Bag FAQs

Synik 22/30 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Synik on some rolling luggage

Directory

General Questions

Questions about Use

Design Questions

The Company, Other Bags & Other Designs

General Questions

Why is it called the Synik? There’s also a “Nik’s Minimalist Wallet”. Does Nik have a really big head/ego/whatever?


Nik’s head is indeed large, but not unusually so: he wears a size large motorcycle helmet.

We came up with Synik as a play on words and a way to tease Nik about how everything he designs is going to have his name in its name (after Nik’s Minimalist Wallets). Unfortunately for Nik, the name stuck: it’s a name that acknowledged this is mostly still a Synapse — yet, it’s updated with various new features, mostly designed/patterned/made real by Nik, with feedback and collaboration with Tom.

Add to that the fact that we’re amateur philosophers here at TOM BIHN and found ourselves delighted at the opportunity to link to capital-C Cynicism, which offers us much to contemplate as a more complete definition of our modern use of the word cynicism. Stoicism is (once again) a much-discussed philosophy for good reason: it’s a more practical and fully-formed philosophy that any of us who fully engage in the life of home, work, and family can directly apply whereas Cynicism was more the path of the ascetic. Still, Cynicism preceded Stoicism and it is fascinating to study. (As a side note, Tom claims that while he finds the philosophies of Cynicism and Stoicism appealing, it was his fate to be born a existentialist.)

Follow us down this rabbit hole from Socrates to Hipparchia to Zeno to Marcus Aurelius….

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Why is the Synik more expensive than the original Synapse?


Mostly due to its internal frame being included and that the back panel and Edgeless shoulder straps take more time to construct.

In addition, it includes tie-down straps, a different grab handle, a built-in laptop compartment, additional foam around the bottom to protect the clamshell zippers, plus a couple more O-rings.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Can you share more about the fabric choices that the Synik is offered in?

Sure. There’s a wealth of information (and short video overviews) of each fabric in our Materials Glossary, so here we’ll mainly focus on the reasons why you might choose one fabric over another. Note: while some of our fabric options are more durable than others, we never choose fabrics that aren’t durable. The fabrics we choose are all — according to our internal tests, standards, and years of experience using them — probably more durable than most people will ever need.

525d ballistic/200d Halcyon
The gold standard fabric choice. 525d ballistic is durable, robust, holds its shape well — and yet isn’t as heavy as 1050d ballistic. 200d Halcyon lightens up the weight of the bag a little bit.

Weights for the Synik 22 and 30 in 525d ballistic/200d Halcyon are as follows:
Synik 22: 2 lb 9.6 oz / 1180 grams
Synik 30: 3 lb 0.1 oz / 1365 grams

See our Materials Glossary entries on 525d ballistic and 200d Halcyon.

525d ballistic/210d ballistic
The same as said above about the 525d applies. And in this version, it’s lined with 210d ballistic: more durable than Halcyon and an option for those of you who don’t like the look of the Halcyon yarns in the grid pattern of the 200d Halcyon.

Weights for the Synik 22 and 30 in 525d ballistic/210d ballistic are as follows:
Synik 22: 2 lb 10.0 oz / 1190 grams
Synik 30: 3 lb 0.7 oz / 1380 grams

See our Materials Glossary entries on 525d ballistic and 210d ballistic.

400d Halcyon/200d Halcyon
The lightest weight option (see weights below). Further, has a softer hand and an aesthetic experience of lightness. Is plenty durable but as the lightest weight option, is less durable in the long run than other fabric options. Won’t hold its shape as well as 525d.

Weights for the Synik 22 and 30 in 400d Halcyon/200d Halcyon are as follows:
Synik 22: 2 lb 7.9 oz / 1130 grams
Synik 30: 2 lb 13.7 oz / 1295 grams

See our Materials Glossary entries on 400d Halcyon and 200d Halcyon.

420d Parapack/420d Parapack
Quite a handsome fabric. Has the soft hand of 400d Halcyon, yet is more durable. Weighs about the same as 525d. Primarily for those who are fond of this classic fabric, appreciate its aesthetic, and prefer a fabric with a softer, more fluid hand.

Weights for the Synik 22 and 30 in 420d Parapack/420d Parapack are as follows:
Synik 22: 2 lb 10.2 oz / 1195 grams
Synik 30: 3 lb 1.0 oz / 1390 grams

See our Materials Glossary entry on 420d Parapack.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

How much does the Synik weigh vs. the Synapse?

Synapse 19: 2 lb 4.5 oz / 1035 grams
Synik 22: 2 lb 9.6 oz / 1180 grams

Synapse 25: 2 lb 13.7 oz / 1295 grams
Synik 30: 3 lb 0.1 oz / 1365 grams

Note: Weights are for the 525d Ballistic exterior/ 200d Halcyon lining versions of the bags; weights for the Synik 22 and 30 include the weight of the internal frame as well as the integrated laptop sleeve. The Synapse 19 weight includes the a 13C Cache (5.82 oz / 165 grams) and Internal Frame (6.9 oz / 195 grams). The Synapse 25 weight includes a 15B Cache (7.41 oz / 210 grams) and Internal Frame (9.6 oz / 272 grams)

[BACK TO THE TOP]

What sizes of laptops fit in the Synik 22 and Synik 30?

The laptop compartment of the Synik 22

Synik 22
Maximum device dimensions for both the external and internal laptop compartment access points:
12.35” x 8.65” x 0.75” / 314mm x 220mm x 19mm
Example devices: the 2015 13” MacBook Pro Retina or the 12.9” iPad Pro (with the keyboard case) will fit in the Synik 22 laptop compartment. NOTE: The older 13” MacBook Air is too tight of a fit in the Synik 22. The newer 13” MacBook Air will fit.

Synik 30
Maximum device dimensions for both the external and internal laptop compartment access points:
14.15” x 9.75” x 0.75” / 359mm x 248mm x 19mm
Example devices: the 2015 15” MacBook Pro Retina or the 2019 15” MacBook Pro Touchbar will fit in the Synik 30 laptop compartment.

Now, here’s where it gets a little interesting…
If you’re trying to fit a laptop that’s on the larger end of what’s recommended as fitting in the Synik 22, you may find that — depending on the shape and proportions of the device — one access point works better for your device. For example: taller and thinner large laptops may fit better through the internal laptop compartment access point, whereas more square laptops (like the Surface Book 2) may angle in better through the external laptop compartment access point.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

If I stuff my Synik completely full, or even overstuff it, will it be more difficult to use the built-in laptop compartment?

To a certain extent, yes. If your Synik is stuffed to its max with stuff, it will be more difficult to pull your laptop out. The laptop compartment works best with a reasonably packed, but not overstuffed, Synik.

The thing is — to prevent that from happening, the bag would need an effectively rigid laptop compartment that would require more bulk, weight, and build. It might even start to feel overbuilt and overly complex, and to us that just didn’t fit with the overall intent of the Synapse/Synik.

Don’t worry: you can certainly pack your Synik reasonably full and still use the laptop compartment. And even if you overstuff it, you can still use the laptop compartment — it just might take a bit more of a tug to pull your laptop out or push it in.

We counsel ourselves (and also you, here and now) to avoid overpacking our bag if we want the laptop compartment to work smoothly — and, as a side effect, we find it results in an overall better packing/use experience of various features of the bag. And the 3 extra liters of the 22 / 5 extra liters of the 30 helped us at least avoid overpacking our Syniks.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Hey! I want a padded hip belt for my Synik. Is there one?

Indeed there is — see our 1″ Padded Hip Belt. That’s the same Padded Hip Belt that works with the Synapse, so if you’ve already got one of those, no need to buy another.

And you probably already know this, but just in case you don’t: the Synik comes with a 1″ webbing hip belt.

Note that we lowered the waist/hip belt attachment points on the Synik so that the waist or hip belt will fit people of a variety of heights even better.

You may be asking, “Why isn’t the padded hip belt included?” Our answer is: Based on our experience and observation, not everyone wants to use a padded hip belt. So, we decided to make it optional.

More of our thoughts on padded hip belts:
A Brief History of Padded Hip Belts
How to best utilize a padded hip belt

[BACK TO THE TOP]

How does the Synik perform as a travel bag? Do both sizes fit under the seat on the airplane?

Both Syniks can fit under the seats of most airplanes
Synik 22 on the left, Synik 30 on the right.

It’s great. We’ve taken our Syniks on various air travel trips. Both sizes — the 22 and the 30 — fit well under the seats on an airplane in our experience flying with them. The 30, when fully stuffed, may not fit under seats with a more narrow opening. And it’s nice to be able to access the main compartment laptop pocket while the bag is still halfway under the airplane seat.

We also found both sizes maintained a low-enough profile that they could be used as daypacks around our destinations. The 22 is obviously lower profile than the 30, but a not-fully-packed 30 can look surprisingly low key.

Below: An early version of the Synik 30. Photo taken in April 2019.

Synik 30 under the seat on the airplane

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Which airline carry-on requirements do the Synik 22 and Synik 30 meet?

Basically, the Synik 22 fits the same requirements as the Synapse 19 and the Synik 30 fits the same requirements as the Synapse 25— as long as you pay mind to how much you’re stuffing the Synik because of its extra depth.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: one of the great things about soft backpacks and luggage — as opposed to hard-sided rolling luggage — is that soft bags can compress in a luggage sizer, overhead compartment, or under the seat of a plane. The Synik is no exception here.

Here’s the confusing part: that means that, even though one of our bags may have listed dimensions that exceed a specific airlines carry-on requirements, it’ll still likely fit in that airline’s bag sizer and thus work as a carry-on.

Below is a quick guide to help you figure out which airlines will accept the Synik 22 and 30. If you’re wondering about a specific or especially stringent airline, please emailus@tombihn.com

It’s really about the depth when it comes to figuring out which airlines requirements the Synik can play nice with. And when we’re talking about a “soft” bag — like the Synik, the Aeronaut, or any of our other bags as opposed to hard-sided rolling luggage — there’s a lot of room for flexibility depending on how much you pack and how much the bag can compress in a luggage sizer, overhead compartment, or under the seat of the plane (usually, it’s a surprising amount).

Synik 30

Works as:
US Main Item
US Personal Item (slightly underpacked)
European Main Item (slightly underpacked)

Remember, it’s about the depth when it comes to figuring out within which airlines requirements the Synik 30 can work. And also remember: because the Synik 30 is a soft pack and not a hard-sided roller, it will compress in the luggage sizer.

The listed depth of the Synik 30 is 10.8” — that’s a fully packed, maxed out (with non-compressing packing material) Synik 30 being measured in such a way that the bag isn’t compressed at all by external forces.

A fully packed Synik 30 with typical items (clothes, toiletries, smaller items in the front pockets, etc.) measures about 8-9” in depth when slightly compressed by our measuring calipers.

A moderately packed Synik 30 measures about 7-8” in depth when slightly compressed by our measuring calipers.

The hard and fast, black and white answer? The Synik 30 is a bag that gives you a fair amount of flexibility when it comes to packing and meeting airline requirements. If you need to carry a ton of stuff and you don’t need to worry about those requirements, go for it. If you’re going to be flying on with international airline that has more strict sizing requirements, don’t overly pack your bag.

