Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Man Purse

When we officially decided to move to Japan I found myself concerned with a series of new issues.

"I don't know the language. How will I survive!?"

"Exactly what, and to whom, will I be teaching?"

"Man of Steel doesn't come out till mid August there!"

"Is Chick-filla a globalized franchise?"

And finally, the topic of today's post:

"What item will I practically and fashionably store all of my everyday crap in?"

If this post was a Seinfeld episode it'd be called "The Man Purse" because to some of you, this is a blog post about nothing -but to me, this is about my absolute favorite EDC bag.

"What's the deal with those Carry-on's?"


Every Day Carry. If you didn't know that simple acronym then more than likely you're not a bag enthusiast like myself and the millions of others suffering from OCD- obsessive carrying disorder.

5 months ago I was looking for the perfect bag, and after much Internet research, review reading and company comparisons, I placed an order for Tom Bihn's messenger bag briefcase hybrid, the Co-Pilot.

Completely happy with my purchase, I wanted to review it the moment I got it; however, I've waited a few months to review it in hopes of a more honest evaluation than one of those "unboxing" videos that people seem to love.
"It feels slightly heavier than the last one..." 

When I was looking for my perfect bag I had two things in mind.

First, I always like having an assortment of different nick-knacks and so organization and compartments were a must.

Second, I wanted a bag big enough to carry my iPad and maybe a few books but small enough to carry anywhere without being a hassle.

The Co-Pilot is that bag. 

I've now had my Co-Pilot at my side for just over 4 months now and in that short time span I've used it practically everyday and taken it everywhere. It's innards are usually comprised of the following:

  • iPad, 
  • stationary
  • pens and pencils
  • Hanko
  • iPhone 5
  • water bottle or mini umbrella. 
  • money pouch 
  • wallet / I.D. 
  • schedule/planner
  • keys 
  • small health related pouch (Tylenol, inhalent, chaptick)
  • passport
  • Swiss knife 
  • compass 
  • Occasionally, my mirrorless camera system, lens and charger. 

My Review

In short, I love this bag. As desired, it has enough compartments and organization options for me to always know where somethings at, and it is small enough for me to throw over my shoulder and carry along in any situation.

Aesthetically, it's a very versatile bag. Being an English teacher at an elementary school, most of the time (in the summer season at least) I'm in slacks and a polo. The Co-Pilot has no problem fitting in. 

When I need to be more dressed up and ready for a meeting at my City's Board of Education... fine. The Co-Pilot has an appearance that works well with a suit and tie that doesn't try and draw attention to itself.

The bag is made with the strongest materials. 1050 Denier Ballistic Nylon means the bag will be way more resilient towards the typical ware and tare bags are put through.

I've had mine for 4 months now and I can't find any suggestions the fabric is giving out, torn or cut. It's solid stuff.

I might have sat it in some gum on the street once. 
The inside of the bag is lined with Japanese Ripstop material. It's strong, light-weight and offers a larger variety of colors. I ordered the black/wasabi edition.

The zippers are #8 YKK Aquaguard water-repellent coil zippers. As the name suggests, these bad boys give this bag an added advantage of dryness during the rainy season. The bag comes with medal pulls attached, or you could cut those off and replace them with provided cord zip pulls. Cutting off the metal pulls sounds way too permanent for me so I opted to put both on.

As you'd expect, I've noticed a bit of ware on the zippers.


One great design feature is that, unlike most bags, there is a dedicated place to store a drink right in the center of the bag. This way, you're not constantly having to counteract the awkward weight a drink might give you if it were located at the ends of the bag. You might have also noticed a small hole in the bottom of the bag in a picture above. No worries, it's there to allow wet umbrellas or sweating water bottles to drain out. Very cool.

It's also the perfect size for my lens case.

In every compartment on the bag there are dedicated "O-Rings" for you to attach whatever you desire. The guys over at Tom Bihn have a plethora of accessories like storage pouches, lights, straps, smaller bags, etc, for you to add on should you have the desire.

I did
The front section is divided into three separate compartments. The two on the outside are same in shape but the left side features a place to store pens and pencils (or whatever), and the right side has a dedicated smartphone slip.
In the picture above you'll see I keep a pen, mechanical pencil, highlighter, portable screwdriver, my personal Hanko and keys - attached with Bihn's 16 inch key strap. I also purchased a mini clear organizer pouch which holds my USB's and SD cards. Lastly, it's always a good idea to keep a few meds and my inhaler with me just incase.

The opposite compartment is the same size only with a place for your precious touchable electronic device.

