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.
Last edited by Blackeagle; 03-29-2014 at 12:51 PM.
@Blackeagle Welcome to the forums. You might take a look at the recent Smart Alec Competitors? General Thoughts? thread. In the last post, I gave some links to some threads and posts that showed Smart Alecs in use with pouches and packing cubes. That might get you started, and hopefully you'll get more specific recommendations.
Good cube sizes for the SA include the Tri-Star medium or small cube, the Aeronaut end pocket cube, the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, and the Western Flyer small cube. I think the TS medium would work best as an overnight clothes-packing cube, but you may want a small cube too for t-shirts, socks, undergarments, and the like.
For toiletries, you could use a 3D Organizer cube, which comes in solid fabric, mesh, and clear. The clear will work as a 311 bag if you fly, so that may be a good option. Otherwise, size 1 or 2 stuff sacks work well for toiletries, depending on how much you pack. Stuff sacks could also work well for the third application, as follows:
Size 1: can hold 4 Clif Bars; can hold first aid materials; can hold a change of socks;
Size 2: can hold 4 bars, some electrolyte gel, an apple, and a squeeze tube of almond or peanut butter;
Size 3: can hold a lightweight rain jacket (maybe not if you're XL +?); can hold a compressible insulated jacket; can hold a T-shirt and socks;
Size 4: can take any of the above.
You can also pack these things into the modular pockets, as long as there's enough in the main compartment of the bag to keep the load stable (but you likely know more about packing for a hike than I do...).
The side pockets on the SA can each take a water bottle.
Have you seen the SA packing video? Those can give you good ideas of what other pouches might appeal to you:
And here's one for the Synapse 25:
Finally, here's a thread Darcy started last summer about hiking with her S19. The SA can definitely hold more, but the pictures are useful for seeing how much stuff can fit in various pouches and sacks:
Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
@Badger great link to the video on packing the Smart Alec for a hike, but the blog post for that video also gives the list of pouches and accessories shown in the video, as well as a link to the video itself. I put a link to Darcy's pictures of the Western Flyer small packing cubes in the Smart Alec in the links to my referenced post, but the Stuff Sack info and other links are all golden.
Originally Posted by Badger
Thanks guys. Just placed an order for a Smart Alec and a big pile of stuff sacks, cubes, and pouches.
May I use this threat for a related question:
Darcy mentioned the Westernflyer pacing cube large for the SA. That would mean, that the PCBP should work just as well? Has anybody tried that out?
The PCSB should work just fine in the SA! Check out this thread!
Originally Posted by Ilkyway
Thank you Moosezilla, but if I did not overred something there it is the PCSB used and I asked for the Packing Cube Back Pack. I think it should work due to Darcys photos on the SA with PC from the Westernflyer. But since I do not own a Westernflyer I'd like to be sure, so not to end up with a not compatible bag.
My bad! Sorry about that...I should learn how to read Engrish! hehe. I don't own a PCBP for my WF, but by just eyeballing the bags, I think it *should* work! Viel Glück!
Originally Posted by Ilkyway
LOL Danke, mir fallen diese ganzen Abkürzungen auch schwer. Als ich deine Antwort gelesen habe, dachte ich erst, ich hätte mich trotz langem überlegen doch wieder in der Abkürzung vertan.
Haha! Es tut mir leid! Es ist früh und ich muss meinen Kaffee trinken! Ich bin dumm! :P
@Ilkyway The answer is yes, the Packing Cube Backpack for the Tri-Star/Wester Flyer will fit into your Smart Alec, but it's a bit large, and you'll have to carry it against the back (taller part) of the Smart Alec. If the PCBP is packed full with inflexible items (like a ractangular metal block the maximum size of the bag, rather than clothes, etc.), and if you have the rest of the Smart Alec fully packed, you might have difficulty closing the bag. It's easier to use a Western Flyer Large Packing Cube, which is shorter, not as wide, and not as thick, if you want to pack this completely full (to the corners), and it may also be easier to use this cube in the Synapse 25 because of its slighltly narrower size. I know that wasn't the conclusion that @monkeylady arrived at in her thread on Tetris packing the Synapse 25, but her result assumes that you don't have anything in the cubes that completely fills the corners in a way that could stress the top corners of your (S25) bag, so you can "scrunch" that cube as needed. Here are some dimensions of accessories you might consider, including the PCBP that you asked about. Adding the specs for the WF Large Packing Cube and the Vertical Freudian slip
Originally Posted by Ilkyway
The Smart Alec's dimensions from the product page are:
18.5" x 11.75" x 7.75" / 470 x 300 x 200 mm
The Western Flyer/Tri-Star PCBP dimensions are: 18" x 12.25" x 3.5" / 460 x 310 x 90 mm
Volume (as a backpack): 18 liters (1100 cubic inches)
The Western Flyer Large Packing Cube (TB0957) dimensions are: 17.6" x 11.7" x 3" / 448 x 298 x 75 mm 4 oz / 115gr
Finally, dimensions of the Vertical Freudian Slip: 17" x 12" x .5" / 430 x 300 x 13 mm
Weight: 10 oz / 280 grams
Here are some quick pictures of the Western Flyer/Tri-StarPacking Cube Backpack (with only clothes inside), in a Smart Alec. Notice how high the top of the bag sits against the back of the Smart Alec. This zips closed easily, but I haven't loaded the bag.
