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Question about the horizontal brain cell and the brain bag

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    I use the Brain Bag and a vertical Brain Cell clipped in that I use extensively for international travel. I rarely remove the whole Brain Cell unless I want to use the Brain Bag for traveling about without the laptop once I arrive at my destination. Going through airport security is a snap: just unzip the back main compartment, open the Brain Cell and slide out the computer. No need to unclip anything.

    If you want to remove the Brain Cell, it takes all of 30 seconds or less to unclip it and pull it out.

    The pack swallows an enormous amount of stuff. You need to be careful. I find that it helps to have a few pouches or plastic file containers to hold your stuff in the main compartments. I haven't tried the Freudian Slip...someday, maybe. The front pockets are sufficient for smaller items, from pens to small notebooks, cell phones, etc. I have a steel/black Brain Bag and tied red paracord through the zipper pulls. It helps me to see that the zippers (black on black) are closed.


      First, thanks for the well wishes, guys, I really appreciate it. I'm actually an exercise therapist by trade, I typically work with people who are in pain. I'm the owner and clinic director of The Egoscue Clinic in Austin, Texas. I actually had this surgery 2 years ago. Got tangled up with my dog while running. Using a combo of the PT stuff and our stuff, I was running (lightly) in 3 weeks, pretty much full activity in 4-5 weeks.

      So, I'm back home and I was feeling so good after the surgery that I had my wife swing by the office to pick up the box so I could save our employee the trip to our house. After some soup, I've been playing around with the bag.

      This is going to be a tough decision, between the Brain Bag and the Brenthaven. I LOVE the Brain Cell. Once my computer is in that thing, I have no worries about how protected it is. That thing rocks. The Brain Bag is definitely light on organization, and what little it has doesn't make a lot of sense. The side/front pockets just strike me as weird. They don't open fully so it's hard to get into the corners of the things, and they both have, well, a bunch of slots for pens. Not sure how many pens Tom Bihn carries, but I don't need that many. Would be nice if some of the slots were more varied to hold differently sized items. There is a biz card slot, but it's so tight that I couldn't put 15-20 of my cards in there, I had to work to get a couple of them in there. Just odd.

      I really like the look and feel and build of this thing. It's obviously an exceptional piece of gear. I think where I'm at in comparing the two is I'd really like to make the Brain Bag work. I like the modular concept, the look of it, and the fact that when you buy a bag you actually join this community? That's a very cool thing. Reminds me of Seth Godin's writings on tribes. This is definitely a tribe that does a terrific job of educating newbies like me and supporting each other.

      I just gotta see if I can make the organizational side of things work without having to get 10 pouches to do it. What is a bit frustrating for me is that the bag is SO close to being just perfect for my needs. Just a bit more attention to organization and it could be amazing. For example, one simple thing that would greatly increase the utility of the bag for me would be to put a couple small pockets on the inner side of the main compartment where the Brain Cell goes. But it's just a plain sheet of nylon. Seems like wasted space to me. Even just a deep thin sleeve where one could put some magazines or papers would be great.

      I do have a couple of questions:

      1. For those of you who use a vertical freudian slip, how do you orient yours? I was really interested to see how this worked. It's a nice unit, but for me one thing that's a bit troubling is that obviously you only have access to one side at a time. Do I want my files facing out and my odds and ends facing in, or vice versa? And then what does that mean from a usability perspective when I want to access the stuff facing in? How big is that hassle factor? I know some people just take out the slip when they get where they're going. I have no desire nor intention to do that. I want the stuff to stay IN the backpack. With the Brenthaven, this isn't an issue given its organizational strengths.

      2. Do your Brain Bags stand up on their own? When I load my laptop, freudian slip, and other stuff into it, getting it to stand up is a balancing act. If I get it *just* right it will do it, but if I just set it down without attention to balance, it falls over every time. The Brenthaven stands up easily, something I find appealing.

      It's tough to get a good feel for how it will work in the real world without taking it into the real world (and thus voiding my ability to return it should I choose to opt for the Brenthaven), so I'm trying to do my best to test the usability of it in my home. I greatly appreciate any thoughts or suggestions.


        A couple more observations.

