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Smart Alec as Camera Backpack?

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    Smart Alec as Camera Backpack?

    I am looking for a backpack (TB, of course) for my photo trips/hikes. It needs to hold my Nikon SLR, a couple of lenses, some photo gear and misc stuff for day hikes. Ideally, I would like a way to also stow my ultra-light Gitzo tripod. I considered the Brain Bag and Camera I-O set up, but think it will be way to much for me -- more capacity than I need and too large/heavy for my 5'2" frame. The Synapses would work, except that they do not have the straps to stow a tripod. So I'm thinking of a Smart Alec.

    Has anyone tried using the Smart Alec for this purpose? If so, could you tell me whether a camera insert (such as MountainSmith's) would fit in the main compartment? (I don't think TB's Camera I-O will fit.) And is the bungee enough to secure a tripod to the front or do I need the Gate Keeper Straps?

    Thanks for any help!
    "Inside everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born."
    -- David Whyte

    You would need to find aftermarket padded inserts to carry your gear; the Tom Bihn Camera Insert/Outsert will not fit in the Smart Alec.

    I am interested in this subject as well, for other reasons; I may want to buy some aftermarket inserts for other bags.
    Owner of: Brain Bag backpack (Black), Field Journal Notebook (Blue), Snake Charmer (Small, Orange), Super Ego briefcase (Black / Indigo / Steel) with Reflective Strip, Brain Cell (Steel), Horizontal Freudian Slip, various Organizer Pouches and Key Straps, and a Side Effect (Black / Wassabi) worn as a belt-style hip-pack.


      A Smart Alec was my gear bag for a good five years before I switched to a much smaller camera (micro 4/3) and, as a result, smaller Tom Bihn bags.

      In my Smart Alec, I regularly carried a 13" MacBook Air in a Brain Cell, a Canon 7D, two large lenses (17-55/2.8 and 70-200/2.8), a Snake Charmer with all my cables and small electronic gear, and a sweatshirt. That was all in the main compartment, and I kept assorted other things in the side pockets and the pocket in the lid.

      For my purposes, I didn't need to reach into my bag and have my camera ready to shoot, and this worked perfectly for me. I never worried about the camera or lenses, which were in their own padded pouches.

      I have no experience using any special camera inserts (Tom Bihn's or anyone else's), and I never use a tripod. But I have been amazed at how much the Smart Alec can consume in its main compartment. (I like the way Michael Lopp described it on his blog as a "Bag of Holding.")

      "Bag of Holding" review: http://randsinrepose.com/archives/a-bag-of-holding

      On a side note, now that I see that the Synapse 25 is out of stock, I may be using my Forest Green Smart Alec when I climb Mt. Kilimanjaro next month. (Though the only camera I plan to bring is my iPhone 5S.)
      Last edited by BJ Nemeth; 01-15-2014, 09:03 PM. Reason: Added last paragraph about Mt. Kilimanjaro
      Aeronaut (Original in Hunter Green), Aeronaut 30 (Forest), Smart Alec (Hunter Green), Pilot (Forest), Co-Pilot (Coyote), Synapse 25 (Black Dyneema), Two Large Shop Bags (Iberian and Steel), Passport Pouch (Iberian), Two Travel Trays (Solar stays in the Aeronaut, Iberian stays home), more than a dozen accessories.


        Thanks so much, BJ! I'm going to give the Smart Alec a try. And "WOW!" on your Kilimanjaro trip next month. Have a great time!
        "Inside everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born."
        -- David Whyte