Synik 22/30 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Synik on some rolling luggage

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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!)

End photo!

mm

TB Crew

We're the TOM BIHN crew: we design bags, make bags, ship bags, and answer questions about bags. Oh, and we collaborate on blog posts, too.

4 Comments

  1. Adam Perry on 9 August 2019 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm

    If you want to understand why people love Tom Bihn as a company, you need look no further. The care and thought put into this epic FAQ is amazing. Thanks!

    • mm TB Crew on 10 August 2019 9:21 am at 9:21 am

      Thanks Adam, we’re glad you found it useful.

  2. Mike Miller on 28 September 2019 7:28 am at 7:28 am

    I have been doing a lot of fact gathering on backpacks lately, and have to tell you I am sold (already) on a Synik, I can’t wait until they’re available. The thought, the quality, and the expertise that apparently goes into TB products is greatly evident… add to that all of the positive reviews, the owner’s testamonials, the longevity of the co., and you can readily see why they have such a great reputation. The ‘care and sense of pride’ is evident, as you browse through the website… pretty cool! Way to go TB! I can’t wait to become an owner of some of your products. Thank you.

    • mm TB Crew on 28 September 2019 8:15 am at 8:15 am

      Hi Mike,
      Thanks for sharing this with us! We’ll make sure the whole crew here in Seattle gets to see your comment. Speaking of our crew: they’ve prioritize the Synik and we do think it will be back in-stock earlier than the early-mid December estimated date. Maybe as soon as mid-late November.

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