First Tom Bihn Bag
Great bag that is thoughtfully designed and constructed and fits my needs.
Rated 5 out of 5
TLDR (full description below: jump down)
The Guide's Edition Synik — two sizes: 30 (you are here) or 22 liters — is a limited edition version of the Synik 30, which itself is a variation of the original Synapse 19 / 25. It's true home is the woods or the mountains, yet it can easily inhabit the urban landscape out of necessity.... just like we do.
What's different in The Guide's Edition Synik 30 vs. the Synik 30:
What’s different in the Synik vs. the Synapse:
Other than the above differences, the Guide's Edition Synik 30 and the Synik 30 are largely the same.... read on for the full scoop.
The Synik 22 fits laptops up to the size of the 13” MacBook Pro (but not the older non-Retina Air) or the Dell XPS 13; the Synik 30 can fit laptops up to 15” like the MacBook Pro Retina Touchbar or Microsoft Surface Book 2 15". It’s no biggie in practice, but note you’ll need to do a two-point turn to fit the bigger laptops in the exterior side access to the laptop compartment (not necessary if using the internal laptop compartment access).
Full description of all of the features is below, along with an explanation of the name.
We’ve pre-answered as many questions as we could think of over in the Synik 22 / Synik 30 FAQ.
As always, you’re welcome to reach out to us to ask anything and everything: firstname.lastname@example.org
The original Synapse 19 debuted in 2009; Tom originally designed the Synapse to serve as a day-hiking backpack, but you guys saw its potential beyond and began using it as an EDC pack and as a minimalist travel backpack. Over the years, you asked us to make a slightly larger version, and we did: the Synapse 25 debuted in 2013. Then you asked us to offer an internal frame for the Synapses: done (in 2018).
You’ve also asked us for other features and sizes over the years: maybe a 22 liter Synapse, or a 30 liter version, and what if it had a full clamshell zipper opening? How about a dedicated laptop compartment? A luggage handle pass-through on the back panel? Done, done, and done: meet the Synik.
Before we get into the details of the design updates in the Synik (that’s below) let’s talk about what *didn’t* change. After all, there are reasons why so many people use and appreciate the original Synapse, and we didn’t want to mess with that.
Front Exterior Organizational Pockets
With the Synapse, Tom set out to design a bag with intuitive organization — organization that even the less-organized amongst us would use and appreciate, even without thinking about it.
And it’s an abundant amount of organization: the exterior of the bag has five exterior pockets. The pockets are designed and patterned in such a way that they don’t steal space from each other and they look good (not too caved in, not too bulgy) whether full or empty.
The water bottle pocket is intentionally in the center of the bag and is integrated into the design of the other pockets; the former ensures what’s likely to be one of the heavier objects in your bag is balanced in the middle — resulting in a more comfortable carrying experience — and the latter maintains a clean, straight-forward exterior aesthetic.
One thing did change with these pockets, and it already changed with the original Synapse 19 and 25: in early 2019, Tom and Nik came up with a way to construct the Synapse that avoided the creation of two small gaps inside the bottom corners that previously existed for construction purposes. Those gaps didn't cause a problem, but occasionally folks would call to ask why they were there. This was impetus for us to figure out a "solution" -- the problem wasn't with the design or construction, but that we made something that caused a fair number of people to spend a little time out of their day asking "Why?" It took us a little while, but we found that solution.
Interior Banded Open-Top Pocket
Ever-useful, this one stayed exactly as is. Speaking of: above that open-top pocket are two O-rings to which you can attach the totally optional Handy Little Thing (HLT) Pouch: a clamshell organizer pouch with four zippered pockets, plenty of interior elastic and webbing loops (to retain cords and tools), and some clever ways to carry it. You can clip it to your Synik or other bag, to the seat pocket on the airplane, or hook your hand and thumb through it and use it as a write-in notebook holder or work-out-of tool pouch. It can be worn as an impromptu waist pack, sling bag, or cross-body bag
Same Durable Materials + Expert Construction
No bag lasts forever, but choosing the best and most durable materials and taking care not to abuse it (no washing machine or dryer!) can help a quality bag serve most people well (with maybe a repair or two) for up to 10-20 years.
