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  1. #1
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    Tom Bihn vs. GORUCK

    I am a huge tom Bihn fan and I own at least fifteen different bags and accessories from Tom Bihn. My first bag was a Brain Bag (of which I own two). I carried it for a year to and from school with a laptop. I love the pockets and accessibility. I have both versions of the Synapse as well. They are great to carry and are very lightweight. They have served me well, especially on a European adventure last year.

    Recently I purchased a few backpacks from GORUCK. I am sad to say that I have retired the Tom Bihn bags in lieu of the GORUCK bags.
    They are much more comfortable, carry and distribute the weight more evenly, and have much better strap padding. I also feel that the zippers are smoother and open more easily. The accessibility of the bag is superior due to the fact the the zippers allow full accessibility to the pack. The Tom Bihn bags are well designed and have much better organization and accessibility to the contents.

    I write this because I would like to see the Tom Bihn backpacks open fully giving better access to the contents. Also, the zippers could be improved in comparison.

    Just a few random thoughts about both bags.

  2. #2
    Forum Member adalangdon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jonefed View Post
    I am a huge tom Bihn fan and I own at least fifteen different bags and accessories from Tom Bihn. My first bag was a Brain Bag (of which I own two). I carried it for a year to and from school with a laptop. I love the pockets and accessibility. I have both versions of the Synapse as well. They are great to carry and are very lightweight. They have served me well, especially on a European adventure last year.

    Recently I purchased a few backpacks from GORUCK. I am sad to say that I have retired the Tom Bihn bags in lieu of the GORUCK bags.
    They are much more comfortable, carry and distribute the weight more evenly, and have much better strap padding. I also feel that the zippers are smoother and open more easily. The accessibility of the bag is superior due to the fact the the zippers allow full accessibility to the pack. The Tom Bihn bags are well designed and have much better organization and accessibility to the contents.

    I write this because I would like to see the Tom Bihn backpacks open fully giving better access to the contents. Also, the zippers could be improved in comparison.

    Just a few random thoughts about both bags.
    I've noticed that the zippers on my Brain Bag (new zips) are a lot smoother than on my S25 (also with the new zips). The zips on the former move on the tracks like melting butter on glass. I don't know if that is the sort of difference you are talking about, but I too have wished that my S25 (new) zips were smoother.

    Regarding the open flat => good thing, I don't agree that that's always true. Packing is easier when the bag opens flat, but a potential downside to that is that if you're not careful the zips can become unzipped way more than you'd like when the bag is in a vertical position. When I was 12/13YO, I had an Eastpak that more or less zipped flat and the bag was often spilling its guts (the zips were really smooth, so it happened a lot). Another aspect is the aesthetics. I think the Synapses would look quite ugly if the zips went all the way down. (Not sure about the BB, though-- I suppose it would work a bit better.)
    Last edited by adalangdon; 11-10-2015 at 09:14 AM.

  3. #3
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    @jonefed, I have heard great things about Goruck, but aesthetically I greatly prefer the non-tactical look of Tom Bihn's designs. I too have some travel bags that open all the way like the Goruck, and I like them for packing purposes, but I like the design of the Synapse for everyday use. (I don't have a brain bag so I can't comment on the design of that one.) I love that I can walk with the Synapse unzipped without fear of things falling out of any of its pockets. The utility of that is greater to me than the convenience of lay-flat packing. Although if I relied on the Synapse as my main bag for clothing, I might feel like you do.

    The Synapse 19 is not necessarily the most comfortable backpack I've ever worn (my Camelback Mule is more comfortable for hiking, and I love the shock-absorbing straps of my Wenger for very heavy loads), but the Synapse is still very easy and comfortable to carry. If I had a heavily loaded Synapse 25, I'd probably feel differently, and the straps and lack of padded belt would be more of an issue.

