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  1. #1
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2012

    EDC Suggestions with a caveat

    Hi guys,

    So I am getting a new computer for work (a 15" Macbook to replace my old Dell brick o' brick) and I am looking to upgrade my computer bag to something that I can use both as an everyday carry bag back and forth to the office, but also for travel.

    I'm a college professor so I need a bag that can carry a computer and books and papers, but also one that won't let me overstuff it. This is really important since I have a balance disorder and at times I suffer from vertigo- I need to be able to carry stuff, but not so much that I am my own worst enemy, you know? (I have gone tumbling down stairs, and it's awkward when your students have to peel you off the floor like a rag doll. Or your colleagues.) I also want to be able to use this bag for travel as my personal item, (with or without computer)- usually I travel with my ipad and keyboard, my knitting and extra food since I have celiac disease- and I always use a roller-bag as my suitcase because I can't balance a bigger bag on me (I covet the aeronaut but that's a bad idea for someone like me.) It can be a backpack or a shoulder bag, although the backpack I might be able to handle better do to my sometimes off-kilter way of walking, and also because I have at times required the use of a cane or walking stick. I'm also fairly young (33) and I don't want something that looks too stuffy.

    So with that in mind I have been considering the Synapse- but now that there is the 25, I am not sure if I should go bigger or smaller. Also the Zephyr, except it is in boring colors, and the cadet, which I am concerned may be too minimal for a travel bag. I love the Western Flyer, but I think it is too much as an every-day carry for me.

    So any suggestions? I am really curious about the size difference between the two synapses but I probably won't be able to figure that out until I see pictures once people start getting theirs- I'm 5'5 and a woman of average build, so I worry that the big one may be too big, but I worry that the small one may be too small. Le sigh.

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    Boulder, Colorado
    Is your new laptop a retina or non-retina 15" MBP? That makes a difference with the Synapse 19. Although some folks have been able to squeeze the latter into the Syn19, I recall Darcy saying it's not recommended. You won't find a Cache in that size offered with the Syn19 either. The retina 15" MBP has slightly smaller dimensions, so it is supported.

    Now, to your other bag thoughts. I own the 15/13 Cadet, the Western Flyer and the Empire Builder (the bigger version of the Zephyr). The Cadet is my preferred laptop bag now, but I have to pack it with thought. If you have more than, say, 3/4" of paperwork to carry on a regular basis, it's likely going to be too tight. Now, that being said I have carried my work Lenovo T410 plus my own 13" MBP in the Cadet together. I wouldn't make a habit of it, but at a push ~10lb and 2 1/4" of laptop depth is possible in the main compartment.

    The WF is massive as an EDC, although it does look close enough to a briefcase to pass in a formal office environment. I take this as my one-bag for short trips (3 days, 2 nights is the sweet spot), with my laptop in the rear compartment and clothes in a packing cube in the front compartment. The other consideration with the WF is that is has no padding, so you'd want to get something more heavy duty than a Cache to protect your MBP. A Brain Cell is robust, but it adds base weight to the bag before you load in your stuff.

    The Empire Builder is massive, and has gobs of space for paperwork. But it's also a beast. It really needs a Brain Cell to keep a laptop in check, but the combined base weight is north of 4.5lb. I use this for car commuting rather than air travel. The Zephyr is slightly smaller, but not much lighter. That's why I bit the bullet and went with the 15/13 Cadet.

    Given your balance concerns, I'd say that the backpack route is the best way to keep the weight centred. Have you considered the Smart Alec + Brain Cell as a less structured alternative to the Syn25? It is slightly bigger (volume is equivalent to the WF), but can be synched down to make it appear smaller when you don't need the volume. Me? I pre-ordered a Syn25 yesterday because there isn't a vertical Brain Cell that fits my work laptop with its clunky extended use battery, however I'm hopeful that the non-retina 15" MBP Cache with rails will. I plan to use it for day trips solo, and accompanied by the WF for international trips longer than a week.
    Enlightened traveller since 2009

  3. #3
    Forum Member TavaPeak's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Colorado Springs
    I use my Zephyr for teaching - I carry heavy oversized books and resources to class. The Zephyr is well-suited for this, with it's padded side rails (the plastic dividers work brilliantly). With the Absolute strap, I can carry quite a bit of weight. It also performed beautifully for me as a carryon with a roller bag - a great size for a personal item and staying organized on the road. (I had to smoosh the top a tiny bit to fit under the seat.) I have the navy/wasabi Zephyr, and it's gorgeous. I love the colors together. The navy is rich, and the wasabi interior is bright and easy to find things.

