View Full Version : Help with transitioning to and organizing a Synapse 25

06-13-2018, 08:34 AM
Help with transitioning to and organizing a Synapse 25

First post and new Tom Bihn bag user. I'm a little unsure how to proceed.

I live in NYC and travel subway, buses, and mostly walk a lot every day. Due to back trouble from carrying a largish briefcase/bag on one shoulder, I've been advised to use a backpack from now on. I absolutely love the organization of my old bag, and feel very sad about having to stop using it. After being less than impressed with the backpacks at the outdoor stores, I remembered hearing about Tom Bihn. Found the forums, read posts, and have just now just received a black halcyon Synapse 25.

If there are ways of organizing and are particular accessories that you find particularly good and that might work here, your suggestions would be most welcomed.

Here is a picture of most of what I carry in my bag every day:


In terms of what needs to be accessed when:

Waiting for the subway

On the subway standing I use my Kobo mini ebook reader, or make notes in my spiral-bound B5 journal. So these need to be easily accessible:

* Kobo mini reader
* B5 journal

Grocery store, cafe etc.

* Someplace in the bag to quickly/easily drop loose change and/or receipts.


I currently use a Thinkpad x140e (11.55" x 8.50" x 1.27"). Sometime over the next year I plan to get a new laptop, perhaps an a285 (12.1" x 8.3" x 0.7"), an a485 (13.3" x 9.2" x .8), or an XPS. Would like to get a cache that will work for the current and next computer.

Other EDC (every day carry) items

* Vitamins
* Food/Snacks
* Tools
* Medicine/Hygeine

Pencil Case for sketching/journaling supplies
This is not in the photo. Would like something with some ability to separate colored pencils from other items, maybe a small snake charmer?

Sometimes items

* umbrella
* Compressible down vest
* Compressible rainjacket

The ruler is just for sizing (not carried).

Really appreciate suggestions. Thank you!

06-13-2018, 10:59 AM
My biggest tip for you is to experiment with taking your medicine, tools, or vitamins out of their plastic bags and into one of the side pockets of the S25. Maybe your batteries and cable can go into the pen holders of the left pocket? Or some pill bottles can fit in the larger pouch inside the right pocket? I'd encourage you to see what can come out of those plastic bags for easier access.

As for your notebook and ereader, I like to keep anything flat in the pouch inside the main compartment, but I know you want yours more accessible than that. I wonder if a small cache that's dedicated to those two items would help you? It would keep your large, flat items in the best spot for them on the bag but still keep them easy to access on a train.

06-13-2018, 11:10 AM
Receipts, the best place for them is the small front pocket.

The Kobo and B5 journal should fit into the long front pocket.

Other EDC: main compartment.

Sometime carry, lower pocket.

To separate journaling supplies:

The Small Snake Charmer has been used in this manner by forum members.

I use a Clear Quarter Packing Cube which is taller and might be wider, it has two clear pockets separated by very strong and lightweight Halcyon fabric, it also has a handle and can fit a whole set of 48/50 colored pencils.

You might want to consider the First and Second Aid Kits, one is red the other is blue and they have one compartment for long objects, like pencils and two pockets for smaller items. In addition, there are small pockets, Pouchkins that have been engineered to work inside the First and Second Aid Kits.

The Spiff Kits are also a possibility, like the First and Second Aid Kits they have a clam shell design.

For the Cache, it is best to contact the Crew, Tom Bihn customer service lovely people, they have all the sizes at hand and can give you the best answer.

06-13-2018, 12:36 PM
backpack, the clear quarter packing cube looks brilliant for the journaling supplies! The kobo and my small moleskine sized sketch book together fit perfectly in the small front pocket. The B5 journal fits okay in the large front pocket, so that will work for it. Thank you.

