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Brain Bag

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    Brain Bag

    Hi everyone!

    I'm considering the Brain Bag, and I have a few questions for current owners.

    First, I'll try to give you some context. If you want to skip this part and get straight to the questions, you can find them in bold at the bottom of this post.

    I find that I prefer backpacks as opposed to the convertible bags for travel. Currently, I have an MEI Executive Overnighter, and carry it as a backpack 100% of the time. This poses a few problems for me (in no particular order):
    1. It's a huge bag, and since I'm still learning how to do this one-bag thing, it's almost always over packed and weighs at least 30 pounds.
    2. It's not designed to be a backpack, so carrying it fully loaded on my shoulders for a long time is uncomfortable.
    3. Not enough pockets. I take lots of electronics on my trips, most of which are for in-flight / airport entertainment. I don't want to have to dig through the bag to find them. In addition to this, there's no space for a water bottle.
    4. I travel with a minimum of two laptops. The EO just doesn't have a convenient place to keep these. I can usually make do with the middle compartment, but it's always difficult to fish them out for TSA.
    5. It doesn't meet strict international carry-on regulations.

    After looking around for a solid backpack, I found the Brain Bag. I love the way this bag looks. It seems to be a good size, can hold two laptops, has plenty of pockets, appears to be rugged and is very well reviewed.

    Can any current owners of this bag help me with a few questions?
    1. How comfortable is it to lug this bag around when it's heavy and loaded to the gills?
    2. Have you ever had any issues using this bag as a carry on?
    3. How much can you fit in to it? Can you give an example of your packing list?
    4. What's the best thing about this bag?
    5. What's the worse thing about this bag (besides the price)?

    Last edited by jmcrist; 02-18-2012, 06:28 PM.

    As a long-running BB owner, I can answer some of your questions!

    1) I've lugged my Brain Bag all over the place -- vacations, camping, and as my daily work bag. The reality is that any bag loaded up is going to be tough to haul around, but the BB is the most comfortable that I have found yet.

    2) Never had a problem with the BB as a carry on for US flights, both under the seat and in the overhead bins. Fully loaded, however, it's tight under the seat if you have long legs.

    3) for my daily haul, I pack a Lenovo laptop, an IPad in a heavy leather sleeve, a notebook, an insulated lunch bag, and assorted sundries (sunglasses, water bottle, chargers, etc.). Still plenty of room to spare. I have packed 3 days of clothes for camping or overnight trips. I have also hauled it on shopping trips through New Orleans, Mexican Markets in Cancun, and other places loading it up as I go. On a recent trip to Disneyworld, I carried it every day with sweatshirts, water bottles,etc.

    4) Best thing I love about the bag? Flexibility. The cinch straps and two-chamber design allow you to really adjust your load as you go, with the external pockets for easy access to important stuff. And it's indestructible... I cannot bust the thing. The hardware, materials & quality are top notch. One time in New Orleans I had it loaded with about 40 pounds worth of stuff including souvenirs, t-shirts, and 4 tubs of Cafe Du Monde coffee... I swore I was going to pop a seam or zipper. It laughed at me... I swear! (my back was a different story)

    5) If I were to pick nits, I would say that I wish I had the new design with the carabiner for the water bottle/center straps. I find that I don't use that as much as I like (except for the occasional umbrella) because things tend to slip out. The carabiner addition makes that spot perfect for a reusable water bottle. I would also recommend looking at the organizer accessories. It does not have a firm structure because it is designed to be modular, so the add-ones (brain cell and Freudian slip, for example) are important to provide the structure you might need for some of the needs you describe.

    I hope this helps your decision!
    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.


      I'm not a Brain Bag lifer like MagicTiki . . . only had mine since November. However was my primary bag for a lengthy trip to Finland where I flew multiple times, lugged two laptops around, and generally made a nuisance of myself.

      1) It's very comfy even loaded to the gills. And I always haul too much crap around. Like "Don't pick that up, you'll dislocated your shoulder" heavy. I'd say it's the most comfy backpack without some kind of frame that I've ever had. I have an old LL Bean backpack that has internal aluminum stiffeners that's a little more comfy in the long haul, but it's not nearly as useful/versatile. It's also much smaller. Don't think I could get a decent sized laptop into it.

      2) No. But my experience with this bag is limited to AA, British Air, Finnair, and US Air. Nobody has given me a second look.

      3) For flying I stuffed one laptop in brain cell, universal laptop power supply, a few foreign power adapter thingies, a 10" Android tablet, its charger, two tour books, glasses, sun glasses, various small stuff, three mobile phones with accoutrements (don't ask), travel cables, inflatable travel pillow, a Bb Clarinet, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Ok, I didn't haul the bird.) And there was still room for that liter of water I bought at the airport. At destination I did commute (train plus 1.5km schlep) with two laptops each with their own charger/cables and didn't have to bother making the cables all neat and tidy. It doubled as a camera bag and as a grocery hauler (laptop and such in one compartment, 4.5 L of soda, 3 cans of Pringles, and a bag of pretzels in the other). It can fit too much stuff for your own good.

