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  1. #1
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    S25 Fit vs a Smart Alec

    This question is directed at folks who own/have worn both the Smart Alec and the Synapse25. I had the Smart Alec briefly, and discovered to my dismay that when fully packed it was extremely uncomfortable on my back. Specifically, it sat on my tailbone in a way that became painful after about a mile in the airport.

    I am eyeing the Synapse 25 to serve the same purpose -- a travel backpack that can hold my 15" laptop along with documents, clothes, and other non-huge gear. I am replacing an ancient and filthy NorthFace Recon (women's) bag, which worked fine; I've been hoping to find a TB bag that can work for this.

    However. The specs for the Synapse indicate that it is two full inches longer than the SA. Which makes me nervous about how this item is going to lay against my back. On the other hand, the shape of the bags are rather different; also, for what it's worth, the Synapse 19 is my favorite bag in the world, in terms of how perfectly it fits my back. [I am 5'6", which is, I guess, tall for the S19. But I'm high-waisted].

    Anyway, does anyone have insight into whether the S25 is going to be different against my back than the SA? I guess I could order it and try it, but I can't always tell until I've used the pack for a bit. So I'm looking for reconnaissance. Is the shape different enough to help here? Do I need -- gasp -- the Brain Bag??? At 18", it's actually the shortest one of the hefties. But . . .36 liters???Help! Please!
    Last edited by SLB; 03-05-2016 at 09:32 PM.

  2. #2
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    While I do not own an S25, as a shortwaisted person, I have found the Smart Alec to be the most comfortable for me. I do however, make sure that I tighten the shoulder straps quite a bit and use the hip and chest straps when I have a heavy load. I don't know if you had everything cinched fairly well when you previously tried the Smart Alec? I believe @tpnl had posted some good photos about shoulder straps and cinching them at some point. I briefly tried a pre-loved Brain Bag and promptly shuttled it to a new home. For me as a petite 5'3", I felt quite overwhelmed by its width, and it was too easy to overload it weight wise. Also, without a rigid back panel I also found that the front panels drooped quite a bit when it was loaded, which was neither comfortable nor sightly for me. Many others adore the brain bag and it works well for them.
    "Do one thing every day that scares you." - Eleanor Roosevelt
    "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." -Ferris Bueller

  3. #3
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    Thanks a lot for your post. I hadn't thought about width at all, I was only looking at the comparative lengths. Duh! I'll look into that.

    On the Smart Alec, I thought I had it tightened all the way down, and more critically riding as high as possible, and with the weight in the center of my back as best I could.
    Last edited by SLB; 03-06-2016 at 06:58 PM.

  4. #4
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    Are you able to take a photo of yourself, side view, in the smart Alec? I am 5'7" and find it very comfortable, so I wonder if maybe your straps are cinched differently or something, since we are nearly the same height. So you are saying the bottom corner of the smart Alec lands at your tailbone?
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  5. #5
    Volunteer Moderator tpnl's Avatar
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    I cannot say for sure if the S25 would fit you or why the SA did not work for you but perhaps it may be due to torso length. It is torso length matched to backpack length that determines fit – not a person’s height. The REI website does a good job showing you how to measure your torso length that you can then check with any backpack you get:

    Backpacks: Finding you Torso and Hip Size

    I have an S25, SA and BB and I have done some measurements on the back length – see pictures below.

    A design feature of the S25 and SA is that the back bottom section can flex a bit more (than a normal backpack back -e.g. BB) perhaps making them more comfortable for a wider variety of torso lengths by bending more along the small of your back reducing/preventing tailbone pain.

    However, with the SA, the amount of flex is relatively low (probably due to the built in padding at the bottom) – perhaps accounting for your pain in wearing it.

    The S25 bottom has a lot more flexibility (same as your S19) and perhaps gives these backpacks a greater chance of fitting more people. With that in mind, if your torso length is between (14” to 19”), the S25 may work for you, IMHO. YMMV.

    S25 Fit vs a Smart Alec-synapse25-jpg S25 Fit vs a Smart Alec-smartalec-jpg S25 Fit vs a Smart Alec-brainbag-jpg

    Here is an example of how the bottom flex in the S25 works:

    S25 Fit vs a Smart Alec-body-fit1-jpg

    I agree with @NWhikergal that the Brain Bag may look too wide on a thin small frame but I think if your torso length is close to the 18”, it should fit fine lengthwise. The Brain Bag needs to be cinched down a lot to make sure its volume does not overpower the shape.

    One last thing – all the above recommendations are assuming you carry your backpack in what is considered the correct way – ie. not hanging way down your back – see the picture I found:

    S25 Fit vs a Smart Alec-wearbackpackright-jpg


    Hope this helps

    Cheers!
    Last edited by tpnl; 03-06-2016 at 02:15 PM.
    TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!

  6. #6
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    Thanks, tpnl, that is very helpful. My torso length, if I recall correctly from my last purchase of a large backpacking pack, is 16.5".

    The outward slant of the bottom of the S25 may be just what I need. The SA had definitely developed a pressure point right in the middle of my back (side to side) down at the bottom on the tailbone; but I'm pretty sure that I wasn't wearing it too low on account of the tightly-tamped shoulder straps, and where I put the sternum strap. Admittedly, I was not using the waist strap when I wore it; possibly this would've helped a bit with the load I was traveling with that trip (although it is kind of a small strap, I think its point is to control the bag from jostling, I'm not sure it's there to bear weight -- part of what I like about the BB is the hip belt option that looks like it can really function to distribute the load onto my hips, not my waist.).

    Anyway. I would take pix, Amy, but I put it on ebay and it's actually packed away for shipping. I spent years traveling multiple times a month, and got to the point where, when a backpack causes me any kind of sharp pain, it's outta here.

    Now I'm back to thinking the S25 could be the one. Although, I admit that I read all the BB reviews and kind of fell in love. But it's an awfully large bag, I don't need that large of a bag that often. But on the other hand, it does cinch down nicely (or seemingly-nicely). Back on the negative-hand, it's wide; I'm not super-thin, but I am on the smaller side of average, and don't have particularly broad shoulders. Sigh.

    One inarguable truth: I do not need both backpacks.
    Last edited by SLB; 03-06-2016 at 07:02 PM.

  7. #7
    Volunteer Moderator tpnl's Avatar
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    FYI

    I did try the BB padded hip belts on the S25. IMHO opinion they worked well but it is not recommended by TB as the connectors are 1.5" while the S25 loops are 1". The hip belt may twist as a result. I just put some tape to block the 1" loop from shifting up and down on the 1.5" connector. But, YMMV.



    TB may also be working on a 1" connector version for use on all its other bags (SA, S25, Aeronauts, TS, WS, etc) but I have not heard anything recently except for the double connector beige Guide's Pack padded hip belt.

    On the BB, I love my BB (my first TB bag) but, IMHO, get it ONLY if you use/need the space more than just a few times (ie, used for travel as it is the 2nd largest TB pack by volume).

    Here is a picture of my EDC with my BB cinched down:




    Hope this helps
    Cheers!
    TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!

  8. #8
    Volunteer Moderator tpnl's Avatar
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    Btw

    I always love @dorayme's post showing most of the TB backpacks and luggage carried on her 5'2" frame. Great for comparisons:

    Who says short people can't carry big bags?

    She shows an A45, BB, S25, S19, WF.

    Hope this helps

    Cheers!
    TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!

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