Tom Bihn's Synapse 25 backpack taught me an important lesson over the month I spent testing it on numerous road trips. That lesson? Stop buying cheap backpacks. Investing a little extra money right now can save you time packing, unpacking, and getting through airport security in the future. Say hello to the Synapse 25 backpack, the road traveler's best friend.
From a purely aesthetic standpoint the Synapse 25 is a stylish and compact looking bag. While its pockets are cavernous, they don't stick out from the bag like the bulky pouches on your old high school backpack. This is simply a beautiful bag to carry around, and the multiple color options provided by Tom Bihn allow you to match your backpack to your work situation. Not everyone works at an office with a foosball table and a lax dress code. Sometimes you just need a nice professional solid color.
Even when loaded down, the Synapse 25 is comfortable to wear. Its backing and straps have a dense foam padding that never feels squishy and provides plenty of support. The bag comes with removable chest and waist straps for hiking, along with additional straps for attaching gear and other accessories.
The main compartment of the Synapse is massive with a room to easily store a laptop, books, assorted notebooks, change of clothes, and personal grooming supplies for a few days travel. Inside you'll find an extra elastic-ringed open-top pocket and several o-rings for attaching keys and other accessories.
The main pocket also features clips to attach Bihn's Cache with Rails laptop and tablet case (sold separately). Cache with Rails is a soft padded envelope with a fold-over flap that comes in a number of different sizes for the iPad, MacBook, and MacBook Air. Simply attach the Cache to the clamps in your main compartment to quickly slide the carrying case out of the backback.
It features five outer pockets of various functionality. There are two big side pockets -- one with a Ultrasuede-lined space for your phone and the other with three pen holders -- and a large front pouch with room for chargers or an extra book. The other two pockets are found on the center of the outer flap. One is a simple shallow space for pens, keys, or other small objects. The last pocket however is big enough to hold a 1 liter bottle, making this pack perfect for bikers who don't want their water hanging off a mesh side pouch.
I took the Synapse 25 with me on several weeks worth of travel around the country. Even when completely stuffed the straps remained comfortable on my shoulders during long walks or waits in line.
Getting through security checkpoints with my laptop was a breeze, as I simply needed to slide the Cache case out of my bag on its rails instead of taking it out and messing with another x-ray bin. When I was done with the check point my Cache slipped right back into my bag. Trying to reassemble yourself after a checkpoint can be a hassle. Thankfully the Synapse makes struggling to re-secure your most expensive travel companion a breeze. I wish they'd figure out a rail system for my shoes.
Synapse offers travel cubes and bags to make packing easier, each designed to perfectly fit the bags various pockets. I packed with the travel cube samples they provided for one trip and without them for the other. Traveling without the cubes, the bag's bounty of space meant I could still easily roll up a few days worth of clothes and still have room for all of my work supplies to rest neatly on top. Repacking everything and remembering the order things went in took some extra time, but there was always room.
When using the travel cubes to organize your bag's contents, packing became a breeze. Fold your clothes, zip them up, insert cube into bag. Place books and notebooks in front. Done. It's remarkable how much faster packing goes when everything is organized into boxes. The Synapse is a great bag without the extra packing cubes, but with them it becomes an incredible one.
Best of all, the bag is largely pet resistant. I have two cats who shed like crazy and want nothing more than to sleep on top of my backpacks. Even when put up against the worst shedder in my house, the bag barely picked up any cat hair, even in the zippers. For students and professionals with furry friends at home, this pet hair resistance will be a delightful added bonus to an already impressive package.
There comes a time in everyone's life where you realize perhaps spending a little more money on a quality product is better than regularly replacing your cheap items. At $170 plus the cost of accessories, Tom Bihn's Synapse 25 a bit of a long-term investment. But the storage, durability, and general stylishness of the bag make it a worthy investment for commuters and students looking for a reliable backpack for work or play.
Mixes comfort and style with equal success
Solid construction is designed to take abuse
Seemingly unending pocket space
Cache with Rails system for laptops makes travel checkpoints easy while protecting your gear
Pet hair resistant
Lots of little hidden features like Ultrasuede phone compartment, pen storage, bottle pocket, and copious o-rings.
Add-ons like the Cache with Rails system and packing cubes make organization a breeze
At $170 dollars this bag is a bit of an investment, but it's one that will last
Cache with Rails system takes some getting used to
Add-ons like the Cache with Rails system and packing cubes must be purchased separately
Who is it for?
Students and traveling urban professionals who want a stylish backpack/laptop case that doesn't sacrifice extra space.