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Hoping for advice on a carry-on / EDC bag or two for a couple of use cases...

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    Hoping for advice on a carry-on / EDC bag or two for a couple of use cases...

    Hello, new friends! Before we jump in, just wanted to thank you all for contributing to the wealth of information that is contained in this forum. I'm overwhelmed and indecisive, and had it not been for the review threads, the photo threads, the organization threads, and so on, I wouldn't have known where to begin. Still not sure I do! And quick warning - I'm unfortunately going to be boring and detailed but I want to give the most context possible so I can be sure to get the right bags for these contexts.

    So, in the most general sense, I am looking for a backpack to replace a 2011 North Face Recon, 29L, 19in x 15 x 4 that I used throughout college that held everything and nothing. For reference, I am a ~6 ft. mid-20's male, fairly lean but usually wearing a L or XL shirt size due to broad shoulders / upper chest.

    On a typical full-backpack day, I carry:
    15 inch Macbook Pro (important note: this will soon be upgraded / downsized to a new 13 inch Macbook Air),
    Three-ring binder or manila envelope with letter sized work documents
    Small sketchbook & Moleskin planner
    Kindle Paperwhite
    Pentax K1000 35mm camera with a small lens, approx. 4in x 3 x 2 all assembled.
    32 oz. glow in the dark Nalgene (happy to find a new bottle if this won't fit with any bags)

    I am also now an assistant group leader (assistant to the group leader, rather) with a 'travel club' at my work that takes a group of 20-30 older customers around the world on ~10 day long tours 2 or 3 times a year, beginning with 10 days in Iceland at the end of the month and ending the year with a 14 day Christmas river cruise in Europe.
    Now with these trips we check a bag - my big roller will hold the wardrobe - and I will not need the Macbook Pro in the backpack but most likely my iPad Mini for movies on the plane / a digital itinerary instead. For Iceland, this day to day backpack will need to hold the typical items listed above as well as a thicker folder of our traveler's information, a first-aid kit, snacks, and most likely a rain jacket.

    At this point, the answer is obvious, right? Synapse 25. That's what I'm thinking as well. As much as I like smaller, sleeker bags, and would prefer the S19, I know that I'm going to need the room, and hopefully with my height, it will ride correctly and look proportional.
    Since we'll be checking our big bags (I'll be back when it's time for an A45 / A30 discussion for my personal vacations), I'm thinking of putting the S25 (if that's what I decide for the main backpack) in the overhead, and grabbing a Daylight Backpack, Ristretto, Copilot, or even the legendary Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, as a personal item that can also be used for our downtime strolls in the city or for walks with the Pentax and maybe room for souvenirs. This personal item bag would also be a perfect EDC when back home as long as it could hold the Pentax, maybe a pen and notepad / work paper, and either the 13 in. MBP or iPad Mini. I am really, really loving the look of the Ristretto, but I think as far as a light daypack goes, the Daylight might be best. The Pentax is my main concern, as it's just such a weird shape.

    Shoot, I still really want a Ristretto. And the PCSB.

    BUT - if I were to get a few bags (most likely the S25 and something to pair it with, and any accessories you might deem useful) for these tour trips / my own personal use, what would you all recommend? I believe I will choose the ballistic 525 material, if that helps.

    Note - it's taken about an hour to get this condensed as much as possible. If you can't tell, I'm anxious and scatterbrained. But I hope to soon be an actual owner of a Tom Bihn bag and will follow up with plenty of pictures of whatever ends up going on my travels!

    Thank you all for your help and time.
    Last edited by beak; 06-02-2019, 04:31 PM.

    Welcome Beak,
    How thick is the three ring binder? The computer plus the binder will fit in the Synapse25 with room for more. The thick tour folder and other items will probably fit, too.

    The Brain Bag will hold all of this effortlessly. That said, I myself prefer the organization and looks of the Synapse25.

    The camera. Most camera bags do a great job protecting the camera, but fit poorly into other bags. Recently someone suggested a camera wrap. That provided sufficient protection and fit well into a few Tom Bihn bags.

    The Packing Cube Shoulder Bag, the Daylight Backpack (with five extra key straps), a Shop Bag, and the Travel Tray go with me on every trip! They are indispensable in Halcyon and keep me organized.

    Please let us know what you decide. elisa


      I'm not sure if your water bottle will fit in the Synapse25. Perhaps someone else will know. elisa


        First off @beak, welcome to the Forums! As you so kindly noted, it's a great group of folks willing to offer lots of advice and photos, so I'm sure you'll get a lot of input.

        Unlike you, I am short and the S25 doesn't fit me well, so other folks will chime in on your pack out fitting into that bag.
        If you're able to order & test pack more than one bag (most financially feasible if you live in the US...see the FAQ for how to test pack & return: https://www.tombihn.com/pages/contact-us/#faq38 ) you may want to at least consider the Brain Bag. It's larger at 36L, but it has side compression straps that can cinch it down a lot. I mention this bag since your trips throughout the year sound like they might have a lot of variability...
        You could put a Co-Pilot/DLBP/PCSB/Ristretto into the BB whilst moving through the airport, and then pull out the smaller bag for under the seat during the flight...

