View Full Version : Brain Bag vs. Western Flyer for EDC + One Bag Business Travel

04-30-2019, 02:58 PM
Hey All!

Iíve researched so many TB forum posts, that I think Iím more torn as ever as to my very first TB bag purchase. If you can indulge me by taking a look at my situation below and throwing in your two cents worth, I hope it will help me figure out what to pull the trigger on:

Usage Case: EDC to the office but convertible for business travel. I typically travel out 1-2 nights, 2-3 weeks out of the month. The rest of the time Iím at my desk in my office, but my work laptop still needs to come home with me every night.

I currently travel with a Tumi backback and either a Patagonia Black Hole for clothing or a Tumi Rollerbag. Iíd like to get to a one bag system and am torn between the Brain Bag and Western Flyer. Iíve seen comparisons on the Brain Bag vs S19 and the WF vs TS but nothing really matching up with what Iím looking for.

Gear: 15Ē Mac Book Pro, iPad Air, power cords for each, Apple Watch charger, headphones, 1-2 file folders with no more than 5-10 pages in each, small notebook, typical travel odds & ends (passport, keys, bus. cards,) 2 shirts, 1 pair pants, 2 pair underwear, 2 t-shirts, 2 pairs of socks, 2 small toiletry bags (1 for TSA, 1 other). Nice to have: gym shorts/shirt, new balance tennis shoes size 11.

The Question: Can I one bag this stuff into a Brain Bag or Western Flyer and have it still look good when going to meetings while serving as a one bag system for air travel? About every other flight has me ending up in a regional jet of some sort so Iíd like to not have to check the bag. On the regular jets, if I go one bag, I need to be able to have the bag under seat with easy access to my laptop, ipad, and headphones.

Also, Iíve seen some talk on here about putting something like a DLBC inside one of the bags so I have a ďgo bagĒ when Iím on the ground outside of my hotel room. Is that doable with this system/load out ?

Thanks in advance folks!

04-30-2019, 03:46 PM
Well, I tend to be a bit of an odd-ball, but I one-bag with just a Pilot, for 3 nights on the road:

3 button down short sleeve shirts
1 pair pants
3 roos
3 pairs of socks
3-1-1 kit (in a TB 3DOC)
Electric razor, toothbrush, folding hairbrush
Lenovo T450s 14" PC
iPad Mini
1 Apple watch cord, 1 lightning, 1 dual USB/lightning cord, 1 dual USB block
flat mouse (Microsoft ARC)
Other odds and ends as needed, like client site badge, pens, business card holder, etc...

*Note the lack of gym attire to achieve this.

I also have a WF that I change up to when travelling in winter months and need extra gear (like gloves or my Blu-togue), or if I'm longer than 3 nights out on the road. When I use the WF, I just use it as my daily bag into the client site each day and it doesn't stand out but I know that it's got this huge amount of room on the inside, so it always bothers me a little to carry just my laptop in such a large bag. I've also got a DLBC, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to the whole bag-in-a-bag thing. It might be because my DLBC is cordura, but it bothers me taking up that much room (despite the fact I have room to spare) just to bring an extra bag along when the WF serves just as well.

I think you'll find the WF to be able to fit everything you're looking at no problem, with plenty of room for your gym stuff too. I can't compare to the BB, as I don't have any of the TB backpacks.

04-30-2019, 06:51 PM
Hey, @samblank, this is your lucky day, because I made this same comparison myself a few months ago and I have photos!

Shorter version: I used to use a BB for EDC and work trips, but I recently switched to WF because it makes more sense for me. I took the Brain Bag on two recent work trips with no problem: a 4-night trip to New Orleans for a conference and a 5-day trip to Nairobi (!) to give a training. I did one-bag carry-on only with the Brain Bag, packing about 3 days' worth of clean clothing and washing my clothes in the sink every night. Since I work in tech, I took my laptop with charger and external mouse in addition to my smartphone.

