Guest Post by my husband, Brian Krank.
He has recently become enamored with the Seattle-based company, Tom Bihn. And for good reason— their bags have become our new best friends for both travel as well as everyday use. Here’s his review of the Synapse 25, which is what he used for our 16 day trip, bouncing around Hawai’i (i.e. he fit everything he needed in this one backpack for 16 days!). Kudos to husband.
The Best Bags in the World
by Brian Krank
The Aeronaut (left), Synapse 25 (right), and Red Packing Cube (middle) which can also double as a backpack
In late 2012 I was looking online for blogs or articles pertaining to traveling light. That’s when I came across this packing list 2012 article and blog on www.tynan.com. I not only have to give him much credit for my own packing list, but also for leading me to www.tombihn.com. Tom Bihn is a company up in Seattle that makes bags. But not just bags— the most thoughtfully designed and highest quality bags out there. It didn’t take long for me to get hooked and I think if you ask my wife she will tell you I have a problem. All of their bags are made here in the U.S. with most of the parts and materials also made in the U.S.
Over the next couple of months I sat at my computer looking at all of the different bags, reading all of the reviews, placing items on my wish list, deleting them, then adding them back in. After all was said and done, I placed my order (well it has now been several orders). What my wife and I ended up with was an Aeronaut bag along with packing cubes and pouches galore (for her) and the Synapse 25 for myself, again with pouches and doodads for organization.
All packed up and off we went. Sixteen days in Hawaii for our honeymoon. This was our first big trip together and I advised that we limit ourselves to one bag each. One thing I love about Tom Bihn: they make their bags to fit carryon size requirements. The Aeronaut is their largest bag yet it still fits easily in the over head bin on just about any plane.
Brian, who is 6′ 1″, wearing the Synapse 25 at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
So lets get into the bag. I’m going to be reviewing the Synapse 25. This is the big brother to the Synapse 19. This backpack is magical, you can just keep putting things into it and it never seems to fill up. All of the pockets are perfectly planned out and none of them interfere with one another. The bag is super comfortable to wear, and it also has some of the nicest straps I’ve seen on a backpack.
Here is a list of everything I brought to Hawaii:
Tom Bihn Synapse 25
Cache With Rails
Tom Bihn Packing Cube
2 wool socks
3D Clear Organizer Cube
Dr. Bronner peppermint soap in a go-tube
Sunscreen in a go-tube
Soap for hand-washing clothes in a go-tube
Small Clear Organizer Pouch
Tom Bihn Side Effect
Small Clear Organizer Pouch
3.5mm audio cable
Micro to standard usb cable
Igo key juice
Micro usb to 8 pin adapter
Usb thumb drive
Other Loose Items
Marmot mica shell jacket
Fenix LD22 flash light
Pen & Pencil
Deck of cards
Everything I packed in my Synapse 25
How I packed for Hawaii:
Synapse main pocket
MacBook Air and iPad in cache
3D Clear Organizer Cube
Earth Runners (sandals)
Left side pocket
Deck of cards
Top middle pocket
Small tin of cigars
Bottom middle pocket
Pack of tissues
Right side pocket
Side Effect with
Clear Organizer Pouch with electronics in Side Effect
What I wore on the plane
White linen button up shirt
Light weight pants
With all of this in the bag it was still only about half to three quarters full. I have to say, using all of the Tom Bihn accessories is awesome because they all work together so well. For example, all throughout the bag there are O-rings. These are attachment points that allow you to hook pouches and key straps (also available through Tom Bihn) to the inside of the bag. Not only does this make organizing a breeze but you also know that anything in the pouch wont get left behind because it’s secured to your bag.
O-ring in a side pocket
Close-up of the O-ring in a side pocket
The cache is another great item, providing a really cool way to protect your laptop. It’s made of a padded material that has a large flap on the top, which allows for opening with no velcro noise or zippers to scratch whatever is inside. On the back of the cache there are two rails that can be fastened within the main pocket of the Synapse. When attached, you can slide the cache in and out without having to worry about losing it, along with what’s in it, from your bag. This came in handy while going though airport security because you don’t even need to remove your laptop from the cache— it’s TSA approved.
The Tom Bihn cache
The cache inside the Synapse 25
On the front of the Synapse you have five pockets. Two in the center, one on the left, one on the right, and a large horizontal pocket along the bottom of the bag. The top center pocket is designed to hold a water bottle, which is nice because it keeps the bottle centered, upright, and away from your back. The second center pocket is smaller and great for things you need to get to quickly and often. The left and right pockets can hold a lot more than they seem. The left pocket has some organizing space for pens and pencils, and I also kept my flashlight in there. The right has an ultra-suede pouch built in where your phone could live if you wanted. The bottom pocket is just a nice big ole pocket. I was able to fit in a down jacket along with its rain shell, an external hard drive, and a couple of pouches and still have room.
The Synapse 25 in Steel Dyneema
Tom Bihn uses some of the nicest fabrics for their bags and they have a bunch of really awesome colors. The standard material used for this bag is 1000d Cadura Nylon. I chose the 400d/420d Dyneema rip stop nylon for my bag. This stuff is awesome and a little bit lighter in weight then the 1000d Cadura. Mine has the steel color exterior and wasabi interior. Inside and out all seams are finished. They use YKK Aquaguard zippers on all openings. These zippers are top notch and really heavy duty. There is so much detail and over engineering in this bag.
Check out these YKK Aquaguard Water-Repellent Zippers
Here you can see the Wasabi color interior of the Synapse 25 along with the Side Effect, also in Wasabi, and a Padded Pouch with a Key Strap
All in all these bags just work. I now find myself still always on the Tom Bihn site adding things to my wish list, looking at the forums, and waiting for anything new from Tom. While on vacation I ordered a Medium Cafe Bag for my wife. I timed it so that it would arrive right before we got back. She now uses that as her everyday bag and I continue to use my Synapse as my everyday bag. Next on my list is to get a Tri-Star for some longer trips that we have in the works. Based on a lot of the reviews online I’m also going to get a couple of their shop bags. In the forums there is also talk of a bag called the Pilot, which I think will be a big brother to the Co-Pilot. I’m excited to check that out when it gets launched.