This bag requires significant skill to sew and construct; it’s not just any sewing factory who can pull this off and do it well, it’s ours, and it’s because of the talent of our crew. It helps that both Tom and Nik do their own pattern work and sew the first prototypes; they’re less likely to ask Lisa and Fong (our Sewing Supervisors) for the crazy or impossible when it comes to manufacturing. That said, Lisa and Fong are the experts when it comes to making sure Tom and Nik’s designs can be made in an ongoing practical fashion.
Included Removable Sternum Strap + Waist Strap
As with all of our major backpacks, we include 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. There's also an optional 1" Padded Hip Belt. Worth noting: we slightly lowered the waist strap attachment point on the Synik so that it better fits a wider range of heights (and tall folks in particular.)
Now, here’s what’s unique to the Synik……
Full Clamshell Zipper Opening
The main compartment of the Synik can zip fully-open — clamshell or panel-loader style. That means the main compartment zipper (it’s a beefy #10 YKK Aquaguard) zips all the way down and around the bottom edges of the bag.
We made two minor yet worthy-of-mention updates to the design because of the clamshell opening: first, we included a set of two removable tie-down straps in the main compartment. So, you know, you can strap down clothes or even a Packing Cube without it falling out if you fully unzip the main compartment and open the bag clamshell-style. Second, we added padding to the bottom of the Synik to protect the zipper sliders and chain on the bottom of the bag; that’s a serious potential wear point and, while we’re always glad to repair bags to keep them in service for longer, it’d be rather silly to avoid an opportunity to prevent the need for repair in the first place.
What’s cool about a clamshell zipper opening? Mainly, you can pack your bag like a suitcase. As in, place it on your bed/table/floor and fully zip it open to arrange everything you’ll be packing. That visual access can make it easier to step back and assess/contemplate what you’re packing and whether you’ve forgotten an item or can pare down the packing list entirely. You get to choose exactly how far to open your bag — you can zip open just the top, or mid-way, or lower, or fully open. And the #10 YKK Aquaguard zipper we use on the Synik prevents the zipper from continuing to open on its own: the waterproof material on the interior of the zipper provides just enough resistance to prevent that. So, you really get to decide how far your bag opens (or doesn’t).
And what’s less than cool? If you don’t secure the stuff in the main compartment, it can fall out when you fully unzip the bag. This, we think, makes clamshell bags less suitable as a hiking pack (you don't want all of your gear splaying out on a narrow trail or tumbling down a scree slope!) See our original Synapse 19 and 25 for the original non-clamshell version of the Synik.
Two-Point Access Suspended Laptop Compartment
The Synik features a built-in laptop compartment with minimal padding (less bulk, less weight, less of a bummer it’s there when you don’t carry a laptop).
The compartment is suspended off the bottom of the bag, and that means your laptop is suspended off the bottom of the bag, too. That suspension is much more effective if you use the Synik internal frame: a soft, frameless bag offers nothing from which to suspend the laptop. Worth noting: the bottom of the Synik is padded, so there's that extra peace of mind as well.
The Synik 22 fits laptops up to the size of the 13” MacBook Pro (but not the older MacBook Air); the Synik 30 can fit laptops up to 15” like the MacBook Pro Retina Touchbar or Microsoft Surface Book 2 15".
You can stow (or remove) your laptop from the dedicated laptop compartment of the Synik from two access points: the first is a zippered compartment within the main compartment of the Synik. The second is a zippered exterior side access on the left side of the bag (like the Luminary backpack.) It’s no biggie in practice, but note you’ll need to do a two-point turn to fit the bigger laptops in the exterior side access to the laptop compartment (not necessary if using the internal laptop compartment access).
We wanted to offer you two access points to stow/remove your laptop because it gives you more options. Picture yourself on the airplane with the Synik under the seat in front of you: in this context, using the internal laptop compartment access will allow you to remove your laptop from the bag without pulling the bag all the way out from under the seat. Now, picture yourself at work where you just want to quickly get access to your laptop; this is when you’d unzip the side access to the laptop compartment.
