfortunately it is a little on the heavy side, due more to stiff, thick foam on 3 sides than on its basic materials choices.

    For my actual carry-on luggage I don’t need much “built-in” organization, just an easy location for “security transit pull-out items” like my 3-1-1 bag/medical liquids plus netbook. But if the bag is light enough, I don’t care if it has some extra slots/panels – they can be useful for stowing a light jacket or sweater for possible seat use on a cold-flight or for airport use on an enforced decampment at the airport.

    In this category, I like the light, ultra cheap (as in inexpensive) Outdoor Products Essentials Carryon (referred to as the OPEC in articles on this site) and the Rick Steves convertible backpack in its “original,” simpler version. Since neither has much structure on its own, I add structure by wrapping my clothes in the excellent Eagle Creek Pack It 18 – it adds a little weight, but the functionality increase (both interior organization and stiffening the bag) is worth it.

    All this having been said, I have to say I like WHAT I SEE about the Bihn CoPilot a lot but at $110 am wary about ordering it blindly. At 11 ounces for a 600 cubic inch flight bag (shoulder bag) in the all Dyneema fabric, it makes me drool. The problem is, I can tell in 5 minutes of handling whether a bag will work for me, but strictly mail ordering puts me at risk for dissatisfaction.


  18. Alvin G. says:

    I was torn between the Red Oxx Arboss and the Tom Bihn Aeronaut. The lack of shoulder straps on the Airboss pushed me towards the Aeronaut…but now after seeing the Tri Star.. i cant choose!
    any suggestions from the owners of both out there?
    I will be traveling for business..mostly for 5 days, no suits, button downs, khakis and maybe a pair of jeans…
    I have a laptop, and a kindle..cell phone, chargers etc..

    any thoughts?


    Kevin Reply:

    I don’t think you can go wrong with the Tri-Star. It’s one of those bags that is damn near perfect, particularly for the type of travel you do.


    Alvin G. Reply:

    thanks for the reply Kevin..
    I was just concerned because the Airboss and Aeronaut looked so much bigger than the Tri Star..
    at 270.00, plus strap…its a costly mistake that I cant afford..


    Kevin Reply:


    I’d check the dimensions carefully, as well as read user comments about the Tri-Star on the Bihn Forum. Finally, I think the Tri-Star has been reviewed a couple of times at OBOW. A little extra research should help allay your fears.

  19. Richard L says:

    I’m a newbie here, and I’m reading w/great amusement, the comments of the anal travelers (no offense intended) who frequent this site, and are addicted to luggage. My question is, what will you all do when you age to the point where carryon without wheels isn’t an option? I’m sure you all currently ignore baggage w/wheels….but someday, you’ll need it. What will be your choice?


    Kevin Reply:

    :-) Actually, there are several reviews of wheelies on the site. Thanks for your comment!


  20. […] photos I was thinking of, but they're no longer available. The best I can do is point you to a Practical Hacks review of the TriStar that contains a comparison photo of the Western Flyer, TriStar, and Aeronaut. When the bag is […]

  21. […] Photos by Practical Hacks. Read the Practical Hacks review of the Tri-Star:;#8230; […]

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