Synik 22

Overall, the Synik 22 is a smaller pack; you’re going to be able to take it on more airlines as a personal item.

Unless grossly overstuffed to an extent we haven’t seen, works as:
US Personal Item
European Personal Item

(Of course, it will also qualify as a US/European Main Item as well.)

The listed depth of the Synik 22 is 9.4” — that’s a fully packed, maxed out (with non-compressing packing material) Synik 22 being measured in such a way that the bag isn’t compressed at all by external forces.

A fully packed Synik 22 with typical items (clothes, toiletries, smaller items in the front pockets, etc.) measures about 7-8” in depth when slightly compressed by our measuring calipers.

A moderately packed Synik 22 measures about 6-7” in depth when slightly compressed by our measuring calipers.

Perhaps worth noting: in our experience, gate agents will not likely be examining all bags, but will rather be on the lookout for items that grossly exceed the dimensions, are hard-sided, or gigantic and crazy overstuffed. Like all the rest of us humans, gate agents probably don’t have super-human abilities to, within their vision, overlay a square of set dimensions as they look at your bag— and thus aren’t going to be paying attention to or really even caring about a 1/2” difference in a bag that can squish down.

Oh yeah: here’s two photos of the Synik 30 in our in-house sizers.

Synik 30 U.S. maximum carry-on

Synik 30 in a personal sizer

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Which Packing Cubes and other organizational or travel accessories fit best in the Syniks?

There’s a lot of options! Before we get to that, we wanted to point out that our intention is that all of our bags have the “just right” amount of built-in organization — not too much (so you’re like, what the heck do I put in this tiny pocket?) and not too little (so you feel like you’re basically forced to buy optional accessories). We think we’ve achieved this “just right” amount of organization for the majority of people, but YMMV.

And for those who do want more organization, we wanted to create a thoughtful system for including that organization (hey O-rings!) and give you a lot of options for different shapes, sizes, and styles of pouches, packing cubes, organizational inserts, and other items.

So, that’s where we are coming from. Now, here’s a list of the optional organizational items that we think work well in each size of Synik (22 is below, click here to jump to the Synik 30) —
 

Synik 22

The Synik backpack already has great built-in organization; these accessories are optional

Packing Cubes
Large Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube
Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Backpack
(note: you can fit two of the above Aeronaut 30 Cubes in the main compartment of the Synik 22)
and/or
Packing Cube Shoulder Bag

Organizer Pouches
Exterior water bottle pocket can fit: Pen/Pencil Organizer Pouch (1050 Ballistic or Clear) or Small Ghost Whale Pouch
Exterior small pocket in front of the water bottle pocket can fit: Mini Ghost Whale Pouch
Either the exterior left or right side pockets can fit: Mini or Small Ghost Whale Pouch
Exterior bottom pocket can fit: Medium Organizer Pouch (1050 Ballistic, 200 Halcyon, Cordura/Parapack, Mesh, or Clear) or A5 Ghost Whale Pouch
In the main compartment clipped to O-rings above the open-top pocket: Medium or Large Organizer Pouch (1050 Ballistic, 200 Halcyon, Cordura/Parapack, or Clear)

Organizer Cubes
Small Snake Charmer (external front bottom pocket)
3D Fabric/Mesh or 3D Clear Organizer Cube (external front bottom pocket or water bottle pocket)
Standard Spiff Kit (external front bottom pocket)
Deluxe Spiff Kit (interior open-top pocket)

Stuff Sacks
Various combinations of Size 1, 2, 3, and 4 Travel Stuff Sacks and the Aeronaut 30 Travel Laundry Stuff Sack work great on their own or in conjunction with Packing Cubes.

Inserts
Synapse 19/Synik 22 Freudian Slip

Other items…
1” Padded Hip Belt
You can replace the included webbing waist belt on the Synik with this optional 1” Padded Hip Belt.

Simple Rolling Luggage Lash Strap
If your rolling luggage has a very thick or wide handle — more than 6.25″ / 160mm — it may not fit through the luggage handle pass-through on the back of the Synik 22. If that’s the case and you would still like to secure your Synik to your rolling luggage, you have two options. The first is free and included with your Synik: remove the webbing waist belt from your Synik, connect the Gatekeeper clips together, and use what has effectively become a long lash strap to secure the bag around its middle to the two-pole rolling luggage handle, then cinch the strap down. This is a surprisingly simple hack that works well.

If you’d rather not repurpose your webbing waist belt, you can buy our Simple Rolling Luggage Lash Strap.

Side Effect or Side Kick
Can be used as an in-flight amenities bag (see hack here) and, at one’s destination, a minimal shoulder, sling or waist pack for running, walking, sightseeing. Side Effect fits nicely in the bottom front pocket of the Synik 30; Side Kick fits in the open-top pocket in the main compartment.

Large Original Shop Bag or Small Zip-Top Shop Bag
Folded or rolled up and stowed in the open top pocket in the main compartment. Zip-Top version can be used as a personal carry-on tote on the plane. Great for taking to destination farmer’s markets (we basically eat at the farmer’s market when we go to Hawaii) or deploying on the trip home to carry any gifts or stuff you ended up having to buy on the trip (extra swimwear, shoes, a sweater, etc.)

Cache
If you need to carry two laptops or devices, one can fit in the built-in laptop compartment and the other could fit in a Cache that’s stowed in the main compartment. You can secure the Cache to the set of rail loops above the open-top pocket in the main compartment, or even use the included tie-down straps to secure the Cache against the front of the laptop compartment. The Synik 22 will fit up to the Size 13 A/B/C/D/E Cache.

Nik’s Minimalist Wallet
For the record: Kat suggested we add this one to the list, not Nik. It’s a great wallet and its minimalist vibe definitely works with the Synik.

Clear Quarter Packing Cube
A two-compartment packing cube with clear urethane on both sides.

Remember: one doesn’t inherently need any additional accessories to make the Synik work. If you’re traveling by air, grab a zip-lock baggie for your toiletries and you’re good to go. That said, many of us do want to add additional organization to our bags. Here’s an idea of how a combination of the above options could work:

Synik 22 Minimalist Additional Organization:
Side Effect in bottom pocket
Aeronaut 30 Large Packing Cube in MC

Synik 22 Maximus Additional Organization:
Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Backpack in MC
Aeronaut 30 Large Packing Cube in MC
Aeronaut 30 Laundry Travel Stuff Sack OR Small Snake Charmer in bottom pocket
Size 2 Stuff Sack in one Side Pocket, Small and Mini Ghost Whale Pouch in other side pocket
Nik’s Minimalist Wallet in small front pocket

 
Synik 30

That's a Travel Laundry Stuff Sack and a 3D Clear Organizer Cube in that Synik 30

Packing Cubes
Western Flyer/Tri-Star Packing Cube Backpack
Western Flyer or Tri-Star Large Packing Cube
(note: you can fit two of any of the above Packing Cubes in the main compartment of the Synik 30)
or
1 Aeronaut 45 Packing Cube Backpack OR Aeronaut 45 Large Packing Cube + 1 Aeronaut 30 Large Packing Cube
and/or
Packing Cube Shoulder Bag

Organizer Pouches
Exterior water bottle pocket can fit: Pen/Pencil Organizer Pouch (1050 Ballistic or Clear) or Small Ghost Whale Pouch
Exterior small pocket in front of the water bottle pocket can fit: Mini Ghost Whale Pouch
Either the exterior left or right side pockets can fit: Mini or Small Ghost Whale Pouch
Exterior bottom pocket can fit: Medium Organizer Pouch (1050 Ballistic, 200 Halcyon, Cordura/Parapack, Mesh, or Clear) or A5 Ghost Whale Pouch
In the main compartment clipped to O-rings above the open-top pocket: Medium or Large Organizer Pouch (1050 Ballistic, 200 Halcyon, Cordura/Parapack, or Clear)

Organizer Cubes
(1) Large OR (2) Small Snake Charmer (external front bottom pocket)
Standard Spiff Kit (external front bottom pocket)
Deluxe Spiff Kit (interior open-top pocket)
3D Fabric/Mesh or 3D Clear Organizer Cube (external front bottom pocket or water bottle pocket)

Stuff Sacks
Various combinations of Size 1, 2, 3, and 4 Travel Stuff Sacks and the Aeronaut 45 Travel Laundry Stuff Sack work great on their own or in conjunction with Packing Cubes.

Inserts
Synapse 25/Synik 30 Freudian Slip

Other items…
1” Padded Hip Belt
You can replace the included webbing waist belt on the Synik with this optional 1” Padded Hip Belt.

Simple Rolling Luggage Strap
If your rolling luggage has a very thick or wide handle — more than 7.25″ / 185mm in width — it may not fit through the luggage handle pass-through on the back of the Synik 30. If that’s the case and you would still like to secure your Synik to your rolling luggage, you have two options. The first is free and included with your Synik: remove the webbing waist belt from your Synik, connect the Gatekeeper clips together, and use what has effectively become a long lash strap to secure the bag around its middle to the two-pole rolling luggage handle, then cinch the strap down. This is a surprisingly simple hack that works well.

If you’d rather not repurpose your webbing waist belt, you can buy our Simple Rolling Luggage Strap.

More info (photos, video) on these two options can be found in this blog post.

Side Effect or Side Kick
Can be used as an in-flight amenities bag (see hack here) and, at one’s destination, a minimal shoulder, sling or waist pack for running, walking, sightseeing. Side Effect fits nicely in the bottom front pocket of the Synik 30; Side Kick fits in the open-top pocket in the main compartment.

Large Original Shop Bag or Small/Large Zip-Top Shop Bag
Folded or rolled up and stowed in the open top pocket in the main compartment. Zip-Top version can be used as a personal carry-on tote on the plane. Great for taking to destination farmer’s markets (we basically eat at the farmer’s market when we go to Hawaii) or deploying on the trip home to carry any gifts or stuff you ended up having to buy on the trip (extra swimwear, shoes, a sweater, etc.)

Cache
If you need to carry two laptops or devices, one can fit in the built-in laptop compartment and the other could fit in a Cache that’s stowed in the main compartment. You can secure the Cache to the set of rail loops above the open-top pocket in the main compartment, or even use the included tie-down straps to secure the Cache against the front of the laptop compartment. The Synik 30 will fit up to the Size 15 A/B/C/D Cache.

Nik’s Minimalist Wallet
For the record: Kat suggested we add this one to the list, not Nik. It’s a great wallet and its minimalist vibe definitely works with the Synik.

Clear Quarter Packing Cube
A two-compartment packing cube with clear urethane on both sides.

Remember: one doesn’t inherently need any additional accessories to make the Synik work. If you’re traveling by air, grab a zip-lock baggie for your toiletries and you’re good to go. That said, many of us do want to add additional organization to our bags. Here’s an idea of how a combination of the above options could work:

Synik 30 Minimalist Additional Organization:
Large Snake Charmer in external bottom pocket
Western Flyer Large Packing Cube in main compartment

Synik 30 Maximus Additional Organization:
Western Flyer Packing Cube Backpack in main compartment
Aeronaut 45 Large Packing Cube in main compartment
Clear Quarter Packing Cube in main compartment
Deluxe Spiff Kit in main compartment
Large Snake Charmer in external bottom pocket
Size 3 Stuff Sack in left side pocket; 3D Organizer in right side pocket
Nik’s Minimalist Wallet in external small front pocket

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Will the Synik 30 look/feel too big to carry as my EDC bag at my work conference?

