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How much room does a Brain Cell take up in a Western Flyer?

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    How much room does a Brain Cell take up in a Western Flyer?

    Hi, I joined these forums to specifically ask the question in the title. But perhaps I should introduce myself a little first so you can get to know me a little better first.

    I work for the consulting wing of a software company for the last 11+ years which, for the first 9 years or so, required weekly travel. Travelling all the time, I used to know all the tricks, and through several sites, had even learned how to one bag travel.

    The first bag I ever bought for one bag travel was a Briggs and Riley Verb. At the time, I was reading about the great one bag solutions from Tom Bihn and Red Oxx, but two distinct features at the time drove me to the B&R. First, it was available in a brick and mortar store I happened to be perusing while away on a trip, and secondly, at the time Northwest (we're talking back in the pre-Delta merger days) used to show a noticeable preference for roll-aboards. Back then, I've seen FAs remove duffels from the overhead to fit roll-aboards, and then make the owner of the duffel check it.

    As I got better with my one bag travels though, I eventually downsized that bag for a Swiss Gear backpack found at the local Staples. I had actually had the backpack from back in my just-post collage days, but I found it worked great to alleviate a major problem I was having with the B&R. Basically, that the B&R was just too heavy. That, and it always had to be gate checked so I was constantly pulling out the computer sleeve. The Swiss Gear was almost as large. Actually, I think it had overall more volume, but I would be allowed to carry it on some of the smaller planes where several roll-aboards were not being allowed.

    The Swiss Gear though always had it's issues too. It wasn't the bag-in-a-bag solution I wanted. On travel days, I would have a fully packed bag with me at the client sites, and in between it was really just too large for a basic laptop carrier. Also, I never really considered it professional looking. But I had it, and it worked.

    Fast forward to a couple of years ago, I managed to start landing a series of local assignments. WooHoo! No travel! As stated above, the Swiss Gear wasn't a decent option for every day carry, so I swapped over to an old leather messenger bag I had. I had gotten it about 9 years ago, before even my B&R, at Aldo Shoes. No idea what brand it is, and there's no labels. It still had it's quirks, particularly that it was a messenger, and I hate the large flap, and I didn't care that it was floppy, but it fit two nice purposes, it was light, and it was just big enough to fit my laptop and power cords, without being overly large.

    Fast forward yet again to today. The leather messenger has developed a ripped seam. It gave a good life considering the number of years I owned it, but it's time to put it out to pasture. So, now I'm in the market for a new laptop bag. Remembering all the good things I've heard about Tom Bihn back in the day, I found myself on their site reviewing the options. I've been all over the Cadet, and several other briefcase styles, when suddenly I learned something from these forums, that the Brain Cell had been discontinued!

    That got me looking at the Brain Cell again. Back when I was still traveling, it was the option of carrying the Brain Cell as a separate laptop bag once I was on site that had intrigued me the most about Tom Bihn's options. And I had always expected to get one when I ended up having to travel again after these local contracts run out. I think the Brain Cell really has all I really need in a laptop bag. It'll carry my laptop, and it's power cord, my iPhone charger block and my 1M lightning cable. Might be able to also do the wireless mouse, but that was an item I carried more because I had the room than actually needing it. And with them being discontinued, it seems to be a now or never purchase.

    Flip-flopping back and forth though, really got me thinking about whether or not ever would actually use it for the bag-in-a-bag solution. When I first thought about them, I was leaning towards the Tri-Star. But having not traveled for the last 2 years, even if I ended up going back to travelling next week, I still would have lost all my status, which means no early boarding, which means no overhead space, which means I need something small enough to fit as a personal item. Hence the Western Flyer.

    Size wise, it looks like the Western Flyer should be more than capable of accommodating everything I would normally bring on a Monday to Thursday work travel. I've read though tons of reviews, most from here, but several elsewhere as well that seems to indicate, yes, this would be a good choice when the day comes. But then I really started paying closer attention to those reviews. In almost all of them, people are using the Western Flyer with a Cache. The Cache doesn't really qualify for my "Carry laptop and power cord" desires in a bag-in-a-bag solution. I've read a few were people where using a DLBC, which sounded like a good option, but the DLBC is too small for the Lenovo 14" my company currently has me saddled with. I've also read a few where the topic was whether a Size 1 Brain Cell would fit the Western Flyer, but those pretty much stated the Brain Cell took up the entire back section.

