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This TOM BIHN Luminary 15 review will show you why size doesn't matter when you know your shit as TOM BIHN does. The Luminary can take you from the beach to the cafe to the office, all in 15-liters.
- Price $140 on tombihn.com
- Capacity 15 liters
- Material 525d Ballistic Nylon exterior and 210d Ballistic Nylon interior
- Made in USA
For some reason, The Luminary feels like one of TOM BIHN's bags that flew under the radar. I don't see it talked about as much as TOM BIHN's more popular pieces like the Synik or upcoming Techonaut. Those who obsess about backpacks are, more often than not, travelers or “one-baggers.” So it makes sense since Luminary is not a travel backpack. But, what is The Luminary?
To say that The Luminary is a daily carry doesn't seem quite right as well. It's too small for most digital nomads. There are options like the TOM BIHN Synik or TOM BIHN Techonaut for those with a wide array of gadgets, but The Luminary is designed for more casual use. It's something you grab when heading to the cafe if a sling like the TOM BIHN Cafe Bag is not quite your cup of tea. It's great for a day at the beach or the museum, or the office. Its versatility is only limited by its capacity.
Is the capacity and size too small? Or is it the size that no one knew they needed? I'll find out.
If you've seen the latest backpacks from TOM BIHN like the Synik or Techonaut, you'll see that they are undergoing a sort of transformation.
Each established bag company has a “look”. Aer is known for its ultra-sleek SF style, while GORUCK is known for its military, special-ops aesthetics.
TOM BIHN is synonymous with a retro, 80s-influenced look. The retro look of TOM BIHN bags is an acquired taste. To some, they are even considered ugly. I am personally on the fence, but it's their quality and materials that ultimately win me over.
In recent updates, they are becoming more modern, sleeker without losing their 80s roots. Even the design update of their web store looks amazing.
The Luminary is one of the products that got to hitch a ride on this transformation journey. It looks sleek and doesn't carry that strong 80s vibe that some of the other backpacks do.
Like most TOM BIHN backpacks, The Luminary comes in various colors, a perk you get when you control your entire manufacturing process in one place. As always, I went for the black colorway, specifically, the Black 525 Ballistic/Cloud 210 Ballistic.
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While I love the OG vibe of the TOM BIHN brand tag, the pop of the red airplane logo has always bugged me being the only color on an otherwise stealthy bag. The brand tags now come in an all-black option with the new design direction, completing the muted look. Note that the tag here is different from the Design Lab tags, which are also all-black. These are the regular TOM BIHN “airplane” logo tag in a black-out palette.
The Luminary used to come in a 12-liter version but has since been retired. I thought it was the right choice because 12-liter sounds and looks small. I am 6 ft and about 205 lbs, a size where bags that are too small will look awkward.
The 15-liter is not too small but definitely borders on the line. It would be the smallest size I would carry on my back.
The lines of the bag are so clean that you could not tell that there are two side pockets and a laptop compartment without looking closely. The zippers of the side pockets are lined with the zippers to the main compartment, making it look like one continuous zipper. This is the first bag I had reviewed with such a design, and it was confusing and impressive at the same time.
The design of The Luminary is helmed by the lines on the front of the bag. Unlike other TOM BIHN backpacks that often come with space mesh, the entirety of The Luminary is the same material, giving it a clean and elegant look.
Many bags of this size are designed as packable backpacks and can look pretty basic. But, The Luminary looks substantial with its ballistic nylon exterior, solid construction, and thoughtful features. In terms of size and features, it fills the void between the TOM BIHN Paragon Backpack and TOM BIHN Daylight Backpack nicely.
Unlike most of the other backpacks by TOM BIHN, where multiple material options are offered, only the 525d Ballistic Nylon is available as an exterior material. This backpack is for light use, given its capacity. Therefore, the 525d Ballistic Nylon is probably more than enough. Although, I thought a halcyon option would be great to have.
Ballistic nylon has long been used on TOM BIHN's bag. Their travel backpacks, like the TOM BIHN Techonaut, get 1050d Ballistic Nylon, but that denier count would be overkill for The Luminary.
I designed a thing.
I found a 100 year old company that would create these heirloom quality canisters for me. They are handmade and will keep your tea leaves, coffee beans or anything that you need dry for years to come.
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For bags this size, you want to have a good balance between weight and durability. 525d might sound inferior seeing that it's half of the 1050d, it's actually beyond what most regular users will need.
For the rest of the bag, only the best of the best have been used.
The industry-standard YKK zippers have been utilized as with all of TOM BIHN's bags. These are actually the one-grade-up #8 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zippers. Like the zippers, top-tier plastic hardware from Duraflex®, Nexus, and Woojin buckles are used.
When it comes to material choice, you can trust TOM BIHN to only go for the best. And they indeed have, even for a bag this size.
Relative to the size of the bag, there are actually quite a bit of features packed in.
I was pleasantly surprised there was a dedicated laptop compartment. With it, The Luminary is now a viable backpack I can take to the office.
The compartment's opening is along the side of the back panel. Testing with my 13-inch MacBook Pro, you can't put the laptop, long-side first, straight into the compartment. You need to put the shorter side in and turn it to fit it in. While it sounds complicated, it's actually not different from how you would put your laptop into even larger compartments. The operation feels comfortable. Although, I would not recommend fitting anything larger than a 13-inch laptop in here.
The main compartment has one of the most innovative organizational features I've seen. There is a slot in the middle of the bottom half of the compartment. The slot splits the bottom half of the main compartment into three equal-sized divisions. The slot itself is great for a water bottle like my Stanley Travel Mug.
The slot can be set up or taken down via a zipper. I had thought that this zipper would be difficult to use since it's all the way in the bottom half of the compartment. But, it was surprisingly easy to put it up or take it down, although you probably won't be changing the configuration too often.
This compartment does not open clamshell-style since the bottom half of the zippers are zippers to the side pockets.
There are side pockets, one on each side of The Luminary. These pockets are lined along the zipper of the main compartment. One of the pockets is larger than the other, but both take up the space of the main compartment.
The pocket on the right side comes with the detachable TOM BIHN Key Strap. The side pockets are great for quick access items since you can just swing it on one shoulder and easily access it. The pocket's opening will also be faced upward in this position and its contents won't fall out easily.
For most, The Luminary might seem too small. I feel that the size is its biggest draw. It's a 15-liter fully-featured bag that works in almost every situation. For those who hate lugging around bulky bags, features like the dedicated laptop compartment and ballistic nylon make this a worthwhile choice.
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Tagged backpack bag ballistic nylon review tom bihn