You may be wondering why the internal laptop compartment access closes with a zipper: it’s on the inside after all, so why not leave it open-top? Let’s say you’ve left the main compartment of the bag zipped open and the laptop compartment is open-top; if you put your laptop in the bag through the side access point, you could conceivably push it all the way through and out of the top of the main compartment. The zipper in the internal laptop compartment is a speed bump to remind you not to do that. If you’re not worried about doing that, just leave the laptop compartment zipper unzipped, and it’ll effectively be an open-top laptop compartment.
P.S.: Both the zipper and the slider are plastic and are unlikely to scratch your laptop. Note that the main compartment has a metal zipper that could scratch your laptop, so easy with that one.
New Edgeless EV50 1/2" Shoulder Strap
Conformity is overrated — except, perhaps, when it comes to shoulder straps. The edgelessness of this new strap allows it to more softly conform to your shoulder; we find that this increases comfort. Yet the straps aren’t too soft: the 1/2” thick foam means the strap is robust enough to carry a heavy load.
Our new Edgeless EV50 1/2" Shoulder Strap is quite similar to the strap of our Luminary backpack — it differs in that it’s thicker and the contour is adjusted to be more proportionate to a larger backpack.
A new shoulder strap design is a big deal, and we spent a lot of time testing these (and having various people test them for us and provide feedback). While it’s impossible to make a strap (or bag, or world, or whatever) that everyone will unanimously love, our hope is here that we’ve made a strap a lot of people will find pretty darn comfortable.
Fully Integrated Yet Removable Internal Frame w/Aluminum Half-Stay
For the Synapse, we came up with a clever way to attach an internal frame to a bag that wasn’t originally designed to accommodate an optional internal frame.
With the Synik, that functionality is seamlessly built-in. Its removable internal frame slides in and out of the back panel through an opening at the top of the panel; you won’t see the frame itself unless you’re adding it or removing it. Some may initially wonder about the opening at the top in which the frame inserts — we did too and thoroughly tested this part of the design and could find no material concern.
The Synik Internal Frame is made of die-cut .055” thick High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), with a nylon webbing sleeve sewn down the center that encases a 8-1/4" / 210mm tall and 1/2” / 13mm wide 6061 aluminum stay. Most of our bags have featured a 1” wide aluminum stay; we made a frame with a 1/2” stay to see if it added the same stability but with 1/2 the weight savings. And guess what: it did.
We considered making the internal frame of the Synik optional (as it is with the Synapse) but ultimately decided to include it for various reasons, namely:
While our original hope was that the existing Synapse internal frame could be used with the Synik (so those of you with a Synapse frame wouldn't need to buy a Synik frame) it didn't really work out that way in practice. While you can make the Synapse internal frame work in the Synik, it's a bit kludgy and feels more like a "hack" than something intentional.
The internal frame of the Synik assists in ensuring a laptop stowed in the laptop compartment is suspended off the bottom of the bag and ensures there's a firm barrier between the laptop and a rolling luggage handle that's inserted through the luggage pass-through slot.
That said, because the Synik frame is removable, you can, you know, remove it if you'd rather use the bag without a frame.
Want to learn more about the pros and cons of using an internal frame? See this blog post.
Rolling Luggage Handle Pass-Through
Some of us use rolling luggage: maybe because we need to pack more formal attire for a work trip, or because it’s more comfortable for us to carry some, but not all, of the weight of our luggage. You guys have been asking us for a backpack with a luggage handle pass-through for quite a while, and you’re probably wondering why we didn’t do this sooner. The answer is: we took our time because we wanted to come up with a solution that worked better than the quick-answer of an elastic strap sewn on to the back of a backpack.
While we wanted to come up with a solution that worked better in function and practice, we didn’t want that solution to add bulk or weight to the bag. It occurred to Nik that there was already an opening at the bottom of the back panel through which the internal frame could be inserted or removed — so what if he added an opening at the top of the back panel? He made a prototype, we tested it, and it worked: the internal frame remained securely in place (popped into its corners on the inside of the bag) and the bag was able to slide over the handle of rolling luggage with the handle popping out of the top opening.
