Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag Impression

There’s a new man-bag in town. Call it a satchel, cross-body bag, or a tablet bag…or heck, a man-purse or murse; call it what you want, it’s my everyday carry bag (EDC). Most important and exciting of all, it’s the Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag, and it’s finally here!


Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag in Burnt Orange

Good things come to those who wait

I waited months for the pre-order to open and then more months for production and shipping to complete until — at long last — my EDC bag of choice arrived in a small brown box off a big brown truck.

Previously, I had spent many weeks researching and shopping online in a quest to find the best bag. Tom Bihn was the best bag maker at the best prices I found. The expert pack company has the widest selection of bag sizes and colors to suit my tastes. I especially like the modular organization system that revolves around the O-ring (please watch the linked video to really see it in action). In each bag are one or more O-rings to which a variety of pouches attach. It’s a simple yet smart and flexible way to keep any bits and bobs tidy; nobody likes a cluttered contents compartment.

Here’s my EDC. (The Android phone placeholder let my iPhone take the picture.)

Sizing Matters

Settling on the right-sized cross-body bag wasn’t easy. I wanted a bag big enough to fit a 10″ iPad. Though concerned a bag that size might be too large for everyday carry, my worries became unpacked. Using the bag on a few normal outings, I’ve found it fitting. I like the ample roominess inside; it lets me easily reach my forearms into it for optimal item retrieval, and it’s spacious enough to hold a small water bottle — something Texas summers requires. That said, I’ve also thought it would be nice to see a Mini Cafe Bag — sized to fit an iPad mini or other 7″ tablet — and I might like to upgrade someday to the Medium Cafe Bag. Having extra room seems extra nice, yet it might be too much.

Delight in Details

Besides its comfortable size, my favorite traits of the Small Cafe Bag are:

  • Strong yet supple shoulder strap.
    • Almost like a car’s seat belt but narrower and smoother.
    • It also has an effective strap pad with tiny grip nubs to minimize shoulder slipping.
  • Simple yet sufficient compartments.
    • There are only 3 (front, back, and main); they’re not overloaded with pockets or dividers.
    • 1 stuff pocket and 3 pen pockets grace the main pouch.
  • Fine quality materials.
    • Firm yet flexible fabrics in and out.
    • They feel very nice yet tough.
    • 525 ballistic outer and 210 ballistic inner.
  • Attractive colors.
    • Burnt orange, gray, and black.
    • I love the burnt orange!
Inside view of the Small Cafe Bag main compartment, featuring: 3 pen pockets, 1 large pocket, and 2 O-Rings. Note the interior color is gray — not black as in a dark cave wherein lurks unknown danger — so it’s easier to see and find what’s inside.

My EDC Kit Fit Out

Primary Compartment

Everyone fits out their everyday carry kit differently. My Small Cafe Bag‘s main area carries an iPad plus four organizer pouches (detailed below) snapped onto the two O-Rings. Also tethered by a key strap are my…car keys.

Snugly tucked into the primary compartment’s stuff pouch are a tin of Altoids and a Leatherman Sidekick multi-tool, or it also neatly fits my JBL Go Bluetooth speaker when needed. The three pen pouches hold two Bic 4-color ink pens and eventually an Apple Pencil.

Back Pocket

Though this open pocket on the back of the Small Cafe Bag is large enough to accommodate an eReader or small paperback, I normally use it for only one thing: my iPhone 8 Plus. Located on the back, it stays against my body while wearing, which makes it feel somewhat secure despite being open on top. And since I access my phone often, it’s nice to quickly and easily slip my phone in or out. It can lay vertically or horizontally, and there’s room for other items when needed. The other use of this open pocket is quickly storing the shoulder strap when hand carrying the bag.

There’s one small challenge worth mentioning here. The handle strap on top of the bag somewhat overs the back pocket and sometimes hinders access to it. It’s minor and easily managed, but it might be the one imperfection of an otherwise ideal EDC bag. This little issue also might be solved through usage over time, causing the handle strap to become set in an upright position. As it’s new, the strap lays flat and down toward the back pocket’s opening.

Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag in Burnt Orange
Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag in Burnt Orange – back pocket

Front Pocket

This is the only zippered compartment in the Small Cafe Bag and is tucked under the main buckled flap, so I find it’s the best place for my “wallet” (also with its own zipper). My wallet is tethered with a 6″ Key Strap. The front pocket also contains other thin or flat items: trail mix bag, almond butter, and a mask.

Pouches

I’m super happy to embrace Tom Bihn’s O-Ring system with organizer pouches. To arrange my accouterments, I have 4 add-ons clipped to O-rings throughout, tailored to my daily essentials:

  • Clear Organizer Pouch.
    • This replaced my old-school bi-fold leather wallet to carry cards and some cash.
  • Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Small.
    • The quintessential sunglasses pouch.
  • Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch – Super Mini.
    • AirPods case goes here.
  • Q-Kit – Mini.
    • This cool little taco-shaped pouch holds my spare EarPods (neatly coiled in a plastic snack bag), Advil, Burt’s Bees lip balm, and a spare key.

The nicest aspect of all these pouches is their matching colors: burnt orange and gray. (There are many other colors to choose from.)

Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag with organizational pouches tethered.

Freudian Slip

Another add-on package to mention — a packet-full-o-pockets — is called the Freudian Slip. It’s a custom tailored insert for the Small Cafe Bag that features several pockets and a handy looped pull-strap on top. While I don’t know if this insert will fit in the bag along with an iPad, I’d like to try it in the future (in Cloud gray of course) since it might be useful to have in lieu of the iPad sometimes. I’ve also wondered if the Freudian Slip would be a better option than separate organizer pouches clasped to O-Rings. Then again, the Slip also has its own O-Ring too. Also, it has a large enough pocket to contain an iPad mini/7″ tablet or eReader.

A Tablet Bag

I categorize this bag impression under Mobile Computing: Accessories because carrying a tablet requires things like a case, sleeve, or a bag — often a combo of those. An EDC bag large enough to lug a lightweight laptop replacement (iPad) is an essential accessory.

The Small Cafe Bag, though little enough for everyday carrying, is large enough to house an iPad or similar 10″ tablet (or a Nintendo Switch). Given that, I designate it as a Tablet Bag. I make this distinction because in American culture, traditionally it has been acceptable or “normal” for a male to carry either a backpack, briefcase, or a laptop bag, but anything smaller has often been deemed inappropriate for a male.

Tradition is nice and all, but times change. Since a cross-body laptop bag is acceptable for men, then why not a cross-body tablet bag? It’s smaller but not necessarily less masculine. While there are several bag makers on the market that provide solutions for anyone to carry tablets among everyday essentials, Tom Bihn makes the one I like best. The Small Cafe Bag is an excellent tablet bag and EDC bag.

Oh, and by the way, I love the burnt orange color!

If you fancy a full preview of the Cafe Bags from Tom Bihn, watch this video here.


Update: 7-31-21

Here are various photos of the Small Cafe Bag with a 10.2” 8th gen. iPad in a Fintie case. Given that the 10.2” iPad measures 9.8”x6.8”, I think an 11” iPad Pro, measuring at 9.74”x7.02”, would also fit the bag (depending on the size of a case, if any). I plan to use the Logitech Combo Touch keyboard case (in the Fall) and may share another update with photos of that as well.

iPad in case on Small Cafe Bag
The encased iPad appears too large for the Small Cafe Bag, but it fits very well.
Encased iPad in Small Cafe Bag
Small Cafe Bag with iPad and organizer pouches.
iPad in case inside Small Cafe Bag empty
Small Cafe Bag with an encased 10.2” iPad.
iPad in case inside Small Cafe Bag full
Small Cafe Bag stuffed with an encased 10.2” iPad and organizer pouches. It’s a good fit; contents are manageable.

iPad in case in Small Cafe Bag back pocket
In a pinch, the encased 10.2” iPad fits the back pocket a bit squeezed. It stops about 1/2” above the bottom of the pocket due to the shape.

Apple Watch And AirPods Still Delightful

The tech we rely on everyday is sometimes a delight and other times a disaster. When it works how it should, all’s well. When it doesn’t, “&$!#%.” Given the complexity of a computer, it’s kind of a miracle it works at all. And with computer chips in everything these days, no one escapes both the benefits and detriments of digital devices. That said, I’m here to talk about how much I’m still lovin’ my Apple Watch and AirPods after 6 months of usage. To this day, they remain surprisingly delightful.