    What I would really love to be able to do, once the day comes for travelling again, is to be able to fit a Horizontal 4z (or maybe 6z) and a large packing cube for pants/shirts in the back section, the smaller packing cube for all other clothes in one 1/2 of the front section, and the other half put the snake charmer (with one side non-311 tolietries like toothbrush, electric razor, the other would have the extra cables and chargers I carry for hotel rooms) as well as Tom's 311 bag.

    I'm kind of worried though after seeing those shots of the Size 1 in there, that the 4z or 6z I'm looking at would prevent me from comfortably fitting a large packing cube with 1 pair of dress pants and 3 or 4 dress shirts in the same section. If I've got to move those to the forward section, then that kind of gets in the way of the snake charmer and 311 bag. If that's the case, maybe the Brain Cell won't be as good a choice as I was originally hoping. I don't want to buy one now, only to find out that my plans down the road won't work.

    So, does anybody have any insights? Should I go with this plan and get the Brain Cell now before they're completely gone, or should I just concentrate on a more traditional laptop bag, like the Founder's Briefcase for meeting my local needs, and deal with travel options when that day comes?

    And if I do stick with the option of the Brain Cell, does it make much of difference between the 4z and the 6z? Based on another thread about fitting a Lenovo T460s, since it's the same dimensions as my T450s, I know the 6z will handle it, but sometimes I end up travelling with a client laptop instead of my corporate one. And I never know what that will be. I think the 4z will provide the extra wiggle room to hopefully accommodate whatever I end up with, but if that's going to result in extra thickness that will prevent me from fitting a packing cube in the back section where as the 6z will, then the 6z will be the better option.

    If I am going to go Brain Cell, I'd like to be put the purchase through this weekend, in fear that they might not survive Tom's product launch that's expected on Monday. So, please let me know if you have any insights.

    Thanks for your help,

    Welcome to the forum Kaadk

    I did a test pack with my Western Flyer (WF) and my 4Z Horizontal Brain Cell (I do not have a 6Z Horizontal version).

    Summary - it all fits fine IMHO.

    Note that the Size 1, Size 4Z or Size 6Z Horizontal Brain Cells all have about the same thickness - 2.3" - so that the depth taken up on the WF is the same.
    Both WF compartments are about 3.5" wide. Given the thickness of 2.3" of the Brain Cells you are looking at, you have a bit more than 1" to work with in the back compartment. As the WF is softsided, you can pack clothes that are a bit thicker.

    Picture of 4Z BC in the WS - note that there is about 1" of space on both sides of the BC
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    Picture of 4Z BC and PCBP in the WS - note that is was hard to show the extra space on the side of the BC (previous picture is better)
    For the 6Z BC, visual taking 0.7" off each side of the WS and 0.5" off the top. For reference, the 4Z is 15" wide and 6Z is 13.6"
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    Here is both the BC and PCBP as it would be packed in the back compartment
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    Here is what is what I put in the Front Compartment
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    Finally, 2 views of the bag all zipped up. It measures about 9" thick.
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    In the back compartment - 4Z Horizontal Brain Cell, WF/TriStar Packing Cube Backpack (PCBP) with 1 dress pants, 4 dress shirts
    In the front compartment - 2 Packing Cube Shoulder Bags (PCBP) with 4 T-Shirts in one, lots of socks / underwear in the other

    There is some extra room even with this stuff packed in if you wanted to put more in. For reference, it wear clothes for a 5'11" person and take XL in most things.

    I have used the Brain Cell on its own a lot and I find it perfect as a lightweight laptop bag. If I need more space, I can usually hook (using a TB Double Carabiner though you can use just a straight carabiner) a PCSB onto the back of the Brain Cell - "Piggy Back" style.

    Also note that I think the Daylight Briefcase will fit your laptop. It does fit my work laptop - a Dell 14" E7450 in a Thule Case.

    Daylight Briefcase EDC

    Hope this helps

    Last edited by tpnl; 11-23-2016, 09:20 PM.
    TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!


