Sometimes you buy something and it just feels so good to use it. Usually, something like that is a relatively expensive purchase. Maybe you went a head and spent the extra money for the nicer version or model, and you ended up getting more than your money’s worth. Or you went ahead and bought from the vendor who has an FAQ page with questions like "Why are your products so much more expensive than the competition", and they have answers like "Well, we think the products are worth the extra price". And very often they are, because if they weren’t, the company wouldn’t stay in business for very long.
My recent purchase like that was a Tom Bihn backpack. I’ve long carried my laptop in a backpack, even before it was common. I remember buying a nice one about eight years ago, and one of the selling points was that "no one will know you are carrying a laptop in there!". (I don’t think that would be the case anymore.) I’ve never been a big fan of the briefcase or the over-the-shoulder strap. Backpacks have always been the way to go for me. So when my crappy, cheap Targus backback — that I never really liked anyway — started going bad ("started" is kind — in about two weeks every zipper on the thing basically went bad, I decided to make a move.
A few of the guys around here have Tom Bihn bags, and they’ve raved about them. John Kaster has had the same bag for as long as I’ve known him. So I trekked on over to the website to poke around. The first thing I noticed was that they weren’t cheap, to say the least. It was clear that to get what I wanted was easily going to approach $200. But as I looked around, it became clear that I was going to get what I paid for.
First, I noticed that they clearly had strong attention to detail. Tom Bihn doesn’t sell laptop backpacks, they sell backpacks that comfortably and carefully integrate laptop carrying cases. To get a "laptop backpack", you actually have to buy two things from them: the backpack and what they call a "Brain Cell". The latter is a very well designed, snug-fitting, and heavily padded and constructed cocoon for your laptop. The Brain Cell integrates perfectly into almost any of their backpacks, quickly becoming part of the backpack itself. And it is clear when your laptop is nestled tightly in the Brain Cell that not much is going to happen to it in there.
And here’s where the attention to detail comes in — they must have like 20 different sized Brain Cells, all fitting different kinds and sizes of laptops. I have a Latitude D820, so I ended up going with a Size 1 Vertical Brain Cell. (Yes, they have both Horizontal for briefcases and Vertical Brain Cells for backpacks). It was pretty easy to find the rigth one on their website.
Second, it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into the ergonomics of their products. The zippers were all easily accessible and clearly heavy duty. The pockets on the back of the bag make for easy access. The bag has straps on the side that allow for expansion, keeping the bag "just the right size" while allowing for a lot of stuff to be put into it. Overall, it was clear that this was a really, really nice product. Add in the really nice website that made it easy to see exactly what I was getting, and it was a no-brainer to slap down the money for a Brain Bag with a Vertical Brain Cell. For those of you so desparately concerned about what colors I choose I got the Sapphire bag with the Crimson brain cell. (I figure I can ask for the Snake Charmer or the Freudian slip for Christmas. ;-)
The backpack came in two days, and I instantly knew that it was money well spent, despite the $197 price tag. This is a fine peice of gear, and one that clearly will last for years to come. Highly recommended.
Added: Hey, the folks at Tom Bihn were kind enough to post a link to my blog.