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Thread: Smart Alec or S25?

  1. #1
    Registered User Tizi's Avatar
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    Smart Alec or S25?

    Both are close in size and with the price increase coming I want to get one of these before that happens. I currently have a S19 and Brain Bag. The S19 is my most used bag I own. I love the organization and how it fits me. I am 5'8". I would like the next bag to be slightly larger to accomodate a 2-3 day business/personal trip and would accompany my Pilot on thoes trips.

    I have seen others on the forum swear by the S25/Pilot combo. What about SA/Pilot combo? Not much on here about that. The one thing I am not used to and therefore don't like much is how the SA opens (the round zipper). I catch myself trying to open it like my S19.

    It would be S25 in black dyneema/wasabi vs. SA in black/black/wasabi

    Your help is greatly appreciated.
    Black/Steel TS, Black/Steel A45, Black Dyneema/Wasabi A30, Black/Black/Steel Brain Bag, Black/Steel Co-Pilot, Black/Steel Pilot, Black/Steel Synapse 19, Black Dyneema/Wasabi Synapse 19, Black/Steel Cadet 11, Black/Steel Imago, Black Dyneema/Wasabi MCB, Navy/Cayenne and Black/Solar SCB, Black/Wasabi and Navy/Iberian SE and many pouches in various sizes. Tom Bihnaholic.

  2. #2
    Registered User Tizi's Avatar
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    Another question: do many of you own both the S25 and S19?
    Black/Steel TS, Black/Steel A45, Black Dyneema/Wasabi A30, Black/Black/Steel Brain Bag, Black/Steel Co-Pilot, Black/Steel Pilot, Black/Steel Synapse 19, Black Dyneema/Wasabi Synapse 19, Black/Steel Cadet 11, Black/Steel Imago, Black Dyneema/Wasabi MCB, Navy/Cayenne and Black/Solar SCB, Black/Wasabi and Navy/Iberian SE and many pouches in various sizes. Tom Bihnaholic.

  3. #3
    Registered User Rocks's Avatar
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    Here's my $.02. The Synapse 19 was my first purchase. I love it. When the Synapse 25 was announced, it didn't really appeal to me, but then I decided to try it as my travel bag. I love that bag too. But there was always a voice saying "But what about the Smart Alec?" so I ordered it, and realized soon it wasn't right for me. I ordered a ballistic one. Gorgeous bag! But I was so used to the layout of the Synapses that I couldn't figure out where to put things. In my Synapse 25 it seems like every accessory can find a home in a pocket or on an O-ring. The Synapse 25 also opens wider than the Smart Alec.
    BUT:
    Something, that inner voice again (pipe down!) is saying "try the Smart Alec again, this time in Dyneema." So here's some questions that may help:
    Do you prefer the Tristar or the Aeronaut?
    Lots of structure? or less?
    I go back and forth, obviously.

  4. #4
    Registered User Tachiyaku's Avatar
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    I don't have a Smart Alec, but I regularly use my S25 for 2-3 days trips. The built in organization is really what makes it stand out, IMO. I agree with Rocks - if built in organization is important, then you should go with the S25.

    Sent from my Nexus 5 using Tapatalk

  5. #5
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    I have a Smart Alec, but not an S25, so I can't compare them directly. You say that you really like the organization of the S19: the Smart Alec is really a BYOO (Bring Your Own Organization) bag. Given the modular pockets, Snake Charmer, packing and 3D organizer cubes, organizer pouches, etc. you can organize it quite well, but it is up to you to do the organizing. The flip side is that it can be organized exactly the way you want it to, and you can even organize it differently depending on what you're doing.

  6. #6
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    Dear Tizi,

    The Smart Alec was my first Tom Bihn backpack, about 10 years ago. I have also used the Synapse 19, Synapse 25 and Brain Bag over the years.

    The Smart Alec design is different from the Synapse, as others have mentioned, in that the Synapse provides a way for you to organize with the several individual compartments at the front of the pack; whereas the Smart Alec provides one large main compartment and two side pockets, leaving you to define how you organize your gear in that large main compartment.

    You can use the Freudian Slip, Organizer Pouches, Packing Cubes, Snake Charmer, etc. to create that organization in the main compartment.

    I don't think one design is better than the other - they are both fantastic designs - this is true for all Tom Bihn designs! I think it comes down to how you prefer to organize and pack your gear. And I think this is why both the Synapse 25 and Smart Alec exist - so that you can pick what works for you.

    And you may find, as I have, that both work for you, that it comes down to how you prefer to pack for a particular purpose - or what you're in the mood for.

