Tom Bihn or Crumpler

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by Saluki Alex, Jul 10, 2006.

  1. Saluki Alex macrumors 6502

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    #1
    Ok, I know similiar topics crop up all the time, but I've searched the forums and haven't found much information that applies for my situation.

    I'm heading off to college this Fall (majoring in Political Science) and need a case for my 15" MBP. My decision is between getting a Brain Cell (or Monolith) and a Brain Bag, or getting a School Hymn and getting a different backpack.

    My primary concerns revolve around how much protection either of those cases offer (I'm lumping the Brain Cell and Monolith together since they're basically the same). Another big concern is how much the backpack will hold in addition to my MBP, as I would need to carry several textbooks and a notebook.

    Any advice is greatly appreciated. :)
     
  2. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #2
    I love my Crumpler back which holds a 15.2 inch PowerBook and camera equipment. I haven't thrown it to see if there would be a problem but falling 4-8 inches has not been a problem at all for any equipment inside it.
     
  3. Saluki Alex thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #3
    While I hope I'd never drop it at all, I'd feel much better if I knew it'd withstand a more substantial fall.
     
  4. yellow Moderator emeritus

    yellow

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    #4
    I do NOT like my Tom Bihn messenger bag.
    It's fallen apart after 3 years of heavy use.
    And the should strap drives me crazy.

    I will never get another TB bag.
     
  5. drake macrumors 6502a

    drake

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    #5
    Went to a local Apple shop today and looked at some of these sleeves. I was surprised by how "cheap" they're built. They were like cardboard with a cloth exterior for $50+cdn. What good are they? They had a variety of brands, but the Crumpler was especially so. I thought they'd have high density foam or something, but no.
     
  6. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #6
    I'm not driving to NYC and dropping it from the top of the Empire State Building, sorry. I think it will withstand decent drops but of course, I wouldn't want the PowerBook to be sleeping at the time.

    Sleeves are thin. They're supposed to be somewhat lighter weight. The backpacks are much thicker and use a lot more foam.
     
  7. Nuc macrumors 6502a

    Nuc

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    #7
    I love my Crumpler backpack and it's awesome. I would never use something else. I bought from http://www.cravedweasel.com The people are nice and will answer any of your questions.

    Best of luck choosing.

    Nuc
     
  8. Saluki Alex thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #8
    I'm not looking for padded backpack, my goal is to find a sturdy sleeve/case such as the Brain Cell, and then find a backpack that will hold both the sleeve, my books, etc. This is why I was looking at the Brain Cell/Brain Bag combo, at least it is my understanding that the Brain Bag isn't padded, correct me if I'm wrong.
     
  9. Nuc macrumors 6502a

    Nuc

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    #9
    The crumpler backpack does have a sleeve and you can hold books. Checkout the crumpler website and look at the computer bags. For the "King Single" you can see the pictures for it.

    Nuc
     
  10. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #10
    Hate to break it to you, but just because you pay more for a Crumpler, doesn't mean they use better padding. I know that may not make sense to you since everyone says how good their Crumpler bag is, but most people will tell you how good their product is if they never had a problem with it. People also want to (forgot the word.....it's morning) their choice, so they talk it up if they haven't had an issue with that product and spent a lot of money on it.

    Crumpler costs more because they're in style and their designs look cool. I'm actually interested in the backpack Bousozoku just described (I think), but it's not because of the padding used by Crumpler, and not because of the aesthetics (I don't think most Crumpler bags look nice (although some do), but some of their bags look like they're aimed for children..........that, and Crumpler seems to try too hard to be cool). It's because of the design of the bag itself.

    Crumpler sleeves use padding that's similar to everyone elses. I'd say the best padding I've seen in a laptop bag, camera bag, backpack, or other is used in my Lowepro cube-style bag for my camera + 1 lens. The padding seems more dense than the competition.
     
