Tom Bihn Zeitgeist review: A small and vintage EDC backpack

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Hero
(Image: © Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

iMore Verdict

Bottom line: The Zeitgeist can hold up to an 11-inch iPad Pro and your other essentials in a slim profile. The front slash pocket has plenty of space for small, flatter objects, and there is a zipper pocket inside the main compartment to stash important items.


  • +

    6.7-liter capacity has plenty of room for essentials

  • +

    Padded device compartment holds up to 11-inch iPad Pro

  • +

    Zippered pocket in the main compartment, flat diagonal pocket on exterior

  • +

    Has grab handle, smooth back panel, and contoured straps

  • +

    Comfortable to wear


  • -

    External pocket doesn't have separate capacity

  • -

    Smaller capacity than Paradigm

  • -

    No water bottle compartment

  • -

    Cannot fit 11-inch iPad Pro with keyboard attachment or case in device pocket

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If you feel like you've been seeing a lot of Tom Bihn talk from me lately, that's because the company's been on a roll with new releases lately. We got the Techonaut travel bag a few weeks ago, and now we have two small backpacks heading our way: the Paradigm and Zeitgeist. Today, we'll be taking a look at the latter.

For those who have never heard of the Tom Bihn brand before, here's a quick introduction. Tom Bihn has been around since 1972, and everything that the company makes is handmade in the factory located in Seattle, Washington. The brand has a cult-like following because of the high-quality bags that come from the factory — these bags are always tough and highly durable, and organization is a key element for most products that the company offers. And because it's a single factory that sews everything by hand, it's not uncommon for products to be sold out until more fabric comes in.

Many people have asked Tom Bihn to create small backpack Purse-Like Objects (PLO), and we not only get one, but two. I've already reviewed the Paradigm (a more modern design), so today, we'll be talking about the Zeitgeist, which carries a more retro look — that's because it's a reissue of a vintage Tom Bihn design from the '90s.

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist: Price and availability

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Zipper Pocket

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Zipper Pocket (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

The Zeitgeist from Tom Bihn will be launching in early November. There has been one round of pre-orders for the Zeitgeist, but they have already closed. However, if you missed out on the first round, Tom Bihn has said that there will be at least two more restocks of the Zeitgeist (and Paradigm) coming this year. Availability of the Zeitgeist after these future restocks will depend on the popularity of the bag itself.

Just like many of Tom Bihn's other offerings, the Zeitgeist is available in a variety of different colors and fabrics. There are bright and vibrant colors, along with more neutral, down-to-earth tones. Fabrics include 525d High Tenacity Ballistic Nylon, 1000d Cordura Nylon, and 400d Halcyon. The diagonal exterior pocket on the Zeitgeist is lined with a contrast-colored grosgrain ribbon for a fun accent.

You can only purchase the Zeitgeist directly from Tom Bihn's website, and it will cost $110.

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist: A simple and lightweight EDC

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Wear

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Wear (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

For my everyday carry for quick errands, I usually opt for a crossbody bag. However, when I'm out and about for extended periods of time, sometimes I will prefer to switch over to a small backpack to alleviate one of my shoulders from all of the weight. That's why I was so glad when I heard that Tom Bihn was releasing two new small backpacks — these are great for taking on a trip to Disneyland, for example.

For my Zeitgeist, I chose the Aubergine 525 Ballistic/Hunter/Northwest Sky 200 Halcyon color. That means that mine is made with the ballistic nylon fabric, so it's rather tough and durable but also a bit stiff, and it won't collect pet hair. If you go with the 400d Halcyon, it will be a more lightweight material, and it even has a bit of extra give, making it easier to pack with more stuff if need be. Halcyon is also resistant to pet hair, too, if that's a concern. The 1000d Cordura is a more natural feeling fabric that feels a bit rough or abrasive and is geared for more outdoorsy environments. However, it's also going to pick up pet hair and lint very easily.

The Zeitgeist is the more simply designed of the two small backpacks from Tom Bihn. But it still has room for your EDC essentials.

The Zeitgeist is very simple in design — you have one main compartment, with the zipper to access it going down about three-fourths of the bag, and one flat exterior pocket. The total capacity of the Zeitgeist is only around 6.7 liters, so while it's a little smaller than the Paradigm, it should still be enough for your everyday essentials.

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Empty With Device

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Empty With Device (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

Inside the main compartment, you will find the padded device pocket, as well as a zippered stash pocket (similar to what you find in the Paragon) on the opposite side of the device section and a total of three O-rings. This zippered pocket has some good depth to it, as it goes about halfway down the bag's length. It's perfect for things like your passport, wallet, keys, sunglasses, iPhone, and other small items that you don't want to lose in the main compartment.

For the padded device pocket, it's just enough padding to protect your device without being overly bulky or even extra weight. As I've mentioned, this pocket will fit up to an 11-inch iPad Pro, as long as you are using a slim case or cover, and not a keyboard case or attachment (unfortunately, more on that in a bit).

There are also three O-rings inside the main compartment: one above the zippered pocket and two along the sides of the device sleeve. The O-rings allow you to attach key straps and organizational pouches from Tom Bihn and even other brands, but of course, these are all sold separately. Still, it's beneficial to have the O-rings because they make it easier to attach and organize smaller items that you don't want to fall out or leave behind.

