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Thoughts on a college bag?

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    Thoughts on a college bag?

    I'll be going into my freshman year of college by the end of this month, and after reading through the quite frankly glorious thread re:the daylight bag's capacity for watermelon and TP (thanks, Janine!), I decided this community seemed friendly and experienced enough to ask about the bags.

    I got a budget of 100$ from my uncle for bag purposes, but have a somewhat reasonable stash of other money that I don't feel entirely uncomfortable stretching up to an additional 70$ beyond that, though obviously would be thrilled if a less expensive bag was deemed adequate and I could eat out an extra couple times this first year before I start going into debt next year.

    This seems to limit me to the Daylight bag and the two Synapses as most obvious as far as TB goes. I'll be going to school in Chicago, so cold weather is decidedly a much more pressing concern than warm. I'll be taking a maximum of 4 classes at a time, with no more than three meeting any given day, but my dorm is a significant walk from campus, so most likely whatever I take will have to last me all day. My computer is the Surface Pro 3 with a roughly 11 inch screen (simply fantastic, BTW), and I have a cushioned sleeve for it already. I will be carrying around a filtered water bottle, which has shown no leakage problems as of yet.

    Any thoughts/experiences come up as far as this description goes? I've done a fair amount of my own research, and was looking here for opinions as far as TB bags in actual usage, but other makers are also welcome, and arguments for TB bags in general are also helpful. Tips and links to other useful threads are also welcome.

    My thoughts on use for the bag: day trips on public transit, everyday use as bag to walk to campus with, main bag for most purposes, and therefore must be easy to pack/unpack for different loads of varying weights. Easy to keep an eye on, yet possibly a little understated instead of overstated while remaining personal. (My own decoration might help with that.) I love the idea of school ID on a Key Strap, as locks across campus are tap controlled with the ID, as well as it doubling as a contact payment system for on-campus money.

    Thank you for reading/responding!

    IMHO the Synapses are your best options. Sturdy, organized, classy. Comfortable with heavy loads. Dyneema is great protection against moisture (hello, Chicago!), but other fabrics can be waterproofed with Nikwax.

    For a student I'd recommend the S25 if you'll be carrying books, a lunch, coat, etc. The S19 is a terrific size, but it would not have carried everything I needed for college or grad school. You won't regret making the investment in either of these bags, even if it means stretching your budget. A Synapse will last you for years, and it's beautifully designed.

    Tips - there is a thread about someone who used their Synapse with an ID ( a metro card in Japan?) and how easy it was to pull the card from a side pocket without taking off the bag. Maverick & others have discussed using "Lunchbot" containers in the lower pocket of the Synapse. Badger carries a corgi to class in his (just kidding).
    Last edited by TavaPeak; 09-11-2014, 05:59 AM.


      +1 on the S25 if you're carrying a lot of odds and ends, because the pockets help immensely with keeping stuff where you want it.

      Another thought is the Smart Alec, which gives you a big open cavern which might be better depending on what you're carrying. To get the organization of the Synapse, though, you might blow the budget on pouches and cubes.


        Are you tall enough to comfortably carry the Synapse 25 every day? If so, I'd recommend that. If not, maybe the Synapse 19 or Smart Alec. The colors that are available right now might factor into your choice as well.
        I think those would be more comfortable in the long-term than the Daylight backpack, which is great but IMO not the best choice for an all-day pack for a student carrying a laptop, water, books, etc.
        All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
        Edmund Burke


          If I was in college today, I'd probably want an S25. (I have an S19, works for me, but in college with books -- do the kids still use books today??? -- I'd probably want a bit more room that the S25 affords.)

          I know you said you had a sleeve for your laptop, but I would suggest if you go with the S25 (or S19), consider the cache on rails. The intended use is for frequent travelers, so they don't have to remove the laptop, but simply slide it out/in. But the cache on rails also serves to keep the laptop close to the bag of my bag. Less shifting around, less hassle.

          (If funds are tight, you can always add it later, but then you're paying an extra ten bucks for shipping, so....)

          Also, take a look at some of the accessories. I'm hooked on the o-rings and keystraps and pouches that connect to them -- you can setup a nice system, and it has the advantage of keeping things more accessible, instead of everything dropping into to the bottom of one of the bag's sections. (Again, something you also can add later...)


