my smart alec review...
i posted this review over at edc also...
i have for sometime been meaning to do a review but i have worked a 10 hour night shift for the last 20 years with the same company and in the winter i sleep from sunrise to sundown a lot of the time and if i am awake the weather does not permit outside photos..so here goes my 90 day plus review...
for photographic purposes i stuffed my smart alec with towels to fill out the bag plus one surprise i will reveal in the last photo..my normal load out consists of my wallet and flashlight/benchmade emerson cqc7/smoke jumpers belt/one can of fixaflat/two pair of glasses/one pair of jeans/one t-shirt/one pair of socks/one pair of starter compression shorts/one can of no bean chili/one protein bar/one lined anorak/one merino wool sweater/one towel on rainy days/one balaclava/one fleece beany/one pair long johns bottoms/one pair starter compression leggings/one pair wool glove inserts/one pair 40 grams thinsulate gloves...i wear a thermal shirt and anorak and gloves and balaclava as i ride to work and change into the jeans and t-shirt for work and add the beany and gloves as needed on really cold days and nights for the ride home...
the bag..first off its thick when fully loaded...its almost 20 inches tall and 17 inches thick...low profile it ain't..so keep in mind if you get this pack and you are thinnish like myself the bag will be sticking out in a crowd...
i don't carry chapstick in a tube so the small organizer tubes inside the upper pocket are of no use to me..i attach my american made small leather truckers wallet to a tom bihn strap and i do the same for the sunwayman v11r..i throw my bike lights in here as well...
i don't carry a water bottle since i don't get thirsty in the 7 mile ride to work..i have my sog powerlock and a fat sharpie and carmex in one of the side pockets...i noticed that i did not have my sog attached the same way as i did my keys in the other side pocket so i changed that in a later photo..i now double the tom bihn strap back on itself which means that my keys and multi tool don't hide out in the bottom of the bag..i also think that with the bag fully stuffed the side pockets are useless for anything other than small items like my stuff...my paycheck or a magazine or anything thin would work but forget about a 32 oz. nalgene...a g.i type canteen or smaller similar shaped flask would fit but unless you are an alcoholic what would be the point...
the inside is cavernous and reminds me of a small trash can liner similar to the type used in the first borne movie where jason is in the swiss bank and dumps his stuff into the trash can which he uses as a bag to transport his gear...i have two longer straps that i have no current use for but you can never have too many straps..
there is a lower inside pocket which i sometimes use to hold my belt but beyond that i have no idea why this pocket exists...its too low in the bag to be easily accessible...the common pocket at the top is perfect for old guys like me..
i keep my readers in one side and my sunglasses from smith optics in idaho in the other...
as promised the surprise..it doesn't get cold enough to justify packing it everyday but the lower pocket is big enough to serve as a stuff bag for a 1 lb. mountain hardware down vest..
in summation the tom bihn smart alec performs as the other reviews indicate..its basically a trash can you wear on your back..you can pack everything but the kitchen sink into it..i have loaded it out to 20 lbs. and had no troubles walking around town with it..it is possible you could load it out to 30 lbs. but you would need to have another 50 lbs. on me before you could do that comfortably...i am 156 and 5' 9"...gear is gear...i usually go with my instincts or if it makes you feel better i know what i like...for carrying stuff this bag will suffice 80% percent of the time...it has some drawbacks as i mentioned...the side pockets are really useless if the main compartment is packed to the gills...if you don't want your stuff to get wet then get a hefty steel sack to wrap it in if you are going to be out in the rain for more than 5 minutes...going from the taxi to the train is not the same as riding a bike for 5 or 10 miles or hiking for an hour..i also don't see this bag as a hard use bag such as wading the creek all day for trout..the materials are tough enough but somehow this bag doesn't scream worm guts and dead fish...this is an urban commute bag first and foremost...
i plan on buying a rover pack from topo as soon as they have one in all black...if that idea is not forthcoming i will be buying a goruck shadow ruck with ruck sacks and a review of those will follow after i have lived with them for more than week as some reviewers do...
thanks everyone for comments and for looking...
FOR SCOTT NOV 2013 002 by ibescottfree, on Flickr
FOR SCOTT NOV 2013 006 by ibescottfree, on Flickr
FOR SCOTT NOV 2013 010 by ibescottfree, on Flickr
FOR SCOTT NOV 2013 011 by ibescottfree, on Flickr
FOR SCOTT NOV 2013 013 by ibescottfree, on Flickr
FOR SCOTT NOV 2013 015 by ibescottfree, on Flickr
FOR SCOTT NOV 2013 019 by ibescottfree, on Flickr
FOR SCOTT NOV 2013 023 by ibescottfree, on Flickr
FOR SCOTT NOV 2013 025 by ibescottfree, on Flickr
FOR SCOTT NOV 2013 026 by ibescottfree, on Flickr
Thanks for the excellent review, twogunmojo. My new Smart Alec just arrived today and I've only stared at it in amazement. As with every TB product I've purchased, it is gorgeous and the workmanship is outstanding. But I'm a bit intimidated by its cavernous main compartment. Have a feeling I'll have to exercise a lot of restraint to not overpack.
