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 emailus@tombihn.com, call us at 1-800-729-9607 or 1-206-652-4123, or live chat with your questions.

Directory

[WHAT’S DIFFERENT / WHAT’S THE SAME IN THE SYNIK VS. THE SYNAPSE IN BRIEF]
[PRE-ORDER TIMELINE]
[FULL DESCRIPTIONS OF DIFFERENCES]
[VIDEOS]
[FAQ]
[REVIEWS SO FAR]
[CREDITS]

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Videos

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
mrbrown
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

dan
bchaplin
tuskegee7294
imagineez
Cristina
bartleby
Aloha’s Synape 19/Synik 22 compartive review
G42’s Aeronaut 30/Synik 30 (and Smart Alec) Comparative Review
heygreggie
natemic

Credits

Design
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)
Irma

Manufacturing (Bartacking)
Kieu, Tam, Victor, Long

Manufacturing (Die Cutting)
Ben, Long

Materials Inventory/Ordering
Ben

Quality Assurance
Aravelia, Lulu

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

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
Darcy

Proofing
Cody, Matthew

Formatting
Matthew

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

Page creation + entering of specs and data
Matthew

Studio Photos
Jenny

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.)

Read more...

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….

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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. 😉

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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

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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!)

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Ways To Secure Your Bag to Rolling Luggage

Some of our bags — such as the Cadet, Synik, Pilot, and Co-Pilot — have built-in rolling luggage handle pass-through slots. But what do you do if your bag doesn’t have a pass-through, or you have rolling luggage with a very thick, wide handle that can’t fit through the bag’s built-in pass-through?

There’s two solutions we can offer:

Option #1 Use the Webbing Waist Belt On the Bag You Have

Using the Gatekeeper waist strap to secure the Synik to rolling luggage

This is admittedly a bit of a hack, but if you have one of our bags, you might already have what you need for it and, in that case, it’s free!

1. Remove the Gatekeeper Webbing Waist Belt that’s included with most of our larger bags.
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, Synapse, Pop Tote, Tri-Star or other bag as it’s sitting on top of your rolling luggage with its back against the handle of the luggage.
4. Clip the buckle around the rolling luggage pole.
5. Cinch the strap down.

Option #2 Use the optional Simple Rolling Luggage Lash Strap

Using the Simple Rolling Luggage Lash Strap with the Synik 30

Don’t have a Gatekeeper webbing waist belt, or don’t want to remove it from your bag because you use it? We made a purposeful version of the strap that effectively does the same job: the Simple Rolling Luggage Lash Strap.

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. (In fairness to the rolling luggage pass-through pockets on the Synik, Cadet, and other bags: they don’t add any bulk and are dual-purpose.)

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

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News Briefs

We’re retiring our Road Buddy Duffel 36 and Road Buddy Duffel 60 to make way for new designs. If you’ve been thinking about a Road Buddy, you may want to order soon, as we won’t be making further production runs.

We’ve updated our Planet page with additional efforts: we’re operationally carbon neutral, members of 1% For The Planet, we offer a vegetarian company lunch, and over 80% of our materials are bluesign® and/or OEKO-TEX® certified.

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.

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