The last Tom Bihn review I did was on the Buzz, a tiny day-tripper sling bag. I’m back with another notebook backpack review from Tom Bihn, this time it’s something a littler more robust. The Brain Bag is their huge, carry anything and everything sort of pack. We’re not talking huge as in the Hummer H3; we’re talking the original Hummer, complete with roof mounted machine gun. This beast has it all, and with a few additional accessories, even more.
- Made from 1000 denier water-repellant Cordura, an extremely strong and durable fabric
- Volume – 2200 cubic inches
- Size – 18″ x 14″ x 9″
- Weight — 3 pounds
- Six colors sapphire, olive, crimson, steel, solid black, plum
- #10 YKK zippers on main compartment and #9 YKK zippers on pockets
- 1/2″ padded straps with 1″ sternum and 2″ waist straps
Brain Cell (view larger)
The Brain Bag is designed for those who want to carry everything. And once you have everything, there’s still probably going to be room for more magazines, cables, accessories or whatever else you like to have with you at any given time. The main notebook compartment is huge; at 18 inches tall and over 12 inches wide, it will hold almost any machine. You’ll want to invest in a Tom Bihn Brain Cell or Monolith to protect your computer though, the compartments don’t offer padding on their own. Our review bag shipped with a Brain Cell which offers protection with a combination of soft foam padding and hard corrugated plastic. While you can use any protective case with the Brain Bag, the advantage of using the Tom Bihn sleeves is they hang on the back of the pack, keeping the base suspended, meaning more protection from drops.
Second compartment with Freudial Slip and Snake Charmer (view larger)
Second compartment empty (view larger)
The secondary compartment is also large and primed for other Tom Bihn accessories, like the Freudian Slip and Snake Charmer. The second pouch also has hooks for a second Brain Cell or Monolith, which means you can easily carry two notebooks in a protected environment, or use the main compartment for something like books, while the secondary compartment holds the notebook. The Freudian Slip is great to organize papers/folders with four slots on one side, and ton of goodies on the other with two large mesh pockets, three pen slots, and three other pockets. I also dropped in the Snake Charmer, which has two zippered mesh pockets perfect for holding a power supply, patch cable, USB cable and any other wires you still have to carry around. Should you not fill the two main compartments of the Brain Bag to capacity, each side has two compression straps to tighten down the load, making the pack more stable and balanced.
Front of the Brain Bag (view larger)
Small compartment on front (view larger)
Right front side pocket (view larger)
The front of the bag has a lot going for it with three compartments, a mesh pouch and even lash straps for an umbrella. The top compartment is small, perfect for holding frequently needed items, in my case a flash drive, screen wipe, gum, change and other assorted items. There’s also a snap-hook for holding keys, which isn’t something I use, but it’s there if you want it. The two larger pockets on the left and right are perfect for holding something like PDA; my LifeDrive with leather case fits easily. Each also has pen holders and the left has an additional matchbox-sized pocket. On the outside of the left pocket is a large mesh pocket, perfect for holding bottled water. Between the two large front pockets are straps to hold down an umbrella or otherwise tube shaped object.
Back of Brain Bag (view larger)
Top handles (view larger)
While managing to carry everything, the Brain Bag remains comfortable and easy to handle. On top it has two handle straps, one that sits flush with the back to hang the bag and another larger that is more like a handle, which can snap the second into place. The shoulder straps are wide and nicely padded; at a recent trade show I had was in total comfort while carrying the pack (with heavier load than normal for me) for several hours. Tom Bihn also includes a sternum strap and 2 inch waist strap for additional support with heavy loads.
I’ve tested a bunch of notebook backpacks and haven’t seen anything else quite as robust in terms of quality, accessories and storage options as the Brain Bag. It’s very comfortable to wear, enough so that I’m considering ditching the smaller pack I’ve been using for over a year to migrate full-time to the Brain Bag. I love being able to have absolutely everything with me all the time. Because you know, that one time you need the spare backup drive, or something else that you normally don’t carry, it’s a savior.
- Extremely versatile
- Huge capacity
- Excellent build quality
- Gets expensive quickly with accessories
- Zipper covers are a little stiff for the first few weeks
- No padding in main compartments
If you need a backpack that will last longer years longer than your notebook and can comfortably carry two of them if you want, the Brain Bag deserves your serious attention. It gets very expensive with accessories though, so be prepared to pay for the quality.
Tom Bihn products can be purchased from their website. Items in this review: Brain Bag – $140, Brain Cell – $50, Freudian Slip – $35, Snake Charmer, $20
Freudian Slip front (view larger)
Freudian Slip back (view larger)
Snake Charmer (view larger)
Side compression straps (view larger)