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  1. #1
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    Be a Smart Alec: I need more information about the Smart Alec

    Hey guys. Can you talk to me a bit about your experiences with your Smart Alec (SA)? I have been reading about it on the forums and on external reviews for almost two weeks, and I still don't feel like I have quite enough of a sense of the bag to spring for the purchase.

    A little background: I have been a happy S19 user for about 6 years or so, sometimes using it for travel but mostly using it for everyday to work. As I have posted before, I am currently using it for work, but with "special attention" to carrying breastmilk pumped three times a day. My Indigo Synapse is, for lack of a better word, GORGEOUS and small and very different-looking than the other backpacks ubiquitous on the college campus where I work. But, and this is a big but, it is just too small. It does look very stuffed, plus I usually have to carry a second bag. Maybe this isn't a bad thing (carrying a second bag) because I live in a very hot and sweaty climate and I often travel by foot and occasionally by bike (when it is cooler), so a lighter S19 isn't the worst thing in the world. But I think I would rather be able to fit everything in one bag for everyday.

    I don't know if it totally matters, but I see that usually a moderator or Person In The Know asks, "Well, what do you carry every day?"

    So generally my carry load is:
    • a very small cooler with six milk bottles plus three ice packs
    • three sets of pumping flanges (Ameda brand) (most of you won't know what the heck I'm talking about with these, I realize! Basically all you need to know is that they need to be in a clean bag and are super-awkwardly shaped and have lots of easily misplaced little pieces)
    • a reusable zipper bag for packing used flanges (about the size of a gallon Ziploc and easily compressible)
    • a lunch and snacks for me
    • rarely/but once in a while a small (10 fl oz) water bottle (I keep it at work)
    • more snacks for me
    • a SE to carry wallet, keys, large phablet phone, aquaphor, minimal makeup (but I don't need to carry the SE, I can just have the pouches/Q-kits)
    • some pens
    • a small fieldnotes
    • a couple very small toys (a Gumby and Pokey, a string of mardi gras beads, silly putty)--for when I pick up from daycare and have to whip out a special toy for toddler entertainment


    So yeah, it is a tight fit in the S19 and I usually carry the cooler and/or my lunch by hand.

    I am COMPLETELY confident that the SA can swallow all this and more. I'm not concerned about that. I have seen enough posts about the SA to know its powers.

    I am also interested in using this bag as a personal item on a flight along with an Aeronaut, which I am more doubtful about (and I've read posts about this too! Most recently, @brendabethman's question midway through this thread but other threads as well).

    I have also seen some comments that the SA is "sleek" but I'll admit that it definitely doesn't look sleek with all the modular pockets added. Sleek is a big appeal for me, since I love my S19 but don't totally love the look of the S25 with the current zippers. Also: I don't have a sense that people use the side outside pockets as much as they use the Synapses side pockets--why is that? Is it because they push into the main compartment too much?

    Some people really seem to flock toward the dyneema/halcyon in the SA and some people seem to prefer the stiff ballistic. I know, I know, this is usually a matter of preference and style, but I want to know about functionality with the fabrics regarding this PARTICULAR TB bag.

    Some people have said that the bag would be ok in all black for a personal item because it looks much smaller; is this true?

    These are the things I would love to know from you:
    1. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see more pics of your Smart Alec, if possible. This is my biggest (and most demanding) request. I'd love to see it full, half-full, empty, from the side, from the front, in various colors, do a little dance make a little love get down tonight...
    2. Why did you choose halcyon or ballistic, if not because of color selection/preference?
    3. How small does the bungie cord really cinch?
    4. What's up with the side pockets? Wouldn't small "bit and bobs" work in there just like in the S19 and S25?
    5. What else should I really know about the SA?

    You don't have to answer all of these! Any additional SA intel will help before I take this leap!


    Again, I feel like I have exhausted most if not all of the available posts, so linking to those won't be quite as helpful to me.

    Apologies for my interminable wordiness! Ugh.

    Thank you so, so much.

  2. #2
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    I really like my Smart Alec. I carried it on my trip last week. This week I took the Aeronaut 45. One simple reason. The SA full isn't as flat as the Aeronaut not stuffed and i had two regional jet flights with very small overhead space.

