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Just ordered two TB bags to try, would love some feedback

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    Just ordered two TB bags to try, would love some feedback

    Tom Bihn Folks,

    Finally decided to give one of these bags a try after only hearing awesome things all over the place about them. I've had a number of bags over the years, few Timbuk2 ones, and others with the Timbuk2 being what I had liked the most. While I've been happy overall with these bags I've accumulated more than enough just simply trying to meet different needs. I have a larger messenger bag, a smaller one with built in iPad sleeve, a Jansport backpack, a small EDC bag from Kickstarter, and a huge OG Sack that now gets almost no use. I want to try to simplify these down and I feel like either of these would allow for me to sell off these older bags and consolidate. Based off the more modular design, overall quality and made in the USA stamp on Tom Bihn, I thought I would drop the cash. Now, I've ordered both the Smart Alec and Synapse 25 to try both of them out before settling on one. Here are the needs I am trying to meet:

    EDC - Mostly bringing to work, as a teacher, including a 13.3" MBP Retina, Lunch box, some cords and chargers, pens, pencils, paperwork, small notebook, other random things that may travel to and from school.

    Misc Use - I like to go walking in the woods from time to time, usually bring some water, Frisbee, extra jacket, snack, etc. Also, would be great to bring the same bag to the beach with basic beach supplies - book(s), towel, water, sunscreen.

    Travel - Personal Item, not my actual carry on, bring with me just what I would generally need on the plane, book, other entertainment, possibly a tablet, extra clothing, anything else I may try to fit in to save room in other bags.

    My understanding of the two is something like this - both may work for what I need, just depends on my most regular need. Smart Alec seems more modular and versatile as I can customize it a bit more and it also has the elastic on the outside for additional storage. S25 seems to be a bit less modular, comes with some more built in storage, but can still have key things added, like a Cache on rails, to allow the bag to shift and evolve with my needs.

    Right now, I'm thinking that the S25 will be a better fit for what I need, I'd love to hear other thoughts and suggestions for accessories or any other essentials to make my choice easier and/or simply better. The EDC aspect, bringing the bag to work, will be the single biggest use. I also cycle regularly and will take my bike to work on some days as well.

    Oh, and I ordered the Smart Alec in Black/Steel/Iberian, going with my usual for a dark bag. I was thinking about the French Blue on the S25 but opted for the Olive/Ultraviolet. Still may switch to the French Blue ultimately.

    #2
    Cool. Let us know how they work out and which one that you choose.
    Owner of Aeronaut 45, Aubergine/Wasabi; MCB, Plum; Travel Trays, Wasabi, NW Sky & Zest; PCSB, Iberian; PCBP, Steel, black dyneema CP & Pilot

    Comment


      #3
      Welcome to the forums!

      My two cents. I have both of those bags, and love both of those bags. However, it sounds like the Smart Alec may work better for you. Here's what my experience has been.

      I find the Synapse 25 is really really good as an office EDC if what you carry is usually limited to flat things, like a laptop, some papers, an ipad, etc. The pockets are great for organizing the other stuff - wallet, keys, phone, various toiletry items, etc. You can't beat the central water bottle pocket either. My problem comes when I want to get my lunch in there as well. The lunch bag I use (a Built Neoprene one) doesn't really fit without making the bag bulge awkwardly. I usually end up carry it separately.

      You're right about the Smart Alec - it's great if you want to customize how to carry a variety of things. And I cannot praise it enough when it comes to travel. I have a Cache for my MacBook Air, which rests nicely against the back of the bag. When I don't have my MacBook with me, I use it to carry my iPad and Kindle, thus keeping them both out of harm's way. The ability of the Smart Alec to easily swallow a packing cube of clothing cannot be understated either, which is why mine is in heavy rotation as a travel bag (I'm using it now on a weekend getaway). I also find the Smart Alec accommodates a variety of sized and shaped lunch bags easily, and can continue to swallow whatever you put in it. The bungee helps to compress the bag when it's not full, so it won't look as bulky. Also? The Smart Alec has a flat bottom, so the bag stays upright when you set it on the ground. And the Upper and Lower Modular Pockets are greatly useful too.

      Do't get me wrong, the Synapse 25 is good for travel too, but I find it requires a deal more thought as far as what goes where - the Smart Alec is more forgiving in that department. And if you cycle to work a lot, the Synapse has a lower profile.

      Ok, so I'm not sure I led you in one direction or the other, but hopefully some of this will help?? And now I see you're in NJ - had you posted this prior to your purchase, I could have met you somewhere for a little show and tell? Whereabouts are you?
      Eat well, travel often.

      Comment


        #4
        Dear jhnmason,

        Welcome to the foum! I have carried multiple iterations of both the Synapse 25 as well as the Smart Alec backpack. The Smart Alec was my TOM BIHN backpack, and the current Synapse 25 is my most recent.

