I carry my iPad with me pretty much everywhere I go these days. That means I need a good case… and a good bag. Tom Bihn was kind enough to send me one of their Ristretto bags. The Ristretto was originally designed for carrying netbooks but it works perfectly as an iPad bag. As soon as you look at the bag you are struck by the realization that this is a bag that was designed for use in the real world. It is relatively light when empty which is a good thing because part of the attraction of carrying the iPad instead of a netbook is the reduced weight. As you put items into the bag however it reveals a good bit of storage space and an impressive degree of organization to keep things straight.
Let’s take a closer look.
The bag measures 12″ x 9.25″ x 4.75″ and weighs in at 11 oz. It has a padded interior compartment for the iPad that measures 10.86″ x 7.59″ x .98″. It is small enough to hold a naked iPad snuggly but large enough to accommodate an iPad in a protective case like the Sena Folio. The padded compartment is made of .25″ “open-cell foam laminated with durable 4 Ply interior of super-soft brushed nylon”. That translates simply to “the interior iPad compartment does a great job of protecting your device”.
From the company-
The Ristretto for Netbooks is a vertical messenger bag (similar to our Cafe Bags though different in proportion) with an interior padded compartment that protects from all sides and is sized specifically for your iPad or Netbook or Kindle DX.
The built-in interior padded compartment, located in the main compartment of the Ristretto, protects your iPad or Netbook inside of the bag. The padded compartment is made with .25″ (6 mm) open-cell foam laminated with durable 4 Ply Taslan® on the outside, and features an interior of super-soft brushed nylon. The back side of the Ristretto is padded with 1/4″ closed cell foam.
The Ristretto is designed to allow you to carry just the essentials: iPad or Netbook, wallet, keys, iPhone or cell phone, notebook, pens, business cards, and a small water bottle.
The front of the bag has a non-symmetrical flap that adds interest while protecting the contents. A single plastic buckle is strong but easy to unbuckle. The Tom Bihn logo is obvious but tasteful.
The back of the bag is all about business. A handle at the top of the bag makes it simple to grab the bag and go. (The more I use bags with a handle like this the more I wonder how a bag like this could NOT have a handle like this! Think about it… a handle like this makes things SO much easier.)
A sturdy waist strap is great for securing the bag to your body and keeping it from swinging when on the go. Right above it are two additional loops for securing it so that you can have the strap angle down if that is more comfortable.
I love the fact that the waist strap can quickly and easily be removed if you don’t plan to use it. (It is the little details like this that Tom Bihn includes that really wow me!)
On the back is also a slanted, open-top pocket. This is great for storing papers, a magazine or a newspaper.
The details, and organizational options, continue on the inside of the bag.
There are four main storage points inside. The front pocket is open and deep. It includes a number of smaller open pockets that can keep small items in place.
Right above the open pocket is a small zippered pocket that is great for small items that you don’t want to have falling out if the bag is overturned. The zipper is strong and well-secured to the bag. The metal pull is large enough to grab with ease.
The main compartment is divided into two parts. The front portion is an open area that is as deep and wide as the bag. Right behind it is the padded compartment for the iPad.
Even with the Sena Folio on it the iPad slides into the compartment with ease. Then, in an example of yet another thoughtful detail…
…the padded material goes over the iPad and tucks down behind it to hold the iPad securely in place even if the bag is held upside down. (It is similar to the way Apple’s iPad case holds the iPad inside.)
All of these features come together to create a bag that is perfect for protecting your iPad AND staying organized. Well, almost perfect since “perfect” comes when you add on some of the extras that Tom Bihn offers for the case.
The Ristretto comes with a shoulder strap but there are options to upgrade it. As the company explains-
You can choose between three different shoulder straps to use with the Ristretto. The Standard Shoulder Strap, included in the price of the Ristretto, is a 1-1/2″ wide heavy nylon webbing strap and features a comfortable, wide foam pad that won’t slip off your shoulder and is designed to conform to your shoulder and back. For an extra $10.00, you can switch out the Standard Shoulder Strap and replace it with the. For an extra $20.00, you can switch out the Standard Strap for the Absolute Shoulder Strap.
They sent me one of their Absolute Shoulder Straps. Alone it has an MSRP of $30 but the upcharge gives you a $10 credit toward it. My suggestion is to spend the extra $20 for the super-comfortable Absolute Strap when ordering the Ristretto. It is worth the up charge.
As the company explains–
The Absolute Shoulder Strap has a unique, patented internal control-stretch system that’s a life saver when carrying a heavy bag.
The strap adjusts from 20″ to 52″ and weighs just 7.5 oz. and features-
An ergonomic curve that helps the strap conform comfortably to your shoulder
A non-slip grip that improves comfort and helps ensure the strap won’t slip off your shoulder
Double-coated metal snap hooks.
In addition, while the Ristretto offers quite a bit of organization out of the gate Tom Bihn offers a number of differently sized pouches that attach to the inside of the bag thanks to a number of different connectors built into the bag. The two main kinds of pouches are the Clear Organizer Pouches and Cordura Organizer Pouches and they range in price from $6 to $14 and all have a #5 YKK coil zipper with plastic sliders: that won’t scratch electronics. When ordering a Ristretto it is worth taking the time to look at all of the different pouches since they add a significant degree of utility to the bag.
The Organizer Pouches come in four sizes (Mini 5.7″ x 3.9″, Small 7″ x 5″, Medium 10.3″ x 7″, and Large 14.5″ x 11.2″)
The Clear Organizer Pouches allow you to see what is inside and come in five sizes (Mini 5.7″ x 3.9″, Small 7″ x 5″, Medium 10.3″ x 7″, Pen/Pencil 9.0″ x 3.9″ and Large 14.5″ x 11.2″).
Clear Organizer Wallet
The Clear Organizer Wallet has an MSRP of $14-$15. It looks similar to the other pouches the company offers but it includes internal dividers so that it can be used as… Well as a wallet.
The Guardian Dual Function Light
This accessory is a simple light that also clips onto the bag. It offers 250 hours of use and has an MSRP of $20
In all, the Ristretto is an impressive bag that packs more features than its small size would suggest. It holds just enough but not too much to weigh you down. At the same time it offers real protection for your iPad and a number of different ways to grab/carry/wear it. With the addition of some of the offered accessories it becomes a customized bag that is a real workhorse. Thanks to excellent materials and construction the bag promises to be in use many generations of iPad from now.
The Ristretto has an MSRP of $110. That does not include the improves Absolute Strap or the ever-useful organizing pouches. It is available in an assortment of different colors. For selections and ordering information visit the Tom Bihn website. Be warned however, it looks like the Ristretto is quite popular (with good reason) and it is currently showing a shipping date of July 30.
What I Like-
Great build quality and materials, excellent protection for the iPad, superb options for keeping things organized, the addition of optional pouches makes customized organization a breeze, The shoulder, hand and waist straps provide an assortment of ways to carry the bag
What Needs Improvement-
Optional accessories add a lot of function but also add a lot to the cost of the bag, order today and you’ll have to wait a month for it to ship due to its popularity