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  1. #1
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    The Brain Bag: serious

    I started with Tom Bihn back in 2016 I think, but wasn't smitten by my S25. I wrote about it in https://forums.tombihn.com/photos-vi...tml?highlight=. It's not personal, but it's just not the bag for me.

    Queue two years later, where I not only got my girlfriend a medium Cafe Bag and a Travel Cubelet. She absolutely loves those, so I gave her my S25 as well. This taught her the joy and tricks of 1-bag traveling and I'm really glad I found a use for that bag too.

    Fast-forward yet again to a few weeks ago and I decided to treat my dad to something nice, and suggested a TB bag. He picked the Aeronaut, which I got him to pickup from the factory on their open Saturday a few weeks back.
    My girlfriend immediately honed-in to the Aeronaut 30 as well, so THAT became her present. Steel for dad, and Aubergine for my dearly beloved.

    They also had a Brain Bag there, a bad I'd been curious about, but never 100% into trying. Why not? It's huge.
    But for some reason... after having seen Aubergine in person, and really seen it in person... I couldn't help it. She got me an Aubergine/Island BB for christmas. Of course I've already been using it plenty.

    Now. I am a bag addict. Just in the past few weeks, I received a Brown Buffalo Conceal, a SkinGrowsBack Pak30, a SkinGrowsBack MidPak, and a Ynot Magnetica. That's on top of bags I already have (plenty of Qwstion, AER, Timbuk2, DSPTCH, a Mixed Works Falcon M, a Crafted Good Rigi, er... probably more eh).
    Hence, I absolutely.did.not.need the Brain Bag. On top of having too many bags:
    * The BB is HUGE
    * The BB has the same issue I had with the S25, in that if the outside pockets aren't used, the space is wasted
    * The BB feels like it doesn't quite know what it wants to be, to me. If it were a travel bag, it'd open clamshell. If it were a laptop bag, it'd be smaller... So what is it?

    It's every single thing you want it to be, or exactly the only thing you want it to be. The BB isn't 'I wish it were X' or 'I wish it also did Y'. The BB is ALL these things, always.

    I am LOVING this bag. Yes, ok, it's big. It could do with being a couple of inches narrower (as it is it's basically the same width as my own back). But it does compress down, and the capacity opens up interesting possibilities.
    It's great-looking. It's not tactical, but it's not formal either. It's got its own thing going on. It doesn't LOOK serious, but it acts and feels serious.

    The only thing that doesn't 100% work for me are the width, and well... honestly, and this is rare, that may be it.
    Everything else works just fine. I won't ever use the water bottle holder feature, but I attached a carabiner to it and called it a day. I don't need a waist-belt, and there is none.

    Typically, my pet peeves on bags are ovoid shapes (resulting in wasted capacity vs. squared/rectangular designs), floppiness (when they lose all shape when empty or flop down helplessly when set to the floor) and impracticality (inaccessible or too-small pockets, new features that just don't work). The BB doesn't have any of this:
    * The bag compresses down if needed, but doesn't get floppy if empty
    * It's outer pockets don't protrude too far out, resulting in no extra space taken by unused capacity
    * It stands-up on its own when put on the floor
    * All the pockets are usable. ALL of them. The front pockets have some light organization which may be all that's needed for most folks. My girlfriend also got me a Freudian slip which allows me to swap my payload across bags and also allows me to put in more organization into the main pockets, as I am not always keen on putting expensive smaller items on outside pockets

    The carry strap is perfect. It's not too big, not too small, and since it's in the middle of the two large compartments will pretty much guarantee carrying a balanced load. It's very well thought-out and just makes sense it its utilization.

    I have to take an impromptu, urgent trip to Europe next week for almost a month, and I am thinking the BB may be all I need. I MAY strap a rolled-up Messenger bag (Timbuk2 Flight Messenger) to the side for when I don't need that much space, but that just reflects its ability to take MORE, not less.
    I will use its middle-compartment for a couple of packing cubes, and its rear compartment for laptop + snake charmer containing cables. The top quick-access pocket will have headphones, DAC, USB cable and charger. The mesh pocket will hold my gloves and hat. The front side pockets will hold bits and bobs, including passport pouch, pens and field-notes, and wallet and phone for airport security checkpoints.

    For now I have been using it for my daily commute. It certainly hasn't been pushed to its limits, and I've taken it nowhere near them at all. But given my tendencies to downsize over the past year or so (making the Brown Buffalo Conceal my ideal daily bag otherwise), I've been extremely pleased with how well this bag handles smaller loads, how comfortable it is, and how good it looks despite its slightly oversized dimensions.

