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  1. #1
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    May 2009
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    4

    Brain Bag Review

    I just bought a Brain Bag to replace my last backpack from Brenthaven. I'd give it a 4/5 based on the following:

    Pros:
    + Great size and flexibility from thick to thin.
    + Seems pretty well finished off.
    + Like the number of pockets for storing stuff.
    + Brain Cell is absolutely brilliant. Best laptop protection out there. Mounting system is fantastic.
    + Freudian Slip is also fantastic. Great idea.
    + Harness is ok, not great, ok.
    + Handle at top is great. Strong enough to hang bag by hook on wheelie, very comfortable to carry.

    Cons:
    - Two pockets on front of pack are a shade too small and need more depth.
    - Top pocket with hook for keys is too small to easily load iphone, wallet, keys, passport etc.. while going through security checkpoint.
    - Disappointing that the mesh pocket does not work well for a water bottle if there is anything of size in the pocket behind it. Most mesh pockets on backpacks have an elastic top and pleats to help make this work.
    - Harness needs to have daisy chain and/or D-ring to attach accessories. This is critical if you intend to use it with a DSLR (you're making a camera block, IIRC). Virtually every major strap mfg (upstrap, optech, think tank photo, etc) has a set of tails that clip onto the camera quick release and then expect to attache to either a daisy chain or a D ring. Given that this was a major reason I bought this bag so I could take my camera with me traveling, I'll be having this added at some point.
    - Strap ends on umbrella holder (which I will use for holding a travel tripod) need to not be straight finished but finished with ends that prevent them coming undone like the rest of the straps on the pack (harness, waist belt).
    - Make the loose ends of the strap captive. Brenhaven does a great job of this. When used with rolling luggage, they tend to drag on the ground and get dirty.
    - I'd suggest adding, again now that you are supporting camera blocks, some sort of add on mounting point. I'd suggest MOLLE because there are a ton of accessories compatible with it and when not used, it lies flat and out of the way. I'd put one or two on the outside, and one long one in each compartment.

    Good bag. Looks really durable. Should work pretty well, maybe even great once modified.

    J.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
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    564
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
    - Two pockets on front of pack are a shade too small and need more depth.
    Really? I find them too deep. It annoys me that I have to either lift the bag up with one hand and dig with the other, or put the bag in a chair and actually bend over to reach the bottom. I expect this in the main compartment but never on a side pocket.

    - Top pocket with hook for keys is too small to easily load iphone, wallet, keys, passport etc.. while going through security checkpoint.
    I didn't find it too small but too secure. The zipper and flap make it hard to get at quickly. But it's good for keeping things inside. To me it's a trade off. Either you get something you can quickly dump stuff into or you get something secure. If the line is long then quick isn't a big deal but if it's short you want quick.

    - Disappointing that the mesh pocket does not work well for a water bottle if there is anything of size in the pocket behind it. Most mesh pockets on backpacks have an elastic top and pleats to help make this work.
    I'm not a fan of the mesh. I have yet to find a good use for it. But water bottles should go to the middle strap. I believe that's why it's there. You even have two straps to secure it so why bother with the mesh?

    - Harness needs to have daisy chain and/or D-ring to attach accessories. This is critical if you intend to use it with a DSLR (you're making a camera block, IIRC). Virtually every major strap mfg (upstrap, optech, think tank photo, etc) has a set of tails that clip onto the camera quick release and then expect to attache to either a daisy chain or a D ring. Given that this was a major reason I bought this bag so I could take my camera with me traveling, I'll be having this added at some point.
    This might be cool but it's definitely custom to photo bags. I never really noticed it until you mentioned those manufacturers.

    - Strap ends on umbrella holder (which I will use for holding a travel tripod) need to not be straight finished but finished with ends that prevent them coming undone like the rest of the straps on the pack (harness, waist belt).
    Is this the water bottle holder you're talking about? Maybe I have it wrong.

  3. #3
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    May 2009
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    4
    [QUOTE=pretzelb;12836]Really? I find them too deep. It annoys me that I have to either lift the bag up with one hand and dig with the other, or put the bag in a chair and actually bend over to reach the bottom. I expect this in the main compartment but never on a side pocket.[quote]

    By depth, I meant in a horizontal direction. Bad choice of words on my part.