Note the following:
We recommend making sure that the internal frame is closest to the bag itself and the handle of your rolling luggage is on the outside of the frame. This ensures that there’s a barrier between the laptop compartment and the luggage handle.
There are, of course, different sizes of rolling luggage with different handle lengths and widths. If you’d like to place your Synik 22 over the handle of your rolling luggage, that handle will need to be at least 400mm / 15.75" in length and at most 160 mm / 6.25" wide. For the Synik 30, the handle will need to be at least 470 mm / 18.5" length and at most 185 mm / 7.25" wide.
More Substantial (But Not Too) Grab Handle
Does the new handle look familiar? It’s the beloved side grab handle from our Tri-Star travel bag. The depth added to the shell of the Synik gave us the real estate needed to add a more substantial grab handle. Emphasis here on grab, not so much on carry: it’s our position that because the Synik is meant to be carried as a backpack — and a streamlined looking pack at that — the addition of a thick or heavily padded handle would be overkill.
Label Moved To Lower Right Corner
This was mostly a change made for our production and shipping/warehouse crew. While our bags are tagged and coded, the ability to visually recognize and identify a bag quickly can improve efficiency and reduce errors. Moving the label to the bottom right corner helps us differentiate the Synik 22 from the Synapse 19 and the Synik 30 from the Synapse 25, and we liked the looks of the label here too.
Still have questions? email@example.com, live chat us up, call 1-800-729-9607, ask in our Forums, or read our Synik 22 / Synik 30 FAQ.
Oh… what’s with the name, you may be wondering? We came up with Synik as a play on words and a way to tease Nik about how everything he designs is going to have his name in its name (after Nik’s Minimalist Wallets). Unfortunately for Nik, the name stuck: it’s a name that acknowledged this is mostly still a Synapse — yet, it’s updated with various new features, mostly designed/patterned/made real by Nik, with feedback and collaboration with Tom.
And while our Company Philosophy doesn’t have much to do with lower-case-c cynicism, there’s much to contemplate about as we consider capital-c Cynicism. Many of us can find something to appreciate or ponder in this oft-quoted remark of Diogenes:
“I am not an Athenian or a Greek, but a citizen of the world.”
To us, being a citizen of the world means we belong to our families, local communities and humanity as a whole. It means treating everyone with equal measures of respect, and to be comfortable in all settings and with all people: to not think of ourselves as separate for better or for worse and to maintain the ability to relate to one another. And as we think the Cynics would point out, this certainly leaves room for critical thinking, constructive criticism, meaningful debate and even satire: paired with genuine care for each other and the world around us, each can be a powerful tool for good.
“Dogs and philosophers do the greatest good and get the fewest rewards.”
Our bags are designed and sewn right here in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.
That allows us to be control freaks in the best way possible; we have direct control and oversight of the quality of our materials, our products, and the jobs and working environment that we help create. It also offers us a unique spontaneity: when we have an idea for a new product or accessory, we can design it, figure out how to build it, add it to our website and be ready to ship it out our front door all within just a few weeks. How cool is that?
Intrigued? You can find out more about the unusual way we do business on our Company Philosophy page.
Everything you buy from us here at TOM BIHN is satisfaction guaranteed. We’ve been in business for over 30 years and we stand behind what we make.
If something goes wrong and it's our fault, we'll fix it for free. Repairs due to normal wear and tear or due to other things that are not our fault will be performed, when possible, at a reasonable charge right here in our Seattle factory where your bag was made. Defects in materials or workmanship are uncommon and almost always evident while the product is still new. Keep in mind that bags and packs are often subject to extreme wear in everyday use: do not expect them to last forever. Only true love lasts forever! You can expect a TOM BIHN product to give years and years of hard service.
Rated 5 out of 5
Great bag that is thoughtfully designed and constructed and fits my needs.
Rated 5 out of 5