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  1. #1
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    Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...

    Hello! Long time reader, first time poster. I have been combing through the forums, and it seems my predicament is not a unique one. However, I am still trying to decide which bag would suit me best for my daily commute. Is it the Cadet, or is it the Pilot? Heck, I am even contemplating the S19 and S25...if that's something you would recommend instead.

    Anyway, my use case is as follows: I commute by (crowded) bus to work four days a week. So, I need something big enough to hold all my stuff, but small enough to be maneuverable on public transit. I work remotely on the fifth day. Therefore, I only need to tote my laptop home one night, and back to work the next day. I live and work in the Twin Cities, so I get rain fairly frequently, but LOTS of cold and snow, so I need something easy to carry in bulky clothes in the Winter, and that is going to be weather-resistant to keep my possessions dry.

    I have gone back and forth between briefcase/messenger-type bags and backpacks. I cannot quite decide which I like best. I like to carry files horizontally, so briefcases are nice, but there are obvious advantages to the backpack. However, in my experience, the backpack suffers when wearing a Winter coat due to bulk.

    I work in banking at the corporate level, but either briefcase or backpack will work for my environment. No real "pack snobs" where I work. I do not travel for work, but may do so very infrequently in the future.

    My loadout (depending on day and time of year), will look something like this:

    Laptop (one day a week home, the next day back to work) - HP EliteBook 840 G1 (13.35" x 9.33" x .83" @ 3.48 lbs.)
    Sleeve for the laptop, since it doesn't seem a Cache is avilable that would fit
    Charger(s) - Usually some cables for my iPhone and a Kindle, but once-a-week the cables and brick for the laptop
    Battery pack- to keep iPhone and Kindle charged
    Notebook - No larger than 8.5" x 11" (usually smaller) as I am still a big fan of pen and paper!
    Pens (2 or 3)
    Small EDC Flashlight - Currently a SureFire EB1
    Knife or Multitool - Small folder or Smaller Leatherman
    Files - Usually one expandable file folder, can be .5" to 3" thick depending on the homework!
    Travel umbrella - for those days when rain is likely
    Kindle Paperwhite
    Keys
    Light Jacket - Possible if rain is in the offing, usually a Marmot PreCip

    Okay, TB Forumites...lend me your wisdom!!! Which bag do you recommend for me, my use, and stuff? Thanks in advance for your help.

  2. #2
    Forum Member Rocks's Avatar
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    Hello! I'm a Minneapolis resident/transit user too!
    I have a Copilot and both size Synapses, but no Cadet and no Pilot. Your packing list would definitely work in a Synapse 19. So ask yourself what is more comfortable for you to carry: two strap backpack or one strap messenger bag. I work in the arts, so looking professional is not an issue for me. I also find backpacks a lot more comfortable, but slightly less convenient when you need to access your stuff on the go.

    -----The Synapses and Pilot both have dedicated water bottle pockets, which are awesome and could easily fit a travel umbrella. A Cadet user could chime in on where to fit an umbrella.

    -----I keep a light jacket (Patagonia Houdini) in the bottom pocket of my Synapse 19. I don't even notice it's there.

    Let me know if you want to check anything out in person.

  3. #3
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    Cadet is the most classic briefcase in looks. And don't forget about the Founders Briefcase if that aesthetic appeals. Surely with bulky coats, the shoulder bag is better, but one shoulder carry is tough if the bag is heavy and the walk far. Once you decide on the shoulder vs. backpack, there are lots of good options. Your load seems smallish, so I bet the S19 could do it. I have the S25, and I can easily pack all tech and clothes and snacks for a weekend away with space left in it, so likely more than you need with your EDC. I think the Cadet is much thinner than the Pilot, so the coat could be an issue. Good luck in your search. As always, get both!!

  4. #4
    Forum Member readmore's Avatar
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    I've used both the Cadet and Pilot. For both, if you max out with computer + brick + 3" of paperwork + everything else, you might be pushing it. But in your usual use case scenario, either would work.

    The three factors I'd consider in your situation: (1) shape - Cadet is wider, taller, and shallower (2) padding - Cadet is padded and Pilot is not and (3) compartments - the Pilot's compartments are half the bag. Cadet has a bigger main space.
    16.25" x 12.5" x 4.5" Cadet
    15.4" x 11.4" x 5.1" Pilot

    I like the Pilot better as a travel bag, it's very light and has lots of compartments. For a tight public transit commute, the Pilot might be better b/c it's more compact than the Cadet.

    I personally like the Cadet better, and it's the bag I use as an everyday work carry. I like the general aesthetic, the padded sides and bottom, the slim lines (though it holds a lot more than I thought it would - you can definitely pack 3" of paper in there). Especially if your load varies day by day, the structure of the Cadet makes it so that you don't have to pack it any special way for it to maintain its shape. My other work bag is a Ballistic Makers Bag, so you can see that I like the "one big space" model as opposed to the "predetermined compartment" model.

    Happy deciding, and let us know what you get!

