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Thread: Daypack: Smart Alec, Synapse, or wait for (larger) Son of Synapse??

  1. #1
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    Daypack: Smart Alec, Synapse, or wait for (larger) Son of Synapse??

    Hey, All! Bag fever has struck again.

    I have a Brain Bag for overnights, work, and generally heavy needs (like camping), but she's too big for general running about. I am looking for a daypack for traveling and recreational purposes. While it has to be a good airline companion that will stow under the seat, the primary role will be recreational: sightseeing, day trips, amusement parks, visits to a friends house, that kind of thing. Perhaps a hike or two.

    As for carrying needs laptops not not apply, but room for my iPad is important. Contents will vary based on the day's adventures: bottle(s) of water, camera, light jacket, a towel/bathing suit, kids electronics, snacks, a bottle of scotch (or wine, or both), a few cigars, a hat... any of these sorts of things could be possible!

    Here's my dilemma: I keep seeing the Synapse as (nearly) the ideal bag in design for almost everything outlined above... but I am not quite sure if it's a shade too small. I'm really intrigued by the new modularity/flexibility of the Smart Alec, but I wonder if it's a might too bulky for a daypack (I'm trying to avoid the bulk that something like the Brain Bag brings). And then the Son of Synapse is due soon, just to complicate matters.

    Any thoughts from those with the current Smart Alec and/or Synapse would be greatly appreciated! Does anyone have comparison pictures (BB vs SA vs Synapse, or some combination) by any chance?

    Thanks, all!

    --Bob
    ----------------
    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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    Perhaps I'm the contrarian around here, but while I see lots of people salivating over a 25 litre version Synapse, I'd prefer a ~16-18 litre version of the Smart Alec as a daypack, especially when no laptop is required. I almost purchased a SA in January, but had a hard time visualizing how large it was until someone told me it has the same capacity as the Western Flyer I acquired in December. That's simply too big for my EDC needs. My old REI Flash 18 was good volume-wise, but its narrow opening and lack of organizational pockets were flaws in my mind.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

  3. #3
    Registered User bltkmt's Avatar
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    I have both a current version Synapse and a new Smart Alec - both in Dyneema. In hindsight, I would have waited for the larger Synapse instead of the Smart Alec. The layout of the Synapse works better for me, and I find the top-loading zipper on the Smart Alec to be frustrating to open/close (and the opening is odd to me). I will likely get a larger Synapse in Dyneema and sell the Smart Alec.
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    I too am an owner of a current Synapse and Smart Alec. I didn't know about the upcoming larger Synapse until after I acquired my Smart Alec, but so far the SA has served me well. My needs have been a little particular though (puppet transport, tins of food that need to sit flat on the bottom of the bag to minimize spillage, full change of clothes/shoes, food co-op grocery runs, shoving my purse on top). It's a lotta backpack. It looks big from the outside and it will look deep and cavernous if it's only marginally filled.

    Based on your needs and list of possible items, it sounds like the current Synapse would work for you. If you're having a scotch/wine day, you might not be able to carry many more larger items, but other than that, the smaller items sound like they'd fit into a Synapse perfectly fine. Organizer pouches might help keep things even more organized, but it doesn't sound like you'd need more physical space within the bag for your stuff. It's a very tidy manageable-sized bag. It's like my vacation away from the SA, when I'm having a lighter day like today. Tomorrow will probably be an SA day.

    Unfortunately, I'm swamped for the next few days and can't take a comparison pic, but maybe I can do it later in the week?

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    Also, how tall are you? Some tall folks have found that the Synapse looks tiny on them. I'm 5'4" so that's not a problem for me at all.

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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    The one word in your packing list that gave me pause: towel. Towels are so ginormous these days that I could see one totally filling the interior of a Synapse. If you use a normal towel or a PackTowl, I think you'd be fine.

    A bottle o'hooch fits splendidly in the water bottle pocket.

