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Thread: Carrying the Synapse: how does it affect your center of gravity?

  1. #1
    Registered User ncb4's Avatar
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    Question Carrying the Synapse: how does it affect your center of gravity?

    I've been skulking the forums and studying the website endlessly the past few weeks, trying to figure out what bag would work best for me for my Olympus e620 DSLR, lenses, and gear. The Olympus 620 is smaller than most Nikon or Canon DSLRs, which is one of the reasons I bought it. Even so, my Imago is pretty stuffed when I carry a full load of camera gear. I bought a padded 3-compartment Tenba camera insert which I can barely cram inside, and I'm able to carry the Oly body with lens attached, plus two or three other lenses, with all the goodies such as spare batteries, memory cards, Rhodia notebook and pen, lens cleaning stuff, remote, Gorillapod, and who knows what else.

    It works, and I can use the waist strap when I'm going on long walks with it, but even using the Absolute Strap, I'm finding that the weight quickly becomes hard on my neck and shoulders, and that in turn makes it hard on my lower back and knees. (I should mention that my knees are so bad that I will be having knee replacement surgery in the fall.) All this has inspired me to try and figure out what would be the best bag for me to carry my camera gear, whether I'm hiking in the mountains (well, next year maybe after the surgery) or walking around the wonderful European cities my son keeps moving to. I've never been a "backpack person," and I had the ID at one point and it was too big for me (even though I'm 5'8").

    So in the past two weeks I have almost placed orders for every bag under the sun: another full-sized Swift; a second Imago; or even the Co-Pilot, because it would force me to downsize the camera gear I carry. As you can tell, I tend to prefer the messenger style, because I can swing it around to my back to carry it when I walk, then quickly swing it back to my side or front to get out my camera.

    Then today I picked up my Imago again, loaded with everything, and took it for a test walk. And I decided that maybe I needed to change my attitude about messenger vs. backpack, because no matter how I shift the Imago, the weight is distributed unevenly on one half of my body. I end up twisted to one side like a pretzel; or maybe Quasimodo! That's not good for any of my joints, so I have to take the strap off every now and then and re-situate it on the other side periodically. And if I have to do that, then the whole notion of a messenger bag being more convenient seems to fly out the window. Even the American Arthritis Organization in its travel tips recommends that people either use a backpack (or a rolling bag), precisely because the backpack distributes weight more evenly.

    So now I'm taking a second look at the Synapse, and what I would like to hear from others, especially other women, is how it feels to carry the Synapse when it's well-loaded. When I've used backpacks in the past, I've felt like they threw my center of balance off, not from side to side, but from front to back, particularly in the upper body. I ended up altering both my posture and my gait to compensate, in a weird unnatural way. (OK, so I'm not the most graceful person in the world; but despite the bad knees, I am pretty active, Nordic walking several miles a day.) I've read such good things about how comfortable the Synapse is to carry, and how it was designed to fit anyone between 5 and 6 feet, but still, if any of you lucky Synapse owners could share your experience with me, I'd appreciate it.

    Thanks so much!

  2. #2
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    I'm 5'3" and use the Synapse as my daily carry bag. I've never felt a front to back load issue, because while it does hold a lot, it's nothing like the Brain Bag or Aeronaut fully loaded. Either of those can make me feel like I'm going to tip over going up/down stairs, but not the Synapse. The only bit of comfort that can be a (small) issue, is that if I'm carrying bulky things (like Rubbermaid lunch containers) and they're up against the back part, they can feel a little pokey in my back if it's really full.
    Last edited by tCook; 07-09-2011 at 11:48 PM. Reason: typo

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    Registered User ncb4's Avatar
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    Thanks for responding, tCook: you've reassured me. You hit on just the problem I've had in the past with backpacks, that feeling that I'm about to tip over, especially on stairs or slopes. It's good to know that's not an issue with the Synapse.
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    Definitely agree that one-shoulder carry is asking for trouble.

    As tCook says, the Synapse is not so big that you can carry monstrously heavy loads. Use the waist and sternum straps, to keep the weight close in to the spine.

    I don't know how much space your gear takes up. Would it fit in a Buzz? That carries like a backpack but swings around for easy access. (It's got only one shoulder strap, but waist and sternum straps offer some relief.)

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    Registered User ncb4's Avatar
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    I'd thought about the Buzz, gmanedit, but thought that would have the same issue with an unequal distribution of the weight of the pack onto one side of the body.

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    Here is Moshe Feldenkrais on walking (Body and Mature Behavior, 1949; paper, Frog, Ltd., 2005, pp. 98–99):

    . . . in proper walking, the center of gravity of the human body should go up and down so slightly that it is practically maintained at the level at which it is when standing on the forward foot, with the one behind still touching the ground with the two bigger toes. Ideally, no work at all should be done in the field of gravity. The only resistance to overcome should be that of the joints, which arrange themselves so as to shift the center of gravity horizontally forward. . . .

