Tom Bihn Synapse Backpack

Picture from Tom Bihn website.

1000d Cordura® nylon — or — ultralight 400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop exterior
200 denier Dyneema®/nylon ripstop fabric lining
Dri-Lex® Aero-Spacer® mesh upper back
400 denier nylon lower back
Closed-cell foam back
EVAZOTE® foam shoulder straps
Tough Duraflex® and Nexus buckles
YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zippers

Dimensions: 16″ x 11.4″ x 7.9″ / 410 x 290 x 200 mm
Weight: 1 lb 13 oz / 820 grams (Cordura®); 1 lb 8 oz / 700 grams (400d Dyneema®/420d nylon ripstop)
Volume: 1160 cubic inches / 19 liters (ASTM Standard Measure)
Removable 1″ / 25 mm waist strap included
.375″ / 10 mm padded and contoured backpack straps with .75″ / 20 mm removable sternum strap

Today I am reviewing the Tom Bihn Synapse Backpack. I’ve had this bag now about four or so weeks. I picked it up because I wanted something that offered more space than my 5.11 Covrt ZAP6, still “low-key” looking and something smaller than my Maxpedition Condor 2. This Synapse backpack sounded like a great bag to check out. Immediately after opening the box it was shipped in I said to myself “this is a pretty sweet bag”. It has very sleek lines, lots of storage areas, and it “fits in” with regular backpackers when your out doing day-to-day stuff.

The exterior of the Synapse backpack is constructed using a lightweight but tough 1000 denier Cordura® nylon fabric and YKK Aquaguard® water-repellent zippers. I haven’t submerged this bag in water but I did spray it with the hose and everything inside the bag was nice and dry.

The two upper pockets on the front of the bag are different sizes. The top pocket is about 11″ inches deep while the second pocket down is approx 5″ inches deep as you see by the ruler. In the deeper pocket I carry my first aid kit, about 10ft of paracord, paper map, and a few other odds-n-ends. In the shorter pocket I keep my wallet, cell phone, gum, and my Leatherman Squirt PS4 multi-tool. I haven’t really loaded these pockets out since this is just my standard EDC bag for going from the house to the office. I could easily fit way more stuff in these pockets if needed.

The front bottom pocket is approx 5″ high by about 11″ wide. In this pocket I keep a 1 liter bottle of water, some water purification powder tablets, and a candy bar or two.

On both sides of the bag there are vertical zippers which have neatly placed pockets in place. Above you will see the right pocket. In there I keep my DPx Gear Hest 2.0 Folder knife, my keys and a pair of gloves. As you can see there is quite a bit more room for stuff if needed.

Above is the left vertical pocket on the bag. Inside this pocket you’ll find some slots for pens and other items of that size. I also have a safety strobe light in there if I have to walk in the dark. As you can see, just like the right vertical pocket there is an ample amount of room for more stuff like a GPS handheld, another 1 liter bottle of water if needed.

One thing I like about the zipper pulls is you can inter-weave them together as you see above. This keeps them from being easily opened by thieves. The right vertical pocket can be inter-weaved with the two zipper pulls from the main compartment to secure the main compartment and the right vertical pocket.

Moving to the inside of the main compartment. Inside the main compartment are two separate compartments. In the smaller compartment I have a Tom Bihn Ballistic Mesh Organizer Pouch. In the organizer I keep two glow-tubes, hand sanitizer, some paracord, wet ones, and a few other items. The bigger compartment is big enough to hold my Apple Macbook Pro 15″ laptop and a hooded sweatshirt and a beanie hat. There are some nice loops to connect things to in the main compartment too.

Moving to the back side of the Tom Bihn Synapse Backpack. The back is padded with 1/4″, high quality, closed-cell foam with an exterior of Dri-Lex® Aero-Spacer® mesh and 400 denier nylon. It rest comfortably on the back with absolutely no discomforting at all. The tabs at the lower left and right side of the bag are for the waist straps that easily connect and disconnect from the bag. Since this is my home to office bag I don’t have a ton of stuff in it to justify having the waist strap connected.

The straps on this bag are nice and wide to distribute the load better and they don’t dig into your chest and shoulder like thinner straps. Also the straps are about 0.5″ thick with very high quality padding. The sternum and waste strap are fully adjustable. One thing I would like to see Tom Bihn incorporate on this bag is keepers for access strap from the sternum and waist straps. That’s one thing I really liked about the 5.11 Covrt ZA6 bag. The keepers just keep the access strap from flopping around. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, the sternum strap buckle has a whistle built into it for emergency purposes.

All in all I am very pleased with the Tom Bihn Synapse Backpack. The materials and build quality are top notch. And the fact that it’s made right here in the United States with a Lifetime Guarantee says an awful lot about Tom Bihn gear I think.

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