Tom Bihn Ristretto for iPad review

The iPad is both small and big at the same time. It is both an iPod and a computer in my opinion. It is highly portable, yet doesn’t fit in my pocket. I have  used is as a tray when walking to work to get all the things I need with me. Balancing my iPhone, headset and lunchbox on my iPad worked for a while. After a while though I started to miss out on my walk to work gaming sessions on my iPhone or indeed iPad. Browsing around for special iPad bags I found just a mere handful to choose from. The one that stood out among them was the Tom Bihn Ristretto for iPad. The same day I dropped my lunch box spilling sausage all over the ground I ordered a Ristretto.


ipadristretto13Tom Bihn is a designer of bags located in Seattle USA, and the production volume is rather low compared to all the “made in China” brands. That, along with great quality materials and durable workmanship brings the price up quite a bit. The color of Ristretto I had to choose from is actually no longer available, plum/wasabi. All other color combinations were sold out with a month of extra wait. I couldn’t wait, and have yet more of my lunchboxes scattered over the ground.


The Ristretto arrived a week later, and I fell in love at first sight. It is a beautiful piece of design with great attention to detail. The front is dominated by the snap closure, and the Tom Bihn logo. The back has got the diagonal line created by the document holder as a focal point. Everyone I have shown it to have been impressed, and that is before I open it. The lining of the Ristrettos usually consists of a bolder color than the outside. For mine it is bright wasabi green.


ipadristretto9Packing the iPad into the Ristretto is easy. It goes in the specially padded sleeve, and there is a flap to fold over it holding it securely. I have no fear that the iPad would take damage if I dropped the bag going at full speed sprinting or even riding a bike. A larger compartment without closing mechanism is found next to the iPad compartment. In this I can easily fit my rather flat lunchbox, and a book or two if I still find those ancient devices of technology interesting. There is also a key holder that is nifty to attach your bundle of keys to. There are actually a total of four o-rings to use with key chains or other loose objects in the bag. Next up is a zipped pocket has more than enough room to hold any loose objects such as wallets, lighters or whatnot you need. Finally the front rather open compartment has special holders for the phone, pens and probably wallet as well. In this compartment I can also store either a bottle of water or a folded up full size headset. Finally the back has got a sleeve to put documents or a notebook. For me the Ristretto has a perfect balance of size and volume. It is small yet holds more than I usually balance to work. It is easy to extract any object from the bag without having to stop walking or bicycling.


ipadristretto6The only drawback to the design that I have found after two weeks of living with it is the open front compartment. If the bag is accidentally turned upside down the front flap isn’t enough to hold loose objects in. My phone, small headset and pens all come flying out. I have remedied this by not turning the Ristretto upside down again, and strangely it works. Mind over matter sort of thing.


The original strap that comes with the Ristretto is comfortable, and easy to adjust. At an additional $20 you can get a special “absolute” strap, but as I didn’t take that option I can’t tell if it is better or not. I have not had any trouble with the original strap digging into my shoulder or back, and the Ristretto isn’t bothering my strut. The back has got a handle if you need to carry it around a plane or train. Finally there is a messenger style strap included to have around your waist. There are four points to fasten the strap so you can adjust how you want to wear your Ristretto. This flexibility is really great, and it is easy to find a good way to comfortably move.At $110 the Ristretto is rather expensive, but I have not hesitation to say that it is worth it. I actually ended up paying more than that even though the company gave me a press discount. Shipping and Swedish customs and tax made it cost about $150 for me, and yes I still think it is worth it. The quality of the materials used means that this will last me a long time. My only concern is that Apple’s upcoming products for the next 10-20 years won’t fit it. That is how long I estimate that this messenger bag will hold up with daily use.


Absolute shoulder strap update:
The kind folks at Tom Bihn sent me an Absolute shoulder strap to be able to test the difference between the standard and absolute straps. I was totally content with the included standard strap as mentioned above, but after reading testimonials about the Absolute it felt important to give it a go. After just putting the Ristretto on with the Absolute one time I felt the difference. The strap rests in place without budging due to a large neoprene pad that absorbs the weight and movement of the bag. It is awesome, and I can walk for hours without any strain or discomfort from the bag moving about. The Absolute strap is an extra $20 on an already expensive bag, but it is so worth it. The Tom Bihn Ristretto for iPad coupled with the Absolute strap is a perfect companion for your iPad.

Final Rating



Ristretto for iPad/Netbooks at Tom Bihn $110

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  • Carlos

    Do you feel the size is ok, or do you ever wish you had gone to the slightly bigger Ristretto ?

  • Torbjorn Kamblad, Sweden


    For the iPad, a set of headphones, wallet, a bottle and perhaps a small notebook the Ristretto for iPad is perfect. If you need more stuff with you it becomes small quickly. For me the small size means that I have less weight to carry around, and that makes it easier to always have the iPad around. I never feel like a chore to have the Ristretto on my back.