I’m now four months into using the Tom Bihn 11-in Ristretto messenger bag for my daily perambulations. With just one caveat, I love it. It holds a surprising amount of stuff, including the 11in Air or an iPad (or an Air and an iPad), without becoming too bulky or heavy. The bag itself is strong but light, just what you want if you have to stuff it with computers and accessories. My gripe, though, is that the large front pocket can allow heavier items, such as a Mac power unit or an iPhone to slide out in certain conditions. Occasionally I’ve placed the bag on its back while having a coffee and then found a valuable item on the point of slipping out.
I’ve solved the problem with Tom Bihn’s organiser pouches which clip to one of the three O rings inside the bag. One of the great joys of owning gadgets is that you can buy accessories. And with Tom Bihn you have a complete system to choose from.
I ordered two of the small Cordura Organizer Pouches ($8 each) and one Clear Organizer Wallet ($14). I also threw in a couple of 8in Key Straps which always come in useful ($2 each). Also in the order was an Absolute Shoulder Strap which I wrote about a few days ago. In the photograph you can see how all this works.
- The rear compartment of the Ristretto is made for an 11in MacBook Air or an iPad 2 (there are separate Ristretto bags tailored for the iPad or the 13-in Air).
- The red cordura pouch holds various accessories including earphones, short USB cables for Apple, USB-mico and USB-mini, data dongle, cleaning cloth, etc.
- The green pouch fits an Apple 45-watt power adaptor with the large British plug. It would struggle to accommodate a 60w and certainly wouldn’t take an 85w adaptor (although, with US plugs attached, both are considerably smaller overall than they are with British plugs). You can buy larger pouches if necessary.
- The organiser wallet has a clear front (intended to display identity cards) and two inside pockets to keep cards organised. Tom Bihn claim it will hold up to 24 credit cards. I use it mainly for store cards and loyalty cards which you tend not to carry because they fill up a regular wallet. Since I started carrying my coffee loyalty cards the takings of several coffee chains have fallen as I’ve redeemed all my points.
- The large zipped pocket, to the rear of the front compartment (which is a standard part of the Ristretto bag), holds a HyperMac Micro battery with an Apple 30-pin mini cable attached. I’ve illustrated the short cable but most times I use a standard white Apple sync cable so I can leave the battery in the bag and plug in the charging lead. It’s the equivalent of carrying around a mains power socket.
All this works very well. The pouches keep stuff organised (especially cables) and they are easy to find in a hurry by checking the O ring with your fingers and working down to the pouch. They’re also extremely safe and can’t be lost. They come in various sizes if you have a larger bag and want more storage. If you spend a lot of time on the road, as I do, keeping organised and minimised is important. The Ristretto with its accessories is currently my ideal.