  7. #7
    Registered User bunchgrass's Avatar
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    Mr and Mrs bunchgrass with Conifer Synapse and SA with upper pocket in Nordic.

    Name:  synapse smart alec.JPG
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  8. #8
    Registered User nukediver's Avatar
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    I've got both the Synapse and Smart Alec, and I carry quite a bit each day. I've only used my Smart Alec a handful of times. The Synapse just seems to swallow anything I stuff in it. Plus? The organization of the Synapse cannot be beat.

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    Bob, it's hard to guess someone else's preferences, but you have always seemed to prefer larger sized bags, and the organization structure of the Brain Bag. This is going out on a limb, but my guess is that for you, waiting for the redesigned larger Synapse might be the best option. (Said by a 5'4" person who has the Synapse, Smart Alec, and Cadet, and who found bags like the Empire Builder too big for her.)

    moriond

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    Quote Originally Posted by nukediver View Post
    I've got both the Synapse and Smart Alec, and I carry quite a bit each day. I've only used my Smart Alec a handful of times. The Synapse just seems to swallow anything I stuff in it. Plus? The organization of the Synapse cannot be beat.
    Totally agree.

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    Thank you all for the great advice! And bunchgrass, thank you for the comparison pics!

    For the record, I am 6' tall. I'm thinking the synapse may be the ideal choice based on the feedback. I used to carry a messenger when the brain bag was too much (I had an ID for a long time for this purpose), but I really like a backpack for the ease of carry. The synapse looks like it might hit that sweet spot for organization and flexibility without being too bulky.

    Here's another question: the dyneema looks really sharp, but how does it hold up vs. the cordura? I tend to rough on my bags!

    Thanks again, everyone!
    ----------------
    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.

  12. #12
    Registered User Rocks's Avatar
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    I wasn't going to post in this thread until I heard the magic words "Scotch" and "wine." Please refer to this thread, in which I have a picture of my Synapse carrying an orchid, a book, and a bottle of scotch.
    Most out of the ordinary item you have carried in your TOM BIHN Bag?
    I also may have once packed two bottles of cava in my Synapse, but since there are no pics, it didn't happen.

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    I'm 6' 2" or so; my Smart Alec is my main EDC. I find it just right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicTiki View Post
    Here's another question: the dyneema looks really sharp, but how does it hold up vs. the cordura? I tend to rough on my bags!
    Dyneema has a sheer feel to it, so a lot of things that might grab on to cordura will slide right off dyneema. I own two 200d nylon/210d dyneema backpacks made by Ultralight Adventure Equipment and they've held up superbly well in on-trail shimmying around boulders and downed trees, and in off-trail bushwhacking. 400d nylon/dyneema should be even tougher.
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  15. #15
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    MagicTiki,

    I literally just made the same decision you are about to make. I chose the SA because it has LESS organization - not to mention it's bigger and fits me (6'-1") really well. I carried the ID for about 3 years, and while it's a great bag, I too wanted a backpack for ease of carry. The one thing that the ID (and Tom Bihn in general) has taught me is that organization within a bag (i.e. specially sized pockets for certain items) is highly overrated and can limit your options. The ID was well designed, but I found myself using the organizer pouches more frequently than the organizer panel in the front of the bag. Some of my accessories fit well in the panel, while others didn't because of size.

    The SA has larger pockets and I can just stuff my pouches in and not worry so much about things being placed perfectly. I didn't think the Synapse would be large enough for my needs anyway, but I considered holding off until the larger version is released. Then I realized that I need LESS organization because of TB's modular bag system. This makes the SA a great choice for me because it's organized, but flexible. I cannot see the Synapse being as flexible to go from EDC to weekend as easily. Plus it looks small on taller people.

    I promise I will be doing an SA video review at some point. Finding the time has been tough unfortunately. There are plenty of photos out there, but no good videos of the new design. I think the changes deserve some air time and one day soon I will find it.

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