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Brain bag for (lap) swimming

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    Brain bag for (lap) swimming


    I posted on the forums a couple months ago asking for opinions on using the Brain bag for swimming, in particular for lap swimming (https://forums.tombihn.com/forum/tom...r-lap-swimming). I wanted to replace an old duffel bag I’d been using and gotten increasing frustrated with the lack of organization and having to dig around for things in the bag. The consensus was inconclusive and some recommended a yeoman. I took a chance and bought a used Brain bag on the FB group. It's been a great success, and I’ve tinkered with the contents/setup and have more or less settled on what is in the bag and how it’s packed, for now. Hopefully others with similar use cases that don’t have a Brain bag yet can make a more informed decision of whether the bag is right for them.

    An important caveat is that this is an old bag (it’s made of cordura). The internal organization and maybe even the size may not be the same as the current version, but the pockets in general look to be similar (from what I can tell on the website), so hopefully this is still a useful guide.

    First, here is a picture of the bag packed with everything:

    Click image for larger version

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ID:	333965

    It’s pretty full, but not packed to the brim. It could fit more, but it may be a tight fit and uncomfortable to actually wear.

    Top compartment

    The contents inside mine:
    • Keys
    • Swim ID
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Phone (iPhone 11 Pro Max)

    This is pictured below (not including phone, which is used for the picture taking). The phone is the largest item, and even still, there is plenty of space in the top compartment to fit a larger phone.

    Click image for larger version  Name:	top_contents.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	4.79 MB ID:	333971

    Water bottle

    The water bottle is a 32 oz Gatorade squeeze water bottle, measuring 3 in diameter and 9 in tall (not including the spout). The bottle fits fine in the mesh pocket if the pocket behind it is lightly packed (mine is). Otherwise, you will probably need to downsize. As is, there is still a process to putting the water bottle in the pocket: 1. unzip the pocket behind it 2. put the water bottle in the mesh pocket 3. finally zip up the behind pocket again.

    Left front pocket

    This is the front pocket behind the water bottle.

    Here is a picture of the internal organization of the pocket:

    Click image for larger version  Name:	front_left_org.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	4.28 MB ID:	333975

    There are 2 pen slots, one small front pocket, and one large back pocket.

    The contents inside mine:
    • Moisturizers (travel size, hand/face)
    • Pen
    • Squeeze bottle with 50/50 alcohol/vinegar to get water out of ear after swimming
    • Small baggie with Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) powder to neutralize chlorine during shower (mix it with water in the water bottle, pour over self)
    Click image for larger version  Name:	front_left_contents.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	5.24 MB ID:	333973

    I put the 2 moisturizers in the big back pocket, the squeeze bottle and Vit C powder in the small front pocket, and the pen a pen pocket.

    Here is a picture of what it looks like packed:

    Click image for larger version  Name:	front_left_filled.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	4.88 MB ID:	333977

    Right front pocket

    This is the front pocket not behind the water bottle.

    Here is a picture of the internal organization of the pocket:

    Click image for larger version  Name:	front_right_org.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	4.56 MB ID:	333979

    There are 4 pen slots and one large back pocket

    The contents inside mine:
    • 2 swim caps (one that I use and an unused one, in case of breakage)
    • 2 goggles (1 mirrored, 1 smoke, for different lighting conditions for the outdoor pool)
    • 1 watch (Timex ironman)
    • 1 tempo trainer
    The contents that go in the big back pocket are: one of the swim caps (the replacement one), the watch, and the tempo trainer

    Click image for larger version  Name:	front_right_watch.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	4.82 MB ID:	333981

    The contents that go just in the front area are: one of the swim caps (the one I use) and the 2 goggles:

    Click image for larger version  Name:	front_right_goggles.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	4.79 MB ID:	333983

    Here is what it looks like packed:

    Click image for larger version

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Size:	4.56 MB
ID:	333984

    Front main compartment

    The front main compartment (closest to the outside pockets) contains my “dry” stuff, i.e. stuff that stays on land
    • Eagle creek medium packing cube (10" x 14") containing clothes
    • Towel
    • Mask in plastic bag
    Click image for larger version

Name:	image_23705.jpg
Views:	381
Size:	5.27 MB
ID:	333986

    The way it’s pictured is how it slides into the bag, vertically.

    Back main compartment

    The back main compartment contains the “wet” stuff, i.e. stuff that goes in the water
    • Kickboard (19” x 12”)
    • Fins (12” x 9” x 2.5”)
    • Pull buoy (9.5” x 4” x 6”)

    Click image for larger version  Name:	back_main_contents.jpeg Views:	0 Size:	3.83 MB ID:	333989

    The way it’s pictured is how it slides into the bag, vertically. I put the kickboard in first, which fits perfectly against the back panel, then put the fins in at the bottom in the alternating shoebox type pattern, and then set the pull buoy on top.


    The bag has everything packed in it when I go to the pool, except for the clothes. I wear my clothes over the swimsuit (except for underwear). So, the packing cube just has underwear in it. Once I strip down into just the suit, I put all the other stuff inside the packing cube. So the bag is actually only completely full on the walk from the pool to the locker room (since I change into clothes after showering, except maybe an outer layer because of the cool morning).

