A while back, Tom Bihn based out of Seattle, WA, sent me their TSA checkpoint-friendly Checkpoint Flyer laptop bag to test (yes, in the interest of full disclosure, it was free). I felt that it was time that I tested the new checkpoint-friendly technology that wasn’t around back when I purchased my previous laptop bag, the Tumi Alpha. So far I’ve taken The Checkpoint Flyer along on a few mileage runs, and it has been great.
To start, the bag is very lightweight. This is great since I can cram the bag full with travel essentials, and it ends up being much lighter than almost any other laptop bag. At the same time, because of that, the bag doesn’t have very much of a defined shape, lacking a certain level of rigidness. But I’m one of those travelers that always hangs my laptop bag on my 22″ carry-on (not on the handle bar, but I put the strap around the body of the bag), so that didn’t prove to be too much of an issue.
The bag’s structure is in three layers that fold together when the bag is being carried. There is the front pocket, the laptop case, and the main pocket. The front pockets buckles to the main pocket with the laptop case in the middle being locked in when folded correctly. At the x-ray machine you just have to unclip the bag and lay it flat, which is much easier than having to remove your laptop every time you go through the checkpoint. At the same time, it’s somewhat cumbersome to actually get your laptop out of the bag if you don’t have much space, since you need to unclip the three compartments to get to the laptop case zipper.
The bag is full of pockets, with two large zipper pockets on the front of the bag where I frequently store my wallet, phone, keys, chewing gum, and etc. The other side is great for my Ziploc full of “less than 3.4 ounce” containers and related toiletries. The back of the bag has two pockets, one wide for normal papers and the other perfect for boarding passes. The main pocket has a large storage area, with two inner pockets great for storing books or folders, and two small outer pockets on the side of the bag that isn’t exposed when put together.
The build quality of the bag is excellent. The zippers are splash proof; the bag is made of high quality nylon; the hooks on the shoulder straps are very heavy-duty; and the whole bag is just built well. The laptop case is made of very thick foam that protects my laptop, which is also separate from the main storage compartments, which means my laptop is protected from anything that may be inside my bag and also any sort of physical damage from carrying the bag. I accidentally dropped my bag down from the top of escalators at the B-concourse at Dulles, and my laptop survived unharmed.
I received my bag with the Absolute Shoulder Strap, which uses a type of stretchy neoprene to make the bag comfortable to walk around with. I tried carrying the bag with my hands, but was so packed so full and was so heavy that by the end of the day, my hand was covered in blisters. The shoulder strap really does make the bag feel lighter than it is, and I appreciate that aspect of the bag.
Overall, I like the bag. The pros are that it’s sturdy, protective, checkpoint-friendly, has tons of pockets, and has plenty of storage for a moderately-sized laptop bag. The downsides are that it is somewhat expensive ($220 for the bag + $30 for the shoulder strap) and it isn’t the best design for frequent laptop access. This bag is built in the USA and is made of very quality materials, which makes it a good candidate for the heavy-usage of a frequent traveler. I think Tom Bihn is really on to something with the “checkpoint-friendly” concept.