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I’ve always avoided Tumi. They seemed a little too expensive, a little too boring, and a little too… snooty? A Tumi booth at a conference I attended featured guards that didn’t let anyone inside to see the bags and, while I can understand the desire to protect against copycats, it was a bit of overkill.

So with that in mind, it was with some trepidation that I picked up a Tumi Aviano Slim Brief, a compact laptop bag with a front “iPad pocket” big enough for a Kindle and a series of internal pockets that offer space for notebooks, cables, and pens. My final opinion?

This is a really good bag.

The bag isn’t wildly pricy at $395 but it is quite slim and doesn’t look like it could hold much. I was wrong. I was able to fit nearly everything that I usually carried into this thing and there are a few bulges thanks to bigger power supplies but the entire package is wonderfully padded and compact. Further, the bag is beautifully balanced and I definitely feel a shift in the way I’m carrying my gear.

I honestly feel far safer carrying this bag than any other I’ve owned simply because the sides are made of padded ballistic nylon. The zippers are big and chunky, the handles and strap comfortable, and the entire thing screams attention to detail.

This made me decide that Tumi is the Bose of bags. Bose, for those not familiar, makes the gold standard for airplane earphones. You put them on at the beginning of your flight and listen in absolute blissful silence for the duration. You can complain about the styling, the lack of bass, or the lack of “highs and lows,” but you can’t complain about the usability and value.

Like Bose, Tumi is a bit more expensive, a bit more boring, and you traditionally only see them on grey-suited walkers hitting the airport bar or First Class lounge. There’s not much flash here – even the hardware is a sort of matte-grey that looks almost bronze ?- and no one will mistake this for a Manhattan Portage hipster sac. That said, just like Bose in the noise-canceling headphone space, the bags do exactly what they advertise: superior protection, comfortable weight distribution, and strong, light materials.

My previous go-to bag, the Nomadic Wise-Walker, served me well when it came to holding loads of gear. Now that I have to carry a bit less and I’m a bit more worried about travel durability, Tumi may be my next brand of choice. Now I just have to get over the image of red-faced businessmen in suits carrying Tumi bags through distant airports and instead imagine myself preventing my laptop from smashing on the ground while being able to hold more than enough gear, notebooks, and cabling.


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By John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.