New Designs

2nd Synik Pre-Order Opens 08/15

Stand up meeting to discuss Synik Pre-order
Above: Lisa, Nik, Mike, Fong, and Ben meeting to discuss the production schedule, materials inventory, and other considerations related to offering a second pre-order for the Synik.

Our new Synik 22 and Synik 30 backpacks sold out in less than 12 hours — that’s much sooner than we expected. It made for a very exciting day here at the factory: we’ve all been working hard on the project of the Synik (see our Credits) and that all of you liked what we were putting out there enough to order it means a lot to us.

At the same time, it was understandably a bummer for those who wanted to place a pre-order but didn’t get the chance.

We’ve determined we can offer a second pre-order for the Synik 22 / Synik 30 tomorrow, Thursday, August 15th. In an effort to better acknowledge that people are in different time zones and have different work schedules, we will split the offering of this second pre-order:

6:30am Pacific Time: we’ll add the first 1/2 of the pre-order quantity to the website for order.
1:00pm Pacific Time: we’ll add the second 1/2 of the pre-order quantity to the website for order.

It’s possible that the first 1/2 of the pre-order won’t sell out before 1:00pm. If that’s the case, we will still add the remaining pre-order quantity and pre-order can remain open until 08/20 or until it does eventually sell out. It is also possible that the entire second pre-order will sell out. Like you, we will see what happens when it does.

Note that the ship date for the second pre-order Syniks is one month later than the first pre-order — late November instead of late October. We know late November probably seems forever away -— we’re going to make every effort we can to make and ship those bags sooner, but can’t make any promises at this point because we’re working our production schedule to the max.

Looking ahead, our production capacity is such that we don’t envision we will be able to offer a third pre-order. Our goal after this second pre-order will be to focus on building enough Syniks over the coming months that we can put them in-stock and do our best to keep them in-stock.

We welcome your feedback, thoughts, questions, or anything you’ve got to share; respond here in the comments or

The new Synik backpack (pre-order opens 08/13)

The Synik 22 Backpack

The Synik — available two sizes: 22 liters or 30 liters — is a variation of the original Synapse 19 / 25 and it was designed by Nik in collaboration with Tom. It includes many of the features some of you have been asking for; we added some additional features as well.

Pre-order opens 08/13 and closes 08/20; sign up on either the Synik 22 or Synik 30 pages to be notified the moment the bags are available for pre-order.

One of our goals is to give you as much information as possible about our bags so that you can make an informed decision as to whether a bag is right for you– or not. If you buy a bag from us, it will last you quite a long time, so it’s important to choose the right one. There’s a lot of information about the Synik; we’ve created the directory below to help you get the answers you need in the most efficient way.

You’re always welcome to skip over all of this and, call us at 1-800-729-9607 or 1-206-652-4123, or live chat with your questions.



What’s different / What’s the same in the Synik vs. the Synapse in Brief

(click to read more about each difference)

Release Timeline

August 6th
Info release. The following pages and videos are now available:
Synik 22 page
Synik 30 page
Synik FAQ
Videos: Synik 22 features / Synik 30 features / How to Remove the Synik frame

August 13th
Pre-order opens sometime 7:00am – 9:00am Pacific Time / remains open until 08/20 unless either size of Synik sells out. You can sign up on the Synik 22 or 30 pages to be notified the moment pre-order opens.

August 20th
Pre-order closes.

Late October
Pre-order Syniks ship.

Full Descriptions of Differences

Full clamshell AKA panel zipper opening

The main compartment of the Synik can zip fully-open — clamshell or panel-loader style. That means the main compartment zipper (it’s a beefy #10 YKK Aquaguard) zips all the way down and around the bottom edges of the bag.

What’s cool about a clamshell zipper opening? Mainly, you can pack your bag like a suitcase. As in, place it on your bed/table/floor and fully zip it open to arrange everything you’ll be packing. That visual access can make it easier to step back and assess/contemplate what you’re packing and whether you’ve forgotten an item or can pare down the packing list entirely. You get to choose exactly how far to open your bag — you can zip open just the top, or mid-way, or lower, or fully open. And the #10 YKK Aquaguard zipper we use on the Synik prevents the zipper from continuing to open on its own: the waterproof material on the interior of the zipper provides just enough resistance to prevent that. So, you really get to decide how far your bag opens (or doesn’t).

And what’s less than cool? If you don’t secure the stuff in the main compartment, it can fall out when you fully unzip the bag. This, we think, makes clamshell bags less suitable as a hiking pack (you don’t want all of your gear splaying out on a narrow trail or tumbling down a scree slope!) See our original Synapse 19 and 25 for the original non-clamshell version of the Synapse.


Removable internal tie-down straps & Padded Bottom

We made two minor yet worthy-of-mention updates to the design because of the clamshell opening: first, we included a set of two removable tie-down straps in the main compartment. So, you know, you can strap down clothes or even a Packing Cube without it falling out if you fully unzip the main compartment and open the bag clamshell-style. Second, we added padding to the bottom of the Synik to protect the zipper sliders and chain on the bottom of the bag; that’s a serious potential wear point and, while we’re always glad to repair bags to keep them in service for longer, it’d be rather silly to avoid an opportunity to prevent the need for repair in the first place.


Two-point access suspended laptop compartment

The Synik features a built-in laptop compartment with minimal padding (less bulk, less weight, less of a bummer it’s there when you don’t carry a laptop).

The compartment is suspended off the bottom of the bag, and that means your laptop is suspended off the bottom of the bag, too. That suspension is much more effective if you use the Synik internal frame: a soft, frameless bag offers nothing from which to suspend the laptop. Worth noting: the bottom of the Synik is padded, so there’s that extra peace of mind as well.

