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  1. #1
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    lawrence ks
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    another Brain Bag vs Synapse 25

    a hands on comparison for one bag travel.

    my travel kit is almost always the same with just a little variation for the weather. i pack my clothes in a large A30 cube, my extra shoes in a small A30 cube, toilet kit is a 3D organizer and my electronics in a second 3d organizer and my "might need you" items like back up glasses, small micro towel and some other items i don't use much but don't travel without in third pouch.

    The S25 has been my go to bag for any trip up to two weeks long. recently i succumbed to that nagging thought that just a little more room would be a welcome thing especially in a winter travel bag so i started looking for a bag just a bit bigger than the S25 to try out. I looked at other manufacturers and there are some good bags out there but since i already own and like my tom bihn bags i decided to try out the brain bag and i took it on a five day trip into a chicago winter storm.

    Packing was a breeze, i used a large A45 cube and it slipped right into the rear big compartment of the BB. the bigger cube made it easy to add a bigger sweater and an extra pair of pants. the front large compartment i added an extra hat and a fleece vest for just in-case since i was going to be in the city for a winter storm. carrying the BB through the airport i did notice how the bag felt different from the S25 I'm accustom to. the BB has a flat back that is wider and it felt flat against my back where the S25 fits into the small of my back in a more conforming way when it is full. On the plane the extra size of the BB made it a bit harder to get in and out from under the seat in front of me. I also became aware that the pockets on the BB stick out, are built on the outside of the bag where the S25 pockets are flush to the front of the bag helping to ease in sliding it under the seat in front of me. The BB was hanging up a bit and even though i didn't pack it out full it was already thicker acting than the S25. On a day to day basis as my EDC the BB worked great. i kept the compression straps cinched down tight the whole time i was there and the bag didn't feel to big. I was able to clip my boots to the big clip on the outside of the bag one day when we were walking mostly on shoveled side walks down town. All in all it was ok as a EDC bag in and out of Ubers busses and trains but the S25 is a smaller and tighter carry when no clothing is in it and it never needs to be cinched down. Another thing that became noticeable to me in use is the difference between the zippers. the BB has flaps over regular YKK zippers that from time to time get caught in the zipper or at least get in the way preventing the bag from being opened where the S25 has the aqua guard zips without any flaps and now that they are broken in most of them work one handed on my bag. The zippers getting stuck became annoying as the week went on.

    on the trip home i pack a few items from a Chinese bakery into the front main pocket of the BB which made it more packed out and noticeably more difficult to get into and out of cars and trains. When full or near full the bag just sticks out off your back a lot and more than once became an annoyance to other passengers and to me as i tried to perch my butt on the last inch of a seat on a train, a trick i can do with the tighter S25. My flight home was full and the bag was now thicker than it was when i flew in so I decided it would be easier to just put it in the overhead bin but that meant i first had to get my water bottle and my electronics bag out for the flight. I forgot about the food i had packed away and i wound up not being able to get to it since the flight was turbulent and short and the seatbelt light was on the whole time.

    When i got home i did my normal routine of emptying my bag and taking inventory of what i used, what i used very little and what i did not touch for this trip. first two items i noticed i did not touch were the extra hat and fleece vest that i packed in the front large compartment. the heavier sweater i added to the A45 cube was an over kill due to all the layers i wear i really wished i had one of my lighter marino sweaters instead. And lastly, i never did wear the extra pants i packed in the bottom of the larger A45 packing cube. I thought the Brain Bag was going to make winter travel easier but after using it i realized that was not the case. the way the pockets add depth to the bag is a problem for me and the flaps on the zippers were annoying. the extra main compartment lets you pack extra stuff and perhaps its not needed. S25 is about as big a bag as you would want if you want your bag to slip easy in and out from under the seat in front of you.

    The food i brought back would not fit in the S25 but in the past i just carried it in a separate bag. My Sorels did clip onto the BB but when they were on there the bag became so heavy and bulky i would not have been able to get into the back of some of the Ubers we rode in.
    Last edited by xnykid; 01-22-2019 at 02:39 PM.

  2. #2
    Forum Member haraya's Avatar
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    Oof that's a big block of text! I'm intrigued to read since I don't as yet have either bag, but is it possible to go in and put in some paragraph breaks? (I'm guessing that it got formatted funny somehow when you submitted the post.) Merci!

  3. #3
    Forum Member haraya's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing your experience! (And for the paragraph breaks! ) I wanted to read about your experience as I've not yet taken the plunge on the BB. (I have an A30 but that's the biggest TB bag I own.)

    Do you think you would have had a different experience if you had carried your load in an A30 (slightly more room than the S25 but less than the BB), or a Smart Alec (i.e. one main compartment, smaller capacity, fewer pockets)?