    The bag works really well, haven’t had any major issues with fitting things in it. I’ve only ever used a duffel bag for swimming before, and it is pretty inconvenient, as all the stuff is there and you have to dig around in the main compartment to find it (especially keys, phone, wallet). Also my bag was getting pretty old, so I wanted to update to a more long term solution.

    I was most concerned about the kickboard/fins/buoy, but they fit almost magically in the back compartment.

    The 2 main compartments are great, because it separates the wet stuff from the dry stuff. The packing cube further protects the change of clothes. The organization of the front pockets helps deal with all the little knick knacks I bring along.

    With the size water bottle I have, the contents of the 2 front pockets cannot be interchanged, since the one the goggles/caps would be too full to fit the water bottle on top. Though I think for most this really should not be an issue, my water bottle is abnormally large.

    I looked at all the Tom Bihn accessories for other organization ideas, and the only one I seriously considered was the swivel double carabiner: https://www.tombihn.com/collections/...31890920341567. The use for this would be to hang the goggles from: clip one end onto one of the o-rings, and then hang the goggles from. But I think it just adds unnecessary complications to just stuffing them in the bag.

    I have not tried one of those actual speedo/tyr swim bags that kids at my high school swim team would always lug around, I wanted a bag that could be used in other contexts and not look out of place. And also one that perhaps had more internal organization (not sure how much organization those speedo/tyr bags have).

    I think for a gym bag for other purposes this should also work, with gear in one of the main compartments, and a change of clothes in the other one, and random knick knacks in the front pockets.

    When I got the bag, it wasn’t that waterproof, so I used Nikwax Tent & Gear Solarproof, as recommended by Tom Bihn. Note that you should apply it when the bag is still wet. It works pretty well, the bag repels water sufficiently.
    Last edited by zhou94; 07-13-2021, 06:39 PM.

    Thanks for sharing that packout zhou94 that's a really cool use of the Brain Bag!

    If you did want to do something different with your goggles, you could use a small stuff sack or similar to hold them and attach that to the triangle clip at the front of the bag that is nominally there to latch on to a water bottle...
    I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...


      Hi zhou94 ,

      Above review is really interesting.

      Where do you pack the flip-flops/slides arriving at the locker room and the shoes during the locker room-pool-locker room transit?

      Even after many years and bags I am still trying to find out the ultimate swim bag. I am more into duffels but none of the "gym" or swim branded ones are any good or have enough capacity/organization for a taller male gear.

      If TB decides to offer the Old School Carry All in a larger size it will be the ultimate swim bag. The longitudinal division and the built in shape, especially in the vented compartment, will make all the difference.

      The commonly found wet/vented/shoe compartments pockets are pretty useless. They reduce the length and project into the main volume in an awkward shape. In addition they are just sacks without any structure and wrap your wet gear blocking the airflow for ventilation.

      Ideally I want to fit a kickboard, pull buoy, large size slides and powerfins pro, XXL cotton bathrobe (outdoor deck changing in colder temperature).


        Welcome to the Forums mitakam !
        I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...


          Hi @mitakam,

          Ah, I don't have the shoes/slides issue because I drive to the pool and there's a parking lot right next to the pool. I just keep the slides in the car and switch the driving shoes for the slides and walk to the pool.

          On your list, for the kickboard/pull buoy/fins you should be able to do the same as me and put them the "laptop compartment" of the bag (closest to your back when wearing it). I think kickboards and pull buoys are pretty standard sizes so the only difference is potentially the fins. If they are too big to stack like I did, you could separate them and put them flat against the kickboard and then wedge the pull buoy on the side of the fins that is thinner. If you always put the kickboard the closet thing to your back, that makes it basically like a defacto frame sheet to give stiffness to the back of the bag so the fins won't bulge against your back.

          The shoes/slides and the robe fitting in the other compartment might be a tight fit. Sometimes I used a thicker towel when the pool towels weren't washed, and rolling it was a tight fit in the bag. But that was with street clothes in the bag. If you're only doing deck changes at the pool deck then you never need to carry the clothes in the bag and maybe your shoes would take up less space than my clothes.

          If you put your clothes and robe in the bag and just carried the shoes, that could already work. If you have a backpack, you have 2 hands free anyways, and one of them carries the backs of the pair of shoes or the slides. Actually, I used to do this with a duffel bag at a different pool where parking was further away.


            Hi both,

            G42. thanks for the greetings. Did not mention but I am long time Aeronaut 45 user. Best bag ever made for my purposes.

            zhou94, thanks for you feedback. Since my (short) fins, slides and shoes are pretty large they won't fit in along with a bathrobe. I can do away with the kickboard and downsize to a bath, normal feeling, towel (not these sport/mf sticky ones) but will keep searching for the ultimate swim bag. And I have used tons of swim, gym, etcs bags throughout HS, college and so on.
            Currently I am using the largest possible backpack from one of the major swim brands and, while manageable in use, still leaves lots to be desired and looks quite juvenile.


              I have not used any of my Tom Bihn bags at the pool because I am too worried about what the pool chemicals will do to them! I will say that the best wet bag I have come across for my suit after I swim is a silicone Stasher bag! They do not leak and have different sizes that you can choose from based on the size of your suit.