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Jun 06 2011

Tom Bihn Snake Charmer vs Waterfield Cableguy Review

As I move from bag to bag and place to place, I find that I am craving a bit more organization in my briefcase or back pack of the day. I am also looking for the perfect way to make it simpler to unload one bag and load up another. Changing from bag to bag is sort of an occupational hazard for me!

For me, smaller pouches within my bags makes this process a lot easier. You group related stuff into bags and then when you move from bag to bag you just move the pouches that you need. Someone I know described them as “movable pockets”!

So, I really wanted a gear pouch for my chargers and cables. This is the group of accessories that I am most behind the 8 ball if I leave something tucked in a little, hidden zippered pocket inside of one of my bags. The Apple store already gets enough of my money without me buying yet another set of power supplies!

The quest than is to find the perfect one. Something well made and attractive, with the ability to hold all of that stuff where I can grab it easily and move it around.

After hours of searching the web I settled on two products. The Tom Bihn Snake Charmer and the Waterfield Cableguy.

Both are companies who have earned a reputation for making well thought out, durable products made in the USA. They are also companies who have impeccable customer service and lifetime warranties on their products.

The Cableguy comes in 3 different sizes, so I dithered for a while trying to decide whether the medium or large was the fairest comparison to the Snake Charmer. I finally opted for the medium as the large Cableguy seemed like it would be a little too long to really be practical for me.

You can see in the picture that the two are roughly equal in length and width at 10.5 by 5.5 inches for the Snake Charmer and 10.5 by 6.5 for the Medium Cableguy. The Snake Charmer is deeper though and we will see how that impacts their ability to hold stuff.

Both are made of similar ballistic nylon materials and divide into two equal zippered compartments. After that though, the differences start to become apparent.

The Cableguy comes in basic black and than you get to choose the color of the accent stitching between four colors.

It is basically a roughly envelope shaped pouch with a zipper on each side. These zippers are quality YKKs that self lock to keep them from sliding open via friction. This keeps your widgetry safely tucked inside no matter how much they tumble around inside of your backpack.

The zipper openings stretch almost to each edge of the pouch making it easy to get accessories in and out of the Cableguy.

Inside of each side the pouch is identical. It features a large open area, and two stretchy mesh pockets that divide the pouch roughly 60/40. This gives you a little bit more organization inside to keep your stuff from tangling up with each other.

The inside of the bag is finished with Waterfield’s trademark gold fabric which makes it really easy to see what is inside of the pouch.

Because of the dual sided character, the Cableguy can store a bunch of stuff and keep it separated. You can see in the picture below what I am toting around in mine.

USB drive, earbuds and Ipad video widget on the left, MBP and iPad power supplies on the right

The Snake Charmer is similar, but different. It also features two identical sections with heavy duty YKK zippers but it is notably deeper than the Cableguy. The mesh sides are also one of the easiest things to see as a visual difference between the two pouches. You may get the impression that this makes the Snake Charmer more delicate than the Cableguy, but you would be wrong. The mesh is tough as nails and I can not tear it even though I actively tried.

MBP Power supply inside

The Snake Charmer has a nice handle on the top which makes it easier to pull out of the depths of a bag and there are pull tabs on each zipper on both sides to make it easier to zip and unzip it.

The insides of the compartments are spartan in their simplicity but the zippers come halfway down the sides of the Snake Charmer which makes it easy to get even awkward shaped accessories in and out of these compartments.

Inside the Snake Charmer

The additional depth in the Snake Charmer means that you can stuff a LOT of gear into it.

I can't believe it ate the whole thing!

The picture shows everything that went into the Cableguy plus a mini power strip and a Tom Bihn small pouch with more cables inside of it. I could of actually put some more stuff in the Snake Charmer but it would have been grabbing random things for fun.

CONCLUSIONS

So, which one is best? Well, I hate to equivocate, but it kind of depends. Both are lovingly made out of quality components here in the USA. You will use either of them for a long, long time.

The Snake Charmer comes in different colors. The one in the pictures is Cayenne, but they also offer black, steel, crimson and sapphire. The handle and pull tabs on the zipper sections do make it a little easier to handle. I love the fact that you can really see through the mesh and quickly determine what is inside without opening it up. The Snake Charmer will hold a fair amount more stuff than the Cableguy, although it is worth pointing out that there is a larger Cableguy size than the one that I reviewed. The pockets on the Snakecharmer are big open sections with no internal organization, but that and the way the zippers are mounted mean you can get large and awkward shaped objects into them.

The Cableguy is black and you only get to pick an accent color, so it is a bit harder to impress your personality on it. The self locking zippers are a nice touch if you have ever had a pouch open itself up in one of your cases. I LOVE the internal mesh pockets in the pouch to help keep things organized and not banging against each other. Since they are only attached to one wall of the Cableguy they do not get in the way if you need to put a couple of larger items in there. I do occasionally wish I could see through the case as I sometimes forget which side I have something shoved into. While the Cableguy holds less, I love how flat it keeps things, making for a more compact total package.

For me it comes down to what I am packing in. In my current day to day bag, the Tom Bihn Zephyr, the flat packing of the Cableguy actually makes more sense. I like to keep those accessories under the flap and that section is a little constrained to put a stuffed Snake Charmer into.

When I am packing in something with more open space like my Tristar or my Torq backpack, the Snake Charmer tends to work better and I love that I can hang the handle over a doorknob or hook when I get to my destination. It also works better for larger pieces than the Cableguy does.

To sum up if you have a big bag or big accessories go with the Snake Charmer. If you have smaller bag or need some sub-organization go with the Cableguy.

Or you can always do what I did and go with both!

www.sfbags.com
Cableguy Small, Medium and Large $19, $22 and $25

Tom Bihn
Snake Charmer $30

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