    I've found that the things that matter to me most in a bag, in descending order of importance, are:
    - easy access to stuff
    - security that stuff won't fall out, get broken, or lost in the bag
    - durable build that doesn't require special treatment (I hate sewing ripped mesh or webbing)
    - flexibility of design that allows me to use the same bag for multiple purposes (travel, work, nights out, etc.)
    - non-embarrassing aesthetics (I don't want to look like a mountaineer, a soldier, or an IT geek)

    Tom Bihn has hit all my sweet spots for bag design better than any other company so far. I am currently madly in love with my Copilot, which has hardly left my side in the weeks I've had it. And my Synapse, now a year and a half old, is the best all-around EDC backpack I've ever used.
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  4. #4
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    I’m sure everyone has their own opinion, but I see TB bags as everyday carry/travel bags, but not necessarily bags to be worn continuously for long periods of time. The bags seem designed to carry around throughout your day whether it’s at home or on the road, but not necessarily to be used for day long hikes. Again, this is just my opinion and by no means a criticism of my favorite bag company.

  5. #5
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    I have tried many, many different bags from numerous companies. I have finally settled on just two---The TB Brain Bag and Goruck GR 1. I use the GR1 for shorter trips. I like the fact it fits under seat on an airplane. I use the Brain Bag when I pack more like this past January when I went to China (very cold winters thus bigger clothes). Both bags are outstanding. Both served my needs.

  6. #6
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    I've owned my Synapse 25 for 6 months now. My work has me travel to Asia frequently and my S25 has been with me everywhere. It's funny seeing people complaining about the zips. Yes, it does feel a little tight...for about 2 weeks and you forget about it and start to love how sturdy it feels. I had to take many public transit during my trips, and many places i visited are known for petty theft problem. With the strong zippers I've never worried because it's impossible for someone behind me to open my bag without me knowing it right away. if i were carrying a bag with "smooth and easy" zippers like OP described, I would have to wear it front like a dork. And although i haven't taken it to day hikes, in the urban environment i've wore my s25 with >10 lb of loads for hours, up and down the stairs, on and off buses, etc. and never felt uncomfortable. You just have to pack wisely.
    As for goruck, i researched their bags thoroughly before taking the plunge for the synapse. Quality and design-wise i agree it should be top notch but I guess it's just i am a little put off by the image they are trying to represent, like carrying flags and "rucking" with a bag full of bricks is going to make you so special. We all love our country but it's just a backpack for christ'sake.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  7. #7
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    I think the quality of both bags are high end. But in my recent review i did comment exactly the same regarding the straps (mine were related to Aeronaut 45 though). Surely it would not be that hard to make shoulder straps with better padding.

    I do however love the fact that the A45 is not fully open able. I like it being front loading as it is. I do wish my pilot had its zipper go lower than they do, but also understand the design constraints associated with that wish.

    Overall i think TB Bags are designed for a function of carrying items in an organised fashion, however the GoRuck bags are designed to carry heavy items in a comfortable manner.

  8. #8
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    I think in general this is like comparing apples and onions?
    These companies both make terrific gear although clearly for different markets too.
    Aside from all of them being made for carrying stuff it is tough to compare them directly on most levels.

    I have been agonizing over this too and it is between an A45 and a GR2 and these design differences are what really make it difficult for me.
    I have owned and love my Bihn bags for a long time and so it is easy to just pull the trigger again for the A45 but I also like finding other better quality/value gear which has led me to the Goruck stuff which I not seen in person just yet.

    Luxury problems to be sure!

  9. #9
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    I have to chuckle a little bit. I didn't know the GR2 bag so I went to the website to watch the video. Starts out with "you can travel the world indefinitely with this bag and a laundromat". Then he proceeds to unpack the bag and essentially has one change of clothes packed in the bag. He also struggled on the video getting things out of some of the pockets. So, while a nice bag the video clearly didn't demonstrate his point LOL.

    Separately, I know I would have a disaster with that bag by zipping it up and not remembering to make sure both of the main compartments are zipped.
    Last edited by tebnewyork; 11-11-2015 at 12:31 PM.

