Hey everybody. First time on the forums. A brief about me: I'm Chris, editor of a travel brand, Off Track Planet, am fortunate enough to do a lot of traveling as part of my work. Additionally, I frequently fly back and forth between Greece as I am in the process of salvaging a small hotel on Santorini (it's not as glamorous as it sounds, but I'm far from complaining). Part of my editorial duties is to source quality gear for review. I don't know how it's slipped under my radar for so long, but I finally came across the Smart Alec and have since become completely consumed by all things Tom Bihn. Wow, what a brand! I'm anxiously awaiting my Smart Alec's arrival, and have pretty much run the entire internet dry of Smart Alec content. This leaves me wanting more, and is pretty much why I am writing to all of you. Hello, again.
My question to all of you (Smart Alec owners or past users or anybody friendly enough): what would you say is the Smart Alec's strongest/best competition? Furthermore, has owning it led you to learn/want anything new that you hadn't known upon purchase?
A bit about my bag requirements: First and foremost, I'm a backpack guy. My bag needs two straps, and needs to sit on my back. I need organization (exterior/interior), but am not willing to sacrifice space for extra pockets. Despite my neat tendencies, I am a fan of big open spaces in my bags, which is why I have went with the SA as opposed to the Synapse. I will be using this bag as an everyday bag. I will cycle with it, sleep outside of train stations on it and travel for extended periods of time with it. I also need it to be flexible in terms of carrying capacity, and am thinking that the bungee and 3 front straps will allow me to carry all sorts of stuffs (small tent/sleeping bag, shoes, etc.) on the exterior of the bag. Asking a bag to be small enough to not stick out (too badly) during the daily commute but big enough to pack up for a month internationally is a lot, I know. But we're all here for the best, and I'm hoping that the SA can deliver. I am a fairly light packer, and continue to minimize my load with each trip. 25L will be the least for me, but sometimes proper organization of a small-medium bag can trump a bigger bag any day
My bag history: I started with a 60L Osprey (the big ones that people recommend when you first start "backpacking") but hated having to pair that with my North Face Recon. The dual-bag approach is just not for me; I'm less is more all the way. Thankfully, I cut that down to a 44L (when expanded) Mission Workshop Rambler. I LOVED the Rambler for years, but am sad to say that this SF company is quickly declining in terms of quality control (their bags are not as carefully crafted as they once were, and feature several design cues which just scream "cost-cutting" albeit having raised prices). Despite my once-deep love affair with the Rambler, its company's new direction and lack of interior AND exterior organization have led me to flee the brand in favor of Tom Bihn (but WOW, that was one sexy bag that could unexpectedly swallow loads). I also had a 5.11 RUSH 12 in the mix as my sort of Bug-Out-Bag, but after ten days in Colombia with the thing it left me wanting more. Nothing real bad to say about the 5.11, other than it isn't meant for extended trips, and thus wasn't for me.
I suppose that is all. I'm just hoping to hear more stuff about Tom Bihn, the Smart Alec, or anything else relevant from any of you. I'm super super excited about receiving my SA and these forums. Brand loyalty is huge for me and I love how TB has created such a great group of people in these forums. Thanks for reading.