Tom Bihn Synapse 19 Review

    My obsession with bags has grown strong over the past few months. This mainly due to the fact that I have been working 45+ hours a week, the addition of a new puppy, my membership at a new crossfit gym, and the addition of school starting up. My days are filled to the brim with activities and objectives and the right gear will always help me reach my goals. I have been using my newly acquired GR2 34L as my go to crossfit bag along with my main ruck for those lake side workouts. My 15L Bullet also from Goruck is serving as my daily work bag and is doing a great job. In the time between work and working out, I found I needed a bag a bit smaller then my GR2 and bigger then my 15L Bullet. I love both of the bags although I like to stay organized and leave my crossfit items in the GR2 and my daily work items in the Bullet. My quest for the perfect edc/day bag started again. I had originally used my GR0 as my dec bag but recently sold that to upgrade to my GR2. 

    After a few nights of searching for another American made company with the same standards as Goruck I found Tom Bihn. Tom Bihn was founded in 1972 by Tom Bihn. Tom has been making and designing bags since the age of 10. Needless to say he knows what he is doing, and it shows. When I found Tom Bihn and learned that all their products are hand made in the U.S., backed by a lifetime guarantee, and made with the best materials, I was in. Like I have said before it is rare to find a company like Tom Bihn in today’s day and age.

    The search for my new daypack led me to the Synapse backpack line. This pack comes in a 25L version and a smaller 19L version invarious colors.  I chose the Synapse 19 in Coyote and Steel. The first thing I noticed about this pack was that it is built from the same tough, abrasion resistant, badass 1000D Cordura as most of the Goruck packs. I had almost no experience with this fabric before my first Goruck pack and I am now addicted. Not only was the Synapse pack built with the Cordura but accompanied by #8 Water Tight YKK zippers, and padded EVAZOTE Foam shoulder straps. 

    The pack itself does not scream “Tactial!” Like many of the other day packs I have looked into and I love that it about the bag. I will be using this bag for EDC including school, day hikes, dog park trips, dog walks, mall trips, and whatever else I do day to day. The last thing I want to do is carry around a huge tactical pack built like a tank all day. (That is what my GR2 is for.) I wanted a good, clean looking backpack that had a elegant but built to be abused and used feel to it. Some of the packs you see around especially in big name retail stores now days look like a bunch of belts strapped to a sack, which I doubt can be very practical and I just cannot see myself dealing with that day to day. Just the look of this pack had me hooked, let alone the use of grade A materials. 

    Enough of the build up.. now finally on to the pack itself. The Coyote color is perfect and I think goes with the YKK watertight zipper’s black outline great. The inside Steel color is also handy as it helps me see inside the pack and exactly where smaller items are instead of the normal black inside. On the front and center of the pack is the classic looking Tom Bihn logo. 

The Straps of this pack are made from EVAZOTE foam. These straps come with all of the essential additions that were not included on the various Goruck packs I have had. The straps come paired with a sternum strap and a removable waist strap. The foam is the perfect thickness so that I can comfortable carry a heavier load but not too big so that on a light load they sit abnormal. This is a much overlooked aspect of backpack and in my eyes, one of the most important parts. The addition of the waist strap and the option to have it be completely removable is brilliant. There are many bag companies right now making their daypacks with a waist strap that can be tucked behind into the lumber area of the pack, however I feel that this adds unnecessary bulk at a major contact point of a backpack. I know when I am going to need a waist strap for the day and I would rather have the option of leaving it at home when I know a hike is not in my daily plan.  

If you look at any well used, beaten, abused backpack and find the first thing that broke or went wrong I can almost guarantee it was the zipper. It is very easy to cut costs and throw a cheap foreign zipper onto your bag and make more profit. Most average consumers won’t be able to tell the difference, or could care about the difference because they got it for half the price right? I would rather have one bag for 10 years then 5 bags for 2 years a piece. Your bag gains character as it journeys with you. A well used bag is more then just another piece of gear but a companion, and the last thing I want my companion doing is giving up after 2 years together. That being said the addition to not only top tier YKK zippers but YKK zippers lined with Aquagaurd to further protect your various items swallowed by your companion. You can feel the quality in each and every zip and know that nothing is going to stop the little guys from doing their very important job.

The first thing one could notice is about the Synapse 19 is the various pockets shaping the bag. The main compartment is big enough to fit my DSLR, a rain jacket, a water bottle, towel for the dogs, and a few snacks while I'm on my hikes with room to spare. The top front pocket is technically a water bottle pocket that runs down the whole length of the bag and can fit a normal sized Nalgene with ease. I find this pocket to be better to house my keys, wallet, headphones, knife, gum, other grab and go items. Underneath this front pocket is a smaller pocket that can also be used for my smaller items that may overflow from the first front pocket. On each side of the pack there are side pockets that are taller then they are wide. Here I can store my phone and its chargers and other chargers for my camera. On the other side I use it to store my external Hard-drive and my External battery charger. The last pocket is on the bottom of the pack and a perfect size for anything durable enough to sit on the bottom. I have used this pocket for my GoPro hero 4 in a case and my Mechanix gloves. On the bottom of this pocket there is an attachment point for a bike light. 

The Tom Bihn Synapse is a high quality, hand made, U.S. built daypack that will undoubtedly stand up to whatever I throw at it and continue to accompany me on my various adventures to come. 

Below are some extra picture of the Synapse 19 on myself (5’10) and my girlfriend who is (5’2) for reference.