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Tom Bihn- Imago> Highly Recommended

Photographed on Location at Marymount University, Virginia, USA
Modeling- Miss Leia

ABOVE- Note: 'strap keeper' left of buckle VS No keeper on right of buckle

ABOVE- Detail of elastic strap keeper

ABOVE- Left-strap keeper in use

- Suggested zipper pull for side pockets

Design Update: January 2007
"The design of the Imago Messenger Bag has been updated with a 1 1/2" toothed shoulder strap slide (just like the ID has) that allows you to choose and switch between the new Tom Bihn Standard Shoulder Strap (automatically included with your Imago) and the Absolute Shoulder Strap (available instead of the Standard Strap for an extra $25). With both the Imago and the ID, you'll also be able to use our up-and-coming Q-AM (Quick-Adjust Messenger) Shoulder Strap."

- from Tom Bihn Website

Key benefits:


Specifications: Tom Bihn- Imago

  • Made of 1050 denier Ballistic nylon - or - 1000 denier Cordura®; lined with 500 denier Cordura®
  • Available in lots of cool colors
  • Removable waist strap for cycling
  • Grippy shoulder pad in matching colors
  • Overall dimensions: 14.5" x 12.25" x 3.5" / 370 x 310 x 90mm
  • Volume: 600 cubic inches / 10 litres
  • Weight: 1lb, 9oz / 700 grams
  • Made in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
  • Current Price: $85

First Impressions: The Imago - Quick Pre-Review

I've been running it through my 'Urban Combatant' test plan. So far I've logged 40 hours on the Imago in the following circumstances:
- Biking errands around town AKA... Courier Lite
- Casual meetings via Subway/Walking
- Internet Cafe jaunts
- Weekend beach getaway

Summary observations:

Form Factor
- Compared to the Super Ego, this is the 'petite' of courier bags! It's small enough to be an excellent constant companion, and yet it's dimensioned to hold a 13" laptop such as Macbook. It's especially kind to the Macbook in the new TB Horizontal SoftCell. You can also use the classic BrainCell but the stiffeners take too much space . Simply put, when the Super Ego is too much bag, the Imago is the natural choice.

- The Imago exhibits wonderful balance! Its compactness makes it ergonomically adaptable to a wider range of user statures than the formidable Super Ego or large packs. Persons of diminutive stature will especially appreciate the smaller form factor- Heck ! it's the ideal book back. Though I'm very attached to the Super Ego's capacity, the Imago is so sweet for those quick trips to the Café or travel situations that don't require ( politely meaning "Don't Permit" ) the carry of numerous water bottles plus the kitchen sink.
- The Imago exhibits key Tom Bihn / Super Ego >DNA<. The shoulder strap is padded for comfort - even when carrying heavier contents. Most important for users on the move and on the go- the waist strap keeps the Imago snug up to your waist- preventing jostling, sway and other potentially nasty luggage behavior.
I've been testing a tactical backpack on bike rides and switching to the Imago felt like I was carrying a wallet by comparison!

- Strategic pockets are where you'd want them to be. Obviously that's a subjective observation- or is it? High Gloss gadgets are all the rage- but scratches are so declassé! highly scratch prone Samsung T809 phone as well as highly scratch-prone Black iPod Video - both found very plush and cozy homes in the respective Imago end pockets- all within easy reach. The waterproof zippers ensure security from loss and let me tell you- those sexy Utrasuede liners are velvety enough to have given the late Roy (Halston) Frowick - Goosebumps!
Heck, why not line more pockets in that stuff ?- then we'd be in Fat Cat heaven!
Releasing the adjustable buckle and lifting the flap reveals two pockets- one a YKK zippered pocket and the other a slash- open pouch. The open pouch gets to hold my 16oz water bottle + EnergyBar and the zippered pocket gets my fat wallet and travel docs. The main compartment has two more small open pockets. One gets the laptop power supply or spare battery and the other my PDA, flashlight, meds etc.
-The main compartment is a natural for a 13" laptop plus papers, or literature of all stripe.
-The ubiquitous back pocket is huge! Perfect for spare garments, Periodicals etc.
Wash It and Wear It- A Funny but Stinky Story...
Being the incorrigible person that I am , I couldn't resist trying to bring home a take-out meal in the Imago. It was really a spur of the moment idea. One evening, I stopped bye a favorite Kabob joint and ordered two kabob meals to go- one with swordfish and the other one with chicken - Yum!. Into the Imago they went, protected by thin plastic bags. The next day, I carried some packages to the post office office - Imago in tow. As I waited in line I couldn't help but notice the pungent odor that I had attributed to a fellow customer ahead of me. Minutes later I realized that the offensive odor was actually emanating from my Imago! A leak from the previous day's errand had obviously corrupted my otherwise odorless Imago! I simply washed it in the machine and line dried it- The Fish Kabob odor is totally gone and the Imago was back in action.
- I love both the Cordura and the ballistic nylon versions of the Imago. The Ballistic Nylon version feels softer to the touch. I'd get one of each for different occasions.