Brian, yes agree, it'd be good to separate things out a bit more, preferably into pouches that make the most of each of the outer pockets. For example, someone wrote that the side pockets will hold a #1 stuff sack and a q-kit. Doing something like that on either side, and then using the bottom pocket wisely would be ideal. I'm going to read some more of the old forum posts, but would also look forward to reading any ideas/experiences others have had in setting up their bags.

06-13-2018, 02:06 PM
I tried on an S25, it is too big but my main EDC is an S19. Which means I have the architecture right, but the S25 has much larger pockets.

One of the most important and unique aspect of Tom Bihn Bags are the O-rings. You can secure a Pouch, a Q-Kit and many other Tom Bihn's accessories to them.

I really like the way you organize your items in the plastic bags, but besides the food, I think that if you take a picture of the content of the other bags, laid out on the table, it would help other forum members with advice on what Tom Bihn accessories fits them.

For example, your tools, some might be easier to access clipped into an o-ring, slipped into one of side pockets slots or corralled into a Q-Kit.

For the Medicine pouch, I find that a Clear Small Pouch is great to house a number of bandages, some over the counter medicine...

I forgot that the S25 small front pocket is much bigger than the one in the S19.

For change and receipt, I am thinking the Cubelet would hold a month worth of both items, secure it to one of the o-ring using the Key Strap provided with the S25. Or, 2 carabiners to secure the o rings on each side of the Cubelet to the o-rings on the upper front of the large compartment.

Some people use a Freudian Slip inside their S25, they are organizers that are unique to Tom Bihn and have build in pockets with or without zippers, pen/tool slots...

06-13-2018, 03:02 PM
Here are the contents of the "tools" bag:


From upper left:
- spare earbuds
- extra sharpie
- black gaffers tape wrapped around expired metrocard
- spare metrocard with 1 fare
- personal photo
- krazy glue
- a few post-its
- 3 USB flash drives (1 empty & 2 boot/recovery)
- mini bic
- micro-usb cable
- 1 AA and 1 AAA
- measuring tape
- tapestry needle, paperclip and cap for pocket light
- bag handle and sisal for large packages

Here are the contents of the "medicine/hygeine" bag:


From upper left:
- spare pair of eyeglasses
- kleenex
- mini first-aid - bandages, cream, wipes, moleskin
- teeny-tiny soap, toothpaste and razor
- a few pair of earplugs (essential)
- vaseline in a very small container (for chapped lips)
- eye drops
- a few throat lozenges
- hand wipes (essential in NYC)
- medication case
+ aspirin
+ 2 prescriptions
+ acetaminophen
+ ibuprofin
+ etc
- asthma inhaler (a new addition - sad to have to need this)

06-13-2018, 03:18 PM
The double organizer pouch is good for coins, receipts, backup cards & cash.
I use the Mars Red Cubelet for medical.
The 3DOC is good for cables/cords if you don't want the size of a snake charmer also good for a larger med/hygiene/snacks.
I use mini Q-Kits for tiny things... for instance my bluetooth headset & small charger fit in one. They are also the right size to hold chapstick and small vials of ibuprofen or similar.
I also use a Travel Cubelet - with the strap put away in the side pocket - as an 'on the go' office... small notebook, checkbooks (seriously!?), stamps, a pen, etc.

06-14-2018, 09:16 AM
G42 answers are spot on.

Are you willing to separate some of the items from your kits or do you want to keep them together?

If you want to keep the items from the kit together, a 3D Organizer Cube (3DOC) or a Travel Cubelet should hold everything, and, if my memory serves me right, fit in the side pockets of the S25.

The 3DOC has a landscape, east/west zipper; the Travel Cubelet a portrait, north/south configuration.

For the bigger items, as drop stuff in, cinch and go on your way, the Travel Stuff Sack is a good solution. But, you have many small items that could slip out, if the Travel Stuff Sack drops.

Despite that, it is a very handy Tom Bihn item to have.
Ask The Crew, also known as the customer service dream team, what size travel Stuff Sack fits in the side pockets. Size #1 fits on the side pockets of the S19, but the S25 side pockets can hold a bigger one.

