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Help me justify a Smart Alec purchase :-)

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    Help me justify a Smart Alec purchase :-)

    I’ve been *this* close to hitting the “Add to Basket” button on a Smart Alec these last few weeks, but still have lingering doubts as to my *need* for another backpack. That’s not to say I won’t sell some non-TB ones still in my possession to make this purchase happen though! What I’m pondering is an upcoming trip when I’d like to use the Smart Alec (if I get one). I already have a Synapse, which I love, but my thinking is that something bigger is needed.
    *
    This trip is for 9 days to the Caribbean (St. Kitts/St. Marten) to spend a week on what’s called a liveaboard dive boat. Our group will be getting on the boat on a Saturday, and then not getting off again until the following Saturday. I will obviously not have much of a need for any backpack during this time, but definitely have a need on the travel days, and the day we get on the boat (we’re doing an island tour that morning/early afternoon). Because I’ve been fortunate enough these last five years to be able to take some utterly fantastic scuba diving trips to far-flung Pacific locales, I’ve learned how to REALLY pack light. As you can imagine, scuba diving is a rather gear-intensive hobby. Some of the group will check two bags, and have two carry-on bags. *I’ve learned how to whittle everything down to one checked bag and one carry-on bag for my trips. For the checked bag, I’ve been using a LL Bean rolling duffel (in a really bright and hard-to-miss teal Hawaiian print), which holds ALL my dive gear, plus some clothes.
    *
    I’ve used a variety of bags as a carry-on, none of which have been great – small duffel, old North Face backpack, old Osprey pack, etc. Here’s what needs to fit:
    *
    Tech Stuff:
    iPad (in Timbuk2 envelope)
    iPhone
    4th gen Kindle (in padded TB OP)
    Medium clear organizer pouch with chargers (iPad/iPhone, Kindle), card reader, *& TB screen cloth
    Headphones (either Bose QC15 or a compact set of Shures)
    Two Canon SD1100 IS point and shoot cameras & SD cards (in a Waterfield case)
    Canon underwater housing for the cameras
    Camera & housing doodads in some sort of case (extra camera battery, charger, silicone grease, o-rings, wipes, etc.)
    *
    Clothing (in an eBags packing cube):
    Long sleeve quick dry button front shirt – can be worn as a jacket or cover-up (necessary for my English/Irish/Scottish skin!)
    Bathing suit
    Quick dry t-shirt
    Quick dry shorts
    Quick dry undies
    Quick dry chamois towel (smallish)
    Floppy sun hat (also quick dry)
    *
    Other:
    311 bag
    Spare prescription glasses
    Sunglasses
    Contact lenses
    Scuba logbook pages, certification cards, dive insurance policies, travel paperwork – in a large Ziploc, although I’ve been eyeing a large OP
    Pens, post-its, binder clips – in pen/pencil OP
    TB Passport Pouch
    TB clear organizer wallet
    Spare dive mask (in hard case)
    Collapsible walking stick (I destroyed an ankle on a dive trip a few years ago, and probably need surgery)
    Possibly a MCB to use during the trip (on the plane, on the tour)
    *
    I haven’t tried putting all this in a Synapse yet, although I'm thinking it won't all fit. Some of the items are neither small nor squishable. Many of these items are non-negotiable, so it would be hard to weed stuff out. Also, because I thoroughly enjoy craft beer and burgers, my clothes are not small, hence they would take up a large chunk of the available space :-)
    *
    So I guess what I’m asking is do you think the Smart Alec is the right fit for me? I can envision using it on other trips I have planned, as it would be useful to have extra space available for souvenirs, or other stuff I may pick up along the way. I like how streamlined it looks; one of the things I don’t like about my other backpacks (besides the Synapse) is how there are straps, buckles, and pockets that seem to get caught on everything. I also like the openness on the inside of the Smart Alec. Any advice is welcome, and if you’ve got additional pictures (I swear, I’ve looked at all of them on the forums) that would be great too. About the only thing I’ve decided is the color – Black/Iberian. Or maybe Black/Cardinal/Steel. Or…..
    Eat well, travel often.

    #2
    Oh goodness, I am so green with envy! Back when I was going to college in Hawaii, I used to belong to the university's dive and snorkel club, so we used to go shore diving every Saturday. It allowed me to get roughly 140+ dives under my belt mostly shore diving (instead of doing 10 days in 3 days on an expensive dive trip).

    Back then, I shot a lot of Kodachrome (yes, that tells you how long ago it was) but we used a Nikonos III and I have zero experience with UW housings, so I have no idea how large your gear comes out to.

    Without taking TOO close a look at your packing list, I'm going to offer up a couple of thoughts:

    You're gonna be on a live-aboard dive boat, yes? Do they give you any shelf space for your personal items (like your clothes) near your bunk? The Smart Alec is GREAT, *BUT* it works best if you can take everything out and put things away during your trip. If you need to keep all your stuff in your carry-on, I think something like the Tri-Star is going to work better than the Smart Alec.

