I'm getting closer to a decision on purchasing a new backpack.

A few months ago, my old Wal Mart-purchased backpack disintegrated on me, the nylon fabric ripping open. I'm making do right now with a late-model Wal Mart $9 backpack. I'm actually impressed with the new Wal Mart pack (for $9, that is) but it's only a temporary holdover until I get a good Tom Bihn pack.

In this thread, you'll see images of my old red Wal Mart backpack, may it rest in peace.

I have been looking at other packs, and the only one outside of Tom Bihn that I took seriously was the Red Oxx "C-Ruck" Airborne Carry-On Ruck Sack. The Red Oxx "C-Ruck" is a very impressive backpack with lots of pockets and volume, but its zippers are exposed and lack splash-proof "aqua guard" protection, the pack doesn't offer any internal "o-rings", and no sternum or waist straps. The "C-Ruck" is also extremely expensive.

This narrows it down to two candidates:

The Tom Bihn Smart Alec, with a Steel stripe.
The Tom Bihn Brain Bag in Camouflage

I like the camo Brain Bag's color because I live in the hills and I do many things outdoors, from work to play to volunteering on trails. I like the many options the Brain Bag offers, including the compression straps. The Brain Bag also reminds me of the old, now discarded Wal Mart backpack in its configuration. (The old Wal Mart's quality left something to be desired; one of the compressed straps jammed on me and never released after that.)

But I also like the Smart Alec because on its simpler configuration. I like the "aqua-guard" zippers, the poron-filled handle, and the well-designed interior main compartment and the outside compartments. The Black/Steel/Solar color combo could be both stylish and very functional, as finding things inside would no doubt be easier with that Solar dyneema interior.

So each bag has plusses and minuses.

The "winning candidate" will have to fill multiple roles, including serving as a daypack, going outside to potentially dirty locations and being set down on the ground, being carried in the woods on hikes, and going to public events or shopping.

My common packing list:

Zip-shut notebook/day planner, with business cards, pen, mechanical lead pen and calculator
At least one digital camera, with its own carrying case (I typically carry a Canon PowerShot S2 IS ultra-zoom, a rather balky cam, it a nylon gun holster from Sportsman's Guide)

In the outer compartment...

Pair of compact, folding binoculars, in a small soft case
Pair of handheld walkie-talkies
Pencil, pen, small ruler
Cigarette-lighter-adaptor for charging my cell phone
Tiny, flip-top notebook for jotting down notes
Maybe a small tablet of Post-It notes
iPod, in carrying case with accessories

In external webbing compartments...
Canvass shopping bag

Other items I sometimes carry...

Coat or sweater
Water canteen or baby Thermos

I may also carry my new Olympus LS-10 audio recorder in its own case inside my backpack.

Something I do not look forward to ever carrying in my backpack would be a computer or computer accessories.

I am seriously thinking about purchasing my new backpack with a Vertical Freudian Slip. I am very pleased with the Horizontal Slip in my Super Ego.

Comments, anyone? If you own a Brain Bag or a Smart Alec I'd like to hear from you.