You'll find the PCBP a little large for your Synapse 25 mainly because the top corners come up against the tapered portion at the top sides of the S25. Take a look at my post in the Western Flyer and Eagle Creek Pack-It folder thread, and scroll up a few posts to see the pictures. Those pictures were taken to show relative sizes of the 15" and 18" Eagle Creek Pack-It Folders and the Horizontal and Vertical Freudian Slips in the Synapse 25, but the Vertical Freudian Slip, which is a popular accessory for organizing document papers and related stationary items and pens in the Smart Alec (and Brain Bag), is a pretty good representation for the profile of the Western Flyer Large Packing Cube and the Western Flyer/Tri-Star Packing Cube Backpack that is larger than both these items. To see how a Vertical Freudian Slip fits into the Smart Alec, take a look at the pictures in @briani's review of the Smart Alec.
Now, if you actually put a Vertical Freudian Slip inside the larger PCBP and try to slip it into your Synapse 25, you can do it as long as you're willing to stress the top corners of the bag. And since the PCBP is both wider and taller than the Vertical Freudian Slip, you can see that fully packing it with items that do not let the bag be "scrunched" inside your Synapse, can also stress the top corners.
Last edited by moriond; 04-17-2014 at 02:05 PM.
Reason: Added some thread links
moriod, I said it and I say it again: you amaze me! Thank you so much. If I could hit the like-Button more than ones I would do so. By the way: very cute SA you have there ;-). I have a vertical Freudian slip so that helps to check out what you are showing here. My idea was to get a wasabi PCBP so that it could blend in with my SA but seeing your photos and reading your explanations I think I go for the Westernflyer PC.
Okey I am out there cooking up some new ideas/questions about how I could perk up my Packs. This is so much fun trying everything with everything else. You should be seeing me sitting here in the middle of my bags and playing around like my daughters with there playmobil.
@Ilkyway Yes, I couldn't resist the Aubergine color when the re-designed Smart Alec came out, so my Smart Alec looks like yours and @taminca's. I have the Upper Modular Pocket, but not the lower one. The Packing Cube BackPack for the Western Flyer/Tri-Star is quite handy, for many purposes, and can fit in items like the Pilot quite easily. It can also be an easy way to transfer clothers to a Synapse 25 as long as you allow the top of the bag to compress slightly. It's only because you're asking about usage relative to the Smart Alec and Synapse 25 that I commented on the size. For people who travel with the Tri-Star, for example, and want to take this as a light weight alternative to carrying a separate backpack, this can be a great accessory. I tend to separately carry a Synapse, just because the full, regular backpack is so comfortable for me, that I always have this along. And for smaller items I may carry the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag or a Shop Bag rolled up in one of the front side pockets of my Synapse.
Originally Posted by Ilkyway
ETA: I should say that the depths of the Packing Cube Back Pack for Western Flyer/ Tri-Star does nicely match the depth of the Synapse 25 main compartment, so it can be a useful packing cube if you let the top corners squish slightly. Another good alternative for the Synapse (and Smart Alec) is to use the Small Western Flyer Packing Cubes. I think there's a post where Darcy recommends these and shows pictures do the fit.
Last edited by moriond; 04-17-2014 at 03:08 PM.
On a side note: I went grocery shoping with my husband today. I made him where my Smart Alec, not because it was to heavy or so, but because that way I could look at it all the time. I love him for putting up with my crazy bag-passion.
I'll think about my PC-wants (there can not really be the talk about needs).
One question moriond: when you wright about your Synapse you mean a 25 don't you? How do you prevent your Synapse from sagging or egging? I have to figure out a way to deel with this or the SA will outperform the Synapse 25 for me by far. And I do like both of them for different reasons that I would like to go bag and forth between them.