      Thanks for the photos, that's just what I wanted to see. So it looks like it'll work, but tend to bulge the bag enough that passing it off as a 6" personal item (for example, on Porter) might be difficult.

      Still I think this is what I needed to make decision until:

      Originally posted by tpnl View Post
      Also note that I think the Daylight Briefcase will fit your laptop. It does fit my work laptop - a Dell 14" E7450 in a Thule Case.

      Daylight Briefcase EDC

      Hope this helps

      You just had to say that huh? Now I'm even more confused... Too. Many. Choices.

      The DLBC doesn't have any padding, so that means some kind of sleeve will be needed right? The Cache 6Z isn't listed as a compatible size, but based on the information here, it seems like it might fit? If so, it looks like the expand-ability of the DLBC might be the better option for when I want to carry more than my minimum necessity.

      It'll also be thinner for an eventual Western Flyer. The 6Z cache seems to be only .6" thick, so 0.6" + 0.83" = 1.43" vs the 2.2" listed for the Brain Cell, which will provide more room in the Western Flyer, helping to shrink the overall size. I assume the appropriate approach would be to roll up the DLBC and stick it on the bottom/side or whatnot and just have the cache directly in the WF? Then, when you get there you unroll the DLBC and put the cache into it?

      Total weight wise they look they'd be about the same, 5.8+9.2 vs the 15 of the Brain Cell. So it's not going to be heavier. That's only if I compare 6Z to 6Z, if I compare against the 4Z I was thinking of, it's actually a little lighter to go DLBC.

      But then that leads to a, well, not really problem, but a limitation. Sure the 6Z would work for my T450s, but I never know what I'll end up with when I get to a new client site. At 1/6th of the time I just access their systems using my T450s, 1/3 of the time I'm allocated a desktop, and the other 1/2 the time I'm given a laptop. And who knows what that laptop will be. Last time that happened, it was an HP elitebook, around the same size as my Lenovo, but I've also had some pretty monstrous ones over the years too. I was hoping for a solution with a little wiggle room to accommodate at least some of the client's laptops.

      Another concern is that it needs a Cache, which is basically a sleeve, and I've never really cared for sleeves. Having to get something out becomes a 2 step process with sleeves.

      The other thing with the Cache is the rails. I get the whole TSA friendly approach Tom was going for with them, but since I've got Pre-Check (at least when flying US Domestic) it's not so much of an issue. And my experiences with CATSA, when I fly local instead of crossing over to Detroit, I'd predict I'd have to either remove the laptop from the Cache, or remove the cache completely from the rails so it can go through in it's own bin separate from the bag. I don't think I'd ever see myself using the rails. Is there an option to fix the Cache a little more permanently (subjective) in the DLBC? That way you wouldn't be pulling the cache out of the bag to then pull the laptop out, instead you could pull the laptop directly out of the bag like you would with a normal padded bag?

      Aaugh! Decisions, Decisions, Decisions!

      What would you recommend? For now, I just need to concentrate on my EDC. Minimum carry is:

      Lenovo T450s (13.03" x 8.9" x 0.83") or Laptop Unknown
      Power cable,
      iPhone charger
      lightning cable

      Additional occasional carry (mix and match of):

      iPad Mini
      Pen/Stylus Combo
      Wireless Mouse (currently a Logitech VX Revolution, but I have several)
      10 Card pack of business cards (in steel card case)
      Passport Wallet
      Small umbrella
      Pack of kleenex
      Cold Meds (when I have a cold)
      Special K protein bar
      Special K protein breakfast shake
      Various USB thumb drives (usually no more than 2 at a time)

      Would I be better off with a DLBC+6Z Cache, or Brain Cell?

      Again, thanks for the help,


        I agree that the WS with a Brain Cell and clothes will not meet the Personal Item requirements but my understanding is that, in the scenario you mention, the WS would be your Carry-on (and so ok from a size requirement).

        As to using the DLBC and 6z Cache, here is a thread with perhaps some answers to the DLBC / 6z Horizontal Cache and T450s / T460s fit. @gizzard did an amazing review of this setup. I also think that the Halcyon version of the DLBC may provide more give and improve fit.

