Skip to main content

Smart Alec

Regular price $190.00
  • Everything you buy from us here at TOM BIHN is satisfaction guaranteed. We’ve been in business for over 30 years and we stand behind what we make.

    If something goes wrong and it's our fault, we'll fix it for free. Repairs due to normal wear and tear or due to other things that are not our fault will be performed, when possible, at a reasonable charge right here in our Seattle factory where your bag was made. Defects in materials or workmanship are uncommon and almost always evident while the product is still new. Keep in mind that bags and packs are often subject to extreme wear in everyday use: do not expect them to last forever. Only true love lasts forever! You can expect a TOM BIHN product to give years and years of hard service.

    Face Masks
    Our masks are satisfaction guaranteed. Please if you're happy with your mask *or* there's something that doesn't work for you. We want to hear from you!

  • Our bags and face masks are designed and cut & sewn right here in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.

    That allows us to be control freaks in the best way possible; we have direct control and oversight of the quality of our materials, our products, and the jobs and working environment that we help create. It also offers us a unique spontaneity: when we have an idea for a new product or accessory, we can design it, figure out how to build it, add it to our website and be ready to ship it out our front door all within just a few weeks. How cool is that?

    Intrigued? You can more about the unusual way we do business on our Company Philosophy page.


U.S. high tenacity 1050 denier ballistic nylon — or — ultralight 400d Halcyon/420d nylon ripstop
200 denier Halcyon/nylon ripstop fabric lining
1000d Cordura® side panels
Closed-cell foam back and bottom
EVAZOTE® foam shoulder straps
PORON® foam handle
Duraflex®, Nexus, and Woojin buckles and related components
#10 YKK Aquaguard® coil zipper on main compartment
#8 YKK Aquaguard® coil zippers on pockets
Dri-Lex® Aero-Spacer® mesh padded with 1/4", high quality, closed-cell foam.


Sewn in USA with globally sourced materials
100% finished seams
24 reinforcing bar tacks


Dimensions: 18.5" x 11.75" x 7.75" / 470 x 300 x 200 mm
1050d high tenacity ballistic nylon: 1 lb 15 oz / 865 grams
400d Halcyon®/420d nylon ripstop: 1 lb 12 oz / 785 grams
Volume: 1600 cubic inches / 26 liters (ASTM Standard Measure)
Removable 1" / 25 mm waist strap included
.375" / 10 mm padded and contoured shoulder straps with .75" / 20 mm removable sternum strap
Total O-rings: 5 (3 in top zippered pocket; 1 in left side pocket; 1 in right side pocket)

Take it around the world, on a hike, or to the office: its top-loading design and optional modular organization helps you tailor this pack to your needs.

The Smart Alec is a modular backpack system: customize it to carry your gear with a variety of interior and exterior organizational pockets.

13 webbing loops on the front of the Smart Alec and an included removable black bungee make it easy to secure a rain jacket, umbrella, yoga mat, or bike helmet to the front of the bag.

Designed to attach to the webbing loops are the optional Upper Modular Pocket, Lower Modular Pocket, and 1" Gate Keeper Straps. Each adds extra carrying capacity and custom organization to the Smart Alec.

The Upper Modular Pocket adds an extra 2+ liters of volume to the Smart Alec. Inside there are four small organizer pouches sized for the things to which you need quick access: smartphone, keys, multitool, flashlight. Two interior O-rings so you can attach keys or pouches or what-have-you. The Lower Modular Pocket adds an extra 3+ liters of volume to the Smart Alec. Fits two 1-liter water bottles, or one water bottle and other stuff, or just a lot of other stuff. Inside are two o-rings and an open-top organizer pocket sized for a wallet. 1" Gate Keeper Straps can replace the front bungee included with the Smart Alec with these straps (or leave the bungee in place and install the straps over the bungee). Useful for securing large/bulky items to the front or top of the Smart Alec: a yoga mat, snowshoes, raincoat, Christmas trees, or anything else too big or wet to go inside. Available individually or in sets of two or three; the Smart Alec has webbing loops for accommodating up to five 1″ Gate Keeper Straps. Wondering how many you need? Tom uses two 1″ Gate Keeper Straps to secure his snowshoes to the front of a Smart Alec. For more detailed information on each of these three accessories, visit the Smart Alec and Accessories page.

The streamlined main compartment of the Smart Alec opens wide, providing easy access to your gear, and zips with a #10 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zipper. 

In the main compartment on the back panel 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). When you add the Cache, the Smart Alec 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 Smart Alec are two Gatekeeper Rail Clips: unclip the side that isn't clipped to the Cache, slip it through the webbing loops in the Smart Alec middle compartment, and flip it shut. Slip the Cache inside the Smart Alec, 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 Smart Alec 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 — 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. 