The Synik 22 fits laptops up to the size of the 13” MacBook Pro (but not the older MacBook Air); the Synik 30 can fit laptops up to 15” like the MacBook Pro Retina Touchbar or Microsoft Surface Book 2 15″.

You can stow (or remove) your laptop from the dedicated laptop compartment of the Synik from two access points: the first is a zippered compartment within the main compartment of the Synik. The second is a zippered exterior side access on the left side of the bag (like the Luminary backpack.) It’s no biggie in practice, but note you’ll need to do a two-point turn to fit the bigger laptops in the exterior side access to the laptop compartment (not necessary if using the internal laptop compartment access).

We wanted to offer you two access points to stow/remove your laptop because it gives you more options. Picture yourself on the airplane with the Synik under the seat in front of you: in this context, using the internal laptop compartment access will allow you to remove your laptop from the bag without pulling the bag all the way out from under the seat. Now, picture yourself at work where you just want to quickly get access to your laptop; this is when you’d unzip the side access to the laptop compartment.

You may be wondering why the internal laptop compartment access closes with a zipper: it’s on the inside after all, so why not leave it open-top? Let’s say you’ve left the main compartment of the bag zipped open and the laptop compartment is open-top; if you put your laptop in the bag through the side access point, you could conceivably push it all the way through and out of the top of the main compartment. The zipper in the internal laptop compartment is a speed bump to remind you not to do that. If you’re not worried about doing that, just leave the laptop compartment zipper unzipped, and it’ll effectively be an open-top laptop compartment.

P.S.: Both the zipper and the slider are plastic and are unlikely to scratch your laptop. Note that the main compartment has a metal zipper that could scratch your laptop, so easy with that one.


Our new Edgeless EV50 1/2” shoulder straps

Conformity is overrated — except, perhaps, when it comes to shoulder straps. The edgelessness of this new strap allows it to more softly conform to your shoulder; we find that this increases comfort. Yet the straps aren’t too soft: the 1/2” thick foam means the strap is robust enough to carry a heavy load.

Our new Edgeless EV50 1/2″ Shoulder Strap is quite similar to the strap of our Luminary backpack — it differs in that it’s thicker and the contour is adjusted to be more proportionate to a larger backpack.

A new shoulder strap design is a big deal, and we spent a lot of time testing these (and having various people test them for us and provide feedback). While it’s impossible to make a strap (or bag, or world, or whatever) that everyone will unanimously love, our hope is here that we’ve made a strap a lot of people will find pretty darn comfortable.


Included, fully integrated yet removable internal frame with aluminum half-stay

For the Synapse, we came up with a clever way to attach an internal frame to a bag that wasn’t originally designed to accommodate an optional internal frame.

With the Synik, that functionality is seamlessly built-in. Its 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. Some may initially wonder about the opening at the top in which the frame inserts — we did too and thoroughly tested this part of the design and could find no material concern.

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 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.

We considered making the internal frame of the Synik optional (as it is with the Synapse) but ultimately decided to include it for various reasons, namely:

While our original hope was that the existing Synapse internal frame could be used with the Synik (so those of you with a Synapse frame wouldn’t need to buy a Synik frame) it didn’t really work out that way in practice. While you can make the Synapse internal frame work in the Synik, it’s a bit kludgy and feels more like a “hack” than something intentional.

The internal frame of the Synik assists in ensuring a laptop stowed in the laptop compartment is suspended off the bottom of the bag and ensures there’s a firm barrier between the laptop and a rolling luggage handle that’s inserted through the luggage pass-through slot.

That said, because the Synik frame is removable, you can, you know, remove it if you’d rather use the bag without a frame.

Additionally, we have adjusted the curve of the aluminum half-stay. The previous curve worked for most folks but we did get feedback from one person that it didn’t work for them — and we think the new curve will be even more of a universal fit. In our research, we learned that most people don’t adjust the curve of the aluminum stay — they stick with our factory default. So, we wanted to make sure that the factory default curve is as universal to comfort as possible.


Rolling luggage handle pass-through

Some of us use rolling luggage: maybe because we need to pack more formal attire for a work trip, or because it’s more comfortable for us to carry some, but not all, of the weight of our luggage. You guys have been asking us for a backpack with a luggage handle pass-through for quite a while, and you’re probably wondering why we didn’t do this sooner. The answer is: we took our time because we wanted to come up with a solution that worked better than the quick-answer of an elastic strap sewn on to the back of a backpack.

While we wanted to come up with a solution that worked better in function and practice, we didn’t want that solution to add bulk or weight to the bag. It occurred to Nik that there was already an opening at the bottom of the back panel through which the internal frame could be inserted or removed — so what if he added an opening at the top of the back panel? He made a prototype, we tested it, and it worked: the internal frame remained securely in place (popped into its corners on the inside of the bag) and the bag was able to slide over the handle of rolling luggage with the handle popping out of the top opening.

Note the following:

We recommend making sure that the internal frame is closest to the bag itself and the handle of your rolling luggage is on the outside of the frame. This ensures that there’s a barrier between the laptop compartment and the luggage handle.

There are, of course, different sizes of rolling luggage with different handle lengths. If you’d like to place your Synik 22 over the handle of your rolling luggage, that handle will need to be at least 400mm / 15.75″ in length. For the Synik 30, the handle will need to be at least 470 mm / 18.5″ length.

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

This is admittedly a bit of a hack, but everyone’s got what they need for it and it’s free. Okay, here goes: remove the included webbing waist belt off the Synik. Connect the two Gatekeeper clips together: now you’ve got a long strap with a male/female buckle closure. 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; clip the buckle around the rolling luggage pole. Photo coming soon!

