TB Smart Alec deserves a review
...because it is simply an amazing product. Earlier this year, I discovered I had to make an unexpected 14-day trip to Europe for work. While I wouldn't normally complain about this sort of thing, the timing kinda sucked. First, I'd already spent quite a few weeks away from home in the past few months, and (more importantly), my "on the road" travel gear was approaching its last legs.
So, off I went to find both a new backpack for my laptop, and new luggage. My search for a good suitcase was long and frustrating, but luckily I struck gold with the backpack. After just a few Internet searches, Tom Bihn became the obvious choice. Well designed. Tough components. Made with love in the USA... Left me wondering why hadn't I found these earlier!
So, off to tombihn.com I go. A few hundred bucks lighter and less than a week later, I had my new travel companion in han. I chose the Smart Alec (Steel/Solar) with a Brain Cell large enough to fit my bulky Lenovo T400 work laptop, a Snake Charmer, and a few pouches for good measure (1 Medium, 1 Small, and a wallet).
I have been trying to put more thought into compartmentalizing my "everyday carry" items, so I also have a Maratac Tac Folio (doc organizer) for business cards and reciepts and a Maxpedition EDC pocket organizer for first aid stuff and other random odds and ends.
The Bihn system seemed pretty smartly designed when I first packed the bag, but now at the tail end of my trip, I can say that it's friggin ingenious! My company's version of "business travel" is probably one of the more rigorous things one can do with their time. Most weekdays consist of waking up at 6AM, getting dressed, re-packing your suitcase, visiting with customers or co-workers until 6PM or so, then driving or flying to the next city. So, it's really important to have ever piece of your travel arsenal designed well enough to make packing, retrieval, and, of course, carrying as easy as possible.
Fully loaded, the Smart Alec held all of my workday stuff plus a spare change of clothes in a packing folder (should luggage get lost in transit), and weighed in around 17 pounds. I'm happy to say that I have no back strain or fatigue after carrying it through Budapest, Vienna, Munich, Stuttgart, Dusseldorf, Paris, and Madrid. I highly recommend it!!!
Since I'm now a believer - I'll be looking for a smaller bag to carry just an Ipad and a few other items through a city on vacation. I can't decide between the Ristretto and the Synapse (which will also fit my Macbook).
The Co-Pilot also fits the iPad nicely. :)
Lani Teshima: A Dyneema diva with a closetful of Tom Bihn products!
Publisher, The Travelite FAQ: Don't get saddled with baggage—free yourself & your mind by packing lightly!
Editor, MousePlanet: Detailed park guides, daily news & stories from all over the Disney kingdom | Technical writer | Marathoner
Great review! I would highly reccomend the Synapse--it's one of the most well designed, perfect sized bags you can imagine. I carry mine everywhere!
I really think that the SA is generally an underrated bag. My favorite thing about it is that, because of the way the top opens, it's perfectly positioned to make it easy to get things out during a flight when it's under the seat in front of you. The inside top pockets are great for holding earplugs, eyeshade, headphones, and whatever else you want during the flight (they're bigger than they look).
I recently bought a SA with a Brain Cell for a MBP Retina. I like the bag a lot, but I've found one downside. You can't open the top zipper with one hand. You swing it off your shoulder to retrieve something, but you can't close it back up without setting it down. Maybe the zipper 'loosens' up over time?