    With kind regards,

  7. #7
    Volunteer Moderator tpnl's Avatar
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    @Tizi

    Based on your requirement to have a bag slightly larger than the S19 to accommodate a 2-3 day business/personal trip and accompany your Pilot on those trips + assuming your Pilot would carry all your electronics and perhaps some emergency clothing, the bag you are looking for would be used mainly to pack clothes and shoes.

    Given that my assumptions above are in line with what you are thinking, I would suggest the Smart Alec would be a better choice for the following reasons:
    1) Larger Packing Cubes and more Cubes can fit in the Smart Alec providing excellent use of the bag's "cargo-like" volume
    2) The bungie cord outside and the optional modular pockets allow you to increase the volume to Tri-Star country if needed
    3) It can carry bulky items much easier
    4) Easier to get the packing cubes in and out given the top opening lid style

    See the links below (one specifically about someone taking a trip with an SA and Pilot):

    To Vegas and Back with a Pilot and a Smart Alec
    https://www.tombihn.com/blog/using-p...rt-alec-photos
    Organizing the Smart Alec

    Also note that the Smart Alec, IMHO is very sleek with minimal pockets. It would have many more uses outside of your primary use - to carry bulky items for example.

    However, if none of the above functional reasons are what you need or want, the S25 is still an excellent choice because:
    1) You are familiar with the similar S19 layout
    2) You prefer a bag with built in organization
    2) The backpack conforms to your back a bit more if not fully loaded

    Below are some links to packing the S25 though only Medium Packing Cube seem to be recommended (The PCBP will fit but needs to be squished):

    Packing Strategy: Synapse 25 backpack by TOM BIHN - YouTube
    Synapse 25 and Packing Cubes

    In summary, IMHO, the SA is designed as a backpack versatile at carrying bulky items or easily holding many packing cubes for travel. The S25 is more designed as an EDC with many pockets for gadgets and multiple personal small items, etc. that can be used as your main travel bag for short or minimalist travel.

    Hope this helps

    Cheers!
    Last edited by tpnl; 05-08-2014 at 11:40 PM.
    Zephyr/SA/BB/Co-Pilot (Black/Black/Steel), S25/WF/TS/A45/Pilot (Black/Iberian), DLBP (French Blue), CPF (Black/Indigo/Steel), Ego (Black/Black/Steel with Indigo Stripe), EB (Black/Steel/Steel), Vertical & Horizontal Brain Cells, Vertical and Horizontal FS, Camera I/O, PCBP/PCSB/TT (400d Nordic), SE (Black/Iberian), Lead's Pocket (Black), Tall YSS (Iberian)

  8. #8
    Registered User Ilkyway's Avatar
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    I would, like tpnl, recommend the SA. I have the S19, the S25 and the SA. I wont part with any of them.

    My opinion: you have all the organization-options in the pilot. So with the SA you get the best of both worlds. One to throug in what ever comes to mind, even a Mellon and one to have a place for everything and everything in its place. And the SA is build somewhat sturdier. So as a dedicated travel bag that is something reassuring in my mind.

    One more think: if it will be the SA do yourself a favor and add the upper modular pocked. I have read it here numerous times and totally agree that this pocked is so usefull. You might not need it in your travel-scenario having the pilot with you and all. But it makes the SA so much more versital and you might find yourself using it as a gym bag (with keys and lock or something up there) or what ever comes to mind.

    Ilkyway
    tpnl likes this.

  9. #9
    Registered User scribe's Avatar
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    I admit I'm sorely tempted by the SA (in black/aubergine, of course!) as a casual alternative to my Western Flyer - I already have the S19 as my workday EDC, and I don't feel the need to replicate that configuration in a travel bag. But if you are really happy with the Synapse-style layout, that might be the better option for you.
    Collections:
    black/aubergine + wasabi (WF, SA + UMP, CP, TT, TSSs, SE, Swift, QK, YSSs & KTPs)
    forest/cork/linen + steel/olive (Imago, Pilot, SCB, COW, QK, OPs)
    olive/plum + steel/UV/wasabi (S19, SE, MCB, TSSs, SSBs, YSSs, LSS, 3DOCs, OPs)
    black/steel + iberian (S25, DLBP, SE, SCB, FJN, TSSs, YSSs, 3DFOC)
    Hoping for: FJN for iPad Mini; more bags in Aubergine; the return of Portable Culture!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkyway View Post
    I would, like tpnl, recommend the SA. I have the S19, the S25 and the SA. I wont part with any of them.

    My opinion: you have all the organization-options in the pilot. So with the SA you get the best of both worlds. One to throug in what ever comes to mind, even a Mellon and one to have a place for everything and everything in its place. And the SA is build somewhat sturdier. So as a dedicated travel bag that is something reassuring in my mind.

