As I mentioned in Part One and Part Two of my Tom Bihn Smart Alec review, one of the great aspects of the pack are the Accessory Loops, which allow for the addition of different accessories like lashing straps, reflective cord, and pockets. Today I will be reviewing the newly released Tom Bihn Upper Modular Pocket, which can be attached to the top panel of the Smart Alec and adds 2+ liters to the pack’s volume.
The Upper Modular Pocket is made from the same materials as the Smart Alec – the exterior is U.S. high tenacity 1050 denier ballistic nylon and the pocket lining is 200 denier Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric. The zipper is #8 YKK Aquaguard®, which gives the pocket the same water repellency as the Smart Alec – something I rarely see in an admin pouch. The quality is flawless. The stitching is laser straight with no loose threads and everything is reinforced in the right areas.
The pocket attaches to the Smart Alec via six Gatekeeper Clips. It takes some practice and a little hand strength to open and close the clips. Tom Bihn made a video for the uninitiated where they make it look pretty easy but I’ve found other options like Hazard 4’s MOLLE-PAL mounting joints to be more user friendly. I also wish they had found a way to not sew the clips onto the pouch so the hardware could be removed. I wouldn’t mind using the Tom Bihn Upper Modular Pocket as part of a bag-in-bag system and I guess you could still do that but the clips detract from what would otherwise be a pretty clean design in a standalone mode.
The interior has four small sewn organizer pouches. According to Tom Bihn, they are sized “for the things to which you need quick access: smartphone, keys, multitool, flashlight”. There are also two interior O-rings that can be used to attach keys, pouches, etc. As with any admin pouch, you’re only limited by the size of the pocket(s) and your imagination.
Below is my load out. In the pockets from left to right: Leatherman Bit Kit, Leatherman Skeletool and Compact Trauma Shears, Ontario RAT-1 folding knife, and my Surefire G2X Pro flashlight. The left most pocket will also fit my smartphone, the Motorola Droid RAZR M, with just enough room to accommodate the gel case I had on it. The RAZR M is 60.9mm W X 122.5mm H X 8.3mm D. The Apple iPhone 5 should also fit with no issue. However, you Samsung Galaxy S III smartbrick owners will need to store your phone elsewhere.
Clipped to the left O-Ring is a Peanut Lighter/Cache and a Tom Bihn Prototype Business Card Holder with a So-LED mini light clipped on (which is holding my ID, credit cards, and some emergency cash). I didn’t utilize the right O-Ring because it might interfere with the retrieval of the RAT-1 or the G2X. I also dropped a Rite in the Rain All Weather Memo Book in there.
Even with all that, there is still room to spare in the pocket. It would have been nice to have a mesh pocket to secure loose items on the other side. Maybe Tom can include that in the next version.
ProsSmart Alec Integration, High Quality Materials, Water Repellency, Good Organization, Large Storage Volume Cons Gatekeeper Clip Ease of Use, Clips Cannot be Removed, No Mesh Pocket for Loose Items Overall, I found the Tom Bihn Upper Modular pocket to be a worthy addition to the Tom Bihn line and a must have accessory for Smart Alec owners who need more organization and quick access storage capacity. It could also be used as a stand alone admin pouch but I’d like to see a few changes before I’d recommend it in that role. The Tom Bihn Upper Modular Pocket is available in a variety of colors (with the exception of the interior Dyneema color which is limited to Steel). It sells for $40 and can be ordered online here.