            Another vote for the Synapse! I would have liked this bag in school. I have the 25 now, and it fits a lot of stuff, without looking too huge (I think it looks smaller/sleeker/prettier than my old backpacks, though I don't know what size they were). I'm even thinking I would've been ok with the 19 (I did not tend to carry a heavy jacket or food; just a laptop, notebook(s), text books for the big items), but I haven't actually used the smaller synapse. I like having pockets, which is why I picked the S25 over the SA.


              Synapse 25 to fit a days worth of stuff. To me, it's a black hole. The weight of your books etc and being comfortable while wearing the pack on your back might be an issue with either Synapse.


                +1 for the Synapse 25! Man, I would have loved one in college. So organized, so well-designed and spiffy, and very nice features like not having to take it off to hold your keycard up to doorway pads. I teach at a college and university now and use an S19, but as a student I would have needed the greater capacity of the 25. I have an office and a car where I can drop stuff off and swap things around at lunch, but in college I had at lot of very long days when I couldn’t get back to my dorm to swap things around, and the 19 wouldn’t have cut it.

                It’s a big investment, but it will last your entire time at college and well beyond, whereas you’ll likely be replacing most other bags after a year or two. I’d also suggest splashing on another $4 and throwing in an 8” or (16”) keystrap. My Synapse 19 came with one 4” keystrap which is useful for keeping things tethered, but a little too short to work for the ID swipe move. Swap it to hold something else in another pocket and add the longer keystrap for your ID in the side pocket on your dominant side.

                If you want an idea of what the S19 holds, I took some photos in these threads:

                http://forums.tombihn.com/questions-...html#post78216 (scroll up/back for other photos of me wearing the packed bag)


                http://forums.tombihn.com/questions-...html#post78835 (you can see that, though I’ve got a fair bit of stuff in there and added a lunchbox and sweater on top, it wouldn’t take an additional big textbook, like a Bio 101 monster)

                I think you’d be better off with the larger size, unless you really won’t be carrying more than I am in these photos. But if you’re leaning toward the small size, you might want to live a few weeks at school first to be sure!

                Good luck and let us know what you decide!
                Last edited by Kay; 09-11-2014, 06:59 PM.


                  It has all been said, I'd go with the Synpase 25 too. The S19 will/might be too small and the Daylighter (beeing even a bit smaller) would in no way carry all you need. I love the Daylighter but it is more of a second backpack not the main back for what you need (so it would be a great chrstimass-wish...)

                  As for the Smart Alec: big fan hear but with the Smart Alec I would want the Upper Modular Pocket and some pouches for internal organization and that would stretch your budged way beyond 170 Dollar. As for the bag not being too visible: burned orange and frensch blue are quite visible (beautiful but clearly not understated), I have not seen the new gray in person but I can assure you, that I would definitely look twice at a backpack in that color (BUT I am a bag-person so that might not the case with everybody). All the other colors are interesting without beeing "in your face" and the form of the Synapse makes this Backpack unic and NOT boring.

                  As for quality: My daughter has an Eastpack for school. The Pack looks as sturdy as my Tom Bihn Bags. But after one year of usage you can see a lot of wear and tear at the bottom. It is a beautiful pattern and has quite a bit of organization to it but it is nothing for the long run. She will use it another year but after that I will have to buy her a new Schoolbag. I have not Tom Bihn bag that has lived through the same abuce a 14 year old schoolgirl does put during 12 month of usage to it. But I have seen lots of pictures of long term used Tom Bihn bags. Not one picture shows the same wear and tear.

                  And as Kay suggested: get one ore two long Keystraps with whatever bag you decide on. They are so helpful in many ways and will not overstretch your budget too much.


                  Edit: forgot to say: Welcome to the forum! Your question and all the very good answers where so interesting to read, that this nearly slipped my mind.
                  Last edited by Ilkyway; 09-11-2014, 11:17 AM.
                  “Ankh-Morpork people considered that spelling was a sort of optional extra. They believed in it in the same way they believed in punctuation; it didn't matter where you put it so long as it was there.”

                  By Sir Terence David John Pratchett from The Truth


                    Welcome to the forums @modulusshift,

                    +1 for the Synapse, and depending on how much you need to carry along, you might need the Synapse 25. The Daylight Backpack is really designed for less capacity than you'll probably need, and you'll probably find the reinforced backpad of the Synapse an advantage. It's a good choice if you know you are going to go lightweight and slim, but it won't work as well if the bulk of what you have to organize inside, apart from your Surface Pro 3 laptop, are papers and books. This also addresses your point of wanting something that is easy to pack and unpack for loads of varying weights: the organization of the side pockets and shape of the bag makes this easier for what you're likely to be carrying than the DLBP. I carry both sizes of the Synapse -- most often the Synapse 19 -- but it really depends how far your college has gone towards using eBooks, online sites for distributing course materials and notes in electronic format, or textbooks with looseleaf style pages so you can just carry the current reading.

