Take it around the world, on a hike, or to the office: its top-loading design and optional modular organization helps you tailor this pack to your needs.
The Smart Alec is a modular backpack system: customize it to carry your gear with a variety of interior and exterior organizational pockets.
13 webbing loops on the front of the Smart Alec and an included removable black bungee make it easy to secure a rain jacket, umbrella, yoga mat, or bike helmet to the front of the bag. Ride your motorcycle or bike or walk at night with your Smart Alec? Add a Glowire electroluminescent wire kit, which you can weave through these new loops.
Designed to attach to the webbing loops are the optional Upper Modular Pocket, Lower Modular Pocket, and 1" Gate Keeper Straps. Each adds extra carrying capacity and custom organization to the Smart Alec.
The Upper Modular Pocket adds an extra 2+ liters of volume to the Smart Alec. Inside there are four small organizer pouches sized for the things to which you need quick access: smartphone, keys, multitool, flashlight. Two interior O-rings so you can attach keys or pouches or what-have-you. The Lower Modular Pocket adds an extra 3+ liters of volume to the Smart Alec. Fits two 1-liter water bottles, or one water bottle and other stuff, or just a lot of other stuff. Inside are two o-rings and an open-top organizer pocket sized for a wallet. 1" Gate Keeper Straps can replace the front bungee included with the Smart Alec with these straps (or leave the bungee in place and install the straps over the bungee). Useful for securing large/bulky items to the front or top of the Smart Alec: a yoga mat, snowshoes, raincoat, Christmas trees, or anything else too big or wet to go inside. Available individually or in sets of two or three; the Smart Alec has webbing loops for accommodating up to five 1″ Gate Keeper Straps. Wondering how many you need? Tom uses two 1″ Gate Keeper Straps to secure his snowshoes to the front of a Smart Alec. For more detailed information on each of these three accessories, visit the Smart Alec Modular Pockets & Straps page.
The streamlined main compartment of the Smart Alec opens wide, providing easy access to your gear, and zips with a #10 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zipper. Inside the main compartment you'll find two removable Annex Clips, which come in handy if you need to carry a laptop, as they allow you to securely clip the optional Vertical Brain Cell or Horizontal Brain Cell hard-sided laptop cases inside the main compartment of the Smart Alec. The Brain Cells are available in sizes specifically designed for Apple laptops and PC laptops; please consult our Laptop Bag Fit Guide to determine the right size for your laptop.
Also in the main compartment on the back panel are two unobtrusive webbing loops (that we call "rail loops") to which you can secure the optional Cache (available in sizes specifically for every Apple laptop and iPad; PC users, click here for our Laptop Bag Fit Guide). When you add the Cache, the Smart Alec becomes a "checkpoint-friendly" laptop backpack. Here's how it works: on the back (or bottom, depending how you look at it) of the Cache are two parallel "rails" of 1" wide lightweight nylon webbing which extend from the top to the bottom. Included (and already attached for your convenience) when the Cache is ordered with the Smart Alec are two Gatekeeper Rail Clips: unclip the side that isn't clipped to the Cache, slip it through the webbing loops in the Smart Alec middle compartment, and flip it shut. Slip the Cache inside the Smart Alec, and pull it back out: you'll see that the Gatekeeper Rail Clips ride the rails of the Cache, allowing you to remove your laptop from the Smart Alec entirely while it is still encased in the protective Cache. Doing this at the airport security checkpoint means the X-ray machines (and TSA personnel) will have a clear, unobstructed view of your laptop — allowing you to keep your laptop in the Cache and the whole affair securely held together as one unit. (We think that's much better than having to remove your laptop and dump it in one of those buckets.) Many of us will appreciate this functionality on a daily basis as well: the rail system can be a convenient and quick way to remove one's laptop from the bag. Note that one must choose between attaching the Cache or the Brain Cell.
Inside the main compartment, you'll also find three medium-size organizer pockets: one near the bottom of the bag, and two at the top of the bag that zip shut so that, when you open the main compartment, the small stuff in those pockets won't fall out.
The main compartment has one O-ring with an included 8" Key Strap attached, ready and waiting to help you keep track of your keys. And, of course, you can clip Yarn Stuff Sacks to the O-rings.
If you need more pockets and organization for your gear, or if you carry a lot of papers or folders, you may want to consider our Vertical Freudian Slip insert. The Vertical Freudian Slip fits well inside the main compartment of the Smart Alec and has four slots for files and folders on one side; organizer pockets for cables, small electronics, business cards, pens, and more are on the other side. Best of all, you can pull the Freudian Slip out of the Smart Alec and hang it on a doorknob or near your desk, giving yourself easy access to your accessories while keeping them organized.
The Snake Charmer, a two-sided organizational pouch with mesh panels, is also an optional accessory.
The top back of the Smart Alec has a comfortable, PORON® foam padded grab handle. While you wouldn't want to use the handle as a main carrying method for the Smart Alec, the comfort of the handle makes hoisting a fully loaded Smart Alec an easier task.
The Smart Alec has two long pockets on either side of the bag that zip with #8 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zippers. We think it's important to do whatever we can to keep the elements out of your bag and we figure you'd agree. One of the side pockets has an expanding water bottle pocket that can fit water bottles up to 1-1/2 liters. Our Matterhorn Water Bottle, a lightweight made-in-U.S.A. aluminum water bottle, fits well in the water bottle pocket. The water bottle pocket has an eyelet at the bottom that will allow liquid inside the water bottle pocket to drain (just in case). The other side pocket has two pen slots and a pocket sized for a wallet or iPhone. This side pocket can also hold other items such as a book, power supply, ereader, or other small accessories. Each of these pockets has one O-ring.
The exterior of the Smart Alec is made of our custom, U.S. made, 1050 denier, high tenacity ballistic nylon fabric and 1000 denier Cordura® nylon, and the interior is lined with our ultralight 200 denier Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric, custom produced for us in Japan. The back is made of Dri-Lex® Aero-Spacer® mesh and is padded with 1/4", high quality, closed-cell foam.
The comfortable shoulder straps on the Smart Alec are made from 3/8" (10 mm) padding that offers serious comfort without bulk. While the Smart Alec is not built to be a mountaineering pack and we don't suggest you use it as one, we regularly take it for day hikes. We even went to the extreme of testing the comfort of the shoulder straps by carrying a fully loaded Smart Alec on an 18-mile day hike in Olympic National Park. The verdict? The shoulder straps left our shoulders feeling fine (how our feet felt is another story).
The Smart Alec also comes with removable sternum and waist straps, just in case you do take it on a hike, urban or otherwise. If you do decide to remove the sternum and/or waist straps, you'll be pleased to find they leave no hardware behind.