    I use the Smart Alec for travel a lot because I can fully load it for the trip and then offload the clothes where I'm staying synch down the bag and make it smaller for just my laptop, iPad, SE and other assorted chargers and cords. I chose Dyneema because I liked the material, and liked that it was more supple to get smaller. All of my bags are Dyneema because the fabric is more interesting to me and I was kind of tired of ballistic stuff.

    The side pockets I use. They probably aren't as roomy as the ones in your S25. I don't have both to compare. Small bits and bobs for sure can go in there without messing with your interior space.

    Sorry I can't give pictures right now because it isn't with me.

    As for personal item with Aeronaut....not for me. I use Aeronaut as a backpack so no good way to carry the SA when wearing the Aeronaut. My personal item is now a shop bag where I throw stuff i want on the flight. With Aeronaut I use either DLBP or PCBP at my location. Most of my personal stuff can be put in the Aeronaut for any long walks and then down to 1 bag.

  3. #3
    Volunteer Moderator Alumni Ilkyway's Avatar
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    The side pockets of the SA swollow a lot: a Side Effect fits easily. But that space than is "lost" in the main compartment. No big deal but I tent to rather put such big items in the main compartment.

    I have my carkeys a pen and a clip to shut open bags of say ships/crisps in one side pocket and vary on the other side: barr of shocolat or notebook (paper) or wool head and gloves... Something I do need duering the day and do not want to dig for.

    Balistic vs Halcyon: I have both and like both. The Balistic holds its shape a bit better (ever seen a hungry SA?) the Halcyon feels like it can take even a bit more in due to the softer material.

    Modular Pockets: I love love love the Upper one (UMP) it beings the SA on paar with the Synapses as far as organistions go: than both have six seperatly zipped up compartments. Though of cause layed out very differently. The Lower Modular Pocket I have used on my last trip for the very first time. I agree, with that sleek does no longer apply. But it gave me that bit of extra space I needed to one-bag that trip.

    Packing a SA needs a bit gerting used to, but once you have the hang of it, it stands upright very nicely. The padded pottom (the SA has a layer of foam in its bottom) makes for a nice bit of extra safety for your items in the main compartment.

    If you put the zippers of the Main Compaetment and the UMP both in the middle than this bag feels quite safe as all zippers are very close to your boddy makeing it hard for "bad guys" to open this bag without you knowing it.

    These are the thoughts of the too of my head.

    Ilkyway
    “Ankh-Morpork people considered that spelling was a sort of optional extra. They believed in it in the same way they believed in punctuation; it didn't matter where you put it so long as it was there.”

    By Sir Terence David John Pratchett from The Truth

  4. #4
    Volunteer Moderator Alumni Ilkyway's Avatar
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    As far as pictures go just a few that are on my phone:


    Not sleek but very funktional









    Some of these are already in other threads. Sorry for being repederive.

    Ilkyway


    Sent from my phone
    “Ankh-Morpork people considered that spelling was a sort of optional extra. They believed in it in the same way they believed in punctuation; it didn't matter where you put it so long as it was there.”

    By Sir Terence David John Pratchett from The Truth

  5. #5
    Volunteer Moderator Alumni Ilkyway's Avatar
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    And for the balance: Balistic SA











    Illyway




    Sent from my phone
    “Ankh-Morpork people considered that spelling was a sort of optional extra. They believed in it in the same way they believed in punctuation; it didn't matter where you put it so long as it was there.”

    By Sir Terence David John Pratchett from The Truth

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by tebnewyork View Post
    I really like my Smart Alec. [...]

    As for personal item with Aeronaut....not for me. I use Aeronaut as a backpack so no good way to carry the SA when wearing the Aeronaut.
    Thank you so much for your comments, @tebnewyork! I really appreciate hearing all of this stuff.

    Yeah, I've never using by Aeronaut (original/45) on my shoulder; I have always used it as a backpack, so it wouldn't work that way with a Smart Alec. But I was thinking of maybe trying an A30 lightly packed. Maybe not. Regardless, I really appreciate your response and comments. Thanks.

  7. #7
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    Thank you so, so much for these really illuminating pics, @Ilkyway! Yes, I had seen several of them, or variations of them, on other posts, but it was good to see all the different angles, especially the UMP from the sides. I feel like I had only really seen those features head-on and they look quite different from the side.

    The ballistic and halcyon side-by-side was helpful. I had seen the hanging pics, but again, maybe only head-on and not from that angle.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkyway View Post
    The side pockets of the SA swollow a lot: a Side Effect fits easily. But that space than is "lost" in the main compartment. No big deal but I tent to rather put such big items in the main compartment.

