Being someone who’s never truly found the perfect bag, I always find myself looking for a bag that doesn’t think too much of itself, one that will fit into every situation. I’ve had people throw out various names of overpriced backpacks that either have little to no storage, very little organization or put so much of an emphasis on being stylish that they end up being ugly.
One company does none of this with their bags, and they have a great reputation; I was stoked to find out that Tom Bihn has a new bag that might be up to the task of “Greg’s Everyday Carry.” That bag is the Tom Bihn Synik 30.
I received my Synik 30 today in the mail after checking my tracking number non stop at work, hoping that the company didn’t screw up because you know how it is when you’re anticipating something great in the mail, for them to “misdeliver” the package or fail to deliver it all together. So, I get the package in the mail… the bag is absolutely stunning. Shiny new things always get my giddy, but as someone who’s reviewed bags that claim to do everything from be your everyday carry, to bags that have built-in solar panels, the Synik 30 has me utterly amazed. I’ve always been impressed by Tom Bihn’s bags, more specifically the Synapse, but I felt that the bag was being held back a bit with its need for additional pouches in order to function for many.
I received the Synik in the Black 525 Ballistic/Cloud 210 Ballistic, which honestly looks fantastic. I’ve heard the term “Dad bag” from a lot of commenters on the Tom Bihn forums, but honestly, it’s one of the few bags that regardless of whether you were carrying books or bricks, it doesn’t “wear” like a “nerdy 9-5 IT guy” bag you would assume one would have. It’s more stylish than the Brain Bag that Tom Bihn also makes; its larger than the Synapse, but more importantly, it fits all of the necessities I need for every situation.
As a techie, I’m taking my review in the perspective your favorite “tech Youtuber” would, with gadgets and items that we typically carry with us in Everyday Carry. Not a lot of us carry knives and survival kits, but we tend to keep things that make sure we stay connected to our everyday lives, including the ability to type up an article on the fly. In my case, that’s my:
- iPhone XS Max
- Google Pixel 3XL
- 15-Inch MacBook Pro
- iPad Pro 11-inch (1TB)
Bear in mind I don’t always wield around my MacBook because it’s mammoth, but when I do, I want a bag that won’t cause me to feel like I’m moving furniture as I take public transportation. I also don’t want a bag that screams “hey there’s $3500+ dollars with of crap in here” (which it typically tends to be). Finally, I wanted a bag that for conventions like CES and various others, I can use as a carry-on that will house maybe an extra day or two’s worth of clothes and my essentials, all while looking impressive. Synik 30 checks those boxes. For reference, I am a 5’7 male (yes I know I’m not the standard), and the bag fits well despite my height. What I found interesting is the turtle shell-like frame of the bag never feels like it weighs me down with my Everyday Carry, and even if I have items situated deep into the bottom of the bag, the weight distribution of the bag manages to keep everything even weight-wise.
Most other reviewers who’ve had the opportunity to check out the Synik tend to have had the Synapse before, and one glaring comparison that many have made is the Synik now has a full clamshell opening which is a HUGE deal, even if you’ve never had the opportunity to use one of Tom Bihn’s bags. Not only does a clamshell bag give you the user the opportunity to fully open your bag to see what’s in it, this works great if you are in an airport, and you simply want to separate your laptop from the rest of your belongings. I’ve reviewed many bags before, and a lot of the recent ones have abandoned the idea that your bag should open up entirely, but I feel like with the Synik, being able to visibly see everything in your main compartment gives you an idea of how much (or how little) space you have available to you.
On the inside of the bag, you’ll notice tie down-straps that work great for holding down clothing or various other things that you don’t want to be co-mingled in your main compartment. While I, for the most part, abandon all internal straps, I’ve been strapping down my iPad Pro, leaving the built-in laptop compartment to house my MacBook Pro.
You heard me, the Synik comes with a built-in laptop compartment, giving you little reason to need a Cache for your laptop going forward. Being able to fit your 15-inch MacBook Pro, the laptop compartment has dual-access, being readily available through the main compartment, or a side zipper which makes accessing without opening your entire bag in public a delight. For what’s it’s worth, there’s a bit of a snug fit for your MacBooks entry through the side compartment, but I am not against this at all.
Also in the inside of the main compartment of the bag, you’ll notice a section for all of your extra things and do-hickies, and this is the area where I house my Tom Bihn kits. I typically use two of Tom Bihn’s Cubelets, a 3D Organizer Cube in this compartment which houses toiletries and other items I do not want around my cables and cords. Not only do each of the products serve a purpose, but each is also color coordinated which makes it easy to know what everything in.
For example, in one Cubelet I keep MacBook charger with my other Cubelet finding use for my PowerBeats Pro; at this point, the case is too large to fit in my already heavy Snake Charmer (I’ll get into that a bit later).