        ETA: Brain Bag simulpost w/@AlaskaGirl
        I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...


          Originally posted by AlaskaGirl View Post
          I'm not sure if your water bottle will fit in the Synapse25. Perhaps someone else will know. elisa
          It fits in my synapse 19 so should be fine in the 25

          Sent from my F8331 using Tapatalk


            I'm intrigued by these suggestions for the Brain Bag, which is a bag I hadn't even considered solely based on looks but am now giving a second chance and beginning to research (seems like it will hold every last bit of stuff I need as this will mostly be docs and electronics rather than clothing). In the meantime, the thread shared by @AlaskaGirl really showed how well the PCSB works with cameras, so I'm leaning towards grabbing that as a secondary bag to whatever I decide. I assumed the S25 would be the easy decision! And thanks @G42 for the suggestion to order multiple bags - that's no problem and I can see myself easily ordering a BB, S25, S19, DLBP, Ristretto, and even a Pilot or Copilot just to see which combo of bags works best. I just get the feeling that I'm not going to want to send any back!

            Side question - when ordering from the site, are they sent out fairly quickly if everything is in stock? I don't want to be too wishy-washy with my decision making and then end up placing my order too close to my first trip!

            Thanks all


              If it's available, it ships immediately. Place an order before 2:00 pm Pacific Time and it usually ships the same day. Order after 2:00 pm and it usually ships the next day.

              If you see a color combination you like, order it immediately. Do NOT wait for other items to come back in stock. It may be a long time before those colors come back in stock. elisa

              ETA correcting typos.


                welcome @Beak

                my 2 coins,
                I think both Synapse 25 and Brain Bag would work greatly (though I don't have a BB I don't like its look...)

                I own a Guide Edition S25 and a non-TB pouch big enough for holding my camera (around 5x3x3), thanks to the upper (webbing) loops I found a way to attach/detach the pouch into the backpack, plus it works itself as a shoulder bag, this pouch is not a TB bag but I think Side Effect, Shoulder Packing Cube, 3D Packing Cube, etc. with the upper (webbing) loops or O-rings could do the job (just not padded, but you can eventually add something to do the job)
                just a Bihnion here


                  I think I wold grab the Synapse 25 and a Pilot myself as this combo is pretty flexible and spacious enough for what you describe while not giving you a lot more bag than you need or really want.

                  I say this and I also own 3 Brain Bags!
                  The BB is simply too humongous I think and very strappy as well and unless you need or want the extra space seems sort of silly to me for this load.
                  I know that if I have a larger bag with me I will pack a larger load and it can be tough sometimes to carry a loaded BB around much less getting one easily on some tight flights when I have needed to but I have never had these issues with the Synapse and I have carried mine loaded to the limits for sure.

                  The Pilot is just an amazing bag and it may be larger than you need too but you can also get a 13" Mac in there easily and maybe your K1000 as well?
                  I will try my OM1 later when I get a chance and let you know.

                  Overall though none of this matters if you can just order and try a few out as has been suggested this is what you really want to do and be able to see for yourself ahead of time!

                  And Welcome!


                    When the synapse 25 was my one bag travel bag, I used an A30 packing cube backpack as the large packing cube and a large snake charmer on top. Then, once at my destination,I turned the a30 pcbp back into backpack mode and it was my daypack. I have also used a packing cube side bag with a large snake charmer as my packing cubes as well. I just absolutely love my a30 pcbp, it’s also my edc bag, it’s so versatile.

                    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
                    "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


                      Based on the way you said you wish to travel I would consider the S25 and the Co-Pilot.

                      The S25 makes for a fine day pack, though on the larger side it does slim down considerably when you take things out. You may find that you do not need at all to buy a separate day pack for townie stuff.

                      But, I still have to bring up the S19, which I think is the perfect pack. Though I am also 6'0 of medium build, I strongly prefer the S19. For you, there is no way the 15" MacBook and 3-ring binder will fit in there, it MIGHT work for your needs when you downsize to a 13" MacBook. The S19 is simply a better, more comfortable size as a daypack, sits a lot smaller on your lap on public transit, fits in the smallest of under-seat storage, and never gets a second glance from flight attendants.

                      If you are already checking a bag it's worth considering whether the S19 will work for you, as really does make for a great under-seat flight bag. Then you can eliminate the personal item carry, go from three bags to two, and have a lot less to juggle when you're in transit.

                      On the other hand if you really must fly with lots of things, the S25 still fits under a seat but might encroach your foot space. If you store it overhead and wish to bring a personal item, I really cannot express enough how good the Co-Pilot fits this niche. I have one in ballistic and it is a great personal item because it fits even in the worst seats (with under-seat media boxes) and still gives you plenty of room for your iPad, tablet, small camera, headphones, etc. At the same time, the Co-Pilot makes for a great road bag as it fits easily into all sorts of places and offers great organization for cables, candy, whatever you need while driving or in-transit.

