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  1. #1
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    Design Suggestion: Front Access

    It seems that every backpack design in the universe requires you to *take the backpack off of you shoulders* to access absolutely anything in the bag. I live in Chicago and I commute using public transportation. I don't like having to take the bag off of my shoulders to access things like my keys, my phone, or my transit pass. At the L stop, one needs to be able to whip out and stow the phone (with transit app) quickly. Standing in a blizzard, at my back door, it's irritating to have to peel the backpack off over my giant puffy coat, hold it in one hand while I remove my heavy gloves with my teeth, unzip/dig for keys, then unlock my door.

    So... my inspirational thought is this-- could you design a backpack which would allow one to access these essential items *without taking the bag off the shoulders*?

    I tried on my S19 to imagine how this might work. The one spot on the bag that I could reach (without taking the bag off my shoulders) is the lumbar area in the small of my back. If you added vertical zippers onto the back panel of the bag at this spot (right above point where of the shoulder straps attaches to the bottom of each side), and if you had an o-ring just inside each side zipper, I'd be able to attach my keys (on a long tether) to one o-ring. On the other side, I'd be able to attach an organizer pouch (on a long tether) to hold my phone and/or wallet and/or earpods. I'd be able to reach around, unzip these sides, fish out the tethered essentials, open my door or wave my transit pass, replace them in the pocket, zip it back up, and *never* need to take the bag off my shoulders.

    Yes, I know there are other solutions. Currently, I use a third party velcro accessory case to hold my phone (it velcros to the S19 shoulder strap so I can carry my phone in the front). And I know some people solve this problem by carrying a 2nd small bag on their front (a side kick, for example), but I'd love to be able to do it all with one bag.

  2. #2
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    Well, they are *back*packs... Just kidding - what you say has total merit since we all need some quick access things at some point!

    Personally, I horrify the fashion police and keep my phone in a case on my belt at my hip, my work badge is clipped to a belt loop on one of those retractable thingies, and my keys are in my front pocket.
    I realize that those aren't good options for folks who have to dress nicer and/or are at the mercy of the 'women's-pants-have-no-useful-pockets' syndrome though.
    Having a lumbar pocket is intriguing but it would have to be fairly small/flat otherwise you'd end up with a very uncomfortable lump in your back... you also have to have decent dexterity/mobility to access, but a long key strap would definitely help with keeping things secure.
    Super small (size of mini Ghost Whale perhaps) zip pockets on the bottom front corners might also work, though they would totally change the look of the Synapses...
    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...

  3. #3
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    This is why I don't use any type of backpack for EDC. I don't even like them for personal carry item status going through airports and air travel.

  4. #4
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    pocket

    Quote Originally Posted by G42 View Post
    Having a lumbar pocket is intriguing but it would have to be fairly small/flat otherwise you'd end up with a very uncomfortable lump in your back... you also have to have decent dexterity/mobility to access, but a long key strap would definitely help with keeping things secure.
    Super small (size of mini Ghost Whale perhaps) zip pockets on the bottom front corners might also work, though they would totally change the look of the Synapses...
    Agreed, you'd need to keep the pocket very flat, but if you ran it horizontally across the small of your back, any extra bulk could tuck into the slight gap created by the lumbar curve of the spine. And, there is padding on the interior side of the bag. So you could keep that (and maybe add a touch extra?) to avoid lumps. You would need some amount of dexterity, but as long as you keep the pocket low, I think its manageable. I'm not the most limber person in the world, but I can easily reach around all the way to the center of my lower back and touch the lumber curve right above the waist band.

    Or maybe TB has some other genius idea to engineer front access? I'm open to anything that doesn't require me to take my backpack off in a blizzard just to get on the train or open the door.

  5. #5
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    There are little, ugly pouches you can mount on the shoulder straps in front of your body to carry phones and stuff. Bihn doesn't make them.

  6. #6
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    Greetings,
    The amazing thing about the Synapse, both sizes, is that by removing just one shoulder strap the bag can pivot to the side/front. Then all the front pockets are accessible.

    This isn't what you are looking for, but I still find it very useful. No other backpack I've ever used has been this user friendly.

    To solve the situation you describe, I use a small bag either cross body or with a waist strap. The Travel Cubelet is big enough to hold my phone, keys, lip balm, and Tom Bihn Wallet, a small Moleskin notebook, a pen, pencil, and a travel tissue pack. The Side Effect can hold all that plus a few more items like a travel eye mask and ear plugs. The Side Kick holds all that plus a paperback book and much more. Any one of those bags will tuck into the top of my Synapse25 in the event I am required to only have one bag.

    While I find the suggestion for a lumbar pocket interesting, I would not use it myself. elisa

  7. #7
    Forum Member Crinoidea's Avatar
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    I have an old Pearl Izumi backpack and it has side pockets (for shoes, actually) that I can reach without taking it off. I used this bag for college as my EDC.

    In winter, with coat and gloves on, I could theoretically reach this pocket. And frequently enough, while pulling something out, other stuff would drop on the ground. Because of outdoor conditions (snow and mud) I wouldn't hear things hit the ground. Either a friend saw the item or I needed it immeadiately enough I had to go look for it.

    I learned that when I was wearing a coat and gloves... the coat pockets were a far better option.

