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Travel bags, laptop bags, and backpacks. Tom Bihn has been designing and making bags since 1972. The best materials and innovative construction.

Brain Bag - Tom Bihn Knitting Bags and Accessories

The ultimate on-your-back student or business organizer, the Brain Bag is our Slant-6 of backpacks: it will surprise you with its utility, versatility, and longevity. Long after lesser bags have frayed their seams, blown their zippers, and popped their straps, the Brain Bag will continue to be your faithful companion. Though designed to accommodate the optional Horizontal Brain Cell or Vertical Brain Cell laptop case, it is for many users so much more than a way to carry a laptop on your back.

The Brain Bag consists of two main compartments plus four external pockets. The small top pocket on the front is perfect for a wallet and cell phone and has an inside snaphook for keys. The two vertical front pockets are large enough for water bottles or even a small thermos; inside both of these pockets are pen/pencil organizers. The left pocket has an outside flat mesh pocket for brochures, plane tickets, or even a small U-lock bike lock. Between the pockets are two lash straps for an umbrella or a raincoat, and above these straps is a heavy-duty snaphook so you can attach water bottle, coffee mug, or what-have-you.

Both main compartments can accept the Annex Clips that allow you to clip the Horizontal Brain Cell or Vertical Brain Cell laptop case securely inside the Brain Bag so you can carry your computer or your books against your back, as you like. You can actually carry two Horizontal Brain Cells or Vertical Brain Cells (or one of each), and therefore two laptops, in the Brain Bag. (If you want to carry two Brain Cells inside the Brain Bag, be sure to ask for an extra set of Annex Clips: the Brain Bag comes with one set, but you'll want two sets to carry two Brain Cells.)

Also in both of the main compartments (on the back panel of each) are two unobtrusive webbing loops (that we call "rail loops") to which you can secure the optional Cache (available in sizes specifically for every Apple laptop and iPad; PC users, click here for our Laptop Bag Fit Guide). When you add the Cache, the Brain Bag becomes a "checkpoint-friendly" laptop backpack. Here's how it works: on the back (or bottom, depending how you look at it) of the Cache are two parallel "rails" of 1" wide lightweight nylon webbing which extend from the top to the bottom. Included (and already attached for your convenience) when the Cache is ordered with the Brain Bag are two Gatekeeper Rail Clips: unclip the side that isn't clipped to the Cache, slip it through the webbing loops in the Brain Bag middle compartment, and flip it shut. Slip the Cache inside the Brain Bag, and pull it back out: you'll see that the Gatekeeper Rail Clips ride the rails of the Cache, allowing you to remove your laptop from the Brain Bag entirely while it is still encased in the protective Cache. Doing this at the airport security checkpoint means the X-ray machines (and TSA personnel) will have a clear, unobstructed view of your laptop ó allowing you to keep your laptop in the Cache and the whole affair securely held together as one unit. (We think that's much better than having to remove your laptop and dump it in one of those buckets.) Many of us will appreciate this functionality on a daily basis as well: the rail system can be a convenient and quick way to remove one's laptop from the bag.

When we got wind of the fact that many people were using the Brain Bag as an ad hoc camera pack, Tom started working with his brother Dan to design what is now the Camera I-O (Insert-Outsert), a padded case to protect your DSLR and lenses. With the Camera I-O inside either of the two main compartments of the Brain Bag, you can still carry a laptop inside a Brain Cell (Horizontal or Vertical) in the other compartment. How cool is that? The Camera I-O also works as a stand-alone, shoot-from-the-hip camera bag, but you're better off going here to read all about it. And yes, it can clip inside the Brain Bag with Annex Clips just like a Brain Cell.

Side compression straps compress the Brain Bag when it is not full and stabilize the load; you can also tuck a raincoat, hoodie, or yoga mat under these straps. The Brain Bag has a top handle made of 1/2" PORON® foam wrapped in 1050 denier ballistic nylon fabric; the contoured shoulder straps are padded with 1/2" thick EVAZOTE® EV50 foam and are lined with ETC anti-friction knit for improved comfort; removable 3/4" sternum strap and 1-1/2" waist strap are there if you need them but are easy to remove if you don't. The back is made of Dri-Lex® Aero-Spacer® mesh and is padded with 3/8", high quality, closed-cell foam.

If the organizer pockets on the front of the Brain Bag just aren't sufficient, or if you need to carry papers, folders, etc. and keep them neat, consider adding the Freudian Slip. One side will protect those papers; the other provides extra organization for pens, business cards, and small electronics or laptop accessories.


