The Tom Bihn Aeronaut – Form and Function in a Sexy Package

A couple months ago after arranging my Indian adventure I sat down and assessed by luggage situation. It didn’t take long to realize I was in trouble. I couldn’t trust my rolling suitcase beyond glazed airport floors and city sidewalks and my backpack was a ratty mess heldover from the first Bush administration. And because I deemed India to be one of the most demanding environments for a travel bag, I felt I needed something extra, something that wouldn’t make me want to throw it off a slow moving train. I needed something portable but not bulky, something roomy but not huge, and, call me a heathen, something that wasn’t a backpack.

Enter the Aeronaut.

Upon a suggestion from Keith Savage, one of the most sophisticated travelers I know, I picked up Tom Bihn’s showpiece travel bag.

The great thing about the Aeronaut, and there are many, is that it’s not a backpack, even though it can be, it’s not a suitcase, even though it can be, and it just looks sexy when you’re carrying it around. The construction is solid, handling India with a grace that no wheeled suitcase or top-heavy backpack would’ve given me.

Versatility – don’t call it a backpack

One of the best parts about this bag is that it’s not a backpack per se, but it can be worn as one with a similar amount of comfort by way of a pair of straps that zip inside when not in use. And when you set it down, it doesn’t do any of that clumsy tipping that annoys me so much about backpacks. It sits up like any suitcase you’ve ever seen ready to be grabbed and thrown into a tuk-tuk with a minimal amount of effort.

Add a few packing cubes and you have a perfectly organized traveling arrangement no matter what the destination. I remember gleefully announcing to fellow travelers that I felt more organized than I’d been on any trip in my life, and you just can’t buy that for money.

The specs:

  • Dimensions:  22″ x 14″ x 9″
  • Weight: 2.71 lbs. not including shoulder strap
  • Exterior constructed with U.S. made 1050 denier ballistic nylon
  • Lined with ultra-light Dyneema®/nylon ripstop
  • #10 YKK Uretek splash proof zippers
  • One main compartment; two secondary compartments
  • Two additional pockets on bag ends; zippered mesh compartment inside
  • Zippered backpack strap compartment
  • Capacity:  2,700 cubic inches
  • Grab handles on both ends
  • Meets most non-commuter domestic airlines’ carry-on size standards
  • Made in Seattle, Washington, USA

The Aeronaut clocks in at 45 liters which amounts to a most spacious interior. It’s designed with a clamshell opening which gives easy access to the core of the bag instantly, and has two large compartments on either side to organize your other vitals accordingly. The two chunky side handles take away the need for fumbling with loose straps to pull it out of overhead compartments and taxis, which of course makes you look more attractive as you swoop and lift with the utmost savoir faire.

Compartments three

The three compartments was the magic that kept the Aeronaut working for me. In the center I put my clothes and shoes, in the left compartment I put my toiletries and in the right, all my electronics. This configuration ended up working excellently. There was enough space to accommodate it all and to set me up for an organization that worked perfectly for the entire trip. Never did I search. Never was in need of something that I didn’t instantly know where it was. And that right there is the true gift of this bag: order.

The Aeronaut is not bargain basement material, coming in at $220 (plus an additional $30 for the shoulder strap) but in my opinion every penny I spent came back to me tenfold with the satisfaction I felt carrying it around. It really is a piece of work.

Don’t take my word for it, here’s a couple other reviews from and One Bag with lots of pictures and info in case you haven’t quite made up your mind.

Here’s a good video highlighting the beauty of the Aeronaut and its numerous intelligent facets.