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Thread: Cadet or Smart Alec - For use with Western Flyer?

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    Cadet or Smart Alec - For use with Western Flyer?

    Which bag would you use for a laptop (14" Lenovo T410 with extended battery) on ~4 day business trips in conjunction with a Western Flyer - Cadet or Smart Alec, in both cases using a (non-Cadet) Cache in size 3S?

    Having downsized from a Tri-Star to a Western Flyer so that I can balance my load better, I'm debating between laptop shoulder bag and backpack. I'm not a messenger bag person. My Empire Builder was like a beached whale alongside the svelte Western Flyer when I flew out on a 4 day trip last night. I need to streamline. Thanks in advance.
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    What else would you be carrying in the second bag? The Smart Alec is enormous compared to the Cadet in terms of what else you can carry.

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    Yes, the SA is big. In fact, it has the same volume as the WF. The 15/13 Cadet has a capacity of 13.5 L, and its structured quality will, as tcook says, further limit what you can carry. Have you thought about the Zephyr or ID at all? At 17/20 L, one of those might be a happy medium. I'd understand if you wanted to shake it up with your next bag though, since both of those look rather like the EB.

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    And would you carry the WF on your shoulder or on your back?

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    Good questions, and thoughtful feedback. The second bag is for my laptop, power supply, Kindle or paperback, a couple of file folders, mobile phone and wallet. Occasionally it'd be good to have extra capacity just in case, but I'm looking for a bag that doesn't need to be full to handle well.

    It's not just a question of volume; it's weight also. I figured out that my Empire Builder and Brain Cell together weigh 4.5lbs empty. The Cadet and Smart Alec with Cache weigh in at less than half that, dyneema Smart Alec even less. The Zephyr only saves a couple of ounces over the Empire Builder as far as I can tell.

    Most of the time I'll carry the Western Flyer over my shoulder, but for airport sprints I can see me using the backpack straps.

    I hadn't realized the Smart Alec was the same size as Western Flyer, and basically double that of the Cadet. That tells me the Smart Alec's probably too big unless it handles well partially full. The question is, will the Cadet be too small?
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

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    Quote Originally Posted by lotuseater View Post
    Good questions, and thoughtful feedback. The second bag is for my laptop, power supply, Kindle or paperback, a couple of file folders, mobile phone and wallet. Occasionally it'd be good to have extra capacity just in case, but I'm looking for a bag that doesn't need to be full to handle well.
    ... The question is, will the Cadet be too small?
    If you plan to carry only what you have noted above, then the Cadet will probably be just fine for you. It will not carry a great deal more, however. I had a cadet when they were first introduced and as much as I liked the design, for my purposes, it really could not hold what I wanted it to hold. (I had the smaller one for the MB Air 11. I cannot speak to the capacity in real life of the larger model.) The SA handles fairly well when not full - never had any issues carrying it by the handle or wearing it when on the go as a daily bag or travel bag. It does flop over when set on the ground if it is empty or just has a few small items in it.

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    lotuseater, I'm not familiar with your laptop so perhaps it's too big, but have you looked at the Synapse? It's a fabulous little backpack that would hold what you've listed provided your laptop would fit...otherwise, if you're a female, have you considered the Swift? Ballistic gray or black would be professional looking and the Swift would handle many laptops in a Cache or Brain Cell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tlacltme View Post
    lotuseater, I'm not familiar with your laptop so perhaps it's too big, but have you looked at the Synapse? It's a fabulous little backpack that would hold what you've listed provided your laptop would fit...otherwise, if you're a female, have you considered the Swift? Ballistic gray or black would be professional looking and the Swift would handle many laptops in a Cache or Brain Cell.
    @Tlactme, @lotuseater I think the ThinkPad T410 might fit into the Synapse with a minimal sleeve, but not if it's being stowed with the extended life battery increasing the width of the laptop by sticking out the back. I'm only working from the quoted specs, since I don't have experience with this model. (I did look over the product line when spec'ing an order for the larger ThinkPad W520 for a colleague last year).

    I'll excerpt from this forum post in which Magic Tiki was considering a bag for his ThinkPad T410, and where I posted a picture of the 13/15" Cadet with a 13" MacBook Pro inside as a reference comparison for the T410. .
    Quoted dimensions for the T410 are 13.1 x 9.4 x 1.1" vs the 12.8 x 8.9 x 1.0" of the 13" MacBook Pro. That would make your laptop 0.3" longer…
    I think that the Cadet might work for you, but it might be more comfortable with a little more room. This holds significantly less than my Synapse, which is what I usually travel with. And my first reaction to the idea of the Smart Alec, like others, is that it's huge in comparison with Cadet, and also larger than the Synapse. (Think about the Smart Alec as a bag that basically takes up most of the underset room in an airplane, assuming there are no A/V boxes under the seat, whereas the Synapse can fit under seats even when there is a large A/V box taking up nearly half the room, and you're on a small, regional plane.) I'd almost prefer going back to a Tri-Star, and just putting the laptop into the center pocket, except that you wouldn't have a second bag for the distributed load and to carry other papers. The 13/15" Cadet basically almost fits into the center pocket of the Tri-Star, except that it sits a bit higher so you'd have to push down on the top to close the compartment. And it doesn't take up the full length or width of the center pocket in the remaining dimensions.

