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How to organize / pack the Synapse Backpack?

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    How to organize / pack the Synapse Backpack?

    For those who carry the Synapse daily how do you organize it? What do you put in each pocket?

    I really like the backpack. The size is perfect, it's doable for business, feels good on the back. Lot's of pockets, 6 in total, but as much I thought I wanted a backpack with numerous pockets I'm finding it more inconvenient than useful. Meaning if I want to grab a variety of items from the backpack I have to unzip and zip a lot of pockets to get at my stuff.

    I use the Synapse as a daypack, everyday bag, tech bag, man-purse for work and leisure. I don't like to carry much in my pants pockets, especially in the summertime when wearing shorts etc.. I also prefer a backpack over a messenger bag.

    Here's what I usually carry:

    - 13" MacBook Air and/ or iPad
    - wallet
    - keys
    - small wallet size zip pouch for med's
    - phone
    - moleskine notebook medium size
    - occasionally a bottle of water
    - small clear sided pouch for small items, pocket knife, sd card reader, headphones ...

    First I tried utilizing all the pockets. I put the moleskin notebook, iPad, Mac in the main compartment, the phone in vertical zip pocket on the right side, med's pouch and pens in the left vertical pocket. Sometimes I'd cram my wallet in either of the vertical zip pockets or use the horizontal zip pocket at the bottom, keys go in the top small zippered compartment. In the long pocket on the front a water bottle but usually it has small items in it, (which are hard to find and remove since the pocket is narrow and long). So to get at my stuff, for example when I arrive at the office, or at a restaurant where I want to do some work while I'm waiting ... to get at my stuff it's six pockets I have to open, zip, zip, zip, zip ... It doesn't feel right, it's inconvenient and cumbersome, (nor do I like one pocket backpacks where everything sits at the bottom.

    Then I tried using only the main compartment for almost everything, my iPad or Mac and moleskin would go in the main section and I'd dump almost everything in the inner sleeve pocket in the main compartment but it was also cumbersome to get at things.

    * I wish the Freudian slip would fit the Synapse ... Undo one zipper and all your stuff is there, well organized and easy to get at. It would be such a beneficial accessory to this backpack.

    I'm interested to hear how others use and pack their Synapse, I feel like I'm doing it wrong or missing something.
    Last edited by uniquest; 08-03-2012, 07:05 PM.

    Hi uniquest,
    I find it takes a few days to "move in" to a new bag. I too sometimes get confused about what's where. As you look at the front (non strap) side of the bag I put my checkbook and small coffee kit in the right side pocket. There's also a USB cable in the ultra suede pocket on the right side. In the left side pocket goes pens, pencils, eraser, highlighter, kleenex and crochet hooks. The water bottle pocket is either empty or has a water bottle in it. I put my keys in the smaller front pocket like you do. The bottom pocket holds a pencil style zipper bag with a stitching project in it and fold up umbrella when necessary. This helps balance the bag so is sits up on it's own, more or less, sometimes. If I need my Shop Bag it goes in the bottom pocket too.

    Everything else, Field Journal, Kit, Side Effect, lunch and Kindle go in the main compartment. I keep my wallet, phone, fold up tote bag and other bits in the Side Effect. It doubles as a purse as needed. On one of the straps I have a shoulder pad, headlight threaded around the webbing and a small Timbuk2 pouch wrapped around the strap.

    I think the "moving in" process takes a few days. I usually move things around a couple of times with a new bag. Once I get it right though it never changes. I can find anything in two seconds even in the dark. It is an individual process too. I'm left handed so what works for me would probably drive a right handed person nuts. Just try stuff until you hit on the right combo. I'm sure you'll find it.

    Take care,
    Last edited by Moose; 08-04-2012, 09:42 AM.
    List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!


      I agree with Moose on this. I also find it takes a few days to get "settled" with a new bag. I also use the Synapse for my EDC, and have it configured this way (also using Moose's configuration of looking at the non-strap front side of the bag):

      Left side pocket - pens, work badge and ID
      Right side pocket - TB Organizer wallet, iPhone, keys
      Middle pocket - sunglasses (in case), spare glasses (in case)
      Bottom pocket - tissues, 2 TB small OPs with toiletries, spare car key on lanyard - clipped to o-ring
      Main part of bag, inner pocket - kindle, loose papers
      Main part of bag - iPad in sleeve; Medium OP with Kindle & iPad chargers, headphones, iPad camera connection kit; small cork OP with bluetooth headset and charger; large Moleskine 2012 planner; medium spiral notebook

      It all fits with TONS of room leftover for whatever else finds its way into the bag over the course of a day. Hope this helps :-)
      Eat well, travel often.


        It took me some time -- maybe a month -- to truly move into my Synapse. One major breakthrough was reading this post on the way you can easily reach those two side pockets without taking the backpack off. It really clarified for me what I should put in them, and what can go into other pockets that are harder to access on the fly...

