Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer Bag Review

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by David Li

Road warriors are familiar with the whole security screening routine at airports, and although this is a necessary precaution for all air travelers, it can be very frustrating for some. As of Aug. 16, 2008 the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has allowed laptops to remain in bags meeting “checkpoint friendly” guidelines. The image below shows what type of bags that are considered “checkpoint friendly” and those that are “less friendly.”

For more information regarding the new guidelines, please see the TSA website.

The Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer bag is one of the few security-friendly bags that is designed to allow your laptop to remain inside your bag while proceeding through x-ray screeners. Designed in a tri-fold style, the Checkpoint Flyer was also engineered to handle the bumps and bruises of daily business and travel life.

Tom Bihn Checkpoint Flyer Specifications:

  • Dimensions: 18.5″ x 13″ x 6″ (overall dimensions, empty bag)
  • Laptop compartment: 13″ size; 14″ x 10″ x 1.8″ (15″ and 17″ sizes also available)
  • Material: 1050 denier ballistic nylon and 500 denier Cordura nylon
  • Color: black/steel (black/crimson and black/black also available)
  • Total volume: 950 / 15.5 liters
  • Weight: 2.6 lbs / 1.19kg
  • Made in USA
  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • MSRP: $220 + $30 Absolute Shoulder Strap (only available from the Tom Bihn store in Seattle, WA or at

Build and Quality

One of the most notable features of this bag is the high denier fibers used in the manufacturing process; this directly relates to the ruggedness of the bag as well as durability. The entire exterior is made from the 1050 denier ballistic nylon and 500 denier Cordura to resist abrasions while the interior is composed of Dyneema/nylon ripstop fabric which provides great protection without the weight and stiffness of 500+ denier fabrics.

The zippers are also a feature that is worth mentioning. Equipped with #8 and #10 YKK splash-proof zippers, these zippers have an attached nylon layer overlying the zipper teethes to provide protection against precipitation. On the other hand, these robust zippers, (specifically the #10 YKK zipper used in the main compartment) is a little more difficult to use and can not be closed with one smooth movement. The small zipper pull-tabs for the main compartment also mean you have to grip harder to zip/unzip.

The laptop compartment is one of the most uniquely designed cases I’ve ever seen. Furnished with the same 1050 denier ballistic nylon and #8 splash-proof zippers, the 8mm-thick “thermo-molded closed cell foam” provides resilient protection internally, while the exterior ballistic nylon wards off abrasions caused by sharp objects. The firmness of the case feels harder than your average neoprene sleeve, but softer than hard-bodied cases. This provides an excellent balance between mobility and security for your laptop. The compartment case can also be detached from the bag and be carried separately, though unhooking the clamps may require a bit of force.

Space and Capacity

One of the many intuitive features of the Checkpoint Flyer is the ability to fit many items in the bag; the outer two pockets are especially nifty since these pockets are larger than they appear.

The red box above illustrates the size of the inside left pocket while the blue illustrates the inside right pocket.

Zippered and open pockets are located on every side of the bag and are relatively easy to access. The main compartment has two generous open pockets and is spacious enough to fit enough items for an overnight trip. Although this may not be a big concern to some, my only gripe with the inside two open pockets is the lack of a closure mechanism such as Velcro fasteners. To put it in perspective, the Checkpoint Flyer is able to fit all of the following items illustrated below.

Absolute Shoulder Strap

The Absolute Shoulder Strap (purchased separately), is without doubt, one of the most comfortable straps on the market. Compared with other laptop messenger-style bags, the padding on the Absolute Shoulder Strap is thicker, larger in area and made from a neoprene pad with stretch backing. The texture feels almost like a gel-filled wrist rest found in many mouse pads and is extremely ergonomic and delightful to use. The nylon straps are also thicker than most; almost twice as thick as my current shoulder strap from my Targus laptop bag. Similarly, the snap hooks are more rugged than average.


Although this laptop bag comes with a premium price, it also stands out as a premium product. High quality materials were generously used and the craftsmanship is superb. The laptop compartment is extremely well designed and I have no qualms pertaining to my laptop’s safety in this bag.  All in all, the Checkpoint Flyer would be a good investment for any frequent flyer. In fact, I could also see students take advantage of the robust build quality and spacious capacity in their everyday high school/college life.


  • Superior build quality
  • Ability to keep laptop in bag through x-ray screening
  • Good placement of pockets
  • Separate and detachable laptop compartment


  • High price
  • Can look a little bulky when fully packed
  • Small zipper pull-tabs on main compartment
  • Shoulder strap not included



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