    Another bag that would accommodate your laptop and iPad is the Buzz, which is a backpack that uses a sling design. This makes it a very comfortable carry, and also easy to slip on and off. It''s a bit larger than the Cadet (14 liters vs. 13.5 liters), but the main difference is the style of bag you want to use. I find that laptop, iPad, power bricks, and papers take up more weight than any clothes I might pack into a Western Flyer or Tri-Star. The sling design of the Buzz or the backpack design of the Synapse is just a more comfortable way to carry that weight than over the shoulder, even with an Absolute Strap. And I should say that the difference between carrying a 13" MacBook Air and a 13" MacBook Pro in a Cadet is noticeable to me, and I don't use it for the MacBook Pro, although it fits. Your ThinkPad T410 is, I think, comparable in weight or slightly heavier than my MacBook Pro.

    The Buzz is apparently about to be discontinued according to Darcy's post earlier today, and so the only currently available colors are Black/Steel or Black/Black. This backpack sits flat against your back, unlike the design of the Synapse. But then, the Synapse was the first backpack to have the closed cell, foam padded back design that is only now being incorporated into the newly redesigned Smart Alec.

    Maybe someone with more experience with the T410 laptop can comment about the alternatives.

    HTH.

    moriond

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    The SA is the same size as the WF in terms of capacity! If you can imagine carrying 2 WF, you should have a good idea how much extra space you'd have.

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    Quote Originally Posted by moriond View Post
    @Tlactme, @lotuseater I think the ThinkPad T410 might fit into the Synapse with a minimal sleeve, but not if it's being stowed with the extended life battery increasing the width of the laptop by sticking out the back.

    I'll excerpt from this forum post in which Magic Tiki was considering a bag for his ThinkPad T410, and where I posted a picture of the 13/15" Cadet with a 13" MacBook Pro inside as a reference comparison for the T410.

    I think that the Cadet might work for you, but it might be more comfortable with a little more room. This holds significantly less than my Synapse, which is what I usually travel with. And my first reaction to the idea of the Smart Alec, like others, is that it's huge in comparison with Cadet, and also larger than the Synapse. (Think about the Smart Alec as a bag that basically takes up most of the underset room in an airplane, assuming there are no A/V boxes under the seat, whereas the Synapse can fit under seats even when there is a large A/V box taking up nearly half the room, and you're on a small, regional plane.)

    Another bag that would accommodate your laptop and iPad is the Buzz...

    moriond
    @Tlactme - Thanks for suggesting the Synapse as an alternative.
    @moriond - Thanks for your terrific follow-up to Tlactme's idea.

    My T410 came with the extended use battery as my company likes us to be productive on long plane rides. That extends the height to almost 10.5", which I'm told won't fit into the Synapse but would fit the Cadet. My personal laptop is a 13" MacBookPro, so moriond's photo of that model inside the Cadet was very helpful. It does look like my T410 would work, but there would be very little extra space for unplanned items.

    The Buzz, doesn't really get me buzzing. Nor does the ID. And the Smart Alec seems like overkill for what I need, so I guess I'll be cancelling my order for one in Nordic dyneema, sniff.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

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    Quote Originally Posted by rabergnc View Post
    If you plan to carry only what you have noted above, then the Cadet will probably be just fine for you. It will not carry a great deal more, however. I had a cadet when they were first introduced and as much as I liked the design, for my purposes, it really could not hold what I wanted it to hold.
    Great feedback, rabergnc. Having pared my clothing bag to a minimum, a little more leeway may be needed in my second bag, for anything that might not fit into the Western Flyer. I am skeptical that the Cadet will meet my needs as a primary laptop bag. I called customer service about alternatives with a little more space. I was steered toward the Checkpoint Flyer, which no-one has mentioned so far. Unfortunately the limited case selection is less than ideal - the only one that fits my T410 with extended battery is the 17" MacBookPro. However that's about 3" wider than my laptop so I can see it clattering around inside.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

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    It won't clatter if you use two Small Pouches, (handy for the power and other miscellaneous wires) on either side. You could even upgrade to Medium Padded Pouches if the weight allowance would work.

    Put them in after security.

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    Thanks for the suggestion, backpack. I mulled it over, and talked over my options with Beau at customer service again this morning. When I expressed my priorities, he steered me back toward the Cadet. He measured the interior dimensions and suggested I try it with the MBP15 cache - a little wider than my T410, and a little shorter, but the flap should still cover it. I'll never know if it's big enough unless I try it, so I placed an order... only to find that the last 15/13 in Black/Iberian shipped yesterday :-( He who procrastinates. I'll post feedback when it arrives.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

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    My Cadet arrived on Wednesday while I was out of town on business. I got to see it last night having experienced first-hand the importance of a checkpoint-friendly laptop bag. At ATL security a TSA agent distracted me as I was repacking my bags, and my laptop fell off the conveyor belt onto the floor 3 ft below. The screen casing popped off but amazingly the laptop was fine.

    Today I used the Cadet for the first time. I ordered the Black/Steel 15/13 Cadet with the 15" MBP Cache. My Lenovo T410 with extended battery is slightly narrower and slightly taller than a 15" MBP, but it fits well enough inside the Cache. I may grab a couple of adhesive velcro dots to make sure that the Cache flap stays put, but I can absolutely use this for airport security.

    As for volume, my big question, it's big enough for my typical use. I can fit my laptop, a Kindle, 8x5" Leuchtturm 1917 notebook, a few papers, phone, and various chargers into the Cadet perfectly. A horizontal Freudian Slip would be too much along with the Cache, but Beau alerted me to that. It's the right complement to my Empire Builder, which I'll keep for those occasional trips when I really need the extra volume. But the B&R laptop backpack that allowed my laptop to slide off the conveyor belt - that's being placed on ebay this weekend.

    Thanks to all for your suggestions and feedback. There is no substitute for trying a TB bag out for fit. The Smart Alec would have been utterly massive. The Cadet will work for me 80%+ of the time and will be my standard bag going forwards.
    tCook likes this.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009


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