Tom Bihn Tri-Star

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The Tri-Star is a midsize carry-on travel bag replete with useful features — it may just be a business or pleasure traveler’s dream bag. With room for most sizes of our Brain Cell, the center compartment of the Tri-Star provides a secure and protected place for your laptop. Add Packing Cubes for clothing and shoes in the outer compartments and a Freudian Slip to the center compartment, and you may not need to come back to your home or office for quite a while. The Tri-Star measures 19″ x 13″ x 8″ (480 x 330 x 205 mm), putting it between the Western Flyer and the Aeronaut in size. It’s a perfect size carry-on for use in Europe and Australia, where airlines’ carry-on sizing requirements are more conservative than in the United States. The size of the Tri-Star also works well for travelers who find they don’t need a carry-on as large as the Aeronaut, but can’t or don’t want to limit their packing list enough to use our smaller Western Flyer.

The front of the Tri-Star features four zippered pockets, all zipping shut with #8 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zippers.

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On the right is a subtle-but-clever curved zipper pocket: unzip it partially and it’s a useful pocket for a boarding pass. Unzipped entirely, it’s an expandable water bottle pocket. The bellows that make the pocket expandable can be snapped up so your water bottle doesn’t fall out, or unsnapped to allow greater access to the pocket. (Note that with a water bottle in the pocket, the bag may no longer meet the most strict size regulations: we assume you’ll remove your water bottle as you board the plane.)

On the left side are three horizontal zippered pockets. The top zippered pocket spans the full height of the bag; the second goes about halfway; and the third is the shallowest of the three. All three horizontal zippered pockets have one O-ring inside for attaching a Key Strap (one 8″ Key Strap is included with the Tri-Star) or other organizational accessories.

The big pocket can hold a New York Times Best Seller (even a hardback) or a Kindle. The middle pocket can fit sunglasses or a laptop power supply. The small pocket can help keep your wallet, keys, passport, and other smaller items handy. The lower left-hand corner features the distinctive TOM BIHN Tri-Star logo label. Black piping bordering the front panel of the Tri-Star gives it a finished appearance and helps it retain its shape and size — no matter how much stuff you put in it.

The Tri-Star has three main compartments of approximately equal size, and each has two O-rings. The front compartment can be further divided left and right, with a zip-out divider. Depending on what you pack and how you like to organize, you may find this divider quite useful. Once divided, one side is larger than the other: the larger side can accommodate a three-ring binder; the smaller side handles a pair of shoes (inside a Packing Cube or not, your choice).

The middle compartment has two Annex Clips designed to secure the optional Brain Cell laptop case to the Tri-Star; the Annex Clips are removable, so if you don’t plan to carry a Brain Cell, you can remove them. The Brain Cell provides superior laptop protection with a corrugated plastic insert, a soft, brushed-foam interior, suspension system, and memory-foam bottom — and still comes in at just about 1 lb. for the larger sizes. In the Tri-Star, the level of laptop protection is increased because the Brain Cell sits between the other two main compartments. The Brain Cell can be unclipped from the Tri-Star and used on its own (it has handles and shoulder strap attachment points) or clipped inside another TOM BIHN bag, depending on its size.

Also in the middle compartment are two unobtrusive webbing loops (that we call “rail loops”) to which you can secure the optional Cache (available in sizes specifically for every Apple laptop and iPad; PC users, click here for our Laptop Bag Fit Guide). When you add the Cache, the Tri-Star becomes a “checkpoint-friendly” laptop travel bag. Here’s how it works: on the back (or bottom, depending how you look at it) of the Cache are two parallel “rails” of 1″ wide lightweight nylon webbing which extend from the top to the bottom. Included (and already attached for your convenience) when the Cache is ordered with the Tri-Star are two Gatekeeper Rail Clips: unclip the side that isn’t clipped to the Cache, slip it through the webbing loops in the Tri-Star middle compartment, and flip it shut. Slip the Cache inside the Tri-Star, and pull it back out: you’ll see that the Gatekeeper Rail Clips ride the rails of the Cache, allowing you to remove your laptop from the Tri-Star entirely while it is still encased in the protective Cache. Doing this at the airport security checkpoint means the X-ray machines (and TSA personnel) will have a clear, unobstructed view of your laptop — allowing you to keep your laptop in the Cache and the whole affair securely held together as one unit. (We think that’s much better than having to remove your laptop and dump it in one of those buckets.) Many of us will appreciate this functionality on a daily basis as well: the rail system can be a convenient and quick way to remove one’s laptop from the bag. Note that one must choose between attaching the Cache or the Brain Cell in the middle compartment of the Tri-Star. Need to carry two laptops? Put one in a Cache or Brain Cell in the back compartment.

