The Synapse 19 is a carefully calculated, supremely organized backpack, designed for day hiking, everyday carry, and ultralight travel. Its graceful, curvilinear exterior may on first blush look like something akin to sculpture, but in truth it is simply the judicious realization of ultimate utility. No mesh pockets clutter the exterior of this bag, nor extraneous straps festoon it; in it, you'll be able to carry more than you would imagine, and no one will be the wiser.
The Synapse 19 is designed to fit people from approximately 5'0" to 6'0" / 1.52 to 1.83m; it's the smaller version of our Synapse 25 (for those 5'6" / 1.68 m or taller or who want a bigger bag — check it out). With 30% less volume, it's ideal for those of us who just don't need to carry as much stuff.
The front of the Synapse 19 is divided into five zippered pockets, all of which zip shut with #8 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zippers:
Though you'd never guess by looking at it, the top center front pocket is
deep enough for a 1-liter water bottle (our Lifefactory Water Bottles fit
— so should any type of 1-liter or smaller water bottle) or 1-liter
hydration bladder. Everyone who has carried a water bottle in a backpack knows how
important it is to pack the water bottle wisely so it a) doesn't dig into your
back and b) doesn't throw off the weight of the pack. With the water bottle kept
in dead center of the Synapse 19, you won't have to worry about either. Removing
the water bottle from the Synapse 19 (and replacing it) is a breeze. Note that
the water bottle pocket doesn't needlessly continue to the bottom of the bag;
that'd be wasted space, plus you'd have to reach farther in to pull your water
bottle out. Instead, we took that volume and allocated it to the bottom pocket
(where it can serve good instead of evil — see below). Also worth noting: the
water bottle pocket has one
Below the opening for the bottle pocket is another small zippered pocket, also with one O-ring: it's just deep enough for keys, a wallet, glove liners, or a small camera.
The side pockets are generously sized for sunglasses (in a case or alone), a
first aid kit, or even a light Windbreaker-type jacket or down vest compressed in a stuff
sack (like our Travel
Stuff Sack). The right side pocket has an Ultrasuede®-lined inner pocket
for your phone; the left pocket has three pen/pencil slots. Both side zippered pockets feature one
The bottom front pocket of the Synapse 19 is a great spot for extra clothing or snacks and will easily accommodate a thin wool/fleece sweater, light down jacket and/or Windbreaker-type jacket. If you care to add organization, it's more than big enough for a 3D Organizer Cube (Mesh, Dyneema, or Clear) or Side Effect; three O-rings are inside this pocket. (Packing advice: tether one of the above-mentioned organizational cubes or Organizer Pouches to the O-rings via a Key Strap.) And because we care about your safety, we've added a 1.5" / 38 mm webbing loop on the exterior bottom of this pocket that's ready to accept the Guardian Light — highly recommended if you ride a bicycle or walk in the dark.
The Synapse 19 has one main, back compartment for large, flat items like notebooks or laptops — it closes with a #10 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zipper. It has two O-rings for you to attach Organizer Pouches or tether other items. Also inside the main compartment are four unobtrusive webbing loops, two fore and two aft, to which you can secure the optional Cache with Rails (available in sizes specifically for every Apple laptop and iPad; PC users, click here for our Laptop Bag Fit Guide). When you add the Cache with Rails, the Synapse 19 becomes a "checkpoint-friendly" laptop backpack. Here's how it works: on the back (or bottom, depending how you look at it) of the Cache with Rails are two parallel "rails" of 1" wide lightweight nylon webbing which extend from the top to the bottom. Included (and already attached for your convenience) with the Cache with Rails are two Gatekeeper Rail Clips: unclip the side that isn't clipped to the Cache with Rails, slip it through the webbing loops in the Synapse 19 main compartment, and flip it shut. Slip the Cache with Rails inside the Synapse 19, and pull it back out: you'll see that the Gatekeeper Rail Clips ride the rails of the Cache with Rails, allowing you to remove your laptop from the Synapse 19 entirely while it is still encased in the protective Cache. Doing this at the airport security checkpoint means the X-ray machines (and TSA personnel) will have a clear, unobstructed view of your laptop — allowing you to keep your laptop in the Cache with Rails and the whole affair securely held together as one unit. (We think that's much better than having to remove your laptop and dump it in one of those buckets.) Many of us will appreciate this functionality on a daily basis as well: the rail system can be a convenient and quick way to remove one's laptop from the bag. And remember, there are four loops of webbing in the top of the main compartment of the Synapse 19: one pair is on the back side, and one pair is on the front side. That means you can choose to have your laptop against your back or against the front of the bag, whichever seems most comfortable or most convenient. Using all four loops, you could even carry two laptops (or one laptop and one iPad) in the Synapse 19. Note that the "checkpoint-friendly" functionality will only work for one of two laptops — you'll need to remove the second laptop at the airport security checkpoint; TSA does not technically consider an iPad or similar tablet a "laptop," but you never know if they'll ask you to remove device #2 anyway.
Also inside the main compartment is an elastic-topped, open-top pocket. Generously sized to fit a book or two or an extra pair of shoes. The open-top pocket will also fit some sizes of Cache (Cache with Rails or just a plain ol' Cache), including the 11" Air, iPad, and iPad mini sizes. (If you plan to carry a water bottle in the water bottle pocket and also an iPad or other device in the open-top main compartment pocket, make sure the device is protected with a Cache or a similar protective sleeve: the water bottle pocket is directly in front of the open-top pocket and your device is best protected from your hard water bottle.)