AirPods

Let’s start with the AirPods. These little white ear candies are excellent. Their case is small and ergonomic, so it fits my pocket, ensuring I can always pop my portable audio plugs into my ears at any moment. Fancy that song stuck in my head? Just AirPods and play. Ready to catch up on that Podcast? Instant gratification on the go. Also, the AirPods themselves being small means they never obstruct my sunglasses or my hat. It’s little things like that which add up to satisfaction.

It gets better. My AirPods do double-duty since they instantly connect with either my iPhone or my Apple Watch. When I go for a run, I leave my phone behind and play audio straight from my watch to my AirPods. Look, I know this will sound “sound-bitey,”, but Apple isn’t lying when they say they’re magical. The tech wizardry at work really does work. In 6 months of exercise, my AirPods have been extremely reliable. Of course, I also wear them while at work, around the house, and even while driving.

AirPods have the instant Siri summoning feature that, while I don’t depend on it regularly, when I do think to use it, the response is quick and accurate. Frankly, it still feels like a tech demo sometimes because of how easy it is to use. But what I love most is how simply and easily I can have instant audio always at the ready. Oh, and because AirPods mean wireless audio, the convenience is worth their retail price.

Apple Watch

Next, Apple Watch. This thing is — avoiding the “life-saver” hyperbole — fantastic. When I bought the watch last Christmas, I intended on using it to help me get back into shape and stay fit. It’s working! I recently fulfilled my first 180 days of using Apple Watch, so I can now finally see my fitness activity trends. After 6 months of exercise, my cardio level is improved. I can see it in the data metrics thanks to the Fitness and Health apps, but I can also feel it. I can run farther, faster, and easier than before. The watch has been super reliable at recording all my fitness activities: standing, moving, exercising. It’s great at motivating and reminding me to cease and desist from a sedentary lifestyle. Seriously, it feels great after a 2 hour video game session to put on my running shoes and get moving outside.

Besides fitness, I have enjoyed my Apple Watch for all its computery capabilities too. In addition to instantly glancing down at the time, I also check the current temperature and wind speed at any moment (which helps me exercise outside at the best time). It has many of these types of nifty features I savvy. Yet the two biggest things I’ve loved using for the past 6 months are Notifications and Audio.

Getting notified by apps via my watch is delightfully convenient. Again, it’s this little thing plus others that, while simple, make a profound difference in daily living. The audio is a killer feature too — it’s like an iPod is strapped to my wrist. Three apps on my Apple Watch are now must haves: Music, Podcasts, and Now Playing. They all showcase direct quick controls for any audio playing, be it from my iPhone or from the Watch itself. The sounds stream straight to my AirPods…did I mention how great AirPods are?


Suffice to say, the AirPods and Apple Watch have easily become as essential to my daily digital lifestyle as my iPhone (which I’d say equals or exceeds the necessity of my work computer, a Windows PC). My other personal device is a Chromebook, and while great for what it is, I plan to usurp its dominance with an iPad in the coming weeks. Hopefully AirPods don’t get confused when switching between iPad, iPhone, and Apple Watch. Given the complexity, it wouldn’t surprise me. Then again, I’m talking about Apple’s ecosystem, so it should all just work. I’m certainly willing to give it all 6 more months.

Day One Journal Has A New Owner

Last month, I caught the news that award winning Day One journal app was acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress. My reaction was, “Whoa, really?!” Then I realized the two have something great in common: the regular writing of words. Blogging and journaling are similar, which should be no surprise on this site.

My current journaling home, outside of Jason Journals, is the simple Apple Notes app. For my needs, Apple’s elegant solution is enough. I’ve benefited over the years from journaling, both the private and public types. And in my endeavors to record my introspective thoughts and fluctuating feels, I’ve tried a few other journaling apps, including Day One. The recent news of Day One being bought caused me to give it another look, so I downloaded it to my iPhone.

