- Buyer's Guide
Alright, I’m gonna just come right out and say it: I’m not much of a sports fan. Almost nothing sports related captures my attention. So I suppose it’s ironic that my long-time girlfriend is an avid sports fan. And she’s not a sports fan so she can hang with the guys or wear slutty baby-doll fan shirts (not that there’s anything wrong with that), she’s just genuinely pumped about sports. She keeps up with team stats, builds fantasy baseball and basketball teams, and screams at the TV during games (she swears her team can hear her if she screams loud enough but I have my doubts). This woman is dedicated. So since baseball is one of the few games I enjoy, I figured I would try to be a good boyfriend and take her out to the ball game. With a few clicks on StubHub I pick out some crappy nosebleed seats, grab the new Tom Bihn Daylight backpack, and pack some stuff to enjoy a day game!
Packing for games at the ballpark is a tricky business in SF. When I left my house it was 65 degrees, foggy, and windy, so I packed a couple jackets for us. But at the stadium it’s 85 and the UV index is high enough to give my lily white skin a sunburn. As soon as we get off the train and see how hot it is my girlfriend nudges me and says, “Good thing we packed all those jackets, eh?”
As the sun beats down on my face and a bad-ball hitter gets up to bat, I zone out and start thinking about the Daylight. Tom Bihn really touched on something alluring with this bag. At 16.5 liters it’s clearly small. And with only two compartments this is a very simple bag. But no matter where you look there’s lots of great details to smirk at. From the piped and reinforced seams on the interior, to the clever weight-saving plastic zippers – everything is deliberate and thoughtful. There are no stray threads to be found and everything is stitched to perfection.
Inside the bag there’s two tiered partitions for organization within the main compartment, and a clip to hang keys or whatever else you might want to keep in easy reach. Outside the bag is my favorite feature of the Daylight: the diagonal zipper on the front panel. Not only does it add some unique asymmetrical styling, but because it’s longer than a traditional horizontal zipper, the front pocket opens wider. The wider opening made finding the tickets much easier. The diagonal zipper is a simple and elegant solution to a fundamental problem with small bags.
When it comes to weight, the Daylight’s definitely an ultralight bag. The version I received in beautiful French Blue is made from stout 1000 denier Cordura nylon and weighed in at a meager 381 grams – not bad considering how much abuse the fabric will take. If that happens to be too heavy Tom Bihn also offers the Daylight in ripstop nylon, which brings the total bag weight down to an absurd 349 grams! I’ve had burritos that weigh more than that!
It’s beer time for me and the lady so I leave our seats and head in search of some adult beverages. While walking around the ballpark I realize something really killer about the bag I didn’t first notice: the Daylight has a super low profile. Tom Bihn’s website says it’s 5.1″ thin but since the bag has no solid structure, it’s really driven by what you pack. For this trip the bag bulged out beyond 5.1″ but had I left the jackets at home this bag would have been well under 3″ thin. Regardless, no matter how dense the crowds were at the stadium, the Daylight stayed unobtrusive. I could turn sideways and squeeze past pretty much any group of people without smashing the bag into their hot dogs or beer.
To be honest, there really isn’t much in the way of disappointment with the Daylight. It’s a small and simple bag with a small and simple range of uses. If I were being insatiable I could bitch and moan about the lack of organization options or the use of 1000 denier Cordura on an ultralight bag. But really all of the design choices make sense when you consider the bag as a whole. My only real disappointment is I wish they offered more color options in the ripstop nylon.
My one niggle with this bag is the lack of back padding. Tom Bihn mentioned this on their website and wrote a rather lengthy paragraph justifying why they didn’t include it on the Daylight. They made a fair case and, as a thinking consumer, I really do appreciate them explaining it to us. But I still wish they threw in at least some level of padding – if not for comfort then to help give shape to the bag for load management. I’m curious what the weight penalty would have been for a thin molded foam panel. If we’re talking about a few hundred grams then I wish they would have just done it – especially on the heavier Cordura version of the Daylight. It would have added a great deal of versatility to this bag. This isn’t a turn-off, just some food for thought
There was only one issue I had with this bag: the shoulder straps. Instead of using traditional padded shoulder straps, Tom Bihn incorporated lightweight 2″ wide nylon webbing. It’s a clever way to save weight, but the nylon webbing used on the Daylight has a deceivingly harsh edge that cuts into your shoulders. Nylon webbing comes in all different varieties, densities, and weave patterns. Unfortunately Tom Bihn picked a weave that had a raised and rippled texture on the edges of the strap. That rippled texture ended up chaffing my shoulder regardless of how heavy my load was. I really like this bag but that was a bit shortsighted. There were other ways they could have kept weight down and comfort up like using a higher density nylon strap. Seatbelt webbing would have also done nicely.
Who it Suits/Doesn’t Suit
There’s lots to love about the Tom Bihn Daylight backpack, but this is still an ultralight bag and it doesn’t suit everybody or every situation. It has fairly significant limitations in the weight and duration you can carry things. By design, there’s no padding to speak of on the bag so keep the weight and size of your gear down or you’ll risk a sore back and shoulders. There’s pretty much zero protection against impacts so tech minded people should look elsewhere to protect their valuables. And at 16.5L there’s really not much capacity for stuff you can carry.
But if you can live within these constraints this bag will come in real handy for small errands or day trips. The best uses I’ve found for this bag are short-term activities where packing a couple of jackets and some water is the extent of my carry needs.
Others to consider
The North Face Pachacho comes to mind. It’s not as good looking and it’s heavier, but it has padding on the back panel and straps, if comfort’s your thing.
So would I recommend it to anyone? Well, that depends on your personal style. Do you gravitate more toward modern styling or timeless styling? There are a lot of choices out there when it comes to ultralight bags and nearly all of them offer more features and lots of padding with roughly the same weight as the Daylight. Other ultralight bags branch out in the opposite direction and have so little features they barely resemble a backpack at all. And as a mark against Tom Bihn, many of these bags are cheaper. But nearly all of them are also so futuristic-looking they likely will show their age as soon as the next model is released. Whereas the Daylight doesn’t have anything edgy or crazy about it. There’s no elaborate structure or high-tech fabric. It’s just a simple and honest bag with tried and true elements. And if that style speaks to you, this is definitely a bag I’d recommend.