By Andrew Liszewski
I’ve been using the same messenger bag for about three years now mostly because I’ve found nothing better to replace it and because the bag itself was a bit of an investment. A few weeks ago when Tom Bihn sent me their Empire Builder laptop bag to review they also sent along one of their newest bags for me to look at called the Imago.
The quickest review I can give of the Imago is that it has slowly and steadily begun to replace my old messenger bag for day to day use. The Imago’s biggest advantage (which also happens to be its biggest drawback) is that the bag is extremely light and convenient to carry. However this lightweight design is a result of the bag lacking any kind of padding or reinforcement so any electronics you pack inside would probably benefit from the extra protection of their own cases. But that being said I still highly recommend the Imago. It’s a great little shoulder bag with a clean, trendy design and a large collection of pockets placed exactly where you need them to be.
Read my full review with more pics after the jump?
Tom Bihn Imago Yin
The Imago actually comes in two different styles, the Yin and the Yang. I was sent the Yin version in an Olive/Steel/Wasabi color scheme. Pictured here to the right is the Yang version in a Crimson/Steel/Crimson color scheme. The only differences between the two bags are the color palettes offered, the materials used and the design on the flap. While the Yang is positioned to be the more conservative of the two bags the Yin is considered to be the flashier one. Other than that the assorted pockets and features are exactly the same between the two bags so anything I say about the Yin can definitely be applied to the Yang as well.
The Imago Yin is made of a material called ’1000 Denier Cordura’ which has a nylon feel to it with a nice texture as well. The large flap on the bag that covers the inside compartments and pockets sports a two panel curved design and in most of the color combinations available the two panels differ in color. I actually like how the grey (steel) color on the flap stands out but still goes quite well with the green (olive) color used on the rest of the bag. Of all the bags in the Tom Bihn lineup I think the Imago Yin and Yang have some of the nicest color scheme options available.
One of the first things you notice about the Imago Yin when you pick it up is how light the bag is. There’s no foam padding or plastic inserts anywhere on the bag which helps keep the weight to a minimum but like I said in the quick review a bit earlier, this can also be a bit of a downside. If you plan to carry something like a PDA, smartphone or any other gadget that doesn’t mix well with collisions you’re probably going to want to make sure they’re in a protective case of their own before packing them into the Imago. In my experience passing through the turnstile arms of the subway is usually where the bag ends up hitting something but thankfully no harm has come to my gear as of yet.
Of course I don’t want to give the impression that the Imago is like carrying around your gadgets in a plastic shopping bag either. That’s just not the case. The material the bag is made of is actually very tough and resilient. (And waterproof too!) It’s just that I know some people might prefer a bit more padding inside. If you plan to carry a laptop in the Imago just make sure it’s put in something like the Tom Bihn Soft Cell first. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
On the outside of the front flap you’ll find a couple of things to note. First is a big two-inch plastic squeeze clip on a nylon strap that will keep the flap closed even if a tornado is passing by. And the strap is adjustable too allowing you to securely close the bag no matter how much is stuffed inside. The other thing you’ll find on the flap is the Tom Bihn Logo. I know I nit-pick about logos a lot and it’s mostly because a lot of companies take a perfectly nice looking product and then destroy it with some big corporate graphic splashed across. The logo on the Imago is one of the most understated ones I’ve seen used by Tom Bihn and the grey color used here almost disappears into the bag completely. So definitely nothing to complain about here.
The only protected pockets you’ll find on the outside of the Imago are the two located on either side of the bag. Each pocket uses a splash-proof Uretech zipper which is handy given this bag may see some inclement weather especially by those who carry it around all day. The insides of these pockets are lined with a material called Utrasuede which actually feels really soft. As a result you can safely store just about anything in here that might be at risk of getting scratched from iPods to eye glasses. The only downside of these pockets in my opinion is their size. They’re only about five-and-half by three inches which means larger items that you may need frequent access to like smartphones probably won’t fit. (At least my Nokia E61 did not fit.)
