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Which bag is right for me?

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    Which bag is right for me?

    Hi Everybody!
    I am probably going to purchase a Tom Bihn backpack, I'm just not sure which yet. I will be beginning college in the fall and I am sure exactly what I will be carrying around with me, but let's say I would be carrying a 13"macbook in a brain cell, charger for the computer, two textbooks, a couple of spiral notebooks, a folder, some pens and pencils, and an iphone and charger. I suspect that, for my needs, a brain bag would be better, but I happen to really like the look and layout of the smart alec so I figured it was worth asking. Also, are there any pockets built in to the larger compartments of the brain bag or would a freudian slip be necessary for that type of organization?

    Hi Yeb90,
    I'd say the Smart Alec would definitely fit everthing! The last photo in this post should give you an idea of what can fit in a Synapse, which is obviously smaller than the Smart Alec:



      Thanks, notmensa. I was just looking at the dimensions of the Smart Alec Compared to my current bag which can be a little too small when I have more to carry. The Smart Alec is slightly deeper (front to back) and may really work for me. The question now is, would it be able to hold everything I mentioned earlier plus clothing and toiletries for a weekend trip? I think probably not. If not, the next question would be, is it worth sacrificing being able to carry everything in one bag for a weekend to get the Smart Alec? Is there anyone here who has both the Brain Bag and the Smart Alec and would be able to provide a comparison of the two in terms of carrying comfort (besides the obvious weight difference when fully loaded)? I am 5' 5" and I guess pretty average shoulder breadth. I have also read that, due to its design (narrow mouth), the Smart Alec can be a little difficult and frustrating to pack it. Can anybody confirm or deny this?
      Last edited by yeb90; 06-03-2012, 02:17 PM.


        Hi there: I have the Smart Alec and it is a great bag--but very different mindset from most packs it seems! So you have to work with it to figure out how best to get mileage out of it. The Brain bag is a more traditional layout. I think that would be a better fit for school than the Smart Alec....


          Hey Yeb,
          I have a Smart Alec and, while I'm not a college student, I work in a university and do a lot of scholarship so I carry around lots of college-y stuff. I think the SA would be a great college student backpack. The fact that it's unstructured would make it great for a weekend getaway, too. If you packed your textbooks at the bottom, I think you could get in two changes of clothes and a small toiletry bag on top. I do think that a Freudian Slip would be helpful to keep your papers organized; you could put a different folder for each class in the FS, and just pull out the whole thing when you get to your room or the library. The added organization will also mean that you won't need to go through every single paper during (say) discussion section.

          I don't find the SA frustrating to pack or unpack unless I've got it stuffed really, really full. On many days I carry way more than what you've listed, and it hasn't been a problem.

          One thing that could open up more space for you is if you use a Cache instead of a Brain Cell. Unless you are highly accident-prone, you may not require the added protection.



            Oh dear, conflicting responses. Badger, a FS does seem like it would be great for me and I was considering a Cache. The only problem is that it does not attach to the bag and I love the fact that the Brain Cell does. Around how much space do you think a Cache instead of a Brain Cell would save? I still have some thinking to do, but in the end I will probably go with the Smart Alec. Worst comes to worst, I'll exchange it for a Brain Bag if I feel that it isn't big enough or that it just isn't the right configuration for me.


              I use the Smart Alec as a campus bag a lot. When I carry around a computer, it's a 15" MBP in a Brain Cell, which takes up a bit of room. But I can still fit a book or two, an iPad in a Cache, a large organizer pouch with papers, and have room for a sweater in the main pocket. A 13" Brain cell or cache would give you even more room. If you want to carry clothes in it for a trip, a triStar medium packing cube works well.

              While I have a vertical Freudian Slip, I don't use it and the 15" Brain Cell at the same time because I think they take up you much room when used together due to the slope of the top of the bag. I think that having a FS at the back of the bag and a cache with your laptop in front of it would work well in the SA.

              You may also want to check out this thread:


                I use the Smart Alec as a campus bag quite a bit too and if anything, I'm consider a Synapse because I find I can fit way too many things in the Smart Alec and I end up carrying way too much weight! This video might give you an idea. Let me see if I can embed:

                I keep my computer in a Brain Cell and I really like how easy it is to pull out my computer from it...


                  btw, one thing I did not mention was that the Little Swift had stuff in it too in the video above... mostly some files and a few small items...


                    Thanks for the information everybody. It looks like the Smart Alec would probably work for me. I'm still just a tiny bit hesitant , but I'll likely order one.