Materials: 1000 denier Cordura® lined with 420d HT nylon Classic Parapack
Bottom: 1050d high tenacity ballistic nylon
Dri-Lex® Aero-Spacer® mesh back
EVAZOTE® foam shoulder straps
PORON® foam handle
Tough Duraflex® and Nexus® buckles
#10 YKK coil zippers on main compartment
#8 YKK coil zippers on pockets


Made in USA
100% finished seams
38 reinforcing bar tacks


Dimensions: 18" x 14" x 9" / 460 x 355 x 230 mm
420d HT nylon Classic Parapack: 2 lb 14 oz / 1315 grams
1000 denier Cordura®: 2 lb 15 oz / 1345 grams
Volume: 2200 cubic inches / 36 liters (ASTM Standard Measure)
Removable 1.5" / 38 mm waist strap included
.5" / 12 mm padded and contoured shoulder straps with .75" / 20 mm removable sternum strap

Videos and Customer Photos

Brain Bag video review by Jake Ludington.

View customer photos on Flickr.

External Reviews

As reviewed by Laptop Reviews:
"The Brain Bag does an amazing job of swallowing books, laptops, papers, clothes and whatever else you stuff in there. Itís like a magic hat, things just seem to keep fitting in. The amount of features and ability to accessorize and organize the Brain Bag are awesome too.Ē Read the full review.

As reviewed by FutureLooks:
"If you want a backpack that is not only well made but hand made with love, durable, and versatile, you canít really go wrong with something like the Brain Bag from Tom Bihn. You get four exterior pockets, two large compartments, high quality materials, and excellent craftsmanship. Most importantly, itís completely customizable for your needs." Read the full review.

Want to read more reviews of the Brain Bag? Here's our complete list of external bag reviews.

people who have the Brain Bag say:

A teacher reviews the Brain Bag
"Combined with the Brain Cell (I have a size 5), it gives the ultimate protection to my laptop. The construction of the bag is top-notch, from the stitching and fabric to the zippers and straps. I've read other Brain Bag users report that their bags still look virtually brand new after 4 or 5 years of hard use, and I have no doubt that is true. The bag is heavy duty in every way. As a teacher who has lots of papers and files to carry, my favorite accessory is the Freudian Slip." — posted by gmich

Camera I/O + Tripod Quiver + Brain Bag photos & review
"My work has very particular needs and quirks. I travel with bands selling merchandise and taking photos - meaning I'm gone for weeks at a time (often 2-3 or more). I live out of two bags: my Brain Bag and my Aeronaut. The Brain Bag is my "mobile office". The only time I'm not carrying it and working directly out of it, is when I'm asleep." — posted by leviathan

Brain Bag + Aeronaut = happiness
"After hearing Leo Laporte rave about his Tom Bihn bags, I rushed to the website and immediately bought a Brain Bag to hold my 17" MacBook Pro and all of the associated stuff that comes along with it. I got the recommended Brain Cell to provide added support for the laptop, and perhaps act as a carry case when I don't want the whole bag." — posted by merlyn

Brain Bag and Two Brain Cells!
"I can only say that I am overjoyed with my purchase. The Brain Bag is rugged as are the brain cells. I set about fitting both brain cells into the two major compartments. The size 1 fitted perfectly into the back compartment. I changed the clips to the lower level in the front compartment and placed the second Brain Cell into it. It fitted like a glove. Whilst my Macbook Air 11" is a little small, it fits really nicely into the brain cell. My Macbook Pro 17" fits perfectly into the size 1." — posted by paulhogden

Read more customer reviews posted in our forums.

Post your review in our Forums, on our Facebook page, or email it to us.

Brain Bag

Select a color
(Main Body/Front Panels/Lining):

Add a Horizontal Brain Cell:

Add a Vertical Brain Cell:

Add a size of Cache:

Add a Camera I-O:

Add a Freudian Slip:

Add a Snake Charmer:

Add two more Annex Clips:

Add a Whistle Sternum Strap Half:

Add a Guardian Dual Function Light:

Add a Brain Bag Padded Hip Belt:


Tom Bihn bags are made in the USA Always Made in U.S.A.

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Snake Charmer
Snake Charmer: $30.00
Vertical Freudian Slip
Vertical Freudian Slip: $50.00
Horizontal Brain Cell
Horizontal Brain Cell: $65.00
Smart Alec
Smart Alec: $180.00
Vertical Brain Cell
Vertical Brain Cell: $65.00
Cache: $30.00
Synapse 19
Synapse 19: $170.00