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Thread: Mixed on my Synapse

  1. #1
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    Mixed on my Synapse

    Maybe I'm doing something wrong, considering how much everyone loves the Synapse. But, I don't love it. I like the central water bottle pocket. I like the bottom pocket. Heck, even the side pockets are okay. But the main compartment drives me nuts! It's like nothing wants to go in there properly unless I shove it all the way to the bottom. Then it's a matter of, did I get it flattened just right? The o-rings along the back make for uncomfortable carry of pouches, which can get bulked up around the small of my back. I really wish they were on the "inside" part, above the inset pocket.

    For school I can fit a naked MBP in, but unless I put it in the pocket, it's a struggle to get it to sit in the bag correctly (as in all the way down but not too far down). But with the laptop in the pocket, putting anything else in the main compartment digs at my back. Put the laptop against my back and I have to fidget the pouch straps attached to the o-ring around so they don't dig into my back. It works, but it's not wonderful. But, for going to/from school, I don't have it on for more than 45 minutes at a time, so it's not that big a deal.

    However, I carried the Synapse around pretty constantly during Spring Break without THAT much of a load (spare change of clothes for the kid, 2 very lightweight (Houdini) windbreakers folded into their own pockets, 0-1 water bottle, mini (pouch) first-aid kit, mini (pouch) of coins, medium pouch of passports, (padded) camera in the main compartment, and a few USB cables/chargers. Oh, and a tablet just to provide some flatness to the bp, otherwise it was lumpy and uncomfortable. The outside water bottle compartment sometimes had a water bottle, sometime not. Somehow, this made the bag (1) very full, and (2) really hurt my shoulders and collarbone after 4-6 hours. I kept thinking a bra strap was diggin into me, but no, it was the backpack straps. The bra straps were fine and not near the source of irritation. And yes, I always wear a sternum strap to keep the straps sitting in the right spot under my arms and not chafing my neck or shoulders. Loosening/tightening the strap didn't help once my shoulders were tired. The bag wasn't heavy, so I'm at a loss. I've carried far more for far longer in other packs.

    So for you Synapse lovers, what am I missing? How do I activate the TARDIS, as it were? Is there some stupid trick I haven't discovered yet? Or, is the Synapse simply not a good fitting backpack for my frame (I know it took me a VERY long time to find a backpacking pack that didn't drive me batty -- an Osprey Talon 32). If that's the case, would the Smart Alec fit better, or does the SA fit about the same as the Synapse? I'm stumped, but the past week demonstrated to me that as much as I like the organization of the other pockets, the main part and carry of the bag are just not working for me as is right now.

    It's sad, but I usually assume that if so many other people adore something, I must be the one doing something wrong. So, any insight/feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

  2. #2
    Registered User jannilee's Avatar
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    Hmmm! Interesting. Your description made me go look at my own synapse. It sounds like all your pouches and small bits are in the main compartment. Is that so? The beauty of the side pockets and bottom pocket is that they contain all the small stuff in such a way that it doesn't dig into your back. I also don't know if you were in a pickpocket prone area. I will assume not. Without knowing the size of some of your bits ( is the camera an SLR or a compact for instance) this is how I would pack: passports in the ultrasuede pocket if I am not carrying a cell phone. small camera also in that side pocket. Coin purse on a keystrap in other side pocket with other small bits. First aid kit in small outside pocket. Jackets or change of clothes in bottom pocket. lay the backpack flat and put the laptop or tablet flat against your back in the main compartment before putting anything else in. Younguns change of clothes goes in small packing cube in bottom of main compartment. If your camera is an slr it goes on top of the clothes.

    If your pouches are on a keystrap you can move them around as needed or you could put them in the pocket in the main compartment. In bags with no o ring or when the position of the o ring doesn't suit me I fasten a largish safety pin where I want it and use that to tether the straps.

    It sounds to me that your discomfort problem may be due to putting most of the weight on the outside of the pack away from your back which would cause the straps to pull and would not allow the weight to be distributed along your back. How tall are you? that might make a difference too but is sounds like the problem is mostly load distribution.
    BrianI likes this.

  3. #3
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    Hi Jannilee! I'm 5'5", and I would generally agree that the weight is on the outside of the pack, because those are the pockets I find most handy. For whatever reason, I find I can't fit THAT much in the side pockets. I'm lucky to tuck a small pouch in there and be able to get it back out. On a typical use day, the first aid kit (mini pouch) goes on the suede side, along with a small flashlight and leatherman, and that's about all I can fit (and retrieve out) after the waterbottle's in the long pocket (I find anything else difficult to get out). The pen side gets lots of pens and the pouch that contains cables, thumb drives, and whatnot for electronics. The bottom pocket usually gets lunch, unless it won't fit (then in to the main compartment it goes. The main pocket gets the coin pouch, organizer wallet, pouch for headphones, flashlight that clips to the o-ring, and if I'm carrying it, camera (it's about the size of a G7) and cable stuff sack. The small top pocket gets gum, 1-2 chapsticks, post-it notes, and tea tree oil. Poor little pocket is just stuffed. All the pouches have a keystrap on them.

