Of all the bags I’ve bought from Tom Bihn over the last few years, no bag has gotten as much use as the Smart Alec. The Smart Alec holds 26 liters of stuff and is my everyday workhorse for schlepping stuff from home to work and back. While it’s not a massive bag, I hardly ever find myself unable to fit what I need into it. This is due to the cavernous main compartment. It’s really big. I usually carry a 13" Macbook Air in a Brain Cell, a Freudian Slip and two Size 3 Stuff Sacks that hold my Minipresso, a couple food containers and maybe some gym clothes. The Smart Alec does a great job of holding everything and making things easy to get to. There are two small zippered pockets on the inside of the top flap that are great for storing small things like earphones, USB drives and coins. There’s another open-top pocket on the inside front of the bag, but putting things in there can be difficult when the bag is at max capacity.
The only other pockets left on the Smart Alec are the tall side pockets. Both have open-top pockets inside and the right side pocket has slot for pens and pencils too. I love to use the O-ring inside the right pocket to attach an organizer pouch to hold my wallet, which is useful for quick access to my train pass, and my keys.
There’s not a lot else to this bag. There are modular packs you can purchase to add onto the front of the bag for additional storage, which is nice, but I haven’t felt the need to add storage to the Smart Alec. The bag comes with bungee cord webbing that is great for holding onto a sweater, jacket or an umbrella. You can also attach 1-inch straps that Tom Bihn sells to cinch up larger items.
One last great feature of the Smart Alec is the flap opening on top of the bag. Unlike most backpacks that unzip in an upside-down “U”, only the top of the Smart Alec opens up and you look down into the bag without fear of things falling out the sides. It helps the bag maintain its shape and lets you stand the bag up, with the flap open and quickly take things out and put them back in again.
My bag is black ballistic nylon, but I kind of wish I had got it in Dyneema instead. I’d suggest you do the same and shave a little bit of weight off the bag if you’re going to be carrying it in a normal environment, day in and day out.