We made a purpose-built version of this strap: it’s basically 1-1/2″ webbing with a male/female buckle closure and we’re calling it a 1-1/2″ Side Release Lash Strap. It will be available for purchase for $10. We imagine people would buy this strap if they’d rather not remove the webbing waist belt or want a more elegant/less hack solution. This strap will also work with *any* of our backpacks.

While it’s not as elegant as the dual-purpose internal frame/luggage handle slot on the Synik, we do like the following about this strap-around-the-bag solution:

1. The backpack — Synik, Synapse, Guide’s Pack, whatever pack we offer, or even a pack from a different brand — will be secured to the rolling luggage handle in such a way that it won’t spin around or slide off. It feels super sturdy. It still works better than a webbing or elastic band sewn on the back panel of a backpack.

2. It’s a solution that’s not built-in to the bag: it can be used when you need to use it or left at home when you don’t.


Updated grab handle

Does the new handle look familiar? It’s the beloved side grab handle from our Tri-Star travel bag. The depth added to the shell of the Synik gave us the real estate needed to add a more substantial grab handle. Emphasis here on grab, not so much on carry: it’s our position that because the Synik is meant to be carried as a backpack — and a streamlined looking pack at that — the addition of a thick or heavily padded handle would be overkill.


Label moved to lower right corner

This was mostly a change made for our production and shipping/warehouse crew. While our bags are tagged and coded, the ability to visually recognize and identify a bag quickly can improve efficiency and reduce errors. Moving the label to the bottom right corner helps us differentiate the Synik 22 from the Synapse 19 and the Synik 30 from the Synapse 25, and we liked the looks of the label here too.


Waist strap attachment point lowered to work for more people

As with all of our major backpacks, we include adjustable and removable sternum and waist straps with leave-no-trace hardware: if you don’t like or don’t use your waist or sternum strap, remove them and leave (almost) nothing behind. There’s also an optional 1″ Padded Hip Belt. Worth noting: we slightly lowered the waist strap attachment point on the Synik so that it better fits a wider range of heights (and tall folks in particular.)


Deeper/thicker main compartment

A deeper/thicker main compartment is a great way to add a little bit of extra room to the bag and let it play better with packing cubes while the clamshell is unzipped all the way. Not only that, it let us make changes like adding the more substantial handle.


A couple more o-rings

With more room comes more opportunities for o-rings! We added two additional o-rings in the main compartment of the Synik 22 and 30 compared to the Synapse 19 and 25.


And here’s what we didn’t change…

There’s reasons why so many people use and appreciate the original Synapse, and we didn’t want to mess with that.

Front Exterior Organizational Pockets
With the Synapse, Tom set out to design a bag with intuitive organization — organization that even the less-organized amongst us would use and appreciate, even without thinking about it.

And it’s an abundant amount of organization: the exterior of the bag has five exterior pockets. The pockets are designed and patterned in such a way that they don’t steal space from each other and they look good (not too caved in, not too bulgy) whether full or empty.

The water bottle pocket is intentionally in the center of the bag and is integrated into the design of the other pockets; the former ensures what’s likely to be one of the heavier objects in your bag is balanced in the middle — resulting in a more comfortable carrying experience — and the latter maintains a clean, straight-forward exterior aesthetic.

One thing did change with these pockets, and it already changed with the original Synapse 19 and 25: in early 2019, Tom and Nik came up with a way to construct the Synapse that avoided the creation of two small gaps inside the bottom corners that previously existed for construction purposes. Those gaps didn’t cause a problem, but occasionally folks would call to ask why they were there. This was impetus for us to figure out a “solution” — the problem wasn’t with the design or construction, but that we made something that caused a fair number of people to spend a little time out of their day asking “Why?” It took us a little while, but we found that solution.

Interior Banded Open-Top Pocket
Ever-useful, this one stayed exactly as is.

Same Durable Materials + Expert Construction
No bag lasts forever, but choosing the best and most durable materials and taking care not to abuse it (no washing machine or dryer!) can help a quality bag serve most people well (with maybe a repair or two) for up to 10-20 years.

This bag requires significant skill to sew and construct; it’s not just any sewing factory who can pull this off and do it well, it’s ours, and it’s because of the talent of our crew. It helps that both Tom and Nik do their own pattern work and sew the first prototypes; they’re less likely to ask Lisa and Fong (our Sewing Supervisors) for the crazy or impossible when it comes to manufacturing. That said, Lisa and Fong are the experts when it comes to making sure Tom and Nik’s designs can be made in an ongoing practical fashion.



Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

You’ll find answers to questions from “Why is it called the Synik? There’s also a “Nik’s Minimalist Wallet”. Does Nik have a really big head/ego/whatever?” to “Will the Synik 30 look/feel too big to carry as my EDC bag at my work conference?” and “Why did it take you so long to make a pack with a clamshell zipper and a laptop compartment?” over at the Synik Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page.