    Then I put the day's stuff in, which is normally a 13" MBP in the pocket against the front, and maybe some papers (I try to be relatively paperless). For the most part the main compartment goes wanting, unless there's books to move about, or in the case of Spring Break, spare clothes for DD (fit into a quart-sized ziploc bag and flattened to save space), scarves, and windbreakers, with the occasional bag of just-purchased coffee beans (when in Portland and Seattle, gotta get the beans!). Passports went on the inside into the pouch because I'm just paranoid like that =). I don't think I could get a camera in a side pocket and have it be easily retrievable. I had a small (compact) umbrella in the side with the suede pocket and forgot about it because when I opened the pouch I didn't feel like wrestling the umbrella back out (it took up maybe half height-wise). It just feels like because the outside is so packed, the inside get smooshed. And because the outside is so well organized, that's where most of the weight goes because I don't have the dig things out of my back that way. Hopefully that makes sense.

    The safety pin idea is GENIUS! I never thought of that! I kept trying to finagle how to sew in or attach o-rings where I wanted them, but your idea is MUCH better. I'll have to try that! Now, to find some larger safety pins...

  4. #4
    ceb
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    Not all bags are for everyone but it does sound like you are packing the Synapse "wrong."

    The problem may be that the bag is fairly unstructured and doesn't have an abundance of padding to give it shape so it relies on the contents to do that.

    You'll want to put the laptop in some sort of a protective case closest against your back and place other items (books, lunch, whatever) in front of that. You'll find that the bag becomes much more comfortable with a hard back and more stuff in the center (large) part of the bag.

    OTOH - it might just not be for you - that's why eBay was invented.
    Last edited by ceb; 03-27-2013 at 02:24 PM.
    When in trouble, obfuscate.

  5. #5
    Registered User Tizi's Avatar
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    I love my Synapse, use it every day for work. Great bag. I spent several days changing things around inside the bag until I had the perfect configuration.
    Black/Steel TS, Black/Steel Aeronaut, Black/Black/Steel Brain Bag, Black/Steel Co-Pilot, Black/Steel Synapse 19, Black Dyneema/Wasabi Synapse 19, Black/Steel Cadet 11, Black/Steel Imago, Black Dyneema/Wasabi MCB, Navy/Cayenne and Black/Solar SCB, Black/Wasabi and Navy/Iberian SE and many pouches in various sizes. Tom Bihnaholic.

  6. #6
    Registered User nukediver's Avatar
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    I think I'm with @ceb on this one - because the Synapse's configuration is not the same as any other backpack out there, it almost requires you to rethink the way you've packed in the past. And I think @jannilee's suggestions are spot-on. I found it took me about a week of use and rearranging before I could figure out what went where, but once I did there was no looking back.

  7. #7
    Volunteer Moderator Badger's Avatar
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    Suggestions for reconfiguring the main compartment:
    MBP—as others have suggested, against your back
    Papers against MBP
    Books, stacked (though of course this will depend on their size)
    Camera
    Kid clothes, coffee, etc., could then go in the pocket, which will then be more forgiving in terms of getting the water bottle in/out.

    It also helps to think about most-used items for the particular activities you'll be doing, and in what order. When I'm using my 19 for travel purposes, for example, I roll spare clothes at the bottom, since I won't likely need them en route. Anything that's kind of bulky but that needs to be accessible gets put above that. And, while I'm sure you're doing this, it helps to remove any items or pouches that aren't necessary, and relocate rarely-used items to the inside compartment (first aid kit comes to mind, though I don't wish to be presumptuous).

  8. #8
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    I think the Synapse 25 might fit you better because the bigger front pocket would certainly fit your lunch.


    Alternatively, I have to confess to epic battles with everyone of my TB bags when I first got them.

    Unlike formless blob of cheap or expensive fabric with little thoughts put in the design, TB bags are designed to be worn with stuff in them.


    It takes a little bit of tweaking to get each load just right.

    Packing an extended travel load proved to be vastly different than packing my EDC in the Synapse 19.


    I have a suggestion for your multiple Pouches: The Clear Quarter Packing Cube.

    It is part of my EDC and I wanted to keep the food on the go part with me.

    I considered not taking the Clear Quarter Packing Cube in order to keep my Field Journal Notebook but found it was very handy to keep Pouches and small documents together, in the same secure and waterproof place.
    Because it is clear , I could do a quick inventory using handy color coding every time we moved from one place to another and the squishy feel of the bag made it easy to fit all my stuff on top or the side of it.

