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Poor Durability of "seals" on Smart Alec?

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    Poor Durability of "seals" on Smart Alec?


    I've been addicted to Tom Bihn bags recently since they are located in the same rainy city that I am. I've purchased almost everything I can including a Western Flyer which is on it's way. They are all high quality!

    I noticed that my beloved Smart Alec which I've had for only a few months has parts of its "sealing" tearing off it. I assumed it might be my fault, but I've noticed that it gets worse and worse over time. I have lots of items (such as Arcteryx jackets) with the same seal around the zippers that have never had any issues.

    A little bit of water seemed into the bag today via the unprotected part of the zipper and I'm pretty concerned. Is this natural wear and tear on the bag or is there a defect? This is very distressing.

    See the picture below:
    Click image for larger version

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    Any thoughts? Do other Smart Alec owners have this issue?

    Take care,


    I suggest you send an email to the Tom Bihn customer service address and attach your picture for the quickest response.


      My years-old Synapse has some of this going on, but it's never leaked.

      The actual fabric on yours looks rather worn - what are you doing to it? It looks as if it has been rubbed with sandpaper!



        Other than the seal, it looks just as good as the day I bought it. Maybe the picture is a little too close I use it as my day to day bag. No hiking... just commutes to work and to coffee shops.
        I'll check in with customer service.


          The zippers we use on the Smart Alec backpack are YKK Aquaguard (used to be known as Uretek) zippers, originally developed by Arcteryx, working with YKK and Uretek. We specifically refrain from calling them "waterproof" because they aren't: they are "splash-proof" or water-repellant. The zippers are not intended to ever form a perfect or complete seal, but rather to keep most of the weather out of your bag, most of the time. The small gap you are seeing down the center of the joined halves of the zipper is quite common -- sometimes not until the bag has been used for a while, though sometimes when the bag is brand new, too. Occasionally, after some use, the very edge of the coating will shear off and there may be some small lose of material at the center joint. We've worked extensively with YKK on both of these issues and they say that, while they are taking steps to reduce both the gap and the small lose of coating, neither issue significantly impacts the water-repellant (again, not waterproof) nature of the closure.

          While we are hopeful that YKK is able to improve this zipper in the future, our experience has shown that their conclusion is mostly correct: even with the tiny gap and/or material lose, the Aquaguard zippers on our bags remain far more water-repellant and weather-resistant than uncoated or "standard" coil zippers.

          It's also good to remember that the Aquaguard zippers are sewn into our bags and not welded: parallel to that center gap is a stitch line that might leak if exposed to extreme weather more or less as much as the zipper itself.

          With that said, if you want to make an appointment to bring your Smart Alec by the factory sometime so Dr. Tom can take a look at it, feel free to [email protected]. There is some possibility your bag has a flaw -- if it does, it will, of course, be covered by our Lifetime Guarantee against defects in materials.
          Last edited by Darcy; 08-05-2013, 10:23 AM.
          Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

          Current carry: testing new potential materials in the form of Original Large Shop Bags.


            Darcy, thanks for the details! I'll drop by the factory next Wednesday to see the Doctor. I've sent a message to customer service.


              Darcy, thanks for the information. I've seen the same thing on my 3 year old Smart Alec. I'll just keep an eye on it.