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Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase Review

This messenger bag is very small and lightweight, and useful for trips with a tablet and a few items.
Tom Bihn Daylight
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $80 List
Pros:  Compact, lightweight, customization options, simple
Cons:  Too small for large laptops, no padding, must purchase laptop/tablet protection separately
Manufacturer:   Tom Bihn
By Lyra Pierotti ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 1, 2018
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 10
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Packing & Organization - 25% 6
  • Electronics - 15% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 9
  • Wear & Tear - 10% 7
  • Volume Weight Ratio - 10% 9

The Skinny

The Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase is a compact, lightweight messenger-style bag. Its simplicity keeps its weight down, and the ease of use high, plus you can purchase add-ons to customize to your organizational style. The bag is ideal for daily use if you often travel with a tablet, Chromebook, or small books plus a few other items. This is not a bag that can be overstuffed or carry your gym clothes and shoes, but we used it daily for around town errands, bus rides across town, and evenings out with friends. If you don't need a large, bulky bag, our Top Pick for Compact award-winning model is an excellent, affordable, and highly durable option. We like its slim looks, too!

The Daylight is not a full-featured or a full-sized messenger bag. If you dig the style of this bag but need more carrying power, the Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase might be a better fit. It has a similar look but handles large laptops and other items for a bigger day out on the town.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


The Daylight Briefcase is an excellent companion on an evening walk in the long daylight hours of springtime in Alaska.
The Daylight Briefcase is an excellent companion on an evening walk in the long daylight hours of springtime in Alaska.

Comfort


The Daylight Briefcase is not loaded with comfort features but still scored well above average in this metric, mainly because the pack is so lightweight and small that it was nearly impossible to make it uncomfortable. This, of course, is a tradeoff between carrying capacity and comfort—the bag doesn't have a whole lot of features, and it's small, which prevents overpacking it into an unwieldy or cumbersome load.


If this bag were any more substantial, the shoulder strap would not earn high marks for comfort. It is a simple, durable, and wide strap, which is nice and functional, but it has a stiff and small plastic shoulder pad. Even on this little bag, we weren't a huge fan: if we threw the bag on in a hurry and didn't line up that pad right, it sometimes fell awkwardly on our shoulder. Additionally, for smaller users, when you cinch the shoulder strap to keep the bag in close, the buckle might fall on the bony part of the top of your shoulder. Other bags, like the Patagonia Black Hole has an impressively designed shoulder strap with a pad that slides easily over this buckle. The rigid plastic of the shoulder "pad" on the Daylight Briefcase is too stiff to slide over the buckle.

If you desire a more comfortable shoulder strap, Tom Bihn allows you to upgrade to their "Absolute Shoulder Strap" for an extra $20. It has a wider strap with a texturized rubber pad and two adjustable buckles on each end which eliminates the risk of that buckle falling square on your shoulder bone.

The Tom Bihn is not a classic messenger bag in that it does not feature a cross-body stabilizing strap. We were, however, able to cinch the shoulder strap sufficiently to secure this bag close to our bodies for our commute, whether on foot or bike. The small profile of the bag also ensured that it didn't swing around excessively, even without that stabilizing strap.

We liked the simplicity of the Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase. It proves you don't need a multitude of pockets to stay organized.
We liked the simplicity of the Tom Bihn Daylight Briefcase. It proves you don't need a multitude of pockets to stay organized.

Overall, the Daylight earns high marks for Comfort, but primarily because of its small, lightweight design—we can see potential comfort pitfalls, but they were not a significant problem due to the overall design and use of this messenger bag.

Packing/Organization


The Daylight is not a large capacity bag  but it never claimed to be. On the right  you can see all the things from the photo on the left that we couldn't fit in the bag. Don't despair  there are lots of other options if this one is too small!
The Daylight is not a large capacity bag, but it never claimed to be. On the right, you can see all the things from the photo on the left that we couldn't fit in the bag. Don't despair, there are lots of other options if this one is too small!
The Daylight Briefcase does not have a lot of organizational features—just a few zippered pockets and a couple of internal sleeves. We imagined this to be a hassle for organizing our pens and pencils, in particular, but because the bag is so small and simple, it was nearly impossible to lose anything inside it. We could toss our pens in the large internal pocket or one of the two external zippered pockets, and even if we didn't remember where they were, there weren't many places to check before we found them.


Overall, the organization scheme of the Daylight was sufficient. We could separate books from our tablets in the main compartment, slide our wallet in one of the two external pockets, jumble our chapstick and other small items in the other one, and slide our phone into the sideways zippered pocket.

Simple and streamlined organization on the Daylight Briefcase. The outer zippered pocket is divided in two  aiding in organization.
Simple and streamlined organization on the Daylight Briefcase. The outer zippered pocket is divided in two, aiding in organization.

The bag also features double zippers on three of the four pockets (the fourth one is the vertical zipper, which isn't ideal with double zipper pulls). This design allows you to build your habits around where you put your wallet or other items you want to access quickly—you choose which side you want to make quick access easier.

The Tom Bihn bag barely fits a binder  but it is handy for smaller items or missions without a lot of stuff.
The Tom Bihn bag barely fits a binder, but it is handy for smaller items or missions without a lot of stuff.

Tom Bihn designs their bags to be customizable, with six o-rings that allow you to attach a key strap, organizer pouches, and organizing cubes, among other add-ons for your organizational preferences.

The add-on cache is a nice feature for a tablet  and the key clipper is quite handy. Tom Bihn put six O-rings in this bag for any other add-on features you might want to buy separately to customize the bag for your uses.
The add-on cache is a nice feature for a tablet, and the key clipper is quite handy. Tom Bihn put six O-rings in this bag for any other add-on features you might want to buy separately to customize the bag for your uses.