In my experience, the Brain Bag's tendency to puff out into a barrel shape means that you have to take extra care when packing if you want to fit it under the seat. I did manage to do that on my international flights, but it was a squeeze. The Western Flyer naturally has a wider, flatter profile more like a suitcase or briefcase, and it's got extra features (like piping) to help it maintain that shape. A Western Flyer will fit under nearly any airplane seat, no problem. They're both quite comfortable to carry in backpack mode. The straps are set closer together on the Western Flyer than on the Brain Bag, which is helpful to me as I have a compressed nerve in one shoulder that was irritated by the Brain Bag's wider shoulder straps.

Before I gave my Brain Bag away to another forum member, I took some comparison pictures of my Brain Bag and my Western Flyer test-packed with my usual work travel gear. Here they are:

Here's what I packed:
- one pair of slacks, one skirt, two shirts, pajamas, assorted underwear and socks in an Eagle Creek medium packing folder
- laptop (14" Dell latitude, tucked in a file pocket), pens, notebook and files in a Western Flyer / Empire Builder / Tri-Star Freudian Slip
- toiletries in a 3DOC
- laundry supplies, clothing accessories, and medicine in a Western Flyer small packing cube
- extra sandals in a Size 4 Stuff Sack
- electronics accessories (i.e. chargers, mouse, etc) in a fabric zip pouch (that a colleague bought for me special because it has USB cords in the pattern!)
- collapsible water bottle

Here's the Western Flyer, packed, on its side. You can see that it's pretty full and is slightly domed at the top, but is holding its shape.

Here's the Brain Bag, packed, on its side. You can see that it's not filled up -- there's definitely still room to add more items. But even partially full, it's shaping up to be a lot deeper than the Western Flyer. This means more difficulty fitting under a seat, and more danger that you're going to smack someone if you make sudden turns in crowded spaces while wearing the bag. In my opinion, the Brain Bag also looks more gnarly and adventure-travel-y, where the Western Flyer looks more like business luggage.

Here are the Brain Bag and the Western Flyer side by side, both unpacked. From this angle the Brain Bag is noticeably deflated. You can see that it's a bit wider than the WF and a bit shorter. What you can't see from this picture is that it's wayyyy deeper -- that's where the extra 10 liters of volume in the Brain Bag comes from.

My two cents is that the Western Flyer works better as a combination EDC and one-bag business travel bag. Its shape, stiffness and sleekness all read as "business" more than the Brain Bag's rougher texture and "straps-and-pouches" aesthetic; the Western Flyer's shallower depth also means you can fit it easily under seats and slip more easily through crowded spaces.

I hope you find the photos and the comments helpful!

04-30-2019, 09:19 PM
@kaadk thanks for the advice! That WF is sounding good! Appreciate it!

04-30-2019, 09:27 PM
@meganomics WOW! I probably couldn't get any more luckier! Your comparison is super helpful! Love the pictures too, because comparing these two side by side was the hardest part to wrap my head around. When the WF is underseat, is it very difficulty to get the laptop out of the bag to use inflight?

Thanks again!

05-01-2019, 03:06 PM
When the WF is underseat, is it very difficulty to get the laptop out of the bag to use inflight?

I haven't done any flights with the "Freudian Slip as laptop case" configuration and to be honest, after trying the configuration out for a few months on my commute, I don't think I will. I do a lot of switching between my home office and my onsite office, so for commuting it's very helpful to just have the FS as my "mobile office" that I just pull out wherever I am and have all my things handy; using a FS as a laptop case also provides me with a nice "suspension" or "cushioning" effect for my laptop as the edges of the FS extend beyond the edges of my laptop and protect it from blows.

But for travel, I would want to access my computer both from the long and the short edges of the WF, and using the FS as described above means you can really only slide your laptop out by unzipping the long side, or by pulling out the whole FS and then sliding it back. When I take my next work trip, I anticipate using a Cache to hold my laptop, and arranging it so that the two unzippable sides of the Cache correspond with the long edge and the top "short" edge of the WF. That way I'd be able to slide it longways under the airplane seat, unzip the top just enough to slide my laptop out, and then slide the whole thing back under the seat with minimal fuss.