  11. TheMac19 macrumors regular

    TheMac19

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    May 13, 2004
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    Pitt
    #11
    I had a Tom Bihn Monolith case for my 15" powerbook and loved it. From what I've seen, it's the most protective case around. The cases are directional - meaning that the Monolith is meant to be used in a regular backpack, with the opening facing up. The 'book acutally is suspended inside, so if it were to take a drop, even a significant one, the computer would take very little abuse - as it has probably an inch of travel, plus the padding around it. It is a bit bulkier than a normal sleeve, but I've never been a fan of the notebook sleeves. In my opinion, they're more for protecting the finish from scratches rather than really breaking a fall.

    I was very impressed with the Monolith case inside my backpack, and when I get a new laptop, I'll likely buy another.
     
  12. Saluki Alex thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #12
    Seeing as I'd much prefer a hard-case/sleeve, would it be practical to get a School Hymn and then pack that inside a King Single instead of using the soft sleeve that's included?

    I'm still debating between the two options, so if anyone besides TheMac19 and Yellow have had any experience with Tom Bihn, it would help a great deal.
     
  13. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #13
    In mine, there should certainly be room to put it in a sleeve and then, into its spot within the backpack because I put a thin 8.5x11 photo portfolio in there with it.
     
  14. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #14
    @Bousozoku: Does the Crumpler backpack you own have a laptop compartment that you'd consider to be too large? I'm actually afraid that since Apple laptops are so thin, and these laptop bags are generally designed to fit any sort of 15" or 17" laptop, that my 13.3" MB would be swimming in there. A laptop in a protective compartment that's too big/thick for the laptop doesn't offer as much protection as one where the laptop fits snugly, so I'd like to know.

    Also, are the laptop and camera compartments well padded, or are the walls really thin and/or not dense? I can always get a sleeve for the laptop, so that's no problem. However, I can't do that with the camera compartment, so I'd like to know what you think. I know you said you can drop it from like 4 to 8 inches, but is the padding thick enough for your camera to survive a fall from 2-3 feet? Accidental droppages are somewhat likely to occur from 2-3 feet.

    I'm looking at the Crumpler Sinking Barge (which I think is what you have), Tamrac Adventure 9, and Lowepro CompRover AW
     
  15. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #15
    It's a Farmers Doubler and it has room for a generic 15 inch laptop computer. Therefore, it's thicker than my PowerBook, but there is also room for paper within the velcro-sealed computer portion. The strip of the flap is reasonable but the other portion is quite large to cinch the area snugly. Outside that, there is an ample area which has room for a textbook or two.

    Everything is well padded and much better than anything else I checked. The people at the local camera store were seeing me week after week, checking them. They also had Tamrac and Lowe Pro. I've had poor luck with Tamrac and better luck with Lowe Pro on all-in-one camera bags but this backpack is excellent.

    As far as dropping it further, I've dropped it from one shoulder and caught it just as it hit the floor, lessening the impact somewhat, but I've never had a problem. I never thought that I'd spend $130 on any backpack but compared to the price of the camera equipment and then, the PowerBook, it's well worth it.
     
  16. Saluki Alex thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #16
    I found this quote in another thread (http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=192924) and according to the poster, the King Single isn't the best idea for a student. One must remember that I'll have to carry quite a few books, at least on MWF (I only have one class on Tues. and Thurs.) I'll have to admit that the King Single is more aesthetically pleasing than the Brain Bag, but practicality takes precedence over that.

     
  17. Abstract macrumors Penryn

    Abstract

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    #17
    Thanks. I don't think they sell the Farmer's Doubler anymore, or at least I can't find it on the Aussie site. I even took a quick look on the American site, but it doesn't exist there either.

    Anyway, thanks for the description. I'm sure the Sinking Barge offers similar protection to what you have now. The reason I'm looking at this one over Lowepro or Tamrac (which is very hard to find in Oz) is because with the Crumpler, you can access your camera without taking off the backpack, which isn't true for other backpacks, where you need to take off the pack entirely and place it on the ground before getting your stuff out. That would take way too much time and be very inconvenient if I had to do this everytime I wanted to shoot something.

