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Cutting it Fine, Shadow Guide 33 (P)Review :)

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    Cutting it Fine, Shadow Guide 33 (P)Review :)

    I was very lucky to be selected as a recipient of a Shadow Guide V2 33 litre backpack (SG33) to review. However, it has only just arrived, so this post will be my initial impressions with further updates to follow once I have had chance to actually use the bag, or at least after I've had a good play 🙂

    TL;DR - It's a big thumbs up from me 👍🏻

    Note: It's pretty grey and miserable here today, please excuse the poor lighting in the photos. Also, all of the photos uploaded rotated 90 degrees to the left, I have fixed the most annoying ones.

    Aesthetics and Features

    Build quality looks to be up to the usual, i.e. high, Tom Bihn standards, but that probably goes without saying.

    I chose to receive the Shadow Guide in black since I love the aesthetic of my 'stealth' Icon v2 and am a fan of minimal branding on bags and clothing in general. The dark grey and black badge on the black Ballistic fabric looks really sleek (I'd really like to see this as an option on more of TB's black bags, it would look particularly good on Black Halcyon I feel).

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    My one 'complaint' about the badge would be it's placement, I'd prefer it to be located centrally rather than off to one side, buts that’s just me being picky 😬

    Loaded up with a little under 9kg (see Packing the Bag below) the bag initially feels pretty comfortable.

    I really like the edgeless straps on my Synik 22 (S22) and they have remained comfortable after wearing the bag for extended periods, as the straps on the SG33 are similarly spaced, I would not expect strap comfort to be an issue.

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    Synik 22 (blue) vs Shadow Guide 33 (black) strap placement comparison.

    I'm interested to see if the revised back panel noticeably reduces sweating vs that of the Synapse 19 (S19) since that could definitely get a bit 'claggy' in warmer weather. Obviously, the back panel is much longer than that of the S19/S22 and in the past I've experienced some discomfort using larger bags (Synapse 25 and Smart Alec) for longer periods so we'll have to see how that goes with the SG33.

    The grab handle is of the basic narrow webbing variety but is more than adequate and feels good in the hand as it's made out of the softer, seatbelt type, of webbing. Inside the pack is a smaller grab handle so you can lift the bag with the lid open, a very nice touch.

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    As someone that usually cuts off the metal zipper pulls on my backpacks, having this already done is a bonus :). I have, in the past, managed to get similar style zipper pulls to the ones on the SG33, in multiple colours (and very cheaply), from Amazon. So this may be an easy option for adding a pop of colour or colour coding the left and right internal pocket zips.

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    A small but aesthetically pleasing feature is the use of a triangular shaped button (vs the more common cylindrical button) on the cinch cord. Nice attention to detail.

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    The laptop compartment is huge and easily fits a 2012 15" MacBook with room to spare.

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    My iPad Pro 11" fits sideways (although not when the main compartment is fully stuffed).

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    Packing the Bag

    I like to consider myself a lightweight packer and the backpack I tend to use the most, both for EDC and for multi-day travel, is the S19 and, more recently, the S22.

    Before even receiving the bag I knew that the SG33 would be quite a different beastie, more of a big bucket rather than lots of built in organisation like the Synapses and Syniks.

    Consequently, I am unlikely to be using the SG33 for EDC purposes. However, we adopted a dog (Tanka) in January which meant looking for accommodation that would allow us to bring her along when we travel. Many options that we found required us to provide our own bedding. Not something that I could squeeze into even the S22, hence the search for an alternative. My requirements for this alternative bag were pretty simple, it would need to fit the contents of my usual packing list plus a Voited travel quilt, sheet and a pillow. Because the boot (trunk) of our car is not covered (for quick trips to the park we prefer to have Tanka ride in the car boot and the grill we installed interferes with us re-fitting the parcel shelf) having as few bags as possible would enable us to take them with us rather than leaving them on view when we need to leave the car...... enter the SG33..... time to load it up.....

    I'm using the packing list from a recent 3-day trip at the beginning of September. We stayed in a static caravan (trailer) by the seaside. Since the lockdown had eased we were using this as an opportunity to visit my mum and dad who were staying in the caravan of a friend on the same site. Weather was warm during the day but the forecast night time temperatures meant I wanted to take my warmest quilt 'just to be on the safe side' 😬 On that trip I took my S22 packed with my travel stuff (clothes and gadgets etc), my Icon for EDC items (face mask, sanitiser etc) and an IKEA shopping bag contained my bedding and my Pakt coffee kit, we also took some basic eating implements and folding bowls/cups since we wanted to minimise what we used from the caravan (because, COVID 🙄). My aim with this test pack is to pack the items from the S22 and IKEA bag into the SG33. Items that I would normally stow in the smaller pockets of the S22 went into a size 2 Handy Little Thing which fitted easily, along with my toiletries, into the large lid pocket.

    With the SG33 packed it's pretty maxed out.

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    Spoiler Alert! Even my really squishy IKEA pillow wouldn't fit and neither would my coffee kit 😳. Here's everything I packed (minus my linen towel, toothbrush and soap which I forgot to retrieve from the bathroom before I took the photo).

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    However, I think with a bit of tweaking the SG33 will be perfect.... I have a smaller Voited quilt which packs to about a quarter of the size of the one shown above. It would have been warm enough for our September trip and would have allowed me to pack my full size IKEA pillow or, if I took a camping pillow instead, my coffee kit ..... hmmm, priorities, priorities ☕️. If I really needed the large quilt I could at least make it fit more easily if I got a compression sack for it.

    So, all in all, I'm pretty sure that the Shadow Guide 33 is going to meet my future travel needs.....and hopefully those of my partner if I can convince him to buy himself one before they sell out 🤨

    Many thanks to the TB Crew for the opportunity to test this bag. I'll post further reviews once I've been able to tinker some more 👍🏻
    Last edited by ceepee; 10-27-2020, 12:17 PM.

    Thanks very much for your review and photos! I'm sitting here agonizing over which size to get, and the clock is ticking... I think the 33 would be ideal for days when I need to get groceries after work -- the 23 might be just a bit too small for that. But, it might be too big for every day, though I have to say I don't mind how it looks when mostly empty / floppy.

    Can I ask how you think the bag carries when full?


      k_p I didn’t really have much time between the photos and writing the review to keep the bag on for too long but, for the brief period that I wore it, it felt pretty comfy even though it’s a much bigger load (and backpack) that I’m used to carrying. I didn’t feel as if the bag was too unwieldy, digging into my shoulders or pulling me backwards, for example.

      My standard load is around 6 - 7 kg in the Synapse 19/Synik 22 and I can carry that around all day, no problem. I think part of that is the bottom of the smaller bags sit right into my lower back and transfers a lot of weight to my hips even without a waist strap.

      If it was my intention to carry the fully loaded Shadow Guide 33 around for longer than an hour or so, I’d be investing in a padded hip belt to help transfer the load since it hits my back in a different place.

      I’ll be having dinner shortly, but afterwards I can give the pack another go, it’s still packed up. Looking at the photos, it looks like I might be able to snug the straps up a bit more to get it a little higher on my back.

      For scale I’m 5’ 7”.


        Thanks for your thoughts. I went ahead and ordered the 33! I realized, at the end of the day, I'd rather have the extra space just in case.