        Cache Options for Thinkpad T450s

        I agree that using the DLBC and your laptop would be thinner than using the Brain Cell and you would be able to organize / carry more when just using as a briefcase (you can also add a piggyback option with a PCSB if needing even more space).

        For travel, I would actually put the laptop in a sleeve and put in in the backpack strap compartment (I believe it would fit but, if not, you can just put it in the main compartment). I would use the DLBC as a packing cube in the front.

        As for the TSA functionality, please note that the WS does not have that capability natively (though you can do an easy, non-destructive, hack to attach the cache using the annex clip loop for the Brain Cell and some Velcro). Also, if you do not need the functionality and want the cache to not move, I would just put some sticky back Velcro on the outside of the cache and bag wall it will lean on.

        In terms of recommendations, it really hinges on your requirement to occasionally hold a client’s larger laptop. If this is a must, the DLBC is not an option as your laptop and my Dell are about the largest that can go in this bag.

        Of the options we have discussed, I would say the Brain Cell 4Z might work best (I know that it can accommodate my 15.6” T510) with a PCSB that you can piggy back on if needed. I have used the vertical version as a ultra lightweight carry EDC and really enjoy it. Also, using a Brain Cell for your laptop is how the WF was designed originally to be used.

        Ultimately, the WF itself can be a briefcase. It actually is almost the exact same size as an Empire Builder briefcase. If you are ok to use the WF as a briefcase for large client laptops, the DLBC could work as a briefcase in the WF for your T460s laptop. BTW - the WF, in person, looks very small. I was actually surprised at how compact it looks yet still carry so much.

        So … welcome to the Choice Country! This is one of things that is so amazing about the TB design philosophy - interchangeability of their bags and the options.


        If you like the look of the Pilot, a Halcyon version may be another option if you need to accommodate a slightly larger client laptop (but not most 15.6” laptop). It will fit your T460s in a 6z cache AND other forum members have successfully put in a 15” MBP in a 4z cache (though it stretched the Pilot and reduced the overall space).

        Personally, if can do it, get a Cadet. It fits my T510 15.6" laptop well and is my usual bag to carry this laptop. It makes a great executive style EDC and a good overnight travel bag if not carrying too much. It has built in padding so you could get away with putting your bare laptop in the inside pocket. It can also be squeezed into a WF if really wanting to one bag it. Use the Cadet space in addition to the packing cube space to pack 4 days of pants and shirts.

        The Maker's Bag, while nice and roomer, will not fit a larger 15.6" laptop well. The Ristretto (my current favorite EDC) can fit a 15.6" laptop, it will stick out and the flap will be stretched a bit when closing (ok in a pinch but not longer term).

        This is just my experience - if others have had different experiences, please chime in!

        Hope this help (as he laughs in an evil manner … )

        Last edited by tpnl; 11-25-2016, 05:24 AM.
        TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!


          Well, now I've gone and done it. 6Z Cache and Burnt Orange DLBC. I was a little worried reading about how snug gizzard's T450s was in that other thread you linked. Enough that I even went back to my saved cart over at Red Oxx and was hovering over that 'Complete Order' button for a Metro. But what ultimately convinced me was the listed 3.15 lbs of the Metro, vs the 12.5 oz + 5.8oz of the Cache and DLBC. (I had to go Cord, I didn't see any lighter weight Hal options.)

          Of course, I'm only guessing at what's the right number for the DLBC. There's some drastic differences between what's listed directly on the DLBC page here and the summarized Tom Bihn dimension page here. I'm hoping the ones on the DLBC page are the right ones, because they're a little larger than the other page's. And they calculate better, so it seems to make more sense.



            Let us know how it is once you get to try your DLBC / 6z cache.

            For reference, the dimensions on the DLBC page are correct. The volume, because it is a soft sided bag can vary - but the 9L on the DLBC page is more in line with what the regular volume is. But, if you wanted to, you could probably stuff 12L of items in the DLBC because it is soft sided but it would be bulging.

            TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!



