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Brain Bag vs Synapse 25 - Thoughts appreciated!

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    Brain Bag vs Synapse 25 - Thoughts appreciated!

    Hi Fellow Team Bihn fanatics,

    I just recently discovered this wonderful company/products and am trying to decide between the Brain Bag and Synapse 25. I'm the father of three young children (ages 2, 6, and 8) in NYC, and I'm looking for the bag that will be more practical for carrying all the items that go along with activities/weekends with the family. I'm normally the main bag carrier (i.e. I'll hold all/most of the stuff for the kids, myself, and wife). I love the Synapse 25, but my main concern is that I'm not sure it's big enough to fit all the typical "family activity" stuff (e.g. 3 sets of towels & dry clothes for swim classes and water park trips, balls/toys/2 water bottles/snacks for the park, 3 sets of hoodies/activity books/2 water bottles/snacks for road trips, etc). Most of the posts I've read revolve mainly about the bags being used for a single individual's purpose (commuting, everyday carry, mobile work office, school, packing own stuff for traveling, etc), but not many seem discuss the bag being used to carry a whole family's stuff. Would the Synapse 25 be big enough to handle the job, or is the Brain Bag the better choice? Thank you in advance for your thoughts, and I can't wait to make my first purchase!
    My A-BIHN-GERS! = BRAIN BAG (French Blue/Steel) / CO-PILOT (Steel Dyneema/Solar) / TRI-STAR (Cardinal/Steel) / SYNAPSE 19 (Steel Dyneema/Solar) / WESTERN FLYER (Black Halcyon/Island) / AERONAUT 45 (Cardinal/Steel)

    Hi pso78!

    Welcome to the forum! The 3 sets of towels and hoodies you mentioned could take up considerable space if they are traditional towels. Do you envision using traditional towels or linen / travel towels?

    Still, given everything else you described, I would still suggest the Brain Bag. The Brain Bag has compression straps for the times when you aren't carrying a full load.

    I can do a test packing of what you described when I get home this evening if that helps!


      I have both bags and from what you describe I'd second the Brain Bag.
      Can you provide a photo of the things you want to pack?
      What kind/size of toys do you mean?


        Thank you for the quick responses!

        To Maverick regarding the towels:
        We have and use traditional towels. If you could do a test pack and let me know if the items overwhelm the Synapse 25, that would be great. Thank you!

        To Wolpertinger regarding sample packing items (e.g. toys):
        These would be the kinds of items we would bring to the park - kids nerf football, frisbee, 2 children's baseball mitts, baseball-sized ball, 2 water bottles, sunscreen, snacks (e.g. 3 granola bars & 3 packs of trail mix)
        This is what we would take to swim classes/water park - 3 towels, 3 sets of kids clothes (t-shirt, underpants, shorts), 2 water bottles, snacks (e.g. 3 packs of applesauce & 3 packs of chips/crackers)
        These are some of the things we would take on a short (road)trip - 3 kids hoodies/sweatshirts, 3 activity/reading books, Ipad in cache, pack of pencils/pens/markers, water bottle, more snacks!

        Thank you for your help!
        My A-BIHN-GERS! = BRAIN BAG (French Blue/Steel) / CO-PILOT (Steel Dyneema/Solar) / TRI-STAR (Cardinal/Steel) / SYNAPSE 19 (Steel Dyneema/Solar) / WESTERN FLYER (Black Halcyon/Island) / AERONAUT 45 (Cardinal/Steel)


          Hi @pso78,

          Here is a video showing how these items may be packed into the Brain Bag (and mostly packed into the Synapse 25).

          I hope this helps -- please don't hesitate to ask if you have questions.



            If you use travel towels or linen towels like Maverick used in his videos, it looks like the Synapse25 will hold everything in your three scenarios, at the moment.

            However, kids grow fast. The clothing is going to get bigger and so will their baseball gloves. The Brain Bag will grow with your family until the kids are old enough to carry their own bags.

            Another idea is to use the Synapse25 to hold family items, like snacks and toys and sports gear. Then get another backpack for the clothing, like the Daylight Backpack or a Packing Cube Backpack. You could carry the heaviest backpack and your wife could carry the lighter one.

            I'll second Maverick's excellent suggestion to use different color Packing Cubes for each family member. Please let us know what you decide. Good luck! elisa


              That's a great packing job. I've always wondered how much stuff would fit in the Brain Bag.

              Your videos are always great, but I'm amazed at how fast you recorded and posted it. Nicely done! Thank you! elisa


                Thanks Elisa! It's funny how many takes it takes to get a video reasonably close enough to what I intended! I wanted to show the backpack on my back at the start of the video, and thought at one point -- the outtakes could be used to demonstrate the resiliency of the backpack straps as well as the t-shirt I was wearing! Perhaps we should have a blooper reel!

                @pso78: The family must greatly appreciate that you are the main bag carrier. However, I also wanted to suggest that the 6 and 8 year old could carry their own change of clothes, towel, water bottle and snack in the Sprout, the Daylight Backpack that @AlaskaGirl mentioned, or in the Synapse 19 if they prefer. And that backpack could do double duty as their daily school backpack. Indeed, I can see the two year old wanting to carry something in his or her own backpack also!

                A couple of years back, we established that our son would carry his own pack when we went on vacation. Indeed, when we were walking and he complained about his pack, we would give him a little break...eventually, sometimes... . But this has worked out really well -- it instills the idea that you carry your own stuff. He may have a different perspective on how well this has worked out...