The nylon shoulder strap that’s included with the Imago comes permanently stitched into the bag on either side which I tend to prefer. And since the bag has no other carrying handles there’s really no reason to need to remove this strap either. It also includes a shoulder pad which as you can see in the photo matches the color of the rest of the bag which is a nice touch. Now I’m actually not a big fan of shoulder pads myself, I usually just prefer the look of the nylon strap by itself. I know a shoulder pad can make carrying the bag more comfortable but I think I’ve built up a callous or something on my shoulder over the years because a simple nylon strap doesn’t bother me at all. As a result the fact that the shoulder pad on the Imago is not removable is a minor downside for me. However I will point out that the pad is free to slide up and down over the strap as opposed to being stitched into position which is nice.
Taking a look at the back of the bag you’ll see it has a large open pocket that’s pretty much the size of the bag itself. I have to say I find this pocket most useful since it’s really easy to temporarily cram stuff in here that you might need quick access to later. The only downside of course is that since the pocket’s completely open anything you put inside could be exposed to the elements. I was just recently caught in a sudden downpour while wearing the Imago and I had to quickly seek shelter so I could move my iPod from this back pocket to inside the bag. On the plus side though the Imago ended up getting completely drenched in the rain but everything I had stowed inside was perfectly dry when I got back home.
You’ll also notice another adjustable nylon strap on the back of the Imago that can be used to secure the bag around your waist so that it can be worn during more physical activities like when riding a bike. This strap is also easily removeable if you don’t think it’s a feature you’ll ever use.
Taking a look under the flap the first thing you’ll find is a couple of pockets. One is left completely open while the other can be zippered shut. I use the zippered pocket for things I want really protected like my wallet or other important documents. The open pocket can be used to stash anything you need quick access to, and will even fit a small water bottle.
Another thing you’ll immediately notice is the bright-green wasabi color that totally dominates the inside of the Imago, which is a good thing. With most electronics falling under the grey, silver or black color category the brightly colored interior makes finding things, even items hidden deep in the bottom corners of the bag an easy task. Under the flap here you’ll also notice the first of three loops that can be used to fasten keys or secure anything else that uses a clip.
Behind the two pockets that lie directly under the flap you’ll find the Imago’s spacious main compartment. The bright-green wasabi color is continued here of course and again besides looking nice it’s also quite useful almost making the interiors of the Imago appear to glow. I’m surprised I only see this trend of brightly colored interiors available on what I consider to be higher-end bags.
On the outer wall of the large compartment there are two more deep pockets that are great for holding objects that you don’t necessarily want to have just banging around inside the bag while you’re walking around. I tend to keep my smartphone and portable gaming systems in these pockets since they’re the two things I would hate to lose. The placement of these pockets also seems well thought out since they’re really easy to access even while wearing the bag.
The other two of the three loops I previously mentioned can be found inside this main compartment. As you can see in the photo one of them even has a short lanyard with a clip on the end. It not only makes attaching and removing your keys really easy but it also allows you to acually use them for opening doors and what-not without having to remove them from the clip. Very convenient.
Finally I’d like to mention that while the Tom Bihn website recommends the Imago as a laptop bag, I wasn’t actually able to fit my Dell system into the main compartment, but only by a small margin. While my laptop is on the larger side it’s by no means the biggest on the market. If it had been put in something like the Soft Cell to give it a bit of padding the chances of it fitting into the Imago would have been even less. However Tom Bihn is obviously aware of this as the product page for the Imago does warn that the bag will only accomodate smaller laptops. So if you’re considering the Imago to use as a laptop bag you will definitely want to check the Tom Bihn website first to make sure your system will actually fit into the bag.
Like I’ve already mentioned the biggest endorsement I can give the Imago Yin is the simple fact that over the past three weeks it has started to replace my trusty old bag for day to day use. Like everything else Tom Bihn makes the Imago Yin is quite simply a well-made, high-quality product that you know will easily withstand a lot of wear and tear over the years. Until we can buy that one credit-card sized device that does everything we need most of us will have to carry around a handful of different devices everyday and the Imago is one of the easiest ways to do that.
+ Constructed with the usual high level of quality Tom Bihn is known for.
+ Available in some of the best color palettes in the Tom Bihn product line.
+ Made of lightweight but highly resilient material.
+ Plenty of easy to access pockets.
- Lightweight design also means a lack of padding or rigidity in the bag.
- Some might consider the price to be on the high side.
- Will not fit larger laptops.
If you have any further questions or concerns about the Imago you?d like answered please feel free to leave them in the comments section and I will try to respond to them as best I can.