                      I know that the Pilot has a good following, but I would only choose to bring the Pilot if I am planning to carry a laptop in a personal item-sized bag, as I think it can be a little "too much" bag if you are already carrying another bag (or two).
                      Last edited by carrot; 06-03-2019, 01:38 PM.


                        Just taking a quick break from work to give an update on my headspace - the Brain Bag is powerful, but I just don't love the look as much as the Synapse. As far as that goes, my mind says S25 but my heart has said S19 from the get-go, which goes hand in hand with your post, @carrot. There's a reason I've given away my big bags and bulky coats and downsizing laptops and I think it's just that, as strange as it is, I like things smaller and sleeker. Heck, I even prefer my iPhone SE to my XS! The copilot instead of the pilot goes with that as well. I like keeping my electronics and pen and paper close by and organized and I can picture many happy road trips with a copilot in the passenger seat.

                        I think I'm going to look through some more S25 vs. S19 threads to get a fresh look at the difference in how it carries. I may well end up ordering both. Love the setup you have going on there, @melminimalist.

                        Gosh, I hate to be difficult. I think tonight I'm just going to order...what's the phrase I see around here..."all the bags!" and see what sticks.

                        That deep blue ballistic is a dream to gaze at, am I right? My favorite look is the original halcyon, but I know I want ballistic. Being from Texas, the burnt orange was my first thought, but blue is my favorite color, and it looks almost magic to me based on the light.

                        I'll update again tonight after a birthday dinner. Maybe that will clear my head and give me the shot I need to make a decision. Thanks for giving me a platform to both ask questions as well as get my thoughts out there into the void!


                          Hoping for advice on a carry-on / EDC bag or two for a couple of use cases...

                          I tried the OM1 with a 35-70 Zoom and it will not go into the front pocket on a Co-Pilot but will drop right into the Pilot.

                          If you have a Prime Lens on your K1000 it might well ride in the Co-Pilot pocket though?

                          My Nikon D40 with a 35mm prime will and it is a small Digital SLR but the Canon 40D and other full size bodies will only fit in the Pilot.

                          YMMV of course.

                          Pardon the Feet too!
                          Last edited by AVService; 06-03-2019, 02:37 PM.


                            Originally posted by beak View Post
                            That deep blue ballistic is a dream to gaze at, am I right? My favorite look is the original halcyon, but I know I want ballistic. Being from Texas, the burnt orange was my first thought, but blue is my favorite color, and it looks almost magic to me based on the light.
                            Just a head's up, TB has announced that the Nordic and Original 400d halcyon exterior weight fabrics will be discontinuing sometime this year.... So if you do like Original halcyon, don't wait too long to pick up something/anything in it, or before you know it, it will be gone...
                            And how TB makes things, a given fabric/colour combo may not be made again quickly or even ever again, so it's sort of a 'get 'em while their hot' thing...

                            Which is not to dissuade you from Deep Blue ballistic, which is indeed a great colour and fabric - I use a Pop Tote in Deep Blue every day as a gym bag

                            Check out this thread for fabric/colour news: https://forums.tombihn.com/general-b...tml#post169629
                            I like all the blues and greys...and all the happy citrus colours too! My search unicorn is the Sapphire Dyneema original Small Shop Bag...


                              Don't worry my friends, I did not abandon you!

                              Here's what I ended up ordering:
                              Synapse 25, Original 400 Halcyon / Island
                              Side Kick - Original 400 Halcyon / Island
                              Packing Cube Shoulder Bag - Coyote 210 Ballistic
                              Simple Shoulder Strap (will use with the PCSB)
                              Q-Kit, Small
                              Travel Stuff Sack, Size 1, Wasabi 200 Halcyon

                              I went with the S25 over the S19 both for the size but also for the original halcyon - the very first time I saw that big grid, it was like it was made for me. My ideal color combo is original halcyon and wasabi, and if the S25 is just too big for day-to-day use, I have an alert set for when that combo is available in the S19. I think the S25 will serve me well for these long work trips.
                              I couldn't decide between the PCSB or the Side Kick for lighter carries while strolling through cities, so I got both. I know the PCSB will hold my camera, and that was pretty important. The side kick can go in one of the S25 pockets if need be, maybe the bottom one.
                              I would've ordered a Daylight Backpack as well, but again, I decided to set up an alert and wait for that in original halcyon.
                              Waiting to order a Pilot once I actually do switch to a 13 inch Macbook; I knew I wouldn't need the pilot for this trip anyway. Instead of bringing the S25 and a Pilot, which may both be too big for quick access for light exploring, I will bring the S25 with either the side kick or PSCB. We'll see how it all fits together.

                              Anyway, thanks again for helping someone riddled with indecision!

                              Next few purchases will be a Pilot, an S19 (hopefully original halycon / wasabi), Ristretto for simple EDC of the 13 in. Macbook, and then most likely a larger bag such as the A30 or A45 for personal travel when not checking a roller.

                              Wish me luck!
                              Last edited by beak; 06-06-2019, 07:58 AM. Reason: grammar