Synik 30 about half-packed

Ah, looks like we kinda answered that one above. It of course depends on your perception of what looking or feeling “too big” is, but we’d be fine carrying our Synik 30s around a work conference or trade show. We’d unpack the bag a bit and leave some of our clothes and stuff in the hotel room.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Is the Synik designed to be used as an every day carry backpack?


You bet! One of the great things about the Synik (and the original Synapse) is that it’s a design that performs well for every day, travel, and hiking — without (in our estimation) sacrificing functionality in one application for another.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Does the Synik work as a day-hiking pack?


Sure. We actually carried the Synik on many day hikes (long and short, ranging from 2 miles to 12 miles) to test out the Edgeless shoulder straps and its waist belt/optional padded hip belt attachment points (we eventually lowered them).

We generally prefer using packs without a full clamshell opening for hiking because it’s not unusual for us to find ourselves stopped on a narrow part of a trail to open our packs — and we don’t want all of our stuff falling out of a clamshell opening.

That said, because the Synik has Aquaguard zippers, its clamshell won’t, in our experience, fully open by itself — so, we can unzip its main compartment half way and it’ll stay that way.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Questions about Use

Does the updated back panel of the Synik reduce heat/moisture?


We added a few stitched channels for air movement to the back panel of the Synik. The perception of how much of a material impact this has varies; some feel like it makes a difference while others don’t. It may totally be one of those placebo type things, so we’ll say this: Our revolutionary Air Propel Moisture Destroyer™ air channels significantly reduce heat against your back using the technology of science related concepts.

Seriously — to test our own perceptions (which are that the Spacer Mesh is less hot/more comfortable than simply a fabric back panel), Tom’s longtime friend Robert (sculptor, helicopter pilot, product designer, big wall climber, machinist, and bag fabric test deviser) came up with a device that’d allow us to scientifically evaluate the effectiveness of Spacer Mesh. Tom and Robert modified a Synapse and equipped it with Robert’s mobile heat sensors and data recording device, which we named The Swarner 5000 Datalogger. The Synapse had a back panel split down the center vertically: one half was spacer mesh and the other half was 1050 Ballistic (both sides were padded with closed-cell foam).

The results? The Spacer Mesh would start off early in the hike about one degree Celsius warmer than the ballistic. Once we started sweating though (which we seemed to do with or without the mesh), the wicking action of the mesh kicked in and it started cooling us. So, for the remainder of our hikes, our backs were ~2 degrees Celsius cooler on the spacer mesh side. And we found, as we always had, that our shirts were less damp on the Spacer Mesh side because it wicked the moisture away. Not a hugely measurable difference, but one that seems to make a difference to us in field use.

You may be asking — what about packs designed for outdoor use that add some structured material to the back panel that actually keeps the back panel of the pack away from your back? We don’t plan to add structure like that to our bags mostly because it adds bulk that would make it more difficult to stow a pack under the seat or in the overhead compartment of a plane. It can also increase the side profile of a bag and overall can make it feel like there’s a lot more going on than some folks might want.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Does the Synik stand up on its own?


We’d say no, but YMMV; if your Synik has its internal frame, and you pack it right — so that there’s more weight in the main compartment against the back of the bag as opposed to more weight in the front of the bag — it may stand up on its own. The padded bottom of the Synik helps a little bit with this, but not a whole lot.

To make the Synapse or Synik really stand up on its own, we’d have to make the bottom of the bag flat and rigid and quite square-ish; we don’t think it would look or feel like a Synapse/Synik anymore if we did that.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Will the Synik rolling luggage handle pass-through fit / work with all sizes of rolling luggage handles?

The Synik 22 on rolling luggage, utilizing its integrated pass-through for luggage handles

Rolling luggage comes in various sizes, and the handles extend to various lengths and are of various widths, thicknesses, and contours.

The Synik 22 can fit rolling luggage handles through its pass-through slot that are up to about 6.25″ / 160mm in width; the handle needs to be at least 16-1/2” / 419mm tall.

The Synik 30 can fit rolling luggage handles through its pass-through slot that are up to about 7.25″ / 185mm in width; the handle needs to be at least 20” / 510mm tall.

What’s really great about the Synik rolling luggage handle pass-through is that, when using it, your bag is really *on* your rolling luggage: it won’t go spinning around the handle and/or falling off (as we’ve seen happen when people use packs with an elastic band sewn into the back panel that fits over the rolling luggage handle.) But that also means that not *all* luggage handles will fit through the Synik’s pass-through.

Note: you want to insert the handle of your rolling luggage so that the internal frame is in front of the handle/the frame is basically between the handle and the laptop compartment of the Synik.

So, what’s the solution then if you have rolling luggage with a very thick, wide handle that can’t fit through the Synik’s pass-through? There’s two we can offer:

  1. This is admittedly a bit of a hack, but you’ve got what you need for it and it’s free. Okay, here goes:
    1. Remove the Gatekeeper Webbing Waist Belt that’s included with the Synik.
    2. Connect the two Gatekeeper clips together: now you’ve got a long strap with a buckle closure.
    3. Use that strap and wrap it around the middle of your Synik as it’s on top of the rolling luggage with its back against the handle of the luggage
    4. Clip the buckle around the rolling luggage pole and cinch the strap down.
  2. Video demo of the two methods:

  3. We made a purposeful version of this same strap: the Simple Rolling Luggage Lash Strap. You might want to buy this strap if you’d rather not remove the webbing waist belt or want a more elegant/less hack solution.

What we like about this strap-around-the-bag solution:

  • It’s simple and easy to use. And let us be clear: this is not some smart or revolutionary invention. It’s a pretty obvious, low-tech solution. If and until we invent something more clever, this is it. It’s possible that you’ve already discovered this solution on your own, and if that’s the case, kudos.
  • In our experience, the bag — Synik, Pop Tote, Tri-Star, Synapse, Guide’s Pack, whatever pack we offer, or even possibly a pack from a different brand — is effectively secured to the rolling luggage in such a way that it won’t spin around or slide off. It feels stable.
  • It feels more stable than a webbing or elastic band sewn to the back of the bag because it’s holding the center of gravity of your bag and all of its stuff against the rolling luggage handle. This is also the reason that it works better than using the sternum strap and waist strap on one of our backpacks to secure the bag to the rolling luggage.
  • It’s a solution that’s not built-in to the bag: you can use it when you need to use it, remove it and stow it in one of the pockets in your bag when not in use, or leave it at home when you don’t need it at all.
  • It was already included free with any backpack you’ve bought from us in recent years, even before we came up with the idea. How cool is that?

Note: these solutions work with two-pole handle rolling luggage; they won’t work that well with the less typical one-pole handle rolling luggage.

We asked members of our Forums to help us test these methods; here’s the feedback they shared. If you use either strap method, we want to hear how it works for you: feedback@tombihn.com

[BACK TO THE TOP]

How do I remove or insert the Synik internal frame?


There is a particular method to removing the Synik internal frame that makes it a whole lot easier. Please see this video:

Text instructions:

  1. Place the Synik on your lap, face down.
  2. With one hand, reach in through the top opening and curve the top wings of the frame with that hand.
  3. With your other hand, reach in through the bottom opening and curve the bottom wings of the frame with that hand.
  4. Now, pull the internal frame out through the top opening — using the hand that’s curving the top wings to help pull and using the bottom hand that’s curving the bottom wings to push.

Make sure that you remove the internal frame from the top opening of the bag and not through the bottom. This is much easier, we promise.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

How do I adjust the curve of the aluminum stay in the internal frame?


When designing the Synik internal frame, we polled people and asked for feedback to determine how many people actually remove the internal frame to adjust the aluminum stay. The answer? Very, very few people did this. Because of that, we’ve worked to ensure the 1/2” aluminum stay is pre-bent at a curve that will be comfortable to the vast majority of people.

If you’d like to try adjusting the curve of your aluminum stay, follow the instructions starting at 00:50 in this video we made about the Guide’s Pack frame. (Starts at 00:50 because that’s where advice about adjusting the lower portion of the aluminum stay begins; the half-stay in the Synik is basically just the lower portion of a full stay.)

Notes:
Don’t try to remove the actual aluminum stay from your Synik frame. There’s no reason to do this and it will be difficult to do so.

As highlighted in the video, you will probably find it easier to adjust the curve of the stay while the frame remains in the Synik.

Goes without saying, but just to be sure: make sure your laptop isn’t in your bag when you try bending it over your knee!

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Can the Synik be worn high/low/inbetween and adjusted in general?


Yes! As with most backpacks, you can adjust the shoulder straps of the Synik so that the bag is worn/carried high, low, or anywhere in-between. We try to feature photos of a variety of different sized people wearing their bags in different ways. Here’s a photo of the Synik 22 being worn higher on the body:

A Synik 22 worn higher on the back

There’s no universal right or wrong about how to wear a pack: it’s about what feels best to you. Below is some information that may help you as you experiment with wearing your pack in different ways.

Some folks like to wear their packs high as one might wear an external or internal frame hiking pack; this follows the wisdom of carrying big external frame backpacking packs, and is a variation on keeping weight close to your center of gravity. With a large (read: tall) external frame pack, packing the weight high allows you, by leaning only a small amount forward, to have that weight more or less over your center of gravity. This is helpful if you have a heavy pack and walk on level, well groomed trails. However, it’s worth noting that, in our experience, that high weight can become unwieldy/throw one off balance when bouldering or cross-country hiking.

Some prefer to wear their packs in a more casual, lower way — this is a useful way to wear your pack if you might be carrying it on one shoulder some of the time. It also just feels better to some people; for other people, this can be much less comfortable, especially when carrying a heavier load.

And, of course, there’s everyone in-between: many of us don’t wear our packs high or very low, but somewhere in-between.

With any pack, it can be helpful to make micro-adjustments to your pack straps (as well as sternum and waist or hip straps, if using those) during the day as you walk; just think of how many times we shift and move our bodies in a day and how our somatic experience can shift based on how many miles we’ve walked, how many hours we’ve sat in a chair, or how much we had for lunch! Our 7:00pm body may feel different than our 7:00am body.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Can I fit two laptops or a laptop and a large tablet in the Synik?


You bet. You could put one laptop or the tablet in the laptop compartment and the other laptop or tablet in a Cache or your own protective sleeve/case elsewhere in the main compartment — perhaps in the open-top pocket across from the laptop compartment.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

My 17” laptop can fit in the Synapse 25, but it won’t fit in the Synik 30? Huh? Explain!

Basically, the openings of the two (external and internal) access points to the built-in laptop compartment of the Synik — are smaller openings than the opening of the main compartment itself.

That is why you’re able to fit a larger laptop in the main compartment itself. And that is an option for those of you who have laptops too big to fit in the built-in laptop compartment: while it feels less than ideal not to use the built-in laptop compartment feature, one of the great things about that compartment is how low-profile and non-bulky it is. If you put your larger laptop (in a Cache, or a protective sleeve you already have) in front of that compartment, it’ll kinda just disappear into the background.

