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Tom Bihn Forums: Community discussion on travel bags, laptop bags, and backpacks. Tom Bihn has been designing and making bags since 1972. The best materials and innovative construction.

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  1. #1
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    Smaller Backpack?

    This started as a tangent rant in my large cafe bag review and I decided to expand upon it. I'm pretty sure there's a smaller backpack already in the works but I figure there's nothing wrong with adding my thoughts.

    I spent a lot of this summer looking for a backpack, and ended up settling for one that's adequate but that I still have problems with. I didn't really use a backpack much all through out elementary and high school(either had a locker close to class, or in the case of high school, I carried my books in my arms because I was in boarding school and could stop by my room between classes to switch books) and I've barely used one in college, so I'm very new to backpack shopping. I finally decided I need one after going grocery shopping one day with my previous backpack and returning with much food and much back pain(carrying my rabbit in it was nearly as painful).

    Good backpacks that follow most of my requirements are too big(or far too tiny). My requirements:

    - A flexible padded back. Not so stiff that it won't contour to the shape of my back but not so non existant that I can feel the outline of everything in the bag.

    - Somewhat water resistant. I don't always remember to bring an umbrella, or want to actually use one anyway.

    - Comfortable shoulder straps.

    - Good way to carry laptop, but not one that eats into the space of the bag if I'm just using it to cary stuff(like groceries). Not that I want the bag to just be a big empty space. I really like the two compartment configuration of the brain bag.


    But it also needs to be small because I don't want to look like a human turtle. I also hate when I have to tighten shoulder straps nearly all the way to get the bag to sit properly on my back(this also results in the straps rubbing against my arms as I walk).

    My current 17" backpack is still too long and I'm thinking about returning it even though aside from the size, it's great. It's even supposed to be designed for women, but apparently it's designed for taller women. I have to tighten the straps nearly all the way to get it to sit flush with my back but the that results in the shoulder straps being a bit too close together around my neck, so while I don't really have back pain by the time I take the bag off, I have a bit of neck/shoulder pain instead.

    I think about 15'- 16" long would be great(I saw a 15" backpack recently and it really wasn't as tiny as I thought it'd be; unfortunately it wasn't water resistant at all).

  2. #2
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    ... so what you're saying is, "Onward with the small-sizing of the existing Bihn line!"

    A smaller Brain Bag?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Just
    ... so what you're saying is, "Onward with the small-sizing of the existing Bihn line!"

    A smaller Brain Bag?
    Pretty much exactly on both counts. I just felt like being a bit verbose. :)

    I would appreciate a slightly less complex looking Brain Bag(I don't really think that's possible, though, while maintaining the spirit of the bag, except for putting in place some way to tidy up the straps as has been suggested), but other than that. Yes.

  4. #4
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    Have you checked out the Smart Alec?

    I've always had problems with backpacks (especially computer backpacks) being a bit too long on me. The Smart Alec actually fits me really well. A key feature is that it actually rides fairly high on my back, so that the top of the bag is level with the nape of my neck. Then the bottom of the bag hits the small of my back rather than my butt. (For reference, I'm about 5'4".)

  5. #5
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    aakepley, I think the Smart Alec would fail timarelay's requirements on three points:

    1) My current 17" backpack is still too long
    2) needs to be small because I don't want to look like a human turtle
    3) Not that I want the bag to just be a big empty space.

    Personally, I like the Smart Alec a lot, but this may be just the fact that it's a Bihn bag. As far as the actual use of it, the only thing I didn't like about it was getting used to the different shape of the opening for the main compartment. Looks wise, I would have to agree on the ninja turtle point. (I'm also 5'4")

    But with all that space, the Smart Alec is the ideal grocery-getter.

  6. #6
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    I have looked at the smart alec(would get in in Sage, were I ever to get it), but while I don't doubt that in the end it's probaby of far better quality than my current bag, it's still a little too similar in both the length and shape(both open only at the top, except mine has a messenger bag style flap as opposed to a round zippered closure) and it would also cost me $55 more. If I had the extra money to spend, I'd buy the Smart Alec as an upgrade, but I can't really afford to just upgrade a bag that works fine.

    What I really want(need?) isn't a bag that pushes the boundaries of how big a bag I can fit on me. In terms of better ergonomics, I'm pretty sure a bag's supposed to sit below your shoulders(not that I always follow what's good ergonomics, considering my primary bag's usually a messenger bag).

  7. #7
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    Comfort is a very personal thing. All I can say is that I've carried around a lot of stuff a long way in the Smart Alec and have not had any problems. Your mileage may vary. Originally, I had bought pretty nice laptop bag from another company and ended up replacing it with the Smart Alec, which fit me much better (and was way better than my old Jansport from high school and college).

    P.S. I do tend to carry a lot with me on a daily basis (lunch, reading material for the bus, computer), so I actually consider the Smart Alec to be a medium bag.

  8. #8
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    We will debut a Kid's Backpack soon that may also work for those who want a smaller backpack.

    Tom is in the beginning stages of designing a variety of other backpacks.
    Current Carry: Skookum Dog Citizen Canine prototype, Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  9. #9
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    A kid's backpack? Ooh. That's exciting. I always keep wanting to buy a kid's backpack but it's hard to find any that are made well and aren't somewhat gaudy.


    And this is the kind of information I've been using to help me on my backpack search:
    Diagram of where a backpack should sit: http://ergonomics.about.com/od/ergon...bpfitguide.htm
    Buying Guide Tips(common sense, really):
    http://backtoschool.about.com/od/ess...bbbookbags.htm

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darcy
    We will debut a Kid's Backpack soon that may also work for those who want a smaller backpack.

    Tom is in the beginning stages of designing a variety of other backpacks.
    You posted somewhere that a smaller brainbag is in the works. Is that still going to happen? My brainbag has everything I want in a backpack- as opposed to the smart alec- but it's too large for daily use with my 5ft height.

  11. #11
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    I would also be interested in a smaller version of the Brain Bag.

    I would need thinner straps(especially at the shoulder/breast) it would be ideal if those straps could be hidden like in the Aeronaute. Ideally it could also accept the Freudian Slip or a smaller version of the exact same product. It will have to accept letter and/or legal size documents in the main compartiment.

    One thing that could be changed is to use a big front pocket instead of the small Brain Bag pockets. It would make it big enought to fit 5x8 organizers, notepads.

    Also it would be great if you could find a way to make it "lockable", being able to be paired with it's big brother, the Brain Bag with something like tightening the small backpack straps into the center front of the brain bag and securing the side with clips like the ones availables on the Organizer Pouches.

    By the way the Bag should also accept all sizes Organizer Pouches.

    This is the kind of backpack I would use as my main purse and work documents holder when carrying a laptop is not necessary.

    I would also like a mini version for the times when I do errands. This one should to be able to lock or pair with it's big brothers. It would be ideal when traveling thru airports.
    Last edited by backpack; 10-23-2006 at 12:59 PM.


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