Each of these comes with the option to be attached to the inside of the main compartment courtesy of a strap that can be purchased at a separate price. But if you are like me and desire a bit more organization, items like the Cubelet allow you just that. Here are some other worthwhile additions to the Synik that set itself apart from the Synapse bag, according to Tom Bihn:
- Our new Edgeless EV50 1/2” shoulder straps
- Included, fully integrated yet removable internal frame with aluminum half-stay
- Rolling luggage handle pass-through
- Updated grab handle
- Label moved to lower right corner
- A padded bottom
- Deeper/thicker main compartment
- Waist strap attachment point lowered to work for more people
- A couple more o-rings
Now let’s talk about the water bottle situation: I carry around a 32-ounce HydroFlask (wide mouth) because I feel guilty when I don’t finish it, and it’s demanding in size enough to warrant that I do just that. With that being said, I needed a bag that would accommodate it. The Synik 30 somehow manages to do that with ease with the middle zippered pocket.
But there is a bit of “pause for the cause” here. The pocket right underneath the water bottle, where I would ideally put my sunglasses, does not cooperate when the water bottle is present. I’m sure a smaller Hydroflask or water bottle would be more accommodating, so what I’ve done is ordered myself a Vapur Water Bottle.
If you are a Trekkie, or you just need a water bottle, it’s accommodating and can fold up into its own carabiner when empty; when full of water, it can set on the side of the bag on one of the YKK zippers by way of the carabiner.
As you’ve probably guessed already… I carry WAY too much crap. On any given day, I have 4 charging cables, a battery pack, the two smartphones, a tablet, and more. So the Snake charmer and the Freudian slip have become my best friends. With the snake charmer, I’ve separated the endless amounts of dongles on one end, with my cables on the other. The “large” size Snake Charmer manages to fit PERFECTLY at the base of the Synik 30, even at full capacity (this is the benefit of having all “TB” items since they play well with each other).
The Freudian slip carries my MX Master mouse, Bose QuietComfort 35’s, and even my “fisher pens” (essentially just a life hack of the Zebra F-701 with space pen inserts so they always write, regardless of the surface). I have a green Freudian slip which not only looks amazing but offsets the all-black look of the bag. The Freudian Slip for me is essentially the “where I keep everything that has a purpose without putting it in a pocket.” From my pens that do not fit in the inside of the side pockets, my MX Master 2 mouse that doesn’t have a permanent home in my bag, or even that good luck microfiber screen wiper thing that I couldn’t find a home for, all those go inside of the Freudian slip. There are two pockets that can work perfectly for things like your Apple Pencil, some post-it notes, or something else. For students, it’s a great “don’t forget” addition to your bag for school, and I think all of Tom Bihn’s bags should come with one.
A few more quick-takes from the bag (I’ll have more later, but I can’t really give a full review in just two weeks use):
- The differentiating sizes of the YKK zippers (main compartment and other pockets) is a welcome change. This makes finding particular pockets easier when not looking.
- The side laptop/tablet cache is a welcome addition that the world is missing. Not everyone wants to have to pull the bag completely off their shoulders to reach important items. I’ve already found that I will be tossing my house keys in this pocket (yes, with my laptop), so in the morning/evening), I can easily just access them when needed without having to completely remove it from my shoulders. If I had a suggestion though… maybe make a side pocket like this for the frontal pockets, specifically for those “essentials” that are separate from the main compartment.
- The Cache being included = Bliss. It fits my MacBook Pro and iPad Pro, with a bit of stretch of the padding, but works fine. I have an Incase case on my MacBook to reduce scratches and it works perfectly. With my iPad Pro, I have a Logitech Folio case on it and they both work in unison and do not weigh down the bag.
- The Shoulder straps are thick, which are welcome for anyone who carries a backpack daily. I find that the “Edgeless EV50 1/2” are great for wear daily, as well as for a trip. I will be traveling to LA in a few days, and this will by my carry-on for the trip. Aside from the fact that I can use the luggage pass-through, its ability to be so comfortable to wear, and the cushion of the back of the bag not giving god-awful back sweats, I feel like this may be the most well-rounded backpack I’ve ever had.
While I’ve only had a few short weeks with the bag, it’s been an absolute delight to use. I’m planning on doing a bit more of an extensive test, using it as a carry-on bag, a bit more as an everyday carry, and I’ll even see if there’s a way that I can minimize the items that I carry to make myself more efficient with the things I deem “important to have.” Stay tuned for an updated review of my use of the Synik 30, and why I (still) think that I may have found my match for the best “every case” bag.
Available for pre-order and shipping later this year, you can order your own Synik 30 by visiting the Tom Bihn site.
Source: Manufacturer supplied Review Unit
What I Like: Honestly, everything right now; The look, the feel, the incorporated water pocket that fits my Hydroflask
What Needs Improvement: At this price, I’d like to see a choice of maybe two accessories (cubelets) thrown in for a bit more organization