    One more think: if it will be the SA do yourself a favor and add the upper modular pocked. I have read it here numerous times and totally agree that this pocked is so usefull. You might not need it in your travel-scenario having the pilot with you and all. But it makes the SA so much more versital and you might find yourself using it as a gym bag (with keys and lock or something up there) or what ever comes to mind.

    Ilkyway
    I ordered a SA not too long ago and it has quickly become my favorite bag (at the moment). It's built like a tank! I love my S19 in Olive/Steel, but I needed something a little bigger and I opted for the SA instead of the S25. I also bought the upper module pocket because I wanted a pocket that I could access easily and just throw essential bits and bobs in. I didn't necessarily need the extra space that the UMP provides, but it was more of a convenience thing for me and I couldn't be happier!

    My SA is now my hiking/grocery store/travel bag and my S19 has been converted from a work EDC bag to my laptop bag since I prefer carrying my 13" MBP on my back rather than it vertically bouncing off my hip.

    My only conundrum is that I also have a Nordic/Steel WF that I love DEARLY, but the SA is hogging the spotlight since it's such a versatile bag and fits great with my lifestyle. And my Aeronaut...my lovely, beautiful Aeronaut has only gotten used once...someday, Aeronaut, someday I will go on another adventure where I need you...

    Wow. Talk about first world TB problems...

  11. #11
    Registered User Ilkyway's Avatar
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    Mooszillas explanation what the upper Modular Pocket is all about is just what I would have liked to but in words. Convenience is all what this pocket is about.

  12. #12
    Registered User scribe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Moosezilla View Post
    My only conundrum is that I also have a Nordic/Steel WF that I love DEARLY, but the SA is hogging the spotlight since it's such a versatile bag and fits great with my lifestyle. And my Aeronaut...my lovely, beautiful Aeronaut has only gotten used once...someday, Aeronaut, someday I will go on another adventure where I need you...
    At least now I feel a bit less guilty that I'm two-timing my WF by ordering a SA. Well, I had to have a travel bag to coordinate with the aubergine/wasabi SE I have on backorder, and what could be better than a black/aubergine/wasabi SA?

    (I just got my aubergine/wasabi Swift, which totally sold me on this colour combo...)

    ETA: plus I love the name - it reminds me of Jensen Ackles' character Smart Alec in the TV show "Dark Angel"
    Last edited by scribe; 05-09-2014 at 08:27 AM.
    Collections:
    black/aubergine + wasabi (WF, SA + UMP, CP, TT, TSSs, SE, Swift, QK, YSSs & KTPs)
    forest/cork/linen + steel/olive (Imago, Pilot, SCB, COW, QK, OPs)
    olive/plum + steel/UV/wasabi (S19, SE, MCB, TSSs, SSBs, YSSs, LSS, 3DOCs, OPs)
    black/steel + iberian (S25, DLBP, SE, SCB, FJN, TSSs, YSSs, 3DFOC)
    Hoping for: FJN for iPad Mini; more bags in Aubergine; the return of Portable Culture!

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by scribe View Post
    At least now I feel a bit less guilty that I'm two-timing my WF by ordering a SA. Well, I had to have a travel bag to coordinate with the aubergine/wasabi SE I have on backorder, and what could be better than a black/aubergine/wasabi SA?

    (I just got my aubergine/wasabi Swift, which totally sold me on this colour combo...)
    I felt the same when I ordered my SA, but they are so different from each other that that's how I justified having two bags of the same capacity! I need to start traveling more so I can show both bags some love...

  14. #14
    Registered User Tizi's Avatar
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    Thanks for the responses. I am going for the SA in Black/black/steel! In the end, even though I love the organization of the S19 so the S25 would be the same except larger. I like the thought of having something different. The SA gives me other options I wouldn't have with the S25 and I like the idea of being able to modular pack it. I would use it for camping, hiking and short trips.
    Black/Steel TS, Black/Steel A45, Black Dyneema/Wasabi A30, Black/Black/Steel Brain Bag, Black/Steel Co-Pilot, Black/Steel Pilot, Black/Steel Synapse 19, Black Dyneema/Wasabi Synapse 19, Black/Steel Cadet 11, Black/Steel Imago, Black Dyneema/Wasabi MCB, Navy/Cayenne and Black/Solar SCB, Black/Wasabi and Navy/Iberian SE and many pouches in various sizes. Tom Bihnaholic.

  15. #15
    Registered User Ilkyway's Avatar
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    On a side note: I have the guadian light hanging in my Smart Alec. Because of its cavernous interior this helps finding everything and mine is wasabi on the inside. I think with steel this might be even more of a help.
    moriond likes this.


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