Note: we do not recommend putting a laptop in the Synik 22 or Synik 30 that is so large that the corners of the laptop push against the main compartment zipper. That could cause that zipper to prematurely fail and would necessitate a bag in the prime of its life getting an otherwise avoidable repair.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Can I still use a Cache and the Cache Rails System if I would like to?


You can! There’s still one set of rail loops in the Synik: they’re directly opposite the laptop compartment. And, of course, you can fit a Cache (or even two) in the main compartment of the Synik without attaching it to the rail loops.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Design Questions

Why did it take you so long to make a pack with a clamshell zipper and a laptop compartment?


A few reasons:

  • We wanted to be thoughtful in how we applied those two oft-requested features.
  • For a while, there were other designs we were already working on.
  • Tom and Darcy weren’t originally sold on the clamshell zipper; Nik made himself a pack with one, liked it, and convinced both Tom and Darcy that his version overcame some of our concerns with clamshell openings and was worth offering.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Can you tell me more about the new shoulder straps?

Our new Edgeless Shoulder Straps have debuted on the Synik

Sure. Tom and Nik have been designing — and a lot of us have been testing — these new shoulder straps for over a year. And if you consider that the straps are very similar to those of the Luminary, the development time line stretches all the way back to 2015.

We spent a lot of time testing, refining, testing, and refining these straps. We tested these straps on air travel trips, on hikes, and to work and back; we shared bags with the test straps with friends, family, and trusted testers/customers for feedback. We tested the individual materials in various ways — such as creating a sling out of the soft knit material on the underside/edges of the strap and using that sling to hang a 5lb steel block to test the ability of that material to regain its shape even under that kind of pressure (the results were good!)

Part of the reason we got so intense about the testing/evaluation phase of the design of these new straps is that our existing shoulder straps are mostly well-liked by all. There’s the adage of “Why mess with a good thing?” and that was forefront in our minds as we worked on these new straps. Yet so many people loved the straps of the Luminary — and we knew we could make a version of that strap suitable to larger bags such as the Synapse — that we just had to try.

It’s worth addressing the fact that no design of shoulder strap is going to work for every person and every body. We all come in different shapes and sizes and with different preferences, too. Our goal is to design a strap that will be comfortable and carry the load well for a lot of people — most people.

As always, we want to know about your experience with the Edgeless straps, our existing straps, the Luminary straps — basically anything you can share. Post it in our Forums or send a note to feedback@tombihn.com.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

What’s with the new grab handle? Will it come to the Synapse 19 or 25?

Synik has a new grab handle

To really make the clamshell design work with the Synik, we needed to add width to the bag. That width gave us the real estate needed to add a more substantial grab handle to the top of the bag.

The Synapse 19 and 25 have thick, comfortable, high quality webbing handles: the webbing is durable yet feels great in hand. And because the width/real estate isn’t there with the original Synapse 19 and 25, they won’t be getting the same grab handle as the Synik.

As for the handle itself, it’s the same handle that can be found on the side of the Tri-Star. We think it provides a little more comfort and padding without being obtrusive or sticking out too much.

And that leads into our general thinking on backpack grab handles: because a backpack is meant to be worn on one’s back, we choose to avoid adding what could be a big, bulky, heavy, intense grab handle on the top of a pack when it’s mostly going to be used to pick up and carry the pack from one room to another or similar.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Why did you add a way for a backpack to be carried on the handle of rolling luggage?


It’s a feature a lot of folks asked for. Some want to carry a backpack as their personal item, but need to carry rolling luggage for camera equipment or professional/formal wear or other items/reasons. This way the Synik can hitch a ride on that rolling luggage through the airport part of the journey.

You may be also asking: why did it take you so long to add a way for one of your backpacks to slip over the handle of rolling luggage? The answer is: we wanted to come up with a solution that both worked well and didn’t add extra weight or bulk to the bag. It took us a little while but we think we’ve found that solution. As always, you tell us what you think!

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Did you consider adding load lifters to the Synik?


Not really. Here’s why:

Just to make sure we’re talking about the same thing: load lifter straps are adjustable, diagonal straps which begin roughly midway on the length of the padded shoulder straps and connect more-or-less at the top of an internal or external frame. They are somewhat ubiquitous on large internal frame and external frame packs; their application or utility on smaller packs is, in our opinion, of dubious merit.

From a guide to backpacks:
“Load Lifters – Part of the shoulder strap and is used to lift the pack’s weight off the shoulders.”

There’s something akin to a “sky hook” in this concept of how load lifter straps function: how, exactly, does the load get “lifted”? Where’s that weight going? Who, if not the wearer, is lifting this weight? Who, if not the doer, is performing the action? Does free will exist? We digress.

With a large capacity external or internal frame pack, there can be some advantage gained by cinching the top of the load closer in, towards the user’s shoulders, and thus closer to your center of gravity, and some folks swear by load lifters on the big packs they carry.

With an entirely frameless pack, there’s nothing rigid for the top end of the “load lifter” to pull against, and when you tighten these straps you end up simply distorting the soft, unstructured top portion of the pack, distending it over your shoulders to no avail. That applies to packs like the Synik as well, where the internal frame ends roughly where the padded shoulder straps attach and does not continue any higher up (as a frame/frame sheet typically would in a larger pack intended primarily for extended backcountry use).

The Synik (along with our other backpacks) has a short internal frame because it’s a fairly small daypack: if we added “load lifter” straps to the Synik, they wouldn’t really help “lift” any weight – they’d just distort the soft top of the pack and would do little or nothing to keep the pack’s weight closer to your center of gravity. On the other hand, if we made the Synik’s frame longer (taller), extending it higher than the top of the shoulder strap attachment point, it would, in our opinion, start it down a path of becoming a backpacking pack, rather than the travel, EDC, and day-hiking pack we intended it to be.

Sure, we could add load lifters because people ask for them, even though we think they wouldn’t offer much functionality. I mean, we guess we could. We don’t want to do that though.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Did you think of adding lash/external attachment points to the Synik?


We did, and we actually made a Synik front panel with external strap attachment points. Here’s the long story of why it didn’t work out…

If you’ll recall, the Guide’s Pack and the Guide’s Edition Synapse have fully functional synthetic felt (performs better than leather) diamond-shape accessory strap holders which are basically external strap attachment points. Accessory strap holders and corresponding webbing loops and lash straps existed so you could strap an ice axe, optional additional pockets, part of a tent, jacket, or hiking poles to the outside of your bag. You’ll see these diamond-shape accessory strap holders on various modern bags that have adopted the aesthetic of mountaineering packs from the 60’s/70’s/80’s though most of the accessory strap holders on these modern packs are there for aesthetic reasons.

Our synthetic felt is only available to us in Coyote brown at this time; this, we think, aesthetically makes sense for a Guide’s Edition Synik, but not the original Synik.

In our attempt to add external lash points to the Synik, we added webbing between the top external pocket seams — basically, where the label is on the Synapse (we moved it to the lower right bottom corner of the Synik). While this was functional, it just didn’t look right to us. Ultimately, we decided to keep the front of the Synik as clean and minimal as possible while still retaining the external organizational pockets that make it the bag people love.

If external lash points are important to you, we recommend waiting for a Guide’s Edition Synik. Sign up here if you’re interested; it won’t be available until early 2020.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

How does the internal frame of the Synik differ from that of the Synapse?


Just like the Synapse internal frame, the Synik internal frame is made of die-cut .055” thick High Density Polyethylene (HDPE), with a nylon webbing sleeve sewn down the center that encases an aluminum stay.

Here’s where things get different with the Synik frame:

It has a 8-1/4″ / 210mm tall and 1/2” / 13mm wide 6061 aluminum stay. Most of our bags have featured a 1” wide aluminum stay; we made a frame with a 1/2” stay to see if it added the same stability but with 1/2 the weight savings. And guess what: it did.

Additionally, the Synik removable internal frame slides in and out of the back panel through an opening at the top of the panel; you won’t see the frame itself unless you’re adding it or removing it.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

The Synik 22 has a #10 YKK zipper on its main compartment; the Synapse 19 has a #8. Why?

Burly #10 YKK Zippers on the main compartment of both the Synik 22 and Synik 30

Given that the main compartment of the Synik is a clamshell opening, we wanted to ensure longevity of that zipper in two ways: to make it the beefier #10 and to add padding to the bottom of the bag so that the bottom half of the zipper chain wouldn’t be dragged around on the ground.

Sure, if you use your bag every day for years, you might need to send your bag back to us for a repair someday long down the road, but we didn’t want to hasten that event.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Why does the laptop compartment open on the left when the Luminary’s laptop or tablet compartment opens on the right?

Arguably, it’s an arbitrary thing, akin to driving on the left in the UK vs. the right in the US.

Tom and Nik discussed left vs. right side access to the device pocket and could see it from each other’s perspective. In the end, they decided that the Synik’s zippered access to the device compartment would be on the opposite side than that of the Luminary, and you’d end up telling us which you prefer.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

The Synik laptop compartment has two access points: one interior, one exterior. How come?


We included two different access points for the laptop compartment because while we thought some people would prefer the main compartment access, we figured others might prefer the exterior side access. There are also various situations where one might be more handy than the other, such as:

  • When you’re on an airplane and the Synik is stowed under the seat in front of you, it’s easiest to access your laptop from the main compartment.
  • If you’re at work, or on transit, or at a cafe, you might put the bag on your lap sideways and access the laptop from the exterior access.

Additionally, if you’re trying to fit a laptop that’s on the larger end of what’s recommended as fitting in the Synik 22, you may find that — depending on the shape and proportions of the device — one access point works better for your device. For example: taller and thinner large laptops may fit better through the internal laptop compartment access point, whereas more square and thick laptops may angle in better through the external laptop compartment access point.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Why couldn’t you make the laptop compartment bigger so it fit even larger laptops?


We made it as large as possible without making the bag itself bigger.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

What happens if I leave the external access laptop compartment zipper open and then put my laptop into the internal/main compartment access to the laptop compartment?

Your laptop might fall out of the external access laptop compartment zipper if you do that, so definitely don’t do it!

Most people probably wouldn’t ever do this, but we wanted to point it out just in case.

Questions about Other Bags/Designs and TOM BIHN

Do you plan to update the original Synapse 19 / 25 with the features added to the Synik?


The only features we would consider adding to the original Synapse 19 and 25 would be:

The new back panel — includes the integration for the removable internal frame and the luggage handle pass-through, but not the laptop compartment.

The Edgeless shoulder straps.

Whether we make these changes remains to be seen. They will add *some* additional cost to the original Synapse and we’re not sure yet if you guys will want us to add these features or keep the original true to its original nature.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Will the Synapses be retired to make room for the Synik?

No way. Some people will prefer the Synik, others will prefer the original Synapse. There’s room for both designs.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Do you ever have sales or coupons?


We don’t. As a small design house and manufacturer — our offices, shipping, customer service as well as our manufacturing facility all share the same 16,000 square feet in Seattle* — it just doesn’t fit with our business model to offer discounts or coupons.

*Speaking of: feel free to come visit us. We have a small Factory Showroom and our production floor is front-and-center — you can see bags being made! 4750A Ohio Ave S, Seattle, 98134 and we’re here 6:30am until 3:00pm Monday – Friday.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Will the new grab handle come to the Synapse 19 or 25?