Nit Picking
- I only had one minor issue. The two Ultrasuede lined end pouches don't accommodate all sizes of sunglasses. They were about 3/4" too short and generally too small to house either my Native Ripp or ESS CDI sunglasses. If this could be an issue- take it into consideration- remember that the other pockets can easily carry most glasses . Since I only use these two end pockets for my mobile phone and Mp3 Player -it's not really a big deal

Other Notable Observations
The Imago customer has excellent color options to choose from! Kudos go out to Tom Bihn/ Darcy and Co. for facilitating the appropriate user survey on the forum that resulted in the final colors that are currently being offered . This was an object lesson in Democratic Group Design. My favorite Imago colors are the Crimson/Steel/Crimson (A perfect match to the Crimson Aeronaut) and the Cocoa/Cocao/Wasabi- the later is a nice earth color to match earthly colored apparel and backdrops. Later on I may also buy the Olive/Steel/Olive to go with my Barbour Jacket. Am I becoming a Fashion Victim? Something tells me a whole range of these lovely earth tones such as Terra Cotta, Tan, Beaver etc are going to start appearing on TB Imagos.
A Parting Shot
All Tom Bihn bags are sooo addictive that it's hard to know which one to buy first- the Imago is a perfect first bag for everyone (May I call it the VolksBag?) and a welcome addition to the ever growing Tom Bihn family of useful luggage .

Target Market- Anyone in need of a small messenger style bag that can carry up to a MacBook within an Archetype sleeve plus papers and a host of small accessories. Ideal for light weight students carry, professional or intenerate WiFi warriors.

Human Factors & Usability - Almost all the ordinary demands of a person carrying a laptop in an urban environment are attended to elegantly. The Imago is typical of Tom Bihn designs in that it lacks superfluity, and yet every compartment and feature makes sense. Our favorite was the Ballistic Nylon version. That version has enough 'structure' to stay slightly open when empty, allowing for easy contents insertion. The modest dimensions make it better balanced on a shoulder for users of all ages and statures than larger messenger bags. All hardware such as zippers and buckles are ergonomically placed for easy one-handed use. Outer and inner compartments support a logical distribution of contents. We found it easy to contain a basic laptop in a sleeve, AC Power supply, two extra batteries, a PDA, cell phone, iPod 30GB, reading glasses case as well as house keys and sundry writing implements. Being a deminimus carry bag, no accommodation is offered for bottle carry.

It naturally carries well on the shoulder and is extremely well balanced (especially for biking) when supported by the belt strap. The lack of a handle for quick grabs is sorely missed. If you really need that handle, theTom Bihn ID bag is the one to get.

Styling and Aesthetics - The Imago earns high marks for styling and aesthetics. Taking a number of geometric cues from the much larger Super Ego, it abandons the boxy looking aesthetic typical of such luggage, for a more streamlined curvilinear silhouette instead. Its Unisex sensibility transcends age, occupation or cultural clique. Depending on the choice of color, it can be dressed up or dressed down. For those that enjoy two-toned styling options, the Imago fulfills such desires with aplomb. The color choices cover the basics of earth tones, traditional neutrals and electric primaries. The Imago may well be offered in even more colors as it gains momentum with customers.

Environmental Stress- The Imago, as with other Tom Bihn luggage, is designed to endure the trials and tribulations of campus or commute and it does so admirably. Though the top flap could be cut a tad larger to prevent stray precipitation from entering the main compartment, carefully arranging it with a tug here and there, ensured that no water would enter the bag during our 10 minute shower tests. The user is advised to take this special attention- as a hurriedly packed Imago sometimes exhibited a peekaboo opening, large enough to let rain in during a heavy downpour. In all other ways it's tough enough for years of shoulder carry by foot or bike. Since we've seen bags of lesser pedigree last for 20 years of use, it's easy to bet the Imago could last for more than 20 years of respectful usage.

Ease of Use-
The Imago is extremely accommodating to the needs of its users. I found it very practical for my daily jaunts to a nearby Starbucks. I timed myself at 5 seconds from plunking the bag down on a table, to the moment my iBook was out and ready to surf. Indeed- with the flap down on the table, I slide the laptop out and onto the flap, pop open the screen and I'm online. Reversing the sequence had me packed in another 4 seconds! I always carry two spare batteries and power adapter so as I mentioned above, the Imago carries all of that as well. From the position of flat on its back all the compartments are easy to reach. These compartments are also easily accessible from the shoulder carry angle, making a quick grab of a phone , PDA or MP3 Player- quick and effortless. I really like the massive main buckle and stylish zippers. I did take the liberty of adding cords to the zipper pulls as they make usage easier with gloves on.

Task performance optimization-
The Tom Bihn Imago earns top marks for getting the job of carrying a modest load done well. It's not big enough to be an emergency go bag for escaping disasters but it's ideal for going to class, work or the café with a laptop, magazine and electronic gadgets safely protected.

Items of Note:
Excellent Customer Relationship Management |Superb design and construction quality| Logically arranged compartments and sub-compartments | Form fitting flexibility | Premium materials and hardware | Ideal for small volume loads & active lifestyles |Exceptional comfort especially on bikes/mopeds/scooters | Generous color choices | Fits entirely into a Tom Bihn Super Ego messenger bag ;)

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