Our Thoughts On Load Lifters

TOM BIHN Wild Limpet Backpack (early 1980's)
A design of Tom’s from the early-mid 1980s that had load lifters: the Wild Limpet. In use, Tom found that the load lifters didn’t do much for this pack (except distorting the shape of it) because it didn’t have a frame.

Load lifters are somewhat ubiquitous on large internal frame and external frame packs and, on those packs, can be useful; 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, Guide’s Pack, and Synapse 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).

Our backpacks have a shorter internal frame because they’re fairly small daypacks: if we added “load lifter” straps to our daypacks, they wouldn’t really help “lift” any weight – it’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 internal frames used with our packs 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 packs we intend them to be.

We’re open to your experiences, thoughts, and feedback; post here in the comments or send a note to feedback@tombihn.com


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 emailus@tombihn.com

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.


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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