Tom Bihn Ristretto for Air: Mini bag goes on long flight

Posted on by Mike Evans

A month ago I did a review of the new Tom Bihn Risretto messenger bag for the MacBook Air. This proved to be the most popular post in January and indicates the interest in the best ways of protecting and transporting Apple’s new netbook (sorry Steve, notebook).

IpadristrettoblkstlSince then I have been totally sold on the Ristretto with one small proviso1 and it is ideal as a day bag. The case is so light and unobtrusive that I tend to carry the Air around when anything bigger (such as a 13-in MacBook Pro) is definitely an only-when-really-needed choice.But I’ve had no opportunity to try out the Ristretto on a longer journey. How will it stand up as a sole carry-on bag for flights?

Yesterday I flew a couple of thousand miles and decided to travel light. The Tom Bihn mini proved well up to the job and I felt very superior to fellow travellers humping huge wheeled monstrosities up to the overhead lockers. It’s amazing the crap some people travel with.

But back to the Ristretto. This is what I crammed in:

  • MacBook Air (with Speck hardcase shell)

  • Air charger with UK and Euro adaptors

  • Large leather travel wallet with credit cards, cash, SIM cards, tickets, passport

  • Accessories pouch containing USB cables, Apple sync cable, 5w Apple power adaptor, Vodafone modem, Magic Mouse, spare batteries, SD card adaptor, Bose in-ear phones, Apple headphones.

  • Notebook, pens, keys

  • Hypermac Micro battery (3x iPhone charges)

  • Sheaf of A4 notes (in the long back pocket)

  • iPhone

This kit represents the stuff I cannot manage without. If my checked-in bag goes missing or I get stranded in transit, I have my survival kit over my shoulder. Everything else can be bought locally. Obviously yesterday I did have hold luggage; it’s a different story if you are travelling with only carry-on baggage. The Ristretto is clearly inadequate as a weekender, but it can probably be smuggled on alongside a heftier bag in most cases because it looks more like a handbag than a serious piece of luggage.

One thing missing from my essential kit this time round was my Kindle. I made a conscious decision to leave it at home and spend the next two weeks reading on my iPhone (or on the Air where the excellent Kindle application’s two-page view is the best I’ve seen). As you know, I do love reading on the iPhone and it is particularly suited to travelling. In fact, in an aircraft seat it beats the Kindle and the iPad hands down. I slip the lid of my Piel Frama leather case into the magazine slot of the seat in front and the phone dangles down to provide the ideal book-reading experience. I can read even while eating, something that isn’t to be recommended with a larger device. 

I delight in keeping things light and manageable and my minimalist lifestyle has just taken a huge step forward thanks to the Tom Bihn Ristretto.


1 My sole problem with the Ristretto is that the front compartment, with its deeply sculpted front, is not secure. Heavy items, such as an Apple charger or a spare battery, can slip out and be lost. The overflap, with its offset single fastener (a Tom Bihn trademark) doesn't prevent such potential loss. I think a zipped closure for the front compartment would be an improvement.


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