The dedicated smartphone slip is lined with ultra-suede so you don't have to worry about scratches.

One of my only complaints is that using the O-Ring in this pocket gets in the way if you plan on using the smartphone slip too. Generally, I just keep my iPhone, coin pouch and headphones in this side.

In Japan, any currency under 1,000 yen is a coin. So if you want to buy something under $10 you have to pillage through your (absolutely necessary) coin pouch. So, I always have my phone and my money right in the same place so it's never a hassle and I'm not keeping up any checkout lines.

Always, always have your money ready.

Probably the most delightful surprise about the bag was how easy it allows me to ride my bike and have fast and easy access to my phone. Everyday, on my way to and from school, I'll have my headphones in, connected to my iPhone, and I can either listen to a playlist or make some Skype calls. You wouldn't think much of it but having a pocket solely for your phone puts my mind at ease as I'm bumping on and off sidewalks and roads.

The largest compartment is accessible through two zippers that extend a quarter of the way down the back of the bag.

The main compartment also includes two large pockets to offer further compartmentalization.
This easily fits my iPad and I can even manage to squeeze in an 8.5 x 11 folder if I wanted. Albeit it's a close fit and you're likely going to have some of the corners of your paper chewed up a bit. If the bag was only an inch longer it would be much more suited for carrying documents. What's worse is that in Japan the common paper sizes are considerably bigger than what we have in the states.
So, if you are planning on doing business in Japan, business that requires you to transport documents, I suggest using one of the Co-Pilot's big brothers. I've read in forums rumors of a "Pilot" that's in the works. Supposedly a reincarnation of this bag but in a larger, perhaps Japan-friendly form. If that ever comes to light I will probably kick and moan till I end up buying it. Till then, I'm content with folding.

On the back side there's an open top pocket which can fit a small book or magazine. The bottom actually zips open in case you want to slide the handles of some rollable luggage through it to keep it secure.

On top of the bag there's a padded PORON foam handle located directly in the middle of the bag. I don't know what PORON is but it sounds very special and makes for a comfortable grip. 

Even with nothing in it, the Co-Pilot won't lose it's shape. 


The Shoulder Strap

No matter how perfect any bag may be, if you have an uncomfortable or weak shoulder strap then all is lost. What's the point of spending X dollars on some fantastic bag that will ultimately ware you out? 

Obviously, I'm an advocate of this bag. But, I'm an even bigger advocate of Tom Bihn's Absolute Shoulder Strap. The bag comes with a strap that looks like your average acceptable shoulder strap ...OR you can shell out an extra $20 and get this baby. 

The Absolute is literally the most comfortable way to carry your gear and the best reviewed shoulder strap I could find online. Bag or no bag, go and buy this thing to replace whatever neck-pinching, shoulder-grinder you have. 

The strap features an ergonomically curved neoprene pad that is soft on one side and non-slip on the other. The pad is curved slightly to fit the shape of your shoulder and it's non-slip side works like a charm. 

The material it's made from allows the padded part to stretch and distribute much of the unpleasant weight that would otherwise be gnawing at your neck and arms. For the longest time I was a huge fan of RedOxx' "claw" strap but this beat it hands down.

Just google "best shoulder straps" and see what happens. 

The Absolute joins the Co-Pilot via it's "matte black snap hooks" and the bags D-rings. The snap hooks feature a lovely USA symbol just in case you forgot where it was made.

Something I've come to appreciate about this bag is that it's quiet. Most other bags with great hardware seem to clank around. The D-Rings on the bag are NOT metal but rather some type of strong plastic or something. The result is that you don't have to listen to clinks and clanks all day as you shuffle about.

A Me Ri Ka!

The Co-Pilot

  • It's not the most ideal bag to carry documents in, especially if you live in Japan where the paper size is abnormally large. 
  • Limited padding. 

  • Highest quality craftsmanship. 
  • Plenty of organization options. 
  • Small yet efficiently compacted. 
  • At $110 you get a bag that is made to last. 
  • Aesthetically pleasing. 
  • Variety of colors to choose from. 
  • American made. 
  • Great customer support. 


  1. This is the most ridiculously long post about a bag ever, Mason.

  2. I love this bag! My heart was all aflutter at the mention of compartments and compartmentalization. Oh, my!! And you NEEEED to talk to my hubby about bags. He is often looking for just the right one. The Pilot sounds like a dream!
    Laura H...

  3. I've decided to buy a gross.

    Your Brilliant Young CPA Uncle. :-)

  4. Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep

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    thank you :)