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Thread: Synapse 19 or Smart Alec for daily work bag?

  1. #1
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    Synapse 19 or Smart Alec for daily work bag?

    I've been using the Imago as my daily work bag - I love it but its too small if I want to carry more work papers, magazines, my 13 inch MacBook Pro, ipad, a sweater, small make up bag, etc. I prefer messenger bags but if I put all of that in a larger messenger bag it will be too heavy for me so I am looking to purchase a backpack. It has to be black (so sadly no cool Dyneema exterior for me) as I work in a fairly conservative and formal environment. I'm hesitating between the Synapse 19 and the Smart Alec. Will the fabric of the Synapse collect lint? Will the Smart Alec be too big for me for daily use (I am a slim 5'4" woman)? By the way, I love the look of the Brain Bag but I'm assuming this will be too large as a daily work bag? Your advice would be much appreciated. The problem is that all the bags look so great I have trouble choosing! Thanks for your help
    Last edited by londonmlle; 05-30-2013 at 07:03 AM.

  2. #2
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    How much work paper do you carry?

    You can use the dimension of a Rhodia pad or a ream of printer paper for reference as both are available worldwide and thus more people can chime in.


    How much magazines and is this the floppy type for computer or other hobbies or the humongous Vogue like bi-annual volumes?

  3. #3
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    Hi londonmlle! I own both the Synapse 19 (old version, not the updated one) and the Smart Alec. I'm also 5'4". Most of the time, I use the Smart Alec as my daily everything bag. I'm often out of the house until late at night, so in the morning, I'm carrying at least two bulky meals to work, sometimes a full change of clothes, giant water bottle, books, organizer, and various file folders, miscellaneous papers, chargers, pads and knick knacks (in my Vertical Freudian Slip, which I think is essential for my SA). If I go grocery shopping during the day or after work, I try to squeeze it all into the Smart Alec before I get on the subway to go home. Occasionally, I also have my 13" Macbook Pro in a Vertical Cache. Sometimes a puppet too. So ... I LIVE out of my Smart Alec.

    However, I WISH I could live out of my Synapse 19. It's a really nice size, especially at our height, definitely less bulky than the SA. It holds a lot! The pockets are wonderful and ingenious in their organization, especially the water bottle one. Check out other threads in this forum to see how much stuff people can pack into it. A lot of folks in this forum and beyond use it as an everyday work bag. Interestingly, I don't wish for a Vertical Freudian Slip for the Synapse 19. The length of it is very amenable to magazines and books and folders, whereas in the SA, when I didn't have the Freudian Slip, I found that stuff would get crushed to the bottom a bit. I've heard that Cordura attracts pet hair, but I don't have pets, so it's not an issue for me. I have not found that Cordura collects a lot of dust balls or lint. Sometimes a little dirt, but not anything that can't be brushed or wiped off.

    With your list, it sounds like the Synapse 19 could work for you. The 13-inch MacBook Pro would fit, no problem, unless you use a big bulky protective case for it. It would definitely work in a Cache (and you could get a Cache with Rails with the new version!). The iPad would probably fit into the pocket in the main compartment. Someone else should verify this -- I don't have an iPad. Make-up bag could fit into one of the side pockets or the bottom pocket. How many work papers (and how do you carry them) and how bulky is the sweater?

    My boyfriend has a Brain Bag. He only uses it to travel. The BB is huge. It can carry a LOT of stuff. I Will Not Go There. I envision myself as a Smart Alec pack mule, with all the stuff I carry sometimes, but I draw the line at the Brain Bag. Unless you have to carry a lot of big electronic equipment every day, I think it would be overkill.
    Darcy and johnbom like this.

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    I had the same question, so, thanks, Gingko!

    For someone 5'4" like us, can the Synapse 19 be set up the way you set up a backpacking backpack, using the "waist" belt as a hip belt? Or are the straps too short?

    What I mean is, if:

    * you buckle the belt around your hips
    * then loosen the straps so the bag is hanging from your hips, putting all the weight on your hips rather than your shoulders and providing airflow between your back and the bag
    * this makes the straps "want" to move apart, requiring the use of the sternum strap...

