If you’re looking for a backpack that is smart, functional, and well thought out, then Tom Bihn’s is the backpack for you. Not only is it 100% made in the USA, it’s a bag that makes other backpacks I’ve used seem under-thought out and bulky, without reason.
Today we are reviewing the Smart Alec, a modular bag with 13 webbing loops on the front of the Smart Alec and an included removable reflective bungee. Tom Bihn has created a backpack that is modular so you can pick from lots of different inserts and add-ons that make the backpack suit your needs exactly. Each accessory snaps into the webbing loops to build your own unique set-up.
I took this bag while I traveled, loaded with my work-items. I took my MacBook with me and the case for the computer was pretty cool. Tom Bihn has dubbed it the “Vertical Brain Cell.” It attaches to the inside of the backpack so that when you pull your computer out, the computer case stays put. It’s brilliant and very convenient in the airport security line. The vertical Brain Cell for my 17” MacBook was a little too big for my liking, but that’s the nature of having a 17” laptop. Tom Bihn offers smaller Brain Cells for each size laptop, that are much more sleek than that of the 17”. Not many buy a 17” laptop for its travel size.
I love the “Freudian Slip.” This is a genius case that’s thin, but has pockets on either side for files, papers, notebooks, pens, pencils, and anything else you could possibly want to put in it. And it’s got a handle on top so that if you need to get something out of it, you just pull the handle and it pulls right out without upsetting everything in the bag. It’s so smart!
We also went for the “Upper Modular Pocket,” which adds an extra 2 liters of storage to the Smart Alec. It makes for easy access to your wallet, chap-stick, cell phone, or any other ‘smaller’ items that you need to get to easily. Since I was traveling, it was nice to keep my itinerary and my boarding passes in there for easy access. I was really glad I had that pocket because other than the side pockets (one for a water bottle and the other for smaller, other things) the storage on the outside of this bag is kept to a minimum to maintain a sleek and clean look. You will really want to build your bag with the add-ons to obtain your desired storage space.
Speaking of outside pockets, I really loved the water bottle pocket on the side. It’s rather genius to make this pocket just about as water-resistant as humanly possible! The other outside pocket is handy for hand sanitizer or other things you need to have relatively handy.
The biggest asset to this bag, by far, is the craftsmanship and quality of materials. They are impeccable. The welded zippers, liners, canvas material, stitching and accessories are all top notch. These are things you look past on other bags, but notice the difference when you have a Tom Bihn bag in front of you. You know quality is important when they carry that same care and craftsmanship into the inside of the bad and underneath the zipper hems. Everything is finished.
This bag is awesome and I know its been built to last decades, like a bag should. Best of all it’s made in Washington, USA.
Bag Specs from Tom Bihn’s website:
U.S. made, 1050 denier high tenacity ballistic nylon and 1000 denier Cordura® exterior
200 denier Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric lining
Closed-cell foam back and bottom
EVAZOTE® foam shoulder straps
PORON® foam handle
Tough Duraflex® and Nexus buckles
#10 YKK Aquaguard® coil zipper on main compartment
#8 YKK Aquaguard® coil zippers on pockets
Dri-Lex® Aero-Spacer® mesh padded with 1/4″, high quality, closed-cell foam.
Made in USA in the TOM BIHN Seattle factory
100% finished seams
24 reinforcing bar tacks
Dimensions: 18.5″ x 11.75″ x 7.75″ / 470 x 300 x 200 mm
Weight: 1.64 lbs / 742 grams (1050 denier ballistic nylon)
1.52 lbs / 688 grams (400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop)
Volume: 1600 cubic inches / 26 liters (ASTM Standard Measure)
Removable 1″ / 25 mm waist strap included
.375″ / 10 mm padded and contoured shoulder straps with .75″ / 20 mm removable sternum strap
The above video is from Tom Bihn’s YouTube stream. Here is another video that shows a lot of the storage, materials and options for the Smart Alec. The only aspect not shown in the video is the Upper Module Pocket. You can see an image of that here.
Stay tuned for a follow-up interview with the people of Tom Bihn.