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Thread: New to TB...Smart Alec or Brain Bag??

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    New to TB...Smart Alec or Brain Bag??

    I have recently found Tom Bihn from edcforums.com. Not sure if I am posting this in the correct location. Mods please move if needed. I have spent the last week or so reading through reviews and different set ups. I am coming from a NF Surge backpack that fit my needs from organization and capacity, unfortunately not build quality (started coming apart after 2 weeks of usage). I use it mainly for work but would like to convert it for travels with the family and EDC/diaper bag.

    To get an idea of what I will be carrying for work;
    - Laptop (HP Elitebook 8460P 13.25" x 9.25" x 1")
    - Zebra portable printer (5" x 8.5" x 3.5")
    - Cat 5 cable (25'), USB cables, charging cables, and other random cables
    - External portable hard drive
    - Pens, Sharpie, Flashlight, Leatherman
    - Extra batteries for flashlight
    - Extra external battery charger for iPhone (same size of iPhone 5)
    - Zip Ties, Screwdriver, Wire cutters, and some other random smaller tool
    - Water bottle (Thermos 3" x 10.25" usually stays in car in between appointments but would like to transport it in bag to and from car from home)
    - Snacks (Cliff Bar, Candy, Emergen-C)
    - Occasionally lunch
    - Occasionally a small book
    - FAK

    and to get an idea of what I will be carrying for edc/diaper bag (3 kids 7months, 2yr, 5yr);
    - Pens, Sharpie, Flashlight, Leatherman
    - Extra external battery charger for iPhone (same size of iPhone 5)
    - Extra batteries for flash light
    - FAK
    - Occasionally a small book
    - Snacks (Cliff Bar, Candy, Emergen-C)
    - Diapers and Wipes (was planning on using a packing cube or the packing cube shoulder bag for easier inserting and removal)
    - Occasionally a camera (Sony NEX-5)
    - Water bottle (same as above)
    - One or two capri sun drinks for kids
    - iPad mini and occasionally iPad as well
    - Occasionally a light North Face jacket

    I was thinking either the Smart Alec with the Upper Modular for most of my EDC items and the Lower Module can be added as needed unless you guys/ladies think it will fit without it or should I just go big and go for the Brain Bag? BTW when the Brain Bag is completely compressed how big is it and how about if only one main compartment is used?

  2. #2
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    I carried a Smart Alec as my daily work pack for a while now and used the Brain Bag for travel. I have a similar loadout to you and it all fit in the Smart Alex but tightly. I have recently moved to the Brain Bag as my daily bag. Cinched tight, it it is about the same footprint as the Smart Alec but taller. And I don't have to take everything out to find something. It is loosely packed with everything I carried that filled the Smart Alec.
    Joi Edwards

    black/steel Aeronaut, black/steel Smart Alec, navy Brain Bag, steel Snake Charmer, Absolute Strap, Vertical Freudian Slip, Brain Cell, Cache, Nook Pouch, wasabi Travel Packing Sacks, steel medium Yarn Stuff Sack, Aeronaut large and end Packing Cubes, Tri-Star large Packing Cube, ultraviolet Travel Tray, scads of different pouches of all sizes

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    Thanks for the reply. Any pics by any chance of your load out or how do you have it set up? How do you store your EDC items as the BB doesn't seem to have as much organizational pockets like the SA with the upper Modular? Also did you have the upper or lower modular when you were using the SA? Thanks again.

  4. #4
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrisc983 View Post
    I have recently found Tom Bihn from edcforums.com. Not sure if I am posting this in the correct location. Mods please move if needed.
    Welcome, chrisc983. I think you might get more responses to your question/thread if we moved it to the Questions about bags or accessories sub-forum -- I'll go ahead and do that now.
    Current Carry: Skookum Dog Citizen Canine prototype, Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

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    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy View Post
    Welcome, chrisc983. I think you might get more responses to your question/thread if we moved it to the Questions about bags or accessories sub-forum -- I'll go ahead and do that now.
    Thank you Darcy! Just another reason to go with a Tom Bihn, customer service.

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    I have the lower. My Smart Alec is a pre-update so it only takes the lower. My daily load is without the lower. In Both bags I use a collection of pouches, TB and others so I can move things easily as needed. I will get some pictures taken. It has been a while.
    This is an old picture of the setup:


    I will get a newer pic and list ASAP.
    Joi Edwards

    black/steel Aeronaut, black/steel Smart Alec, navy Brain Bag, steel Snake Charmer, Absolute Strap, Vertical Freudian Slip, Brain Cell, Cache, Nook Pouch, wasabi Travel Packing Sacks, steel medium Yarn Stuff Sack, Aeronaut large and end Packing Cubes, Tri-Star large Packing Cube, ultraviolet Travel Tray, scads of different pouches of all sizes

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    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Beau's Avatar
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    Welcome!

