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Questions about a possible transition from the Brain Bag to the S25

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    Questions about a possible transition from the Brain Bag to the S25

    Hey guys, I bought a Brain Bag a couple of years ago and have been using it since. Great bag. I have a 15" MacBook Pro and use a vertical Freudian Slip and Brain Cell with it for organization. I like it, but it's not a perfect fit for what I'd really like and I find myself looking around again. I wish it had more built in organizational features, frankly, and I find that the side pockets are not quite as useful as I was hoping they would be.

    It's also a LOT of bag. On my days when I'm simply using it as my edc, over half the bag is empty. It's perfect for when I have an overnight business trip. But on most days, it's just more bag than I need, with less organizational structure than I want.

    So I'm thinking about other bags. I'm looking at the Briggs and Riley medium laptop backpack and want to find a store that has one of them. It has a lot of built in organization that is well designed and accessible, beautifully built, lifetime warranty, all that stuff. But it's strictly a busines bag. I wouldn't want to take a bag like that out on a hike, for example.

    The Synapse 25 appears to be a much more versatile bag, and the design of it is very pleasing to my eye. I don't expect it to have the intrinsic organizational structure of the B&R bag, but I'm wondering if it has enough to work for me. So a few questions:

    For someone using a vertical freudian slip with places for all kinds of stuff, are there corresponding homes for these items in the S25? I know one of the Tom Bihn usage paradigms is to use the small pouches and sacks to corral small items, but honestly, I really dislike that paradigm. I bought a ton of those pouches so I'd have all kinds of sizes and designs of them to use, and every time I try to use them, I find that I really dislike using them. I don't want to have to remember what pouch something's in, then pull out the pouch, open it and fish my stuff out of it. I'd rather just open the bag up and go to the place I have for that item and grab it.

    Can files be stacked horizontally, as in a freudian slip, or do they need to go vertically because of a lack of width to the bag?

    I wish the product page had more pictures showing the features of the bag. For example, there's no picture at all that i could see of the bottom compartment, so I have no idea what that even is.

    Can I put a water bottle in the S25 without effectively losing use of another compartment? In the Brain Bag, you have a choice between using the exterior water bottle slot OR putting anything in the side compartment behind it, but you can't do both (which to me is a design problem).

    I enjoy using my Brain Bag but I'm not in love with it. I really like the quality of Tom Bihn products and I want to give the S25 every opportunity to compete for my affections, but my sense is that Tom's design ethos is to create bags that are a bit light in the organizational arena and then allow the user to utilize various pouches to impose organizational structure. I understand the thinking, it makes the bag more flexible, allows it to adapt to a greater variety of usage scenarios. It's just not the way I really want to organize. It's one reason I tried out the Super Ego, which has a lot more intrinsic organizational capability. I really like that bag, but at the end of the day wanted a backpack, not a messenger back or briefcase.

    I look forward to any comments, thanks.

    It actually sounds like a Smart Alec would be a better TB choice for you, namely because you could continue using the Freudian Slip and the Brain Cell. A water bottle could fit into either of the side pockets, and it would transition from office to trail with ease. It's also way smaller than the BB but large enough for your laptop.

    To answer your questions about the Synapse 25:

    Files will fit horizontally but then you'd have a lot of empty space at the top of the bag. Vertical orientation makes more sense to me.

    The bottom compartment is quite large and can accommodate a Snake Charmer, Side Effect, or two 3D organizer cubes (I know you don't like pouches etc but I'm trying to give you an idea of the dimensions). I use this pocket for my laptop power supply and chargers. It's very useful.

    The dedicated water bottle pocket in the S25 does not consume space from elsewhere in the bag. If the main compartment is totally stuffed, it can however be challenging to insert/remove the bottle. This is rarely a problem for me when I'm just going to work and about my daily business.

    You may also want to check out the product page for the 19. The 25 is the same, just bigger.

    The more I think about it, the more it seems to me that maybe the B&R is the best choice for your EDC. It may be that it won't work for you to have a business-orientated bag that can also be used as a hiking backpack.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


      Thanks Badger. My wife actually has a Smart Alec and I actually really dislike the design of that thing. I could never use it. The opening at the top is too narrow and you have the one compartment for everything without much other effective organizational capability. And I know some like the aesthetics of it with the straps in the front. I just think it looks goofy.

      Someone also turned me on to the Everki Concept, did a review where it was between that and the Brain Bag and their review of the Brain Bag was almost identical to mine. Great bag, incredibly well made, but as an EDC for my needs I just wish it had more organizational capability. I'm going to consider the S25, but the Everki looks like it might just be a better fit for my needs. For 1-2 night business trips, the Brain Bag would be far superior. But for 95% of my usage going to and from my clinic, the Everki might be a better fit.

      Then again, I might try it and fall back in love with my Brain Bag. It IS such a well made and well rounded, adaptable bag. I must admit, though, I do like the bags where you can open one zipper and have all your office type of stuff all organized in one place. Pens, biz cards, passport, phone, Kindle, earbuds, multi-tool, flashlight, etc... In my Brain Bag, those things are all over the place.


        I really like the Synapse 25. That's my travel bag. I travelled with a Hydro Flask 21 in the water bottle pocket and that didn't diminish packing capacity at all. I have a Synapse 19, too, so I knew what to expect (and love) about the 25. Having just recently tried a Smart Alec, I discovered that I like all the Synapse pockets and o-rings in comparison to the less structured Smart Alec. The Synapse 25 has a ton of o-rings, and I love that feature. But that does put another zipper between you and your stuff. I don't mind that, but it sounds like you do.
        For travel, I clip my 3D clear cube and 3D mesh cube in the lower pocket. Pens go in the pen slots. Phone in the phone pocket. Kindle in a pouch, random stuff in a travel tray, and clothes and shoes in a packing cube. It takes a lot of accessories to travel! but I like to organize my stuff like that. To me it seems like the Synapse 25 has a spot for everything. Also, the water bottle pocket is huge, and can hold more than just one thing. I'm a big fan of it!


          thanks, Rocks.

          Right now the company is out of almost every color combination of the S25, kind of a bummer. If at the time I decide to move forward, if I don't end up with the Everki or Briggs and Riley bag, then I'll take a hard look at the S25. I really like the design of it, but yeah, just not a fan of the concept of having to put all my stuff in organizing pouches. I want to open a zipper and get what I need, not open a zipper and then open another zipper.


            I have a BB and a Synapse 25. To be honest if you like the organization of the Freudian Slip I don't think you will like the Synapse 25. TB bags seem to really favor two side pockets vs 1 big organizational pocket. It's an adjustment, one that I can't say I am used to yet. Also one thing that I don't like about the Synapse is that it doesn't have much shape. If you carry a laptop you really need a cache otherwise you will see the shape of your laptop at the bottom of the bag.

            I am considering the Goruck GR1 as an alternative to my Synapse. They seem to use tougher materials on their bags though their prices are not as agreeable.

            Also I believe TB is ahead of schedule on their production of the S25. I would call and ask what they have available.


              Originally posted by conejo23 View Post
              Right now the company is out of almost every color combination of the S25, kind of a bummer.
              conejo23, I just checked the website and the S25 is available in Black, Black Dyneema and Nordic Dyneema. I just placed an order for the Nordic.

              This discussion, and the input from Rocks and Badger, has been very helpful to me in my continuing search for a TB backpack to haul around my camera gear. The Brain Bag sounds way too big -- and I would be tempted to load all my gear, making it to heavy. I ordered the Smart Alec a few weeks ago and have been practice-packing and wearing it at home. The Black/Aubergine/Wasabi SA is absolutely gorgeous, but I do miss the organization of the Synapse -- I have the S19, which I love but is not large enough for my photo gear. So will try the S25 when it gets here next week...

              And then comes the difficult task of deciding which one works best for me. I just have this feeling that I will not be able to part with either...the danger of ordering TB bags to "try" them.
              "Inside everyone is a great shout of joy waiting to be born."
              -- David Whyte



                From what I read, you mention 2 things that are driving your move from the BB (note, I have a BB and SA but not a S25):

                1) BB is a LOT of bag for your EDC needs
                If you have cash, the S25 looks good and is more low profile (I would say that it is not that much smaller as it is in fact 2" longer than the BB and almost as wide but it is tear drop shaped as opposed to more square and just does not get as deep/thick as the BB - hence the lower profile). However, I find that just cinching down the BB side compression straps shrinks that bag down very well (but not as clean looking as the S25) and I still have the flexibility to expand if I need to haul that big manual I suddenly have to bring home at the last minute! Also, you have better drop protection with the Brain Cell. But the S25 is more TSA friendly with the cache with rails.

                2) Would like more built in organizational features.
                The S25, IMHO, aside from more O-rings, has about the same organizational capabilities as the BB. I found this review good to see the organisational setup - Tom Bihn Synapse 25 Backpack review :: The Gadgeteer
                I have a few suggestions for additional organization for your BB if you want to still try and use it.
                - Guide's pack lead's pocket using annex clips (there are 2 additional locations to put this in beyond where you put your Brain Cell) - http://forums.tombihn.com/bag-review...on-photos.html. You might even be able to double decker the pockets as the BB had two sets of Annex Clip loops per panel (for vertical Brain Cells and small horizontal Brain Cells)
                - Ideas for other ways to use the Annex clips for organization - http://forums.tombihn.com/questions-...brain-bag.html
                - Grid-It systems for the side / top pockets - Cocoon - Grid-It!<sup>&reg</sup>
                - Small Camera bags or memory card wallets with some organization in them and hooks to attach to the TB straps / O-rings
                - A second Vertical Freudian Slip

                Bottom line, there are some organization options that may help make your BB more like you want. However, if you want a smaller, more low profile EDC (and looks sleek IMHO), the S25 will do you well. You could also use some of the organization options I suggested for the BB in the Synapse too. Ultimately, if you want pure built-in organization, I found Booq was best for just that but the company does not use as good quality material (lots of loose ends, easy wear) but has lots of pockets. However, people have commented that sometimes there is such a thing as too many pockets making it hard to remember where you put things in the first place - be careful what you ask for

                You cannot go wrong with either keeping BB or getting a new S25

                Hope this helps

                Last edited by tpnl; 02-10-2014, 12:36 PM.
                TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!


                  I have both. Yes the s25 can have documents put in the way you wish (it's very tall). I use the s25 as an edc and the bb when I want to haul stuff (eg books to the library).

                  Love both it's the quality that keeps me coming back to tb. Frankly you can feel the care in each bag...