The Western Flyer occupies a weird space in the Tom Bihn product line. It’s not a member of the Aeronaut line, which I believe Tom Bihn is most known for, it’s the same size as a few of Tom Bihn’s backpacks (coming in at 26 liters in capacity) and it’s not as big as the flagship travel bag, the Tri-Star. It’s a mid-sized travel bag that has a layout similar to the Tri-Star with the same capacity as a Smart Alec. It looks like a briefcase and yet you can hand-carry it, sling it over your shoulder or slap it on your back. I have a special place in my heart for the Western Flyer — even though I don’t use it very often.
I like the Western Flyer because it’s sized perfectly as a 1–2 night bag and it looks business-y to be taken into a work situation. The Aeronaut would not look good in a boardroom. The Western Flyer has large compartments for clothing and/or a laptop and smaller compartments and pockets suited well to organizing the bits and bobs you need whether at work or while traveling. The Western Flyer does a great job at keeping everything organized.
So why don’t I use it more? I don’t use it as an everyday bag because if you want to use a Brain Cell, you have to have a horizontal Brain Cell and since I already bought a vertical Brain Cell for use with my Smart Alec, I’m not keen to spend another $60 for a horizontal one. Also, there are no Cache rails in the Western Flyer, so even if I went with the lighter (and probably sufficient) Cache, it wouldn’t be tied down anywhere. Also, because the Western Flyer is meant to be a travel bag, the zippers go all the way around the bag — which is great for packing clothes — but not so great for putting away and pulling out your computer every day.
The front of the bag is split into two equally sized compartments and there’s a clever bit of Dyneema and a zipper in the middle so that you can make one large compartment if you need it. This is my favorite bit about the bag. The front of the bag has three large pockets that will fit knick knacks, iPad minis and travel documents. Sadly, the Western Flyer wastes a lot of space by putting crescent-shaped water bottle pocket on the right side of the front. It doesn’t really accommodate a bottle when the inside of the bag is stuffed so it’s not useful for its intended purpose. The handle and the stowaway backpack straps are comfortable — making the Western Flyer an easy carry.
While I wouldn’t recommend the Western Flyer as a briefcase, it can do in a pinch while traveling. The Western Flyer really shines as a lightweight travel bag that will fit under the seat in front of you. I actually use it as my personal item — along with an Aeronaut 45 when flying between Japan and the United States. If you need a great travel bag and require more built-in organization than the Aeronaut 30 provides, check out the Western Flyer.