        EDC -- as nukediver mentioned, the Smart Alec is able to swallow most things you throw at it, and it should accommodate what you've described nicely. I am not familiar with the lunch box you mention, but the Synapse 25 can accommodate different lunch boxes in different ways. I like putting a glassware spill proof container inside a tyvek insulated "brown bag" (just in case it leaks) in the front bottom pocket of the Synapse 25. I have one that fits this pocket nicely. If you want to take a hot lunch, there are a few leak proof thermoses that fit in either front side pocket. You may also want to organize some of the items you have described (cords, chargers, pens, pencils, paperwork, small notebook, other random things) in the Vertical Freudian Slip, regardless of which of the two backpacks you're carrying.

        Misc Use -- both bags should nicely hold what you're describing.

        Travel -- depending on how light you're willing to travel, you could actually have the Smart Alec or the Synapse 25 as your only travel bag. I like to pack 3 changes of clothes (3 pairs of socks, 3 pairs of underwear, 3 t-shirts), 1 or 2 pairs of pants, one warm mid layer if the weather requires it. If I am wearing a warm layer or jacket, I like to make sure they will fit into my bag if I want to put them in there. Then I do laundry at my destination. This generally works. If this seems a foreign concept, just consider that there was a time when I would pack for a 2 week trip with 14 t-shirts, 14 pairs of underwear, etc. !

        As you've understood, the Smart Alec gives you more open space, and you can organize it with packing cubes, stuff sacks, and organizer pouches. The Synaspe 25 on the other hand has some built in organization.

        Even though the two have a similar capacity, I find that there are times that I want to use one or the other.

        Let us know how each works out for you!
        -m

        Comment


          #5
          maverick,

          From what I've seen it looks like I may want to pick up the Vertical Freudian slip, one thing I don't like about my current bags is the complete lack of organization once so many things are tossed into the bag. The lunch bag is neoprene and thusly extremely flexible so it shouldn't add too much bulk, it has a little insulation, and holds my lunch which is generally in some sort of glass container. With what you've said it sounds like the SA might be a bit better overall for this purpose. As far as traveling goes - I'm right there with you, I'd dig trying to take just one bag if possible. I'm visiting my sister in Minneapolis this November and I'm going to try to make these my only bag for the trip and given that it is only a few days, should be possible based off what you've said which is encouraging.

          nukediver,

          First, oddly enough it looks like we have the exact same lunch bag. Go figure, which works out well for me, may help guide me towards the SA as a better choice overall. I live in Southern Jersey, Atlantic County, about 25 minutes from AC if that is helpful, might be an easy way to guide me one way or another.

          Here is another question then - if I was going towards the Smart Alec, other than the Vertical Freudian Slip, what would you folks recommend for essential organization? Seems like the Side Effect is a popular option.

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by jhnmason View Post
            Here is another question then - if I was going towards the Smart Alec, other than the Vertical Freudian Slip, what would you folks recommend for essential organization? Seems like the Side Effect is a popular option.
            I carry the Side Effect with me daily. I wear it around my waist, and it is, for all practical purposes, and extension of my belly!

            Seriously, I would be lost without it! Right now, I have inside it:
            In one interior pocket of the main compartment: my lip balm, a small pen with a clip, a little tape measure.
            In the other interior pocket of the main compartment: a pocket knife with a clip, a flash light with a clip, a lighter, a multitool, earplugs.
            In the open area of the main compartment: a laser pointer, wallet, wired earphones, bluetooth earphones (each in their own case), field notes, and sometimes my keys.
            In the outside pocket: a cleaning cloth for my glasses.

            The Side Effect can also slip inside the front bottom pocket of the Synapse 25, or in the main or a side compartment of the Smart Alec, but the manner in which I use it, it really is best around my waist.

            Some ideas for accessories -- 3D organizer cubes or the Snake Charmer is great for larger adapters or cables, if you have more than what might fit into the mesh pocket of the Freudian Slip. I place various adapters into a Small Organizer Pouch, which I put into one of the mesh pockets of the Freudian Slip. I have placed those items directly into the mesh pocket, but I find it easier to just pull out the Organizer Pouch, unzip it, and find what I'm looking for. A just in case rain jacket can go nicely into a Stuff Sack.
            -m

            Comment


              #7
              maverick,

              Is this the organizer pouch you were talking about? What size travel stuff sack for a rain jacket? Thanks for all the suggestions so far, it is greatly appreciated.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by jhnmason View Post
                nukediver,

                First, oddly enough it looks like we have the exact same lunch bag. Go figure, which works out well for me, may help guide me towards the SA as a better choice overall. I live in Southern Jersey, Atlantic County, about 25 minutes from AC if that is helpful, might be an easy way to guide me one way or another.

                Here is another question then - if I was going towards the Smart Alec, other than the Vertical Freudian Slip, what would you folks recommend for essential organization? Seems like the Side Effect is a popular option.
                I grew up west of you in Cumberland County so I'm totally familiar with where you are, although now I live up in Middlesex County.

                As for your question on essential organization, I echo maverick's comments. I keep a Side Effect in whatever bag I carry. It holds my wallet, phones, Field Notes notebook, a pen, lip balm, and keys. It's great to grab when I need to run an errand at lunch and don't want to schlep my whole bag. Also, Tom Bihn makes many many different sizes of Organizer Pouches and Stuff Sacks, which are a fantastic addition to any bag. Between the pouches and the o-rings in every bag, I'm so organized now it's ridiculous :-D
                Eat well, travel often.

