We're glad you are here. This is the place to ask for bag advice, help other people out, post reviews, and share photos and videos.

TOM BIHN Forums Statistics


Topics: 14,827   Posts: 191,321   Members: 6,701   Active Members: 267
Welcome to our newest member, StatsChick.


No announcement yet.

One bag: guide's pack vs synapse

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

    One bag: guide's pack vs synapse

    Hi everyone!

    It's funny how I got here. I've always wanted to retire early and have more free time, been reading about the Mr. Money mustache site, found the travel site from his blog that recommended the synapse, Learned about minimalism (good stuff but each item must be carefully researched and be versatile), so now I'm here, purging everything, and working towards simplifying my life.

    In addition to reading reviews, Mike has been super helpful answering all my questions, but since this is intended to be my one and only purchase, I'd like to get some more input from others out there as well.

    I'm a father of two small kids, and I'm looking for a backpack that will do it all. Commuting, my surf bag on weekends, hiking, and my one bag travel pack.

    Although they are two very different sizes and packs, I can't choose between the synapse 19 in halcyon or the guides pack.

    I may have to order both and decide, but living on an island, I'm hesitant to do so due to shipping costs. If I have to I will, just wondering if I can make that decision without seeing both. I like the styling of both, the synapse you can blend in more, while the guides pack definitely has the uniqueness factor. Also wondering about the zippers, I have a camelback with ykks and the only thing the salt air hasn't corroded is the aqua zipper, so that plays a role as well.

    Synapse pros
    Cheaper, built in organization so not as many accessories needed.
    Central water bottle pocket for balance.

    No expandable storage, too small?
    Built in organization requires Tetris.

    Guide's pack pros
    Expandable storage via pockets/lash straps.

    Cons: no organization in main pack.
    More expensive. Too big?

    I'd like to hear from people who have both. What do you like/dislike about either pack?

    Thanks in advance for taking the time to read this!

    I'd love to reciprocate info as well, so if anyone has questions about what to do in hawaii/eat let me know!
    Last edited by garuda; 01-24-2017, 11:01 PM. Reason: Punctuation

    It seems to me that you are missing the biggest difference between these 2 packs in the first place?
    One is a Top Loader and the other is really not.
    I can't see myself tryig to EDC from a Top Loaded pack at all especially since access to the stuff inside is what makes the pack work for me the hundred times a day that I need to get in there.

    Further I like the Synapse as you might not need anything else added to keep organized and I would offer that sometimes I can go way too far trying at the expense of ready access. Unless I need to move groups of items between different bags,and I often do then the Synapse is pretty decent with what is built in for organizing my things.

    I also carried the Synapse 19 since it was introduced and waited way too long before moving up to the 25,it is way better to have the space and not need it than need the space and not have it to me.

    So in the interest of simplifying your life I see this as a no brainer,the Synapse and not the tiny one either!


      Full disclosure: I do not own a Guide's Pack.
      I do, however, own a Synapse 19. It's a great bag, but for the range of uses you're describing I agree with AVService that it could very well be too small. Difficult to be sure without knowing how big you are (for the hiking, surfing and one-bag travel options, as clothing size will have an impact) or what the load would comprise (laptop sizes have an impact etc) but the S19 - while surprisingly capacious - is still not a 'big' bag. I couldn't use mine as a one bag travel option for anything more than a quite minimal single night - and might not even get away with that! (full disclosure again: 240lb 6'2" male, so again, your mileage may vary...)
      The Synapse 25 would probably be more appropriate and flexible in size terms than the 19, or - if you like the top loading, single compartment aspect - have you considered a Smart Alec? 26 litre capacity instead of 25 (or 19 with the smaller synapse)...


        I have (and LOVE) the S19, and like the others here, my initial response to your post was that you might be better off with the 25. Depending on your load, the 19 might be a bit too small. The 25 has all the great organizational aspects of the 19, and capacity-wise it's right between the S19 and The Guide's Pack. Plus, it's only $10 more than the S19.


          Good points about the top loader. I'm guessing even with packing cubes in there it would end up being a head ache getting to stuff.

          I'm 5'7 135lbs. Last year, I went to Oregon in the summer with a generic 25liter bag for 10 days and was fine with that with room to spare. It was 60 degrees the whole trip. Really wanted to lean out my stuff since I had to carry a stroller, car seats, milk, etc.

