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College Bag

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    College Bag

    I'm going to be a college freshman next year, and I am perfectly willing to invest in a Tom Bihn bag, but I'm not sure which one would be good for college. SO far, I'm looking at either the Synapse or the Smart Alec, though I'm as good as lost from that point. Suggestions?

    Depending on your major, you might want to include the brain bag on your list. If you're going to be carrying a laptop or really large books, I don't think a Synapse will be large enough.


      Hi, maxiemax. First things first: How big are you, and what do you expect to carry?

      It's been a long time since I was in school, and back then we had to carry a lot of books. If you expect that that is still the case, and you aren't short and slight, take a look at the Brain Bag. It holds the most, but you don't have to fill it up. Advantage: compression straps, which make it easy to keep the contents from shifting and bring the weight in toward your back for greater stability. I wish the Smart Alec had them. But the Smart Alec is sexy.

      If you don't have to carry a lot, the Synapse is just great. I use it daily.


        HI maxiemax,
        I have a Synapse and a Brain bag. I love them both. I suspect that for day to day book carring the Synapse would be too small. The Brain bag will hold everything and the kitchen sink. I can make it really heavy really fast. For college I'd choose the Brain bag. As gamanedit indicated the compression straps make a world of difference. It will easily hold a laptop and scads of books along with other bits for the day. I don't have any experience with the Smart Alec. Its a great looking bag but missing the outside pockets that I use every day. Please let us know what you finally decide.
        Take it easy,
        List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!


          Welcome Maxiemax to the wide world of quality and versatile bags. I am going to echo the other comments and say that the Brain Bag is going to offer the flexibility and capacity you will need when you have a lot of heavy textbooks, or multiple activities in your day and need to also bring along your laptop and or a change of clothes/shoes. I could not have made much use of the Synapse in college unless it was a very light day and I had decent breaks between classes to restock my bag. College textbooks are generally significantly bigger than the ones you are used to from high school.
          The Smart Alec may also work, especially if you are a smaller person, but IMHO the lack of exterior organization will mean you have to dismount and root to locate things you quickly want access to. Organizer pouches, sacks, keystraps and a packing cube or two would help both bags to be ultra organized and allow for quick retrieval of the things you need to keep close at hand. The best of luck, and make sure you let us know what you decide!
          I really, really like TB Bags!


            One more vote for the Brain Bag. It has been a while since I attended college and grad school (was a bit of a professional student for eight years). I suspect more stuff is digital, so maybe the book load is a tad lighter. Even so, you can't go wrong with the Brain Bag, unless it is too big for your frame.

            The bag is very light when empty, and the cinch straps on the sides allow you to expand the bag to carry a little or a lot. It has a ton of little pockets for cords, plugs, etc. The two compartments are great for carrying different kinds of loads (computers, books, change of clothes).

            Good luck!



              WOW! You all are awesome. I am 5'6", so I don't think the Brain bag would be too big, but it's just so hard to choose! All of the bags look really great, and it'll be a tough decision, but I'll be sure to let you know which it is.


                I will say +1 for the Brain Bag because I wish I had it when I was in college.

                Below is a blog post which links to a thread I wrote on this forum about the Brain Bag.

                TOM BIHN Blog - backpack on the Brain Bag


                  I would have loved to have had a Brain Bag back when I was a "career student" carrying a full load. But I wouldn't be caught without it today.


                    Brain Bag, definitely!

                    Another vote for the Brain Bag.

                    I bought one in 1996 or 1997 when my work issued me a 7-lb Dell laptop. I purchased the brain cell that fit the laptop; Tom Bihn threw in a snake charmer (in plum) for free. The bag served me well for 7 years. It was my daily carry for the laptop, its power cord, office files and my personal stuff.

                    On business trips (at least 2x per month out of town), the Brain Bag accommodated a 5-lb overhead projector (naked or wrapped in bubble wrap-depending on how I was traveling), the cords for both equipment, extra battery for the laptop, a super long extension cord, handouts that went with the presentations.

                    Needless to say, the Brain Bag with its load weighed a ton!

                    At 4'10" the bag was too long for me, but it was the ONLY bag that was reasonably comfortable for me to lug all that stuff around.

                    On personal travels, I used the bag as my one and only bag. I traveled with it for one month around Europe, traveling by train. Never had to check it in at the time. On personal excursions when I did not need to carry much, the straps cinched the bag flat.

                    I changed jobs and no longer traveled nor carried business equipment. I gave my Brain Bag with its accessories to someone who needed it more than I did at the time. The current owner carries more stuff in it and also travels more with it than I ever did. The bag and its accessories still looked gorgeous last time I saw them 2 years ago. P.S., the Brain Bag I had does not have a removable waist belt. I am glad to see the removable waist belt on the current Brain Bag.

                    I am waiting for Tom Bihn to roll out the smaller version of the Brain Bag. I will be first in line to order. In the meantime, I am loving my Synapse (black/ultraviolet). I hope the smaller Brain Bag will be the same length as the synapse- 16"!

                    The Smart Alec does not grab me.

                    Good luck making up your mind!


                      By the way, have you seen this video about ID bag? What I Carry in my ID


                        I don't know if you've made your decision yet, but as a current college student, I also must enthusiastically vote for the Brain Bag! Yes, it is a big bag, but the compression straps make it super versatile. I can tighten them up when I just need to toss a few notebooks in for a day of classes, and loosen them when I need to put in my HUGE organic chemistry textbook and my 17" MacBook Pro in a Brain Cell to go study in the library. The bag is super durable too (as all TB products are); it survived 6 months living in and running around China, including the Shanghai World Expo!

                        All in all, an excellent bag!