- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: Tom Bihn Night Flight Travel Duffle
Fun fact: the Tom Bihn Brain Bag was the backpack that made me fall in love with carry almost 10 years ago now. It was my first big bag purchase and after using it every day for more than six years, it still looks as if it was fresh out of the box. I was excited when the opportunity arose to try out their latest: the Night Flight Travel Duffle, based in style around Tom Bihn’s popular Aeronaut bag. It simultaneously exceeded my expectations and left me wanting a little bit more. Read on to better understand this quandary.
Who It Suits
A frequent traveler who wants to perfectly organize their essentials, from snacks to noise-canceling headphones.
Who It Doesn’t
Someone who watches movies on their iPad which unfortunately doesn’t fit in the bag, making it a challenge to bring as primary carry-on.
With dimension specs of 9″ x 10″ x 17″, this might not look like it packs a punch but that’s why mom always said you should never judge a book by its cover. The deep pockets on each side have an interior pouch and there’s an external slot as well, giving you six total pockets for the price of two. The main compartment opens with a curved zipper hatch for quick, easy access. Inside the hatch is a super-convenient mesh pocket with O-ring. The compartment also includes four O-rings for the uber organized.
You can’t talk about Tom Bihn without talking about the materials and here they spared no expense. This bag looks and feels bombproof, with its 1050D ballistic nylon, 200D Dyneema/nylon ripstop lining, tough Duraflex and Nexus buckles and #10 YKK Aquaguard coil zippers on the main compartment. I only go into this detail because with materials and components like this, you can be sure it’ll survive the rigors of travel. It’s a Tom Bihn bag after all!
As any reader of my reviews will know, I often find issues with the shoulder strap for its lack of comfort, flimsy nature and evidence of being an afterthought. If you’re getting this bag, then you have to spend the extra $20 for the Absolute Shoulder Strap. It’s a strap done right, with the way it perfectly hangs on your shoulders, doesn’t add discomfort over time and never slides around.
Last but not least, you can’t talk about a travel bag without highlighting how it travels! Getting through security is a breeze and I’m happy to report that while flying a few different airlines, legroom in front of my seat was never an issue. There was plenty of space for both to be comfortable, which is no small feat given flying today.
The Not So Good
My biggest gripe with the Night Flight Travel Duffle was that I wanted it to do more, especially for the price. The center compartment (dimensions: 9″ x 11″ x 10″) will perfectly fit your noise-canceling headphones but not an iPad. I started Michael Pollan’s latest book, Cooked, and had to fit it in diagonally as it was too big to fit flat.
There is an option for padded organizational spacers and packing cubes. To the latter, I loved them and found them to be incredibly useful in an attempt to develop an organized system. However, the padded dividers seemed to be overkill given the spacing in the center compartment. This was just my experience. For some, the idea of spacing out snacks while simultaneously protecting your DSLR and headphones is really enticing. For me it felt like doing too much with too little space and a tad bit of overengineering.
Speaking of organization, no matter how I flew I couldn’t quite get the configuration just right. I would struggle to remember what I put where. Related to this is that everything looks the same, be it the packing cubes or each side pocket. It became a joke between my girlfriend and I regarding what I put where. It wasn’t a deal breaker by any means but goes to show just how much you can pack into it.
Other Bags To Consider
A cousin to the Night Flight Travel Duffle is the Aeronaut 30 which is both bigger and more of a traditional carry-on. A lower cost carry-on companion bag in a similar size and shape is the Travelpro Maxlite Duffel.
If you’re someone who is always on the go and looking for a convenient way to keep all your things in one spot, then this is the bag for you. As with all Tom Bihn bags, it’s an investment that will pay for itself with years of great service.