    What the Synapse 25 is better for:
    * That bottom front pocket is HUGE and fits anything without eating up the main compartment. Such a feature is pretty much always welcome, for an extra layer or winter accessories or extra pair of shoes. If you carry fixed-loads of smaller stuff, the S25 is probably more your thing
    * It's easier to access, as pockets are easier to open overall due to the lack of fabric covering them

    What the BB is better for: everything else.
    * It travels great due to its HUGE capacity, but can be a daypack when you land (note: other bags do this better, e.g. my Timbuk2 Jet or my SkinGrowsBack Pak30. The BB is VERY big. But it certainly DOES work that way AND can be compressed down to a much more manageable load!)
    * It fits larger items better
    * It sits upright when set on the floor (I did get the S25's frame when we went to pick-up the BB, but we've not tried it with it yet)
    * It always just seems to swallow more and not get out of shape. The S25 would go very egg-shaped and become uncomfortable when I got it fit to capacity

    Ok, so, yes, it's 100% true: nothing of the above is less than completely obvious. Looking at the website's pages for either of these bags will show exactly what I described. I'm fine with it. Clearly, I was unable to make these conclusions 2 years ago :P But I'm glad I have now!

    I'll check back on this when I get to test it out a little (hopefully, a lot) more.
    Last edited by pott; 12-24-2018 at 10:56 AM.

  2. #2
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    Any other Brain Bag fans or users here? I'd love to hear your own experiences and carry methods!

  3. #3
    Forum Member PaulT00's Avatar
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    I own one of the Brain Bags made in the navy Parapack era... but it sees very little use. I think this is because, ultimately, my most common use cases don't really match its strengths. I also have an Aeronaut 30, and an A45, plus a whole passel of other bags. My most used bag is definitely the A30 - which is slightly smaller than the BB, but its layout, as a duffel one can lay flat and "live out of" when travelling, so to speak, works much better for me than the typical top-loading backpack layout of the BB. But the A30 can also be carried in backpack mode, which is genius.

    Because of Reasons, I don't often use a "real" backpack - I also have both sizes of Synapse - these days; I used to need a backpack much more frequently than I do now. I have used one many times in the past, as a kitbag for the gym or yoga, but since having a heart attack about 18 months ago I no longer do those things. So... why do I hang onto the Brain Bag? Because, although it doesn't see much use, on the very rare occasions when I need a BIG backpack nothing else does the job as well. And... Parapack! So I'm reluctant to get rid of it, because Parapack BBs are no longer made, and for a backpack I love that material, which combines lighter weight with strength. And one day my needs may change - it's happened many times before - and the BB may come into its own...
    A45CC K CQPC 3DCCGES25 SK SCBQKTTMCBLSB TT TSS4 PCSBSCBTT CQPC PQBPQK LT SETT 3DCCQKS19 TT P3DCCTS PP BBLCBCP TTRi QK NFTD A30DLBC

  4. #4
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    The BB was from an era where our "Brains" were much bigger and we stored them inside "Brain Cells" for safe travel.

    Now that there are no more Brain Cells in the Bihn lineup it seems many have no real idea where the Brain Bag name and bags design started but there you have it.

    The Brain Cell would attach inside the bag with clips or snaps to keep everything tight and in place. The Brain Cell was a hard sided laptop sleeve with a Neoprene Sling inside that was adjustable so that you could have a computer inside suspended from the bags bottom and if you dropped the bag the computer would still be suspended in the sling preventing hard knocks to the computer,it was Genius to say the least!

    So you only needed to open the BB from the top a few inches,open the Brain Cell and take the computer pout and back on and then set your Snake Charmer on top of the Brain Cell and away you went.

    Good Times!

  5. #5
    Forum Member imagineez's Avatar
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    I have the BB in Olive Cordura with a Steel Parapack interior; it has the webbing loops for annex clips that would attach the Brain Cell as @AVService mentioned. I don't use a Brain Cell anymore, but I love the annex clips for attaching my Lead's Pocket (in Olive Parapack) at the top of the front interior main compartment.

    When I need quick access to things, I partially open the front main compartment for quick access to the Lead's Pocket. It's almost like having a top access pocket on a bag. Great for traveling and keeping things even more secured (if I don't want to put them in the outer pockets).

    I love my trusty BB and have found the padded hip belt useful too. It's a very versatile bag. You can use it for most anything!

    ETA: If there was one thing I would improve on it, it would be a side grab handle - especially since it's a bag that can easily be overpacked.
    Last edited by imagineez; 01-22-2019 at 01:00 AM.