I think it would be helpful, to house flat items in Small Pouches, they will fit inside the main 3 DOC or Travel Cubelet or Stuff Sack.
The Micro and Mini Pouches also fit. The Medium, not so much, unless you have one in Cordura. The most useful are the ones with clear fronts.
Pouches are made from leftover fabric, if there is a color you really don't like, mention it to the Crew or list it on the order form, you can also note which color is your favorite.

My advice would be to order one of each accessories mentioned by both G42 and myself, unless you immediately do not like the look of the item from the website pictures.

06-14-2018, 12:42 PM
To add on to what @backpack says, a lot of this comes down to how YOU want to organize and access your stuff... and how frequently
...tucked into the built in pocket organization of the S25 or in separate pouches/bags/containers...
...do you want/need to ability to quickly move the stuff from one bag to the next...? that would imply some sort of containers and probably fewer of them...
but maybe some items (like cheap pens, etc) would 'live' in each bag

That's how I'm doing it... I have duplicate sets of basic items that live in each bag... only expensive/perishable/unique (hello checkbooks) items move regularly from bag to bag

06-14-2018, 04:20 PM
@G42, based on your suggestions I've just put a 3DOC and a mini Q-kit into the cart. That double organizer pouch also looks perfect for change, receipts.

Something about the 3DOCs particularly appeals. Wish there were more colors in the solid fabric available at the moment.

The idea of ordering one of many of these accessories is very smart, @backpack. I've also put into the order one each of the mini and small pouches.

After looking again through the lists of accessories, for different reasons the Side Effect and Side Kick look amazing for additional organization - but can't see how they would do anything but complicate things at this point.

@G42, "living in each bag" like you do it is a great way to go. When things are set up in a certain way and intentionally not moved, they are always ready in a predictable place when needed. Systems are our friends :)

06-17-2018, 10:39 PM
That's how I'm doing it... I have duplicate sets of basic items that live in each bag... only expensive/perishable/unique (hello checkbooks) items move regularly from bag to bag

I do this as well with reading glasses, usb drives, pens, cables, chargers and a small notebook and such in each bag. It ensures I don't forget to move something usual from one bag to another.

07-18-2018, 07:51 AM
Q-kits in size Small (the larger size) fit really well in the side front pockets, and when connected to the O-ring, flip in and out of the pocket with ease. I would think that the "tools" items would fit in one Q-kit on one side of the bag (minus the Sharpie, which can find a spot in a pen holder in the same pocket), and the "medicine/hygiene" items would fit in a second Q-kit in the opposite side pocket.

I second/third/fourth the comments suggesting putting the umbrella and compressible bad-weather gear in the bottom front "mouth" pocket. That's almost a given. A stuff sack in the right size would help the compressibles compress even more.

However, now that I've taken a good look at the stuff you need to carry, I think you can fit all of it except the laptop in the front pockets. I think the main pocket of the backpack could be quite empty....

07-18-2018, 09:20 AM
However, now that I've taken a good look at the stuff you need to carry, I think you can fit all of it except the laptop in the front pockets. I think the main pocket of the backpack could be quite empty....

^I can vouch for this. I carry a very similar load to yours around the boroughs, and there's so much handy quick-access organization on the front of the S25 for all those little items that my main compartment is usually the least full of the bunch. At first I thought it was weird. Now I just go with it.

Some great suggestions already above. As mentioned, lots of organizer pouches that you could use to re-organize some things, and they're all great. I'd just advise being careful not to over-pouch yourself too early/quickly, cuz you could end up with a. more pouches than you need, and b. adding more barriers to accessing your stuff rather than fewer. And when you're on the train especially, or trying to access things while walking, that becomes a really pain in the butt. So my general tack is to only use smaller bag things that I won't need to access while in movement (fewest barriers to access possible), and to work (mostly) from top to bottom in order of how quickly or easily I need to be able to grab something while speed-walking toward a turnstile or being lurched around on a bus or train.

