“The Synapse’s organization was perfect. The main compartment held a light jacket, laptop and a couple of notebooks. If I needed a pen or my small pocket knife then it was right there in the side organizer pocket. I was constantly in and out of the other side pocket, which held my smartphone and sunglasses. The bottom front pocket held a snake charmer with my cables. The top front zippered compartment held my water bottle and a large tote umbrella. My keys were in the smaller front zippered pocket along with my train pass in a Tom Bihn pocket pouch. I’m always paranoid about losing my train pass but the pouch attached to the pack via a key strap tethered to an O-Ring gave me peace of mind that the pass would always be there when I needed it.”
“Words cannot describe the love I have for the Tom Bihn Synapse backpack, but I will give it a shot. I affectionately refer to this 19 liter marvel of backpack engineering as “Marry Poppins” because of its astounding ability to hold an almost endless amount of items in a limited space. Everything you see on this list fits snugly into this bag. It’s incredibly comfortable – nice wide straps with a shoulder clip hold the bag firmly in place, and it has a waist clip as well if you ever needed to run with the bag. I have an 8″ metal plate in my left clavicle from a snowboarding injury, which the doctor said some backpackers complain about, but I’ve hiked through the jungle for 5 days with this bag on and shoulder pain was not an issue.
The bag is also waterproof – it has sealed zippers that do as good a job as possible at keeping the water out. In rain, it performs admirably, keeping my camera and computer dry. However, if you fall off a kayak while wearing this bag it may let a little water in. I know from experience. If you have your camera in the upper middle pouch, it will survive. The added benefit of having a waterproof bag is that you do not have to carry around a large bag cover, which takes up a lot of volume in the average bag (and the bigger the bag, the bigger the cover).
The structure of the bag makes everything incredibly accessible – I keep all my small electronics, sunglasses, flashlight, etc in the side pockets for easy access. An added benefit of the pocket structure is that it makes it so that there is no need to carry smaller packing cubes for organizing these items. The bag also doubles as my day bag. So when I am all checked into the hostel and my computer and other items are locked up I can take this bag out to carry my camera, water, headphones, and jacket. I don’t have to have a second “day bag”.”
“Over here at The Man’s Man we are sold on the packs that Tom Bihn puts out. Tom Bihn (the man) has been designing packs for more than 40 years and he feels a personal responsibility to put out a product that is unique, looks good, lasts long, and fills a niche that no one else has filled. He’s doing an excellent job at fulfilling this purpose. These packs are functional and quality made.
“The new Tom Bihn Synapse 25 is the larger 25 liter/1526 cubic inch version of the Synapse (now called Synapse 19). For those familiar with the original pack, the Synapse 25 keeps much of the original design. The multiple pockets, which don’t cannibalize space from the main compartment, are still there. So is the 1000D Cordura Nylon exterior, 400D Dyneema Riptop interior, water resistant YKK Aquaguard zippers and bulletproof (made in the U.S.A.) build quality. In essence, Tom has taken everything good about the original Synapse and incorporated it into a larger package with some tweaks to make it even more user friendly. Let’s take a closer look.”
“Using the Gatekeeper Clips on the pocket, you can attach [the Smart Alec Modular Pockets] to the inside of the Tom Bihn Smart Alec using the webbing loops that are normally used to attach a Brain Cell. Just remove the Annex Clips and you can use both rows of webbing and the top four Gatekeeper clips on the Pocket to secure it in place.”
“I like that the larger Synapse is still low profile. During a packed train trip into Chicago, I was able to put the bag in my lap when someone sat next to me. I haven’t flown with it yet but at 1,526 cubic inches in volume, it should be an ideal sized day pack for travel – especially if you need to carry a laptop and a few extras.”
“What can the Lower Modular Pocket be used for? Like a little Sherpa on your back, it can be leveraged to carry loose items that you don’t want to root around for to access in the main compartment of the Smart Alec. Things that you take in and out of your pack often. For me, in the winter, that would include items like my hat, gloves, chapstick, and sunscreen.
I’ve also used the Lower Pocket with my Source Tactical Kangaroo Collapsible Canteen. Source is an Israeli company that makes excellent hydration systems used by military units around the world. The Kangaroo has a 1 Liter capacity and is an excellent alternative when you don’t want or need to haul a full sized reservoir.”
“I’ve become a bag nerd mostly out of practicality. Being that I walk and take public transit to get around most of the time, carrying a bag is really a smart idea. I’d previously gotten by with carrying things in plastic bags and/or the packets of my pants or hoodies. That’s fine for small items, but not so much for bigger things, like my iPad. Since I don’t drive, I don’t have a car where I could throw things in as I move from place to place. Carrying a bag allows me to do so, to the point where not having my bag with me feels not dissimilar to the “naked” feeling I get when I don’t have my phone on me (or I have it but it’s dead). As I said, I searched a long time for the right bag, so I fully appreciate what the Cafe bag allows me to do. For lack of a better word, carrying a bag feels genuinely liberating. Besides, a bag is so much nicer than a plastic bag or overstuffed pockets.”
Medium Cafe bag in Black/Steel.