Reviews So Far

All Spoken Hands on w/the Synik 30 and a comparison of the Synik 30 vs 22
Pack Hacker first look / full review
Spencer’s Synik Unboxing and Spencer’s Full Review
Ryan on YouTube as LivingOneHanded
JonC on Dynamic Bento
Jon on (No)Mad Creative
Rosemary Orchard’s Full Review
Dan Gold’s First Look + Review of the Synik 30
Brooks Review on the 22 and 30
Bemused Backpacker reviews the 30
Chase Reeves review of the 22 and 30

Aloha’s Synape 19/Synik 22 compartive review
G42’s Aeronaut 30/Synik 30 (and Smart Alec) Comparative Review


Nik, Tom, Darcy

Manufacturing Engineering and Efficiency
Lisa, Fong, Victor, Nik, Tom, Ben, Mike

Manufacturing (Joining)
Sau Ling, Rudi

Manufacturing (Binding)
Zhong, Tao, Tam

Manufacturing (Various Assembly)
Tianying, Victor, Ying, Edelmira

Manufacturing (Various Sewing)
Honguyen, Wing, Ling, Hong Hai, Trung, Xue Xia, Trang, Luming, Chun, Rudi, Zhong, Thuy, Yanhua, Canh, Dau, Sheng, Mo-Fong, Di

Manufacturing (Fabric Cutting)

Manufacturing (Bartacking)
Kieu, Tam, Victor, Long

Manufacturing (Die Cutting)
Ben, Long

Materials Inventory/Ordering

Quality Assurance
Aravelia, Lulu

Project Management (of Design, Testing, Incorporation of Feedback)

Project Management (of Manufacturing)
Lisa, Fong, Mike, Darcy, Nik

Project Management (of shipments to testers/reviewers)
Mike, Kat, Matt, Tim

Pre-Order Management
Matt, Tim, Mike, Kat, Cody, Matthew

Pre-Order Systems
Nik, Darcy

Descriptions + FAQ + Blog Posts

Cody, Matthew


Data Management (Accounting, Manufacturing, Inventory)
Kim, Mike, Nik

Page creation + entering of specs and data

Studio Photos

In Use Photos
Des and David

Features/Overview Videos
Zeke Kamm

Testing and/or Feedback
Everyone listed above as well as our volunteer Forum moderators. There were many others who helped us test the Edgeless shoulder straps and the Synik itself; to that secret group of trusted testers and feedback givers we offer many thanks. (Note: people are asked to test our designs by our invitation only.)

Coming Soon: The Synik 22 and Synik 30 Backpacks

An earlier version of the Synik. Photo taken in April 2019.

Over the past week or so, the updated pack design Nik has been working on for the past year has been (somewhat) revealed. It’s named the Synik (here’s why). The Synik is a version of our Synapse 19 / 25 backpacks that includes many of the features some of you have been asking for; we added some additional features as well, which include:

Full clamshell AKA panel zipper opening
Removable internal tie-down straps
Two-point access suspended laptop compartment
Our new Edgeless EV50 1/2” shoulder straps
Fully integrated yet removable internal frame with aluminum half-stay
Rolling luggage handle pass-through
Updated grab handle
Label moved to lower right corner

Timeline for release:

August 6th
Pages for the Synik 22 and 30 go live. The pages will have an abundance of information — description, specs, photos, videos, an FAQ — to help you decide whether the Synik is the right bag for you (or not).

August 13th
Pre-order opens / remains open until 08/20 unless either size of Synik sells out. See our Pre-Order FAQ if you’re wondering how our pre-orders work.

August 20th
Pre-order closes.

Late October
Pre-order Syniks ship.

Learn more:
Synik 22 / Synik 30 Questions & Answers

External Reviews:
All Spoken Hands on w/the Synik 30 and a comparison of the Synik 30 vs 22
Pack Hacker
Spencer’s Synik Unboxing
Ryan on YouTube as LivingOneHanded
JonC on Dynamic Bento
Jon on (No)Mad Creative

Reviews posted on the TOM BIHN Forums by:
Aloha’s Synape 19/Synik 22 compartive review
G42’s Aeronaut 30/Synik 30 (and Smart Alec) Comparative Review

New! Super Mini Ghost Whale, Nik’s Wallet #5, and new bags in 210d ballistic

Packing Cube Backpack + Spiff Kit + Travel Stuff Sack + #5 Minimalist Wallet in 210d ballistic.

We’ve got a few new-ish items available for order today. Have questions or feedback? Post here in our Forums or

Super Mini Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch

We die-cut the fabric to make our various organizer pouches using a die press and that means we order a specific size of die for every organizer pouch. When we ordered the die for our Mini Ghost Whale Pouch, our die maker goofed and sent us a die that was smaller than the Mini — lucky us (and perhaps you as well). This is probably the smallest size of Ghost Whale we can ever make.

Nik’s Minimalist Wallet #5

Nik's Minimalist Wallet #5 | TOM BIHN

The top requested variation on Nik’s original minimalist wallets was: make a #3 wallet but replace its urethane clear plastic pocket with a fabric pocket. Done. And here it is…

Bags now available in 210d ballistic nylon
Some of you have asked us to make more bags available in 210d ballistic nylon. As you wish:

Aeronaut 30 Packing Cube Backpack
Aeronaut 45 Packing Cube Backpack
Tri-Star/Western Flyer Packing Cube Backpack

TOM BIHN Packing Cube Backpacks in Dawn and Island 210d ballistic nylon

TOM BIHN Packing Cube Backpack Aeronaut 30 in Black 210d ballistic nylon

We will continue to offer the Packing Cube Backpacks in 200d Halcyon Northwest Sky only. Colors Iberian, Wasabi, Ultraviolet and Island will only be available in occasional production runs.

Travel Laundry Stuff Sack (both sizes)

Spiff Kit (Standard and Deluxe versions)

Spiff Kit Deluxe in Black 210d ballistic


Travel Stuff Sacks (all sizes)

Travel Stuff Sack in Cloud | TOM BIHN


Travel Tray (both sizes)

TOM BIHN Travel Tray in Black 210d ballistic


With the exception of the Packing Cube Backpacks, all other bags will continue to be available in all five 200d Halcyon colors: Northwest Sky, Island, Wasabi, Ultraviolet, and Iberian.