    When I have the Zephyr fully loaded, I do need to watch my balance. Not because the bag doesn't work well, but because there is so much weight hanging from one shoulder when I'm packing the dictionary- or atlas-sized books. I don't have to walk far to class, and I don't like backpacks, so the Zephyr is the right choice for me. I find it awkward to hoist heavy-loaded backpacks on my back (and I don't look real ladylike when I do it ;-).

    The Synapse is beautifully designed - have that in navy also. Synapse 19 is too small for the book load I take for teaching classes, but I'm considering using it for my grad residency this summer. Yep, I'm returning to school, after all these years! I'll be taking a few folders, papers, my ipad/keyboard (Kensington Pro case), sweater, etc -- hoping to made do without a laptop. Synapse takes those with ease, with room for a Lunchbot in the bottom pocket. The Synapse balances loads very well, especially with a water bottle in the center pocket. It's not too big to wear or manage. I'm a tall gal, but Synapse well-scaled for shorter folk too.

  4. #4
    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Badger State
    I think that the 25 might be a good option for you, simply because of the computer dimensions. When I am teaching, if I carry my 15" MBP in my 19, it can only handle so many papers and books. The 15" MBP also maxes out the vertical space of the 19, which can make zipping up the bag a little tight if you've got too many other things in there. Since the Synapse is structured, the 25 shouldn't flop about if you're carrying the light load you describe for plane travel.

    What would be most helpful is if you could show us a picture of the average quantity and size of your books and papers. If you don't already have one, I highly recommend the large organizer pouch for keeping papers (even in manila folders) together; it's way less bulky than carrying a plastic or paper accordion folder, and helps keep them from slipping under books.

    Hope this helps.

  5. #5
    Volunteer Moderator
    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    Northern Virginia
    hi atarango1!

    i would recommend a solution that includes the use of a brain cell for your macbook pro. if you are in a situation where you lose balance, you want to know that you can drop your bag, not worry about your macbook pro because it is well protected, and focus on steadying yourself.

    with a capacity of 26 liters, the western flyer isn't that much bigger than the synapse 25, and has the same capacity as the smart alec. you can carry it on top of your roll aboard when you travel. i would add a freudian slip to help you organize your papers, writing instruments, and accessories inside of the western flyer.

    i cannot say enough about the versatility of the western flyer. i currently use it as a daily gym bag. i have used it as my only bag for business trips (holding my laptop, other work stuff, and clothes). and i have used it as my only bag for trips across the world. it is truly a wonderful bag!

  6. #6
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
    I'm in a similar situation (don't want to carry too much) and just ordered my Synapse 19 thinking the 25 would be too big for my EDC. I have a 13" retina MBP and have been trying to go paperless for the longest time. I post much of my class material online and really try to cut back on the amount I carry. On top of that, all textbooks stay in my office so I only carry a minimum on my commute which amounts to a water bottle, a sweater, MBP, some reading material and some food for the commute. The Synapse 19 should be big enough for me.

  7. #7
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Thank you all for your advice.

    I don't know which version of the Macbook pro 15" I am getting. I am guessing non-retina, but my school could surprise me. They ordered it a few weeks ago and told me it would be about a month and a half until it came in.

    I just saw the video of the cache with rails on the Synapse 25 and I have to admit that I really like the idea-- especially for flying. I also measured my torso and it hits 20" at the hips, which means the Synapse 25 may be a big on the bigger side, but not too big I think.

    For EDC I have been using a Timbuk2 computer messenger bag- and my old dell is such a brick I have to use the big one and it is heavy, and big. Usually I carry the computer, power brick, some snacks, maybe a book or two and a knitting project. I carry a separate purse (which I would like to get rid of in terms of carrying everyday) and a separate lunch bag. Which means on any given day I am hauling around three bags up to my office and I would like to consolidate.

    When I go to class I often use a tote bag (one of the freebies I get from my annual conference) and in it I carry that day's book, a notepad and sometimes a folder with my lecture notes and handouts (for my lower division classes.) I imagine I will keep using my tote bag for that- the Synapse will only be for travel and shlepping stuff back and forth from the office.

    I am also excited for the new Side Effect- I am hoping I can get one and replace my purse (and then the purse can just go into one of my larger bags)-- I have also long wanted a Western Flyer (For when I make a one or two day trip-- I have been doing more of those lately and I hate schlepping a roller-board suitcase- I have a small one for really short trips and its a pain. I think the WF wouldn't be so big that I couldn't handle it, like the Aeronaut, for instance) Anyway, for now I am going to wait for some grant money to come in and hopefully I can order a Synapse soon before I go on my next trip later this summer.

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