    The Clear Quarter Packing Cube was permanently tied to the Synapse by a Short Key Strap which was clipped to a key ring which is secured by a strap to a carabiner which was slipped in the Clear Quarter Packing Cube handle.

    The length of the apparatus, enabled me to remove the Clear Quarter Cube from the Synapse but it ensured they were always tied together.


    The iPad Mini in a hard case perfect space is the back pocket and I believe so would be every notebook, tablet, Air or iPad.
    The back pocket is there to prevent the heavy stuff digging in the back syndrome.*

    The other side of the Synapse can handle paper secured in a Large Pouch which mold to the Synapse shape perfectly and protect papers.


    I used other squshy stuff on the bottom housed in the Travel Stuff Sacks.


    * I highly recommend getting a Cache for your MBP, I won't go anywhere without my electronics secured inside the soft and classy Taslan goodness.

    I lugged 2 white ibooks and accessories inside a Brain Bag, the machines safely protected in the Cache and Vertical Brain Cell ancestors.
    Last edited by backpack; 04-07-2013 at 12:37 PM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by backpack View Post
    * I highly recommend getting a Cache for your MBP, I won't go anywhere without my electronics secured inside the soft and classy Taslan goodness.
    This might help with the issues of comfort. Plus I think it is generally a good idea.

    I think one thing you should ask yourself is have you ever been comfortable with a backpack that has this kind of load? I get annoyed when I have something on a shoulder no matter how great the strap is or how light the bag is. It just annoys me to the point where it feels like something is digging into my shoulders.

    I finally realized that I much prefer backpack style and can deal with much more weight and not get uncomfortable. It just feels more natural to me. In a Brain Bag I have even had large laptops with full water bottles and all kinds of food containers jabbing into my back and it all seemed fine to me on my back. But put it in my hands and I felt like an overly tired 2 year old who needed a nap.

    You might just want to experiment and ask yourself if maybe you aren't a backpack person. Just a thought.
    Owner of : Imago, Aeronaut, Brain Bag, Smart Alec, Synapse, Co-Pilot

  10. #10
    Registered User daisy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by backpack View Post

    Alternatively, I have to confess to epic battles with everyone of my TB bags when I first got them.

    Unlike formless blob of cheap or expensive fabric with little thoughts put in the design, TB bags are designed to be worn with stuff in them.


    It takes a little bit of tweaking to get each load just right.
    I'm kind of relieved to read this ... especially from a TB aficionado.

    Although not an epic battle (yet) - I was a little perturbed to find I didn't fall right in love with my new Synapse(19).

    I think part of the problem is that my existing TB bags (iPad ristretto original, SCB, Ego, Cadet) are all quite rectangular - and the Synapse .. well ... isn't.

    Doing a quick switcheroo of the items from my SCB on a day when I need a bigger bag doesn't cut it. I'm going to have to set it up quite differently.

    A work in progress frustrated by the fact that my backpack suspension system (aka shoulders) is currently out for repair.
    List under construction ....

  11. #11
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    Feel better soon Daisy!

    What happen is that I usually fall in love with the design of the TB bag, then order it, then get it, then spend time looking at it for quite a while, studying its shape, pocket length etc...

    Well... it is just like the difference between a date and a live in partner.

    In order to create harmony, two very different beings have to mesh and balance two different way of seeing things.


    Sometimes, there is no time to do an in depth study of the beauty and I have to pack and get going, on a short deadline.


    Nowadays, if I feel unsure of the best packing technique for a particular TB bag for a precise packing need, I come to the forum and say, "help!" just like I did when I first packed my wonderful Dyneema Tristar and Aeronaut for the first time for minimalist packing.


    This happened when I got my first Brain Bag, my first Cafe Bag or when I packed my Travel Dyneema Synapse as a minimalist "laptop" bag,

    That is where the epic battles start because I don't have much time to tweak the straps length, placement of the bag relative to my body, load balance... etc
    Last edited by backpack; 04-09-2013 at 12:15 PM.

  12. #12
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    It sometimes helps to insert large rectangular objects to give these soft bags some rigidity and shape.

    For instance, you could use the Freudian Slips or even a no-name backing board from another backpack company.

    What I do is put all my papers inside a sleeve and slide the sleeve into the main compartment, nearest my back. With about 1/2" of papers, it's a pretty rigid rectangular object, and it also serves somewhat as padding.

    A laptop in a sleeve does the same thing.

    I've also used packing cubes to fill up the main compartment in a structured manner, if I don't have a large flat rectangular object.

    And there was a time that I had folded up a tough GoreTex parka nice and flat and used that to give the bag shape.


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