A note on the various hands of our 210d ballistic nylon
“Hand” in fabric refers to the feel of the fabric as you handle the item – most folks would relate to hand as a “soft vs. stiff” thing. Variances in weaving, and ever-progressing changes in treatments and coating due to evolving new, more environmentally friendly processes, can result in different colors or batches of fabric having slightly different hands. We’ve experienced a somewhat greater than usual variance in our 210 ballistic fabric, so here’s a quick guide to the hand of each color of our current batches of 210d ballistic nylon:

Most structured hand: Black
Medium structure: Dawn, Viridian, Cloud, Grass, Island
Least structured/most similar to 200d Halcyon: Coyote

So many colors and options!
There’s now even more colors from which to choose: makes color-coded organizational packing even easier.

Top Three Things We Learned In Self Defense Class

Seven Star Women's Kung Fu teaches the TOM BIHN Crew self defense

We asked the instructors at Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu to come to the factory to teach us a two hour class on self defense basics. Our instructors — Michelle, Julie, Ellen, Martha, Susan — were awesome and made time to ask us what we wanted to learn about or situations in which we might feel less than safe.

Here are our top three takeaways. Obviously, none of this is a substitute for taking your own self defense class. We aren’t experts (though we’d love to keep taking more classes!) This is just what stood out to us. And we didn’t include all of the super cool stuff we learned about strikes, kicks, targets, and getting ourselves out of grabs and holds: you can see some video of that practice below, but that’s the stuff you’ll want to learn directly from an instructor.

Practice Being Loud and Taking Up/Holding Your Own Space

We found out that many of us don’t have a lot of practice shouting in a firm voice because it’s not something we normally do. Yet it’s something we want to feel totally confident and ready to do in a moment’s notice and without hesitation if we find ourselves feeling less than safe. Practicing being confidently loud in a self defense class was great — and we realized that after class we could continue practicing with friends and family members. Once we realized we could do it, we knew we could do it.

Same goes for taking up and holding our own physical space. In situations that call for it, take a wider stance, put your hands on your hips or cross your arms or put both hands up with your palms facing the person, and make direct eye contact. You own your own physical space and if someone encroaches on it you have a right to tell them that’s what they’re doing — and to stop!

Practice saying “No”, “Go Away”, “I don’t know you”, “Back off” and “None of your business”

We practiced both shouting “No!” at an attacker or potential attacker and we also practiced saying no even in more everyday situations — a family friend persistently asking for money, a creepy stranger asking our name, or a stranger offering/insisting upon help we don’t want. In these situations, we may get a threatening or yucky feeling right from the beginning, or that feeling might come after we respond with a polite but firm “no” and the other person persists in their request.

When it doesn’t feel right and we say no, we don’t need to explain ourselves or apologize — we can repeat our “no” and issue our own request: “I said no. Don’t ask again.” or “That’s none of your business.” or “I don’t know you and I don’t need to tell you anything!”

Worried about being rude? You’re not alone! That said, know this: your top priority is your safety, and any reasonable, rational person that doesn’t mean you any harm would gladly agree. You’re responsible for you and they’re responsible for them. We’re giving you (and ourselves) permission not to worry about being rude.

Take more self-defense classes and bring friends and family to them!

The class was fun, empowering, and we learned so much that we’d encourage everyone to take a class if they’re up for it. Some of us were totally excited to take part in the class from the first moment we heard about it and others amongst the crew felt a little unsure — in the end, everyone felt it was worth their time and that it was an empowering experience.

Thanks again to everyone at Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu, to the TOM BIHN crew for being so excited and up for taking the class, to our amazing interpreters who provided translation for the class, and to the customers visiting our Factory Showroom that day who were cool with looking at bags while we practiced shouting, strikes, and kicks just 20 feet away!

If you’re in the Seattle area, consider attending one of Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu community workshops. Seven Star Women’s Kung Fu provides martial arts and self defense training to individuals who identify as women (age 13+), and non-binary/genderfluid folks comfortable training in an all women environment. They provide self defense training to all populations and offer childcare, ASL interpreting, scholarship and work study. Next workshop: Sunday, June 9th, 1pm – 3pm. Another option is Z Ultimate Self Defense Studios — this studio provides a variety of classes for men, women, and families with young kids.

Restock: Luminary 12 + 15, Pop Tote, Ghost Whales, 3D Cubes, Maker’s Bag and more…

We’ve been busy! Here’s what’s been restocked in the last two weeks…


Luminary 12

Luminary 15

Synapse 19

Pouches / Other Stuff

Ghost Whale Organizer Pouches

3D Clear Organizer Cube

Passport Pouch

Second Aid Pouch

Clear Quarter Packing Cube

Synapse Internal Frames

Cross-Body/Shoulder Bags, Totes and Duffels

Pop Tote

Maker’s Bag

Medium Cafe Bag

Large Zip-Top Shop Bag

Small Zip-Top Shop Bag

Mini Yeoman Duffel

Introducing The Most Minimalist Minimal Wallet Ever Made

This is the kind of freedom you’ll feel with the Most Minimalist Minimal Wallet ever made.

Nik’s original Minimalist Wallets debuted in late 2018. Though many appreciated the original wallets, some asked for an even more minimal design. Nik went back to the drawing board — and to the shopping mall — and designed what we proudly claim is the most minimal minimalist wallet ever made.

The design of Nik’s original Minimalist Wallets was inspired by origami. His inspiration for the Most Minimalist Minimal Wallet was sourced from a different wellspring: the purely decorative pockets on women’s slacks, which provide all of the style features of pockets without the major drawback—namely, feeling obliged to store objects in the pockets, the accumulation of which can lead to unsightly lumpiness in one’s pants.

