Part of the first shipment I ever received from Tom Bihn was the Synapse (now called the Synapse 19). I bought it alongside the Aeronaut (now called the Aeronaut 45) and the Co-Pilot. The Synapse has been over the last four years my go-to bag. While I take my Smart Alec to work every day because I need extra space in my bag, the Synapse is the bag I grab if I’m going out for the day whether it be in the city or out in the country. The reason I always reach for the Synapse is the same reason people always tell me they wouldn’t want a Synapse (19) — because it’s small. I’ve bought a lot of big backpacks over the years, and I never want to carry them because they’re too big. It’s the size of the Synapse that makes it so useful. It’s never too big, and I always manage to fit more into it than I would imagine that I could.
The Synapse has a pretty spacious main compartment with a stretchy inside pocket that’s good for keeping things from mushing up against your back. There are two side pockets. I find the right one handy for clipping in my keys and my wallet (inside a Tom Bihn organizer pouch). It’s quite easy to sling the bag under your arm and access this pocket. The right pocket also boasts a suede-lined pocket for your phone. The left side pocket is the same size and has pen slots. On the front of the bag there are two horizontal zips. One is a shallow pocket that I find great for earphones and other mini items. The other pocket is a very tall pocket that’s great for water bottles or umbrellas. Having these items in the center is superior to having them in a side pocket because it helps balance the weight of the bag in the center of your back. Lastly, there’s a big pocket that runs left to right across the bottom of the bag. This is great for bulky items that can be stuffed easily. I often put a packable rain jacket in this pocket.
If you think you need a big backpack, the truth is, you probably don’t. You’re either no packing well enough, or your gear isn’t suited for lightweight travel. If you have to have a bigger bag, there’s a 25 liter version of the Synapse, but give serious thought to paring down what you carry and consider the Synapse 19. It’s a wonderful lightweight and versatile bag. And get it in Dyneema!