Disclaimer: Tom Bihn provided this bag free for a review. All opinions below are entirely my own.
You may recall that recently I reviewed my Waterfield Staad backpack which is a lovely backpack that I use a lot of the time. However there are times when I need to carry more than fits in this bag – trips where I’m away overnight or just need to carry a lot of things. When the chance came up to review a new Tom Bihn bag with a dedicated laptop compartment, clamshell opening and luggage pass through it seemed meant to be – and this was confirmed by the random number generator saying I won!
I’ll start with some background. The Synik is based on another Tom Bihn bag, the Synapse. That one doesn’t have a clamshell opening, dedicated laptop compartment, side opening, or luggage pass through – it’s a great bag but honestly not one I would buy for myself. It comes in two sizes (19L and 25L), and according to everyone I know who has one it’s an amazing bag. There are two sizes of the Synik, 22L and 30L, the idea was that enough space was added to the Synapse to make space for the dedicated laptop compartment and also to allow for full use of the clamshell opening. The straps on the Synik are also different – they’re edgeless straps which means there are no seams touching your shoulders. Day to day I’ve not really noticed a massive benefit, but I’m sure if I loaded the bag up with heavy items that could cause the straps to dig in I would!
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tom Bihn bags there’s some important facts you might like to know:
- They’re made in the USA in Seattle.
- All of their bags have a variety of colour options available, including different internal colours.
- Bags have O-rings, this allows you to clip things to your bag so you can pull them out without losing them or find them without digging around (my keys are on a long strap, my sunglasses are in a pouch which keeps them close to the top, etc.)
- There’s a wide array of accessories which you can purchase to go with your bag, including the above mentioned keystrap and sunglasses pouch (a small Ghost Whale for the curious).
I picked the 22L to review, and was fortunate to get my preferred colour choice: Aubergine and Northwest Sky. The Aubergine is a thick rugged material, whereas the Northwest Sky is rather more flexble and great as an interior. There are choices for the outside material – I’d recommend checking the Tom Bihn site for the ins and outs of each one.
The bag has one main compartment, through which you can access the laptop compartment from the top. The laptop compartment can also be accessed from the outside, the outside zip isn’t the full height of the laptop instead you push it in diagonally and then straighten the laptop up inside the pocket. It sounds complicated but in my experience many laptop pockets with external access work this way and it only takes one attempt to get the hang of it.
This is a great bag for what I need, I used it at MacStock and aside from a few times when I forgot which pocket I’d put something in (I can do that even when I’m having an amazing day so don’t blame the bag!) it worked perfectly. I put a Mac Mini inside in the box and carried it around (when Stephen Hackett sort of volunteered to upgrade the RAM in my Mac Mini I couldn’t say no!).
There are several things I really love about this bag:
- The water bottle pocket is in the center, this means that I won’t end up weighed down on one side.
- The front pockets pack inside the bag, instead of bulging outwards.
- The front bottom pocket might look small but it fits my Nintendo Switch easily.
- The clamshell opening means I can also just open the side of my bag and reach in to grab something (assuming I remember where I put it), and I can of course open up the whole bag.
- It’s not too large, I got away with it as my personal item flying home – the 30L would have looked large though and I might not have been so lucky.
- The laptop is suspended in the bag, so when you put it down it’s not likely to hit the floor.
- There’s a system where you can attach a “cache” (Tom Bihn’s device sleeve) to the opposite side of the main pocket – I bought one for my 11″ iPad Pro and it’s wonderful.
- I can put it on the handle of my trolley case when in airport lounges, on airport buses, etc. (Did I mention I fly a lot?)
There is one thing I’ve run into which I’m not a huge fan of: when the zippers are fully open you need use both hands to close the bag, pushing the chunky weatherproof zipper around that corner is hard.
The bag also comes with a removeable framesheet so you can make it lighter if you don’t need as much structure. The framesheet is what suspends the laptop so I’ve only taken it out to try, it wasn’t the easiest to get out but it’s also not likely you’ll be doing this on a regular basis.
So far this bag has only been on one adventure with me, but it will be coming to San Francisco later this month for a more extensive trial!
As I don’t have a Synapse to compare it to I borrowed some at MacStock for the comparison pictures below. This bag is sized exactly between the two models, but at a glance it looks more like the 19L – and that is what it is based on!
I’m definitely very happy with this bag and can’t wait to keep using it – now I need to plan more travel!