One more [admittedly unsolicited] note on laptop cases: I used the Cache in my Brain Bag on my last trip and frankly the "rails" system wasn't the slam-dunk-get-through-TSA-with-no-trouble that I'd hoped it would be. Security staff kept eyeing me suspiciously when I slid my laptop out still attached and sent my bag through the x-ray machine with laptop bumping along behind; plus, in some overseas airports the they insisted on wanding every single electronic device individually, so I had to pull my laptop out of the Cache anyway.

YMMV -- and I'd be interested in hearing if others on the Forum have encountered overt or implied resistance to keeping your laptop in its Cache when going through an x-ray machine.

Hope this was helpful!

05-01-2019, 09:45 PM
@Meganomics thank you AGAIN! Appreciate the feedback. That's a good lookout to line up the cache on the long and short edges. I'll definitely do that. As for TSA, I'll get some mileage and be able to find out first hand how that's going to go since I'm constantly going through airports. Your replies have been truly helpful. Thank you!

05-01-2019, 10:35 PM
You will have a lot of trouble fitting size 11 shoes in the Western Flyer. I think the Brain Bag is much more versatile. It is bigger, but can also be compressed to a smaller bag. A medium size packing folder will fit in it nicely for business clothes.

05-01-2019, 10:52 PM
Maybe I am just unlucky, but I have not experienced any airport security where I can keep my laptop in its Cache.

05-02-2019, 08:08 AM
You will have a lot of trouble fitting size 11 shoes in the Western Flyer. I think the Brain Bag is much more versatile. It is bigger, but can also be compressed to a smaller bag. A medium size packing folder will fit in it nicely for business clothes.

I don't travel with a second set of shoes, but test-packing, I can fit a set of Size 12 men's shoes in the front 1/2 of my WF.

Maybe I am just unlucky, but I have not experienced any airport security where I can keep my laptop in its Cache.

No, I've kind of noticed the same. If I can use Pre-check, I can leave the laptop in obviously, but in airports where I can't use pre-check, I have to send the laptop through naked, it can't be in any kind of sleeve, attached via rails or not.

06-09-2019, 04:22 PM
I have just arrived from a 4 days and 3 nights work trip and I managed to fit almost everything inside my Brain Bag. My laptop, some papers and a book were put in a slim shoulder messenger bag.

I managed to fit inside the BB these items:

- workout tennis shoes size 12 (socks inside it)
- Allstar sneekers size 12
- Eagle creek folder with a dress shirt, a polo and four t-shirts
- Aeronaut 45 big packing cube with underwears, a rolled bermuda, a rolled jeans pants, underwear and two sets of workout clothing
- Tom Bihn pouch with notebook charger and mouse
- Tom bihn pouch with cables and chargers
- Bose QC35 headphone
- Bose bluetooth speaker
- Some protein bars
- Dopp kit
- 10000Ah Powerbank
- misc small itens

Here is how is looks:


As you can see a fully packed Brain Bag gets a barrel shape. Add a water bottle - just like in my pictures - and you will be having trouble fitting it under the seat or inside the overhead compartment. I barely made it.

Packing shoes is always a big concern - even bigger if you wear size 12 like me - but the Brain Bag's got the edge here. Both big comparments are almost of the same size - the front one has a slight different shape because of the exterior pockets - so you can fit shoes inside both bigger compartments. I packed one pair of shoes on each comparment to make better use of the space.

Here is the work/suit pair of shoes:



Here are the itens that were inside the outer bigger compartment:


Here is the shape of the bigger compartment closer to the back when fully packed:


Here are the pictures of how I packed the bigger comparment closer to the back:


For reference I tried to pack a Goruck GR2 34l with the same items:


As you can see, the GR2 34l can't take the same load as the Brain Bag. Of course I could have fitted all the smaller items inside it with a slightly different organization but even thou the water bootle and the second pair of shoes would have stayed out.

The GR2 is more comfortable to carry and maintains its shape even when fully packed.
The Brain Bag gets a bit uncomfortable to carry when fully packed.

Both bags are great. I see them as tools I pick according to my needs.

06-09-2019, 06:47 PM
As you can see, the GR2 34l can't take the same load as the Brain Bag.

You probably could have fit it all into the Goruck GR2 40L