I recently got my hands on a Co-Pilot bag by Tom Bihn, which I had ordered after succumbing to the powers of persuasion of my dear friend Edmond Terakopian. Quite frankly, when I first saw it, I was a bit disappointed and on the verge of sending it back as it seemed quite a bit too small for all the stuff that I usually carry around with me. The bag won't just fit neatly under the seat in front of you on a plane, there will even be enough room left for my food bag from the sandwich shop of my choice (of which I may write at some other point) once I'm through security.
So, imagine my surprise when during my initially cynical attempt to take the contents of my regular shoulder bag and transfer it to the neat Co-Pilot, I found that everything did fit in, including my Olympus E-P2 plus 17mm lens and electronic viewfinder. And the compartment for the water bottle was still empty!
Although I already used to buy my shoulder bags with neat compartmentalisation in mind (and would occasionally somehow DIY more pockets into them), I have never before had a bag that had everything as neatly stored yet accessible as this one. Hopefully the days of searching through my bag for what seems like forever just for my anti-bacterial hand gel or lip balm are over.
I even managed to keep my mobile and the purse with my credit cards away from each other (in normal hand or shoulder bags they are rather thoughtlessly put right next to each other), yet I can get to both of them easily and without having to take the bag off my shoulder. Also, the lack of any magnetic poppers means less risk for any of my data carriers.
It's true, Bihn's Co-Pilot is not made from soft buttery expensive leather, but that's really an advantage on business trips as it makes it so much lighter. Equally, its shape may not be funky or the dernier cri fashion-wise but its amazing functionality makes it a thing of beauty in its own right. Apart from that it makes up points in the style stakes with the cute check pattern of the steel/solar dyneema option that I went for, which will go very nicely with the muted colours I prefer for my jackets and coats.
The laptop, cables, and chargers that I usually take with me when I travel for work won't fit in but that's fine. I've always had those in the carry-on suitcase, anyway, to keep the weight off my shoulder and on rollers instead, and I'm happy to leave it like that. Especially since I already do have at least four books in my bag at any one time – a rather hefty leather-bound journal, one to read, a big sudoku one and a notebook. So leaving aside the weight of the leather, the Co-Pilot should be as sometimes painfully heavy as my previous bag. It obviously isn't because of the much lighter nylon material, and on top of that the super-comfortable non-slip Absolute shoulder strap makes it feel lighter still. I also found that the broad and comfortable foam part of the strap gives the tiniest of bounces to the bag when walking, just enough to compensate for the bag's gravity on each step. What a wonderful idea and what bliss for my shoulder!
I'm beginning to think I might get to like this bag so much that I'll be using it every day. We could become inseparable. :-)
P.S.: I walked around for about 4 miles from Beachy Head back into Eastbourne (with a few detours) and found the Co-Pilot really comfortable to carry even for this longer period of time on uneven terrain. I wish I'd had this bag already for the hikes with my parents in the Harz mountains back in August!