View Full Version : Smart Alec vs. Synapse 25

01-27-2014, 02:10 PM
I'm weighing my options right now and I'm trying to figure out whether to get the Synapse 25 or the Smart Alec. My plans for the bag are to be a commuting bag to and from work and to use for some travel from time to time. I've always been intrigued by the Synapse 19, but it always seemed a little too small. I'm a fairly large guy and have a long torso, so the Synapse 19 seemed too small and from the pictures I'd seen the Smart Alec seemed too small as well. The more videos and pictures I see the more I think it will be as good or better than the Synapse 25 for me. Basically, I'm wondering if anyone has any experience with both and can help me make up my mind. I wish I lived closer to Seattle so I could see them both in person.

01-27-2014, 02:28 PM
I use both bags, though they are actually large on me. The Synapse 25 is a better commuting bag in my opinion. More places to store small items, and a slightly slimmer profile, if you are on a train or bus.

01-27-2014, 03:51 PM
Hi Prost!

The Smart Alec and the Synapse 25 both have a similar capacity. The Smart Alec provides a larger main compartment, while the Synapse devotes some space to the compartments at the front of the bag. If you prefer one large compartment, I would suggest the Smart Alec. If you prefer a bag that provides larger subcompartments then I would recommend the Synapse.

I enjoy using them both.

I would highly recommend you order both and try them in your home. You can return the one you decide not to keep (fair warning: you have to be able to bring yourself to part with it :)

01-27-2014, 11:10 PM

While I do not have a Synapse 25, I do have a Smart Alec (previous gen without the upper pocket loops). I have also been debating getting a Synapse 25 and had a few thoughts.

First, the Synapse 25 is a very beautiful bag. It is very sleek and looks more structured (rigid) than the Smart Alec. It is longer (better for your long torso perhaps) and has more dedicated pockets for more built in organization and should meet most of your needs. It seems to conform to people’s body structure very well. However, IMHO, it does not look as good on wide shouldered people - First Look: Tom Bihn Synapse 25 | Loaded PocketzLoaded Pocketz (http://www.loadedpocketz.com/first-look-tom-bihn-synapse-25/). While ok on this person, I can see the tear drop shape making the pack look small on the upper back of an even wider shouldered person such as myself.

Also, the Smart Alec has a few features unique to it that the Synapse 25 does not have. These features may be important to you depending on what you will be carrying and your style:
-Better Laptop Protection (Brain Cell + padding on bottom)
-Holds larger laptops (e.g. 15.6” or 17” laptops)
-Padded Carry Handle making it easier to carry heavy loads by hand
-Flexible to hold bulky items – inside or outside with cord
-Can shrink to be low profile - The Brooks Review: Smart Alec (Part II) - TOM BIHN Blog: We make travel bags in Seattle, Washington (http://www.tombihn.com/blog/the-brooks-review-smart-alec-part-ii)
-Can expand capacity with 2 modular pockets
-Uses 1050d High Tenacity Ballistic Nylon in the centre section
-Glowwire option for nighttime visibility (and fun)
-Looks better on wide shouldered people IMHO
-Very clean look with only 2 mostly hidden side zip pockets and the top pocket

I would be remiss if I did not also speak of some things I needed to learn / add with my Smart Alec to make it work for me:
-Harder to pack without being lumpy / uneven – I had to learn to pack things symmetrically to prevent this.
-To get the best internal organization I wanted, I needed to purchase a Vertical Freudian Slip
-Side pockets best for thin items unless you are ok to have things stick out

Overall I am very satisfied with the Smart Alec and I use it now as my current EDC. The final comment I will make is actually from my wife. I asked her about the Smart Alec and she said it was ok but unconventional looking compared to other “normal” backpacks. I am fine with that but it is true. The Smart Alec is unconventional looking while the Synapse 25 is a more conventional backpack.

Hope this helps - I would do as maverick suggests - get them both and try them out at home.


01-28-2014, 08:44 AM
Thanks for the responses. I think I'm now leaning toward the Smart Alec. I may have to order both and return one.