I spent a year traveling with the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack. I used it almost every day! I took it on airplanes, on hikes and on walks through cities in many different countries. When I was working as a digital nomad, and settled in a new location, I used the bag to bring my work stuff into a coworking space every day.
Nowadays, I’ve been using this backpack often for grocery shopping and for taking around the city when I have errands to run. When I shop for groceries, I like this bag because it doesn’t take up a big footprint when it’s empty. It expands a lot when I am filling it with common items. I like the front pouch inside of the main compartment for things like cans and jars (on grocery trips). I reserve the main compartment for more common items, like bread and fruit.
I’m going to go over some of my favorite features of the bag to help you determine if it’s the right backpack choice for you.
Durability, materials and quality
Tom Bihn uses the best materials. Take a look at their materials overview on their website to get a sense of what goes into each bag. Every detail, down to the stitch, has been vetted for quality, and they stand by it.
In fact, every Tom Bihn backpack is backed by the company’s lifetime guarantee. You can learn more about the lifetime guarantee below.
One of my favorite things about using my Tom Bihn Synapse backpack is the feeling of quality. I can stuff the bag full of groceries , and I know the straps and handles won’t break. One time, I got caught in the rain (the bag was soaked!) and it suffered no damage.
The organization inside the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 is great. The unique layout of this backpack 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 Synapse 25 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:
Inside the bag / how to pack it
Because I used this bag for travel, hiking and working remotely, these are some of the configurations I have used for those use cases.
Backpack configuration for working remotely as a digital nomad
When I would go to a cafe or a coworking space, I would bring most of these items with me. They all fit perfectly inside of the Synapse 25.
- 13” MacBook Pro
- YETI water bottle
- Noise-cancelling headphones
- Travel-sized laptop mouse
- Various charging cables
- Jaybird Earbuds
- Sony mirrorless camera
- Camera accessories (audio, cleaning, lenses, etc.)
Backpack configuration for day hikes
When I took the bag on hikes, it was common for me to pack things like:
- Food and snacks
- Change of clothes
- Water bottle
- Nebula Headlamp
- My phone, keys and wallet
- Sony mirrorless camera
Based on the different hikes that I would do, I would switch out some things in this configuration. Because I was traveling long term, I didn’t have too many things that I could choose from! I like to pack light because the weight of your bag matters when you’re out all day.
What size laptop can I fit inside the Tom Bihn Synapse 25?
I used this bag with my 13” MacBook Pro. Becca’s 13” Dell XPS also fits because it has a similar footprint. I also have a 16” MacBook Pro and it fits totally fine. If you had anything bigger, like a gaming laptop, I’d check directly with Tom Bihn if your model will fit.
I usually used a protective case with my laptop because I was keeping a lot of stuff inside the bag. I probably could have been a little more careful with how I packed my bag, but I’m glad that my laptop had some protection. One option that I would consider for the future is the laptop cache. It makes laptop storage way easier and adds more protection that you otherwise may not have bad before.
I also packed the bag so that the laptop was always against my back. This created a flat surface so that any odd objects wouldn’t cause discomfort. Because you may have a lot of random objects in the bag, that’s one more reminder to protect your laptop!
Does Tom Bihn offer a Lifetime Guarantee?
Yes! They’ll fix any defects with the bag’s construction. If you left your bag outside and a squirrel made a nest inside, they will fix it, but it will cost you a reasonable fee to bring it back to normal.
I actually found a hole in my bag around the bottom compartment. I didn’t intentionally puncture a hole in that pocket; however, it did happen to form after keeping my tripod in one of the bottom pockets. TB reached out and repaired the hole for free! The process was really quick and easy.
What types of additional organization can I use with the Tom Bihn Synapse 25?
Aside from the laptop cache that I mentioned above, Tom Bihn offers a ton of pouches for every use case.
You can use these to help organize your everyday life. Or, you can use these for travel to help keep small items organized. When I was using this backpack during a year of long-term remote work travel abroad, I used something similar to help organize spare cables and charging blocks.
How is the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 for one-bag travel?
It’s possible to use this bag for one-bag travel, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind.
The bag doesn’t open clamshell style. Because of that, you can’t always access things on the bottom of the bag. Organization, like packing cubes and organization pouches, will help.