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by jhnmason View Post
                  maverick,

                  Is this the organizer pouch you were talking about? What size travel stuff sack for a rain jacket? Thanks for all the suggestions so far, it is greatly appreciated.
                  Hi jhnmason!

                  I have used the Mini Padded Organizer Pouch for earphones, a Small for a hard drive or battery or a number of other electronics, the one sized for a SuperDrive with a SuperDrive.

                  The 3D Organizer Cube comes in Clear, Mesh and Fabric. I have one in my bike pannier for a charger (for the battery to the Bionx motor), bike multitool, spare inner tube, and I'm not sure what else is in there. I have a mesh one to house a tiny power strip and travel power adapters (or at least I did -- I think someone may have borrowed it). And I have a clear one for travel, though I have been using the Clear Quarter Packing Cube for toiletries when I travel. It isn't technically 1 liter, but it is generally not an issue. I put liquids on one side, and non-liquids on the other side.

                  The size of your rain jacket will determine the size of the Travel Stuff Sack. A Patagonia Torrentshell will go nicely inside a Size 3, as an example.


                  Originally posted by nukediver View Post
                  now I live up in Middlesex County.
                  Oh wow, nukediver -- that brings back some wonderful memories! I went to Rutgers in New Brunswick back in the day...
                  Last edited by maverick; 09-07-2015, 07:02 AM.
                  -m

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Thanks for the recs - I ordered a side effect, a couple sizes of the Travel Stuff Sack, and a couple of small Organizer pouches to get me started. I can always return some once I get them and find out what else might be helpful.

                    Also, small world - I am also a Rutgers New Brunswick graduate.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Ok, so I sit down to catch up on my forum reading, and I'm sipping some water out of this!

                      Click image for larger version

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                      I live just up the road from New Brunswick, in Metuchen. My first Masters degree came from Rutgers New Brunswick. I think Tom needs to come out with some Scarlet/Black bags with Iberian Dyneema interiors
                      Eat well, travel often.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Received both bags today and am, first, extremely impressed and pleased with the quality of both. Also interesting to see the contrast between the two sort of bag philosophies as the SA is truly one huge compartment while the S25 seems to have some pockets for just about everything. Originally I was thinking the SA seemed more of a fit for me because I'd like some flexibility, for different purposes, and I can add more accessories and options to the SA. With that said, now having them in person, I'm thinking the S25 might be more for me. The pockets just seem to suck up my test packing of EDC for work quite well and I love how the exterior of the S25 looks.

                        Decisions, decisions...here is to thinking that just getting the bags would make the decision easier. I also did order some accessories, a SE, few travel sacks, and small organizing pouches to help things along. Thinking I may just need to go with my gut on this one as realistically carrying it to work will be the main use while traveling and others will be second.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          People keep saying that the Synapses have SO many more pockets. But to my counting it is just one pocket more. The leayout is totally different of cause:
                          Synapse:
                          1. Bottom Pocket
                          2. Side pocket left
                          3. Side pocket right
                          4. Bottlepocket
                          5. Small Stuff pocket above bottelpocket
                          6. Main Pocket

                          Smart Alec:
                          1. Side pocket left
                          2. Side Pocket right
                          3. Lidpocket left
                          4. Lidpocket right
                          5. Main pocket.

                          Both have a top-open devider in the main pocket so I did not count that in. Still: I know that they are TOTALLY different and I wount part with either of them but this "pocket-count" is in my head for quite a while now and I thought I share it.

                          Ilkyway
                          “Ankh-Morpork people considered that spelling was a sort of optional extra. They believed in it in the same way they believed in punctuation; it didn't matter where you put it so long as it was there.”

                          By Sir Terence David John Pratchett from The Truth

                          Comment


                            #14
                            The SA also has that elastic pocket at the bottom front of the main pocket, which makes 6 total.
                            Synapse 25 (black halcyon/uv) [my work EDC]
                            Synapse 19 (black dyneema/iberian, black parapack/wasabi, steel dyneema/wasabi)
                            Smart Alec (black dyneema/uv)
                            Co-Pilot (black dyneema/wasabi)
                            Small Cafe Bag (black dyneema/wasabi)
                            Aeronaut 30 (aubergine/zest) | Aeronaut 45 (nordic halcyon/northwest sky)
                            PCSB (steel, island) | SE (black/wasabi, black dyneema/uv, burnt orange/uv) | TT (uv, zest, fjord)

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Interesting comparison and, to be sure, you are both correct. I guess I just feel that the pockets on the S25 just so easily meld into my EDC, when testing packing, for work, that it seemed like a perfect match. I feel like the SA would likely be more versatile in the long run but would require more accessories, at least a Freudian Slip and additional organizers, to fit my EDC needs quite as well. I may still spring for a Freudian slip for the S25 but I could probably get away without it. I'm just wondering how well the S25 would work as a personal item, especially on a short trip, as my only bag. I am thinking the SA would work better for this, with the one large compartment, but I am sure that I would get a surprising amount of clothes into the S25.

                              Comment

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