“There is no way forward in crafting an object to be more minimal. The path to true minimalism is backwards so that one may remove unnecessary additions; this eventually achieves the ultimate realization, that of stasis. My goal was to invite the consumer back to a simpler time — a time before currency and credit history existed — and to provide the experience of life lived without identification. Literally — as in, without government-issued ID.”
– Nik

Nik’s Most Minimalist Minimal Wallet features two “pockets” and holds nothing. It is priced at $1,000 due to its exquisite lack of utility.


Sketch after sketch drawn and discarded, countless prototypes sewn and tossed aside in frustration.

This wallet asks so you don’t have to: do I really need this? Can I purchase it?

How about I trade you this nifty wallet for my bubble tea?

Hi, officer. License and registration? How about just the latter?

When you love something this much, you set it free.

Darn. It came back.

Previous April 1st debuts:
New: Aeronaut 45 Tiny House
New: Flocculent by TOM BIHN
New: Cafe Bag for Jung’s The Red Book
New Design! The Synapse 3000
New Extreme Security Organizer Pouch
Our New Website Design

New: Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch

The Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch is one of the new versions of pouch we came up with after asking you guys how you use our Organizer Pouches/what you carry in them/what you like/what you don’t like.

What we came up with is an organizer pouch that features a gentle curved L-shaped opening with a #3 YKK Coil zipper. This allows you to zip the pouch open / access contents on just the narrowest side or zip it fully open, almost clamshell style (but not fully clamshell, lest your stuff tumble out of the pouch.) Like most of our Organizer Pouches, the Ghost Whale has a snaphook that allows you to secure it to the O-rings inside of our larger bags (photos below) and/or to Key Straps.

The name? Tom thinks the shape of the pouch resembles that of a whale (Melville is on his Audible wishlist.) Nik thinks the pattern of the pouch is shaped like a ghost. There you have it: Ghost Whale.

Something we hope you’ll be as excited about as we are: unlike our other Organizer Pouches, you can choose your preferred color/fabric from a long list of 210d or 525d ballistic or mesh options.

this is the first time we’ve offered an Organizer Pouch for which you can choose your p the color/fabric you’d like from a long list of available 210d or 525d ballistic nylon or mesh.

The Ghost Whale Organizer Pouch is available in sizes Mini, Small, and A5 and will be available for order on Tuesday, February 26th.

Left to right: A5, Small, Mini.

Small in a Packing Cube Shoulder Bag.

A5 and Small clipped in a Daylight Backpack.

A5 and Small clipped in a Small Cafe Bag.

Mini in a Travel Cubelet.

Pre-Order + Official Updates to the Luminary 12 and Luminary 15

The updated Luminary 12 and the new Luminary 15 backpacks are here! And, as promised, we’re also offering the much-requested Shop Bags, The Truck, and Packing Cube Shoulder Bag in 210d ballistic for order at the same time as the Luminaries (and before the March 1st 5th price increase). Details below…..

The following new designs and new fabric/color offerings will be available for order on Tuesday, February 26th:

The Luminary 12 in Aubergine.

Luminary 12
The Luminary is a small everyday backpack designed for an evening on the town, a day spent at museums, the commute to work and back, and traveling the world: wherever you go, the Luminary 12 has your back. This, the original Luminary 12, best fits folks 5’10” and under. It features several design updates that Tom made based on user feedback.

The Luminary 15 in Nebulous Grey.

Luminary 15
The Luminary 15 is designed to fit taller and/or broader folks. The bag itself is approximately 15% taller, 10% wider, and an inch or two more in depth (as it projects away from your back) than the original Luminary 12. Both of its side zippered pockets can fit phones as large as the iPhone Plus / XS or the HTC U Ultra and its dedicated padded device pocket can fit laptops up to the size of the Dell XPS 13″ or the Apple 13″ MacBook Pro.

The Large Zip-Top Shop Bag in Black 210d ballistic nylon.

Small Zip-Top Shop Bag (new 210d ballistic options)
The Zip-Top Shop Bag debuted in 2018 and has been popular ever since. We basically took our original, classic Shop Bag and added a much-requested zipper closure, which allows one to use this design as a tote bag or as an impromptu almost-duffel-like-object. At your request, we are now offering the Small Zip-Top Shop Bag for pre-order in our 210d ballistic nylon colors in addition to the usual 200d Halcyon options. Will we continue to offer the Zip-Tops in 210d ballistic? Maybe, maybe not. It depends on how popular (or not) they end up being.

Large Zip-Top Shop Bag (new 210d ballistic options)
Same as above, but in a larger size to fit more stuff.

Original Large Shop Bag in Viridian 210d ballistic nylon.

Original Large Shop Bag (new 210d ballistic options; last production batch before this design retires)
The classic, the original Shop Bag is retiring due to the popularity of the Zip-Top Shop Bag design. We may make the rare production batch of the Original Large Shop Bag in the future if we can find the production time to do so and there’s enough demand.

You can sign up on any of the pages linked above to be notified via email the moment each bag is available for pre-order.

In addition to the pre-order bags listed above, the following bags will be in-stock available for immediate order. And yes, you can place one order that includes both pre-order and stock items: read all about it in our Pre-Order FAQ.

Convertible Packing Cube Shoulder Bag
The Packing Cube Shoulder Bag in Black 210d ballistic nylon.

Packing Cube Shoulder Bag
The classic Packing Cube Shoulder Bag is now available in Viridian, Dawn, Black, Coyote, Island and Grass 210d ballistic nylon in addition to Northwest Sky and Island 200d Halcyon; features an additional o-ring in the main compartment. Option of a new abrasion resistant and smooth webbing 1″ shoulder strap.