    I didn't find it too small but too secure. The zipper and flap make it hard to get at quickly. But it's good for keeping things inside. To me it's a trade off. Either you get something you can quickly dump stuff into or you get something secure. If the line is long then quick isn't a big deal but if it's short you want quick.
    I agree with that. What I've done since is use it for the pocket for my sunglass case. That works much better. I'll use something else at airport checkin lines but this would have been nice. It won't hold my wallet, watch, cell phone and passport holder which would have been nice.

    I'm not a fan of the mesh. I have yet to find a good use for it. But water bottles should go to the middle strap. I believe that's why it's there. You even have two straps to secure it so why bother with the mesh?
    That's for an umbrella or tripod. I don't think it works well for a water bottle which comes out and goes in often. Other backpacks of mine have a mesh like this but it is either gathered and has elastic at the top or is all elastic. That works great and you can insert and remove the bottle without taking the pack off your back. The mesh the way it is doesn't work for me. I suppose some think that is a place for airline tickets but for those of us that travel internationally - absolutely not!

    This might be cool but it's definitely custom to photo bags. I never really noticed it until you mentioned those manufacturers.
    Actually everyone of my packs has this - for skiing, for photography or backpacking. It's a common feature on most harnesses. In point of fact, this is one of the few packs I have that doesn't have it. (I have way too many).



    Is this the water bottle holder you're talking about? Maybe I have it wrong.
    The umbrella holder/tripod holder that I suppose could be used for a water bottle holder (but wouldn't be secure enough). Yes, these straps are unfinished on the ends and should be finished.

    Overall, after using this for a month, I'm coming to like this bag more. I've had it out in the rain, I've been to Asia and back with it, it goes with me everywhere. I love the size and additional volume. The brain cells are fantastic. I'd like to see weatherproof zippers and some more inserts that attach to the hard points - be brilliant if there was a snake charmer sort of thing that did that as well as a camera insert. This bag set up with a freudian slip, brain cell is good for world travel - but it could be better. The changes suggested would make it a total killer bag. I do realize, of course, that for bag-a-holics like me, the only perfect bad is the one you just took out of the box after UPS stopped by.

    J.

    J.
    Last edited by JohnJ80; 06-19-2009 at 06:52 AM.

  4. #4
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Location
    Outside of Philadelphia, PA
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    221
    Quote Originally Posted by JohnJ80 View Post
    I do realize, of course, that for bag-a-holics like me, the only perfect bad is the one you just took out of the box after UPS stopped by.
    That's a great line! And so very true for us well-researched consumers!

    I have had my Brain Bag now for almost 6 months, and love it. Tough, adaptable, and ready for anything from a trip to the office to a long weekend. I switch frequently between this and my ID, which I have had for almost a year now. When I need room, the Brain Bag comes out to play.

    I agree with some of the comments so far in this thread. The lower front pockets seem to favor carrying taller, thinner items... if you need to stash smaller items in them that you require in a hurry, you have to some fishing. I think this is a by product of the snug and well-protected nature of the zippers, however... it's a tradeoff that I am willing to accept, given how I use the bag. If I could have a couple of o-rings in those pockets, that would solve them for me because I could keep some of the small pouches hooked up high, near the opening for easy access.

    I do keep a smaller water bottle in the mesh pocket with no trouble, but I need to keep very thin items in that zippered pocket to do so. I usually cinch an umbrella in the center straps. I find the top zippered pocket to be VERY useful, and roomy enough for the essentials (keys on strap, wallet, etc.).

    Bottom line is that I love my Brain Bag. There are always opportunities for improvement, but design is the best I have seen yet. Any compromises I have seen are a small cost for overall adaptability of this backpack.
    ----------------
    Bob P.
    Magic Tiki Studios

    Empire Builder (black/steel), Brain Bag (steel), Small Padded Organizer Pouch, Clear Wallet, Soft Cell, Snake Charmer (cayenne) and assorted trimmings.


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