The back compartment is full of open space and is ready to accept one Large Tri-Star Packing Cube, a Small and a Medium Tri-Star Packing Cube, or your clothes just on their own. (This depends on how you like to pack: some people don’t need or want Packing Cubes, while others would never travel without them.) The back compartment of the Tri-Star also features two compression/tie-down straps to help you keep clothing in place and wrinkle-free. They’re an alternative to Packing Cubes. The compression/tie-down straps are removable (via Gatekeepers) so if you don’t want or need to use them, you can leave them behind. The Tri-Star Packing Cubes are available for order separately by clicking here; they are available in Large (Fabric/Mesh), Medium (Fabric/Mesh), and Small (Fabric/Fabric or Fabric/Mesh).

Also available are the dual-purpose Packing Cube Shoulder Bag and Packing Cube Backpack (Tri-Star/Western Flyer). In preparation for and during your journey, use them to organize and pack your clothing. When you reach your destination and it’s time to leave the Tri-Star at your hotel or hostel, repack the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag with a light jacket, wallet, lunch or small water bottle, and map, and add a shoulder strap: you’re ready to go out and explore, and you’ve saved space by not having to bring a separate bag for day use.

The Tri-Star is made with an exterior of urethane-coated, 1050 denier, U.S. made ballistic nylon (not 1680 ballistic nylon, which is not as abrasion resistant as 1050). It’s lined with our ultralight 200 denier Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric (made in Japan). We choose to use ballistic nylon over Cordura® as an exterior fabric: we believe 1050 denier ballistic nylon is superior for travel, as its smooth texture allows you to more easily stow and retrieve the Tri-Star from overhead compartments. 1050 denier ballistic nylon also naturally attracts less fuzz/pet hair than Cordura®. Our 1050 denier ballistic nylon is custom-dyed for us in the United States. Our Dyneema®/nylon ripstop is the lining fabric of choice, as it’s ultra lightweight (every ounce counts in one-bag travel) yet extremely tough. As with many TOM BIHN bags, we use YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zippers. These zippers keep the weather outside where it belongs. All our fabrics are treated to be water resistant: you may choose to renew that resistance with Nikwax every six months to a year, depending on your use of the bag.

The attachment points for an optional shoulder strap are offset on the Tri-Star to provide the best balance and comfort, should you carry the bag with a shoulder strap. We recommend using the Absolute Shoulder Strap with the Tri-Star if comfort is your primary concern. You, of course, have the option of using any shoulder strap you already have that attaches to D rings. The two PORON® foam padded handles of the Tri-Star are positioned for maximum comfort, stability, and balance — they are designed not just to meet at the top dead center of the bag, but kiss there too, so no fishing for the second handle. Grab both handles, and your Tri-Star is a balanced load.

Empty, the Tri-Star stands up on its own. Depending on how you pack it, it can continue to stand up on its own.

The Tri-Star comes with metal zipper pulls. Included with the bag is a package of Cord Zipper Pulls so you can choose between metal and cord. If you prefer the quieter Cord Zipper Pulls, you can cut off the metal zipper pulls and replace them with Cord Zipper Pulls. For instructions on how to do that, visit the Cord Zipper Pulls page.

The back of the Tri-Star features hideaway backpack straps. Want to carry the bag as a briefcase or shoulder bag, or stow it in the overhead compartment for a flight? Unsnap the bottom of the backpack straps and tuck them into the back compartment — you’ll never know they were there. To turn it into a backpack, simply reverse these steps. The backpack straps are padded and contoured, and they feature a removable sternum strap and an optional removable waist strap. Both the sternum and waist straps are simple webbing straps designed to help distribute weight and stabilize the bag to your body.

Both the left and right ends of the Tri-Star have padded grab handles that allow you to easily grab and pull your bag out of the overhead compartment.

The Tri-Star in 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop:
The Tri-Star is also available in ultralight 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop. This stellar fabric is made for us in Japan. Though one-third the weight of our U.S. made, high tenacity 1050 denier ballistic nylon, it has comparable tear strength and very good abrasion resistance. With 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop you’ll save about 20% on the over-all weight of the Tri-Star. Note that 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop won’t stand up to the all-out abuse that 1050 denier ballistic nylon can handle – you’ll need to exercise care and not drag or otherwise mistreat your ultralight Tri-Star. It’s a compromise many will feel worthwhile, but it’s a compromise to consider.


U.S. high tenacity 1050 denier ballistic nylon — or — ultralight 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop
200 denier Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric lining
#10 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent coil zipper on main compartment
#8 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent coil zippers on pockets
EVAZOTE® foam backpack shoulder straps
PORON® foam handle


Made in USA 
100% finished seams


Dimensions: 19″ x 13″ x 8″ / 480 x 330 x 205 mm
1050d high tenacity ballistic nylon: 3 lb 6 oz / 1525 grams
400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop: 2 lb 12 oz / 1255 grams
Volume: 2000 cubic inches / 33 liters (ASTM Standard Measure)
Optional, removable 1″ / 25 mm waist strap


About nomadewalker

Inquisitive Mind, Compulsive Reader, Obsessive Marsupial Traveler, Breakfast Lover, Quotidian Observer!
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