    Just something to think about.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaGirl View Post
    Greetings,
    The amazing thing about the Synapse, both sizes, is that by removing just one shoulder strap the bag can pivot to the side/front. Then all the front pockets are accessible.
    I do the same thing with my S19, S25,and L12. My car is remote access and my front home door is keyless. I keep my sunglasses in the side pocket of each of the packs. Same with my wallet in the L12. For the Synapses, though, I prefer putting my wallet in the front pocket because I use an S-biner attached to the front pocket and right-side pocket for added security in the Metro and train crowds.
    Bags - S25 (Mars Red balistic/Northwest sky/halcyon), S19 (Deep blue balistic/Iberian/halcyon). SCB (Nordic)
    Accessories - Nik's #4 wallets, Q-kits, pouches, stuff sacks, travel trays.

  9. #9
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    I thought for a second that the lumbar pocket might be a cool idea--especially if it opens into the body of the bag similar to side pockets in the TAD Axiom 24. But, having something take up space in the bottom of the pack (or keeping the pocket really slim) might be challenging. And while I consider myself relatively flexible, having mimicked a zip/unzip motion there a few times, I think that might be a more uncomfortable reach than just swinging the bag around. That said, I believe the TAD Fastpack has an inverted pocket like this on the sides for keys on bungee cord. So maybe it's not so bad.

    That said, I lived in Chicago for two years and nothing beat taking advantage of coat pockets. I especially like top-loading velcro flap pockets on the front. So practical for a phone versus fumbling under a parka for it in a front pant pocket or having to go into my backpack.

  10. #10
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    I totally get this quick access problem.

    In the past I have posted in the Wish List thread for a Side-access backpack, with a pocket to the main compartment opening along the entire side of the bag. I still wish for this.

    The most recent design change to the Synapse water bottle pocket has helped- I can fit a Travel Cubelet or a Side Effect into the very handy side pockets of the S25, and keep my essential stuff in there for a one-shoulder swing down of the bag.

    I've also, in the past, tried attaching bags to the waist strap of my Synapse.

    Since I have started using train and bus tickets on my phone, and also using a bungee clipped tether on my phone, I'm more likely to keep just my phone in my pocket, clipped to my clothing, as my only quick-access item.

    I have yet to settle on a permanent universal solution but the phone bungee clip gives me the most peace of mind! It attaches to any phone case with the little spot for a wrist strap. I wish I could provide a link but I got mine for free from a Police public information stand.

  11. #11
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    The TOM BIHN Buzz was a single strap "sling" style backpack that you could rotate around to the front of your torso without taking it off, enabling you access to the contents in both the front zippered pocket as well as the main compartment. It also had a phone pocket on the single backpack strap and a water bottle pocket!
    -m

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cristina View Post
    I totally get this quick access problem.

    Since I have started using train and bus tickets on my phone, and also using a bungee clipped tether on my phone, I'm more likely to keep just my phone in my pocket, clipped to my clothing, as my only quick-access item.

    I have yet to settle on a permanent universal solution but the phone bungee clip gives me the most peace of mind! It attaches to any phone case with the little spot for a wrist strap. I wish I could provide a link but I got mine for free from a Police public information stand.
    @Cristina - How do you connect the bungee to your phone? Are you slipping it into a ghost whale or other organizer?
    Bags - S25 (Mars Red balistic/Northwest sky/halcyon), S19 (Deep blue balistic/Iberian/halcyon). SCB (Nordic)
    Accessories - Nik's #4 wallets, Q-kits, pouches, stuff sacks, travel trays.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by maverick View Post
    The TOM BIHN Buzz was a single strap "sling" style backpack that you could rotate around to the front of your torso without taking it off, enabling you access to the contents in both the front zippered pocket as well as the main compartment. It also had a phone pocket on the single backpack strap and a water bottle pocket!
    I had a Buzz. I loved the Buzz!I eventually retired it because phone technology outgrew the strap pocket. But the sling design was very handy-- much easier to get on and off over a bulky winter coat. I do wonder why TB doesn't include a sling bag in the line up of bag options. Sling bags don't work for huge heavy loads, but it seems like it could be a good option for a smaller bag (something with the capacity of a Luminary)

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Go Navy View Post
    There are little, ugly pouches you can mount on the shoulder straps in front of your body to carry phones and stuff. Bihn doesn't make them.
    Yes, this is my current solution. The pouch mostly works. Downsides 1) It attaches to shoulder strap by wrapping around the strap, so when the bag is loaded, it digs into my shoulder. 2) Velcro eventually wears thin and threatens to open or detatch from bag. 3) I'm a film student. My bag gets stashed in all sorts of strange places-- under desks, in corners on sets, in piles of equipment, etc. It always makes me a bit uncomfortable to have my phone pouch flapping around, attached to straps on the outside of the bag, where it could get stepped on or pulled loose.

  15. #15
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    I've been searching for the perfect diaper bag backpack. I need a side-access water bottle pocket, so unfortunately no TB bags fit that need. I don't want to take off the pack to get my water bottle out constantly in the 100 degree Texas heat.

    There are some diaper bags with a back access pocket like you're talking about, although since the zipper opens to the main compartment of the bag maybe other stuff would fall out... anyway, here's an example. Not TB quality but it does seem to be a family owned business at least. I think it would work better with a TB bag if you had some o-rings down by the zipper to keep small things tethered like you mentioned.

    KeaBabies-Diaper-Bag-Backpack

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