The Synapse 19 and 25 have thick, comfortable, high quality webbing handles: the webbing is durable yet feels great in hand. And because the width/real estate isn’t there with the original Synapse 19 and 25, they won’t be getting the same grab handle as the Synik.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Will all of your backpacks get the new shoulder straps?


We don’t know quite yet. The new straps are awesome, but our current straps as used on all our other backpacks are great too (or so we think, and so we hear from you.) And because the current straps are also well-appreciated, we don’t feel rushed to make this change. We’ll wait for more user feedback to roll in.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Are you going to make Synik-specific packing cubes and accessories?

We originally planned to design and offer Synik-specific Packing Cubes and other accessories. We decided not to devote time to those designs for the time being because:

  • We wanted to focus entirely on the Synik.
  • The Synik has a lot of great built-in organization and features, and the included tie-down straps make packing cubes optional.
  • Many of our existing packing cubes and organizational options (such as the Freudian Slip) fit in/work great with the Syniks.

That said, if there’s a specific Synik accessory or organizational item you’re hoping for, let us know: feedback@tombihn.com.

[BACK TO THE TOP]

Will you offer a Guide’s Edition version of the Synik?


If enough people are interested in a Guide’s Edition of the Synik, we plan to offer it in early 2020 when our upcoming 525d ballistic nylon in Coyote arrives. That new 525d in Coyote will allow us to make a full-Coyote (!!!) Guide’s Edition Synik.

If you’re interested in the Guide’s Edition Synik, please sign up here to be notified when it’s available:
sign up here

[BACK TO THE TOP]

I already have a Synapse 19 or Synapse 25. If I send my bag back to the factory, can you add any of these new features for me?


Sorry, but no: time (and our business model) does not permit us to do this. It would basically be like constructing an entirely new bag, and sort-of like Apple turning a MacBook Pro into a MacBook Air or Subaru turning an Outback into a Forester. 😉

[BACK TO THE TOP]

I like some features of the Synik, but don’t want others. Will you make other editions in the future?


We never say never around here, but we don’t have any plans to offer other editions. We’re sticking for now with:

Synik 22
Synik 30

Synapse 19
Synapse 25

[BACK TO THE TOP]

More questions? Feel free to ask: emailus@tombihn.com, 1-800-729-9607, +1-206-652-4123, or live chat (go back to the main website for that!)

End photo!

Tote Bags: Frequently Asked Questions

Road Trip Snacks
Road trip snacks in The Truck.

Below is a list of questions (and answers) that we’re asked — or anticipate we will be asked — about our various tote bag designs. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, feel free to emailus@tombihn.com.

  1. You offer five different tote bag designs (not counting different sizes). Can you tell me a little about each of them?
  2. Which of the tote designs is right for me?
  3. Why do you offer so many different tote bag designs?
  4. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a tote bag with a zipper top?
  5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of a tote bag with an open top?
  6. How do people typically use their tote bags?
  7. Which of the totes can be carried on the shoulder as well as in hand?
  8. Have you considered making the handles/shoulder straps adjustable in length?
  9. What are the key differences between a tote and a duffel bag?
  10. I want to add some additional organization to my tote. Which accessories fit in which totes?
  11. If I knew I was going to be stranded on a deserted island, which tote bag would you recommend that I take with me?
  12. I’m planning to take Ulysses by James Joyce, a water filter, my pet rock, an antique sugar bowl, a small adze, a picnic blanket, a jumbo bag of salt water taffy, and some antibiotics in case I need them for my rock. So, which tote?

You offer five different tote bag designs (not counting different sizes). Can you tell me a little about each of them?

Sure thing.

The Truck
A true multipurpose carry-all bag. You can use it for groceries, tools, laundry, work stuff—whatever. It’s made out of our durable 525d or 210d ballistic nylon, which can help it withstand years of hard use. That being said, if dirty or sharp tools get tossed in the bag, it’ll eventually develop some character. We think of it as showing its history.

Pop Tote
Our very first zip-top tote bag design. It shines as a personal carry-on bag for air travel and as an every-day-carry tote.

Zip-Top Shop Bag
An updated version of our Original Shop Bag, this time with a zipper closure. It comes in two sizes and makes a great reusable grocery bag whether at home or in faraway lands: fold it up and stow it away in your Aeronaut to serve as a shopping bag at your travel destination.

The Moveable Feast
A purpose-built grocery bag for gourmet chefs and enthusiastic food lovers. It keeps wine bottles upright and tomatoes up high and unsquished. It’s got padded handles and lots of organization. Note: we’ve retired the Moveable Feast for now to give folks a chance to consider the Truck, which is very similar in design. We may or may not make a future production run of the Moveable Feast.

Original Shop Bag
The tried and true classic reusable shopping bag. With padded handles, piping to help it keep its shape, and two interior open-top pockets, it’s refined, simple, and classic.

… There’s also the Swift, but we think of it as a dedicated knitting bag as opposed to a tote bag.

Which of the tote designs is right for me?

Our answer depends mightily on what you plan to carry and in what context. Feel free to emailus@tombihn.com or post in our Forums to ask for advice specific to your situation.

Generally speaking, we’d suggest:

The Original Large Shop Bag if you’re looking for a simple, lightweight reusable grocery bag.

The Truck if you want a heavy-duty tote you can really work out of, and that’ll look even better as it develops character from years of use.

Trying the Small Zip-Top Shop Bag to use as an Every Day Carry (EDC) tote that’s the perfect size for lunch, a sweater, Kindle or small tablet, phone, wallet, and water bottle.

The Pop Tote if you want a tote that can serve both as a day bag at your travel destination and your personal carry-on bag en route.

Why do you offer so many different tote bag designs?

Several reasons. Notably:

Everyone here at TOM BIHN has at least a couple of tote bags. We use them as shopping bags, lunch bags, overflow-of-stuff bags. Tom will often bring one of his original Utility Totes to the factory full of patterns and segments of a new design. Because we use tote bags so much, we’re inspired to make new variations that could prove even more useful to us (or to you…)

Tote bags are universally useful. Nearly everyone will appreciate owning one, which makes them a great bag to give as a gift.

You guys seem to appreciate the tote bags that we make, so it only makes sense for us to make more.

A tote bag can be a very basic, utilitarian, yet thoughtful sack. Because tote bags are so well-loved and so often used, we consider a new tote bag to be a good place to refine features, aesthetics, and materials that may (or may not) be applied to other more complex bags sometime down the road.

Lastly, the development timeline for a tote is often much shorter than that of, say, a briefcase. Or a 787 Dreamliner.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a tote bag with a zipper top?

The main advantage of a tote with a zipper top—such as our Pop Tote, Large Zip-Top Shop Bag, or Small Zip-Top Shop Bag—is that your stuff won’t fall out if somehow the tote is topsy-turvied. We think this is especially important if you plan to use a tote bag as a personal carry-on bag like we sometimes do.

The main disadvantage is that the zippers and the required fabric dome add a small amount of weight to the bag. With the tote zipped shut, you can’t fit tall items like a baguette or ukulele—but, of course, you could simply leave the tote unzipped in those instances.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a tote bag with an open top?

The main advantage of a tote with an open top—our Original Shop Bag or the Truck—is that you don’t need to mess around with zipping a zipper open or closed. The top of the bag is wide and open, allowing you to easily put in and remove your stuff.

Game Night Truck Tote

You can also fold the Original Shop Bag into its own interior pocket, which turns it into an elegant little parcel that can be easily stowed inside of a larger bag. This can sort-of also be accomplished with the Zip-Top Shop Bag, but it’s not nearly as easy.

The main disadvantage to an open-top tote is that, if it somehow falls or tips over, your stuff could spill out.

How do people typically use their tote bags?

All kinds of ways. Here’s how we use our tote bags and how you’ve told us you use them:

Reusable grocery bag
Picnic bag
Tool Bag
Front seat road trip stuff bag (snacks, road map, drinks)
Every Day Carry bag
Personal carry-on bag
Game night bag
Gym bag
Overflow-of-stuff bag (a catch all)
Beach bag


The Small Zip-Top Shop Bag as a personal carry-on item.

Side note: some folks use tote bags as firewood haulers or storage containers. We don’t haul firewood in our totes because we use these firewood haulers Tom made back in the early 80’s.

Tom Bihn's Original Firewood Bag

Which of the totes can be carried on the shoulder as well as in hand?

The Pop Tote, Large and Small Zip-Top Shop Bag, Original Shop Bag, and the Truck can be carried by most folks either over the shoulder or by hand. Note: the Moveable Feast is designed to be carried only by hand.

Have you considered adding shoulder strap attachment points to any of the tote bags?

We have, and we do, but we haven’t found a way to do this with any of our current tote bags designs that meets our own standards of perfection. But we’ll let you know if and when we do.

Have you considered making the handles/shoulder straps adjustable in length?

Same answer as above: we’ve explored this a bit here and there, but haven’t found a way to add such a feature in an elegant way.

What are the key differences between a tote and a duffel bag?

That’s a good question! While some of our tote bags are open-top and others are zip-top, our Yeoman Duffel (and most every other duffel out there) has a zipper closure. So a zip-top tote is sort of wandering over into the land of duffel bags, isn’t it? Guess you could say you know a duffel bag when you see it.

Our Yeoman Duffels feature a classic U-shaped opening that makes packing them more like packing a suitcase. They’re also wide rather than tall, which means they offer shallow, horizontal packing space as opposed to more vertical packing space like a tote bag. The Yeoman is available in four sizes, three of which are quite large and can fit bigger items such as camping tents.

I want to add some additional organization to my tote. Which accessories fit in which totes?

This response really isn’t intended to be cheeky: you can use basically any accessory that fits within the tote’s dimensions—and, if applicable, permits the zipper to be zipped up. That being said, certain accessories fit particularly well:

Pop Tote
The main compartment can fit a Medium or Small Café Bag Freudian Slip or Maker’s Bag/Swift Freudian Slip. The small exterior pockets can accommodate Mini or Small Organizer Pouches, the Pen/Pencil Organizer Pouch, Knitting Tool Pouches in sizes 1-3, the Q Kit, and the Pocket Pouch.

The Truck
The Small Café Bag Freudian Slip can fit in any main pocket; the Medium Café Bag Freudian Slip fits in the center pocket (at a diagonal or by pressing out the sides a little bit), and Organizer Pouches in size Medium or smaller will fit in the front/back pockets.

Small Original Shop Bag or Small Zip-Top Shop Bag
Medium or Small Café Bag Freudian Slip (Note that the Medium size might take away a bit of real estate from interior pockets in the Zip-Top Shop Bag), Small/Mini pouches in interior side pockets.

Large Original Shop Bag or Large Zip-Top Shop Bag
Large, Medium or Small Café Bag Freudian Slip, and up to a Medium pouch in interior pockets.


The Truck with a Small Cafe Bag Freudian Slip, a Size 4 Travel Stuff Sack, and a Double Organizer Pouch.

If I knew I was going to be stranded on a deserted island, which tote bag would you recommend that I take with me?

That’s a tough one, and it kind of depends on what you plan to take with you to that deserted island. So, what do you plan to take? Tom says he’d take the Truck because he’d figure out a way to make a sun hat out of it, plus it would likely carry more water (for a few minutes at least).

