Tom Bihn Aeronaut Review

I purchased a Tom Bihn Aeronaut in ballistic nylon way back in October 2013 and it’s still my favorite carry-on bag to travel with. It’s going strong and looking great.

This is not a cheap bag. Tom Bihn doesn’t make cheap products in any sense of the word. I paid almost $400.00 USD for this set up including all the optional accessories. It has been totally worth it. I cannot believe this bag is more than six years old now. I have traveled with this bag along with one additional small carry-on (no check-in luggage) on countless domestic trips in Japan, and internationally to Malaysia, Singapore, Hawaii, Germany, Czech Republic, Georgia (Tbilisi), and India… the list goes on and on.

As for accessories, in addition to the Aeronaut itself, I got two Aeronaut side compartment-sized packing cubes, a Packing Cube Backpack, and a Snake Charmer.

Tom Bihn Aeronaut being carried by only one backpack strap by a porter in Varanasi, India.
My Tom Bihn Aeronaut being carried by a porter in Varanasi, India, by one backpack strap. (2014)

I’ve flown on some small planes, and I think I have only needed to check in my Aeronaut twice. Once because I boarded so late that all the space in the overhead compartments was already taken, and once because the overhead compartments were so narrow, and the bag was so full, that it wouldn’t fit. I once got asked to weigh the carry on at the check-in counter (it was over the carry-on weight limit), but some sweet talking and shuffling of items got me through that ordeal.

The desire to not check in bags and only travel with the Aeronaut and one small carry on has made me a better packer, and has saved me tons of time in airports.

I would even argue that it has saved me some money as I’m less likely to buy random trinkets on my travels as I know they’ll just become extra luggage that I’ll need to carry back. I have gotten into the habit of packing a super thin Samsonite collapsable foldable duffel bag that I’ll take out and use to check excess stuff on my return trip if it comes to that.

When I pack the Aeronaut for a work trip I’m usually set up like this:

  • Two to three work shirts and slacks in the packing cube backpack which goes in the main compartment,
  • Work shoes in a side compartment,
  • Underwear and socks in the other side compartment,
  • A few t-shirts where they can fit,
  • Toiletries and electronics chargers and adapters go in separate sides of the Snake Charmer and that goes in the main compartment,
  • Side pockets for passports, flight itineraries, and schedules.

If I need a blazer I’ll try to wear it on the plane with my casual outfit to prevent wrinkling. If I’ll need a suit, I try to wear the suit on the outbound trip and smash it back into the main compartment on the return trip.

When I pack for leisure travel it’s basically the same, but the nature of casual clothes means I can be more flexible in how I sort my stuff — it’s much easier. If I bring an extra pair of sandals for the beach I’ll put those in one of the side compartments.

Tom Bihn Aeronaut cozy in a Japanese inn.
Tom Bihn Aeronaut cozy in a Japanese inn. (2014)

Here are some of the reasons why I like this bag so much:

The soft shell of the bag allows it to easily slide into most airplane overhead compartments, especially if the main bag compartment isn’t stuffed too full.

The bag hardware is top notch — I’ve never had a broken zipper. The bag material has hardly shown any wear and tear. The straps are still solidly attached.

It looks presentable enough (even after 6+ years) that I do not hesitate to bring it into the office or other work situations when I am traveling. I do not feel like I need a more formal looking travel bag. And this one is green! It would be even more passable in black.

The Packing Cube backpack has been great. I put my clothes inside of it when I’m traveling, and after I arrive at my destination it becomes a very simple day bag, shopping bag, or beach bag. The Dyneema material is ultralight, and like all of my Tom Bihn products, I’ve never had any problems with the hardware, even after seven years of use.

Tom Bihn Aeronaut fits into a Japanese coin locker.
Tom Bihn Aeronaut fits right into a small Japanese coin locker. (2014)

Things to know:

When the Aeronaut bag is full, it can be very heavy. Probably too heavy to carry using just the shoulder strap for long periods of time. Luckily it converts into a backpack. Also, let’s learn to pack lighter.

I strongly recommend buying the packing cubes for the side compartments. I can’t imagine using this bag without them.

Tom Bihn Aeronaut (purchased 2013)
Aeronaut, Packing Cube Backpack, Snake Charmer

The design of the bag has changed slightly since 2013, check the website link below for details on how the new model is laid out.

Here’s what my nearly empty bag looks like today.

Tom Bihn Aeronaut (purchased 2013)
Tom Bihn Aeronaut (Purchased 2013)

That’s all for now. Maybe I’ll do a future post detailing my packing strategies and travel tips with this bag. What else would you like to know? Until then, check it out, it might be fun!


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments