Being a travel writer, and, needless to say, frequent traveler, means that my house has a closet stuffed to the brim with an assortment of suitcases, carry-on luggage, beach bags, backpacks, and assorted other gear designed to bring travel paraphernalia from one place to another. We aren’t especially proprietary about luggage and the likes in our house; we root around until we find a backpack or carry-on (or whatever) that suits our packing needs, and use it. But one evening, my husband came home from work to find a new Tom Bihn Smart Alec backpack unwrapped on our bed, and his eyes lit up. “Is…is this one for me?” he asked, a glint in his eyes. That was around six months ago, and I haven’t been able to get my hands on the Smart Alec backpack since then.
What does it mean when a man who never previously thought twice about what his luggage looked like develops an instant affection for a new piece of travel gear and subtly tries to hide it, hoard it, and keep it as his own? It means we have a winner on our hands, folks. The Smart Alec backpack by Tom Bihn is handsome and instantly appealing, but it also holds up wonderfully during tough hikes, being crammed unceremoniously in the overhead compartment of planes, and being used as an impromptu pillow/board game table on the interminable LIRR train from NYC to the east end of Long Island.
Make no mistake: this is a tough backpack. While I can only gaze upon it wistfully from afar, my husband’s Smart Alec (and yes, it’s his, no use fighting it) has suffered from his mistreatment during a trip to Alaska, to Montreal, up and down the California coast, as well as many cross country trips, and is no worse for the wear. Its durability is one of its greatest strengths (no pun intended) for if ever a type of luggage gets beaten up, it’s a backpack.
My husband uses the Brain Cell to safely transport his laptop on work trips, and the ease with which the Smart Alec adopts to being a handy piece of carry-on luggage can’t be understated. His laptop slides right out of the Brain Cell during long flights, and the inside compartments fit his other gadgets and travel-related items. On trips that are non work related, he uses the Freudian Slip inside the Smart Alec. This frees up more internal room than does the Brain Cell, and is good for simple organization of papers.
The side compartments on the outside of the Smart Alec are deep enough to jam all sorts of things into, yet don’t crowd into the interior’s space. It’s important to use these compartments, by the way, as otherwise smaller items could be hard to find at the bottom of the main compartment. The Smart Alec backpack has waist straps along with the shoulder straps, but ours haven’t been used. The most strenuous hike this one has been on was to a glacier lake in Alaska’s Inside Passage, which sounds harder than it was — but this is also when we accidentally found out that the Smart Alec is highly water resistant. Enough said about THAT bit of spectacular clumsiness!
Tom Bihn is the official luggage of The Vacation Gals. However, we thoroughly test each piece of luggage in the field, as it were, before reviewing them. After taking the Smart Alec on several trips, it’s easy to wholeheartedly recommend this item as a top-rated backpack.
Check out these other great travel gear posts:
The History of Travel Gear at Sharing Travel Experiences
Gearing Up at Nerds Eye View
These are a Few of My Favorite Travel Things at Traveling with MJ
Holiday Gifts for Travelers at Wanderlust and Lipstick
Top 10 Travel Gift Recommendations at Wandering Educators
Omni Hotels and Travel Gift List at Ciao Bambino
Reviews of the Best Travel Socks at Spot Cool Stuff