> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Review: Tom Bihn Synapse



Review: Tom Bihn Synapse

Full Disclosure: This pack was provided to me free of charge for purposes of T&E.

Tom Bihn makes a wide range of travel bags, briefcases and backpacks. They're not tactical, and they may not be a name you're familiar with, but they do make some high quality bags, geared towards the traveler--whether for business or fun. Civilian, airport and office friendly type stuff, with high quality workmanship and materials.They asked me if I wanted to take their Synapse backpack for a spin, and I was of course happy to oblige.

Size comparison with a 1L stainless bottle.
When I received the Synapse, I was surprised at the size--I was expecting a normal sized day pack, but the Synapse is about 2/3 the size of a regular pack.  Of course, if I'd have checked the specs, I'd have seen that the capacity is just under 1200 cubic inches, which is about 2/3rds the size of a 1800-2000 cubic inch day pack.

Materials and build quality are excellent--tough 1000 denier Cordura exterior, lightweight by tough Dyneema lining, ITW Nexus hardware. Sewing quality and seams are impeccable. The zippers are really nice Aquaguard water repellent, rubberized zippers.

Really top notch build quality all around. It's 100% made in the USA, too.

The Synapse has numerous pockets for organizing your gear--the main compartment and 5 others. Plenty of organization and easy access to your gear.

The main compartment is big enough to fit a 13" laptop, papers and rain jacket.  You can see the Dyneema lining. It has a slick/sturdy feel to it.

Pockets abound. Despite the pack's small size, I was able to fit in my baseline EDC kits without too much trouble and the main compartment wide open.

There are two pockets big enough to fit a 1L water bottle - the top/center and the bottom pocket, both pictured below.

The top/center pocket with a 1L bottle inside. Also good for a book or power cable.
The bottom pocket with the same 1L bottle.
Both side pockets feature extra organization - left pocket has pen slots, right pocket has a nice Ultrasuede pocket for an iGadget. Both have o-rings for attaching an included key strap.

The Synapse's suspension is standard shoulder straps and a padded back. There's a removable, non-load bearing waist belt. It works, and the bag just isn't big enough to a more intense suspension system to make sense.

So, all around great build quality, materials and excellent organization.

Which gets me back to the Synapse's size. It's under 1200 cubic inches and firmly on the small size. The Synapse is certainly big enough for a day hike, trip to the office and it would be excellent as an under-the-seat carry on for air travel. The pack will fit where a larger pack will not -- nooks and crannies, inside a larger suitcase or pack.

But, the Synapse just doesn't have the capacity to go beyond that - overnight trip, full sized laptop and so on. It also looks small -- if you are 5'2, no worries. I'm 5'11 and my wife says it looks silly on me. So your mileage will vary there.

Certainly, great quality overall, and I would look at Tom Bihn's lineup if you're in the market for a travel bag or civvy friendly everyday carry pack. Their full sized Brain Bag looks good for this role. They also have a slew of nice cases, organizers, packing cubes, stuff sacks and other accessories.