    Otherwise, the Smart Alec is really an amazing bag. I got it earlier this year, and haven't regretted it one bit. It's got the capacity of the Western Flyer, but because it's just one main pocket, it will seem really cavernous. If you can get all your dive gear into your check-in, you should have no trouble getting your other stuff in an SA.

    I do have one question. You mentioned maybe taking a MCB with you as a day bag? While it does fold flat, have you considered maybe a Packing Cube Backpack (The Tri-Star/Western Flyer-sized version) or a Packing Cube Shoulder Bag? The steel Dyneema PCSB doesn't look at all like a purse IMO, esp with the heft of the simple strap you can get with it. If you were to use that, you could use that to pack some of your stuff into when packing your Smart Alec. It's a thought.

    Comment


      #3
      @Lani, I remember shooting with Kodachrome, and only having the opportunity to get 36 shots per dive! How did we do it?? Back then, I used a more *modern* Nikonos V :-)

      As far as the amount of space on the liveaboard, the cabins are quite nice - there are usually plenty of drawers in which to put things, so that shouldn't be a problem. (Here's the boat we'll be on!) And the more I think about it, the more I realize I probably won't need a day bag. On the first day when we do a little touring, I'm going to want all my electronics with me, so I might as well just use the Smart Alec, so that eliminates one thing in my carry-on. Although adding a PCSB to my order would seem to be most economical, from a shipping standpoint, no? :-D
      Eat well, travel often.

      Comment


        #4
        I think the Smart Alec would be a great fit for you! About how large is the case that the extra dive mask? This is the only thing that I'm weary about fitting because I've never actually seen one .

        But... you might need a bigger bag to be able to sneak me on board with you . PLEASE send us pictures when you return! .
        http://www.tombihn.com
        1-800-729-9607 (US & Canada) 360-452-0115 (other countries)
        Siquid mantica non capit, domi relinquendum est.

        Comment


          #5
          Nukediver, I really like my Smart Alec. I find that it's a great campus backpack that also looks professional. It works well for overnight trips (even with a 15" MBP in a Brain Cell). I'm 5'4" tall and I find that it fits me really well. A couple of years ago I spent a summer where I was able to walk-commute to work. The Smart Alec fit my MBP, coffee mug, lunch, a skirt or pair of pants, sandals, and personal effects (with room to spare) and was comfortable to carry loaded for a total of 5 to 6 miles per day.

          (I realize this isn't nearly as much as you want to carry, but I'm just commenting on the comfort. Also, the Brain Cell eats space.)

          My favorite feature: I can fit my coffee thermos and an umbrella in the water bottle pocket.
          Last edited by snowbot; 05-16-2012, 09:32 AM. Reason: Forgot a sentence.

          Comment


            #6
            Ahh yeah I got to shoot some with a Nikonos V but being a starving college student, I didn't own my own. It's funny you mention only being able to shoot 36 shots... back when we carefully composed the frame, it was a splurge to bracket our shots... a friend of mine who was a professional UW photographer once told me that the most important habit to get into when shooting UW was to learn to spend the entire roll before you reach the surface. Because you never want to go on the next dive with just a partial roll.

            If I were to go diving again, I think I'd want a refresher course. For one thing, the only people with diver computers were the instructors!

            Based on your info, I'm gonna agree with Katy -- I think the SA might work really nice for you! Plus, it's uncompartmentalized so it's up to YOU how you want to pack things into it.

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by Katy View Post
              I think the Smart Alec would be a great fit for you! About how large is the case that the extra dive mask? This is the only thing that I'm weary about fitting because I've never actually seen one .
              It's about 8"x6"x5", so it shouldn't be a problem.

              Originally posted by Katy View Post
              But... you might need a bigger bag to be able to sneak me on board with you . PLEASE send us pictures when you return! .
              I actually have a human-sized waterproof duffel in bright yellow that might work; you have until the 20th of July to pack lightly and join us! Or you can just wait for pictures.......
              Eat well, travel often.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by nukediver View Post
                It's about 8"x6"x5", so it shouldn't be a problem.



                I actually have a human-sized waterproof duffel in bright yellow that might work; you have until the 20th of July to pack lightly and join us! Or you can just wait for pictures.......
                Oh yeah, that should totally fit in there!

                As for stowing away, that bag sounds kind of spotty on air circulation. I may have to pass and just wait for the pictures .
                http://www.tombihn.com
                1-800-729-9607 (US & Canada) 360-452-0115 (other countries)
                Siquid mantica non capit, domi relinquendum est.

                Comment


                  #9
                  And thanks @Lani and @Snowbot, you've both convinced me that a Smart Alec is in my future. Now, do I want an Iberian interior or a Steel interior with that gorgeous Cardinal on the outside? Decisions, decisions........
                  Eat well, travel often.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by Katy View Post
                    As for stowing away, that bag sounds kind of spotty on air circulation. I may have to pass and just wait for the pictures .
                    Hmm, you have a good point there. I apologize for not thinking it through :-(
                    Eat well, travel often.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      @nukediver, I'm saving my pennies for one with that gorgeous Cardinal on the outside. It sings to me.

                      Comment

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