    Oh, and putting my Lowepro cubic shoulder bag into my regular backpack is inconvenient because it may be buried underneath a jacket, water, a map, etc.
     
  18. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #18
    It's just a different style. All my camera equipment fits in a zippered section in the bottom that opens at the front. There is a thin pouch available in the front of it and another thin pouch on the upper section, too. The computer is accessed from the back of the backpack.
     
  19. ozone macrumors 6502

    ozone

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    Ontario, Canada
    #19
    I own both a Tom Bihn backpack (Brain Bag) and the padded laptop compartment (Brain Cell): I assume this is the exact arrangement you want to compare against. I have many other assorted bags, etc., including padded ones from Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC), which is practically the most famous independent maker and distributor of bags, outdoor equipment, etc. in Canada.

    The Tom Bihn arrangement of backpack + laptop compartment is the MOST EFFECTIVE you can get in terms of protection. The Brain Cell is made of what appears to be corrugated plastic formed into a box shape. The inside is covered with a soft and rather durable feeling felt material. It is velcroed at the bottom, allowing you to 'cinch up' the bottom of the covering, forming a sling that your laptop is then suspended in. The top of the Brain Cell is also sealable. When you drop the Brain Cell, the force of the contact will be borne by the sides of the case first. Yes, there might still be some shaking; however, there will arguably much less direct transmission of force on the laptop edge itself than would be expected when the only thing to absorb the force is foam padding. A lot of cases don't have that much foam padding anyways. The 'suspension system' will also help dissipate the force. Assuming you drop it in the correct orientation, I estimate your laptop will handily survive a low level drop onto bare concrete. The corrugated sides also offer some actual rigid impact protection from sideways bangs and bumps, unlike neoprene (limited effectiveness) or other material you would only find in a slip case. Thus, you have additional protection if your backpack is tipped over, kicked as students move between rows, whacked into handrails or posts on the subway, bus, etc. Furthermore, the Brain Cell clips to the inside of your backpack (mine is an older model, so it snaps together). This is another advantage. Just a like a seatbelt in a car holds the person to the vehicle in an accident, you want the laptop to stop moving when your backpack hits the ground, otherwise the backpack hits and stops, and then your laptop, if it's in a sleeve that is too small for the backpack, will continue in motion and then also hit, bounce around, etc. The Brain Cell and Brain Bag become more-or-less as 'one' (very spirtual here...)

    The only disadvantage is the Brain Cell is a bit squarish and bulky. There's no denying it's in your backpack when the whole thing is on your back. So, if I'm not in a situation where I think I will be bashing the laptop around, I use a less protective sleeve for my laptop before sliding it into my Brain Bag.

    Unlike the poster whose TB Messenger bag fell apart, I have had my TB Brain Bag for six years. I didn't use it when I was a student, but for the last five, I've used it almost every day as a professor. It has carted everything from heavy textbooks, lunch, gym shoes, 3 different laptops, etc., and sometimes dangling off of one shoulder. It is very roomy, and even better, there are two compartments. Not one stitch has yet to rip. I have an older model and I got it in black (good for business day trips): it looks pretty the same as when I got it, although admittedly a bit more worn. The black has not faded however. I also bought the TB Snake Charmer to hold cables - very nice.

    You will be able to fit into your Brain Bag approximately:
    First Compartment
    - Brain Cell with laptop; and
    - Snake Charmer OR small rolled up item on top of Brain Cell (e.g., sweater, small packed lunch); and
    - Some thin files, thin reference book, or clipboard BETWEEN the Brain Cell and the dividing wall of the Bag (the Cell is stiff so it can help keep papers neat and uncrumpled).
    Second Compartment
    - At least two thick textbooks (three if you really stuff it); and
    - A thin binder; and
    - Lunch on top of the textbooks; and
    - Some odds and ends in and around the books, like a paperback for down times.
    - You could probably stuff gym clothes and MAYBE running shoes if you're not hauling too many books around.