        First, when I attach the compression straps to the bag, even at their loosest, the bag stands better, becomes more stable. Not as much as the Brenthaven, but better.

        Second, one thing just jumped out at me as I was looking at the two bags, hadn't even noticed it before. The Brenthaven's zippers are completely exposed, no cover whatsoever. The Brain Bag's are all covered, secured from the elements but still pretty accessible. If I had to dash out to the car in the rain or got caught in a rain storm, the Brenthaven seems much more likely to let water seep through than does the Brain Bag. That doesn't happen to me much, I live in Austin, not the Pacific Northwest or Indonesia, but it does happen from time to time.

        Also, I just realized that the outside of the brain cell has a little sleeve for papers. So that's one more 'built in' organizational pocket! I'll take all of 'em I can get.

        And for a backpack made this ruggedly, it's just a good looking bag.

        Re size, I read some people say the bag is 'too big'. Honestly, it's no bigger than the Brenthaven and I'm guessing their capacities are similar until you remove the Brain Cell and Slip, and then the Brain Bag would have more capacity.

        Do any of you use the triangle-shaped fastener 'ring' on the front of the bag? If so, for what?


          The triangle fastener is great for securing an umbrella or water bottle so that when it's further strapped in, it's got 4 point's of contact.
          I really, really like TB Bags!


            Glad you're feeling good after the surgery!

            Regarding the pen slots, someone on here (can't recall who), did some surgery on one of her bags that had too many pen slots. I think it was a Co-Pilot. She clipped the stitches between a couple of slots and it made a bigger pocket, which she liked much better. Do you or your wife sew? I'd use the seam ripper that you'll find in any sewing basket.


              Conejo, do you have any thoughts on how the two bags feel when you carry them? I haven't tried a Brenthaven. The Brain Bag (used with sternum and waist straps) feels like a hug.


                Kmcg....i'd think that would void the warranty. Will check with the company if I keep the bag (which at this point, that's looking likely). If they're ok with it, I'd have no problem taking it to someone to do it for me. I'd really hate to screw up the bag.

                Gmanedit.....that's a good question. They both feel good, but different. Right now the Brain Bag feels a bit stiff, so I'm guessing that over time as the straps break in a bit that the feel changes. The Brenthaven has a comfortable feel to it, I have no issues there. With both, I wouldn't hesitate to take either on a 6 mile hike. Both have nice shoulder straps and back padding, and a chest strap. The Brenthaven does not have a waist strap. Probably wouldn't use the one on the Brain Bag unless I was doing some serious hiking. It's not the kind of waist strap with sufficient padding to actually take much weight off the shoulders, but maybe I'm wrong about that.

                One thing that's funny, I'd shown my wife each of the packs I've brought in so far. She's also in need of something. Nothing really appealed much to her, but she liked the Brain Bag. So I went to the website and showed her the Smart Alec and then the video of Tom unloading his, and she said "order it, that looks like my bag, and it's absolutely named after me".

                I'll shortly be starting another thread with a few questions about the Smart Alec for her. She's actually looking to use it to combine her briefcase and purse into one, and then will just keep a purse around for weekends and short jaunts out.


                  And if I do decide to go the Bihn route, I'm probably going to keep the bag inside until my wife's Smart Alec arrives and I can check that out. Seems to have more organizational structure. I like the Brain Bag, but I'd hate to cut the tags off and start using it and then find out that I really do like the Smart Alec better.


                    Conejo, does the Brenthaven have cinch straps or another way to snug up the contents when the bag isn't fully loaded? (I couldn't tell from their website.)


                      The Expandable Trek doesn't have cinch straps, but what it has is an expandable compartment. There is one zipper that looks like it will open a new compartment. When unzipped, the bag expands about 2" in depth and reveals a new zippererd compartment that doesn't have any organizational features of any kind, it's just raw storage space. It's a nice design.

                      The bag is structured enough that it doesn't really suffer from the lack of cinch straps. The Brain Bag is constructed in a less structured way, so it seems to need them more to complement its design.

                      Another nice feature the Brenthaven bag has is the netting on the front that can be zipped away and unclipped when not in use. If I kept the bag, it's not something I would use so I zipped it away. It folds away like a convertible top folding into the trunk of its car.

