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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
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2013

    Smart Alec vs brain bag

    Hi Folks,
    I'm trying to decide between a smart alec and brain bag. I'm looking for a carry on 'business trip backpack' that can hold a couple of nights of clothes, maybe shoes and my laptop/cords/toiletries/ipad/ MacBook/etc. Both bags seem like they could do this to me. Does anyone have experience that would set one bag ahead of the other for this use?

  2. #2
    Registered User
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Outside of Philadelphia, PA
    I have a Brain Bag, and it's my go-to for one-bag trips. The two cavernous chambers coupled with the cinch straps give you a lot of options for managing combinations of tech, clothes & personal stuff. This past weekend we went on a camping trip, for example, and it was my only bag for all of my gear: ipad, 4 pairs of shorts/t-shirts, sweatshirt & sweatpants, extra pair of sneakers, toiletry bag (my TB snake charmer), flip-flops, chargers, etc. I can also load it up with my laptop, ipad, work accessories, lunch & gym clothes without challenging its limits (It actually laughs at me, I think).

    I have flown with the BB numerous times as well. If I have it filled to capacity, it will not fit under the seat in front of me. This may not be an issue for you, but you should be aware of it. It can get pretty chunky with a full load-out, but that's the price you pay for that extra 10-12 liters of packing space. I'll usually carry a small messenger-type bag for the stuff I need during the flight.

    I would not part with my Brain Bag, but I am actually considering a smart alec or a synapse 25 as an alternative to the Brain Bag when I don't need suitcase-style big hauling capacity. Those two seem to be better suited for quick, easy access to your things while on the move (not to mention agile crowd/aisle navigation).

    I hope this helps!
    Bob P.
    Magic Tiki Studios

    Empire Builder (black/steel), Brain Bag (steel), Small Padded Organizer Pouch, Clear Wallet, Soft Cell, Snake Charmer (cayenne) and assorted trimmings.

  3. #3
    Forum Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Southeastern NC
    i have a Smart Alec and have had (for a brief time) a Brain Bag. I use the Smart Alec for travel for up to 3-4 days worth of clothing and gear several times per year. Usually I can fit 3 button down shirts, 1 pair slacks, 1 pair of workout shoes, underwear, toiletries, ipad and charging cables for the ipad and my phone in addition to the assorted pens and small notebooks I use. I also use the SA for my daily carry on the road and at home. I experimented with the Brain Bag and all that stuff fit with plenty of room to spare for other things. I returned the Brain Bag as I was concerned about the bag becoming too heavy to comfortably carry on my back. The SA has always fit under the seat in front of me - even on small regional jets - although my preference is to have it overhead if possible as I like the leg room. Ultimately I think it may boil down to what you need to carry and how much you are willing to (or can) carry.

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