After installing it, I confirmed what I had recalled from previous times when I had tried the app. It’s elegant and easy to use. It also has a feature or two that I wish Apple Notes had. But for me, Day One is overkill because it has a lot of extra capabilities via buttons front and center, which appear like clutter to my mind. This hinders me from journaling because of increased friction. The app is robust with features, yet I find it’s too much. I just need a blank sheet, a cursor, and a minimal amount of text formatting (and also, of course, passcode locking).

I intend to keep journaling in my comfort zone of Apple notes. But I do have some questions and concerns about WordPress’ acquisition of Day One:

  1. Will the premium subscription plan of Day One somehow be included or bundled in a WordPress subscription?
  2. Will Day One remain end to end encrypted?
  3. Will Day One suffer from feature bloat with the addition of integration options for publishing journal entries directly to WordPress?
  4. Will the WordPress app for iOS include new options for Day One?

Depending on the answers, I may grow interested in using Day One. Its rich feature set, though a bit much for me, could become more useful in ways that suit my needs. And I’m sure I could acclimate to the app. Also, I don’t know how Tumblr has done, another acquisition of the WordPress company, but I trust Automattic will be a good steward of Day One.

For now, the purchase of the Day One journal is noted, and I’ll keep using the Notes app to journal.

A Truly Smart TV

Last year, I wrote about Switching to 4K video and how reluctant I was at the prospect. I figured I’d hold out longer but was also starting to warm to the idea because I’d love to play games in 4K. Well, guess what? We upgraded!


After being content with our 40” HDTV for the past 9 years, we finally bought at 4K TV at 55”. There were only two things we we’re wanting: the bigger screen (for more immersive/expansive entertainment) and the higher resolution (for more stunning life-like imagery). To our surprise and delight though, we got a lot more than we bargained for.

I don’t keep up with TV tech trends; I’ve always treated my TV like a computer monitor, just a simple “dumb” display. Our previous HDTV had the Nintendo Switch, a Bluray player, and a Roku connected. The latter stick was our portal to online streaming content like YouTube and AppleTV.

Now our new UHD TV is smart in many ways. It totally eliminated the need for our Roku. Every streaming service you would want is built-in and runs great: Prime video, Netflix, and Disney+ to name a few. I can even AirPlay stuff from my iPhone to it with ease.

The shiny new rectangle (not curved, by the way) also has more HDMI ports than our former polygonal movie portal, and one of them has the ARC capability as does our existing soundbar. So now we can connect all our devices directly to the TV, removing the need for the janky cable splitter while also minimizing cables.

Things are also simpler since we’re now able to control our soundbar with the TV remote rather than a separate remote. Also cool, the new TV is smart enough to detect when a connected device powers on, which auto-switches to the correct input. Another bonus, the TV has Bluetooth, so now I can enjoy stuff on the big screen using my wireless headphones so I don’t disturb those in slumber.

There is one minor downside to our new set-up, but it’s not the TV’s fault. Our DSL internet is, by definition, not broadband (it pains me to even say it). So it’s simply not fast enough to stream 4K content. I sampled 4K HDR videos on YouTube and have been able to watch only a few. I tried selecting the full 4K setting on some videos but they collapsed inside a buffering black-hole. The next resolution down (1440p I think) is something like 3K or 2.5K and we’re able to stream that, so at least we have improved over 1080p full-HD (or what you might consider 2K).

If we want to watch full-4K videos, we’ll need to buy a 4K disc player, but those are still very expensive. Frankly, this gives me pause as I consider no longer buying physical media for movie watching and instead may rely on streaming. Hopefully, in the next year or two, our local service providers will finally roll out fiber optic internet to our house (we live in a rural area).

Playing Switch games in HD upscaled to “4K” on the bigger screen is awesome for the improved immersion in 3D environments. Overall quality looks better too. Part of that is due to the smoother motion thanks to a simulated (or interpolated) refresh rate of 120Hz (true native is 60Hz). When Nintendo unveils a 4K Switch, I’ll certainly want to upgrade my gaming. Glad I have a TV ready for it. That said, I’m more inclined now to also buy a PS5. One thing at a time.

I resisted the march of progress for more pixels until now. The cool thing is we got more than that. We have a truly Smart TV that meets our entertainment desires with less effort and greater efficacy than ever. Looks like a smart move to me.