    I have my carkeys a pen and a clip to shut open bags of say ships/crisps in one side pocket and vary on the other side: barr of shocolat or notebook (paper) or wool head and gloves... Something I do need duering the day and do not want to dig for.
    Whoa, OK, that really does help. That means that the side pockets are substantially bigger than I had imagined. Thanks for telling me that a Side Effect fits. I didn't think it would. It is truly hard to tell from (most) other pics that people have posted previously.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ilkyway View Post
    Packing a SA needs a bit gerting used to, but once you have the hang of it, it stands upright very nicely. The padded pottom (the SA has a layer of foam in its bottom) makes for a nice bit of extra safety for your items in the main compartment.
    Yes, I think it will take a bit of practice and trial and error to figure out how to pack it. It was interesting to read on several other posts that the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag fits flat in it. I have recently acquired two of those (Island and Monarch! Give Monarch a chance!), and I'm eager to try that out... The standing upright is a nice feature, especially when compared to my lovable-but-tippy S19.

    Thanks again for these BEAUTIFUL and REVEALING photos @Ilkyway! They really help!

    Will other people please post pics when you can too? All angles, inside and out. I really want to make this purchase, but I do want to hear from you first, ideally. Thanks, gang.

  8. #8
    Forum Member marytattoo's Avatar
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    I don't have pictures but I've used my SA 2x for a weekend luggage item. I'm plus size so was surprised I could do it. on one trip I used the upper module pocket (UMP) for toiletry items. on the second trip I used an old style dopp kit which fit into one of the side pockets. I don't know much about your breast pumping items but I would suggest organizing them in either stuff sacks or packing cubes. there are all sorts of TB packing cubes of course, and ebags sells them too. using the packing cubes organizes the small items and helps with the slimmer profile. another consideration is that @ceepee somewhere last year showed how to hack an UMP into a side-effect-type bag. that would allow you to put your SE items into the UMP and then use it as a purse if you needed it.

    HTH

  9. #9
    Forum Member ceepee's Avatar
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    Some shots from a test pack I did for my trip to Iceland a couple of weeks ago:

    Be a Smart Alec: I need more information about the Smart Alec-img_0107-jpg
    This one shows an Aether A30 packing cube in the bottom of the SA. You can see that there is still a bit of room around the packing cube.

    Be a Smart Alec: I need more information about the Smart Alec-img_0108-jpg
    I could stack 3 cubes (not stuffed) and still have room at the top.....

    Be a Smart Alec: I need more information about the Smart Alec-img_0110-jpg
    ....for odds and ends like my 3-1-1 bag.

    Be a Smart Alec: I need more information about the Smart Alec-img_0113-jpg
    When the main compartment is fully loaded, there is not much room left in the side pockets. You probably need to pack with your Side Effect already in place to ensure that there will be room.

    Be a Smart Alec: I need more information about the Smart Alec-img_0112-jpg
    The UMP is SO handy.

    Be a Smart Alec: I need more information about the Smart Alec-img_0237-jpg
    This is how it looked fully packed.

    It should be noted that I didn't go with the SA in the end, instead I chose to use my Synapse 25. Much as I want to love the SA, my S25 is normally my preferred option. I think this is because it's a simple matter to transfer my EDC from my S19 into the corresponding pockets on the S25 and I don't have to think about where things have been relocated to like I would if I used the SA.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by marytattoo View Post
    I don't have pictures but I've used my SA 2x for a weekend luggage item. I'm plus size so was surprised I could do it.
    Thanks, @marytattoo! As a tall person with a lot of bulky clothes, hearing that you could fit clothes is a good sign. Thanks for including that.

    Quote Originally Posted by marytattoo View Post
    I don't know much about your breast pumping items but I would suggest organizing them in either stuff sacks or packing cubes. there are all sorts of TB packing cubes of course, and ebags sells them too. using the packing cubes organizes the small items and helps with the slimmer profile.
    I actually like the bags I've been using, but they take up way too much room in the S19. I think the bulging is unavoidable with these types of items. But it seems like the SA can handle this AOK. Thanks!

