Finally! My formal review of the Synapse 19!
I have owned the S19 for about five months now, so I think it's time for a formal review. First off, I carry my S19 almost every day. I alternate with my LCB and other two bags, specifically Timbuk2 messengers (another great company). The only other backpack that I trust to do its job with hardcore hiking is my PF2 from OnSight Equipment. Otherwise, my S19 is pretty much my daily companion as it looks good both in the office and in the hiking trails.
As some of you may know by now, I am an urban dweller who loves reading, traveling, urban exploring, hiking, canoeing, and camping. My daily life consists of walking, transit, office, transit, walking. Sometimes I skip transit altogether and I walk from my office building downtown to pick up my son at school and then walk home. It's not too far as I am only about 5 km away and I can get home walking in just an hour while I listen to music and then chat with my boy about his day (great way to relieve stress and organize ideas). I live in a fair-sized city (Toronto) and I do not own a car. This may be meaningless to many but, not owning a car translates into carrying my daily needs with me. I don't have any other storage throughout my day, aside from my bag. Hence the importance of having a bag that keeps all my stuff organized in a semi-neurotic manner.
My common EDC is as follows:
Upper front pocket
Wallet (just a card case, I hate large wallets)
Stainless steel small travel mug
Reusable shopping bag
Lower front pocket
Work and home key cards
Child metro tickets
Any other non-credit cards, currently a 5-dollar Tim Horton's card given to me at work
Lip balm sticks
Front right pocket
iPhone in duct tape case made by my son
Pelican mini flashlight
Spyderco Calypso pocket knife
Work keys and VPN fob on keyholder strap
Front left pocket
One small Moleskine reporter pad
Home keys on keyholder strap
Front bottom pocket
Eventually I may stuff a scarf in there
Transparent pouch on long strap with toiletries, spork, and pain killers
Zippered pocket with cables, adapters, micro-fibre cloth, and ear buds
Carabiner attached to one of the internal cache hoops
On work days I also tend to carry my 13-inch Lenovo work-issued laptop with its neoprene carrying case
Twice a week in the evening I carry my martial arts uniform and belt as I go to class after work
Attached on zipper outside, a bike light
Attached on grab strap a reflector for dark fall/winter days
Sometimes I also carry an umbrella and snacks, or a bottle of wine which pretty much counts as a snack (fruit!)
The first impression with this bag is how simple it looks from the outside. No mesh pockets (something I greatly appreciate from an aesthetic point of view), and curved lines all around. It's a very elegant bag, almost sculptural. When empty, it looks rather small. Its volume is quite deceiving and I am always surprised by how much it can hold when full, and still manage to look sleek. It expands but the shape remains pleasing to the eye, almost like the shape of an inflated and elongated clam.
Even whilst carrying my work laptop and the rest of my EDC, the weight is evenly distributed. I have had back problems before and uneven loads with backpacks have frequently presented a problem. Not with this bag. The sternum strap is easily adjustable, and I do use it frequently to secure the load and avoid bouncing. If the load is heavy, it does tend to bounce up and down a bit (I must have a spring in my step!), but with proper adjustment I have been able to make it comfortably snug. I have not had the need to use a waist strap around my waist, but I do keep it attached to the bag so I can secure a jacket like forum member Canonsue shared with everyone a few months ago.
I've used it for biking and, although I do prefer messenger bags for this activity, the S19, properly loaded, is not a very cumbersome bag. I do get tired after a while, especially if I am out biking for a few hours, hence the reason why I switched back to messengers or loading my front bike basket for longer rides. Keep in mind that I am no longer in my 20s (multiply that by two), so this is not a fault with the bag.
I've used it in several types of weather, from a hot and humid 40 Celsius (in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula in the summer) and cold so far at approximately -8 degrees Celsius (in Mont-Mégantic in Quebec). I have not felt much discomfort within this temperature range. It got a bit too warm while I was in Mexico, but I am the type of person who breaks a sweat even in sub-zero temperatures, so the issue is all mine! I shall test it more this coming winter. Sometimes Toronto can get extreme cold at -20 or -25 Celsius. I want to know how the zippers respond at that temperature or even if I happen to travel to Ottawa or Montreal in February (we love to go there in the winter as well, awesome ice skating!), so I will post a follow up later in the winter. Also, I've been able to test it in pouring rain. The bag has ended completely soaked on the outside while everything remained dry inside.
Needless to say, this is the best backpack that I own. I keep others for different situations, but not one has matched the S19 in organization, aesthetics, and balanced load. For walking/hiking, it's the best carry technology, hands down.
One huge fault to keep in mind. This bag will not go unnoticed and family members will try to take advantage of your goodwill, potentially creating carry-related discussions and territorial behaviour. Be firm, and keep predators away. It's worth the fight.
Great post! I'm also an urban car-less person, so I totally get not having a car to store things in. I've had my Synapse 19 for over a year and love it more now than when I got it, and I loved it then!
Same here, I have 2 Synapse 19 and they are just wonderful EDC for public transport urban dwellers!
I went to the doc office, up and down a hill with a kidney infection, without the waist and the sternum strap, there were a couple of uncomfortable bounces but, after setting up both of them the bounce was gone and the Synapse 19 was very comfortable to carry.
I can also confirm the low heat retention test on the Synapse after walking really fast inside an airport.
But, even a Synapse 19 in Dyneema can provide great protection to a chilly back when waiting in a drafty area in warm weather clothes.
An all around great bag!