Electronics


The Daylight Briefcase is not optimized for electronics—at least not in its stock format. Tom Bihn offers a neoprene "cache," however, which can be purchased separately. It comes in many sizes and attaches to the interior of the bag using a unique "rail" system. In this way, use the sleeve inside the bag to protect and pad your tablet or small laptop, and then slide it out at TSA security checkpoints in the airport. It's a very clever and functional design.


For those who have their tablets in a robust case already, save some cash and skip the cache. If you need the neoprene cache, Tom Bihn provides precise measurements of each cache they offer on their website. You just need to measure the device you want to protect to double check that it will fit.

The Daylight fits our iPad Air 2 nicely with our burly Bluetooth keyboard case  but we had to remove it from the case to fit it in the optional cache (sized specifically for the iPad Air 2) that attaches to rails in the bag. This integrated cache rail system made it easy and fast to access our tablet and works very well for security checkpoints at the airport. If you have a beefy case and you want the cache  you may need to size it up!
The Daylight fits our iPad Air 2 nicely with our burly Bluetooth keyboard case, but we had to remove it from the case to fit it in the optional cache (sized specifically for the iPad Air 2) that attaches to rails in the bag. This integrated cache rail system made it easy and fast to access our tablet and works very well for security checkpoints at the airport. If you have a beefy case and you want the cache, you may need to size it up!

Ease of Use


The Daylight is an exceedingly easy bag to use. This stems from its compact size and basic features. The design also contributes to its ease of use. The main pockets all feature double-sided zippers which allow access on either side, and they are smooth and durable. Tom Bihn includes zipper pulls which you can install on the zippers if you want to—this changes the look a little, but can further personalize how you access the contents.


The clever rails system for the tablet "cache" inside the bag is also slick. It may not be useful for everyone, but it works well if it suits your needs. We are also pleased to know that we can easily add organizations pockets and sleeves if we so desire. We tried the "cache" for our tablets, but the other add-ons look promising, and if this complicated-yet-straightforward rail system is so easy to use, we anticipate the other features are well designed too.

Tom Bihn includes several zipper pulls if you want to attach them. It changes the look but improves ease of access.
Tom Bihn includes several zipper pulls if you want to attach them. It changes the look but improves ease of access.

We dig the top handles of the bag. They are light and flexible enough that they stay out of the way when you're rummaging through the bag—but they are stitched at an angle which helps them stand up, making them easy to grab and go. Somehow it seemed like these handles were always out of our way when we didn't need them and standing up when we wanted to grab them in a hurry.

Wear & Tear


This Tom Bihn bag is made of ultra durable 525-denier Ballistic nylon. In our testing, the outer fabric proved to be extremely robust, barely showing any wear and tear after over a month of regular use. The light color we tested also didn't stain, snag, or get abraded easily, so it looked new long after other bags started to show wear.


In our Weather Test, the non-waterproof zippers proved to be, indeed, not waterproof at all. This is not a bag to carry in a downpour without a plan to keep it dry (under an umbrella or jacket). The zippers, especially the one on top of the bag, let in plenty of water. In fact, water even got through both zippers to wet the contents of the tablet "cache." The material, however, did not appear to let any water in—just those zippers. Also, being such a small model, it is easier to tuck under a jacket or small umbrella in case of rain.

The durable Daylight Briefcase holds up well to rain  except at the zippers.
The durable Daylight Briefcase holds up well to rain, except at the zippers.

Volume/Weight Ratio


This messenger is not a large bag—quite the opposite, it is the smallest and most compact in this review. It still performed well in our volume to weight test, however, due to its streamlined and lightweight design. For an already light and compact bag, we were thrilled that Tom Bihn went the extra mile to ensure it was also light for its size. This makes it an excellent bag for myriad uses, and one to throw in your duffel for a long weekend adventure without it taking up much room at all.


On its own, the bag weighed a hair under 1 pound on our scale. With the additional protective sleeve we purchased for a tablet, the weight increased to 1.28 lbs.

Look closely to see if your tablet or small laptop will fit in the Daylight.
Look closely to see if your tablet or small laptop will fit in the Daylight.

Best Applications


The Daylight Briefcase is an excellent compact messenger bag for those who have a streamlined work kit or for short, simple excursions. We often like to write from a variety of locations, and this was by far our favorite pocketed companion. The Daylight won't accommodate a standard laptop, but it accommodates most tablets and small laptops. Folks who want control over their bag's features will also enjoy the high level of customization that Tom Bihn provides with this model. In any case, it's a simple and highly useful bag for your daily urban adventures, and perhaps beyond even that.

The Tom Bihn Daylight is great for an afternoon of errands  or an evening out on the town.
The Tom Bihn Daylight is great for an afternoon of errands, or an evening out on the town.

Value


This Tom Bihn bag is an excellent value at $80. It is so useful for daily missions that we feel this price is well worth it. The bag is also super durable and looks good after lots of use, so we are confident it will continue to please for the long term.

Conclusion


Checking out the small planes in the hangar near Talkeetna  Alaska.
Checking out the small planes in the hangar near Talkeetna, Alaska.
Tom Bihn designs simple and elegant bags for a variety of travel uses. We really liked the Daylight Briefcase. It is by far the smallest and most compact messenger style bag in this review, but the simple and thoughtful design make it easy to use on a daily basis, for your commute to the office, or for an afternoon out adventuring around town. It is a great bag for those days you want to get a little work done at a coffee shop, or take a wander with a good book or your favorite art supplies and still feel light on your feet. Overall, we liked how this bag fits into our active urban lifestyle, so we gave it a Top Pick for Compact Messenger award.

Lyra Pierotti