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Tom Bihn Synapse 25: Upsizing a classic laptop/iPad backpack

Dan Frakes | Feb. 12, 2014
Nearly four years ago, I reviewed Tom Bihn's Synapse, a fantastic and versatile compact backpack for those times when you don't need to carry everything but the kitchen sink. I liked it so much that bought the review sample. The Synapse remains my everyday backpack, and apart from looking a little worn, it's in nearly as good condition today as when I reviewed it.

Besides being great for TSA checkpoints at the airport, this modular design means that when you need to carry both your laptop and your iPad safely, you can. When you need to carry just an iPad, you can leave the laptop sleeve behind. And when you're traveling technology-free (or as close as we can get these days), you can quickly remove everything and have a comfortable, roomy backpack that weighs considerably less than a traditional permanent-sleeve laptop backpack.

Of course, a Cache (or two) adds to the cost of the Synapse 25, but keep in mind that the cost of the Synapse plus a cache (~$200) costs less than buying a high-quality laptop/iPad backpack for when you need your tech, along with a separate standard backpack for when you don't. And having a single, versatile bag has other advantages, as well, such as not having to move all your "everyday" stuff between bags every time you switch.

Bottom line
When I reviewed the Synapse 19, I wrote, "As long as you tend to travel light, and you've got a 13-inch (or smaller) laptop, this is a superb, and superbly versatile, bag." With the Synapse 25, those caveats no longer apply: It's just a superb, versatile bag. The Synapse 19 is still my everyday bag, because I like to travel light and its smaller size forces me to do so. But I have to admit that I'm envious of the Synapse 25. It's a little bit more of everything that's great about the 19, and the Cache/rails system is fantastic. The 25 is one of the most versatile bags I've seen, and though it's not inexpensive, my experience with its smaller sibling — four years of heavy use and still going strong — suggests that you're getting what you pay for.

 

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