Organizing the Smart Alec
I've owned a Ristretto iPad bag for almost four years now, and I've been very happy with it. It's pretty much a constant companion, and goes with me just about everywhere. Given how much I like the Ristretto, it was pretty natural to look at Tom Bihn for a replacement for my current laptop backpack (an old HP branded backpack that I got with a laptop about 11 years ago). One of the things I don't like about my current pack is the way that it's divided into two separate compartments (one of which is half filled with a padded laptop slot). This makes it hard to use for anything other than a dedicated laptop bag, and limits what I can carry in addition to the laptop. These issues have really gotten me interested in the "one big compartment" nature of the Smart Alec.
From what I've read, that one big compartment means the Smart Alec is kind of a BYOO ("Bring Your Own Organization") bag. It seems like getting the right pockets, pouches, cubes, etc. to go with it will play a substantial role in determining how useful it will be for me.
The pack would basically serve three purposes:
Primarily, it would take over as my daily laptop bag. In this role it needs to carry the Macbook, along with it's power brick, cables, and other accoutrements, and various EDC gear. I'd also drop the Ristretto in there (carrying the iPad and it's accoutrements) and perhaps water, lunch, and maybe a jacket or umbrella.
One of the reasons I'm considering replacing my current backpack is that I'd like to be able to use it for more than just an EDC laptop bag. In particular, I'd like to use the Smart Alec as a "one bag" solution for overnight or weekend trips. So, in addition to the laptop and related gear, I'd like to be able to carry a change of clothes and some toiletries.
Finally, I'm planning on using it for some day hiking. For this, the laptop would be left at home, but I need to accommodate a jacket, rain gear, food, water, and other essentials.
I'm planning to get the upper and lower modular pockets, a Brain Cell for my Retina Macbook Pro, and a Snake Charmer for various cords and power bricks. However, I'm having some trouble deciding which pouches and cubes would be useful to keep things organized. I'd appreciate any feedback from folks about a good "starter set" for the uses I mentioned above.