    ... and you still have the outer pockets for a water bottle, iPod, sunglasses, keys, gum, umbrella, calculator, pocket camera, etc.

    BUT keep in mind this will weigh you down, so watch your back.

    The Brain Bag isn't perfect: it can 'bulk up' when you fill it up, and it doesn't have an ergonomic back like some of the newer backpacks (e.g., Booq). However, it has 4 GOOD compression straps, a waist strap, a sternum strap, and some wicked pockets, as well as an umbrella holder/straps. Compression straps are critical to holding the load closer to your back and therefore your centre (oops, Canadian spelling there) of gravity; and a chest or sternum strap is essential for preventing a heavy load from dragging your shoulder straps outwards and downwards off your shoulders and onto your upper arms. The carry handle is nicely designed and easy to hold, unlike the plastic/rubber grip ones you find more commonly these days.

    And... my wife and I bought two Tom Bihn Aeronaughts for carry on travel luggage. Very, very nice... and in my opinion after trying half a dozen bags, the ultimate carry on case that finally gets it right.

    Good luck.
     
  20. Saluki Alex thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #20
    ozone, I really appreciate your help, especially since you went into great detail about your Brain Bag/Brain Cell. I'm leaning toward that configuration right now, since it seems that the Brain Bag will be able to handle everything I need to carry. The King Single still has the "cool" look to it, but I'm not sure of it's capacity, and am further perplexed by the secure zipper system. :confused:
     
  21. ozone macrumors 6502

    ozone

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    #21
    Saluki Alex... I've gone back and forth with different bags over the last 5 years, and I seem to always come back to my Brain Bag. Keep in mind my needs might be different from yours: I rather hate transferring things from my daily bag to another bag when I travel, so the style of the Brain Bag, especially in black, means that I don't have to worry about looking too out-of-place if I'm in a business setting. I've never figured out other professors or business types wandering around in blazers and dress slacks with an orange or neon green coloured bag slung over their shoulder. :rolleyes: Okay... I'm being elitist. As you can guess, I obsess about bags, and my wife says I'm way worse than she is! :D

    I took a look at the Crumpler King Single, and it's a pretty nice looking bag too. Maybe not quite as flexible in terms of business appeal, but as a student or in a relaxed workplace, I'm sure it'll be fine. One thing to consider as a student is that you might end up with interviews, etc. while on campus and it's a pain to haul around two bags - one for everyday use and one for more business events - when one bag might do. Of course, black can be boring, but their are other colours that are pretty flexible and hold up to dirt and daily abuse (Tom Bihn's sage is pretty nice - don't know if the Brain Bag is offferred in that colour).

    I couldn't tell if the King Single had a waist strap or compression straps: if you end up walking with a heavy load, you will thank the heavens if both are present. Also, the Brain Bag is about 36 litres in volume, while the Crumpler is about 18 litres: so, it seems you get twice as much space with the Tom Bihn bag (seems odd that there would be so much difference). If your TB Bag is too empty, the compression straps allow you to compress it down.

    I also had a Kensington Ergonomic Backpack that had a similar size, integrated shoulder strap/body, and tear drop shape that the King Single does. In my opinion, the tear drop shape is not as useful for students or educators. We tend to carry books, which are squarish and boxy. Tear drop shaped bags taper towards the top, reducing the volume, and it was hard to arrange things in your bag 'just right' to maximize this left over area above your books, etc.

    The other advantage to the two compartment design? I spilled some stuff from my lunch today... better chance the spilled gunk will stay in one compartment and not so easily soak into your MBPro!