          Thanks for the replies so far! I guess now it's which synapse......


            Thanks for the replies so far.

            I've realized it's a top loader but I guess even with cubes in there it's still an extra step and would get old.

            I'm 5'7 135lbs. I went to Oregon for 10 days with a generic 25 liter duffel. I had room left over to spare, with temps in the 50s-60s.

            I went as light as possible since I had to carry a stroller, car seats, and milk.

            I guess it's just figuring out which synapse to go.


              If you planning on carrying anything for the 2 kids as well as you, the s19 is way too small. And to me, the Guide pack is great for outdoor use, but I don't see it as a commuter or work bag at all (not able to hold a cache, for one thing...).

              Have you looked at the Smart Alec?


                I guess I should say, I'll have a separate bag for the kids.

                I don't travel with a laptop as well.

                I'm not too much of a fan of the smart Alec.
                Last edited by garuda; 01-25-2017, 12:00 PM.


                  Have you considered the Brain Bag? It's a favorite in my house (among the Synapse and Smart Alec), my husband especially loves how he can tighten the straps when he has a smaller load or loosen them when he needs to carry somebody's extras.
                  current EDC- Black Ballistic Travel Cubelet with an Orange 152 COW. I have MANY pouches... My goal is 1 in every color 好的朋友


                    The brain bag is definitely too big. What I like about the synapse is the profile is sleek and compressed. I'm spatially challenged (I'm a clutz), and routinely bump into things. A slim pack profile is essential. Lol.


                      @garuda congratulations on starting the minimalist lifestyle. I too started the same journey 3 years ago. It just keeps getting better! Anyways I had similar thoughts and initially although I loved tom bihn bags I thought they were out of my price range and got the osprey porter 30 for a 6 week trip to Europe. First problem bias 30l is too much, therefore the brain while very capacious it doesn't sound like the bag for you. In the end I learned my lesson and realized bihn bags are not too expensive they are priceless. I got a synapse 25 4 months ago and it is heaven. All I could imagine and more. Plus, just when you think it must be full you fit more in. The organization is so thought out and perfectly sized with room for flexible movement. The biggest thing is you can put only a few thing and you can stuff it and it almost looks and feels the same while wearing it. Seems like the big thing you gain by the s25 versus the s19 is the large bottom pocket which I personally use for toiletries and laundry. I have used it for an overnight and a 5 day trip. I also do not travel with a laptop. The only reason it is not an decided for me is I use an llbean boat and tote I got when I first started teaching and now 10 years later I have sentimental attachment to using it for work. Anyways hope it helps and I recommend theminimalists.com for all things helpful on leading a more simplified life. Aloha!
                      "Not all who wander are lost"
                      "Love people, use things, because the opposite never works" - The Minimalists
                      Synapse 25 in Olive, Aubergine Side Effect, UV A30 PCBP, Sitka PCSB


                        Sounds like you want the Synapse 19.


                          Originally posted by ultravisitor View Post
                          Sounds like you want the Synapse 19.
                          That's what I'm leaning towards. 95% of the time the 19 will be enough.

                          Thanks to all who chimed in. I think I'll just order both and decide.....


                            s25 is perfect, I was in a similar situation, biggest plus about the s25 as opposed to the s19 is the bottom zipper compartment, worth is weight in gold :-)
                            "Not all who wander are lost"
                            "Love people, use things, because the opposite never works" - The Minimalists
                            Synapse 25 in Olive, Aubergine Side Effect, UV A30 PCBP, Sitka PCSB


                              Thanks to all who posted. I ordered both, and while I really want to make the 19 work, like others said above, the 25 is just a better choice for your only bag as there is room to spare if need be.

                              I'm not single anymore and my two mini-mes have voracious appetites, so the extra space in the 25 will be used for snacks!

                              Separate email is in order for the folks at TB. If anyone reading this has sticker shock and is on the fence, you GET what you pay for. I'm literally blown away, there are no loose strands on any product I've ordered..... The fit and finish is second to none. If it makes sense, it's looks like these things are a solid piece of fabric (which they aren't), but they come across that way! Glad to have found a company who makes stuff here, employs people here, and are clearly passionate about the things they make. From product to customer service, well done!

                              I'm excited to put the S25 through its paces.