      4) Size, comfort, versatility. The two main pockets are very nice. It's great for travel if you can only bring one bag. As you see above I reconfigured it regularly. There are attachment points at the top of each compartment for lanyards and such. Those were quite useful to keep things close at hand.

      5) Size. It is a big bag. As mentioned above you'll need to think about how you want to organize your compartments. I use pouches, mostly the ones sold here, to keep stuff encapsulated. Getting a sleeve/brain cell is a good idea as well. If you're optimizing for the TSA show and tell you need to be mindful of how you pack. You can easily get into a position where your laptop is under a bunch of your other precious worldly possessions (crap) which means you will go on a fishing expedition to retrieve said laptop. There are multiple attachment points for a brain cell so you could bring it up higher to mitigate that. Another argument for a brain cell is that the bottom of the bag does not have any padding. That didn't stop me from lugging around a laptop without a pad of some sort, but I was careful.

      The interior color is dark grey on mine. Things get lost in the darkness sometimes. A lighter color would be nice.

      This is more of a user problem than a bag problem. The waist belt. If you're not using it, you probably want to take it off of the pack. (It is detachable.) The buckles will get caught between things like train seats and you'll look like a real doofus standing in the aisle trying to disengage the pack from the seat with people queuing behind you. Oh, and I found out the Finns know all the English cuss words. It's because of Hollywood, not because they heard them from me.

      The bag is built to be water, hail, sleet, snow, and bomb proof. There is a protective flap that overhangs the zippers on the outer pockets and sometimes the handles are hard to find. (It doesn't help that they're black on black on my bag.) That's easy enough to remedy.


      Since you're trying to one bag it, you might consider the Aeronaut. I have that too, it's a superlative bag. I've had no problems carrying it on domestically, even on the small prop jobbers. I've flown all over domestically with it and nary a peep. The backpack straps are good, but not as good as the brain bag.

      The Brain Bag is really a great backpack. I'm glad it's part of my travel kit. It has gotten and will continue to get a lot of use. And it's very much worth the price.

      Good Luck!



        Thank you MagicTiki and mjgoode! Your very detailed replies helped me make my decision. My Brain Bag should be delivered tomorrow! I'll let you know how I like it!


          I thought I would provide an update: I purchased the Brain Bag, Brain Cell, and a Freudian Slip. I used them all on my trip back from the US to New Delhi, India (layover in Frankfurt). I definitely overpacked the Brain Bag, and it weighed in at 35.6 lbs.

          You can read about it here: http://forums.tombihn.com/customer-p...brain-bag.html

          I am extremely happy with this purchase! Thank you for your comments - I was steered in the right direction.


            Jmcrist....have you gotten your bag yet? I just got mine yesterday. Have yet to take it out into the real world but so far I'm very impressed with it.

            So far, the things I would change if I could wave a magic wand would be.....

            1. Bright color for the inner lining. Like solar or wasabi. Make it easier to find stuff.

            2. Put o rings in the side pockets.

            3. Reoganize the inner 'pockets' and compartments in the side pockets. It's like a bunch of pen loops. Could definitely be more functional.

            4. Make the waist belt a little meatier and more cushioned. As it stands, it will create additional stability but won't really do much to shift weight off the shoulders. I'll probably be taking it off but leaving the chest strap on.

            5. Wish there were some sleeves on the inside of one of the inner compartments. At least somewhere to put papers or magazines. Seems like it could be really easy to do without adding any weight or taking away any existing functionality.

            But those are all quibbles. This is a superb bag. Looking forward to hearing your experience with it.


              conejo23: Yes, I have received my Brain Bag! In fact, I wrote about a recent trip where I crammed it full of 35.6 lbs of stuff here:

              So far, I really like this bag. The construction is very good. I'm getting used to how the outer pockets are organized, as it is unique, but I am finding uses for them. For a while I was concerned about how I would carry a water bottle, because unless you have a metal/glass bottle with a loop at the top it didn't appear it would fit well in the middle section of the bag. However, I have found that the mesh pocket holds a bottle very well.

              I don't use the waste strap, so no comments there. If it were my birthday and I could change anything about this bag, I would give it better shoulder straps. I feel like they need a bit more cushion, especially when the bag is loaded to the gills.

              I feel like the Brain Bag is a tricky size. It's large enough to exceed the normal functions of a laptop bag, yet too small to be an all out hiking/camping backpack. Therefore, the backpack straps and waste belt are all the more important in my mind, as they will determine which the bag is most suited for. With upgraded straps, the Brain Bag becomes a more suited for off road excursions. At least, that's what I think.

              I'm curious, what color did you get?