Like the rest of the country, the weather has been downright odd here in Chicago this winter. We’ve had days where it has been in the forties alternating with freezing cold, rain, bone chilling wind, and now snow. With weather that unpredictable it’s entirely possible to get caught out in the elements and that’s exactly what happened to me earlier in the week. I ended up taking a stroll in freezing rain trying to get back to my vehicle from the train. The bag I had in tow was the Tom Bihn Smart Alec.
Tom Bihn is headquartered in Seattle, WA and on average it rains there 150 days out of the year. So, it’s not a huge surprise that their products are designed to deal with wet conditions. According to the Tom Bihn website:
All of the fabrics we use are “waterproof”: coated with urethane inside and treated to have a water-repellent outside. We also use YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zippers on the exterior of bags or cover the zipper with a fabric flap to keep water out. However, seams can leak if exposed to significant weather. You can renew the water-repellent qualities of your bag with Nikwax. Be wary of other manufacturers claiming their products are “waterproof” just because the fabrics are coated. If the seams are not RF welded or heat sealed, they are probably not waterproof.
YKK Aquaguard zippers were originally developed by Arc’teryx, working with YKK and Uretek. Tom Bihn refrains from calling them “waterproof” because they aren’t: they are “splash-proof” or water-repellent. Good to know, but they still are better than standard coil zippers and something I don’t see in a lot of bags not specifically geared towards trail use. Every exterior zipper on the Smart Alec is YKK Aquaguard.
Back to my story. The Smart Alec and I got soaked. Unlike me, everything in the bag stayed bone dry. I’m sure the pack and the electronics I had inside would have eventually succumbed to the driving rain if I had stayed out there much longer but it’s good to know that the Tom Bihn Smart Alec offers my loadout some protection should I find myself again without an umbrella.