Review: Tom Bihn Synapse


Tom Bihn is a company I have been following for a while now, ever since Judie reviewed the Aeronaut when she was still at The Gadgeteer.  Tom Bihn is not only based right here in the United States, they make their bags in the US, which is a rarity among bag manufacturers.  When Tom Bihn let me know about their new Synapse backpack, I jumped at a chance to review it.

The exterior of the Synapse I was sent is made with Indigo colored 1000 denier U.S. Cordura, and the backpack is lined with Solar Dyneema/nylon rip-stop fabric.  The Syapse is also available in Olive, Plum, and Navy — all with the Solar Dyneema lining.  The Steel Dyneema Lining is available on backpacks with Steel or Black denier exteriors.  There is also an ultra light version of the Synapse with Steel Dyneema on both the Exterior and Interior.  (Shown below)


The Synapse has a total of 5 exterior pockets, all using #8 YKK® Uretech® splash-proof zippers to keep their contents dry as a bone.  If you get caught in the rain, your gear will be safe.

Each pocket is different in it’s use.  The pocket on the left side of the Synapse has storage for pens, and it works well for storing chargers or other small cables.


The pocket on the right side of the Synapse has one wall that is lined with waterproof Ultrasuede (it was designed for the iPhone), but it will also hold many other cell phones; I use the pocket on mine to hold the Blue Mikey and other accessories for my iPod.


The two pockets on the top of the bag are really cool.  The top most pocket is made so that it can hold a 1L Aluminum Sigg Water Bottle or its generic equivalent.  Tom designed this water bottle pocket on the synapse to be in the center of the bag, so that sloshing water will not throw you off balance.  The other pocket on the top of the bag is shallow, and it’s where I store a iPod cable and a standard Mini B USB cable.  You could also keep ear buds or other cables in this small pocket.


Finally there’s a nice pocket on the bottom of the pack.  Inside this pocket, I keep 3D Clear Organizer Cube with some thumb drives.  I  use the included tether attached to the O-Rings so that the bag doesn’t go very far, and I also stick my Kensington Slimblade Bluetooth Mouse and my Nintendo DSi in this pocket.


The main compartment is pretty deep and narrow.  Inside the compartment there is a pocket that is designed for holding a netbook in a Tom Bihn Cache.  I don’t have a Tom Bihn Cache, so I used the Uniea Sleeve I usually keep my Asus 1000HE in.  The pocket is big enough to also hold the AC cord, and I can also drop my N800 in this pocket as well.  Even with a netbook in its sleeve, the main compartment has enough room to store all kinds of things.  If I stretch it a bit, I can also put my digital camera in its case in the main compartment as well.  If I get a slimmer camera case, it would fit even better.


The back of the Synapse is made of Dri-Lex Aero-Spacer mesh and U.S. 1050 denier ballistic nylon, and it is padded with 1/4″ (6mm), high quality, closed-cell foam.  The bag also has 3/8″ (10mm) thick padded and contoured shoulder straps with removable sternum strap and a removable waist strap.  Amazingly enough, the waist strap does go around me, and I am a pretty big guy.  Santa may have difficulty with the waist strap, so thank goodness it’s removable!


After loading up the Synapse, I took it with me to watch my son bowl in his league, run some errands and go to a Christmas party; I did not feel weighed down at all by the bag, and it sat in my lap when my wife was driving.  Wearing it on my back with the sternum strap only kept the bag close to me, and thanks to the sternum strap, the straps stayed put on my shoulders where they belong.  The bags small size kept me from smacking people with it when it was on my back.


The Tom Bihn Synapse is made in Seattle, Washington, and is available direct from Tom Bihn for $120 plus shipping.  It sounds a little expensive, but Tom Bihn bags will likely last through MANY netbooks, and it may even outlast the netbook trend! Tom Bihn sent me a review sample that they were gracious enough to let me keep the backpack; it is now my daily driver gear bag.

What I liked: Tom Bihn quality through and through.  This backpack stands up to daily use with a netbook and other various gear; the Synapse will outlast most of the gear in the bag.

What needs improvement: I wish it was just a little bigger, but as is, it’s almost the perfect size for what I need on a daily basis.

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