I'm a climber, and I'm lucky enough to have a gym just a couple of blocks from my house. Portland has great public transportation, so I usually take one of her bio-diesel busses when it's time to climb. No sense spending the gas for such a short trip.

There's a sizable walk from my house to the bus stop, so I wear my Synapse 19 to carry my gear. A couple of organizer pouches and packing cubes let me keep my harness, shoes, and chalk bag separate from the other things I never leave home without.

The harness goes in its own packing cube in case I find a belay partner. More often than not, I'm bouldering, so I keep my shoes and my chalk bag in separate packing cube. This one rides on top of the other in the main compartment of the Synapse, so I can take it out at the gym without having to rummage. I keep my Marmot Mica jacket on top in case of sudden rain, a daily certainty here in the Pacific Northwest.

Sometimes I get on the wall to find that my nails are a little too long to grip comfortably, so I bring a nail kit in the side pocket. This pocket also holds my iPhone and my keys (on a keystrap, of course.) The other side pocket holds pens, pencils, and a notebook. I'm a writer, and though I usually write using my iPad or iPhone, I can't let battery life dictate my ability to jot down a thought. Some ideas are better expressed in ink anyway.

The small pocket just holds a pocket pouch and my headphones. I like to listen to music on the bus and when I'm walking around, and it's the perfect pocket for earbuds. The pocket pouch keeps the cables orderly.

I run on the treadmill for about thirty minutes to get my heart rate up. It's a good idea to do some cardio before you climb, and I'm a little out of shape from my winter hiatus from climbing. After the run, I work my way through a bouldering circuit. Right now, I just climb every V-0 and V-1 I can find. I finish my workout with some top-roping (often with the auto-belay) and I'm up to a 5.9.

In case I need to take a shower after my climb, I have a 3D Clear Organizer Cube with toiletries (in GoToobs, a godsend) and a pack towel stuffed into the bottom pocket.

There's also a Klean Kanteen in the water bottle pocket, but that almost goes without saying.

The fact that everything fits comfortably inside my Synapse without feeling unbalanced or obtrusive is great, but that's quality I've come to expect from Tom Bihn. The bag's slim profile and smooth lines mean that I can squeeze my way past other commuters on the bus without disturbing anybody. But I want to talk about a couple of things that surprised me.

The side pockets are perfectly sized and placed to allow you to slide the bag off of one shoulder and reach across, one-handed, to unzip the pocket and access its contents. All without having to worry about things falling out! The pocket is angled so that everything sits secure in its side. It's making me re-evaluate the way I pack those pockets, since I've been loading them from the top down this whole time.

The water-proofing was critical when I got caught in a downpour trying to catch my bus. I stopped for a second to deploy my Mica jacket and make sure all of the zippers on my Synapse were tight, then booked it up the street for about fifteen minutes. My shoes were soaked, my pants were soaked, and I had to trust in Tom Bihn to keep my electronics safe and dry inside the bag.

I unzipped the side pocket first and found that my iPhone was still warm and dry. Inside the main pocket, my kindle and my iPad were just as fine.

Your mileage may vary, but I don't need a bag to be much more water-resistant than that. The next time I go out in the rain, I won't have any concerns.

Ultimately, the Synapse 19 is a perfect climbing bag, so long as you're only going to the gym. There's not enough room inside for a rope the other gear you would need to climb outside, but I'm thinking the Guide's Pack might be perfect for that.

Here's an itemized packing list, for those of you who are curious:

Synapse 19

Main Pocket

Marmot Mica jacket (not pictured)
Western Flyer Packing Cube, Small w/contents:
– Climbing shoes
– Chalk bag
– Medical tape
– Nail file
Tri-Star Packing Cube, Small w/contents:
– Climbing harness
– ATC-style belay device
– Locking carabiner

Side Pocket
Moleskine notebook
Pen and pencil

Side Pocket
Cork organizer wallet
Keys (not pictured)

Water Bottle Pocket
Klean Kanteen

Small Pocket
Pocket pouch with EarPods

Bottom Pocket
3D Clear Organizer Cube w/contents:
– GoToob – Dr. Bronner's Miracle Soap
– GoToob – Shampoo
– GoToob – Toothpaste
– Pack towel
– Travel toothbrush
– Floss

Synapse 19 and the Climbing Gym | TOM BIHN