Inside the main compartment, you'll also find three medium-size organizer pockets: one near the bottom of the bag, and two at the top of the bag that zip shut so that, when you open the main compartment, the small stuff in those pockets won't fall out.

The main compartment has one O-ring with an included 8" Key Strap attached, ready and waiting to help you keep track of your keys. And, of course, you can clip Yarn Stuff Sacks to the O-rings.

If you need more pockets and organization for your gear, or if you carry a lot of papers or folders, you may want to consider our Vertical Freudian Slip insert. The Vertical Freudian Slip fits well inside the main compartment of the Smart Alec and has four slots for files and folders on one side; organizer pockets for cables, small electronics, business cards, pens, and more are on the other side. Best of all, you can pull the Freudian Slip out of the Smart Alec and hang it on a doorknob or near your desk, giving yourself easy access to your accessories while keeping them organized.

The Snake Charmer, a two-sided organizational pouch with mesh panels, is also an optional accessory.

The top back of the Smart Alec has a comfortable, PORON® foam padded grab handle. While you wouldn't want to use the handle as a main carrying method for the Smart Alec, the comfort of the handle makes hoisting a fully loaded Smart Alec an easier task.

The Smart Alec has two long pockets on either side of the bag that zip with #8 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zippers. We think it's important to do whatever we can to keep the elements out of your bag and we figure you'd agree. One of the side pockets has an expanding water bottle pocket that can fit water bottles up to 1-1/2 liters. The water bottle pocket has an eyelet at the bottom that will allow liquid inside the water bottle pocket to drain (just in case). The other side pocket has two pen slots and a pocket sized for a wallet or iPhone. This side pocket can also hold other items such as a book, power supply, ereader, or other small accessories. Each of these pockets has one O-ring.

The exterior of the Smart Alec is made of our custom, U.S. made, 1050 denier, high tenacity ballistic nylon fabric and 1000 denier Cordura® nylon, and the interior is lined with our ultralight 200 denier Halcyon/nylon ripstop fabric, custom produced for us in Japan. The back is made of Dri-Lex® Aero-Spacer® mesh and is padded with 1/4", high quality, closed-cell foam.

The comfortable shoulder straps on the Smart Alec are made from 3/8" (10 mm) padding that offers serious comfort without bulk. While the Smart Alec is not built to be a mountaineering pack and we don't suggest you use it as one, we regularly take it for day hikes. We even went to the extreme of testing the comfort of the shoulder straps by carrying a fully loaded Smart Alec on an 18-mile day hike in Olympic National Park. The verdict? The shoulder straps left our shoulders feeling fine (how our feet felt is another story).

The Smart Alec also comes with removable sternum and waist straps, just in case you do take it on a hike, urban or otherwise. If you do decide to remove the sternum and/or waist straps, you'll be pleased to find they leave no hardware behind.

Choosing an Exterior Fabric

You like choices and we like to give you choices! That's why the Smart Alec is typically available* in two different exterior fabrics. Our Materials Glossary explains each fabric in great detail, but here are some quick facts that may help you decide which to choose. And we're always here if you have questions:

400d Halcyon
Weave: plain weave with 1/4” / 6mm ripstop
Fibers: 400 denier type 6 filament nylon (base fabric); 420 denier ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene ripstop grid
Coating: light urethane
Made in: Japan

Choose this fabric if:
  • You want a lighter weight alternative to traditional nylon fabrics that has remarkable tear strength and good abrasion resistance.
  • You're looking for a fabric with a modern, "technical" appearance.
  • You have pets: 400d Halcyon doesn't collect pet hair, reducing your monthly lint roller costs.

1050d High Tenacity Ballistic Nylon
Weave: 2x2 “ballistic” weave
Fibers: 1050 denier type 6,6 (high tenacity) filament nylon
Coating: medium urethane
Made in: U.S.A.

Choose this fabric if:
  • You want a super-tough fabric – originally designed for use in bullet-proof vests.
  • The weight of your bag isn’t a huge concern (though it’s worth noting that 1050d Ballistic is still lighter than cotton canvas or leather).
  • You want a smooth surface that won’t collect pet hair or sweater fuzz, slides easily into and out of the overhead bin, and fits in whether you're traveling for work or leisure.

*There may be times when one of the exterior fabrics mentioned here isn't available. Even with our best efforts, the demand for our bags occasionally outpaces our production capabilities: at times, some products, color combinations, or fabrics might be temporarily unavailable or "In Production." See the In Production color combinations as a guide to what our factory crew is making and what will be available next.

Customer Reviews

Based on 1 review Write a review

Recently Viewed Bags