Tom Bihn Zephyr Briefcase Review

by Reads (15,810)

by Sarah Meyer

Tom Bihn introduced the newest addition to his line of bags, briefcases and backpacks, the Zephyr. Known for quality and user friendly designs, the Seattle-based company released the mid-size briefcase in June.


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The Zephyr Specifications

  • Dimensions: 16.7" x 12.4" x 6.3" / 425mm x 320mm x 160mm
  • Volume: 18.5 liters / 1125 cu.in.
  • 1050 denier ballistic nylon, 500 denier Cordura
  • YKK Uretek splash-proof zippers
  • Made in the TOM BIHN Factory in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A

Design and Aesthetics

Like many of Tom Bihn’s bags, backpacks and briefcases, the Zephyr is not lacking for style. Labeled by the company as the, “new medium-size briefcase,” it has a unique design but still manages to be simple. 

It’s easy to see that the Zephyr is made from quality materials. The bag is made from 1050 denier ballistic nylon and 500 denier Cordura, and comes in a variety of colors. The model I reviewed was the Black/Steel/Olive combination. 

The outside of the bag is black and steel and has two small YKK Uretek splash-proof zippered pockets. They would be useful for small items like a cell phone, keys, chap stick, flash drive, checkbook, etc. The main buckle opens to a zippered pocket and an open pouch. The zippered pocket is large enough for a novel, power cords, or an extra battery. The pouch is bigger and has compartments that could hold office supplies like pens, notepads, calculators, etc. There is also a strap that you can attach a Tom Bihn organizer pouch or a key ring.


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The inside of the Zephyr is olive green and large enough for most size laptops. It has three removable plastic dividers, and two clasps. The clasps are in place so a separate piece, the Brain Cell, can be attached.


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The Brain Cell is a hard-sided case that protects the laptop. According to the Tom Bihn website, the Brain Cell has 8mm thick soft foam padding on the inside and a 4mm hard corrugated plastic insert that protects from the front, back, and bottom. The sides are protected by dense cross-linked closed-cell polyethylene foam.

The Brain Cell comes in multiple sizes and the one that came with my Zephyr was a size 4x (Dimensions: 15 11.8 2 inches).  The tag claimed it was made exclusively for a 15.4” MacBook Pro but it fit my 15.4” Dell Latitude D620 perfectly. But no worries about getting the right size; The TOM BIHN website has a size chart so the buyer can find the correct Brain Cell for their laptop.


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The 4x brain cell fit perfectly inside the Zephyr. I’m not sure if a larger brain cell would fit as well but Tom Bihn makes a larger version of the Zephyr, the Empire Builder, which would accommodate any size horizontal brain cell.

The Brain Cell comes in multiple colors and is made from 500 denier Cordura. For those of you loyal to the brand, the horizontal Brain Cell should be able to be clipped into any Empire Builder, Brain Bag, Smart Alec, or the ID, purchased after November 2003. It can also be carried as separate piece. It has two hooks to add a shoulder strap and a front pocket that closes with snaps for small items. 


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Like the Brain Cell, the Zephyr has two hooks for attaching the separately sold shoulder pad. Tom Bihn offers four different shoulder straps: the Absolute Shoulder, TerraGrip Shoulder, Simple Shoulder, and the Quick-Adjust Messenger. I got the Absolute shoulder strap and if you have $25, it’s worth it. Like the Brain Cell, it can be used with multiple products and is adjustable from 20” to 52”.  Tom Bihn’s website says the strap is made out of a soft, durable neoprene pad combined with a comfortable stretch backing and boasts that the strap will “make bags feel 50% lighter and 100% more comfortable.” They weren’t lying. 

The back of the Zephyr briefcase has a large pouch that could carry magazines, binders, or just any loose paperwork. It also has two side pockets that aren’t quite big enough for a water bottle. The back also has a “roll aboard slot” that zips to create a fourth back pocket.


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Using the bag

The Zephyr briefcase is a great bag for carrying and protecting a laptop. Being a person that worries about the little things, I took comfort in knowing that my laptop was secure in multiple layers of protection. 

The numerous pockets on the outside and inside of the bag lived up to the advertisement, “Big On Organization.” I like having everything in its place, digging around for change or a pen at the bottom of a backpack or large purse is often frustrating.

Even when I loaded it up with my laptop, power cord, mouse, purse, paperwork, and a large novel, it didn’t feel too bulky. And thanks to the Absolute Shoulder strap it didn’t hurt my shoulder like my old backpack use to. No more strap marks!

Pros

  • Made from quality materials
  • Stylish design, multiple color schemes
  • Great for staying organized
  • Paired with Brain Cell, laptop is very secure
  • Lifetime guarantee for Tom Bihn products
  • Great accessories, pieces are versatile

Cons

  • All pieces sold separately
  • Expensive
  • Fabric attracts pet hair
  • Some pockets not functional (Back side pockets)

Conclusion

The Zephyr is a well made, functional bag. While on the expensive side, it’s worth purchasing if you have something valuable to protect or if you want to stay organized. Most importantly, it has a lifetime guarantee.

Pricing and Availability

The Zephyr can be purchased via the TOM BIHN website, or by calling 1-800-729-9607. The medium-size briefcase starts at $140.  My Zephyr, which included a 4x Brain Cell and an Absolute Shoulder strap, was $215.


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