    I think I'd probably recommend the Smart Alec over the Brain Bag, chrisc983, mostly because of the option to use the Modular Pockets with the Smart Alec. The Upper and Lower Modular Pockets not only give the Smart Alec some added volume, but also better organization of your day-to-day paraphernalia.

    Some other things you might want to consider for organizing your gear would be the Snake Charmer (for cables) and, for the smaller stuff you carry,a couple 3D Mesh Organizer Cubes connected via some Key Straps to the o-rings in the main compartment. When the Snake Charmer isn't being used for cables, it can easily transition to diaper duty.

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    Thanks Beau. By any chance will the one side pocket fit the water bottle that I mentioned above and be able to close? If so does it have any additional room still after to throw in a little bit of snacks into? Also what size vertical Brain Cell would you recommend I didn't see my model listed? And on a side note, I know the Smart Alec was recently updated but is their anything in the works to add compression straps to it?

    joiedwards can't wait to see those updated pics.

    Thanks again.
    Last edited by chrisc983; 05-30-2013 at 08:29 PM.

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    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Beau's Avatar
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    Your water bottle should definitely fit in the side pocket and have a little extra space, no problem. Judging by the dimensions of your laptop, I'd recommend going with a size 4 Vertical Brain Cell.

    However, I'm not aware of any plans to add compression straps to the Smart Alec, so you probably shouldn't hold out for that feature.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Beau View Post
    Your water bottle should definitely fit in the side pocket and have a little extra space, no problem. Judging by the dimensions of your laptop, I'd recommend going with a size 4 Vertical Brain Cell.

    However, I'm not aware of any plans to add compression straps to the Smart Alec, so you probably shouldn't hold out for that feature.
    Thanks. Should of also asked what size cache would I need if I went that way instead of the brain cell?
    Also do you think the synapse 25 would fit all of my stuff or would it be too tight or a fit? So many options. Wish you had a local store for me to take a look at them in person. Thanks again.
    Last edited by chrisc983; 06-03-2013 at 07:34 PM.

  11. #11
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Beau's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chrisc983 View Post
    Thanks. Should of also asked what size cache would I need if I went that way instead of the brain cell?
    Also do you think the synapse 25 would fit all of my stuff or would it be too tight or a fit? So many options. Wish you had a local store for me to take a look at them in person. Thanks again.
    I'd recommend a size 4Z Cache if you decide to go in that direction. The Synapse 25 could probably hold all of your day-to-day gear, though, in case you didn't already know, you wouldn't be able to use a Brain Cell with this bag.

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    Thanks again Beau. After reading more reviews and looking at pictures I sort of like the design of the Synapse over the Smar Alec. Especially how it looks like it can sort of compress when not completely full even without compression straps. It also looks like you are starting to get them in stock. Now I just have to decide on Black/steel or Black/Liberian. Not sure if you would know or if someone else on the forums would know if the side pocket with the three small pockets would fit a maxpedition pocket organizer if the pockets were filled up as well. If so what would the biggest pocket organizer it would fit?

    Since the Synapse 25 was out of stock for awhile, with the new batch becoming available were their any changes by any chance? Maybe some additional O rings in the main compartment?

    Also does the smart alec or synapse have equal back and shoulder padding or does one have more than the other? Also does one carry better with a heavier load since they are similar in compacity? Thanks again.
    Last edited by chrisc983; 06-06-2013 at 07:12 AM.

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    With a lot of help from the reviews and pictures from this forum and EDCforums.com I have made up my mind of which bag I am going to go with. The Synapse 25! Now the next hard choice, what color and material combination to go with. I was originally going to go with the black/iberian but with the steel dyneema/steel back in stock as well it's a harder decision for me. I like the simple look of the cordura black but it attracts pet hair, and I work in SF by going to client's houses for computer repair and almost everyone has a pet their. Which is where the advantage of the dyneema material comes in. But the solid black I think would be more professional looking when I have to visit businesses. If only dyneema would hold the dye and a solid black dyneema came out that, would be perfect. Any comments on which material and color combo would be appreciated. Thanks.

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    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    I think there's a simple answer: get the Black Cordura Synapse and while you are waiting for it to arrive, get a lint roller. Then you can tidy your bag up after any hairy situations. Black/Iberian is a killer combo and I think you'll be really pleased.

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    Yes the black/iberian looks great but, does the cordura really attract a lot of lint and pet hair? I was reading that a layer of scotch guard or anti static spray might help. But will that effect the water repellent coating that comes on it from TB?

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