I spent about a year traveling with the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack. The bag fits under the airplane seat, even when it’s fully stuffed. When I’m settled in a new location, I use the bag as a daypack, a hiking bag and a photography bag.

I’m going to go over some of my favorite features of the bag to help you determine if it’s the right choice for you.

How is the organization inside of the Synapse 25?

It’s great. The unique layout of this bag lets you put an unlimited combination of things in the external pockets. Tom Bihn offers a small collection of accessories that help with the internal storage pretty considerably.

The backpack has five secondary pockets, in addition to its one main compartment. There is a medium-sized pouch on the bottom of the bag, two medium-sized pockets on the side of the bag, one water-bottle-sized pocket in the center and one phone-sized pocket in the center.

Like I said before, there is an unlimited amount of things that you can fit inside of the bag. Here’s an example of an ‘everyday carry’ that I had inside my bag when I was traveling:

Everyday carry with the Synapse 25

Hiking gear inside the Synapse 25

When I took the bag on hikes, it was common for me to pack things like:

Man hiking with the Tom Bihn Synapse 25, Man hiking with the Tom Bihn Synapse 25

Because of the pocket layout, each item I was carrying had its own compartment, but I was a little nervous about putting my water bottle inside the bag. If the bottle were to leak, I was afraid that water would get all over everything. This never happened though, mostly because I made sure that I had a water bottle that had a good seal.

Can you one-bag travel out of the Synapse 25?

Yes, you can pull off one-bag travel with the Synapse 25!

I never fully committed to one-bag travel, but I can see how it’s possible, if the trip duration is a specific length. You can easily fit a small packing cube with your clothes and several small organization pouches for electronics toiletries inside of the bag.

The 25L bag fits a surprising amount of things, and the pockets don’t take up any internal space. Because of this, the bag expands more outwardly, so you can fit a few more things than you thought you could.

Travel photography gear flatlay

Can you use the Synapse 25 for photography?

Yes, you can use the Synapse 25 as a photography bag!

As a photographer, I like the bag because it doesn’t stand out as a camera bag (mostly because it isn’t). Most people don’t notice that thousands of dollars worth of photography gear (shhh!) are inside. That’s important for me when I travel to certain parts of the world, namely places where there’s petty crime for electronics.

The main compartment is a perfect fit for your camera. You’ll need something like a camera wrap to ensure that your camera is protected. If you don’t have a camera wrap, you can wrap your camera around a sweatshirt or light jacket. The center and side pockets fit your lenses. The bottom pouch fits any accessories, like a rocket blower or some filters.

Because this bag isn’t supposed to be a camera bag, you clearly have to improvise. I usually don’t like traveling with dedicated photography bags because I find them limiting when trying to fit a variety of things inside. The Synapse 25 is a great alternative because it’s a travel bag at heart. You can easily accommodate your photography gear as needed.

What I don’t like about the Synapse 25?

I find that if you put too many odd-shaped things inside of the main compartment, those weird-shaped items start poking at your back. You can easily fix this by making sure that your laptop (if you have one) is the thing closest to your back. You can have the laptop act as a spine for the backpack. Tom Bihn’s laptop cache is a good way to solve this problem.

As I’ve used my bag a lot, I’ve noticed that some of the side pockets have small gaps that feed into the larger compartment. This may have always been the case, but I didn’t notice it until I put a pen inside. This is really only an issue if I have a pen in the side compartment. The pen will often poke through and end up in the main compartment.

What I like about the Synapse 25

I like how versatile the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 is. It’s the perfect size. If it’s mostly empty, it doesn’t look silly because there is so much empty space. If it’s full, it still looks decent.

Okay, if it’s stuffed to an extreme level, it does look silly, but every bag will have that same problem if overstuffed and about to burst at the seams (yikes).

The durability and the material can’t be rivaled by any other brand. Tom Bihn does a great job of using high-quality materials that are also lightweight.

Some other durable bags that I’ve had over the years have ended up being super heavy when there is nothing inside. With the Synapse 25, I can pack it inside a larger bag, with plans of using it as a day bag, and it won’t add that much weight to my bigger bag or main backpack.