A review of the Tom Bihn Synik 22 backpack.
So, the bag. I think it’s worthwhile to start by discussing a bit about me, what I use backpacks for, and what would make the Synik 22 a success over my existing Synapse 19.
I travel quite a bit, generally on planes but also long roadtrips, and usually my load out is very sparse. I prefer to have as much empty space as possible where I pack important things, and I am not a packing cube adherent (nor do I use lots of pouches).
This can color my review a bit, so I like making sure people understand where I’m coming from. For this review, I think a good format is to discuss the major points I’ve found differentiate this bag from existing Tom Bihn bags, and maybe a short discussion of why I think Tom Bihn itself differentiates against most other luggage companies, across the entire brand.
1.The shape of the bag is slightly different than my 19. It’s wider and slightly squatter, giving it a more rectangular and less oblong silhouette; it’s good for more rectangular packing options, and doesn’t sacrifice too much in terms of flexibility. I love the new handle, and am glad to see raw webbing go. If you haven’t owned a bag made with TB’s 525D Ballistic Nylon yet, be aware that the bag will feel very stiff and have a slightly rough ‘hand’ (the feeling of the fabric against your skin) for a bit — maybe two weeks or so, and then it’ll break in and become significantly less coarse and more pliable.
The internal laptop compartment is quite nice, but also represents a philosophical change from existing TB bags. I think that holds throughout the Synik itself (especially the main pocket): This is less a modular canvas than the Synapse 19 and 25, and much more-so a ready-made solution to travel luggage. It’s not a negative and fits my packing style much better, and really only holds in the main compartment. The straps are good and, again, are a welcome addition for someone who isn’t already an adherent of packing cubes.
- The frame sheet provides a surprising amount of rigidity to the bag. I’m used to my Synapse 19, and that bag was produced well before the existing Synapse frame sheet was available; this is a pretty major change in the way the bag feels against your body and the way the bag carries. Like the outer fabric, I’d recommend holding off any snap judgments for a week or two and let the bag break itself in. Removing the sheet takes some effort — it’s in the luggage handle slot pretty tightly so don’t be afraid to tug on it and press it a bit to remove it.
The top panel pockets all function about like you’d expect from previous Synapse iterations, apart from one major/minor difference: the water bottle pocket is not longer sewn as a cube, but as a cylinder. What this means is that the mesh on either side of your water bottle actually curves toward the center of the bag; comparing this against my Synapse 19, I can fit quite a bit more in the side pockets than before, especially if I’m carrying my usual fieldnotes + kindle in the water bottle pocket instead of a large bottle.
- The last main point for me is the way the bag carries and how a person interacts with it on a daily basis. Bags made by Tom Bihn have always had this sort of intuitive feel that most other companies can’t touch for me, and the Synik 22 is no exception. Even just a day into ownership, I feel like I’m not fighting with the bag at all: things go where I would expect them to, they fit neatly, and the bag works with my body to make carrying stress free. It’s a difficult quality to really portray via text or photos, I think, but it’s central to why I’ve only carried a Tom Bihn backpack for the past 8 years.
I’ve had a tough time coming up with where the Synik series fits in against the Synapse series in terms of the product lineup, but I think I’ve got something here. The Synik 22, for my carry style, feels like a Synapse 19+: it’s a less utilitarian bag, with a few small quality of life improvements (that have a much more outsize effect on how the bag is to carry), but I don’t think it necessarily replaces the Synapse 19. Going forward this will definitely be my bag for anything longer than an overnight trip, and it may sneak its way into my EDC load out more often than I expect.