                If the kids carrying at least some of their own stuff, even some of the time, you may still prefer to go with the Brain Bag; but the Synapse 25 will more easily hold what you are carrying if you prefer to go that route. Of course, the Brain Bag's compression straps will enable you to cinch it down when it isn't full. And the Brain Bag will also enable you to carry whatever you may pick up along the way.

                I don't know if this helped or made your decision harder. But you can feel confident that both the Brain Bag and the Synapse 25 are very well designed, very well built -- both will serve you well for many, many years!


                  Wow, thank you all for the suggestions and the awesome video! I had read about the company's amazing customer service in posts, but this was exemplary!! I was already a fan from reading about the company's principles and products, but this put the nail on it......you have gained one more new loyal customer for life (and by association my children, who will be getting Bihn school backpacks when they're ready!) Thank you, again, and keep up the great work!
                  My A-BIHN-GERS! = BRAIN BAG (French Blue/Steel) / CO-PILOT (Steel Dyneema/Solar) / TRI-STAR (Cardinal/Steel) / SYNAPSE 19 (Steel Dyneema/Solar) / WESTERN FLYER (Black Halcyon/Island) / AERONAUT 45 (Cardinal/Steel)


                    Greetings Pso78,
                    Thank you, glad to help. Please note that none of the people that responded to your post work at Tom Bihn, so as awesome as Customer Service is, we can't take an credit for their well-deserved reputation, as we are merely loyal customers ourselves. elisa


                      That was a great video Maverick! You're such a natural at it. And your posts are always so informative and interesting.

                      When I am packing our backpack for long day trips away from the house and have to fit 3 people's stuff in it, I have found compression cubes to be extremely useful in reducing the overall size of the soft items such as clothing, towels, and blankets. So if you feel you are maxing out the space in your pack, you may want to consider looking into them. I would bet that the test pack would have fit in the Synapse 25 with the use of compression cubes. Tom Bihn currently does not offer any (but it is one of my top wishes for them to come out with some), but you can get them from other sources. REI has a style that is most similar to regular packing cubes, Eagle Creek has a similar Converge style as well as a Specter line that is more of a vertically oriented cube (this is the most expensive option), and Bigfoot on Amazon has a knock off of the Eagle Creek Specter. I currently use the Specter style and am amazed how much I can fit in them, and then compress them down to a thin brick that slips into my packs easily.

                      I also have one more recommendation for another travel towel that is thin, dries quickly, and is full size like a beach towel. It is the Dock & Bay microfiber towel on Amazon. I have it in the XL and take it on all of my beach vacations and boat outings. I previously liked to use regular beach towels because I didn't like the size or feel of traditional travel towels, but this is now my go-to because it looks and functions like a beach towel but is nice and thin. (Please note though that I would not consider it lightweight or micro-packable like a traditional travel towel...if you watched Maverick's video it is similar in packable size to his linen towel, but would certainly be heavier than linen.). It also comes in lots of fun bright colors.

                      Good luck with your decision! If it were me, I would probably go with the Brain Bag considering your load.


                        Thanks for all the ideas! It looks like I have some more researching to do. Right now, it seems the BB's key advantage over the S25 is the larger size....which should become less of an issue once the kids start carrying their own bags. On the other hand, the S25's benefits (in my eyes and from what I've read) are it appears to have more "advancements" over the BB (e.g. sewing/shape/straps that "fit" the body better), cleaner/simpler look (e.g. symmetry & no hanging straps), and more variety of color combinations. Hmm, tough choice! (Why can't I just win a small lottery?!) Thank you all for your feedback!
                        My A-BIHN-GERS! = BRAIN BAG (French Blue/Steel) / CO-PILOT (Steel Dyneema/Solar) / TRI-STAR (Cardinal/Steel) / SYNAPSE 19 (Steel Dyneema/Solar) / WESTERN FLYER (Black Halcyon/Island) / AERONAUT 45 (Cardinal/Steel)


                          @pso78, have you also considered the Smart Alec? It is 26 liters internally, but has the ability to strap things to the outside of it via bungee cords, or clip on smaller bags to the top. For your large bulky things like footballs, the single cavernous bucket shape might be easier to pack. This is the bag I use for carting around anything thick, large or awkwardly shaped.

                          I do think Maverick's idea of smaller towels will help a lot.

                          You might also consider a shop bag. It is also great for bulky things

                          Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
                          Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful. — Shaker Philosophy


                            Hi Amy,
                            Thank you for the suggestion! I have considered the Smart Alec, and while it seems to be a bag that many people love, I'm just not as drawn to it as I am the BB and the S25. I agree with what I read in another post in that a certain bag might make all the sense in the world, but if a person's just not "feeling" it, then it's likely to end up unused in a closet somewhere. However, I think that's partly why I like the BB - it combines the larger spaces and openness of the SA with the pockets and organization of the S25 (kind of the best of both worlds!).
                            My A-BIHN-GERS! = BRAIN BAG (French Blue/Steel) / CO-PILOT (Steel Dyneema/Solar) / TRI-STAR (Cardinal/Steel) / SYNAPSE 19 (Steel Dyneema/Solar) / WESTERN FLYER (Black Halcyon/Island) / AERONAUT 45 (Cardinal/Steel)


                              I hear ya. You gotta feel the love for your bag. It's an emotional choice as much as a rational one. If all of us were purely rational beings, we wouldn't be here on this forum gushing over bags all the time and finding excuses to buy more and more. Haha!
                              Don’t make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, don’t hesitate to make it beautiful. — Shaker Philosophy