Originally Posted by taminca
over packing is easy to do...
You know have to pack a lot of things into your SA. Even I was suprised how much you could fit - and I have an SA myself! I know who to look for when the Zombie apocalypse occurs! Good pictures to show how you use it. With this bag, you do have to watch the overpacking - you could end up with something so big and heavy you could not lift it easily.
I agree that it is more an urban commuting backpack with some use hiking. It is not a down and out outdoorsman type bag. I would say something that is fully waterproof - rubberized or coated would be good for that. But it is good to know that you could use it like that in a pinch!
I found that a vertical Freudian slip helped with the organization of the main compartment of my SA. And yes, I overpack it.
I love the quality of these outdoor photos and the venue. It's 'bout time somebody showed a Smart Alec hanging from the short limb of a pine tree! The sun really makes the pack look gorgeous.
The more extensive Flickr photo set is really interesting.
Originally Posted by MtnMan
i did take more photos and posted more of them in the original review over at edcf...i assumed that everyone here would be familiar enough with the smart alec that i could just hit the photo highlights and keep the text in full to keep the review as honest as possible..
twogunmojo, I really like the interior shots of your Smart Alec here and in your Flickr photo set. I flip-flopped between black/black/solar and black/aubergine/wasabi, before finally going with the latter. Might have been the other way if I had seen your photos first! The UV dyneema straps look great agains the solar dyneema. Thanks for posting.
Sorry to revive this thread, but I wanted to highlight the aforementioned point! Just as the side pockets are useless if the main body is packed, packed side pockets can also reduce the space available in the main compartment. Today was my first day doing serious hauling/kitchen-sinking of stuff in my SA. The bag's excellent, but packing my not-very-stuffed SE into the left side pocket led to my having less space to cram things into the main compartment. This was a bit unfortunate as I arrange books from the back to the front in the SA, and like to squeeze extra stuff into the vacant side spaces. I've attached a picture to illustrate this space issue.
Originally Posted by twogunmojo
I should also add that like twogunmojo, I find the bottom pocket a bit of a mystery. Generally speaking, I'm not sure what would be a good thing to put into a pocket that size at the bottom of the bag. I'm currently using it to store my dental hygiene kit (see attached pic), mainly just because it fits. What do you guys use it for? :)
Minor gripes aside, this is the most comfortable and capacious bag I've ever had. I appreciate the 'ninja' zippers and easy access to stuff on top. I was sitting in for a court hearing today and was able to unzip my SA to get out pen and paper in the middle of judges' Q&A with minimal embarrassment. The SA also swallowed up 4 hardcovers, 2 water bottles, and a very lumpy sweater (among other bulky things). Lastly, carrying all that crap was extremely comfortable. What a great backpack.
I have a first ade kit in there. It is in a small Stuff Sack and fits very well. I did not want to use an of the upper or outer pockets for it because I do not often need to take it out BUT if I have to find it I want to know exactly where it is. Now I only have to open the SA and whatever is in there I slide my hand down the side and find that pocket with my FA-Kitt right there. It goes no where how much I toss the bag around. No digging or searching and no taking up easy-access pockets for the daily used items. To summ up: Items you do not need often but that you want to find without a doubt and right away.
Originally Posted by adalangdon
EDIT: changed a no for a know. Sounds the same in my head and my head gets easily confused. Sorry
I find that mysterious little internal pocket at the bottom front to be a small but real bummer on an otherwise great pack. If i have anything in it, like my mac's powerbrick, it makes sliding anything smoothly into the pack a problem; whatever hits the top of that-- especially if its papers-- gets scrunched. If I'm in a hurry, I have to think about where I'm sliding something and if I need it to look good when it comes out; that's kind of a bummer.
I seem to recall someone posted a hack for attaching a Cache to the opposite side of the bag. If you could put the Cache in front of that pocket then maybe that would eliminate the issue with things catching on it. That, or you could maybe just duct-tape it closed. I'm all for hacking things so that they work better for me. :)
While I'm in this thread - I just now noticed that the strip of webbing below the Cache attachment points has two loops left open (that is, not stitched to the back of the bag. What are those for - just extra attachment points?
Originally Posted by theandy
@haraya - That strip of webbing below the Cache attachement points is for attaching the Brain Cell to the SA using Annex Clips.
@theandy - If you do not like that pocket on the inside bottom front, you could get some velcro that has one sticky side and stick it on both sides of the opening - make a small velcro strip on each side so it seals more securely.
Hope this helps