At 6’4″ and 250 lbs, I’m not small and nothing that I wear is small. Finding clothes and gear that fits properly is sometimes a “challenge”. Tom Bihn is one of my favorite brands but my feedback to them, along with other COUS’s (Customers of Unusual Size), was they needed to design a backpack that was geared towards people who are taller or have longer torsos. I loved the organizational layout of the original Synapse but it was too small for my frame and just packing something like an XL/XXL sized extra layer would consume most of the pack’s capacity. Well, if you’ve found yourself in a similar predicament – fear not. Tom has answered our prayers in the form of the Synapse 25.
Tom Bihn was kind enough to send over the Synapse 25 for me to field test about a week ago (being tall does have it’s benefits too) and I’ve spent enough time with it to make a number of observations.
I can validate that the Synapse 25 is well suited for people up to 6’6″. At 20″ in length, I was able to adjust the shoulder straps tight up against my body and the pack still fell right at the top of my hips. I removed the waist belt, but should I want to use it, the belt would be in the proper position and provide additional stability to the pack.
I like that the larger Synapse is still low profile. During a packed train trip into Chicago, I was able to put the bag in my lap when someone sat next to me. I haven’t flown with it yet but at 1,526 cubic inches in volume, it should be an ideal sized day pack for travel – especially if you need to carry a laptop and a few extras.
The shoulder straps are comfortable and look identical to the straps on the Smart Alec. They are contoured but not too narrow for my broad shoulders. The sternum strap is removable. Strap management is an issue – dangling straps drive me crazy. I added some elastic keepers of my own for the shoulder strap webbing (which is why you don’t see them in the picture below) but it would be ideal on a $170 pack if they were included.
Initially, I made the mistake of storing my 32 oz Nalgene in the main compartment and the pack didn’t quite carry right. I read up on the original Synapse and realized that the center pocket was designed specifically for hydration. Moving the Nalgene to the bottle pocket changed everything. It balanced the pack out and moved the weight away from my back which made all the difference in the world. Problem solved.
I would have preferred a full clam sell opening for the main compartment but the half zip does a pretty good job of providing access – in my opinion an improvement over the top loading Smart Alec. Here I’ve stored a XXL eVent jacket, wool hat, and a pair of winter gloves with room to spare.
I did not show it, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the TSA friendly optional laptop Cache with Rails that attaches to the nylon loops sewn to the top of the main compartment. I will make a separate video illustrating it’s function, but using it made me wonder why someone hadn’t thought of it sooner. K.I.S.S. simple and easy to add or remove via Tom’s gatekeeper clips. I highly recommend adding it as an option if you intend to use the Synapse 25 for laptop carry.
As with all Tom Bihn products, the fit and finish of this pack was flawless. However, I will admit that I did find myself missing the ballistic nylon from the Smart Alec. The 1000D Condura material used on the Synapse 25 is durable but the downside is it attracts and holds pet hair like crazy. Of course, if you don’t have pets that shed, this will not be an issue. But I thought it worth mentioning.
Those are just some of my initial impressions of the Synapse 25. Once we’ve spent more time with it, we will be doing a full review including a detailed look at the interior of the pack. Stay tuned.