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Smart Alec for academic briefcase?

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    Smart Alec for academic briefcase?

    My husband has been using a ratty old Bean backpack for carrying his too many folders of documents (really, 5-6 inches thick sometimes). I am thinking about getting him a smart alec for his birthday. He hates anything new, but I'm going to give it a shot. He has to have a backpack format. Do you guys think a smart alec would work for piles of letter size folders and sometimes library books, plus a million paperclips and several pens, address book, etc. What do you think?

    TB addict

    I'd say it depends on the size of the Bean backpack that is being replaced. I used to use the Deluxe (I think) and the Brain Bag is comparable in size but much better quality. Back in the day, L.L. Bean bags were made of decent material and they lasted forever. I got a replacement bag a couple years ago and hated it. The zippers kept catching and I thought the nylon was nasty. I couldn't wait to get my Brain Bag.


      brain bag or smart alec

      I know what you mean about the lousy zippers etc on the Bean bag. His is in shreds. I was looking at the smart alec because it looks more open space in the main compartment with less in the way of smaller compartments. Keeping it simple is also a concern. How does the brain bag compare to the smart alec in overall size?



        I don't have a Smart Alec but I *LOVE* the Brain Bag. I'm the sort of person who will overstuff a backpack with ten tons of books -- but I will also use the compression straps when I'm not carrying a veritable library. The main compartment is big enough for two laptops and then some. There is plenty of space there. I also love that the Brain Bag has other compartments for other things. Thanks to Tom Bihn, I have become more organized. I can find my keys on the first try. I can find a pen & pencil in an instant. My papers don't get messed up. What more could I ask for?


          Although I do not own a Smart Alec, I do have a Brain Bag. I converted from an L. L. Bean backpack a few years ago when I was teaching high school. My Brain Bag worked wonderfully for organizing and carrying my students' papers, MacBook Pro, and sometimes textbooks. My Brain Bag has continued to serve me superbly as I made the transition back to full-time graduate school. The compression straps really are wonderful as they allow the bag to be adjusted to the size of the load currently carried.


            I have a Black/Indigo/Solar Smart Alec, and it sounds like it'd be perfect for his needs. Having one large compartment does simple things up a bit, and you can combine the backpack with a Freudian Slip if you want more organizational options. I know from experience that it will carry a ton of books, too. There's a pocket inside the main compartment that works great for phones/pens/small notepads/paper clips--you know, small objects that you don't necessarily want tumbling around free and hard to find. The side pockets also offer a couple of compartments that are easy to access while walking or what-have-you. I'm glad that I went with it over the Brain Bag.


              I have the Smart Alec; I am at a university too--and tend to carry stuff. I think the Smart Alec is very versatile. It would be good to have the Freudian Slip or something similar so that papers don't bunch up at the bottom of the bag. It is cavernous--that is how I think of it!!! It is great for holding clothes, books, papers, and the side pockets are very versatile too. The cinch strap in front is good for shoes, coat, etc.,

              I found the Brain Bag way too big for me; it depends on tall your husband is!


                Depending on your husband's height the Brain Bag with 1 or2 Freudian Slips would be perfect.

                The most important is that is torso be long enough to carry the bag comfortably.

                I am 5.7 and my husband is 5.8, the Brain Bag fits just right, perfect match for my back but an inch longer and I might have had to choose the Smart Alec.

                It fits perfectly to my husband frame and he has no problem carrying it full of books, holding two full size laptops and all related gear, including full size external hard drives or clothes, this is our main class/conference and travel (plane, train, urban buses/shuttles and car) bag.

                I have 3 Brain Bags

                I bought the first one in 05 to hold two full size laptops and related gear during the last part of a cross country move by plane,which involved the Brain Bag with our laptops in their Tom Bihn protective cases, our (feisty) cat in her carrier and many of our stuff in the cargo haul.

                I was in charge of removing the laptops at screening which was done, in a snap, by some miracle, when I was stressing out because they asked my husband to put the cat out of the carrier for screening.

                Putting the laptops back in the Brain Bags was no problem either.

                I was so happy with that purchase that I got a second Brain Bag so that my husband can use it as his travel bag.

                The third came in a limited edition color and I snatched it because I missed another limited edition color when I bought my Steel Brain Bag.

                The Brain Bag has saved me from missing a doc appointment, I got lost in a new city trying to get to that specialist office and I got lost in the Dulles terminal, I went the opposite way of the gate.
                Both times, I made it just in time because the Brain Bag allowed me to walk fast/run from one point to another.

                The Brain Bag is very tough and very comfortable.

                I have owned non trekking backpacks ever since they came out in the market. So I experienced a lot of bad design, discomfort and unreliability. (one broke a couple of hours after I bought it)

                The Brain Bag is no problem, mine have been squeezed in my car and overhead bins, filled to the brim and used for balance in an utility trailer, tossed on the floor of train cars and airport shuttles.

                They are easy to put on and off, feel like they are not stuffed and they always look good.
                I haven't washed them since 05 (first Brain Bag in Steel ) and 06 (second Brain Bag in Sapphire) because they look perfect.


                  I don't have a Brain Bag, but I have both a Smart Alec and a Synapse. The Smart Alec would swallow up 5-6" of folders with no problem and room to spare. The base of the Smart Alec is about 7.5" and it's a little wider towards the midpoint.

                  If you look at the picture of the lady with the Smart Alec on her back on the TB backpack page, it gives you an idea of how far it sticks out away from the back. I use my Synapse more, but I'm not sure it'll hold everything your husband needs. The only downside I've found with the Smart Alec is that it tends to hold it's wide shape even when empty, but if you fill it up, it's great.

                  As a plus, I REALLY like the padded web handle at the top of the bag. A lot of times I carry it that way instead of using two straps, especially in congested or crowded areas. It's the little things like that which make it a TB bag.
                  Aeronaut (crimson) with Absolute Strap, Synapse (navy), Smart Alec (black/steel/solar), Shop Bag (solar), cache for MBP, cache for iPad2, and numerous pouches and key straps.


                    Four or five years ago I offered my two daughters a Smart Alec each as backpack for their studies. (I was bored to buy them a new bag every year). I've one myself perfect for computer + files + extra drive + tea + lunch + .... so many things.


                      The Smart Alec is very easy to carry even when fully loaded. The pockets at the top kept all the little loose things organized. The depth is good, it really works for files. The sleek lines of the exterior are what drew me to this bag, I liked the non-fussy profile a lot. Even more important, it's held up well and still looks good.