    . . . Propulsion forward is obtained by the upper parts of the body moving forward first, the advancing leg propping up and stopping them from falling further down: the ankle of the advancing leg should not therefore be advanced farther than the vertical through the center of gravity of the trunk at the moment the trunk comes to rest over the ankle. The other leg lengthens by extending the ankle joint; it does not push to propel the body forward, but serves to direct and stabilize only. The horizontal component forward, obtained by letting the trunk fall, is used for propulsion. The work for moving forward is provided by the potential energy stored in the body. The potential level is restored by straightening the forward leg at the moment of underpropping the body. People with proper body mechanisms walk in this fashion. It is easy and graceful because it involves the least effort and labor. [Emphasis added.]

    Me: In brief, we initiate walking by leaning the weight of the upper body, so tilt forward slightly from the hip joints (where the thigh bones insert in the pelvis) to bring that weight forward. If you are carrying weight on your back, tilt forward enough to compensate.

    I hope this helps. It works for me.
    Last edited by gmanedit; 07-10-2011 at 01:52 PM.
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    Registered User ncb4's Avatar
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    Talk about synchronicity! I just learned of Moshe Feldenkrais from a friend who started taking classes after her knee replacement surgery three years ago, and she swears by them. So last week I read his book "Awareness Through Movement." Too bad I live in the middle of nowhere; the nearest Feldenkrais practitioner is 100 miles away.

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    Aw, too bad.

    If you try the exercises at home (which is entirely practicable; everything you need to know is in ATM), work lightly, with a small range of motion. The idea is to lower the effort so you can become more sensitive to what's going on. Most people are too ambitious and hard-working and drown out the feedback with "noise." Feldenkrais thought the maximum upper threshold for learning was 4 percent of maximum possible effort, so take it easy.

    In Body & Mature Behavior, Feldenkrais said (pp. 147–48):

    "People who apparently spontaneously prefer the better way of doing are those who have the capacity to detect small differences of sensation. All sensations in which muscular activity is involved are largely dependent on the smallest amount of tonus persistent in the musculature. When the tonus is the smallest possible, you sense the finest increase in effort. Easy and smooth action is obtained when the aim is achieved by the smallest amount of exertion, which, in turn, is obtained with the minimum tonus present. The smaller the stimulus present, the smaller is the change that we perceive, or are capable of detecting. . . . People with a fine kinesthetic sense tend to a low tonic contraction, and are not satisfied until they find the way of doing which involves the smallest amount of exertion; also, the limit to which the unnecessary effort is eliminated, is closer to the ideal minimum. In our education stress is laid on the result, and not on the way of achieving it; even though it be at the expense of greater effort than is really necessary. At the higher level of effort, one cannot detect small differences; therefore, it is impossible to improve beyond a certain stage. Thus, things are self-perpetuating; the crude kinesthetic sense tends to become cruder and cruder, the finer one tends to become finer yet." [Emphasis added.]

    When I read this—"People with a fine kinesthetic sense tend to a low tonic contraction, and are not satisfied until they find the way of doing which involves the smallest amount of exertion"—I cracked up. That's me, low-tone baby! They call us lazy, when we're actually efficient! Most phys-ed teachers want you to do more, work harder. I just want to be left alone.
    Last edited by gmanedit; 07-10-2011 at 03:07 PM.

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    I have two Synapses (could not resist the Ultraviolet) and have been known to, uh, occasionally overstuff one, though in my case it's with notebooks and books and my MBA11 (and sometimes my iPad, too).

    If you don't do that (overstuff), the bag works well, I think, though for your camera gear you'd need to be careful and have lots of padding since there's no padding in the bottom of the Synapse. I'm guessing that the padding would not add a great deal of weight, so it shouldn't be too awkward or uncomfortable.

    The pockets (other than the main one) are oddly shaped (imo), but once you find the best fit (pouches, both Tom Bihn's and others, help a lot here), it ends up feeling custom made and you wonder at how perfect it all fits together. As with most things, it takes some experimenting to find that perfection, but once you do, it's a keeper.
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    Registered User ncb4's Avatar
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    FM, your response helped me think about exactly how I would pack the Synapse with my camera, lenses, and other gear. I'm already using a lot of pouches (Tom Bihn and others) to help organize things in my Imago, so I'm hoping those will transfer over well. I don't think my Tenba camera insert would work, however, but I do have a couple of Skooba wraps that I will use to pad and protect my camera and lenses. Maverick has a wonderful video (of course!) on how one might carry a pro-grade DSLR and some big lenses in the Synapse.

    I tried to put the YouTube link here, but it won't work. Sorry! But you can see it at YouTube if you search for "Bihn Synapse Camera."

    My lenses are smaller than the ones pictured in the video, so Im pretty sure I could find a way to make it work. You're right that I would need to experiment with the Synapse once I got it to find the best way for my particular set of gear. But from the looks of that video, I should have room to spare: and to keep things like my sunglasses, keys, wallet, as well.
    Last edited by ncb4; 07-10-2011 at 07:19 PM.