  6. #6
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    lawrence ks
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    i like the look of the BB, i agree its a bit tactical looking and i like that part. i think i would like it more if the water bottle pocket was built in like the S25. the straps as they are dangle a bit. i think i like the way the pockets look more than the way they work. I really like the grab handle it is an improvement over the S25 design but when you use the compression straps to cinch the bag down some times the handle gets lost in the folds and i find myself just going for the strap instead.
    Last edited by xnykid; 01-22-2019 at 06:00 PM.

  7. #7
    Forum Member wavebeam's Avatar
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    My sis has a BB and I am tempted by that thing all the time (and I love my S25). It IS a tank. It can compress, or grow and gorge on anything you want to pack. I really like the lips that cover the zippers. As for water bottles, Each of the two large pockets are large enough to comfortably hold a 32oz. Nalgene bottle, if one does not want to use the middle hook/strap.

  8. #8
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    Is there anyway to cram one of the large snake charmers into the front pockets (if the charmer isn't stuffed full)? I just ordered a Brain Bag, and I wasn't sure which snake charmer size to get, so I got the large, but now I'm wondering if I should've gotten the small so I have the option of stuffing it in the front pockets.

  9. #9
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by definityx View Post
    Is there anyway to cram one of the large snake charmers into the front pockets (if the charmer isn't stuffed full)? I just ordered a Brain Bag, and I wasn't sure which snake charmer size to get, so I got the large, but now I'm wondering if I should've gotten the small so I have the option of stuffing it in the front pockets.
    You may have already discovered this by now, but just wanted to offer in case your order hasn't arrived yet or for anyone else who is wondering the same thing: the Large Snake Charmer is a tight fit in those front pockets unless it's really underpacked. The Small, on the other hand, is a great fit. If you'd like some help exchanging, feel free to reach out emailus@tombihn.com
    Current Carry: The Hero's Journey, Skookum Dog Citizen Canine, Founder's Briefcase, Synapse 19 (day hikes), Guide's Pack (longer day hikes), Yeoman Duffel (winter/emergency stuff for the car), Aeronaut 30 (travel), Night Flight Travel Duffel (camera bag), Moveable Feast + Shop Bags (food)

  10. #10
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    The BB definitely doesn't get enough love.

    Last summer I needed to replace my then almost ten year old laptop backpack. After a long search and some glowing reviews I settled on a Brain Bag in Deep Blue Ballistic/Dawn Ballistic.

    I'm not sure I could have made a better decision for my use case.

    I'm an IT Army of one and occasionally need to carry a laptop on top of a pile of other stuff (cables, hard drives, other misc parts, my EDC stuff, etc.) the Brain Bag has been able to store it with room to spare. Screw drivers and bits/other tools go in the outside pockets, ear plugs screws, small things in the top outside pocket, all my misc stuff in the middle pocket, laptop and freudian slip in the back pocket with other items added as necessary.

    For me the BB is actually very comfortable to carry even when it's heavily packed, it sits comfortably on my back and the straps are wide enough not to pinch on my shoulders (admittedly I have very wide shoulders) and amazingly does not make my back sweat nearly as much as my prior backpack did. The lack of back sweat alone when I took it to a tech conference in Orlando, which had me walking a lot with my bag on my back was remarkable enough, that I stored another backpack plus a bunch of other swag inside my BB at one point with room to spare was a bonus.

    I've discovered it's a great travel bag for me, its ability to compress down or expand as needed has proved to be extremely useful, at this point I've taken it on two roundtrip airline trips as well as three long distance road trips. I've had to get creative on one flight to get it to fit underneath the seat in front of me, but that was more on me stuffing a bit too much into the bag than any fault of the bag. My BB has also doubled as my only bag for weekend trips a couple times so far.

    I love this thing, I've had it about 8 months and it looks like I just took it out of the delivery box. About every two weeks I pull everything out of it and try various ways of repacking the BB to see what feels the best. Haven't hit that magic "ah-ha" organization quite yet but I'm really pleased with the BB so far and my experiences with it has me suggesting Tom Bihn bags any time I hear about someone looking for a new Backpack/brief case/other bag type.

    I'm still figuring out all the best ways to utilize it's compartments, pockets and my Freudian slip, however that's an evolving process and the more I experiment the happier I am with my purchase.

    I'd say that my only nitpick is I wish the water bottle straps were more of a compartment to make them easier to use, but that's about the only thing I might have a complaint about.

    TL;DR: Have had a BB about 8 months, love it, still figuring out the best way to keep my stuff organized in it.

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