                      It really is a very nice bag. As, obviously, is the Brain Bag. Just very different aesthetic and functional styles. Whichever one I end up with, I'll miss some attributes of the other.


                        Question: Tom Bihn generally recommends the Snake Charmer as an accessory bag for the large laptop backpacks. But the Side Effect looks like a more versatile bag that could do the same thing as the former, but with a bit more organizational functionality.

                        Anyone gotten one of these to put into a backpack? Seems like a cool strategy. Then when you get where you're going, if all you need is a little waist pack for some quick tourist stuff, you're set.


                          Ok, there was a question above about the comfort of wearing the Brain Bag vs the Brenthaven Expandable Trek. I wasn't really able to put the Brain Bag on and walk around much yesterday (knee was pretty stiff and painful after surgery). But it's much better this morning so I put both on, loaded them up and just walked down the street and back.

                          The first thing I noticed is I absolutely hated having the horizontal brain cell in the back compartment. I could feel the bottom of it digging into my low back. Not good. No amount of adjusting strap length changed it. It was just uncomfortable to the point where I couldn't use it if it was going to feel like that. With the Brenthaven, the straps were not as comfortable but the back was much more cushioned and comfortable.

                          So, I switched the freudian slip and brain cells, putting the brain cell into the front compartment. That felt MUCH better. This, I could live with and enjoy using.

                          All that said, I just called to ask some questions and place an order for my wife's Smart Alec and found out they're going to be getting more of our size of the vertical brain cells in today. I asked the woman on the phone about using a horizontal vs vertical brain cell in the brain bag and she said she thought the vertical would distribute weight better and be more comfortable. So, I'm ordering one of those and will see which works and feels better and then return the other. But the worst case scenario is I use the horizontal brain cell in the front compartment. That seems to work in terms of feel, and it seems fine in terms of daily usage of the bag.

                          The only thing I find disappointing about my entire Tom Bihn experience is that if you want to return something, you have to pay the cost to return the item. Most of the other companies I deal with, and EVERY other bag that I bought, the company sends you a prepaid shipping label to return the item(s). You just affix it and drop the box off. Everything about my Tom Bihn experience has been first rate, except this. This is substandard, and surprising for a company with such an outstanding reputation for terrific customer service and superlative products.

                          But in the grand scheme of things, that's a relatively minor quibble.


                            Originally posted by conejo23 View Post
                            The only thing I find disappointing about my entire Tom Bihn experience is that if you want to return something, you have to pay the cost to return the item. Most of the other companies I deal with, and EVERY other bag that I bought, the company sends you a prepaid shipping label to return the item(s). You just affix it and drop the box off. Everything about my Tom Bihn experience has been first rate, except this. This is substandard, and surprising for a company with such an outstanding reputation for terrific customer service and superlative products.
                            How do the other companies absorb the cost of returns? My guess is that it's built into the purchase price for everyone. So am I, who seldom returns things, paying the cost of other people's returns?

                            For the future, if you order small, lightweight items, you can request (in the comments box on the order form) USPS delivery, rather than UPS.


                              Gmanedit.....yes, of course they absorb that cost into their pricing structure. They absorb ALL costs into their pricing structure. Design, manufacturing, customer service, adminstrative, all of it.

                              I would imagine a company like Tom Bihn has fewer returns than most companies in this category. But it's going to happen. Like I said, in the grand scheme of things it's not a huge deal, might be the only item I ever return to them. But at least for the companies that I routinely deal with, this is definitely below the customer service standard to which I've become accustomed.


                                Without meaning to be unduly quarrelsome, your comparison shopping plan (My computer backpack review thread - FlyerTalk Forums) called for ordering five (originally four) bags and returning four of them. I think most people here who return products ordered two, to compare them, and returned one; or ordered one and sent it back in favor of a replacement item; or thought they would love something but didn't. I think there may be more of a case for these customers than for someone who knows in advance that he will be returning most products. What do you think?

                                Question: Do the free-return companies cover the costs of foreign shipping, or just in the U.S.?

                                On that flyertalk thread, one of the commenters called the forum members groupies, and you used the word cult. I can't speak for anyone else, but I ordered a backpack and was so impressed by the design and quality that I've returned for all my bag needs. I don't even look anywhere else.