        I now organize my Synapse like this (as though face to face with it, or if it were on the back of the person ahead of you in line):

        right side pocket: iphone, keys, cork TB Forum pouch (loose change catcher) hooked to the o-ring.
        left side pocket: pens & pencils (in slots), small moleskine, wallet.
        top small pocket: small bills, cards, tickets, receipts picked up along my day, etc.
        top long pocket: either (on longer outings) my beloved thermos waterbottle, or (on shorter outings) my sunglasses case. Also, a mass market sized paperback can fit well in there too. (Trade sized can as well, but with some necessary roughness, so they're usually better off inside the main compartment somewhere...).
        bottom middle pocket: ahh, my plum Side Effect fits perfectly! It holds many spare odds & ends within (pens, pencils, swiss army knife, spudger/black sticks, travel tissue pack, bandaids, tylenol, etc etc)

        All this, and I haven't even put anything in the main compartment yet!

        The contents of the main compartment shift depending on the outing and the season. Since I don't have an ipad or equivalent, that smaller compartment usually holds whatever book I'm reading (drastically reducing the likelihood of the covers getting all bent up as I cram things in). This leaves the main section open for changes of clothes, or a hat, or a rain jacket (I have one that packs into its own pocket, to the size of a Side Effect), or whatever else.
        S19 (Black/Wasabi); SA (Black/Steel/Solar); Pilot (Steel/Wasabi); MCB (Linen/Steel); etc


          It's a matter of planning what to carry where. I use one side pocket for my spare keys and a pouch with all my USB keys (I get the USBs out once or twice a day), the other side pocket for the otterbox for my hearing aids (used only in the mornings [I put my hearing aids in when I get to work and take them out when I get home] and if it is raining), the small middle pocket has my ID for my volunteer work and spare hearing aid batteries, the bottom pocket my umbrella and a couple of cheap folding bags, the bottle pocket for my breakfast milk bottle, and the main section for my lunchbox and anything else I need to carry.

          I advise identifying things that you carry and only use at specific times and use the small pockets for those items, and have constantly accessed items in the main section.



            My use of the Synapse is very close to what others have said, though I carry a lot of pens, pencils, and assorted officey things, and love using the pen cases from JetPens. (I'll try to post a pic in a bit.) I put one that folds into thirds in the left (pen) side pocket along with pens I don't mind losing in the pen slots.

            In the main compartment, I often slip in a Grid-It with similar useful items (small cards for notes, etc.) along with all the usual stuff — MBA11 in its Cache, my iPad in its SFBags/Waterfield slip case, sometimes my Kindle 3 (if I'm going to be out a while so I don't waste power on my iPad), a paper notebook or two (one is usually a Moleskine, the other a letter-sized Circa from Levengers), and a couple of file/paper holders (also from Levengers) that are stiff plastic.

            The bottom pocket is usually stuffed with AC adapters (in their respective TB pouches) though I love the idea of tucking a Side Effect in there instead. Little pocket in the middle is filled with the usual lip balm, gum, mints, and often keys.

            I usually have three or four clear TB pouches attached to the o-rings in the main compartment or wherever I need them. Love those clear pouches!

            I have tried putting a layer of foam in the bottom of the main compartment for added safety but it really hasn't been all that successful because it moves around too much and soon isn't on the bottom at all. Didn't want to physically attach it since that would be altering the Synapse itself. I may try to design a shape that would stay in place but I haven't done that yet.

            Admittedly, I have too many TB bags, but the Synapse is usually my go-to bag and is often a purse replacement (depending, of course, on where I am going).


              I have just the opposite feelings about my pants pockets.
              I make sure to always have my keys on my person no matter what as I have too many friends who get locked out all the time because they set keys down and forget them or can't find them,I have just never grasped how this can happen?
              I also carry too much stuff on my belt but thats another story I guess?

              In the Synapse I do this:

              Main Pocket-
              13" MBP.iPad with Otterbox Case,Folders,Notebooks,Food,SOmetimes Toughbook CF-T8 PC

              Tiny Pocket-
              Gum,Mints,Glasses cleaning stuff,Tiny Screwdriver for glasses,Antacid,Eyedrops,Chapstick

              Left Side-

              Right Side-
              Tom Bihn Wallet with MiFi2200 and cables
              Lumix P&S SuperZoom Camera

              Chargers,iPad/Phone cables,Loooong iPad cable,USB Sticks of many kinds including WiFi Analyzer

              Bottle Pocket-
              Eagle Creek skinny pocket filled with computer adapters,cables,USB converters/cables
              This one is great as it is shaped like a bottle really and holds a lot,I can get 2 of these in there if I need to.

              Thats the usual load but I still have good room in the main and bottom pockets most of the time too.

