Tom Bihn Western Flyer

I'm considering this bag for my next trip. It is slightly smaller than the standard carry-on but I'm wondering if this might be the answer for tighter and tighter restrictions. It's 18 x 12 x 7. I pack very light so it might work. And if I keep it under say 12 pounds, I should be able to carry it on to just about any airline.

Anyone here every use it? Opinions?

Posted by Larry
Pearland, Texas, USA
423 posts

It sounds great. The carry on restrictions have been getting tougher and I don't think it'll be long before we get smaller allowed sizes and lighter weights. I don't think they'll start charging for carry on because of all the business travelers who would complain but the size and weight will probably go down.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
3082 posts

Sounds great to me. I think if you can get into the mind-set that you are packing for an overnight trip it might work. Pack only one extra set of underwear and sox. Wear all your heavy/bulky clothes; carry no more than one book. Plan to buy basic stuff like toothpaste and shampoo abroad. If the pack is really light-weight and you stuff extra things into your pockets you might be able to fit in an extra shirt or pair of shoes.

Posted by Frank II
4633 posts

If you think about it, my current bag is 21 x 13 x 9 so I'm not really losing that much space. I'll probably have to carry a daybag separately, but that's another challenge.

the biggest loss is in length, and would 3 inches really matter?

(Kent, this is a family forum...get your mind out of the gutter.)

Posted by Ron
Carbondale, IL, USA
1201 posts

I've been looking at that one as well. The size difference is fairly substantial. Your current bag is about 2500 cubic inches versus a little over 1500 for the smaller one.

Some of the things that are holding me back on it. It weighs 2.5 pounds. I'm not entirely sold on the two compartment design. On a smaller bag, I think I want a single compartment. Since it is designed as a briefcase, it doesn't have compression straps. Plus at $160, it's a bit pricey although Bihn workmanship and material choices make it a good deal. I'm just not quite convinced it is the "perfect" bag yet.

The support folks over in Bihn forums have hinted that there should be a bag coming that is in between this size and the max carryon size. Maybe in the Spring next year.

From reading blogs and forums around the people that do use the WF as a clothing bag, say it is good for about 2 or maybe 3 day trips.

Posted by Frank II
4633 posts

Ron, I'm not sure but I think the divider between the two compartment zip away to make one big one.

I use the Bihn Absolute Shoulder Strap and can tell you I'll never use another. It is fantastic and worth the $30.

I wish he would make a bag between the WF and the Aeronaut and make it one compartment, not three.

They are heavy but that's the workmanship.

Posted by Betsey
New England
293 posts


I have been agonizing over whether to buy the Western Flyer or not myself. Thanks for starting the discussion! It is interesting to read that there is a possibility of a bag yet to come between the Flyer and the Aeronaut. I do not actually need a bag until next April. Maybe I will force myself to sit on my hands, away from the credit card when viewing the Bihn web site :-)

I think it was at the One Bag One World web site that I saw a post about looking for the lowest common denominator for bag sizes. Someone figured that 19x13x8 would suit about all airlines.

Looking at some pictures of the Western Flyer and how even a 7" bag swells outward, I think I would love a 19x13x7 bag that weighs 2 lbs or a smidgin over.

I guess I would like convertible straps, too, though to leave them off and only use a quality shoulder strap would help save some weight (plus leaving all the "I might need that" items at home!).


Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
982 posts

I have fallen in love with this bag. I've used it to travel for one week jaunts to New Zealand in the winter, to Berlin and Prague (for 10 days), and to New York in the summer. Frankly, it's so well made and versatile that I don't miss the larger size. A few comments, though--I carry a separate "personal item" for my heavier gear (laptop, noise canceling headphones, papers and books). Even so, packed really efficiently it will weigh nearly 15 pounds. It's too much to use the sling, so it's shoulder strap for me all the way.

I'm off to Croatia nest week for a week with the Western Flyer. It'll fit anywhere and hold enough for a week of business and leisure clothes.

Posted by Frank II
4633 posts

Thanks JER....a new WF is coming out the end of this month with backpack straps rather than the sling (you can still get the sling.)

If it holds enough clothes for a week, then it holds enough for 2-3 weeks by doing laundry along the way.

Do you use the Tom Bihn Absolute strap? I have it and love it.

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
982 posts

I do use the separate strap--it's the best strap I've ever used because it will not slip off my shoulder.

I wish I could have gotten a Western Flyer without the sling and with backpack straps. There are some advantages to it--it's relatively easy to slip the thing off compared to detached a backpack. But it is awkward is your chest isn't flat, so for most women I suspect the sling will be an emcumbrance as it is for me. Also, I find the pack when fully loaded too heavy for me as a sling-pack. I prefer to carry a maximum of 12 or 13 pounds on my back unless I have a backpack configuration, and the Western Flyer can be loaded up beyond that. I've a pretty dense packer though. Especially when using the Tom Bihn packing cubes--not an inch of space gets wasted.

The only time I fly without my Western Flyer now is when I really, really want wheels. And that is not too often. (I'm going to be traveling to Amsterdam on business next summer and am already planning a three week extended vacation on the tail end of that, so I'll need both professional clothes and tourist clothing. So that might be the kind of trip that will force me out of the Western Flyer.)

Posted by Frank II
4633 posts

JER--you could take two bags to Amsterdam and just ship the wheeled bag with business clothes back home and keep the WF for the remaining three weeks.

Technically, it's a business expense and you might be able to write it off.

I thought about getting the WF with the sling because at times i carry my bag using one of the backpack straps as a sling. That's sometimes more comfortable than the regular shoulder strap.

But then, I don't have the chest problem you do......LOL