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  1. #1
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Northern Colorado, USA

    Brain Bag: It's almost... *too* big!

    As I posted last week, I was incredibly frustrated with my travel setup for work. On my way home, I literally placed a Brain Bag order from the airport in San Jose figuring instead of hauling either an eBags Weekender by itself (I bought it years ago in my pre-TB era. It's a decent bag for the money, but no real place to put a laptop that won't slide around in the bag, no real place to stash small gadgets, no water bottle pocket...), or an eBags Weekender with my Tom Bihn ID (one on the back and one over the shoulder for a 2-night trip? No thanks...) I'd one-bag it with the Brain Bag.

    I picked up a Brain Bag, Snake Charmer, and a couple other pouches and accessories to complement my existing Eagle Creek packing folder and packing cube. I love the bag - well thought out and a place for pretty much everything.

    The thing is, this bag is cavernous. I could easily pack my 6-year-old in the bag if I didn't want to pay for an extra seat.

    On my first overnighter...
    • Pack-It Folder with a second dress shirt and tie, pair of jeans, and t-shirt
    • 13" MB Air in a Cache
    • Snake Charmer
    • Eagle Creek packing "tube" with underwear, undershirt, socks
    • Clear organizer for 3-1-1 stuff (Where have you been all my life! This beats a Ziplock...)
    • Assorted other gadgets stashed in various pockets and/or TB organizer pouches (Mophie Helium, VZW JetPack, ear buds, etc)

    So as you guessed, everything sort of sank to the bottom of the bag because it's not nearly enough to fill this thing. On the return trip, I did put the MB Air in the pocket closest to my back then laid the Snake Charmer on top (read: toward the top of the bag) and cinched it down well enough that it stayed put. Trouble is, at security, this was less than ideal because I had to dig past the snake charmer to pull out the laptop.

    I pondered returning it and waiting for the bigger Synapse, but who knows when that will be and (although it's practically brand new) I've used the Brain Bag so it's not returnable.

    What I loved was having one bag with everything in it. My "work" stuff in one pocket and my clothes in the other so no opening my pack at my meeting and having my laundry spill out. (Awkward!)

    Any packing advice for going light with the BB? I have an Eagle Creek packing cube I could also bring into the mix.
    Active Duty: Synapse 25 (Black/Wasabi) & Western Flyer (Black/Wasabi) for me & Imago (Cardinal/Hemp/Steel) for my wife
    Reserves: Cadet 13/15 (Black/Wasabi), ID (Black/Steel/Wasabi), Ristretto for 11" MBAir (Black/Steel), Medium Cafe Bag (Olive/Wasabi)

  2. #2
    Volunteer Moderator
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Northern Virginia
    hi scott!

    sorry to hear about your frustrations!

    indeed, the brain bag is a big backpack! you have to pack keeping in mind what you want to carry, not what it will potentially hold . just a thought - when you're packing to go to the airport, could you place your macbook air in the cache and your 3d organizer cube in one compartment of the brain bag, and everything else in the other compartment of the brain bag? then you know you need to pull out everything in that one compartment (the cache with macbook air inside, and the 3d clear organizer cube) when you go through security?

    i'm also wondering if you could place the snake charmer underneath at the bottom of the brain bag, and have the cache with macbook air inside sit on top of it.

    will everything else you have organize nicely into the other main compartment of the brain bag if you take this approach?

    another thing to consider is whether you want to use a brain cell for your macbook air. this will essentially suspend the macbook air in the middle of your brain bag. in addition to keeping your macbook air more safe, it should also more easily provide access to the snake charmer you may place below the brain cell.

  3. #3
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    USA, Texas
    I have suffered the "everything falls to the bottom" ailment for some time. Along with that, I also suffer the "I gotta move all my stuff from one bag to another" disease because I too, have more than my fair share of backpacks from Tom Bihn (and other makers) to choose from. I found the solution at one of the places that I typically buy from and this is what they have. They have a velcro-based system with add-ons. Here are their pictures as I'm too lazy to take my own!

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    The loop panels come in two sizes - the larger one fits the Brain Bag and Smart Alec perfectly, while the smaller one is a perfect fit for the current Synapse. Both sides of these panels are covered with loops that the velcro-backed pouches can stick to. This system solves two of my minor peeves - prevents everything from sinking to the bottom of the bag, and in just seconds, I can lift out all the major contents from say, my Brain Bag and transfer it to another similar-sized backpack.

  4. #4
    Registered User dnarud13's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2013
    Vicenza, Italy
    Having a Brain Cell with my laptop in the back and then a Snake Charmer in the bottom of the front has always worked great for me. Makes it a pain to get to the SC but the small outside top pocket works great for the mouse and earbuds anyway. So I usually don't need to get to it until I get to my destination. If I'm packing clothes/shoes, then they go on the bottom and are capped by the SC. I've never had a problem with stuff sinking to the bottom since I keep it cinched up most the time.
    [2003] Brain Bag (w/Lg A45 Packing Cube, Snake Charmer & 2 Brain cells) ___________________________________________ "Be excellent to each other."
    - [2010] Aeronaut (w/Absolute, 1lg/2sm Packing Cubes, Travel Tray & 3D clear cube)
    - - [2013] Co-Pilot (w/S.O.S. strap, Cache, Clear Org wallet, 3D mesh cube )
    - - - [2015] Tristar (PCSB, Passport Pouch & 3D clear cube) ... got to get some more packing cubes.

  5. #5
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Northern Colorado, USA
    Thanks for the feedback. I don't see a Brain Cell for the 13" Air, but I did think about getting one for a 13" Retina figuring (a) that would definitely hold the Air, and (b) I may pull the trigger on a 13" rMBP in June anyway and I'd already have a Brain Cell for it.

    mav, I definitely like the idea of putting the stuff that requires removal in the same pocket. Why didn't I think of that? I had the clear organizer in one of the outside pockets for easy access, but your way I'd have everything in one place.

    Finally, I am definitely trying to move toward a more "modular" system like Seikoguy. I'm still getting the feel for my new job, but I have a home office and visit customers all the time. When I'm local (not overnighting it), I want to bring just my ID. When I'm overnighting, I want to bring just the Brain Bag. A lot of what I do involves leading groups through hands-on workshops so there's a lot of setting up and taking down my presentation gear so I never want to get somewhere and not have a cable or adapter because I left in "the other bag."

    Thanks, dnarud13 as well. I think I just need to tweak my "system" a bit and one trip just isn't enough of a trial run.

    I'm sure that on a trip of several nights, I'll appreciate the extra space in the Brain Bag for things like running shoes and workout clothes; I just don't bring those things on one-nighters or sometimes two-nighters.
    Active Duty: Synapse 25 (Black/Wasabi) & Western Flyer (Black/Wasabi) for me & Imago (Cardinal/Hemp/Steel) for my wife
    Reserves: Cadet 13/15 (Black/Wasabi), ID (Black/Steel/Wasabi), Ristretto for 11" MBAir (Black/Steel), Medium Cafe Bag (Olive/Wasabi)

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