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    Registered User marbenais's Avatar
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    I'm 5'0", and the Synapse is the easiest bag for my body. My center of balance is better with it than with any other bag, including the other TB backpacks (which are just too big for my back).
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    I have : many pouches & wallets & 3D Cubes & CQPCs & Stuff Sacks & Shop Bags, plum & black (C) & black/UV & aubergine/UV (B) Side Effects, steel/UV Citizen Canine, black FJN, plum/wasabi SCB, Cork Little Swift, black/steel Co-Pilot, old plum/olive (C) & black/UV (D) LCB, plum/black (C) Swift, old plum/olive (C) Imago, old plum/wasabi Ruck's Sac, steel WF/TS PCB, plum/solar & black/UV (C) & steel/UV (D) Synapses, black/iberian Smart Alec.

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    I carry my Synapse every day, generally loaded with about 6 - 9 pounds of stuff.

    I do lean forward slightly more than normal, which doesn't bother me at all.

    Where I really notice it is in my knees if I climb the 52 steep steps out of my underground train station instead of using the the elevator.

    I can't carry that weight on one side only - the Synapse makes it very easy to carry it!

    My Tristar is around 15 - 25 lbs when loaded and I do not willingly use stairs while wearing it. That said, it's still a very, very comfortable bag and makes it easy to carry that sort of weight!

    I'm 5'4", overweight, and active.

    Audrey
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    Registered User ncb4's Avatar
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    Audrey,

    My knees wouldn't want me to climb those 52 stairs every day either; though I have a harder time going downstairs than up. But until you mentioned it, I hadn't thought to weigh my bag. So I just did that, with a fully-loaded, camera-laden Imago: and it topped 8 pounds! No wonder it's making me crooked. I also had a duh! moment, when I realized, "Hey, I have a Tri-Star, too. Why don't I test it using the backpack straps, to see if it's comfortable?" Believe it or not, I've never used the backpack straps on my beautiful Indigo Tri-Star, having until this moment preferred (or so I thought) the Absolute Strap. But once I put took out the backpack straps and got them adjusted—marveling once again at the attention to detail in Tom Bihn bags—I was amazed at how good it felt on my back. No more neck or shoulder strain, and I didn't feel off-balance at all! I have broad shoulders, but even so, in order to get the shoulder straps to sit right, I had to use the sternum strap to pull them in slightly. And I used the waist strap as well to stabilize the Tri-Star and get the weight to rest more on my hips.

    But if the longer, wider, blockier Tri-Star feels this natural on my back, then I'm guessing the Synapse will work as well. I'll have to get over my vanity, and the feeling that it's not as "lady-like" to carry around a backpack as it is a shoulder or messenger bag. (This from a woman who lives in jeans.) And I think I'll also have to learn some new habits in terms of putting on and taking off the Synapse, and how to access my camera as quickly as possible. But thanks to everyone who took the time to answer my question—and give me some new things to think about in terms of how I move and walk and carry things on a daily basis—I'm thinking the Synapse is the answer for me. I'm just crossing my fingers that it's still available in Indigo.

    Nancy

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    Quote Originally Posted by ncb4 View Post
    Audrey,

    My knees wouldn't want me to climb those 52 stairs every day either; though I have a harder time going downstairs than up. But until you mentioned it, I hadn't thought to weigh my bag. So I just did that, with a fully-loaded, camera-laden Imago: and it topped 8 pounds! No wonder it's making me crooked. I also had a duh! moment, when I realized, "Hey, I have a Tri-Star, too. Why don't I test it using the backpack straps, to see if it's comfortable?" Believe it or not, I've never used the backpack straps on my beautiful Indigo Tri-Star, having until this moment preferred (or so I thought) the Absolute Strap. But once I put took out the backpack straps and got them adjusted—marveling once again at the attention to detail in Tom Bihn bags—I was amazed at how good it felt on my back. No more neck or shoulder strain, and I didn't feel off-balance at all! I have broad shoulders, but even so, in order to get the shoulder straps to sit right, I had to use the sternum strap to pull them in slightly. And I used the waist strap as well to stabilize the Tri-Star and get the weight to rest more on my hips.

    But if the longer, wider, blockier Tri-Star feels this natural on my back, then I'm guessing the Synapse will work as well. I'll have to get over my vanity, and the feeling that it's not as "lady-like" to carry around a backpack as it is a shoulder or messenger bag. (This from a woman who lives in jeans.) And I think I'll also have to learn some new habits in terms of putting on and taking off the Synapse, and how to access my camera as quickly as possible. But thanks to everyone who took the time to answer my question—and give me some new things to think about in terms of how I move and walk and carry things on a daily basis—I'm thinking the Synapse is the answer for me. I'm just crossing my fingers that it's still available in Indigo.

    Nancy
    You could carry most of your things in the Synapse and use a Large Cafe Bag or Co-Pilot for the camera, the Large Cafe Bag weights nothing by itself and I imagine, the Co-Pilot, even less.
    Last edited by backpack; 07-11-2011 at 09:55 AM.

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    backpack said: "You could carry most of your things in the Synapse and use a Large Cafe Bag or Co-Pilot for the camera, the Large Cafe Bag weights nothing by itself and I imagine, the Co-Pilot, even less." Would your camera fit in a Side Effect?

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