The Truck in Coyote 210d ballistic nylon.

The Truck in 210d ballistic nylon
As promised in our announcement of a price increase effective March 1st 2019 effective March 5th 2019, we will be offering The Truck in 210d ballistic nylon just like you’ve asked us to. It’s worth noting that we think The Truck is at its best in 525d ballistic nylon. Additionally, the 525d version of The Truck is by far the most popular. Still, there’s some of you who wanted the chance to buy it in 210d, and this one’s for you. And, hey: we probably won’t be offering The Truck in 210d again, so this is your last chance.

The Design Updates to the Luminary 12 and Luminary 15

Here’s the scoop on the design updates Tom made to both sizes of Luminary.

External Design Updates

Showing off that new zipper garage.

The zipper sliders for the side pockets now close to the top rather than to the bottom – some folks will find this makes more sense, as zipping a pocket shut to the bottom may have seemed counterintuitive, though arguably it’s somewhat arbitrary. We were able to achieve this by redesigning the clever way in which the main zipper morphs to become the pocket zippers: it was clever before, but now it’s even more cleverer. On the new version, at the juncture between the main zipper and pocket zipper, a small “garage” of fabric spans the width of the zipper (it’s actually just one zipper, with four sliders), more-or-less covering the small gap at the top of the “pocket zipper” and offering some weather protection for the contents.

Both zippered pockets on the Luminary 15 can fit even the largest phablets. The taller zippered pocket on the Luminary 12 fits the largest phablets; the other one can fit smaller phones.

And those side pockets? We nudged things around a bit to make them deeper (wider) so they can accommodate a wider variety of phones and phablets, notably the larger varieties. We still weren’t satisfied, so we made one of the side pockets a bit taller than the other, so even some pretty gigantic phones will now fit. All well and good you might say, but does that not mean the main opening is now a bit asymmetrical, zipping a bit further down one side than the other? My, you are paying attention aren’t you! Yes indeed, that main opening is now a bit off center, something you are likely not even to really notice in use, or perhaps you will notice and it’ll make you smile every time to recall that symmetry is totally overrated.

The piping (the trim that sits in the seam between the front panel and the top/sides of the pack) is now color-matched: not a functional change, but we thought it fit with the lean aesthetic of the overall pack.

Internal Design Updates

You asked and Tom added a small, zippered pocket to the interior front face of both sizes of Luminary.

We added a small (like, wallet-sized) zippered pocket to the inside upper front. Several of you asked for this feature, and though Tom was cranky about dropping everything when he was so close to wrapping up the new design, he realized he really ought to have thought of it earlier. Like we said, it’s a tiny pocket — it will not fit your 15” MacBook Pro — but it’s still quite useful for stowing away a Minimalist Wallet, iPhone, or small notebook and pen.

And more about the Luminary 15…

The comfortable shoulder straps of the Luminary 15 are designed to fit a wide variety of people.

The original Luminary 12 was specifically designed to fit folks of about 5’10” (178cm) and under: our intention was to offer folks short of stature and/or slight of build a super-comfortable everyday backpack. The Luminary 12 was well received, but folks who are taller/bigger wanted one too, so Tom set to work designing the Luminary 15. The L15 fits a wide range of people quite well — those who have tested or worn it for us ranging from 5’0″ to over 6’0″ tall have reported it’s quite a good fit.

The Luminary 15 is approximately 15% taller, 10% wider, and an inch or two more in depth (as it projects away from your back) than the original Luminary 12. You’ll get more capacity from the 15 of course (approximately 15 liters vs 12), and you’ll be able to carry a slightly larger device in the back pocket as well (think a small laptop like the 13″ MacBook Pro in the L15 vs a tablet like the iPad in the L12). While we designed the two sizes to best fit different sized people, we know some folks will choose the 15 simply for its greater volume, and that’s okay with us.

Timeline of the Luminary design updates / development of the Luminary 15

Luminaries in process in Tom’s design studio.

The Luminary 12 debuted in June 2017. One of the ways we know a design is going to be successful is when the people who buy it use it a lot and thus are able to provide informed feedback based on experience about its features. That was the case with the Luminary 12 (thanks for the feedback, everyone!) and Tom took that opportunity to spend the next year designing and incorporating updates to the original Luminary 12 in addition to making the larger, Luminary 15 designed to better fit broader/taller folks.

Samples of the new Luminaries were made and given to friends, family, and current/former employees to test; more feedback gathered and the designs were finalized. (A guest post by former TOM BIHN Bag Guru Hollie — the main tester/evalulator/feedback-giver of the Luminary 15 — will be published later this week.)

In May 2018, we posted this update on the progress of the new Luminary designs. And later, in September 2018, we posted another update. We shared some of the reasons behind the long design timeline of new Luminaries in this post: On The Design Process: Inspiration, Timeline, Testing

The PPB (pre-production batches) of the updated Luminary 12 and the new Luminary 15 were completed in mid-January. We’ll publish a post all about the PPB process later this week.

New: Nik’s Minimalist Wallets, Road Buddy Duffels, Shadow Guide + Tom’s Firewood Carrier

A true test of patience: the dogs wait for green beans as patiently as we’ve been waiting to share these new designs with you. In this photo: the Road Buddy 36 (along with a Yeoman Duffel).

Meet our latest designs….

Click the name to go directly to the pages for the new designs to see all the details: photos, specifications, full descriptions and more. Click “Full Summary” or keep scrolling to read on below for a summary of each of the new designs. You can also sign up on the individual pages for each new design to be notified the moment they’re made available for order.