              The size 6Z Cache does fit into the DLBC, but it goes all the way out to the corners of the main compartment of that bag. The reason that they don't list this size cache among the dropdown menu cache options for the DLBC on its product page is that because there isn't much extra clearance between the sides of the 6Z cache and the sides of the Daylight Briefcase it's not as easy to automatically pull out the cache along the rail webbing strips if you use this mode going through airline security. (You may have to pop back the top corners of the DLBC free of the corners of the cache before sliding it out of the DLBC, where that's not necessary for smaller size caches.)

              I think the choice among the different solutions you were considering: Brain Cell, or separate bags like the Daylight Briefcase or the Cadet, really depends on how much protection and organization you want, and the size of the laptop you'll be carrying. The Brain Cell is the classic solution to maximize laptop protection, whether mounted and carried inside another bag, or separately hand carried. Each Brain Cell is sized for a given model laptop, which is suspended in a sling inside the Brain Cell. The Brain Cell itself is suspended via the annex clip attachments, so the bottom of the Brain Cell also does not rest on the bottom of its parent bag, and the whole assembly can survive major drops. (There was a very old post in the forums more than 10 years ago about a journalist whose jeep was blown off the road by explosive detonations while he was covering the war in the Middle East. He ended up in the hospital with a concussion, but his laptop, housed in a Brain Cell inside a Brain Bag backpack was fully functioning when it was retrieved from the wreckage.)

              While the mesh front of the Brain Cell can be used to carry your power brick, it's really not set up for organization of additional stationary items, or tablets. So, if you want a briefcase/attaché, you again have options. For airplane travel, where you don't need to carry around thick files, etc., the Cadet is a good choice if you want more protection, but don't want to carry a Brain Cell inside another bag. (The Cadet has a ballistic nylon exterior, and the bottom and sides are foam padded, even when you use this with a cache.) The Cadet is one of the most "Classic" looking briefcase options, has organization pockets in both the main and front compartments, and would be able to hold larger laptops. It looks good even in more formal settings.

              The Daylight Briefcase is the more minimalist briefcase option. I like the using the DLBC when I want the organization, but don't want to carry a lot of other items -- for example, at a conference.

              I have the DLBC both in Cordura, and now in Halcyon. Here's a picture of the Black Halcyon DLBC with a cache for the 13" MacBook Air below it:

              The size 6Z Cache is 0.3" longer than the cache for the 13" MacBook Air, and I can tell you that my older 13" MacBook Pro in a size 6Z Cache does fit inside the DLBC.

              You can see more pictures in The new Black (Dark Grid) Halcyon Daylight Briefcase thread. I like to use one of the Field Journal Notebook Organizational Inserts in one of the pockets or the main compartment for pens and small items. (The back side of that organizational insert has a zippered pocket that's nice for receipts, and I either tether it with a Double Carabiner Clip, or just use one of the keystraps that come with the DLBC.

              HTH. By the way, if you're in doubt about different bags and/or color/fabric options, you can order multiple items, and send back the ones you don't choose to keep within 60 days. In the U.S., a return via UPS gets credited back with only a $10 charge, regardless of how many items your return. The shipping label is automatically generated, and the $10 charge is deducted from your credit, so no extra payments are involved. This option only works in the U.S., however.



                Thanks for the tips. I've seen plenty in the various threads I've reviewed that implied it was a simple restock, either that or ya'll must need a separate room just to hold the number of bags you've bought.

                But, as a Canadian, I've learned to be very cautious of my purchases from the States. An item can easily double in price, between the extra shipping, the exchange rate, taxes and worst of the bunch, brokerage fees. I once tried to buy a $60 propane hose for my trailer, it came to almost $200.

                So, buying to try out and return isn't my thing. Hence why I do mounds of research, and then still tend to take months making up my mind. For instance, that messenger bag I'm looking to replace? It developed that tear back in April....

                Still, thanks for the yet additional set of threads to review. It'll help take my mind off waiting for the bags to arrive.

                Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


                  Originally posted by Kaadk View Post
                  Thanks for the tips. I've seen plenty in the various threads I've reviewed that implied it was a simple restock, either that or ya'll must need a separate room just to hold the number of bags you've bought.

