Best Backpack for Travel with your Laptop

Have you ever sat in the aisle seat of an airplane and gotten knocked upside the head by a traveler’s bag as they try to find their seat? Yeah. That was me. I think I have the head bopping problem solved.

I prefer to travel light, and with the airlines charging for checked baggage, the smaller the number of bags, the better for my pocketbook. I have been searching high and low for the perfect travel backpack that will keep all of my travel writing gear organized and even allow room for an outfit or two.

TOM BIHN Smart Alec Backpack is great for travelTOM BIHN knew of my backpack dilemma and asked me to try out their Smart Alec backpack (for another website). I have to admit, I had never heard of this Seattle-based manufacturer and my attitude was more of, “Sure, send it, I’ll take a look.”

The bag arrived by FedEx in a small mailer. I was a little confused at first, because I thought I was getting a backpack. I opened the package and was delighted by all the goodies that fell out on my counter. Not only did they send me the Smart Alec, but they sent me a few accessories to go along with it. Here’s my take on the backpack and accompanying accessories:

The Outside:
My first thought was that the outer fabric is sturdy and would withstand repeated trips. There’s a detachable bungee cord on the front that the website states is for a yoga mat or a windbreaker. Since I don’t carry around my yoga mat on my world travels, I’ll reserve this space for a jacket. The carry straps are very comfortable and the bag has a detachable waist strap that doesn’t leave any extra bits hanging when not in use. It comes in a few colors, but mine is red and cobalt, to match my car. The look is stylish for a man or woman.

The Pockets:
There is an expandable side pocket that will easily fit a water bottle. Me, I use that little pocket for my sunglasses and a few other personal items. The other side pocket has little areas for writing utinsels. I put my Lens Pen there, along with an ink pen and small notepad for easy access should my camera lens have a smudge or I need to hurry and take notes. The top zippered flap has a long divided zippered pocket that I use for business cards, lip gloss, change, mini earphones, phone charger, wifi card, etc. There are also some other extra pockets that line the interior. Just think, I’ve packed all these little items and haven’t even made it to the actual interior size of the bag. MSRP $130USD

The Accessories:
The Vertical Freudian Slip by TOM BIHNThe Vertical Freudian Slip: Yes, as the person who was quoted in Glamour Magazine for my “organized chaos”, the Vertical Freudian Slip has helped me keep papers in order on one side, and extra pens and my Crackberry on the other. No more crumpled up papers hiding at the bottom of my backpack! I’ve used this accessory to keep my press kits and releases organized when they are given to me on media visits. MSRP $35USD

The Clear Organizer Wallet: This is where I keep my ID handy to take out when going through security at the airport. It has a clip that attaches to an O-ring inside my Smart Alec so that the wallet is easily accessible when I need it. MSRP $12USD

Key Strap by TOM BIHNKey Strap: This little strap keeps my keys handy during the home stretch. As soon as the plane lands late at night in Baton Rouge, all the occupants jump up when the seatbelt light goes off and they scramble to grab bags, keys, turn on cell phones, and rush to the parking lot. Luck for me, my key to RedBugg is always handy with this $2 accessory.

On My Wishlist: TOM BIHN really got me when they sent me this bag. I’m a believer and I’m currently saving up so that I can purchase The Brain Cell for my laptop, Packing Cubes for ease of keeping my clothes together, and the Snake Charmer, a clear bag for cords and such.

The Best Part: The width of the backpack is narrower than any I’ve carried before. When I took this bag on a flight, I didn’t hit one person in the head. I thank you, TOM BIHN, as do my future flight companions.

Follow TOM BIHN on Twitter: @TomBihn


  1. Lucas Smart says

    I like my Briggs & Riley Large Backpack. There is a lot of care taken in the making of Briggs & Riley luggage. Like my backpack has an in-built padded compartment which holds my laptop and provides maximum protection for it. There’s a file section and an organizer with multiple pockets to keep business cards, pens, USB drives, etc. There’s a mesh pocket to hold my water bottle as well. It’s really well-designed and makes traveling with my laptop and my work so much easier. Other features that make this backpack a superb value for the price – it’s extremely lightweight, abrasion-resistant and even carries a lifetime warranty ( that covers airline damage!

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  3. Lisa @ Best Laptop Deals says

    Thanks for the review.. I really need this because most
    of the time i travel…

  4. Vicky says

    Cool article and some great tips. I should know since I traveled almost all my life.

    I like taking long trips around Europe, just busking on the streets, and sometimes doing some freelancing work on my laptop. I’ve mostly used sturdy leather backpacks to hold anything I’d take with me on the road, including laptop. They are awesome and all, but for carrying a laptop, I’d usually buy another special case for it, something padded to protect it from bumps and so on.

    Great work man. Great article!

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