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Thread: I Miss My Synapse

  1. #1
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    I Miss My Synapse

    I recently bought a Smart Alec with a Freudian Slip because I couldn't fit all of the things I feel compelled to shlep around in the Synapse. This seems so improbable after reading the posts of people packing for two week trips in it but i just couldn't warp the space time continuum enough, apparently. I gave the Synapse to my spouse who is delighted with it. I am not loving the Smart Alec. Certainly it is beautifully designed and manufactured but "backpack transference " has yet to occur. I am aware that this is a very high class problem.. Has anyone had a Smart Alec "grow on them"? Best, Stacy
    Last edited by Stacybean; 05-17-2012 at 05:26 AM. Reason: Typing error

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    My favorite Tom Bihn bag, the Brain Bag, had to do some serious growing on me.

    Despite being really, really, really busy, I was literally in the middle of a coast to coast move, I had to take the time to make the Brain Bag work with my frame then with the two iBooks I was taking as carry-on along. We also had to juggle an enormous amount of check in pieces which cost us pretty penny and our utmost concern was for our beloved cat on her first and alas last plane ride.

    So the pressure was on for the Brain Bag to perform flawlessly.
    I emailed Darcy, it was some time ago, so she was the person to talk to, and she explained how to clip the Brain Cell to the bag.
    I did a trial on packing with the oldest iBook and accessories in one of the pocket. It worked really nicely so I left it there.
    When it came time to pack up the other iBook and accessories it worked even better,
    The iBook glided inside its Brain Cell, the accessories came together and I think I used my Freudian Slip for all my papers.

    Using my Brain Bag was the only stress free experience from the move.


    Let your Smart Alec grow on you by experimenting a little bit more with it.
    I suggest getting a couple of Large Pouches as well as a Packing Cube Shoulder Bag and/or a Clear Quarter Packing Cube. They are great accessories!

    Many Smart Alec owners swear by their Snake Charmer.


    I am a big time schlepper, my bi-monthly grocery store run or a day of errands via our local Metro look like expeditions.

    Mostly because I bring my own reusable bags and a Large Shop Bag for vegies at the grocery store and use Shop Bags and Packing Cube to transport library, bookstores, stationary and craft stores finds as well as the dreaded, but necessary, wardrobe updates without cutting my hands on the plastic or string handles of retailers' flimsy bags.

    I use the Synapse and a Large or Small Cafe Bag, you might want to try the same combo or substitute a Medium Cafe Bag or the very cute Co-Pilot.
    Last edited by backpack; 05-17-2012 at 07:14 AM.

  3. #3
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    Stacybean,
    Welcome the the TB forum. While I don't have a Smart Alec and can't comment first hand on its use, the design has never appealed to me. There is at least one video on YouTube, Tom Bihn Smart Alec Backpack - YouTube which helped me make the decision that I don't believe that the Smart Alec would be the "right" bag for me. While the bag is beautiful, my main objection is that it is top loading. If you have smaller items that are not attached to a tethered pouch, or items that were packed towards the bottom, it seems to me you would have to remove many other items from the bag in order to retrieve the one you were wanting. i would find this a annoying after a while. Maybe someone who loves their Smart Alec and has found a great way to organize it, can comment on this.

    There are a few people on this forum who have a "larger" Synapse on their "TB Wish List." They too love the design, but find it a little small for their needs. Who knows if and when this will ever happen. My experience is if I don't love something right away, it probably won't grow on me. The Synapse is one of my favorite TB bags. Without knowing what you were packing in your Smart Alec, you might consider a Brain Bag or Western Flyer w/ backpack straps if you are need a larger backpack than the Synapse. I don't have either of these bags, but there are plenty of people on this forum that can help with packing lists if you want to let them know what you plan on carrying.

    Good luck with your decision!
    Last edited by historygal; 05-17-2012 at 12:31 AM.

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    Hey @Stacybean,
    I had the Smart Alec and swapped it for the Synapse. I have an over shoulder bag, about the size of a small Cafe bag, which I use as well if I've got a little too much stuff.
    (Yes, I will replace the other (handmade in Australia) bag one day with TB bag!!!)