  5. #5
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    I have that exact work-issued laptop. It fits in a vertical 6z reasonably well (S19), but is very tight in a horizontal 6z (Pilot-sized). My Cadet has a 4z horizontal for the laptop, 4z doesn't fit in the Pilot. Your load sounds very similar to mine, except I don't carry an umbrella (no point in the PacNW, they just get ruined), and I wear my jacket or carry it instead of trying to stuff it in the bag.

    The Cadet is very narrow- the laptop plus any bulk like a laptop power brick and cord messily tossed in will contribute to bulges. Umbrella may be an interesting fit. You won't be able to fit in a jacket unless it's very light or pretty flat. Maybe a non-TB sleeve would help you fit one of these items in. The other thing is that there is a lot of vertical space that I haven't figured out how to use. I would be reluctant to put the umbrella under the laptop, but maybe you could get the jacket in the bottom.
    The Pilot will fit this stuff, no jacket again, might be able to squeeze in the umbrella. I find the Pilot and Cadet really hold about the same amount of stuff.
    The S19 should fit this load, with the jacket. It will be reasonably full, but you'll have some leftover space.

    Let me know if you want any photos.

  6. #6
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    Okay! Now we are getting somewhere!

    Sounds like the Cadet is more what I am looking for in a briefcase...but...the S19 sounds like it may be the better overall solution. Hmmmmmmmm.

    @Rocks - Thanks for the welcome from a fellow Minnesotan who shares a similar commute! If you have shots of that S19 loaded up, I'd like to take a gander for sure.

    @featherwitch - Yes, please! Photos of your setup will be instructive as well.

    Thanks for the input so far. Let's see some photos, and soon a decision will be made!

  7. #7
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    So I caught Olympic fever and forgot to check for a few days...

    First, the load, clockwise from left:
    Laptop in 6z vertical cache, file folder, jacket (not part of my carry), iPhone charger, black small organizer pouch (VPN token, bluetooth headset, charger for headset), Iberian small organizer pouch (personal items), black 3D organizer cube (laptop power cord), USB mouse, pens, headphones, notebook, and pocket organizer pouch for little-used credit cards and transit passes, iPad in blue case.
    Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3101-jpg

    Packed in S19. There is room in both side pockets, the bottom pocket, and the water bottle pocket, but the main compartment is pretty fully.
    Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3100-jpg

    Laptop in horizontal 6z, tight fit, takes two hands to remove, and must remove USB connectors for mouse and keyboard:
    Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3103-jpg
    Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3104-jpg

    Packed in the pilot, no jacket. The middle water bottle pocket is empty (might fit that umbrella if it's short) and there is some room in the front pockets.
    Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3105-jpg
    Inside of the Pilot:
    Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3106-jpgPush Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3107-jpg

    Laptop swimming in 4z horizontal cache:
    Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3109-jpg

    Packed in a Cadet, no jacket.
    Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3116-jpg

    Inside of the cadet, I also tried my umbrella on the top. I was wrong, a full-sized umbrella wouldn't be an issue on the top.
    Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3111-jpgPush Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3112-jpgPush Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3113-jpgPush Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-img_3114-jpg
    Last edited by featherwitch; 08-09-2016 at 06:20 PM.

  8. #8
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    Thanks, @featherwitch! Gives me a great idea about relative capacities. I am looking hard at the Cadet for sure after this, but must say the S19 still intrigues seeing how easily it swallowed all the gear with room left over.

    I'll keep you all posted about any decisions!

  9. #9
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    I am a teacher and travel with some similar things to work and home every day. I have had a pilot for over a year. I love it! Every day I like it more. The organization of the front pockets is amazing. You can access anything you need without having to take the bag off of your shoulder. The only thing I don't put in my Pilot that you said you carry is the jacket and umbrella. If you have compact versions of these, they would definitely fit in the pilot. Push Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-thumbnail_img_5427-jpgPush Me Off the Fence! Torn Between Cadet and Pilot...-thumbnail_img_5429-jpgThe attached pictures are what I carry every day with plenty of room to spare. In the 3d Clear organizer cube I have several small cables some first aid stuff and a couple small bottles of liquid/lotion. I don't put my laptop in a sleeve because it saves space and weight and I don't find it necessary (I don't throw my bag around). You might want to consider this, as well.
    Last edited by mtymouse9; 08-20-2016 at 06:09 PM.

  10. #10
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    I am also a fellow Minneapolis worker, with a similar laptop, though mine is a bit smaller (HP folio dimensions: 13.3 x 9.09 x .75 in).

    Also trying to decide between the Cadet and Pilot. I want to also use this bag as a personal carry-on for trips.

    I'm wondering which bag you eventually got and if it worked for you.

  11. #11
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    I was making the same choice recently. I settled on the Pilot because (1) it fit my MacBook Air in a TB cache and (2) it could accommodate a water bottle. I commute on the subway and by bus, so having the added depth was a big plus. I just got my Pilot this week, and so far, so good. It holds a great deal, and looks businesslike, which I needed.

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