Tom Bihn Synik 22: Review

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Tom Bihn is one of the largest and longest running companies in the bag industry.  Tom Bihn (founder) started designing bags out of his garage in 1972, slowly growing overtime until it became a household name in the bag world.  They’re a surprisingly small crew of 47 people designing, producing, and shipping a wide range of products out of Seattle WA. Tom Bihn and team produce everything from laptop backpacks and travel bags to outdoor packs, pouches, and accessories all with unique color and material options. 

Tom Bihn made it big with the release of there Synapse line in 2009. Its unique pocket arrangement and comfortable carry made it a very versatile bag. Since the release of the synapse, Tom and Nik (designer) have slowly made small updates from customer feedback. However some of the largest requests had to wait to be utilized in the new Synik line that released this year. The Synik comes in 22L and 30L variants, both slightly larger than their Synapse siblings.

Tech Specs

Weight2.10 lbs1.19kg
Capacity1340 cu. in.22L
Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review wearing on back in front of water

Quality and Comfort

You can tell Tom Bihn put the back panel and stap system at the top of their list when they were designing the Synik.  There’s a new integrated and removable frame sheet keeping the load well balanced on your back, and coupled with the new Edgeless EV50 1/2in shoulder straps, it’s all very comfortable to wear.

The underside of the straps are covered in a layer of slick stretchy material that did hold up with my daily 18lb load for about a month. The straps show no sign of wear yet however I am curious to see how that material will hold up overtime on the most abused area of the bag.

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review padded straps up close

With the inclusion of the frame sheet and the luggage pass-through, Tom Bihn had to switch out some of the mesh back panel for a more substantial and abrasive material on the bottom area. I’m sure this will help keep the lower and corner areas form damaging during use but you might see an increase in sweat and clothing wear in the area of the back panel.  Lastly, the totally redesigned grab handle is now padded with a little bit of extra stiffness to keep it standing and accessible for easy and comfortable use.

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review back panel

With the Synik 22, Tom Bihn included their newly released strap keepers for any excess nylon.  With a light elastic and thin G-hook to wrap around the strap these worked wonders – never getting in the way, loosening, or slipping off the straps.  Elastic has a tendency to loosen up over time, but totally worth it for around $5.

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review strap keepers

With clamshell designs, a lot of stress is placed on the zippers which end up bearing a bit more weight then something like a half-zip. Tom Bihn has addressed this issue by switching from #8 YKK on the Synapse to beefy #10 YKK on the Synik. All zippers are Aquaguard water-repellent and will do well in keeping rain out of the bag. However, with the larger zippers the user should be aware that even with the zippers fully closed there will be a visible gap separating the two zippers.  Just be sure to keep them on the side of the pack to keep water from leaking in during heavy rain.

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review zippers ykk gap


The Synik has the same five pocket design on the front panel as the classic Synapse.  Starting from the bottom, there’s a medium pouch that is well sized for smaller organizers or larger power banks.  It’s probably the most versatile and my personal favorite compartment on the Synik.

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review lower pocket glasses case

On either side are two vertically zippered wing compartments that act as the admin areas of the Synik.  The right shoulder side has a simple pocket with extra space for larger items or smaller pouches.  The left shoulder side has three pen sized slots with similar extra space for other items.  

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review side pocket organizer

Running down the center of the front panel is a zippered water bottle compartment. This is slightly changed from the Synapse in that Tom Bihn has tapered the bottom of the compartment.  While it adds more room to the two side wing pouches, it makes the base of the water bottle compartment struggle with wider based bottles. It still works for its intended use, but the base of larger bottles protrudes out of the front of the pack, possibly causing a wear area in long term use.

Over the top of the water compartment is a flat 6″ deep zippered pocket which I was only able to fit some change and small papers in. It might also be a nice spot for your glasses or keys.

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review front water bottle pocket and top glasses pocket

Another area that Tom Bihn focused on updating was the main compartment, which can now be fully clamshell opened all the way to the well padded bottom of the pack.  A Lot of people like clamshell designs and I do as well for larger packs. I did not find much need for it on the 22L Synik, but i’m sure it would be very helpful on the larger Synik 30.  

On the front side of the main compartment is the same large, open top pocket that is on the Synapse. It works well but I wish they would’ve made it a zippered pouch, since the loose top tends to get in the way when loading larger items.

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review main compartment open

On the back side of the main compartment are some connection points for tie down straps for packing cubes. I did not use the Synik to travel but in testing out the pack I did use them on larger books and they worked well.

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review main compartment empty with luggage straps

The final update in the main compartment is the new integrated padded laptop compartment. It’s sized to hold thinner 13″ laptops in the Synik 22 and thinner 15″ laptops in the Synik 30. Since I only have a 15 in laptop I was unable to fully test the sizing of the Synik 22, but I did feel secure using it for Ipad storage. It was well padded and raised above the bottom by about a ½”.

The laptop compartment has two areas of access, one on the top of the main compartment and one on the left shoulder side of the back panel. This has been a much requested addition to the Synapse for a while now, and I’m happy with the Synik’s take on it. It wont fit all laptops, but the Synik is still designed to hold Tom Bihn’s wide assortment or laptop caches.

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review side laptop compartment

Guide’s Edition

Tom Bihn has also released a Guide’s Edition Synik 22, along with a GE Synik 30, and GE Synapse 25. The GE packs are a staple in the Tom Bihn line-up, taking tried and true packs, and tailoring them just a bit more for the great outdoors.

While the GE packs are easily identifiable by the coyote zippers and trims, they also include some extra features like an ice-axe loop and accessory strap holders, for a tripod or other gear.

You can read more about the Guide’s Edition packs here.

What’s Perfect

  • Materials, from the ballistic interior and exterior, to the YKK aquaguard throughout, are all top of the line.
  • New straps and frame sheet are very comfortable even with heavy loads.
  • Well thought out externally accessible organization.
  • One of the better grab handles I’ve used.

What’s Not

  • Lower backpanel might make you sweat a bit more.
  • Water bottle compartment is a little too tight for larger bottles.
  • Almost a 50% increase in cost from the Synapse 19.
  • The look isn’t for everyone.

Wrap up

I’ve been a Synapse owner for years and it was always one of my go to do-all bags, and the Synik is only improving on the design.  Starting with top of the line materials and well thought out organisation, the Synik is tough enough to take out hiking with enough organization for school or work. 

Tom Bihn Synik 22 Review front of bag on bridge

Tom Bihn is always listening to customer feedback making slight changes to existing products, but this is a completely redesigned pack. They didn’t just sew in a frame sheet between the back panel or add padding to the older straps.  They designed totally new straps and a new way to integrate the frame sheet, and it’s good to see they didn’t just rush these updates out.

The Synik won’t be perfect for everyone, and you may not like the way it looks. Its rounded shape and large amount of big zippers may turn some people away that like more sleek or minimal bags.  However, if you like integrated organization, surprisingly deep pockets, and construction to last you a lifetime then the Synik should be at the top of your list.

The Synik 22 and Synik 30 retail for $290 and $300 respectively, and are available from Tom Bihn in a variety of colors.

Editor’s Note: This pack was provided by Tom Bihn as a sample for review purposes. The content of this review was not shared with Tom Bihn before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.

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