A New Tom Bihn Owner

How do you review a backpack you’ve only used for less than a week? I believe you can’t. Especially if your previous backpack has been in continuous use for 20+ years. The time had finally come to replace my aging, but beloved yellow SpireUSA backpack. I’ve waxed poetic about it in previous posts, so I won’t do so here. Instead, I’d like to offer some thoughts and first impressions as the owner of a new Tom Bihn Synapse25 backpack.

Buying a new backpack wasn’t something I took lightly. I’m what you call a hard-core backpack user. My backpack goes with me everywhere, whether it’s for work or for trips abroad. SpireUSA went out of business 11 years ago, so that option wasn’t available anymore. I wanted a rugged, comfortable, high-quality backpack with a lifetime warranty to replace my old backpack and all my research pointed me towards the Tom Bihn models. Not only do all their products come with a lifetime warranty, they are also proudly made in the US.

Throughout my research, I learned one thing: Tom Bihn users are pretty obsessed with their bags and backpacks. There’s a rather devoted following for these products and after receiving and using a Tom Bihn Synapse 25 for the past few days, I can see why.

First impressions are always important and the box that Tom Bihn sent me did not disappoint.

Inside the box was the bag, an invoice, and a cool decal.

Taking the new backpack out of the box, I immediately had to take a comparison photo with my old Spire backpack. Size-wise, the Synapse25 looks to be a little bigger than my old Spire, but don’t be fooled – the Synapse25 can hold a lot. Side note: If you’re on the fence between a Synapse19 or Synapse25 in terms of carrying size, go for the Synapse25 – you won’t regret it. I initially purchased the Synapse19 but found it to be too small for my stuff.

There are many color choices for the Synapse25 backpack. I ultimately went with the Olive exterior, gray interior. The lighter interior makes it much easier to see what’s inside the bag, especially in low light situations. My Spire backpack, by comparison, had a black interior.

The entire backpack is a solid piece of kit. There is a lot of space inside this backpack – and I really appreciate the placement and number of pockets the Synapse25 comes with. Furthermore, the fit and finish of the stitching is fantastic, as is the material used to make up the backpack. The zippers included with the Synapse25 are strong and easy to open. My old backpack had some fraying on the inside which occasionally caught the zipper, causing a jam.

Along with the Synapse25, I placed an order for the Tom Bihn Freudian Slip. This $50 accessory improves the Synapse25’s storage capacity by providing conveniently sized pockets to store items such as pens, business cards, Field Notes etc. in a very neat, organized way. It slips into the Synapse25 with ease. My 13″ Macbook Pro fits in nicely too, although I wish the bottom of the backpack had more in the way of cushioning. I’m using my old Spire Messenger sleeve to provide this cushioning as a workaround.

Carrying it to and from work was very comfortable. The back of the Synapse25 is nicely contoured to my back, providing even, uniform support as I walk. (Due to my lower back injuries, I wear my backpack with both shoulder straps.)

In summary, my first impression of the Synapse25 is good. I paid $250 for the Synapse25 and the Freudian Slip. Is it pricey? Yes, but I’m willing to pay a premium for something that I depend on day in and day out.

It’s difficult to review a backpack without at least taking it on a traveling excursion, so I’ll hold off on a full review until that transpires. In the meantime, hats off to Tom Bihn for a smart design. I look forward to traveling with my Synapse25 for the next 20 or so years.


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