C. works for an NGO in Iraqi Kurdistan. Here's her review of the Synapse:
"I firmly believe that the trick to stress-reduced packing and traveling is being in possession of a good bag. (I also firmly believe that packing and traveling are, probably by default, stressful experiences, rendering any methods of stress-reduction welcome.) Several years ago, I bought a 60-litre pack to use while traveling around the US, and while I loved it immediately, I've found that it's really not suited for my life as an activist in Iraqi Kurdistan. It's too big to be considered a carry-on, and it's too bulky and strappy to make it efficient for the short trips we take here. If I was hiking around, then it'd be great - probably all I'd need. But because I'm mostly living in houses, and traveling to not-very rustic locations, I only use that pack when I travel to, and from, Kurdistan.
Before I left home, I went on a hunch and purchased this backpack [the Synapse] from pack-maker Tom Bihn. I already owned a Tom Bihn bag, and had used it hard for over two years. Seriously - that bag has held everything from a dozen end-of-semester textbooks to a bouquet of flowers for my sweetheart, and it still looks good as new. I'm a brand-loyal sort of person, especially when that brand is from a US-based small business, so naturally I went looking to Tom Bihn again for my next bag.
Readers, I thought I loved my big pack. But I gotta tell you, I fell hard for that little Tom Bihn backpack, and I take it nearly everywhere with me. Like three-day excursions to Iraqi Kurdistan's capital, for example. I can fit everything I need for a short trip inside this backpack -- and, it works as a carry-on. If I was a light enough packer to only bring that bag with me on longer adventures, I would do it.
Wanna see how much I fit in my bag, after last week's trip?
And while I wish, in hindsight, that I'd laid all this out over a white sheet or something, instead of this very busy mattress fabric, hopefully you get the idea. All that, in that very little bag. Really, it makes me feel a bit like Mary Poppins.
I've got PJs, toiletries, iPods, an e-reader, notepads, my laptop, a snack, a 27oz water bottle, a harmonica, Giraffey, pens and pencils, my wallet, my mobile, and also the camera that took this photo. And a lot of other stuff, too.
I suppose this is really just a shout-out to a wonderful bag. If any of you are looking for a new backpack, or messenger bag, or even piece of luggage, I enthusiastically recommend checking this company out. Their stuff isn't the cheapest you'll find, but I can attest to the quality of its construction, and its durability.
Yup. Just my little small-business plug."