Tom Bihn Synapse as carry-on bag

· technology ·

I've been meaning to update my previous review of my Tom Bihn Synapse rucksack after my recent travel experiences. I decided to use the Synapse as my carry-on bag when I travelled to Brazil recently. On previous trips, my older but superficially bigger rucksack was straining at the seams with all the stuff I had to put in my carry-on, and felt like a dead weight while I was wandering around airports or running from one gate to another. Despite the fact that I know that the Synapse carries much more than you would at first think, I worried that I would not be able to fit everything in.

I really need not have worried: I got everything I needed packed away neatly, and even had a little bit of space to spare. What is more, the bag felt so comfortable that I frequently forgot I was wearing it. I didn't make a full list of the contents at the time, but from memory, this is what I packed:

  • Asus EeePC netbook and power brick
  • Assorted sync cables and power adaptors for iPhone, camera etc.
  • Paperback book
  • Some A4 documents in a plastic wallet
  • Pencil case
  • Canon Powershot G10 camera
  • Large pair of binoculars
  • Zipped mesh bag full of USB sticks, small first aid kit, wet wipes, cleaning cloths etc.
  • Glasses in hard case
  • Sunglasses in semi-hard case
  • Small Moleskine notebook
  • Wallet containing Brazilian currency
  • Change of underwear (you never know when your main baggage will go astray!)
  • Large grey scarf/shawl (to use as blanket on plane)
  • Bandanna (always comes in useful in various ways)
  • Keys on key strap
  • Torch (flashlight for American readers)
  • Metal tin containing chewing gum
  • Paper tissues

I think that's more or less it.

I also carried the Side Effect separately on a shoulder strap, and that contained my passport, boarding passes, wallet with UK cash and cards, iPhone, earbuds, earplugs, paracetamol and eye mask. I thought that I might get asked to carry on only one bag (in which case I could have crammed the Side Effect in the Synapse temporarily), but no-one batted an eye. Others in our group were asked to put their carry on rucksacks on the weighing scales, but I suspect I got away with it because the Synapse looks so small and light. It was very handy having easy access to the stuff in the Side Effect, and I deliberately packed things in it that I knew I would need on the flights. That meant that I only needed to fetch and put away my book from the Synapse, and so didn't have to keep diving in and out of the overhead locker.

I also used the Synapse every day while in Brazil for carrying around the first aid kit (I'm the first aider), water, hat, glasses, binoculars, camera and so on that I needed while supervising the students in the field. It handled everything beautifully.

I'm beginning to think that the Synapse is one of the best purchases I'm made in recent years. I don't think that there has been a day when I haven't used it. If I go out of the house, the Synapse comes with me, whether I am driving, walking or cycling. It has put up with being laden with an enormous diversity of items, covered in dust and sand, and being soaked by torrential rain storms. Despite all that, it has only needed a quick wipe with a damp cloth to end up looking as good as it did when I bought it nearly 6 months ago.