The remainder of the main compartment opens wide — ready to accept whatever larger items you're packing.
The Synapse 19 is available with an exterior of 1000 denier Cordura® nylon or ultralight 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop fabric and an interior of 200 denier Japanese Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric (see the color-selection drop-down list for which have a Dyneema®/nylon exterior). 1000 denier Cordura® is a fabric with excellent abrasion resistance: the yarns are slightly fuzzy, actually discontinuous, more like a natural fiber. 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop — a stellar fabric — is made for us in Japan. Though half the weight of our 1000d Cordura® nylon, it has comparable tear strength and very good abrasion resistance. With 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop you'll save about 7% on the overall weight of the Synapse. Note that 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop won't stand up to the all-out abuse Cordura® can handle — you'll need to exercise care and not drag or otherwise mistreat your ultralight Synapse. It's a compromise many will feel worthwhile, but it's a compromise to consider. Have pets — dogs, cats, dust bunnies? We'd recommend the Synapse in 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon — we've found that it naturally repels pet hair or anything else that might try to stick to it.
For the interior of the Synapse 19 we chose 200d Dyneema®/nylon because it's ultra-lightweight and ultratough. We've used this fabric for several years now with virtually no complaints or failures; it's been abrasion tested by both our fabric suppliers and our in-house lab. Conclusion? 200d Dyneema®/nylon is perhaps a bit of overkill for a lining fabric, and you expect nothing less from us.
The back panel of the Synapse 19 is padded with 1/4", high quality, closed-cell foam with an exterior of Dri-Lex® Aero-Spacer® mesh and 400 denier nylon. This combination of mesh and smooth nylon is designed to provide maximum breathability while still being gentle on your clothing. The contoured backpack straps of the Synapse were custom designed by Tom to fit folks from 5'6" to 6'6" / 1.68 to 1.98 m. We tested the Synapse backpack straps on a wide range of people — all heights, shapes, and sizes — and we think we've come up with straps that work for just about anyone: no small feat! The shoulder straps are padded with .375" / 10 mm EV50 closed-cell foam and feature an underside of ETC knit to keep you cool and comfortable. The Synapse 19 features adjustable and removable sternum and waist straps with leave-no-trace hardware: if you don't like or don't use your waist or sternum strap, remove them and leave (almost) nothing behind (a design inspired by nature). At the top of the back of the pack, you'll find a webbing loop: use it to hoist the Synapse 19 up and onto your back or to hang it on a coat hook.
Enough said. Now get one and get out of here.
|1000d Cordura® nylon — or — ultralight 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop exterior|
|200 denier Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric lining|
|Dri-Lex® Aero-Spacer® mesh upper back|
|400 denier nylon lower back|
|Closed-cell foam back|
|EVAZOTE® foam shoulder straps|
|Tough Duraflex® and Nexus buckles|
|#8 YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zippers|
|Made in USA in the TOM BIHN Seattle factory|
|100% finished seams|
|Dimensions: 16" x 11.4" x 7.9" / 410 x 290 x 200 mm|
|Weight: 1 lb 7.6 oz / 670 grams (Cordura®); 1 lb 6.4 oz / 635 grams (400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop)|
|Volume: 1160 cubic inches / 19 liters (ASTM Standard Measure)|
|Removable 1" / 25 mm waist strap included|
|.375" / 10 mm padded and contoured backpack straps with .75" / 20 mm removable sternum strap|
As reviewed by Practical Hacks:
"I recently used the Synapse as my “seatside” bag on several flights, and it held everything I needed, including an iPad, book, magazines, padfolio, digital camera, ear buds, snacks, — well, the list goes on and on. At a trade show, I slung it over one shoulder so I could quickly grab my S90 when needed." Read the full review.
As reviewed by Macworld:
"But it's the overall design of the bag that hooked me. Despite the Synapse's small size, its 16.2-inch by 12.8-inch main compartment can hold a decent amount of gear. And on the front side of that compartment is a sturdy, full-width pouch, about two-thirds of the height of the bag, that can accommodate an iPad in pretty much any case or sleeve, or a 13-inch MacBook or MacBook Pro in a slim sleeve." Read the full review.
As reviewed by Tynan:
"I'm a logical person. I don't believe in superstition. I think science can explain everything. All that said, I have no idea how so much stuff can fit into the Tom Bihn Synapse. My jackets stuff into the bottom pocket, my kindle and camera go in the middle pocket, chargers and cables fill up the side pockets, my laptop and clothes fill up half of the main compartment, and the other half stays empty." Read the full review.
Want to read more reviews? Here's our complete list of external bag reviews.
Synapse goes to Colorado (w/ pics)
"I ordered the Synapse shortly before our trip and it arrived just in time; customer service (Katy) was awesome btw. Because of the varied activities that were planned, I wanted an all-purpose carry-on/city/hiking bag to take along. When I started the search I hadn't heard of Tom Bihn but quickly caught on once I started reading all the great reviews." — posted by j7hompson
Synapse continues to surprise.
"Today I learned that by swinging the backpack under your shoulder, the side pockets are the EXACT SHAPE to pull open with one hand, grab whatever you need, and close again. Mind = BLOWN. Really ... 5 months of ownership and I never realized this. This single fact has changed how useful this bag is, how I lay out the potkcets, and just how I approach the designs I see here to begin with." — posted by GEOcycle
Another favorable Synapse review
"Let me add my voice to the growing roster of those who love their Synapse. This is my first Tom Bihn bag and I really love it." — posted by Skillet283