Tom Bihn Ristretto for 13" MacBook Air Review

Over the past year, I’ve changed up my mobile gear. I got my beloved iPad and sold my once mighty MacBook Pro in exchange for an underpowered 13” MacBook Air, which I adore.

Leading up to Macworld, I decided I was going to spoil myself with a fancy-pants case for the MacBook Air. I ended up with a nice leather bag that gave me that perfect hipster look necessary for a trip to San Francisco. The trouble is, my bag had a lousy strap and it was uncomfortable carrying it around all day. I toyed with the idea of doing some surgery on the strap to install my Tom Bihn Absolute Strap but there was really no way to do it right. So I sat there looking at my Tom Bihn Ristretto iPad case and thought it sure would be nice if it held my MacBook. After that obvious revelation, a quick trip to Tom Bihn’s site revealed that, indeed, Tom Bihn does make such a bag, the Ristretto for the 13” MacBook/MacBook Air.

The Ristretto is a vertical messenger bag, letting you slide your MacBook Air down inside sideways. Both sides of the laptop compartment are padded but only one has the nice soft nylon material (the other side is a relatively soft canvas) so you need to give some thought as to how you align the MacBook when you slide it in. The compartment easily holds both the 13” MacBook, 13” MacBook Pro, and their thinner sibling, the 13” MacBook Air. Ideally there would be some more foam padding in the bottom of the laptop compartment since one very likely damage vector comes from dropping the bag and it landing on its bottom. I cut a length of stiff packing foam and dropped it in mine. With that slight modification, I’m satisfied with the protection this bag affords my MacBook Air.

There is a second large compartment next to the laptop sleeve that works great for holding my iPad. There is also a zippered compartment (nice for holding my wallet and other important bits and pieces) and several other small sewn compartments that hold pens, Field Notes, a USB hard drive, and a few cables. Interestingly, I don’t normally carry my AC Power adapter. Instead I leave it in the car since I so rarely need it when out and about.

There are also three o-rings, letting you attach keys, pouches, and other items. Tom Bihn sells several accessories for the bag so you can trick it out as you please. One of the o-rings includes and 8” key strap. The back of the Ristretto has a slanted, open-top pocket great for holding the mail or other random papers.

The bag ships with removable waist straps helpful to secure the bag to your body if you are active. The straps unclip easily so you don’t have them hanging on when not needed. There are multiple color schemes available. I went with black and steel.

The Ristretto ships with a nice wide shoulder strap but for more comfort, pay the extra $20 for the Absolute Shoulder Strap. This strap includes a soft neoprene pad. It is both light and comfortable. It is the nicest strap I’ve ever used on a bag. It is so nice that I attach it to any bag I use. Also, it appears they’ve nailed the problem with the strap squeaking that I had when I looked at the iPad Ristretto bag.

At $140 (including the Absolute Strap), the Tom Bihn Ristretto for 13” MacBook is no small investment but I believe it is worth it. This is a well crafted bag, made in the USA, that I plan to use for years to come.