                    I also second @carl0's suggestion of also getting the cache with rails, at least if you go with the Synapse 25 size. See @Tachiyaku's Synapse 25 and Cache with Rails review thread for a description. He also uses the Synapse 25 as a backpack for college. It's not so necessary for the Synapse 19, because that laptop was designed for 13" MacBooks, and even an unsecured cache or sleeve will be held pretty well in the most comfortable carrying position: against your back. (The Surface Pro 3 is about the size of a 13" MacBook Air, so that will also be true for that laptop). But one of the features of the Synapse design that makes it such a great bag to use, is that the different sections (main compartment, side and bottom pockets, and water bottle pockets) flex and adapt to the shape and volume of what you are carrying. In the larger Synapse 25, your unsecured sleeve will slide around if your bag is not full, and will be less comfortable to carry.

                    Originally posted by TavaPeak View Post
                    Tips - there is a thread about someone who used their Synapse with an ID ( a metro card in Japan?) and how easy it was to pull the card from a side pocket without taking off the bag. Maverick & others have discussed using "Lunchbot" containers in the lower pocket of the Synapse. Badger carries a corgi to class in his (just kidding).
                    @TavaPeak is referring to @GEOcycle's Synapse continues to surprise. thread. And I think the @maverick lunchbot post mentioned is this one. @Badger would never carry Corgis in her Synapse, but if you're considering materials, you might want to take a look at the blog post on The fur test with its link to Professor badger's serious study performed with the assistance of Corgi, umm, "volunteers".




                      Originally posted by Kay View Post

                      I’d also suggest splashing on another $4 and throwing in an 8” or (16”) keystrap. My Synapse 19 came with one 4” keystrap which is useful for keeping things tethered, but a little too short to work for the ID swipe move. Swap it to hold something else in another pocket and add the longer keystrap for your ID in the side pocket on your dominant side.
                      Wow, let me update that. Don’t add on an 8” keystrap... add on the 16”! My order of what I thought were longer 8” keystraps just came, and I realized I was measuring wrong. I thought the length referred to the cloth part only, which is in fact 4”... but I think they’re also measuring the two clips on each end, which it turns out does bring the total to 8” and is what comes with the bag already. So go for 16” to double your keystrap length.

                      Now I have to decide whether to exchange my three short keystraps or “force” myself to find other uses for them...


                        I would only carry my corgi in a Synapse if I wanted him to have a heart attack and die. He's afraid of backpacks.

                        Books, on the other hand, have no such feelings and I can carry copious numbers of them in an S 25. It might just be the perfect bag for college and college-like activities.

                        Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk


                          I graduated in May as a non-traditional student, and I used the Synapse 25 or the Imago (no longer available to order) depending on the specific semester and what I had to carry for my classes. If I could have only had one bag, I'd have gone with the Synapse 25. I also worked full time, so I had to carry enough stuff for a 12ish hour day and I did use public transport to and from classes. Everybody has done a good job describing the virtues of the bag, so I'll just add that, in practice, the bag is perfect for your intended uses.

                          Also, a pocket pouch for your ID with the long keystrap is very helpful, especially if you have to "boop" it or otherwise access it frequently.


                            I have no experience with the Synapse, but I am curious - do you prefer a backpack style or would you consider one of the larger messenger bags?

                            I ask because a messenger can be nice if you have an internship or job in an office setting and don't want to wrinkle your office clothes, especially if there is a top grab handle. However, and especially for a student, I think the dress codes are quite flexible.


                              That's surprisingly nearly unanimous for the Synapse 25... And I see the points. This is a bag I'm planning to make last, so even though this year I might not use the full capacity, it might be useful for later years, bigger trips... The flexibility of being able to put that much in a workable sized backpack is freeing if I ever actually need it.

                              More thoughts: I obviously need this by the end of the month, so I'm limited to currently in stock colors. Of the available, I'm liking the Black/Iberian Red combo the best, for understated but with a touch of color inside, but then again, that French Blue looks really nice...

                              As far as packing, if there are heavy items in the main compartment, how do the smaller pockets treat more fragile items, such as DVD cases or bottles? I'm sure I can eliminate a lot of problems with some common sense, though.