I’m planning to take Ulysses by James Joyce, a water filter, my pet rock, a hat, an antique sugar bowl, a small adze, a picnic blanket, a jumbo bag of salt water taffy, and some antibiotics in case I need them for my pet rock. So, which tote?

That helps. We’d recommend the Truck because it will help you keep that wide variety of items contained and, if need be, separate (so you don’t accidentally get rock antibiotics all over your candy).

I'll finally have time to read Ulysses!
I’ll finally have the time to read Ulysses!

The Aeronaut Travel Bag: Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of questions (and answers) that we’re asked — or anticipate we will be asked — about the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45 travel bags. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, feel free to emailus@tombihn.com

  1. How did Tom come up with the design of the Aeronaut?
  2. What does Tom consider to be some of the more unique features and aspects of the Aeronaut design?
  3. How many design updates have been made to the Aeronaut over the years?
  4. Tom designed the Aeronaut so that the end user could carry it via three different methods. In what particular scenarios did Tom imagine one might carry the Aeronaut by hand, via a shoulder strap, or as a backpack?
  5. Does the Aeronaut meet with all airline carry-on standards?
  6. Will the Aeronaut fit under the seat in front of me on the airplane?
  7. Is the Aeronaut a good bag for road trips or train trips too?
  8. Can I use the Aeronaut as a hiking backpack once I reach my destination?
  9. What if I’m traveling to a conference and I want to “one bag” it—will it work to carry my Aeronaut as my Everyday Carry (EDC) bag?
  10. How much of a difference do the optional Aeronaut Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt make? Do I need them?
  11. Can I use just the Internal Frame or just the Padded Hip Belt, or are both necessary?
  12. Why not just include the Internal Frame and sew in the Padded Hip Belt?
  13. I’m trying to choose between between the Aeronaut and the Synapse 25. Help me out here: what are the advantages of each?
  14. Is a shoulder strap included with the Aeronaut?
  15. How can I pack my Aeronaut so as to maximize comfort for sustained carrying?
  16. Are Packing Cubes necessary for packing the Aeronaut efficiently?
  17. What are the benefits of using Packing Cubes?
  18. How do people use the o-rings in the Aeronaut?
  19. What’s the maximum weight that the Aeronaut can hold?
  20. I use wheeled roll-aboard luggage now. Will the Aeronaut work better than that for me?
  21. Does the Aeronaut have a compartment for my laptop?
  22. Have you considered adding a laptop compartment to the Aeronaut?
  23. What causes the zippers on the Aeronaut to be a little stiff?
  24. Can I lock the zippers of my Aeronaut?
  25. I’m 5’2″ and not so big. Which size of Aeronaut is right for me?
  26. I’m 6’2” and pretty big. Is the Aeronaut for me?
How did Tom come up with the design of the Aeronaut?

The Aeronaut was born from Tom’s desire to make a soft travel bag that would be a significant improvement over a simple duffle. Tom was fond of the Road Buddy series of duffles that he designed and made in the 1990’s, but wanted compartmentalization more tailored to what he carried, which was typically clothing, and somehow always seemed to include at least one pair of shoes. He wanted this new bag to carry comfortably handsfree (as a backpack) when needed for getting across Heathrow or across town. Though Tom sized it to take full advantage of the recommended FAA maximum carryon size (basically a box measuring 9″ x 14″ x 22” / 22 x 35 x 56 cm), he incorporated as many curves as possible – hoping the resulting aesthetic would be a bit more sports car and a bit less ice cream truck.

What does Tom consider to be some of the more unique features and aspects of the Aeronaut design?

Though not originally one of the design criteria, it turns out that a cool thing about the Aeronaut’s division of space is that many folks find they can live out of it and never actually unpack it. Once you set it down on a luggage rack/desk/bureau/bed/floor, it’s sort of like a chest of drawers, providing easy access to its contents. This can be particularly sweet when you’re only staying a night or two somewhere, or when your accommodation lacks a closet. We even added two simple webbing loop handles just inside the main hatch opening so you can easily pick up your Aeronaut and move it around your room without needing to zip it shut; these grab loops can also come in handy if, for example, your bag is inspected at an airport security checkpoint, or any time you might want to move an open Aeronaut with some alacrity.

How many design updates have been made to the Aeronaut over the years?

Whew—too many to count! Since its inception circa 2003, we’ve added features and nudged things around a bit, but its basic layout and size remains the same. Of particular note are the Late-2014 and 2017 design updates.

Tom designed the Aeronaut so that the end user could carry it via three different methods. In what particular scenarios did Tom imagine one might carry the Aeronaut by hand, via a shoulder strap, or as a backpack?

Tom wanted to have all three options, and to be able to choose which mode was most appropriate at any given moment. Having the backpack straps zip away is great: when stowing the Aeronaut in the overhead bin, it’ll slide in and out without getting caught; if you need to check it, there’s less reason to worry about what baggage handlers and conveyor belts might do to it; the Aeronaut looks relatively tidy and presentable with straps stowed and carried by hand (or with a shoulder strap attached), so that when you’re making an appearance at a four star hotel you’d perhaps be less likely to be given the bum’s rush. Carried as a backpack, the Aeronaut can make navigating a crowded plane, bus, or subway easy-breezy; a short hike through town to the hostel or pension is no biggie.

Does the Aeronaut meet with all airline carry-on standards?

The Aeronaut 45—with exterior dimensions of 21.9” (w) x 14” (h) x 9.1” (d)—qualifies as a maximum carry-on main bag on most U.S. airlines. Technically speaking, the Aeronaut 45 exceeds the stated dimensions for carry-on requirements for some European and smaller airlines. That said, the Aeronaut 45 is soft luggage, which means that if it’s underpacked, it can compress to meet those requirements. Many people successfully underpack the Aeronaut 45 and use it on European or smaller airlines, but we can’t guarantee this will work for you.

The smaller Aeronaut 30—with exterior dimensions of 19.7” (w) x 12.6” (h) x 7.9” (d)—qualifies as a main carry-on bag for U.S. as well as European airlines, small airlines, or regional jets.

It’s always a good idea to look up the luggage requirements of the particular airlines with whom you’ll be flying. We’d be glad to help, too: emailus@tombihn.com

Will the Aeronaut fit under the seat in front of me on the airplane?

The Aeronaut 30 will fit under the seat of many airlines. The Aeronaut 45 probably won’t—you’ll need to store it in the overheard compartment.

Is the Aeronaut a good bag for road trips or train trips too?

You bet. Darcy went on a two week road trip and basically lived out of her Aeronaut–she never had to unpack.

Can I use the Aeronaut as a hiking backpack once I reach my destination?

We suppose you could, and some people have and do. We’ve even tried it ourselves and it worked… OK. In short, it works in a pinch, and with the Padded Hip Belt and Internal Frame the Aeronaut is more comfortable as a hiking pack—but most people probably won’t be happy using the Aeronaut as a day hiking pack, so it’s not something we recommend.

Instead, we’d recommend packing an Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Backpack or an Aeronaut 45 Packing Cube Backpack, or even a rolled-up Daylight Backpack. All three can be easily deployed to serve as great lightweight day hiking packs.

Or, if you’re going on a trip that will, in part, be focused on longer day hikes—for example, a trip to Alaska with three days visiting people and working in Anchorage and 4 days hiking in Denali National Park—you may want to take a Synapse 19 or Synapse 25.

What if I’m traveling to a conference and I want to “one bag” it—will it work to carry my Aeronaut as my Everyday Carry (EDC) bag?

Probably not. Instead, we’d recommend one of these two options:

1. Pack a Daylight Briefcase or Daylight Backpack in your Aeronaut. The Daylight Backpack can fit up to a 15” laptop in a Cache sleeve; the Daylight Briefcase can fit up to a 13” laptop in a Cache. Both are excellent minimalist and light-in-weight EDC options—and they don’t take up much room when rolled up or stowed in the Aeronaut.

2. Take a second bag. The Aeronaut will serve as your main carry-on bag and the second bag—perhaps a Pilot, Co-Pilot, Stowaway, Synapse 19, or Synapse 25—will be your personal item. Of course, at this point, you’re not “one bagging” it — but this method does have some advantages. Namely, once your Aeronaut is stowed in the overhead compartment, you’ll still have a personal item bag that you can stow under the seat in front of you that gives you easy access to your tablet or laptop, phone, books, and other amenities during your flight. Plus, you can use the second bag as your EDC at your destination.

How much of a difference do the optional Aeronaut Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt make? Do I need them?

That depends on what you carry, the weight you’re used to carrying on a regular basis, and your own personal idea of comfort.

Some people won’t feel they need the internal frame and padded hip belt.

Some people–especially those who appreciate these two features on other packs, like outdoor backpacking packs–will likely enjoy the internal frame and padded hip belt.

Can I use just the Internal Frame or just the Padded Hip Belt, or are both necessary?

You can use one or the other, or both. Using both will likely give you the greatest sensation of reducing the amount of weight you’re carrying; however, using either the Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt will shift some of the weight of a pack onto your hips.

Some folks just like the way an internal frame feels against their back—it’s less about a perceived reduction in the amount of weight they are carrying and more about the tactile experience of the frame. It’s worth noting that an internal frame can be an especially potent way to increase comfort in bags that beer-barrel out when overpacked/overstuffed; however, the Aeronaut’s design ensures that it hardly beer-barrels at all.

Others may find the additional weight or stiffness of the internal frame unnecessary, but the comfort of the Padded Hip Belt to be essential.

Why not just include the Internal Frame and sew in the Padded Hip Belt?

Not everyone wants to use an internal frame, and it would add both weight and cost to the Aeronaut if a non-removable frame was incorporated into the design. Additionally, the internal frame’s rigidity might make it more difficult to underpack your Aeronaut in order to squeeze it into an airline baggage sizer or get it into a nearly-full overhead compartment.

It’s the same thing with the Padded Hip Belt. And, perhaps worse, if you didn’t want or need to use the padded hip belt, it’d either be flopping about on your left and right, potentially knocking into other people or objects, or you’d have to buckle it behind your back to get it out of the way, which can make for an awkward carrying experience.

By design, the Internal Frame and Padded Hip Belt are optional and removable, allowing you to customize your carrying experience.

I’m trying to choose between between the Aeronaut and the Synapse 25. Help me out here: what are the advantages of each?

The Aeronaut 30 or the Aeronaut 45 offers the flexibility of three carrying options: by hand as a duffle, over the shoulder or cross-body with a shoulder strap, or as a backpack. In various travel contexts, these options can prove beneficial (we talked more about that in Aeronaut FAQ #4). The Aeronaut’s design basically allows you to live out of it as if it were a dresser drawer of sorts, meaning there’s no need to unpack, and you’re much less likely to have to pull out some stuff to access other stuff. It gives you wide, unfettered access to your stuff similar to a clamshell opening (but, perhaps, without what some folks find irritating about clamshell openings—namely, that if you open them all the way, your stuff burps out).

The Synapse 25 is a backpack. It has a comfortable handle at the top, but it’s intended to be a grab handle (say, picking up the bag to move it from one room to another) as opposed to a carrying handle. If you want a travel backpack—and you’re either a current or aspiring minimalist traveler—we’d recommend the Synapse 25. Part of what makes carrying and traveling with the Synapse 25 so great is that its fairly narrow main compartment means you can’t pack too much stuff. This gives you more of a sense of the bag being conformed to you—and perhaps even an extension of you.