                  But, as a Canadian, I've learned to be very cautious of my purchases from the States. An item can easily double in price, between the extra shipping, the exchange rate, taxes and worst of the bunch, brokerage fees. I once tried to buy a $60 propane hose for my trailer, it came to almost $200.
                  Well, if you live anywhere near @tpnl (in the Toronto area), you could probably go see these bags in person. I fully understand the problem with extra shipping charges! Thomas is also familiar with the ThinkPad line of laptops (whereas the last model ThinkPad I'm directly familiar with is the W520 -- that does fit into the Cadet).

                  Hope the DLBC is a good selection for you -- I like this bag a lot.



                    Originally posted by moriond View Post
                    Well, if you live anywhere near @tpnl (in the Toronto area), you could probably go see these bags in person.
                    Yes, @Kaadk - if you live in or visit the GTA area and want to see any of the TB bags you are interested in or even ones you are just curious about, just PM me me and we can hopefully arrange something.

                    I also extend this to anyone else in the GTA area as well who is interested in seeing any TB bag in person before buying - just send me a PM. I do understand that shipping (and Duty / Taxes) can add up and it is better to get it right the first time to avoid extra costs. Seeing the bag in person can really make the decision easier.

                    Last edited by tpnl; 11-26-2016, 08:21 AM.
                    TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!


                      Originally posted by moriond View Post
                      Well, if you live anywhere near @tpnl (in the Toronto area), ...
                      Originally posted by tpnl View Post
                      Yes, @Kaadk - if you live in or visit the GTA area...
                      It probably would have been better to see them in person. That is kind of how I ended up with my B&R after all. But, alas, I'm about 350 km from Toronto (~250 M). Here's a hint: I live in the only place in Canada where you cross the border to head into the States by going North. Well, at least, as far as I know it's the only place in Canada like that.

                      Now it's just the anticipation of waiting for the bags to arrive. How do you stand the wait?


                        WooHoo! They're finally here! My new DLBC and 6z Cache is here. The Cache is a lot thicker than I first anticipated. I was expecting more of a mainline sized sleeve.

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                        So, first things first, let's see how it does with my minimum carry: Laptop, power cord, lightning cable, iPad charger block and earpods.

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                        And all packed up:

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                        Easy enough. Now, how's it do with my Maximum carry? That would be everything from the first picture, plus all of this:

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                        Starting at the top left:

                        * Protein Bar
                        * Protein Drink
                        * 2 USB Sticks (Silver one is Kaspersky Rescue Disk, a bootable anti-virus, the other is a bootable Ubuntu Linux with my non-work stuff - also known as games.)
                        * Business Card Case (The shiny stainless steel square covered with fingerprints I need to clean off)
                        * iPhone 6 in Spigen case (also covered with fingerprints I need to clean off)
                        * Folding travel brush

                        Back to the top for the centre column:

                        * Compact umbrella
                        * Pen/Stylus
                        * Powerbeats earbuds (these replace the apple earpods from the first picture)
                        * Sony wireless Bluetooth headset (DR-BT22 for those who like to know)
                        * Wireless mouse (Logitech VX Revolution)

                        And the right hand column:

                        * Pack of Kleenex
                        * Chopsticks (because you never know when your takeout will forget to give you utensils)
                        * Passport wallet (I really do need to get a thinner one)
                        * iPad Mini with smart cover

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                        Managed to get it almost all of it packed. Only the Cell phone was left out, which isn't a big deal, because it's very rare for me to ever put the cell phone in the laptop bag in the first place.

                        Considering it was my first attempt at stuffing, things just kind of went haphazardly where ever. Hopefully as I get more practice I'll be able to pack it better. I also think the Cache might have ended up being too thick. I can see using it when I'm on an airplane, but I might have to look into something thinner for just back and forth in the car.

                        Now for my last couple of shots, because, hey, I had the camera out anyways:

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                        I figured I'd check the weight in Maximum carry mode. 9.07 lbs.

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                        And finally, a comparison shot between my maximum loaded DLBC and my old leather messenger it's replacing.
                        Last edited by Kaadk; 12-07-2016, 06:23 AM.


                          Was anticipating a WF + Brain Cell picture (which I was thinking of doing) and you ended up with a DLBC (which I'm not thinking of doing)

                          Hahah congrats though, the bag looks great!
                          Black/Northwest Sky Western Flyer