  5. #5
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    I have both a Synapse and a Smart Alec. the Synapse was here first and I really liked (and still like) the bag. As you point out, it is not big enough sometimes for what needs to be carried - hence the Smart Alec came into my life. It did take a while to appreciate what can be carried in the bag and how useful the bag can be for a daily carried bag. The top-load feature can be troublesome at times for daily use, the ability to use a Freudian slip for folders, cables, chargers, etc combined with the wonderfully large side pockets contribute to what I really grew to like about the bag. It also gives me the flexibility to add-in things that crop up at work or on the road without having to wonder if the new things will fit. (The Smart Alec does sometimes tax my Tetris skills:>))

    I marvel at how much some people can get get into a Synapse while traveling. My clothing just does not shrink that much. With the Smart Alec, I have been able to travel with 3-4 days worth of clothing (more if I want to do laundry or have it done in a hotel - what can I say, I am lazy) plus the electronics and files I typically need when traveling both for work and fun. Anyway, give the Smart Alec a chance. If it does not grow on you, then you can sell it or return it (if within the time limits and it has not seen the outside world) or "convince" your spouse of how much better the Smart Alec would be for him/her and swap bags!!

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    Thanks for your responses everyone. It is very helpful to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Stacy

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stacybean View Post
    I recently bought a Smart Alec with a Freudian Slip because I couldn't fit all of the things I feel compelled to shlep around in the Synapse. This seems so improbable after reading the posts of people packing for two week trips in it but i just couldn't warp the space time continuum enough, apparently. I gave the Synapse to my spouse who is delighted with it. I am not loving the Smart Alec. Certainly it is beautifully designed and manufactured but "backpack transference " has yet to occur. I am aware that this is a very high class problem.. Has anyone had a Smart Alec "grow on them"? Best, Stacy
    Hi Stacybean,

    I like your use of the term "backpack transference". First off, I don't know what you need to carry, but it may simply not be possible to fit what you need into the Synapse, as rabergnc states, because of size issues. In some threads, posters ask about fitting items such as shoes into their bags, and that's not something you'll be able to adjust. And there are often simply features of particular bags that really appeal to each of us, so that we look for something similar in other bags. This may be what you're feeling coming to the Smart Alec from the Synapse.

    It may be helpful for you to read some usage comparisons, so I'll link to the Recommendation for Teacher? thread. (Interestingly, the original poster in this thread was coming to this topic impressed with the great sling design features of the Buzz backpack, but needing something larger.) You mention that you have the Freudian Slip, and the ability to use that is one of the features that a lot of Smart Alec users love most about that bag. This makes great use of the vertical space of the bag, and provides some of the instant organization that historygal was commenting on.

    Another great design feature of the Smart Alec is the structure of the side pockets that rabergnc mentioned. They let you carry substantially larger items than in the Synapse side pockets -- a large water bottle would fit into each pocket -- but are designed so that nothing falls out despite the ease of access. (I had a Trager backpack -- Seattle made, great materials, even some of the same buckles and kiwi ballistic nylon that Tom Bihn uses, but less brilliantly designed; when you unzipped the side pockets where you stashed chargers, etc., they simply fell out. I mentioned this to Darcy some years ago by way of comparison with the Smart Alec, because the Trager bags are otherwise very well made, and Tom Bihn used to sell them, too, in their store. Darcy's reply was, "I know, that's one of the reasons we stopped carrying them.") I don't know whether any of these features will "resonate" with you, but I thought I'd point them out. I do use a Snake Charmer with the Smart Alec -- I think I only use this with the Smart Alec and the Aeronaut because of it's size, though it's squooshable to some extent.

    The Smart Alec also fits nicely under airplane seats in front of you, as long as they are the standard size seats without A/V equipment boxes. I've got to confess that I love my Synapse more, but this is a personal decision, and there's plenty to love about the Smart Alec. And in the end, you can always "borrow back" the Synapse from your husband and convince him that the Smart Alec would be great for him, as suggested.

    HTH. moriond
    Last edited by moriond; 05-17-2012 at 10:45 AM. Reason: Corrected bag name in Snake Charmer reference
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  8. #8
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    Lots of great comments already! Thought I'd throw my $.02 in as well.

    I have a Synapse and a Smart Alec, both of which I got more or less at the same time just a few months ago. And because I have been splitting my time evenly between the two, I've been putting them both through their paces, "learning" them both.

    To answer your last question first: yes, my Smart Alec is growing on me, but not quite as quickly as my Synapse. I have an awed respect for my Smart Alec: it's gotten me through some very long days, and kept its cool, and helped me keep mine. But... I fell crashingly, hopelessly in love with my Synapse almost at first sight.