The overall volume of this bag can work for one-bag travel. A small- to medium-sized packing cube, laptop, spare shoes (or maybe sandals) and a toiletries bag are all possible to fit in the bag.
Be mindful of how to pack, because the bag can easily become unbalanced or jab your back if you don’t allow for the packing cube or laptop to be against your back. Utilize the bottom and side pouches for any of your misshaped items. Shoes are a perfect thing to keep in the bottom pouch. I recall keeping a spare set of sandals in the side pockets!
If you need something bigger, take a look at the Synik 30.
Here are some points for why the Synik 30 is a good option for one-bag travel.
- Opens clamshell style
- Has internal compression straps. They are removable if you don’t want to use them.
- Two-point access suspended laptop compartment
- Beefier shoulder straps
- Fully integrated yet removable internal frame
- Rolling luggage handle pass-through. If you have a rolling suitcase, like the Away rolling suitcase, you can put the Synik on the handle.
- The grab handle has more padding
Tom Bihn Synapse 25 Synapse vs. 19
I personally haven’t seen the Synapse 19, but I often do want a smaller bag for day trips or more regular commutes.
I looked into it, and I am going to share some of the things that I found.
The Synapse 19 can’t fit a 15” laptop. This is okay for anyone who doesn’t anticipate putting a laptop in the bag. Or, if you only have something like an iPad or a 13” laptop, then there is nothing to worry about.
The Synapse 19 has a smaller volume, naturally. This is a good thing for day trips and hikes. You obviously won’t be able to fill as much stuff inside because of the relatively smaller inner volume total. There are six fewer liters of total capacity. This can equal something like a few shirts and a tech bag. If you’re like me, this could mean not bringing a few lenses and a spare jacket on your trip.
If you’re interested in other Tom Bihn products, try looking into another recommendation of mine, the Synapse 19.
Are Tom Bihn bags worth it?
Yes. I haven’t found a bag that uses better materials and celebrates its attention to detail and quality more than Tom Bihn.
These bags last! I know they might be a little expensive, compared to other bags, but you won’t need another bag after you get one of these. Especially if you’re doing a lot of travel, the last thing that you want is for a bag to break. Can you imagine going through a long day of travel with a broken bag? I couldn’t imagine it.
Tom Bihn does offer a guarantee on their bags. You can have peace of mind knowing that if there is an issue, you can sort it out and order a repair for your bag.
You can use Tom Bihn bags for uses other than travel, or commuting. I recently started using my Synapse 25 for groceries. If I went to the beach more frequently, I would consider some of the Tom Bihn totes for beach trips.
When I buy something, I do a lot of research. I want to make sure that for whatever I get, it will last a few years (if not longer), so that I don’t have to buy it again. I couldn’t tell you how many cheap headphones I’ve had throughout the years – cheap headphones are something that breaks and requires buying again; whereas with nice expensive headphones, you can expect them to last three to five years. With Tom Bihn bags, I know that I won’t need another one for a really long time. It’s a great feeling.
Where can I buy Tom Bihn?
You can buy Tom Bihn bags on the Tom Bihn website! They also have a lot of information about their quality, the build process, some videos and more.
Also, as a recent update, they sell masks! They donate masks to underserved communities, healthcare clinics, tribal nations, homeless shelters, social workers, essential workers, low-income communities and veteran’s health services. Wow!
Does Tom Bihn ever have sales?
I’ve never seen Tom Bihn having a sale. After a bit more research, I don’t think they have sales often, if at all. If you’re looking to get a used Tom Bihn bag, check Craigslist or eBay.
Interested in buying the Synapse 25?
I can wholeheartedly recommend the Synapse 25 for all my reasons mentioned above – it’s ideal for an everyday carry, as a bag to use in a long-term trip, as a bag for toting a laptop and as a bag for taking hiking or to a beach.
Because of the quality, guarantee and repair offerings from Tom Bihn, I’m confident in this bag as a long-term investment, which gives me a great deal of confidence in using it often and using it well.
To buy this great backpack online, go directly to the Tom Bihn website to get a head start on starting to use a Tom Bihn Synapse 25 on all your trips and more.
Last updated on January 8th, 2021