Tom Bihn Tri-Star Travel Bag Review

This is not an unboxing review like you see all over the web. We’ve been using Tom Bihn Tri-Star as our only bags for the last 4 months as we make our way around the world. We’re proud to be from Seattle, and were excited to represent when the Seattle luggage company Tom Bihn offered to give us a bag each for our adventure. Both of us decided on the Tri-Star bag because it is maximum legal carry-on size for the discount European airlines like RyanAir. The bags cost about $300 each if you were to buy them directly from Tom Bihn.

So how do we feel about our bags? We love them.

The Tri-Star is a great bag for someone who travels light (about 20 pounds maximum) and isn’t planning any long distance walking or hiking with their pack. If you’re constantly hopping trains, planes, and buses, accessing your laptop, grabbing your rain jacket, or switching shoes, the Tri-Star bag is an excellent choice. The purchase price is high but so is the quality.

Porto, Portugal


We never get stopped on an airline for size problems.
We’ve taken about 10 different flights, and all but once we have carried our bags on with no issues. But be aware you can fit about 10kg in the bags and that is sometimes over the weight limit… Katy got caught once between Australia and New Zealand with too much stuff and we had to check the bag. Thankfully it didn’t cost extra that time.

Boarding RyanAir

Over and over, we comment on how convenient it is to get anything in or out of our Tri-Star. Here is a high level list of the things we have in our bags, and we can get to any of it within 30 seconds without unpacking:

Matt’s Packing List

4 merino t-shirts, 1 short sleeve button down, 1 long sleeve Better Button Down, pair of Bluffworks pants, Lightweight Ex-Officio hoodie, OR Helium II packable rain jacket, Kathmandu down jacket, Rainbows and Merrell light hikers, underwear, socks
Packable pillow, silk sleeping liner, toiletries
Surface Pro 3, GoPro Hero 4 Silver and accessories, backup hard drive, kindle paperwhite, random chargers and batteries.

Katy’s Packing List

2 merino t-shirts, 2 travel dresses, pair of pants, merino leggings, merino shorts, merino icebreaker sweatshirt, TNF rain jacket, Columbia insulated jacket, underwear, socks, classic Chacos, Leather Chacos, Merrell Hikers, Keen ballerina flats
Packable pillow, silk sleeping bag liner, pack towel, toiletries.
Surface Pro, Sony RX100, kindle paperwhite

In our opinion, these are the best features:

  • It’s sturdy: after 4 months of heavy use, there is very little wear and tear showing
  • Stands up when you set it down
  • Easy access to everything inside: This is what sold Katy on the bag. When entering Australia after hiking through NZ we had to declare our shoes since they had been used outdoors and around lakes and streams. Being able to quickly pull my shoes out and show the customs official on the spot (they were clean of course) allowed us to skip the inspection line.
  • Fits packing cubes well: packing cubes makes it easy to pull out just the things you need for a one night stay, or quickly access to your phone charger. Just pull out that packing cube. This makes it real easy to get through airport security too. Super handy to get the toiletries case and laptop out, without having to unpack anything else or open up the whole bag to show off your underwear to the security guards.
  • Zippers are super high quality, and the front zippers are helpful
  • Handles on all sides is nice when you have to grab your bag out of the pile, or hand it to someone for loading.
  • Convenient shape for stacking and fitting under seats on buses/trains/etc: in Norway we needed to stow our bags for a day of exploring Bergen before catching a bus. Because both our packs were basically cubes we could squeeze them both in one small locker at the ferry terminal saving us money over the larger lockers that would have been needed for most odd shaped backpacking bags.

    Waiting for friends in Bordeax, France

No bag is perfect, here are our complaints:

  • Water bottle holder on the front of the pack is too small and awkward for holding a real sized water bottle. We end up just clipping ours onto the outside of the pack
  • Straps for clothing are on the wrong side of the bag. When you open the clamshell zipper for your clothes, the strap is on the vertical side of the bag instead of laying flat.
  • Shoulder and Waist straps not comfortable: we’ve made an unofficial limit of about 30 minutes for walking with our packs. Anymore than that from the train to our hostel and we’ll pay for the bus or taxi. This is because after about half an hour our shoulders hurt too much from the weight of the pack and we get grumpy. the waist straps help a little, but the pack is just not designed for long distance walking.

If you do buy a Tom Bihn bag, tell them “hello!”

Buy a Tri-Star

Author: Matt

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