Tom Bihn Synapse 19 and Synapse 25 IN THE WILD!

Review Tom Bihn Backpacks

On the hunt for a new bag, my fiancee Chet chose to turn to the company Tom Bihn. Specializing in travel bags, laptop bags, and backpacks; tons of folks on the internet were singing the praises of Tom Bihn’s creations and so we wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Pretty much as soon as Chet’s Synapse 25 backpack arrived I wanted my own. He showed me the multitude of packing configurations available within it’s clever pockets and how much this one backpack could actually hold…and well,  cue the heart eye emojis!

Luckily, Chet could sense my need. Valentine’s weekend I was headed to Bowling Green, KY but my very own Tom Bihn backpack showed up as an early gift just before my departure date! (That boy’s a catch, I’ll tell ya!) I gasped when I opened the box because the pattern was so perfect. My bag is the Synapse 19 backpack. This bag is designed the same way as the 25 (with the same clever pocket layout) but is 19 liters as opposed to 25 so it feels much better on my smaller frame.

Tom Bihn’s website heralds these bags as “a supremely organized backpack” and I tend to agree. The Synapse 19, specifically, is said to be a backpack well suited for hiking, travel, or commuting. Just the things I need a backpack for!

We’ve put these bags to the test, most recently at the FIU Nature Preserve (where we shot the pictures you’ll find within this post), and I’d love to tell you my thoughts…

tom bihn close up

Looks and Specs: 

The Synapse 19 is a 19 liter volume bag and measures 16″ x 11.4″ x 7.9″. Mine features the Black Dyneema external pattern with a Wasabi interior.

The Synapse 25 is a 25 liter volume and measures 20″ x 13.4″ x 9″. Chet’s colors are Navy/Wasabi.

Both bags feature a sleek design thanks to their curvilinear exterior. Unlike some backpacks, these pockets are built into the shape of the bag so there’s no pouches cluttering up the outside of the bag. The bags feature one main, back compartment for big items with an interior, elastic-topped pouch that’s great for securing a laptop or books. Then there are two front pockets, the top of which is deep enough to hold a 1 liter water bottle or bladder. This pocket is specially designed to hold your water in place right at the center of the back which really helps with balancing the weight of your pack. Two side pockets flank the pack and these come equipped with slots to hold pens, cell phone, sunglasses, and O-rings to clip on carabiners or keys.

The bags are made with ultra-lightweight, ultratough nylon so they’re durable without feeling or looking bulky. As mentioned, I LOVE the pattern of mine. I’m always down for a bit of monochrome and the pop of bright green when I unzip is just the right level of pizzazz. I also feel like the design aids in the bag’s versatility. It works out on the trail but I can take it on city adventures without looking out of place. We’ve both remarked that it’s nice to have a backpack that doesn’t scream I’M A BACKPACKER!

weird roots

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Comfort and Wear-ability: 

The back panel is padded with a 1/4″ of foam covered in a breathable mesh. That last point is a must when you live in South Florida. Nothing like taking your backpack off and finding a lovely layer of sweat patch has been left behind in it’s wake! The mesh definitely helps with this predicament!

The adjustable straps are also nicely padded. Overall, this is a really comfortable bag! While I’ve not done any super strenuous hiking with it (YET!), I did make it through a cutting-it-close, Home Alone style layover in the Atlanta airport without feeling like I was carrying a bag at all.

Both bags have removable waist and sternum straps. They’ve been taken off (except for Chet’s sternum strap…which is a great place to clip a go-pro) in these photos as we didn’t think they’d be necessary for a day-hike. But I liked having them when I was hauling more weight on a longer trip as you can totally feel the difference in weight distribution. I can’t feel any weight in my shoulders when I’m all clipped in!

For size reference: I am about 5′ 2″ and Chet is about 6′ 1″.

hiking boots

tom bihn on the trail 1

tom bihn in the forest

So what will it hold?

As a day-pack — For the day trip you see featured in this post (FIU Nature Preserve and surrounding parks/gardens + campus exploration/Starbucks) I had a book, my large wallet, tissues, hand sanitizer, and a collapsible tote in the big pocket. A full 1 liter water bottle and snacks in the front pockets. My blogging camera, pens, cell phone, and chap stick in the side pockets. And an umbrella in the bottom pocket. Because this is Florida and you just never know!

As a work bag — Chet takes his Synapse 25 to work every day. His campus is huge and with walking from far-off parking garages, an office and classrooms in different buildings, and foraging trips to on-campus coffee shops; a backpack is a much friendlier-for-the-back way to tote your crap than a briefcase, IMHO. He carries with him: a full-size tablet, notebooks, large pencil case, cell phone, first aid kit, various cameras and electronic equipment, water bottle, and snacks.

As a travel bag — This one is the kicker! I was AMAZED at how much stuff I was able to pack in for a 3 day/2 night air travel trip. I brought plenty of clothes, including; a pair of jeans, a huge sweater, 3 shirts, and PJ’s (featuring a really heavy pair of fleece pj pants because I was worried about traveling to actual winter climates). I even had room for a pair of sneakers in the bottom pocket! (For reference I wear a size 6 shoe.) Not to mention all my toiletries, make-up, jewelry, snacks, and misc. entertainment (chargers, headphones, book, etc.) I used these mesh pouches to keep things even MORE organized. The smaller ones held my jewelry and odds and ends. The bigger ones held my shirts (1 tank top, 1 dressy t-shirt, 1 pj shirt) and my underwear. These are great because you can clip them on to any of the bags 8 internal O-rings and you know they’ll stay right where you need ’em. I don’t own any packing cubes but I imagine with the help of a couple I could pack in even MORE clothes.

planties in a rock

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Who should get one?

Anyone who walks a lot, whether on adventures or at work. Anyone who enjoys ultra-light packing or just a super organized day trip. Anyone who loves a good hike. Anyone who wants to sail through their commute, or airport security, or a nearby trail.

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What do you think? Would you get one? Do you think you could pack for 3 days (or more!) in a 19L backpack? Are you a hiker, student, or traveler on the hunt for a new pack? I would HIGHLY recommend checking out the Tom Bihn website and having a browse!

Happy Trails and Travels!!! 

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12 thoughts on “Tom Bihn Synapse 19 and Synapse 25 IN THE WILD!

    1. I prefer the fabric on mine (the Synapse 19) but both are great quality and super durable. Just my own personal preference. 🙂 I believe the fabric on my fiancee’s backpack (the Synapse 25) is a bit less “sport-y”/nylon looking which allows him to use the bag for work when he wants without looking like he’s gonna hit the hiking trails as soon as he clocks off.

  1. Thanks for the photos and review! I recently discovered Tom Bihn after checking out all the personal item sized backpacks on eBags. I’ve since been obsessed with the Synapse 19 and can’t wait to begin a nine day trip traveling ultralight! Hope it’s still working out for you!

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