Feel free to emailus@tombihn.com with your unique packing list and travel plans. We’d be glad to give you additional advice more tailored to your unique needs. You’re also welcome to share the same information in our Forums and get a wider variety of feedback.

Is a shoulder strap included with the Aeronaut?

No. Here’s our thinking on that one: as we’ve discussed elsewhere, inherent in the design of the Aeronaut are three carrying options — by its handle as a duffel/valise, worn as a backpack with its hide-away backpack straps, or carried over one shoulder with a single strap (such as our Absolute Shoulder Strap). A good percentage of people will choose to carry their Aeronaut via the first two methods only, and including a shoulder strap with the bag means they’d pay for — and have — something they wouldn’t use. Additionally, we offer several options for shoulder straps, and if we did choose to include one with the Aeronaut we’d be sure to disappoint some folks. Also, many folks already have a shoulder strap from some other bag that they’ll want to use. So, we chose to make the shoulder strap optional.

How can I pack my Aeronaut so as to maximize comfort for sustained carrying? ?

In our experience, we have found the best ways to improve your comfort carrying a bag to be:

1. Take less stuff. Do you really need five pairs of pants? Maybe—or maybe not.

2. Replace some items with lighter weight versions. Five pairs of jeans weigh a lot more than five pairs of lightweight travel pants.

3. Take care to pack your bag so that its load is balanced. See our blog post Packing for Ideal Weight Distribution.

4. Adjust the pack so that it fits you. Make micro-adjustments to the sternum strap and shoulder straps (and Padded Hip Belt, if using one) over the course of the time you’re wearing the pack.

5. Shift your perspective. We can at least tell ourselves that carrying a reasonable amount of weight in a backpack can prove to be a good bone-and-muscle-building workout. 🙂

6. Add an Internal Frame + Padded Hip Belt to shift some of the weight of the pack onto your hips.

Are Packing Cubes necessary for packing the Aeronaut efficiently?

No. Tom designed our travel bags to make Packing Cubes optional; that’s why he added tie-down straps (useful for cinching down / keeping flat folded pants, shirts, or even a blazer) to our Aeronaut 30, Aeronaut 45 (and Tri-Star) travel bags.

The Aeronaut is designed to be a bag you could basically live out of and never have to unpack. Its end pockets do a great job of keeping rolled clothes neat and you’ll find that folded clothes don’t shift around too much in the main compartment. Unlike bags with clamshell openings, you can set the Aeronaut on the bed/chair, zip it open, and have full and entirely visible access to your stuff—without worrying about it unfurling or falling out. In short, we think the design of the Aeronaut especially lends itself to packing sans Packing Cubes.

What are the benefits of using Packing Cubes?

See our post Packing Cubes: Frequently Asked Questions.

How do people use the o-rings in the Aeronaut?

Wait, let’s back up for a second for those not in the know: o-rings small, round, plastic rings sewn inside many of the compartments and pockets of our bags to which one can clip and tether additional pouches and organization — such as Organizer Pouches and Key Straps. O-rings are so unobtrusive that it’s totally optional whether you utilize them or not.

Included with the Aeronaut (and most of our other larger bags) is one 8″ Key Strap attached to an o-ring — we figure most folks will clip their keys to this Key Strap.

Here’s an idea of what could be clipped to the o-rings in the Aeronaut:

Left to right: included 8″ Key Strap, Double Organizer Pouch w/16″ Key Strap, 3D Clear Organizer Cube w/16″ Key Strap, Passport Pouch w/16″ Key Strap.

What’s the maximum weight that the Aeronaut can hold?

The Aeronaut is durable and strong enough to hold way, way more weight than you’d ever want to—or should—carry. So, the answer to this question is: how much weight is it comfortable for you to carry? We recommend practice packing and using one of those inexpensive nifty little luggage scales you can get all day long on Amazon. Does 30lbs feel like too much? Remove some items, or replace them with lighter weight versions, and see how much weight you’ve saved and how different that feels.

I use wheeled roll-aboard luggage now. Will the Aeronaut work better than that for me?

Maybe, maybe not. It’s important to acknowledge that carrying one’s one luggage as opposed to wheeling it isn’t possible for every person and every body. And some folks may just prefer traveling with rolling luggage.

That said, we hear quite often from folks who have made the switch from rolling luggage to carrying their own bags and find it liberating. More easily navigating cobblestone streets, saving weight and space, and not risking the impoliteness of taking up double the physical space around you—these are just a few of the benefits people have shared with us.

Does the Aeronaut have a compartment for my laptop?

It does not: the Aeronaut is not intended to carry a laptop. Most people who use the Aeronaut use it as one bag of a two bag system. Clothing and toiletries are packed in the Aeronaut, which is then stored in the overhead compartment on the plane. A laptop/tablet, snacks, phone, glasses, etc. are stored in a personal carry-on bag that fits under the seat in front of you and kept easily accessible in flight. For a true “one bag” travel solution, please see our Tri-Star, Western Flyer, or Synapse 25.

That said, some people choose to work around this and carry their devices in the Aeronaut. Smaller tablets can fit in the mesh zippered pocket in the inside flap of the Aeronaut or the side exterior zippered pockets. If you unzip one or both interior main compartment zippers in the Aeronaut 45, you can fit a 15″ laptop in a Cache in the bottom of the bag. And, if you unzip one or both interior main compartment zippers in the Aeronaut 30, you can fit up to a 13” laptop in a Cache in the bottom of the bag.

13″ MacBook Pro in an Aeronaut 30. Note that underneath the laptop is its appropriately sized Cache. We don’t recommend putting a laptop without a protective sleeve in any bag — we’re just showing the laptop on top of the Cache in this photo so you can see the laptop itself.

Have you considered adding a laptop compartment to the Aeronaut?

We have, and we’ve come up with some options as to how we’d incorporate room for a laptop in the Aeronaut, but we don’t like any of them (so far).

What causes the zippers on the Aeronaut to be a little stiff?

We use YKK AquaGuard water-repellant coil zippers on the Aeronaut because we wanted it to have the greatest possible weather resistance; however, these zippers can be a bit harder to open and close than standard coil zippers. We feel it’s a reasonable tradeoff.

Can I lock the zippers of my Aeronaut?

Yes, the zippers on the main (center) compartment as well as both end compartments feature lockable sliders. Zip any of these compartments entirely shut and butt the two sliders together so the small eyelets overlap, then slip a small luggage lock (or zip-tie) through the eyelets to secure that compartment. If you choose to lock all three compartments you’ll need three luggage locks. Also remember that the TSA requires access to your luggage “without the passenger being present” so even if you’re not checking your bag, you should consider using TSA-approved locks. Keep in mind that any time your bag is not in your sight someone could potentially cut the bag open or otherwise access its contents, locked or not, and that the idea behind locking your luggage is A: to “keep honest people honest,” as they say, and B: so that if your bag is opened you’ll know about it. There’s plenty of on-line discussions about the pros and cons of locking your bag—we provide the lockable sliders so you can choose.

I’m 5’2″ and not so big. Which size of Aeronaut is right for me?

We’d recommend the Aeronaut 30. That said, if you’re used to carrying a bag as big as the Aeronaut 45, that should work just fine too.

I’m 6’2” and pretty big. Is the Aeronaut for me?

You bet. However, if you’re that tall or taller and have a long torso, you may find that the optional Padded Hip Belt rides too high to be comfortable.

Here’s a video we made that shows more people of various heights and sizes wearing both the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45:

And here’s some photos of various people wearing both sizes of Aeronaut….

Aeronaut 30

How the Aeronaut 30 fits various people

Aeronaut 45

How the Aeronaut 45 fits various people

Still have more questions? emailus@tombihn.com and Kat, Matthew, or Cody will be glad to help.

Packing Cubes: Frequently Asked Questions

Aeronaut 45 Travel Bag with Packing Cubes by TOM BIHN
The Aeronaut 45 with its Aeronaut 45 Packing Cubes.

Below is a list of questions (and answers) that we’re often asked about Packing Cubes. If you have a question that wasn’t answered here, feel free to emailus@tombihn.com If you’d like to see all of our Packing Cube offerings, go here.

What are the main benefits of Packing Cubes?
What are the downsides of Packing Cubes?
How do I use Packing Cubes?
How necessary are Packing Cubes?
Should I fold, roll, or bundle pack my clothes in Packing Cubes?
Are Packing Cubes only for clothes?
How do the Laundry Travel Stuff Sack and Laundry Packing Cubes work?
Travel Stuff Sacks vs. Packing Cubes: can you explain the differences, and which should I choose?
How do the Packing Cube Backpacks work?
What are the differences between All Aether and Mesh/Aether Packing Cubes?
Will you ever make “compression” Packing Cubes?
Could you make Packing Cubes out of the fabric used to make your Pocket Travel Pillow? It’s light and silky.
Some bags have Packing Cubes specifically designed and sized for them. Which Packing Cubes do I use for bags that don’t, like the Synapse 25 or Maker’s Bag?

What are the main benefits of Packing Cubes?

Packing Cubes Help Keep Your Clothes Neat and Tidy

Depending on the bag that you use, you might find that your clothes end up unfurling inside of your bag.  Packing Cubes corral your clothes in a neat fabric cube.

Packing Cubes Organize Open Space in Your Bag: They Are Additional Compartments

Packing Cubes help to divide the space inside of your bag and ensure what you pack doesn’t shift too much (provided that the Packing Cubes you choose are sized to fit the bag that you use). This is especially important if you carry a bag that has a clamshell opening, in which the zipper zips all the way down, allowing the bag to “butterfly.” While clamshell designs open all the way and give you a good look at the contents of your bag, they also tend to allow stuff to fall out.

Packing Cubes Offer You the Ability to Craft a Packing Strategy

Our Packing Cubes are available in a variety of colors, which allows you the option of color-coded organization. Perhaps socks and underwear go in a Small Packing Cube in the color Wasabi and t-shirts/workout clothes go in a Small Packing Cube in the color Island; when you zip open your bag, you’ll see Wasabi or Island, and know immediately which Packing Cube to grab to get the clothes you need.

Ever feel paralyzed by the choices of which clothes to take on your trip? Packing Cubes can help offer structure that makes that decision-making a little easier. Depending on the size of clothing, you may find that you can fit three pairs of slacks and two t-shirts in one Aeronaut 45 Large Packing Cube. In effect, Packing Cubes can serve to curtail the number of clothes you pack. Limit yourself to one Large Cube and two Small Cubes and you might just be amazed at how you were able to take enough clothes (but not too many!).

What are the downsides of Packing Cubes?

The downsides of Packing Cubes that we can think of are:

They add weight to your bag—but not all that much. For example, a pair of men’s size medium cotton briefs weighs 2.8 ounces. The Small Aeronaut 45 Packing Cube weighs 1.8 ounces.

They are an additional cost and you might not find them useful. FWIW, Tom travels quite a bit and hardly ever uses them. Conversely, Darcy always uses Packing Cubes (now, anyway).

You might be convinced you need them because they’re all the rage when really you don’t need them: they’re just one more thing to deal with. Some people use Zip-Lock plastic bags or plastic grocery bags and that works for them.

