**I would like to thank Tom Bihn for sending out this Ristretto bag for us to review. Although this was given to us for review, that does not change any of my thoughts or opinions.**
I take my iPad everywhere with me, especially when I go on trips. The iPad, because it has such a thin and delicate form factor, could break very easily if tossed around when you are travelling on a plane or if it was unsecured during a car ride. Personally, I am very protective of my iPad, and I want to make sure that it does not get nicked, scratched, or dented. So, I was excited to try out the Tom Bihn Ristretto bag when going on an international trip recently.
Tom Bihn has a reputation for being one of the best bag makers in the world, and with portable technology being more and more prevalent; their bags are evolving to incorporate protection for these devices. With the release of the iPad in 2010, and the iPad 2 in 2011, Tom Bihn released one of their most popular bags, and that bag is the Ristretto. This bag is a vertical messenger bag with a padded interior compartment that is designed for the iPad (by itself or in the Apple case). However, if you have a different device that you would like to get the Ristretto for, you can get the Ristretto for 11″ MacBook Air and Ristretto for 13″ MacBook/MacBook Air.
Also in the ‘main compartment’ is another large pocket (the same size as the iPad compartment), however, this pocket is not padded. In front of the main compartment is a thin, zippered pocket that could be ideal for travel documents (hotel reservations, passports, boarding passes, etc.). In front of the zippered pocket are 4 small compartments. Two of the compartments are larger, and could handle a cell phone, point-and-shoot camera, iPod, etc. The other two compartments are very small and ideal for keeping pens, pencils, or tabletop tripods. At the very front of the bag, there is another pocket, and this one is larger and can be used to store a lot of different things such as travel accessories.
A large, plastic buckle attached to a flap secures the bag. When the flap is closed, you have no visibility or access to anything inside the bag. However, when you squeeze the clip and open the flap, you can access everything easily. On the rear of the bag, you will find a handle to carry the bag strapless. Also included with the Ristretto is a removable waist strap that attaches to two of four available hooks on the back of the bag. There are essentially 4 ways to attach the waist strap (one high, one low or both high or both low). If you don’t want to use the waist strap, you can remove it, so it leaves nothing behind.
As for the shoulder strap, you have two different options, the Standard and Absolute. The Standard Shoulder Strap is included with the Ristretto, and is a 1-1/2″ wide heavy nylon webbing strap and is designed to conform to your shoulder and back. However, for extra support and comfort, you can pay an extra $20 (with the purchase of a Ristretto: $30 by itself) to switch the Standard Strap to the Absolute Shoulder Strap. It features a comfortable neoprene pad to stop the bag from slipping with “making the bag 50% lighter and 100% more comfortable.”
When I was abroad in the U.K., we used the Ristretto on numerous occasions. One day, we decided to go sightseeing in Edinburgh, Scotland, and like most tourists, we wanted to take a backpack to keep our wallets, cameras, purchases, etc. in. However, because of all the travel restrictions when traveling by air, we realized that we had not packed a backpack, so I suggested that we take the Tom Bihn bag. I emptied it out, and put everything that I would have put in a backpack, into the Ristretto. That day I rode on a train and a bus, as well as walking several miles, and the bag was perfect. It was smaller than a backpack, more comfortable than a backpack, and just overall better. At that point in time, I realized that not only could the Ristretto hold the iPad well, but it could act great as a backpack as well.
To improve the experience with the Ristretto, Tom Bihn offers lots of add-ons for the bag. I have listed them (with their prices below):
- Absolute Shoulder Strap (as mentioned above): $20 with purchase of Ristretto, $30 by itself
- Clear Organizer Pouches: $8
- Key Strap: $2
- Cache: $30
- Ultrasuede Screen Cloth: $7
- Cache for Apple Wireless Keyboard: $30
I tried to be as fair as possible when reviewing this bag. I usually like to find a couple negative features when reviewing a product, but I really cannot find anything negative about the Ristretto. Not only does it function well, it is attractive to the eye and to the wallet. The Ristretto comes in at a very reasonable USD$110, and you can purchase your Ristretto, which is handmade in Seattle, Washington, at http://www.tombihn.com/page/001/PROD/200/TB0222.
Once again, I would like to personally thank Tom Bihn for sending us out this product to review. It is definitely one of my favorite products I have ever reviewed, which is why I am going to award the Tom Bihn Ristretto for the iPad and iPad 2 a 10 out of 10 stars.
Twitter: @internetian, @IanTRG