A teacher reviews the Brain Bag
I've been using the Brain Bag for a few months now, and while I know it's not a new product and has been reviewed quite a bit over the years, I thought I'd add my two cents.
I'm a teacher at a university, and I work with undergraduate student teachers in Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Since I teach my classes in several different locations, I have to bring all the resources I need with me. On various days that might include my laptop and all its accessories, a 300-page course reader, several texts (up to 4 or 5), a notebook or two, stacks of papers or assignments to return to students, copies of handouts, DVDs or VHS tapes (yes, I still use them occasionally), children's books, notecards, masking tape, dry erase markers, my planner, an ipod, an energy bar or two, and other odds and ends.
During my 4 years teaching at the college level, I've used a number of bags or backpacks to lug all my gear, including a Crumpler messenger bag, a Targus backpack, a Mountainsmith backpack, and a Spire messenger bag. Each of them was OK for a time, but they all fell short in various ways: the messenger bags simply didn't hold enough, the Targus bag swallowed a ton of stuff but was ugly and began falling apart rather quickly, and the Mountainsmith had no dedicated laptop protection. The Brain Bag is the first bag I've owned that is pretty much everything I need a bag to be.
Combined with the Brain Cell (I have a size 5), it gives the ultimate protection to my laptop. The construction of the bag is top-notch, from the stitching and fabric to the zippers and straps. I've read other Brain Bag users report that their bags still look virtually brand new after 4 or 5 years of hard use, and I have no doubt that is true. The bag is heavy duty in every way. As a teacher who has lots of papers and files to carry, my favorite accessory is the Freudian Slip. I've tried other accordion files or organization systems before, but they've always been too clunky or cheaply made. The Freudian Slip is just what I need: it's slim, doesn't take up much space, and I can put 5 or 6 fully-loaded plastic file folders in the front pockets -- and they're accessible as soon as I unzip the bag. On the other side I store my ipod, flash drives, business cards, and up to ten DVDs (in a car visor sleeve I've re-purposed for the Freudian Slip). It's also cool that I can easily pull the whole thing out and have it next to my desk when I'm working.
As for carrying the Brain Bag, I've found it to be extremely comfortable, even when fully loaded and walking up to a mile from the train to where one of my classes meets. Initially I hated having the waist strap dangling down when I walked (I've used it, but rarely), but Tom had my Brain Bag retrofitted with a "tester" removable waist strap, and for my purposes it works beautifully.
Other gripes with the Brain Bag are minor. I wish the mesh pocket on the front had elastic at the top so that a water bottle (or something else) could be stuck in there even when the pocket underneath has something in it. As is, it's pretty useless for me. Also, it would be nice if the Snake Charmer could be snapped in or attached to the bag in some way, as it tends to fall to the bottom rather than riding atop the Brain Cell (though I'm going to try a bungee-cord workaround on this). And (as long as I'm in the wishing mode here), I wish it had been available in plum when I ordered it (and the new cayenne sounds interesting, too).
Overall, I love the bag, and I foresee using it for years to come. You really can pack a lot in there, so for anyone who has to carry a heavy load -- whether tech gear, school books, or just about anything else -- it's truly an outstanding product. And the great customer service at Tom Bihn doesn't hurt, either.