So for the small outermost pocket in front of the water bottle pocket, for example, I have the small things that are needed in an emergency, in a rush, or are the most difficult to deal with while moving or in a crowd. Using your items, that for me would be the Metrocard, inhaler, headphones, cough drops, bandages, and tissues if they'll fit. (Otherwise, tissues to side pocket.) And possibly the lighter, depending on your general usage of it.

I love the 3DOCs*, but I find them too big to be granular enough for the organization I want in my backpack a lot of the time, so I use mostly a number of Ballistic/Cordura Organizer Pouches (mostly Small size, but a couple of Mini and one Medium; one pouch specifically for medical) connected to O rings, plus a couple of Cubelets (one specifically for snacks), a couple of Mini Q-Kits, and one 3DOC. The Organizer Pouches are less efficient in terms of matching the bag's pocket shapes, but filling those spaces (like cdh mentions with the Small Q-Kit) doesn't work for me. Logically having a similar-sized/shaped pouch that swings out makes complete sense and works for lots of people, but in trying it out, I find my hands and brain want smaller, more granular options to work with so there's less digging involved.

Unless I've missed it, I'm not seeing mention of a water bottle. If you're not carrying water, I'll go against the grain and suggest putting the umbrella in the water bottle pocket instead. That bottom section is bigger than it seems (Tardis), which means multiple items end up inside. When coming up from a station, I find the water bottle pocket much easier to access quickly than the bottom pocket, and has far less of a likelihood that you'll go to grab the umbrella and have to dig past something else in its way. That depends on your reach and body shape, though, so I'd suggest trying the bag on and swinging it around to see which pocket is easier for you to grab out of quickly. For me, I can grab anything out of the middle and side pockets, and even much of the main compartment, but I can only reach the frontmost portion of the bottom pocket without taking the bag off entirely. But like with the various pouches, that's something you can't really know until you try it yourself. (If you're carrying water, though, bottom pocket for umbrella, most def.)

BTW, I do money stuff (accounting) while commuting, so I keep my calculator accessible in the left side pocket, in that wide multitool slot.

Also, people have mentioned using the O rings, which I didn't originally, and now I don't know why I was so slow in the uptake. Tethering your pouches to the O-rings has multiple benefits, especially in the city: not only do they make it easier/faster to find the pouch you're looking for, it makes them harder to lose (if you drop it/get jostled, it's still attached) and harder to steal.

*ETA re: 3DOCs, and the Cubelets and Organizer Pouches as well: They all end up holding more than you think they will. That's part of why test packing is so important. I'm always surprised at what fits inside these puppies.

07-19-2018, 09:06 AM
I agree with kmw's post, although now that I think of it, I take back my earlier comment about where to put an umbrella. I live in an area where it rains very infrequently, so I don't deal with an umbrella much. I haven't tested whether a wet umbrella would leak through if you used the water bottle pocket, but using that same logic, a wet umbrella could also get the other stuff in the "mouth" pocket wet. I'll leave it to you wetlanders to figure out.

07-19-2018, 01:34 PM
cdh and kmh thank you for suggestions.

The Synapse 25 has turned out to be excellent for everyday use around the City. The black halcyon + styling completely blends into the background (i.e. not touristy) which is ideal for me. There were a few days of slightly sore shoulders - but that is long gone. There have been a few "back drenched in sweat" days, which were not too comfortable, but that is part of what it is in NYC on heat alert days. The pack can't be blamed.

The built in organization is so good that most everything I need is available in the outside pockets. I've taken to carrying an 18oz Klean Kanteen in one of the side pockets. On the bottom I've added a Nomadic PE-09 Flap Type Pencil Case which can be easily accessed without removing it.

Very happy!