In Search of the Perfect Gear Bag: Tom Bihn to the Rescue

If you like technology, and if you are anything like me, you love the gear that accompanies it. And, of course, if you’ve got the gear, you need the right bag to store and transport it. Finding the perfect gear bag, it turns out, is not such an easy feat, especially if you want it to universally accommodate your commute to work, travel to client meetings, court appearances, conference attendance, and more. Now, I’ve tried a number of different products in my time, but in my opinion, my (relatively) new Tom Bihn bag takes the cake.

It took me at least one year of diligent research and testing to find the perfect bag. The result: the Tom Bihn Synapse 19. How did I arrive at this bag? Well, it needed to satisfy a strict set of criteria:


By this I mean I can use it for commuting, travel, and meetings. It must be small and lightweight for everyday lugging, plus, it needs to fit my 5’1’’ frame (note: the Tom Bihn Synapse 25 is the larger version of my bag). It also needs to provide adequate support and distribute weight evenly. To be appropriate for meetings, it must have a professional look. The simpler the design, the better. Fabric that does not attract dirt and can be cleaned easily is also a plus.

Store all the Things!

Laptop is a given, but the bag must also be able to store other technology and items I use on a daily basis. That includes my iPhone, iPad and cases/stands, adapters and portable chargers, and headphones. In addition, it should have storage space for some paper and folders, wallet, keys, sunglasses, pens, and other small miscellaneous items. Furthermore, it needs a dedicated holder or pocket for a water bottle.

Organize! Organize! Organize!

Pockets and organizing compartments are essential. The pockets must be easily accessible, but also secure (to reduce risk of loss or stolen items), and include organizer compartments within for separating large items (i.e. iPad and folders) and storing small items (i.e. pens and sunglasses). Fourth, the bag must be able to withstand rain and snow (at least to some extent). Finally, I’d like my bag to be made in the U.S. with socially conscious and environmentally sustainable corporate practices.

The aforementioned criteria led me to discover Tom Bihn bags and the Synapse 19, in particular. Well, that and a glowing recommendation for Tom Bihn bags in general from Mac Power User hosts David Sparks and Katie Floyd. Tom Bihn carries not only backpacks, but also messenger bags, briefcases, and travel bags.

My Synapse 19 meets all of my selection criteria, and more.

Visit the Tom Bihn website, and it is clear that this company is serious about bag production. The website homepage features a bag, videos, blog posts, and a link to photos of customers using their bags around the world (via Flickr). Each product description on the website is unique and thorough. And, when I say thorough, I mean they wrote fourteen paragraphs solely on the Synapse 19. That’s indeed a bag connoisseur’s dream.

The Synapse 19 fits my frame perfectly and doesn’t bother my back whatsoever. Tom Bihn designed this bag with a pocket for a 1-liter water bottle in the top center of the bag allowing for easy access, good weight distribution, and comfort. The bag has six separate pockets, all protected with zippers that are fully enclosed by the fabric when pulled shut thereby increasing water resistance. While pursuant to their Laptop Fit Guide, this bag is not built to accommodate my 15“ MacBook Pro Retina, I’m still able to squeeze it in without a case (but, I wouldn’t want to do this on regular basis).

As part of its product line, Tom Bihn features organizer and packing ”pouches“ and ”cubes“, wallets, travel ”sacks“, and other accessories for use with their bags. I bought an organizer cube that fits nicely into the front bottom pocket and holds many of my tech-related accessories. I also use the Tom Bihn Clear Organizer Wallet that clips onto one of the rings inside a side pocket. This is great for easy access to an ID or train/bus pass. Even with my iPad and oftentimes paper folders and such in the large compartment, there is enough room for food, rain gear, and a sweater.

The Synapse is made with a nylon fabric that helps keep the outside clean and resist water. As an added bonus, the bags are constructed in Seattle, Washington and the company has a clear dedication to the environment as well as socially conscious workforce practices. One of my favorite pages on the website is “The Crew” page, which displays a picture and fun fact about each one of its employees. That aspect really humanizes and personalizes the company (marketing tip, anyone?).

Is there anything I don’t like about this pack? Honestly, I can’t find much. I might like an iPhone holder that attaches to the shoulder strap. But, that’s about all I can come up with after about four months of use.

Overall, if you like technology and organization (and even if you don’t, as a lawyer you really can’t avoid the two), you’ll love Tom Bihn bags. I sound like a commercial, but it’s all true. Go check them out for yourself!

Featured imagecourtesy of Tom Bihn product page.

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