Nik’s Minimalist Wallets
1 elastic strap, 2 halves, 3 wallet designs: everything you need and nothing you don’t.
(Full Summary)

Road Buddy Duffel 36 & Road Buddy Duffel 60
An ever-evolving duffel design; successor to the Skookum Dog Road Duffel and heir to the Road Buddy throne. A good amount of built-in organization.
(See also: the optional additional Road Buddy Lash Straps)
(Full Summary)

Shadow Guide
If the original Guide’s Pack is a fully realized sketch, the limited edition Shadow Guide is the version of the sketch with several brush strokes removed — what the sketch conveys remains clear, but with an end experience of true simplicity.
(See also: the optional Shadow Guide Padded Hip Belt)
(Full Summary)

Tom’s Firewood Carrier
The firewood carrier Tom made for his dad and his friends in the mid-1970’s.
(Full Summary)

All of these new designs are in production at our Seattle, Washington, USA factory. They will be available for order on Monday, November 26th around 8:00am-ish PT and will ship the same day if ordered before 12:30pm PT (as long as they’re still in stock).

Nik’s Minimalist Wallets

Nik's Minimalist Wallet

Not so long ago, Nik realized he wasn’t satisfied with his old leather wallet. Its exposed stitching was failing and, as Nik repaired the wallet, he realized he could design a new, more minimalist wallet that he’d be happier with overall.

In designing and making his new wallet, Nik’s main design criteria were to keep the design as simple as possible with as little bulk as possible so that the wallet could comfortably be carried in one’s back or front pants pocket (in addition, of course, to being carried in one’s bag).

Nik also wanted to keep the design clean, and to him that meant hiding as much of the typically exposed stitching as possible. He imagined and made real a series of internal folds that — after the final action of turning the wallet inside out post-construction process — created pockets for cards/cash and achieved that seamless look he was after.

Nik made three four versions of his wallets based on the feedback from the crew here at TOM BIHN and the Forums:

Wallet #1
Nik’s original wallet and the most minimalist of them all. Two interior fabric pockets. No exterior pockets.

Wallet #2
Two interior pockets — one pocket is fabric, the other pocket is clear urethane for your ID or any other card you might want to show off. No exterior pockets. 

Wallet #3
Two interior pockets: one is fabric, the other is clear urethane. And this time, there’s one exterior pocket. 

Wallet #4
Nik and Fong worked together on the day the wallets debuted to make this version in response to feedback from members of the TOM BIHN Forums. Wallet #4 is exactly the same as Wallet #3 except for one key (ha ha… meh) difference: a small webbing loop through which gives you the ability to securely and conveniently tether your Wallet #4 to any TOM BIHN bag with O-rings. You’ll need a Key Strap to do this, but given that all of our larger bags come with one 8″ Key Strap in Black, you probably already have one. If you don’t: see our various styles, lengths, and colors of Key Straps here

In Production in Seattle, Washington, USA

Ready To Order / Ships On…
Monday, November 26th at 8:00am Pacific Time

Black, Viridian, Dawn, Grass, Cloud, Coyote, Island (210d ballistic) and Nordic, Black (400d Halcyon)


Road Buddy Duffel 36 and Road Buddy Duffel 60

Tried and proved true over 20 years (with a few updates along the way), the Road Buddy Duffel is our take on the go everywhere, go anywhere duffel bag: tough as nails, easy on the eyes, all with a good amount of built-in organization.

Three main compartments. Seven organizational pockets. Lash straps for securing a tripod, yoga mat, or Camp Mat to the outside of the duffel. Carry by hand or over the shoulder.

Available in two different sizes:
Road Buddy Duffel 36 Liters
Road Buddy Duffel 60 Liters

In Production in Seattle, Washington, USA

Ready To Order / Ships On…
Monday, November 26th at 8:00am Pacific Time

Black, Navy, Verde, Steel Burnt Orange, and Aubergine 1050d ballistic nylon.

Also Available:
Road Buddy Lash Straps


Shadow Guide

Shadow Guide - a backpack with an internal frame

If the original Guide’s Pack is a fully realized sketch, the limited edition Shadow Guide is the version of the sketch with several brush strokes removed — what the sketch conveys remains clear, but with an end experience of true simplicity.

Two minor additions of webbing serve to add major functionality: first, interior loops to which you can secure the optional Cache laptop sleeve. (Note: all existing sizes of our Cache sleeve fit in the Shadow Guide — even the Cache 17B for the Razer Blade Pro.) And second, an unobtrusive webbing loop on the bottom to which one can affix a Guardian Light if biking or walking.

In Production in Seattle, Washington, USA

Ready To Order / Ships On…
Monday, November 26th at 8:00am Pacific Time

Black 525d ballistic nylon / 1050d ballistic nylon

Also available:
Shadow Guide Padded Hip Belt


Tom’s Firewood Carrier

Tom's Firewood Carrier

Back in the mid 1970’s, I made a firewood carrier for my father and a couple extras for friends. The design was nothing new or revolutionary, but it did its job: schlepping 3-5 firewood logs from the woodshed to the hearth. When my father passed away in 2016, I inherited the original carrier I had made all those years before. Now, over 40 years later, I use the thing almost daily in the winter months.

Darcy posted a photo of the original firewood carrier on Instagram and a few people asked us if we’d offer it someday — so here it is. Just like the original version it’s made of heavy cotton canvas — a material I’ve been re-learning recently.

— Tom

In Production in Seattle, Washington, USA

Ready To Order / Ships On…
Monday, November 26th at 8:00am Pacific Time

Forest/Brown Heavy duty #8 Cotton Canvas

News Briefs

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.

Restocked this week: our Brain Bag and Synapse 25 backpacks and the Side Kick sling/waist/shoulder pack.

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