    I have recently been switching from one to the other practically every other day, depending on whether I need my laptop that day. If I do, that means Smart Alec w/ Brain Cell. Otherwise, it's All Synapse All The Time.

    Also, I've got a Side Effect filled with neccessary stuff (pens, bandaids, travel kleenex, ipod + earbuds, that sort of thing) that switches between them. It fits perfectly in the low middle pocket of the Synapse, and perfectly in the side "drink" pocket of the Alec. And I sometimes use a Freudian Slip (and more rarely a Snake Charmer as well) with the Smart Alec to replicate the seemingly infinite pockets of the Synapse.

    So: accessories may really help you.

    I think part of the issue you may be struggling with is: it's easier to "overpack" the Synapse in style than it is to travel light with the Smart Alec. A Smart Alec can seem like cavernous overkill after the compact roominess of the Synapse.

    They are indeed very different bags. I doubt my SA will ever be my everyday bag, unless I needed to travel with my laptop every day. In which case, it would be All Smart Alec All The Time, no question.

    ~Rob

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    I feel for you, Stacybean. I haven't bit the bullet on a Smart Alec- yet?- but I'm looking as my 11 year old needs a bigger book bag and the Synapse just isn't quite big enough...but I'm a little leery. Have you considered jumping up to a Brain Bag? I don't have one but I've heard the compression straps cinch down well on it.

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    Again thanks for your help with Smart Alec appreciation. Yes, the side pockets are lovely as are the straps. Rob, I think you identified the two key issues: the overpacked Synapse vs. the capacious underpacked slightly enormous SA and the vast affection I have felt for the Synapse ( which is a little embarassing). Your description of falling crashingly, hopelessly in love with it was a comfort. I will explore the Side Effect and other accessory options. Tlactime, I ruled out the Brain Bag because it is much heavier and seemed like 3x what I require. I was unaware of the cinch straps. Best, Stacy
    Last edited by Stacybean; 05-17-2012 at 07:00 PM.

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    hi stacybean!

    the smart alec was my first tom bihn bag, and both it and the synapse have been a joy to use! they are two different bags, and the way you organize your stuff in each is different. both are great, but different. the freudian slip will help you to organize, as will organizer pouches and maybe a clear quarter organizer cube depending on what you are carrying inside of the smart alec.

    let us know how it works out!

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    Moriond, I am going to develop a better relationship with my SA and Freudian Slip. Because of my Synapse sentiments I am convinced that Tom Bihn employs a neuromarketing guru on board to help with designs, .
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tlacltme View Post
    I feel for you, Stacybean. I haven't bit the bullet on a Smart Alec- yet?- but I'm looking as my 11 year old needs a bigger book bag and the Synapse just isn't quite big enough...but I'm a little leery. Have you considered jumping up to a Brain Bag? I don't have one but I've heard the compression straps cinch down well on it.
    I have all 3 backpacks. I would not recommend the Smart Alec for a book bag. The bag is pretty tall, but unless you stack your books on its sides, you won't really be maximizing all of the space. The problem I have with the SA and books, is that the book(s) will flop around in the bag because the bags tie down in the front won't fully secure the book to your back. The brain bag's tie downs are wonderful for this, the brain bag was just way too big for me to carry around daily. It was complete overkill.

    (I hope that made sense)

    My general usage for all 3 bags:
    brain bag: travel
    SA: daily laptop bag for work
    synapse: day/diaper bag

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    UPDATE: A new Synapse arrived yesterday Black/Iberian to replace the Olive/ Solar that I had reclaimed from my partner , after a week of not bonding with the Smart Alec . QUESTION: Should I sell the Smart Alec with the Freudian Slip? Am I likely to regret it when those occasions arise when I really do need the greater volume? Opinions welcome! Thanks.

  15. #15
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    I liked my SA from the beginning, but didn't love it until I had traveled with it. Two reasons: it turns out the SA is perfectly designed to make it easy to access when stuff under (or pulled partway out from) an airline seat; and the sleek design is great for carrying around cities where pickpockets are an issue. I'd consider a Synapse as an everyday work bag if only it had a laptop section. Since it doesn't, I'd have to use a separate sleeve, which means it's that little bit more annoying to access the laptop. And on travel, I never seem to want *less* space!

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