An Aeronaut 30 using built-in organization; zip-lock bag for toiletries and a plastic grocery bag for packing shoes

How do I use Packing Cubes?

Such a good question! With so many organizational options, it can be difficult to know where to start. Below is a quick guide / our recommendations. We plan to expand this into its very own blog post in the future.

Aeronaut 45

Minimum Packing Cubes: None, or one End Pocket Cube (for running shoes / a second pair of shoes). Use the tie-down straps to secure slacks/shirts and roll t-shirts to put in one of the end compartments. Use a zip-lock bag for toiletries*.

Maximum Packing Cubes: Two End Pocket Packing Cubes (one in each End Pocket Compartment), and either two Large (regular or Laundry), one Large and two Small (regular or Laundry), or four Small. Use a 3D Clear Organizer Cube (attached via a 16” Key Strap) as a 3-1-1 liquids/toiletries bag.

Aeronaut 30

Minimum Packing Cubes: None, or one End Pocket Cube (for running shoes / a second pair of shoes). Use the tie-down straps to secure slacks/shirts and roll t-shirts to put in one of the end compartments. Use a zip-lock bag for toiletries.

Maximum Packing Cubes: Two End Pocket Packing Cubes (one in each End Pocket Compartment), and either two Large (regular or Laundry), one Large and two Small (regular or Laundry), or four Small. Use a 3D Clear Organizer Cube (attached via a 16” Key Strap) as a 3-1-1 liquids/toiletries bag.

Tri-Star

Minimum Packing Cubes: None, or one Medium Packing Cube. Use a zip-lock bag for liquids and toiletries.

Maximum Packing Cubes: One Small and one Medium Packing Cube in the front main compartment, one Large Packing Cube in the back compartment. You can either put another Small and Medium Packing Cube or one Large Packing Cube in the middle compartment, or use that compartment to carry your laptop in a Cache. Use a 3D Clear Organizer Cube (attached via a 16” Key Strap) as a 3-1-1 liquids/toiletries bag.

Western Flyer

Minimum Packing Cubes: None, or one Small Packing Cube. Use a zip-lock bag for liquids and toiletries.

Maximum Packing Cubes: Four Small Packing Cubes (two in each compartment), two Large Packing Cubes, or two Small and one Large.

*The notes on packing liquids/toiletries assume you’re traveling via plane; if you’re on the road or traveling by rail and don’t have restrictions on liquids, check out our Spiff Kits, which offer more space and organization for toiletries than the 3D Clear Organizer Cube.

How necessary are Packing Cubes?

Tom designed our travel bags to make Packing Cubes optional; that’s why he added tie-down straps (useful for cinching down / keeping flat folded pants, shirts, or even a blazer) to our Aeronaut 30, Aeronaut 45, and Tri-Star travel bags.

If you don’t want to use Packing Cubes, we’d recommend the Aeronaut 30 or Aeronaut 45 over the Western Flyer or Tri-Star.  Tom designed the Aeronaut to be a bag you could basically live out of and never have to unpack. Its end pockets do a great job of keeping rolled clothes neat and you’ll find that folded clothes don’t shift around too much in the main compartment. Unlike bags with clamshell openings, you can set the Aeronaut on the bed/chair, zip it open, and have full and entirely visible access to your stuff—without worrying about it unfurling or falling out. In short, we think the design of the Aeronaut especially lends itself to packing sans Packing Cubes.

The Tri-Star and Western Flyer, on the other hand, are designed to be checkpoint-friendly laptop travel bags that offer you the ability to carry up to a 17″ a laptop in a Cache—in addition to your clothes and toiletries.

So, really, it’s up to you: some folks swear by Packing Cubes and others find them unnecessary.

Should I fold, roll, or bundle pack my clothes in Packing Cubes?

Your call on this one. Rolling and bundling are popular methods and with good reason; they’re clever ways to keep clothes neat and utilize space that would be difficult to utilize with folded clothes. Still, many of us continue to use good old-fashioned folding as our primary method.

There are lots of great videos online that offer tutorials on the main packing methods; our video for the original Aether Packing Cubes demonstrates folding, rolling, and bundling:

And we love this video which demonstrates some really clever ways to maximize space with folding techniques.

Are Packing Cubes only for clothes?

Our Packing Cubes are designed primarily for clothes and shoes and are made of light, garment-weight fabrics. Most people put cords/cables/chargers, toiletries, make-up, hair thingies, snacks and the like in our Organizer Pouches, 3D Cubes, or Travel Stuff Sacks—or just in the built-in pockets of the bag itself. That said, there’s no rule about not mixing clothes and those other items; if that’s what works for you, go for it. It can be a smart strategy nestle delicate items or souvenirs in between layers of clothes. However, it’s worth noting that it’s easier for the TSA to screen bags in which items are segregated by type—no mixing of clothes and cords, for example. Theoretically, you can do your part in making the TSA line go faster by organizing your stuff.

How do the Laundry Travel Stuff Sack and Laundry Packing Cubes work?

Tom designed the first version of the Laundry Travel Stuff Sack back in 1981 during a trip hosteling around Europe. A few years ago, we brought the design back from the archives; it’s now available in sizes for the Aeronaut 30 and Aeronaut 45.

People like the Laundry Travel Stuff Sack so much we decided to make Laundry Packing Cube versions for the Aeronauts too.

The idea is this: you’ll start your trip off with the sack full of clean clothes, and as they become dirty, put them in the other end of the same sack. A floating divider midway keeps the clean and the dirty clothes separated. The volume of the clothing doesn’t change, but the ratio of clean to dirty does. You don’t need separate sacks for clean and dirty laundry anymore! Yeahh!

Laundry Packing Cube and the Laundry Travel Stuff Sack

Travel Stuff Sacks vs. Packing Cubes: can you explain the differences, and which should I choose?

Travel Stuff Sacks excel at utilizing little nooks and crannies of space in your bag that would otherwise go unused. They’re great for stuffing (and somewhat compressing, but more on that below…) underwear, swimwear/workout clothes, rolled t-shirts or a rain shell or down or synthetic vest/jacket. Picture this: stuff your down jacket in a Size 2 Travel Stuff Sack and wedge that guy into the far corner of your Aeronaut main compartment (behind a Large Packing Cube).

Packing Cubes are, generally speaking, what you’ll want to use for packing slacks or pants, skirts, dresses, button-down shirts, or any clothes that need to be folded to kept neat.

Travel Stuff Sacks make use of nooks and crannies of space in your bag

Use Packing Cubes for folded or bundled clothes and Stuff Sacks for rolled or compressible clothes

Some people find that a combination of Packing Cubes and Travel Stuff Sacks is ideal.

How do the Packing Cube Backpacks work?

It’s pretty nifty: once insided-out, the Packing Cube Backpacks become Packing Cubes that you pack with your clothes / put in your larger travel bag. Upon reaching your destination, you unpack the Packing Cube Backpack, turn it right-side out, and voila: you have a light, minimalist daypack to use sight-seeing, museum-hopping, mountain or urban hiking, or shopping.

We make three varieties of Packing Cube Backpack:

Aeronaut 45 Packing Cube Backpack

Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Backpack

Tri-Star/Western Flyer Packing Cube Backpack

What are the differences between All Aether and Mesh/Aether Packing Cubes?

We primarily make All Aether End Pocket Packing Cubes so people can put shoes or other typically dirty items in them; the 100% fabric walls help keep those items separate from everything else and help you keep the inside of your bag clean to boot (ha ha… meh). We also make our Laundry Packing Cubes with one Aether/Aether side for that same purpose; that’s where dirty clothes go so they’re separate from the clean clothes on the other side of the Laundry Packing Cube.

The majority of the Packing Cubes that we offer are Mesh/Aether because Mesh allows you to see what’s inside of your Packing Cube and it potentially encourages air circulation to keep your clothes from getting musty (especially important in tropical or humid climates.)

Will you ever make “compression” Packing Cubes?

If you’re looking for a way to compress certain clothing items, we’d recommend taking a look at our Travel Stuff Sacks. They excel at compressing rolled t-shirts or underwear or items that are big and floofy when not compressed (a down or synthetic puffy jacket or rain shell). Basically, you put your jacket or rolled items in the Stuff Sack and use your brawn to cinch it as tight as possible. Note that when using a Travel Stuff Sack in an effort to compress clothing, it’s important to choose the right size: if you put your down jacket in a Travel Stuff Sack that’s too big, it won’t compress as much.

We don’t have plans to offer compression Packing Cubes. Here’s our thinking on this: first off, it’s seldom a good idea to try to use a zipper to force a bag shut, as you’ll be likely to bust the zipper (or the seam, depending on the quality of the item and its sewing) before its time. This may not matter as much in a less costly and more replaceable Packing Cube as it does in, say, a backpack or travel bag, but we’re a bit stubborn and old-fashioned on this point—we don’t want to make disposable products.

In our humble opinion, the ones we’ve seen and used add weight without adding much function: they allow you to take a stack of clothing and, using a zipper, squeeze some air out of it. It seems like a really cool idea, but in our tests, compression cubes don’t seem to do much more than what can be achieved by loading your cubes into your bag and pushing down lightly before you zip your bag shut. To each her own with compression cubes: they may totally work for you—they’re just something we don’t see worth the added weight. That said, maybe someday we’ll come up with a clever way to better achieve the intended effect.

Could you make Packing Cubes out of the fabric used to make your Pocket Travel Pillow? It’s light and silky.

The uncoated and breathable 20d Nylon Ripstop fabric we use to make our Pocket Travel Pillow is indeed light and silky; it’s exactly the kind of fabric we’d want to use for a pillow. But it’s not the kind of fabric we’d want to use for a Packing Cube.

When we made a sample of one of our Packing Cubes out of the 20d Nylon Ripstop fabric, we found the Packing Cube felt slippery and flimsy—and that made it difficult to pack. Conversely, the Aether fabric is very lightweight while offering a paper-like structure that allows us to make Packing Cubes that provide enough structure to make packing easier yet aren’t overbuilt or over-engineered. Packing a Mesh/Aether Packing Cube is almost like packing a small (and ultralight) dresser drawer:

Structured Packing Cubes Can Make Packing Easier

In effect, we can rely on the natural structure provided by Aether so we don’t have to put a lot of excess material, stitching, or structure into the Packing Cube itself. This is all why we’re so crazy about the Aether fabric (can you tell?)

Some bags have Packing Cubes specifically designed and sized for them. Which Packing Cubes do I use for bags that don’t, like the Synapse 25 or Maker’s Bag?

That’s a great question. We’re working on a guide to which Packing Cubes, Stuff Sacks, and Pouches fit in which bags, so stay tuned! In the meantime, you might want to check out this post which recommends specific sizes of Packing Cubes and Pouches for bags that previously had their own dedicated Packing Cube sizes.

News Briefs

Mark your calendars! Our Seattle Factory Showroom will be open the following Saturdays: Dec. 14th 2019 and, in 2020, March 21st, June 20th, and September 19th.

We’ve created a new page that invites you to “order” free materials that we can’t make use of but maybe you can:
Free Materials for DIY Projects

We’re retiring Iberian and Wasabi 200d Halcyon, as well as Nordic 400d Halcyon. More here.

Subscribe: Blog Posts

You’ll receive an email every time we publish a new blog post. That’s about 3-4 times a week.

Recommended Posts