    With the straps lengthened that much, is the *padded* part of the strap still on your shoulders?

    Also, does the curved stitching on the back go all the way through the foam, causing it to bend there and preventing the foam from transferring the weight to your hips?

    These are the only things making me hesitate on the Synapse 19.

  5. #5
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    I disagree with the Macbook in a Cache comment. I had a Synapse 19 and in a Cache the MBP definately did NOT fit, unless you're fine with a VERY tight fit and wondering if the zipper's gunna bust. I much more prefer the Smart Alec I now have. Yes, the S19's organization is fantastic, but I find the SA much easier to work with. And at 5'5"+, it feels much better on. Is is deeper though, so I ended up getting a vertical file folder as internal organization. Works quite well!

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by earth5 View Post
    I disagree with the Macbook in a Cache comment. I had a Synapse 19 and in a Cache the MBP definately did NOT fit, unless you're fine with a VERY tight fit and wondering if the zipper's gunna bust. I much more prefer the Smart Alec I now have. Yes, the S19's organization is fantastic, but I find the SA much easier to work with. And at 5'5"+, it feels much better on. Is is deeper though, so I ended up getting a vertical file folder as internal organization. Works quite well!
    I'll have to disagree with your disagreement. Or perhaps we have a misunderstanding? I just double-checked the fit of my 13" Macbook Pro in my Synapse 19, with Cache, and it fits fine. I totally would agree about a 15" Macbook not fitting. In fact, I did a test photo for a friend, with a redweld folder approximating the size of a 15" Macbook, and it strained the Synapse 19 painfully.

    What I have found is that on the weekends, I'm a Synapse 19 user. Easy breezy transport system to my rehearsals and other commitments, with water, snacks, magazine, planner. On the weekdays, I'm an SA user. I need that depth (and the flat bottom) for my entire day's activities. I used a redweld folder for awhile, to keep my papers/magazines from getting crushed. It's definitely an inexpensive way to keep stuff together!

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    @hiker: I *think* I understand your question. I gave your set-up a try myself, but I have a long torso (and relatively short legs) so I hesitate to make definitive statements about whether your scenario would work for you. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to order a Synapse 19 from TB to try it yourself at home. If it doesn't work, you can return it. I haven't had the need to return anything yet, but judging from folks' experiences here in the forum, it seems like a straightforward, easy process.

  8. #8
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    I have a MacBook Air 13" and it will fit in the Synapse 19 using a cache. The MB Pro 13 is similar in size, so should fit. Once you start putting the other things you listed in, the bag will likely get too full to comfortable zip closed without stretching the zippers some. The Smart Alec is a better fit for all you wish to carry and it will allow space for a few other odds and ends. I have and use both bags regularly. For me, the SA feels better on my back - I am 5-8 or 5-9 depending on whether I feel like exaggerating!!>). An added benefit of the SA is that the bottom is padded offering a bit more protection for the laptop when you set the bag down. The brain bag would be way to big for your listed amount of stuff, but you could synch things tightly depending on your needs. It is a wide bag and might feel strange on your back. On the other hand, the BB would offer the greatest flexibility for all situations. Decisions...decisions....decisions...

  9. #9
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    I agree with both @Gingko and @rabergnc: I have an older Synapse 19, and I can carry both a 13" MacBook Pro in its cache and the 13" MacBook Air in its cache inside this bag + papers, without stressing any part of the bag. (Had to do this for a while when I was transitioning some data from one machine to the other.). And for the record, I'm also just under 5'4" tall. I think you could easily fit everything you mentioned in this bag, which is my EDC. And I also have a Smart Alec, but the Synapse holds everything.

    This is a small daypack, so it doesn't really extend far enough down your torso for the weight to rest on your hips. I might use the chest strap on occasion when traveling with a fully loaded bag, but I usually don't need to. The weight is distributed through the shoulder straps, and it's a very comfortable carry with the padded back. This bag is actually ideally sized for the 13" MacBook Pros or Airs in a cache. The laptop sits flush against the back pad, so there's no "pull" away from area supported by the shoulder straps. I like this bag a lot.

    moriond


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