Tag Archives: commuters

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.

WANT MORE TOM BIHN CONTENT? Check out THIS POST and THIS ONE

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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Thoughts on public transportation.

train tracks black and white

My recent train trek to Tampa, coupled with the absolutely shitty nature of driving ANYWHERE in Miami, has gotten me thinking about transportation. We live in an overwhelming car culture in America. And to be honest, it kinda bums me out. Why are we still waiting patiently for alternate transportation to “catch on” as the rest of the world’s developed nations are whisked away on high-speed rail? Why is the train station in Miami, a pretty major city in the ol’ U.S., a relic of the 1970’s? Why do so many Americans willingly sit in the drivers seat for hours long commutes every day? Why, when planning a trip out of state, do I have to consider plunking down a credit card charge equal to my month’s rent to get a coveted spot sitting on a flying metal tube? Now, it’s no secret to those close to me that I despise driving. I’ll gladly hand off my car keys to anyone willing to chauffeur me for the day. I would much rather amble down the highway in a bus with a stranger falling asleep on my shoulder than have to endure a long road trip as sole captain and passenger of my hatchback. I also have a pretty long-standing love of trains, streetcars, and other “we’re all in this together even if this means a B.O.-smelling journey”-transportation.

Story 1 

When I was 10, my family lived in a cozy apartment on Lazarettgasse in Vienna, Austria. Nestled next door was Zur Goldenen Kugel, a dimly lit restaurant with a mascot dachshund who would visit diners at their table. My bedroom window boasted a lovely view of Allgemeines Krankenhaus, which literally translates to “General Sick-House.” At night I would watch the lights flicker on and off in the various hospital rooms. Right up the road was a streetcar stop. Here’s where I would board  the #5 streetcar, ride 3 stops, switch to the #13 bus and journey to Mariahilfer Strasse for dance class. I would make this journey by myself. I feel like this would blow a few helicopter parents’ minds in this day an age. But at 10, I felt perfectly fine tackling this trek twice a week. Sometimes I was accompanied by my flamboyant, Castillian Spanish-language tutor but the majority of the time this was a solo adventure. These rides opened my eyes to the city and it’s people and were a great way to catch a few moments alone when my days were otherwise spent cooped up and home schooled in a tiny apartment.

streetcar black and white

Story 2

Just days after George W. Bush declared war on Iraq, I was riding a train with 3 of my very best friends on a day trip to an Irish seaside town. Completely clueless and naive to the rest of the world’s current perceptions of our home country, we didn’t know our accents could cause offense. Which is why we were totally blind-sided when a belligerent, red-faced local angrily approached us, cursing our presence and our president. I wouldn’t say we had been behaving poorly or talking out of turn on that particular train ride. But we WERE teenagers and there WERE four of us. I’m sure we were being as loud as one might expect four teenagers to be when they’ve been handed a little freedom for the day. He spat out his belief that we should have the sense to be silent when everyone on the train hated us so much for where we came from. He questioned our choice of clothing as misguided patriotism. (Puzzlingly, we were all wearing hoodies but only one of them was red so to this day I wonder about this part of his tirade.) We would get on more trains and buses in the days that followed but perhaps a bit more cautiously than our previous teenage fearlessness had dictated.

Story 3 

Riding the subway in New York City with my mom and sister, another family consisting of mother and two children, rushed into our car and sat down across from us. The little girl sat in a stroller, her brother perched next to her on the bench reading chapter books emblazoned with public library bar codes. She started to get fussy and squirmy and as her mom lovingly tried to distract her I realized the little girl lacked mobility in her appendages. She whined and pleaded to be let out of her stroller. Her mom, with exhaustion in her voice, said, “Not here, mija. You’ll fall.” In a last ditch effort the mom held out her cell phone in front of the girl and I watched in awe as the girl played one of those games like Candy Crush, maneuvering around the screen with her chin and lips. The game would *ding* indicating success and the little girl and her mom would dissolve into peals of laughter. Meanwhile, I was overcome with how lovely this mother was. I wanted to grab her hand and tell her “You’re doing a good job!” I wanted to tell ALL mothers the same. Riding in a cramped, rush-hour subway car on the way to get a slice at Russel Simmons’ favorite pizza joint, I was reminded of how many good people there are in this world. How many heroes go unsung.

subway black and white

Public transportation and train travel could be a crucial part of the solution to our nation’s economic, energy, and environmental problems. Every segment of American society – individuals, families, communities, and businesses – stands to benefit from it. Yet there are so many political and infrastructural barriers standing in the way. And even if those hurdles are crossed, erasing the car culture deeply ingrained in the American psyche could prove difficult. A culture obsessed with everyone in their own little box, driving down a highway cramped with exhaust breathing 18-wheelers and government money. Perhaps alternative transportation will never be plausible in America because of our refusal to sit next to or around people that don’t look like us.

And isn’t that sad? Because by sitting with people who didn’t look like me, I learned responsibility and an independent spirit would be integral qualities in helping me achieve my goals. Sometimes the journey is sweeter solo. Keep going. I learned actions have consequences and that too often we must spend time answering for actions we didn’t even insight. Don’t take it personally. Keep going. I learned you can see goodness and beauty in an otherwise ugly world you just have to open your eyes and look. The view isn’t always out your window and the journey is sometimes the best part of the trip. Keep going.