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.

Published by

Jason McFadden

Jason McFadden blogs about computing, gaming, and more. He also writes editorials for RPGamer.

2 thoughts on “Tom Bihn Small Cafe Bag Impression”

  1. Great review, Jason. This looks like a great bag. Is the iPad a tight fit? I’m wondering if my 11” iPad Pro would fit comfortably. I don’t really need a new bag right now, but it’s always good to keep up on the latest accessories, just in case!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hey Rob, the iPad is not a tight fit. An 11” should fit well, even in a case if the case isn’t too bulky. I updated the blog post with new photos of my iPad in a case in the bag along with specs for comparison. Enjoy!

      I don’t need any new bags now…but I want more Tom Bihn bags… 😉

      Liked by 2 people

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