I have owned more computer bags and cases then I care to admit. Many times I created a story in my head that would allow me to purchase (read justify to myself) a bag for a particular need. But then I end up being let down.
Before I purchased another bag I wanted to make sure I was clear what my needs were.
Why did I need another bag?
What worked with the old bags?
What did not work?
What is my goal?
Do I like the design aesthetics?
Will this solve my problem or end up in the closet?
I wanted to be able to carry my MBA and an iPad, a moelskine notebook, a magazine or two - some small accessories and power supplies. I wanted to lighten up - work for the 80/20 rule instead of trying to pack for every scenario when I travel or go tot a friends house to collaborate on a project. Basically I was and am tired of carrying everything I own everywhere I go.
I looked at many many bag makers. I started with companies I had used before - as well as bags I had seen others use. Manufacturers like - Targus, Booq or Waterfield bags were on the top of the list. Each time I looked at a design I went back to what my needs were and what I was going to use it for and made sure it was a fit. Most times I felt like I was back at that talking myself into a bag point wehre I had been so many times before.
As I was reading The Brooks Review blog I came across a post that Ben had written on purchasing a new bag. He did an excellent review of fit and finish as well as functionality of a new bag he had recently purchased from Tom Bihn. I knew of Tom Bihn products but I had never owned any products or knew anyone who did.
I read the post over and over looking to poke holes in his story - or the story that I had created in my head about the bag. he was also paring down his needs and wanted to be what I like to call functionally minimal. When I got to the end of the review I realized it was for a Tom Bihn 13" Ristretto. Immediately I went to the site to take a look for myself at the products and others options that existed. But I kept coming back to that one bag. It was a little unconventional for me - ok a lot. With is vertical orientation compared to the more common horizontal orientation I was concerned that it bordered on "murse like" qualities.
Then a funny thing happened I started searching for reviews of this bag and was blown away on how many there were. Blog posts, editorial reviews and user generated videos on you tube and vimeo. I found myself watching lots of videos about all their products.
It was clear that Tom Bihn created very high quality products and in doing so also created a huge network of customer evangelists that were happy to talk about the products. All aspects, the quality, the nice touches, how they use them, recommendations for add-ons and more. Many times when you see a product it is hard to gauge what you can get in the bag; no issues there. There were at least a dozen videos of customers packing and unpacking their various bags to give you a real world demos of what can actually fit. I was actually surprised because it reminded me very muck of Apple "p0rn" (sic) of unboxing new items.
So I ordered my Ristretto.