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter O Ring Keystrap

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter O Ring Keystrap (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

The main section does not have any other organizational components besides the zippered pocket and device compartment. It's more or less just a big space for you to fill up with your stuff. I personally like to use my Tom Bihn Side Kick as an organizational pouch, and it fits perfectly in the Zeitgeist. I can also place my Handy Little Thing Size 1 in there without any issue.

Since this is a reissue of an older Tom Bihn design, you get a unique "Moon Label" on the front, which is a new version of an old label.

The diagonal exterior pocket is fairly simple — it's just a large space to fit any extra items you may need to carry, such as battery packs, a small notebook, and other miscellaneous items. While it's not as spacious or organized as the Paradigm's 3D front pocket, you can still fit a good amount in it. Do keep in mind that this pocket shares capacity with the main compartment, so if you overstuff it, that does go into the space of the main section a bit.

On the exterior, the Zeitgeist features a grab handle at the top for convenience. And while you won't find Tom Bihn's edgeless shoulder straps on these small backpacks, you do get the Contour Backpack Straps, which are a nice upgrade from standard webbing straps. The Contour straps have minimal foam padding for comfort, but they're lightweight, proportional to the overall size, and comfortable to wear. You also have a smooth back panel thanks to the 525d Ballistic Nylon material, no matter what color and fabric you choose for the rest of the exterior.

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Moon Label

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Moon Label (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

And since the Zeitgeist is essentially a reissue of an older Tom Bihn design, you'll find a unique "Moon Label" on the front of the backpack. This is a new version of an old label that the company used many years ago, and it definitely adds to the vintage vibe.

If you like small backpacks for your everyday carry, including an iPad, then the Zeitgeist is a good option to get the job done.

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist: It's definitely on the smaller side

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Front Pocket

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Front Pocket (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

The Zeitgeist is a bit smaller than the Paradigm since it is only 6.7 liters, compared to the 9.4 liters of the Paradigm. Still, if your EDC essentials are fairly lightweight, then the Zeitgeist should be fine, but this is important to keep in mind.

And while the Zeitgeist has a zippered pocket on the interior of the main compartment, there are no organizational components in the exterior pocket, unfortunately. I was hoping for an open-top pocket and maybe some pen slots, but alas, nothing of the sort.

The Zeitgeist is a bit smaller than the Paradigm, as it only has a 6.7-liter capacity. An 11-inch iPad Pro also only fits if you use a slim case or cover.

Like the Paradigm, the Zeitgeist can also only hold up to an 11-inch iPad Pro, but only if you aren't using a keyboard case or attachment on it. This means the 11-inch iPad Pro only fits if you use a slim case or cover, like the Smart Cover or something similar. Otherwise, it won't even go into the device pocket, and you'll need to just throw it into the main compartment. Anything larger than an 11-inch iPad Pro? You can forget about it — laptops simply won't fit.

Though the Zeitgeist is a tad less than the Paradigm, it's still quite expensive with a price point north of $100. But again, Tom Bihn bags are extremely durable and can withstand pretty much anything — the Zeitgeist is going to last a few years, at the very least.

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist: Competition

Tom Bihn Paradigm Alphaviolet Angled View

Tom Bihn Paradigm Alphaviolet Angled View (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

I've mentioned the Paradigm several times in this review because it's the other small backpack that Tom Bihn has released this year and the best competition for the Zeitgeist.

If you want something a little larger in capacity than the Zeitgeist and also has an external pocket that has a separate capacity from the main section, as well as even more organization, then the Paradigm is the better backpack of the two. However, keep in mind that it can also only hold up to an 11-inch iPad Pro without a keyboard attachment case, and it won't have a zippered pocket in the main compartment. But it does have a front pocket that includes a section for a water bottle or travel umbrella, complete with a drain grommet. It's also more expensive at $140.

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist: Should you buy it?

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Full

Tom Bihn Zeitgeist Aubergine Hunter Full (Image credit: Christine Romero-Chan / iMore)

You should buy this if ...

  • You want a small, simple, lightweight EDC backpack
  • You need to carry up to an 11-inch iPad Pro
  • You like tough and durable bags that last years

You shouldn't buy this if...

  • You're on a budget
  • You want more than 6.7-liter capacity
  • You need more organization or have a larger iPad or laptop

Tom Bihn's Zeitgeist is a great little lightweight EDC backpack for your everyday needs. Despite the small capacity, it should be enough for the essentials, including an 11-inch iPad Pro. While it is fairly simple in terms of organization, it really shines when you use it with Tom Bihn's other pouches and accessories for organizing your gear. And like the Paradigm, the Zeitgeist is comfortable to wear for extended amounts of time, thanks to the smooth back panel and contoured shoulder straps.

But if you need slightly more space or just want a dedicated water bottle pocket, then the Paradigm may be a better choice for your needs. The Zeitgeist is the simpler choice between the two, and the design is much more retro versus modern. And while it's a bit on the expensive side, like other Tom Bihn products, the Zeitgeist is sure to last a very long time, making it worth the money.

Christine Chan

Christine Romero-Chan was formerly a Senior Editor for iMore. She has been writing about technology, specifically Apple, for over a decade at a variety of websites. She is currently part of the Digital Trends team, and has been using Apple’s smartphone since the original iPhone back in 2007. While her main speciality is the iPhone, she also covers Apple Watch, iPad, and Mac when needed. When she isn’t writing about Apple, Christine can often be found at Disneyland in Anaheim, California, as she is a passholder and obsessed with all things Disney, especially Star Wars. Christine also enjoys coffee, food, photography, mechanical keyboards, and spending as much time with her new daughter as possible.