The Tom Bihn Synapse backpack is a lightweight, ultra-sleek bag designed for day travel, hiking, or any outing where only the necessities are needed. It has a very efficient design that allows you to pack the bag to capacity without sacrificing organization or easy access. The Synapse I received to test was the Synapse 19, the smaller version of the Synapse 25. The Synapse comes in different fabrics, and the one I received has an ultralight Dyneema/nylon ripstop exterior (Cordura nylon also available) with a
Dyneema/nylon ripstop fabric lining. If you’re not familiar with Dyneema, it is the world’s strongest fiber; 15 times stronger than steel wire, eight times lighter, and floats in water! It is also water resistant, heat-resistant, and UV-resistant. If this means anything, it means that this bag is tight!
Synapse 19 Review
The Synapse 19 has six zippered pockets, and all of them use Aquaguard waterproof zippers to protect your possessions.
The main compartment uses an elastic edged divider to create a separate pocket that is big enough for a netbook, books, IPad, etc. It allows the user to separate some of their items without sacrificing space. The other half of the main compartment is large enough for a large laptop, several large textbooks, or multiple pieces of clothing. There are also plastic attachment points inside of the Synapse which you can use to hang additional items with small carabiners, hooks, lanyards, etc. It utilizes a straightforward design for optimal organization and works especially with Tom Bihn’s Cache with Rails for those who want added protection for their laptops.
The five remaining pockets on the Synapse are on the front of the bag. There are two pockets with small horizontal openings on the top center, one with a large horizontal opening across the bottom, and one on each side with a long vertical opening.
The first of the two top center pockets is deceptively deep. It is intended to be used with a water bottle and is thick enough to accommodate one up to one liter in size. I found that it also works very well with a small travel umbrella and try to keep one inside whenever I use the bag. The fabric keeps water from leaking through to other compartments, whether your bottle leaks or the umbrella is put in while still wet. The second pocket is located immediately below and is ideal for small items like a cell phone, wallet, keys, etc.
The bottom pocket stretches across the entire front of the bag and can be used to store a lightweight jacket or anything else you may want easy access to. It is comparable in size to many hip-packs and is easy to access while wearing the Synapse.
The two side pockets are utility pockets and are designed for the small odds and ends you carry with you. They are big enough for small travel notebooks (think Rite in the Rain), cell phones, paperback novels, etc. Both pockets have plastic rings to hang more of your gear, like a small flashlight, compass, keys, etc. The right pocket has a small interior pocket perfect for a cell phone, and the left pocket has several pencil/pen holders. There was also a small lanyard hooked to one of the plastic rings when I received it, which can be used throughout the bag on the various attachment points.
The Synapse is a very comfortable bag. The back is padded with thick (1/4?) foam and covered in breathable mesh fabric. The model I was given came with removable straps for the sternum and waist to help stabilize heavier loads. I haven’t packed the bag with anything heavy enough to require the use of the straps, but I do keep them on just in case I need them. You can also outfit your bag with a special Whistle Sternum Strap, which as odd as it sounds contains a built in whistle in the buckle.
While I found this a little strange, it could come in handy for someone lost in the wilderness or in other situations where help is needed. Another safety feature you can add on is a Guardian Dual Function Light. This light is perfect for cyclists and mounts securely on the front of the bag. I did not receive either of these items with the bag.
I found myself looking at the Synapse and getting excited over all of the little features that you don’t notice the first time around. It is a tough, functional bag that is beautiful to look at and when I needed a new bag recently, an appearance meant a lot to me.
My wife and I welcomed our first child into the world several months ago, and the thought of carrying a diaper bag around was a little discouraging to me. I’m not usually phased when I find myself crossing traditional gender lines, but when I saw the diaper bags (aka giant purses) that were on the market, I didn’t like what I saw. I knew I needed something that could carry the multitude of items that a new baby needs and that it needed to be something durable that could be washed and wiped down constantly.
The toughness of the Dyneema fabric made the Synapse a perfect diaper bag or as Andreas calls it, a Tactical Sanitation Deployment Device. Since the TSDD is waterproof, it is very easy to clean when a bottle spills inside a pocket, or a mystery substance is found on the outside.
Synapse 25 Review
The Synapse 25 is a precisely calculated, supremely designed backpack, created for day hiking, daily carry, and ultralight travel. It’s smooth, curvilinear outside may on initial blush look like something akin to sculpture, but in truth, it is only the diplomatic recognition of ultimate utility. No mesh pockets clutter the surface of this bag, nor external straps festoon it; in it, you’ll be able to move more than you would imagine, and no one will be the smarter.
The Synapse 25 is intended to fit people from around 5’6″ to 6’6″ / 1.68 to 1.98 m; it is the new high to the original Synapse 19 (for those under 5’6″ / 1.68 m or who want a small bag — check it out). With 30% more volume, we hope to provide those who love their petite Synapse but who need to schlep more stuff or are on the tall or fat end of the spectrum.
Synapse 25 is typically available* in two different exterior fabrics
Made in: Japan
Coating: bright urethane
Weave: conventional weave with 1/4” / 6mm ripstop
Fibers: 400 denier standard 6 fiber nylon (base fabric); 420 denier ultra-large-molecular-weight polyethylene ripstop layer
Choose this fabric if:
- You want a reasonable weight alternative to conventional fiber textiles that has remarkable tear strength and excellent abrasion resistance.
- You have pets: 400d Halcyon doesn’t accumulate pet hair, lessening your monthly lint wave costs.
- You’re searching for fabric with a smooth, “technical” appearance.
525d High Tenacity Ballistic Nylon
Fibers- 525 denier type 6,6 (high tenacity) filament nylon, twisted
Coating- dense urethane
Weave- 2×2 “ballistic” weave
Made in South Korea with Canadian yarn
Choose this material if:
- You want the bag to be soft & supple
- You want the fabric that’s impressive enough to be in the mountains, home at work, or a nice hotel.
- You don’t want the bag to abrade your clothing or collect pet hair
I love the Synapse 19, my wife loves it, and so does my son. I recommend this product to anyone looking for a small travel backpack or their very own TSDD.
PS – Tom Bihn products are made in the U.S.A. While I don’t discriminate against products made in other countries, I am always proud to use something made at home.