    Well, have fun. I think it's more interesting LOOKING for the bag than actually getting one! :D
     
  22. fructa macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2006
    #22
    it depends on you

    Hi Alex

    I'm engaged on the same hunt you are -- I'm going to grad school in a month and hunting for a bag that I can carry my laptop around in without it getting banged up, as well as a bunch of books, since my MWF schedule is 8:30 - 4:30 straight through.

    I just bought the Brain Bag and it arrived at my house about a week ago. As far as protecting my macbook, it's great -- the brain cell is awesome, fits the 13" great, sits securely in the bag, etc.

    Here's the problem, and the reason why I'm returning the Brain Bag: I am not a giant. This bag is freaking enormous. I am a 5'5" woman, with narrow shoulders -- and the shoulder straps sit directly on my shoulder JOINTS. With the sternum strap connected, the bag stands up about 2" off my shoulders entirely, and yet the bottom of it still bangs against my behind. It is ridiculously big. The body of the bag is so wide it exceeds the width of my body. I look like a giant bag taking a walk, with some arms and legs attached.

    So: if you're a broad-shouldered guy who's reasonably tall, maybe this is the best bag for you. If you are short or narrow-shouldered, DON'T GET THE BRAIN BAG.
     
  23. rdp5008 macrumors regular

    rdp5008

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2006
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    #23
    another option

    I just purchased a bag from applesac.com . Check it out (I got the original burlap). It might not have the protection you are looking for, but if you get a backpack with a special padded section for a laptop it might work. It's not too expensive and it looks cool and is original.

    I almost bought the Shinza zero shock bag, also a reasonable price. www.shinza.com

    Also, sierratrading post has some timbuk2 bags on sale right now. just go to sierratradingpost.com and search for "timbuk2." My coworker just purchased the sleeve for his 12" powerbook for only $20 and loves it.

    Hope this helps a little! sorry I had no input on your original desires :)
     
  24. darcytb macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2006
    Location:
    Seattle
    #24
    My name is Darcy and I work for Tom Bihn. I regularly browse the MacRumors forums and came across your post. Your bag should not be falling apart after three years of reasonable use. You are welcome to email me at darcy -@- tombihn - com and tell me exactly what is wrong with the bag and we will see what we can do to fix it. We never want a customer to be unhappy with the Tom Bihn bag they have, whether there is something wrong with it or it's just not the right bag for them, and we will always do whatever we can to prevent that.

    fructa --

    On someone 5'9" or taller the Brain Bag works great, but I'm about 5'5" and I found what you did when I tried it on -- it's just too big!

    Tom is designing a smaller version of the Brain Bag that should debut late this fall. Another option would be the Smart Alec, our smaller backpack. It's the one I use and I find it to be just the right size.

    ozone -- That's a really great description of the Brain Bag. We plan to add more pictures of the Brain Bag to our web site, and descriptions of what it holds helps explain those pictures and gives customers a better sense of what the bag is like. If we could use your comments on our blog or Brain Bag page, please email me and let me know. I'm glad you like your Brain Bag.

    [Note: Darcy has MacRumors' permission to address any product concerns expressed in this thread. Doctor Q.]
     
  25. Saluki Alex thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Feb 26, 2006
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    Illinois
    #25
    Hey everybody,

    I guess I never gave a follow up on my search. I ended up choosing the Crumpler King Single and getting a School Hymn along with it to use in any other bag if I needed to.

    fructa, the size of the Brain Bag was an issue for me since I'm a relatively small guy of 5'6". The King Single works very well though, albeit I haven't really used it yet since I don't go off to college for around 3 more weeks. My only complaint is that I wish there was a little more padding in the laptop sleeve that comes with the King Single, but it's a minor issue.

    In the end, I had to choose between to very good companies and two very good backpacks, but the King Single was a bit more my style. If I was a working professional, I'd no doubt go with a Tom Bihn bag. And in a few years when, hopefully, I'll be in law school, that's the route I'll choose.

    If anyone has any questions about the King Single or the School Hymn, feel free to ask. :)
     

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