    [For anyone who needs recommendations on bags for pump parts, I've started using this and this. I prefer the second one I think, and I throw it in the washer AND dryer. Plus it comes in really fun prints. (Outer Space and Carnival/Sugar Skulls are the coolest ones, I think. I use a size Medium and it holds SIX flanges!) I had been using Ziploc bags for over a year last time around (Baby #1) and that was probably the best thing to use but it seemed VERY wasteful and got too expensive to keep trashing plastic bags. No matter how much I said I would wash them out and re-use them all week, I rarely did that.]

    Quote Originally Posted by marytattoo View Post
    another consideration is that @ceepee somewhere last year showed how to hack an UMP into a side-effect-type bag. that would allow you to put your SE items into the UMP and then use it as a purse if you needed it.
    HTH
    I think this is the link where @ceepee discusses that, in case anyone needs it! Yep, I told you I've been reading a lot about the Smart Alec!

    Thanks everyone! Please keep posting! I really appreciate it.

  11. #11
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    Answering one of your questions: I recently used my original black/white Halcyon SA as a personal item on a domestic US flight. It was full, but not stuffed, so it drew no attention from the flight attendants and easily slid under the seat in front of me. As stated in threads elsewhere in the forums, the top opening design of the SA makes it easy to retrieve items from the bag when you are in flight. The key is to pack the items vertically in some other bag or organizer (i.e., stacked from the back to the front rather than top to bottom) so you can slide the one you need in and out of the bag without having to pull everything out.

    I love the flexibility that the large main compartment provides. You haven't stated the size of your cooler, so don't know whether it will fit. SA's have been known to carry watermelons. I use the SA as my take-to-the-mountain bag: a large ski helmet, googles, gloves, balaclava and hat fit with lots of room to spare.

    I am not a fan of bungie cords on the outside of bags. They can be useful, but I have had too many catch on things like security conveyor belts. I removed mine and replaced it with 2 GateKeeper straps that I use to secure something to the outside, e.g., snowshoes. I don't leave these on full time in order to maintain the clean, non-catchy, exterior of the SA.

    I would take photographs, but my wife borrowed my SA to use as a personal item on a trip to Brazil. I am a bit worried that I may never get the bag back from her.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by doesntmakememadonna View Post
    So generally my carry load is:
    • a very small cooler with six milk bottles plus three ice packs
    • three sets of pumping flanges (Ameda brand) (most of you won't know what the heck I'm talking about with these, I realize! Basically all you need to know is that they need to be in a clean bag and are super-awkwardly shaped and have lots of easily misplaced little pieces)
    • a reusable zipper bag for packing used flanges (about the size of a gallon Ziploc and easily compressible)
    • a lunch and snacks for me
    • rarely/but once in a while a small (10 fl oz) water bottle (I keep it at work)
    • more snacks for me
    • a SE to carry wallet, keys, large phablet phone, aquaphor, minimal makeup (but I don't need to carry the SE, I can just have the pouches/Q-kits)
    • some pens
    • a small fieldnotes
    • a couple very small toys (a Gumby and Pokey, a string of mardi gras beads, silly putty)--for when I pick up from daycare and have to whip out a special toy for toddler entertainment
    Unrelated to the backpack question at hand, but might prove useful: when my wife was pumping, instead of bringing multiple sets of flanges, she brought one set and stored them in the fridge in a ziplock bag between pumping sessions. Since they were refrigerated, that prevented bacteria buildup or milk residue going bad. Not sure what your setup is (she eventually just bought a mini fridge for her office and locked the door, rather than going to the pumping room), but if you have access to a trusted fridge with enough room, that might help cut down your load.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Juanito View Post

    I am not a fan of bungie cords on the outside of bags. They can be useful, but I have had too many catch on things like security conveyor belts. I removed mine and replaced it with 2 GateKeeper straps that I use to secure something to the outside, e.g., snowshoes. I don't leave these on full time in order to maintain the clean, non-catchy, exterior of the SA.
    @Juanito, I also think the bag just looks better without the cords and even without the Gatekeeper straps. Although the old Glowire is pretty damn sweet looking.

    I think I would likely remove it. Or maybe not if I ended up going with the Ballistic? Still unsure. Thanks so much for your feedback. It really does help, especially because you have used (and now your wife is using)an SA as a personal item. My international flights are very few and far-between, at least at my current stage in life.

    Thank you!