              I can also slide the Camera Insert I have into the main pocket and carry SLR gear in there easily and the rest of the Synapse can hold a lot of lenses and even a Tripod in the bottle pocket as I have shown here before.

              I love the Synapse!

              Last edited by AVService; 08-14-2012, 03:59 PM.


                Hey Ed,

                Just in case you ever question whether all the detail you put into posts is worth it...it totally is!

                You have great posts and you completely have me lusting for a Synapse that I don't really need!

                Thank you for enabling!



                  My Pleasure,really it's a Gift/Curse?

                  Do you have that Retna MBP yet?



                    After using a messenger for a while I'm going back to a backpack. Shoulder bags aren't for me I guess, however I do wish backpacks where more easily accessible like shoulder bags are.

                    I'm thinking on trying out my Synapse again. Still looking for pointers/tips. Does anyone use their main compartment for everything including small items ... Have you got used to digging in the bottom to find things? As mentioned a few months ago I don't like having to undo numerous zippers just to get at my smaller items, yet there's no smaller pockets in the main compartment, the Freudian slip doesn't fit. And I don't like 'putting a bag within a bag' unless its really necessary because to access those items you have to open two bags to get at items , unless its really small things like USB drives etc.

                    As an EDC bag where do you put wallet, phone, keys, compact camera and other small items?



                      I put my iPhone (5 woohoo!) in the lined phone pocket. In that pocket I also put my bus card.
                      In the side pen pocket I put pens, my camera when I carry it, sunglasses in a hard case. What I like is how much the side pockets fit!
                      I put my keys and work badge in the bottom zip pocket. I put my wallet in the deep front pocket. If someone tried to pickpocket they'd have to reach far down and I reckon I'd be savvy to what was happening. I don't really put anything in the shallow front pocket. That takes care of the everyday items. The main compartment is for reading material in paper or e-form. There's tons of room for other things.


                        I always look like I am going on an expedition even when grocery shopping.

                        In addition to the Synapse which hold the FJN and anything paperwork or bulky (main), my Lifefactory bottle (uh, bottle pocket) and all kind of Key Straps and other small stuff in the small front pocket and a Kit in the bottom pocket, I use either the Large Shop Bag by itself or paired with the Packing Cube Shoulder Bag in matching color which also matches the Synapse.

                        I seldom use the side pockets but they have been known to stash an healthy snack or Small and Mini Pouches which I removed from the Large Shop Bag when a couple of downpour caught me offguard.

                        Offguard, but not unprepared, since the Shop Bag was holding a rain shell and a cardigan.

                        After the downpours, I was thinking of retiring the Shop Bag/Packing Shoulder Bag pair but they are sooo nice, and the shop bag was taken to an impromptu shopping expedition and next week is supposed to be sunny so I will keep them a little longer because I am planning more errands before the weather gets nasty.
                        Last edited by backpack; 10-28-2012, 05:01 PM.


                          I got a Synapse earlier this year, at a time when I upgraded to a smaller laptop and wanted to carry less weight.

                          I didn't really like the bag until I also got a few of the Tom Bihn travel stuff sacks to use in the main compartment. These make it easier to use the space inside. Specifically, I keep a smaller red sack for first aid kit and other possibles, a larger black one for costume changes for overnight trips, and a third smaller sack for things that wouldn't pass TSA scrutiny (so I only have one thing to remember to remove when traveling). I also have a snake charmer that I use as a toiletries bag. All of the above fits into the main compartment, plus laptop, pretty comfortably.

                          When I used a larger backpack (Smart Alec), it was easier to grub around for small items in the large main compartment. But a few of those travel stuff sacks would have suited me very well even with that bigger backpack.


                            In my Synapse I carry:
                            main compartment: 15" MBP in sleeve, Moleskine notebook, 1 Mini and 1 Small OP with various bits of crap both clipped to one o-ring, usually a book or two, and sometimes headphones in a medium TB yarn stuff sack
                            water bottle pocket: An 18 or 27 oz Klean Kanteen, 1-2 Red Bulls, and (these days) a Monster or Rock Star as well
                            clif bar pocket: a clif bar and the lightning cable for my phone
                            right side pocket: sunglasses in a case
                            pen pocket: two pens and a mechanical pencil, earbuds in their factory-issue case clipped to a key strap
                            front bottom pocket: the power brick and extension cord for my computer, loose

                            I keep my phone, keys, and wallet in my right front, left front, and right butt pockets, respectively. Now you know everything about me.


                              Originally posted by Badger View Post
                              In my Synapse I carry:
                              main compartment: 15" MBP in sleeve, .
                              Is that the 15.4, non retina display?? If so, do you have any problem fitting it in Synapse?? That's the only thing that has stopped me from buying one.
                              Owner, Fool On The Hill Recording, Nashville TN