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Which Backpack - million dollar question

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    Which Backpack - million dollar question

    I travel on regular basis and I've been doing this for last 10 years. Oh, not really adventure travel, I go to historial places etc. And when I am on the road, I usually like to cary a t-shirt or two, couple of socks, laptop, camera, and maybe maybe a jeans. Not to mention coins and passports, etc.

    I tried almost all types of backpack (daypack). From big brands to local store ones. Till today, I'm not satisfied fully. Macpac (from New Zealand) came close, but had issue with their narrow opening. About to go to India and was looking (once again). Was about to buy Smart Alec but it has the issue like macpac (the way top portion opens up on the video tell me its narrow which is trouble in finding things while on the go).

    Please please please help me finding a best day back which is not like those mini size boat or not as small that after laptop, you won't be able to carry anything. Help me finding the backpack...

    Originally posted by hasib View Post
    I travel on regular basis and I've been doing this for last 10 years. Oh, not really adventure travel, I go to historial places etc. And when I am on the road, I usually like to cary a t-shirt or two, couple of socks, laptop, camera, and maybe maybe a jeans. Not to mention coins and passports, etc.

    hi hasib,

    welcome to the forum!

    what camera and accessories are you carrying?

    depending on the size of your camera, you should be able to carry what you describe in a smart alec backpack. the laptop can go inside of a brain cell or cache. and the clothes you mention can go inside of a tri-star medium sized or aeronaut large sized packing cube. have a look at the clear and cordura organizer pouches for things like coins, etc. tom bihn makes a passport pouch for you to carry your passport.

    let us know about the size of the camera and if you have additional questions.


      How long is your trip to India going to be? Are a T-shirt, socks, and pair of jeans going to be the only clothes you're taking? Is the backpack going to be your sole piece of luggage?

      As maverick said, everything you've specified (with the possible exception of the camera) will fit in the Smart Alec. It has pockets, and also you can use pouches for quick retrieval, along with clip-on straps. I keep my sunglasses case and a flashlight clipped to o-rings so I can pull them out instead of having to fish around.

      Also take a look at the Brain Bag. Fully loaded, it might be a "mini size boat," but compression straps reduce the front-to-back depth to its contents. It is 18 inches top to bottom; the Smart Alec is 18 1/2.



        The Smart Alec does not have a narrow opening by any means. It does not zip out all the way down, but it opens wide and is cavernous! It holds more than you can imagine, and I like the fact that you can't access zippers easily....so safer. I think it is a handy pack for travel in India.


          Guys, you are great. Thanks for prompt reply.

          Let me reply your question first. About Camera, not that big one. Canon powershot G10.

          About the accessories, I don't like the adding more (i.e. packing tube) in addition to my backpack. I just want one backpack which can hold my stuff. But I would definitely get cordura, speaking of which, for passport, which size I should get - medium?

          About my india trip, I'm going for a month. And backpack is not the only luggage. I will use the backpack all the time with me while touring cities during day with my luggage in my hotel room. Since I stay on the streets whole day, I like to carry those items mentioned.

          About narrow opening, as mentioned, I loved the macpac but because of narrow opening, I had trouble taking out stuff -- I mean not juge but it's annoying (in my last trip in Europe).

          Shiva, don't you think it's an issue that..not just taking out..but also trying to have a quick look at what's inside your backpack.


            hasib, the lightweight packing cube goes into the backpack, to keep things separated. I use one for exercise clothes.

            For walking around the city, I'd say the Smart Alec or even the Synapse.


              @gmanedit - thanks bro.

              I loved Smart Alec when I saw it. But the narrow opening kinda killed my interest. I'm in Sydney. If I was in the Seatle area, I would visit the store to check it out before buying it.


                @gmanedit - I liked the Synapse. This is close to my need I guess. Quick question, do think 19 lt is enough to carry, laptop, couple of t-shirts and pants, camera (not big one), passpot, change water bottle...


                  I haven't carried my laptop in it yet. I'm on my way out the door now. When I get back, I'll try to fit everything in.

                  Be aware that with any top-opening backpack, so far as I know, you won't be able to see all of your stuff without moving it around. Stuff sits on top of other stuff.

                  The Smart Alec is a great bag. As Shiva said, it is not a narrow opening.


                    As you said, Smart Alec is top opening backpack which means I won't be able to see all my stuff - THIS IS THE REASON for me not to buy it. Or else, I would buy it in a heartbeat.


                      Hasib, did you ever see a backpack called the "cane toad"? It was around years ago, from Kathmandu. 35L. The Smart Alec is very similar to that. I've not seen anything like it in the shops for many years, and it's quite different from the Macpac day packs.

                      Anyway, the Smart Alec opens like a cane toad (or other large frog) mouth. In a good way.
                      The opening is much larger than in a normal top-loading pack because the lid is slightly angled from back to front. As a result, the opening is huge. The solar lining really helps as well. I used the zip pockets in the 'lid' to hold small items that would otherwise get lost. Overall, I found the Smart Alec great when I needed to carry lots of gear, like here, but not so great for my daily commute with much less stuff. I ended up trading it with another Australian customer who had a ..er.. Synapse surplus.

                      Synapse wins hands down for 'structured' packing. It makes very efficient use of the 19L. Here is a photo of the Synapse and a packing list. It wasn't full. In terms of packing, I put my pencil case, umbrella and computer cables in the lower front pocket. Camera & ipod go in one side pocket, sunscreen (not shown) and small hard drive are in the other side pocket. The rest goes in the main compartment. Most days I also add a 'handbag' which is approximately the size of a Small Cafe Bag. It's tight, but isn't straining the zips at all.

                      Hope this helps



                        Photo of Synapse & Smart Alec together



                          Hi, Hasib.

                          "a t-shirt or two, couple of socks, laptop, camera, and maybe maybe a jeans": I put in a small MacBook, a T-shirt, a pair of socks, and a pair of jeans. It was a tight fit. Jeans are bulky.


                            @gmanedit - thanks a lot for your input. I really appreciate it.

                            @notmensa - thank you! From what you said, the keyword to me was 'structured packing'. This is what my need is. In my last Europe trip, there were many times, I found myself sitting in a rail station and taking out all my stuff as the macpac I had has narrow so I wasn't able to see all my stuff. I had to take out ..it was so frustrating.

                            I loved the way Smart Alec look. But with front opening, I will have similar experience I think....Synapse looks near about perfect with only issue is that it's 19 lt.


                              If compact size and easy access are the key issues, I'd go with the synapse. For pure carrying capacity and flexibility, however, I wold go Brain Bag.

                              I have the Brain Bag, and it's my go-to bag for travel. While it still has the top-loading issue that you dislike, the two compartment system enables you to organize your stuff in such a way that you can keep the "quick access" materials in one compartment.

                              When I travel that's what I will typically do. I'll keep the change of clothes, light jacket, etc. in one compartment and the books, magazines, laptop, etc. in the other.

                              It is much bigger than the synapse, but you never know when you will need the size. And, as stated here, the cinch straps allow you to adjust the bulk to fit the load.
                              Bob P.
                              Magic Tiki Studios

                              Empire Builder (black/steel), Brain Bag (steel), Small Padded Organizer Pouch, Clear Wallet, Soft Cell, Snake Charmer (cayenne) and assorted trimmings.