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by afsheen View Post
    Unrelated to the backpack question at hand, but might prove useful: when my wife was pumping, instead of bringing multiple sets of flanges, she brought one set and stored them in the fridge in a ziplock bag between pumping sessions. Since they were refrigerated, that prevented bacteria buildup or milk residue going bad. Not sure what your setup is (she eventually just bought a mini fridge for her office and locked the door, rather than going to the pumping room), but if you have access to a trusted fridge with enough room, that might help cut down your load.
    THANK YOU, @afsheen! I don't want to hijack my own thread to make it about pumping and pump parts, but there is a serious dearth of practical, every-day useful information about what to bring, how to pack it, what women's set-up at work looks like. Given how easy it is to find threads and online posts about.... say.... what pens people pack or how people fit every single type of laptop or gadget into every single type of bag.... I have seen maybe ONE or TWO detailed posts on any blog or forum about what the insides of a woman's pump bag looks like! And I know there are men and women (dads and moms usually, but maybe also grandparents?) out there dealing with not only the pumping but the crazy amount of part- and bottle-cleaning that goes along with making food for your baby at work.

    Annnnnyway, thanks for the suggestion. I actually did this for a while with my first time around, but it is easier now to bring all the parts since I don't currently have an easy-to-get-to fridge and my work definitely does not have a lactation room.

    Really: it meant a lot to have someone--a partner to a pumping mom, no less!!!--talk some specifics about pumping. Thanks @afsheen. High five.

    OK, back to our regular discussion of bags and the SA.

  15. #15
    Forum Member haraya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by doesntmakememadonna View Post

    These are the things I would love to know from you:
    1. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see more pics of your Smart Alec, if possible. This is my biggest (and most demanding) request. I'd love to see it full, half-full, empty, from the side, from the front, in various colors, do a little dance make a little love get down tonight...



    This is a 'vintage' SA (so, no loops for UMP) holding my 8yo's baseball gear: a batting helmet, gloves, bat, cleats, random clothing. A small water bottle in each side pocket. And still there was plenty of room up top.

    Re: your load-out, I think you totally could fit all your pumping gear in the main compartment, with the SE on top, and still have space to put things (especially soft items) in the side pockets. I'd put the toys/food/pens etc. in their own OP's or cubes (3DCOC, CQPC) and color-code the keystraps so you can pull out what you need quickly.

    2. Why did you choose halcyon or ballistic, if not because of color selection/preference?

    Although I love original Halcyon (Dyneema) for almost all my bags, I chose Aubergine ballistic for my SA because the white grid seemed to emphasize the slouchiness of the SA when it wasn't full. I'm now tempted to get a New!Halcyon SA because the dark grid will eliminate that issue, but also I realize that I tend not to use the SA when half-full (if my load is that small, I use my Synapse). For just about any TB bag, I tend to go with Halcyon for the weight savings, as well as its water- and pet hair-shedding ability.

    3. How small does the bungie cord really cinch?

    I don't know, I've always packed the SA pretty full!! The one thing I've used the bungee for is toting a wet raincoat once the rain stops (and even then I have a backup method for attaching the item, like a keystrap through a zipper pull - I don't rely solely on the bungee).

    Actually I have both the bungee and the Gatekeeper straps on it right now - I think I meant to try using the Gatekeepers to hold the SA on top of a roller, for a recent trip, but I ended up using my MB instead, so that's an untested setup so far.


    4. What's up with the side pockets? Wouldn't small "bit and bobs" work in there just like in the S19 and S25?

    As has been said upthread, the side pockets tend to steal space from the main compartment if items are rigid. So rather than using them for water bottles, most of the time I put softer/smaller items in there - Shop Bags, a hoody, maybe a stuff sack with small essentials in it. But they are pretty capacious - I can get two small plastic water bottles in there, or a full-size wine bottle - so if you want to keep something separate from the main space, they are good for that as well.


    5. What else should I really know about the SA?

    I really like the SA for a personal item - the UMP or even just the built-in storage in the 'lid' works well for accessing small things in-flight, when the bag is stored under the seat in front of you. Usually I'll put a LSB (inside-out) in a side pocket, and put the SA in that (right side out) before I slide it under the seat, to keep the straps clean. The top-side loading also works well for me in the tight context of an economy-class seat.

    Basically, the SA would be my zombie apocalypse bag, because it can hold just about anything. It's not my current EDC - however, my load is much lighter now than when I had to think about toting a pump. But I really hope I don't have to pick just one TB bag, because I love all my bags!! Smilie
    Last edited by haraya; 04-29-2016 at 03:34 PM.

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