The new Tom Bihn Synapse 25 is the larger 25 liter/1526 cubic inch version of the Synapse (now called Synapse 19). For those familiar with the original pack, the Synapse 25 keeps much of the original design. The multiple pockets, which don’t cannibalize space from the main compartment, are still there. So is the 1000D Cordura Nylon exterior, 400D Dyneema Riptop interior, water resistant YKK Aquaguard zippers and bulletproof (made in the U.S.A.) build quality. In essence, Tom has taken everything good about the original Synapse and incorporated it into a larger package with some tweaks to make it even more user friendly. Let’s take a closer look.
The Synapse 25 has a clean, sleek design. There are no snag prone mesh pockets or external pockets which protrude from the main body of the pack. Much of the complexity of the bag is hidden from view. It’s also very low profile when empty which helps the wearer resist the urge to fill up the pack with unnecessary gear.
A web strap was added in this version to accommodate a strap mount version of the Guardian Dual Function Light – a safety/utility light that’s built to military specifications (a great feature for bike commuters).
The EVAZOTE foam shoulder straps and closed cell foam back panel provide for a comfortable carry when the bag is fully loaded. I’ve typically seen thicker strap padding on a bag this size but, I haven’t experienced any abnormal shoulder/neck pain – even with a laptop, tablet, full Nalgene and other gear in tow.
A removable sternum and waist strap are included although the waist strap is thin and not load bearing. I removed it shortly after receiving the pack and I didn’t miss it on a pack this size.
The only aspect of the external design I would change on the Synapse 25 is the 1000D Cordura material. For some reason, it’s a pet hair and lint magnet (I cleaned up the pack prior to taking these pictures). Not a show stopper, but it left me wishing Tom had opted to use more of the 1050D high tenacity ballistic nylon from the Smart Alec on this bag.
I found that it’s a perfect fit for the Tom Bihn Snake Charmer, which is an excellent pouch for organizing and carrying charge cables and other electronic bits.
There are two side pockets. The right one has an Ultrasuede-lined inner pocket that can fit today’s larger smartphones (my Motorola RAZR Maxx is shown in the pic below) and an O-Ring to which I’ve clipped my sunglasses case.
The left pocket has a small admin area with two slots for knives/multitools and another for a pen. It’s a shame that the design team at Tom Bihn couldn’t figure out a way to include a larger admin area with more slots. The pocket does have yet another O-Ring and I’ve used that to attach a small light via an utility strap.
The lower top front slip pocket is a great place for stay items like keys, backup cards/money or a camera. This time I’m carrying my pocket pouch attached to an O-Ring and an Ultrasuede cleaning cloth for my electronics there but it varies depending on the day.
The upper front zipper houses the bottle pocket. Other than the dual insulated pockets on the Camelbak Urban Assault, I’ve not found a better setup on a bag to carry a Nalgene bottle. With the filled bottle, the weight actually stabilizes the pack since the pocket runs down the center of the bag.
For those who might want to use insulated bottles, a 24 ounce Polar Bottle fits quite nicely also. In fact, even with the reduced size I prefer the Polar in the Synapse 25. With it’s taller profile, it just seems to carry better. The pocket will also fit a 1.0 -1.5 liter hydration reservoir although to me the hose routing isn’t that optimal given the location of the pocket in relation to the straps (your mileage may vary).
One more point on the subject of hydration. I’ve not been able to find a comfortable way to carry a full sized bladder in the main compartment. There is no centered O-Ring to hang one and using the internal pocket (on the side opposite from the back panel) pulled the pack down placing more weight on my shoulders making the entire rig uncomfortable. Just an fyi for anyone thinking of that type of setup.
As for the main compartment, one of the improved features of the Synapse 25 is the Cache with Rails system. We did a short video to highlight it’s benefits. If you travel, this enhancement alone might be worth the upgrade. There are also a couple of O-Rings but I would have rather had them on the opposite side. In practice, they tended to interfere with the Cache depending on what I had clipped to them. But, if you’re not carrying a laptop, it doesn’t hurt to have them there.
I also had room to store more items in the main are including a composition book with cover and a Tom Bihn Stuff Sack with a hat and gloves in case the weather turns nasty.
On the opposite panel is an elastic pocket where I’ve stored a light jacket and my tablet. There are two additional webbing loops where you could attach another cache to better protect a tablet or even a second laptop. I’ve done a mod here and attached two ITW Web Dominator clips.
Using those clips, I’ve attached my Maxpedition Janus pouch, which contains my first aid kit and miscellaneous EDC items.
The Janus features a somewhat unique horizontal PALS webbing setup but other pouches with horizontal webbing if the spacing is right would work here. And hopefully Tom Bihn will release additional accessories for the Synapse 25 that will clip in via Gatekeepers – like the Cache with Rails.
The other benefit to the Web Dominators is that Key Straps can be clipped to the paracord, which provides another set of attachment points if needed.
Overall, the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 meets the majority of the criteria we look for in an EDC pack. It’s large enough for a tall person to wear without looking like you’re carrying something that should have Dora the Explorer printed on it. It’s office friendly, low profile, has good organization and it’s light weight (weighing an amazing 1.79 lbs empty). It’s TSA checkpoint friendly with the addition of the Cache with Rails and small enough to carry onto an airplane if needed. Given all this, the Synapse 25 is now our reference mid-sized EDC pack here at Loadedpocketz and we don’t see it being dethroned anytime soon.
The Synapse 25 comes in a variety of color combinations and retails for $170. It’s available exclusively for sale here on Tom Bihn’s website.