As a bag nerd, Tom Bihn is one maker that I have always been interested in, and yet never had the opportunity to experience. I'm happy to say that the company's Ristretto for iPad/Netbooks not only lives up to Tom Bihn's reputation for quality, but makes for a great general purpose iPad bag--my favorite of the initial crop I got to review.
Tom Bihn leans toward the higher-priced end of the bag market. But from my experience with this bag and what I've heard from a slew of Tom Bihn fans, the company's bags are worth it. The heavy-duty nylon Ristretto, a vertical-messenger style bag, has a really strong, solid feel, featuring two main compartments inside, along with a thin pocket on the back for small documents, a single magazine, or on-the-go trinkets. Both the shoulder and waist straps are adjustable and detachable, and a handle on the bag allows for easy strapless carrying.
The main compartment features a built-in padded sleeve for an iPad or netbook, but unlike most other netbook-compatible bags, the sleeve is not overly deep, fitting an iPad well (netbooks are typically thick enough that a compartment designed for a netbook could literally fit three or four stacked iPads). The rest of the main compartment is just tall and wide enough to hold a couple magazines, an Apple Wireless Keyboard, and a 340-page hardcover copy of World War Z. Since I'm usually looking to bring extras like these along, this storage space is the "killer app" of this particular iPad bag.
The front compartment has a few assorted pockets for pens, your iPhone, and maybe your point-and-shoot digital camera or a stand for propping up the iPad. The bag also features a thin, zippered compartment for small documents, your wallet, or travel accessories such as a toothbrush or deodorant.
The bag closes using a flap with a large plastic buckle. This makes the bag's contents easily accessible, but the two main compartments do not have their own zippers for security or rain protection. The iPad sleeve has its own padded flap for securing and protecting the device, but after tooling around town for the day with this bag, I found that flap to be more of a nuisance than anything--with the flap buckled, your iPad isn't going anywhere.
My only other minor complaint about the bag: the front accessory compartment can get a little tight if I pack the main compartment with the aforementioned magazines, keyboard, and book.
Overall, this is a great bag and probably the one I'm going to buy for my own iPad adventures. Some may not need as much storage or the Tom Bihn quality, and there certainly are other good options that you can find among our reviews. But the Ristretto's construction is top notch, the strap is comfortable, and Tom Bihn struck a great balance between the iPad's small size and the extras that are arguably necessary for the iPad lifestyle.
This story, "Tom Bihn Ristretto for IPad" was originally published by Macworld.