    - It sounds like what you needed for this type of excursion was closer to 25L than 36L, or did you also prefer the layout of the S25 to the BB?

    - would you have been happier if you had had fewer pockets? (i.e. less bulk while you were traveling; but also if you had chosen to take less, would the B have cinched down smaller?)

    - Or happier with less stuff, since a smaller bag might have forced you to leave some things behind? Just trying to understand what a typical use case for the BB is.
    Last edited by haraya; 01-22-2019 at 02:43 PM.

  4. #4
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    lawrence ks
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    I did take the A30 for a 3 week stay in italy along with a smaller day pack. I love the way the A30 keeps close to my back, very easy to travel with except it does not work well as a daily carry bag when you get where your going and the S25 is excellent for every day carry once my cloths and shoes are out of it.

    the outside pockets on the S25 are perfect for me. everything i carry is in the outside pockets except for my clothes and shoes. So i love the pockets and now that i realize how functional they really are, i find the look of the bag less offensive. the look of the bag kept me from buying it for a long time but more and more i wanted to try it.

    i don't need any more than the S25 can carry, sometimes i wish the top was wider so my Merrells would fit in easier in the winter but in the other seasons its sperrys or light flat sneakers in there so its not an issue.

    i really thought i would like more space for winter travel but its not really necessary or even desirable as it turns out, i just carry more and i really don't need to.

    Is the BB a good bag, hell yea it is, holds a lot and it is tough and has wider shoulder straps to carry more load but if you load it full you have to carry it and it carries far from your back where the A30 and S25 keep tight to your back and let you move in a crowd easier.

  5. #5
    Forum Member haraya's Avatar
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    So interesting how each of us arrives at a bag solution. Do you think you will use the A30 for those few occasions when you have a bigger load in winter? I guess if you end up rehoming the BB then you can find shoes that are smaller than the Merrells but just as winter-worthy!

    And it's funny to me that you needed time to get used to the look of the S25, since I like the Synapse design better than the BB. But then again for myself I actually prefer the look of the S19 over the S25, even though they use the same template! Haha. De gustibus, etc. etc.

    Enjoy the satisfaction of having figured out what truly suits you! Sometimes there's just no substitute for trying something out.

  6. #6
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    i still fit my Merrells in the S25 but its a tight fit. the difference between how i travel now and how i traveled with the A30 is that i am better at doing sink laundry than i ever was before. the right underwear washes fast in the sink and rinses faster in the shower.
    the zippers all over the front of the S25 just look funny to me like Edward Scissorhands or something. I love who they work and what they all do but....

  7. #7
    Registered User gmgsearch's Avatar
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    Thanks for your comparison report. I recently purchased a second hand Brain Bag as I failed to “one bag” it on two recent trips - Boston & Maine where I needed extra room for formal wear including dress shoes. I’m sure the BB will solve this problem.

    Interestingly the BB feels more comfortable on first “try on” than my S25 with the internal frame so that is a + for me and my stature. I haven’t tried a fully packed BB yet and that is a concern as it will probably be more weight than I would like for extended periods.

    So far I’m liking the BB but I think the Synapse 25 will be the go to bag unless more room is needed. Now to buy larger packing cubes - most likely a Large A45 and a packing cube backpack.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

  8. #8
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    @gmgsearch i think the wider straps on the BB and larger surface area on your back makes the BB feel good when lightly packed.
    Shoes! i solved a lot of my shoe problems when i bought a pair of all black sperry topsiders, you can get away with them for everything in new england with the exception of a tux.
    im 5'5, 200lbs, the synapse just fits right in my lower back when packed out and it fits perfect for me without the frame. im just lucky i guess, thats my bag.
    just saw your in amityville, i was in wantagh. you don't need a bigger bag for one bag travel its just a change in your routine coupled with some more expensive clothing that makes it work. i travel in a sport coat and good looking pants and an A30 cube for the rest of my cloths for a week and i like to look good and smell good everywhere i go.
    Last edited by xnykid; 01-23-2019 at 07:08 AM.

  9. #9
    Registered User gmgsearch's Avatar
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    @xnykid - Yes I am out of Amityville. The south shore of Long Island is a great place to live! Wantagh is pretty close.
    I'm still trying to reduce the amount of things I pack on trips. It's a work in progress and an art form if you will. This forum has been a interesting source of information.
    I have my eye on a blazer for travel purposes that I stumbled upon here on this forum doing a little searching a while back:
    https://shop.bluffworks.com/collections/blazers.

    Sometimes you just have to bring more dressy shoes (weddings and other formal affairs).
    When I travel otherwise (warmer climate), I get by with a pair of Keen Newports and a pair of flip flops tucked in the S25

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