Seattle-based Tom Bihn has been creating impressive travel bags since 1972, and I've had the pleasure of using and reviewing some of their laptop bags for TUAW over the past few years. In response to advent of smaller MacBook models and the iPad, the company recently unveiled the new Cadet laptop and iPad bag (US$170 base price). Read along as I provide a hands-on review of this well-constructed and durable case that is perfect for the MacBook Air and other Apple devices.
While the external design of the Cadet is rather utilitarian, it's the details that make this bag so attractive. It's not an oversized bag; rather, it's designed to take your laptop, a few paper files, your power supplies and some other small accessories.
There are two sizes: 15/13, which fits the 15" and 13" MacBook Pro, the no-longer-available 13" MacBook, and the 13" MacBook Air, and the 11/iPad that is designed for the 11" MacBook Air and the iPad. I reviewed the 11/iPad case, perfect for my 11" MacBook Air.
The Cadet, like every Bihn bag I've reviewed, is built to take the abuse of daily life in stride. The exterior is covered with 1050d ballistic nylon. Another Bihn bag that I own has been literally dragged, dropped, and stepped on for five years, yet looks like it was just delivered from the factory. The inside lining of the Cadet uses a Japanese nylon ripstop fabric to keep pointy things and sharp edges from causing damage. There is a quarter-inch of foam padding all around to protect your equipment from bumps, and the zippers are splash-proof to keep the bag interior dry in wet situations.
The handles on the Cadet are padded, which is nice when you choose to carry it like a briefcase. There are also shoulder straps available: the standard strap is included, while the Absolute Shoulder Strap sells for an additional $30. That strap uses an internal control-stretch system that makes carrying a heavy bag a more pleasant experience. With a strap installed on the Delrin eye-loops on either side of the Cadet, it can be carried either on one should or like a messenger bag.