  10. #10
    Forum Member Amy's Avatar
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    I just don't like the tacticool look at all. I'm American (and proud of it) but that doesn't mean I want to go around the world looking like G.I. Jane.
    Donít make something unless it is both necessary and useful; but if it is both necessary and useful, donít hesitate to make it beautiful. ó Shaker Philosophy

  11. #11
    Volunteer Moderator tpnl's Avatar
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    There is an interesting review comparing the GR-1 vs the Smart Alec (a better comparison given the volume / size) which I wrote about in an earlier thread:

    http://forums.tombihn.com/questions-...html#post67352

    I agree that TB could add more shoulder / back padding - but that comes at the cost to compressibility and bulkiness. Given that TB's target customers are travellers - space optimization is one of the key dimensions to be aware of (plus harder to do bag in bag option). Thicker padding will make bags more unwieldly and harder to put in tight overhead bins or under seat. Also, I do not plan to carry super heavy items (bricks, steel plates) that you see in Goruck pictures for which the greater padding would be helpful. For my money, I am ok with the padding - tweaks are fine but I do not want the puffier type padding. I would suggest load stabilizers (adjustments at the top of the strap) for both Goruck and TB as a way to shift the weight off the shoulders.

    I found this interesting article on what makes a good backpack strap system. TB seems to follow what is written:



    Also, note that TB bag designs stress NOT having things hanging from the outside - including external waterbottle pockets or webbing clip points. I believe it is a philosophy of keeping everything inside the bag instead of out (if you need the extra room, get a larger bag :)). IMHO, this makes sure the bag is streamlined, does not catch on things when walking or sliding in and out of storage compartments and has good built in organization inside the bag.

    On the fully zippered or not question, it depends on how you access your items as @adalangdon and @tebnewyork commented. If you have room on the ground to fully unzip things, it is good. But, if like me, not so good in a meeting room or on public transportation or even in the car. So the combination of 3/4 length zippers to keep things from falling out and accessing things using a small "footprint" / space is also important. Note: I am glad @adalangdon that the zippers are easier to use in your more recent bag. But, as @jeremyl commented, there is a plus side to the earlier harder to open zippers - more theft protection!

    So, IMHO, the Goruck bags are fantastic - but are for a different specific purpose / usage - as @AVService said - "comparing apples and onions". The only main commonalities is that they are both very well made and made locally in the U.S. I use the philosophy of picking the right bag for the right purpose. I can use a SUV to transport 4x8 sheets - but a truck would be better. But, if I do not do that often, the SUV is more flexible.

    In the end, I think it boils down to just how you like to pack / access things and the style you want (if any) as @Amy and @jeremyl commented. The same can be said for the Smart Alec / Synapse 25 discussion.


    Hope this helps
    Cheers!
    Last edited by tpnl; 11-11-2015 at 02:52 PM.
    TB Ballistic Black/Iberian Dyneema backpacks and briefcases for every occasion together with my cherished Nordic and Solar Dyneema!

  12. #12
    Volunteer Moderator Alumni Badger's Avatar
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    I'll also just point out that the "stickiness" factor some people experience with zippers on the Synapse is because those zippers are waterproof. Obviously, compromises need to be made between ease of use and other design objectives, and a person might find some compromises acceptable and others not. Thankfully, we are lucky that we have many brands and styles of bags to choose from, and tons of Made-in-USA options as well. There's a place for GR and a place for TB (and Topo, and RedOxx, and Waterfield, and so on and so on).

    I'm also not sure what is to be gained by saying that TB ought to be more like other companies, just as it doesn't make sense to me to say other companies should be more like TB—either in terms of product design or company ethos. To say "I want a TB bag that functions like a GR" would mean that ultimately, the consumer does not want a TB bag. I'm not claiming that companies shouldn't strive to improve their products, and, of course, customer feedback can be useful in determining where to concentrate their efforts. But no sane company would completely overhaul their foundational design philosophies so the resulting products are more like the competition's.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amy View Post
    I just don't like the tacticool look at all. I'm American (and proud of it) but that doesn't mean I want to go around the world looking like G.I. Jane.
    And good timing saying so too!
    Funny how things work out.

    I don't find the GR too tactical really to me they are more practical but I understand if you do.

  14. #14
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    While I am a huge TB fan, this past year I picked up a GORUCK Echo to participate in the competitive category of a GR 5K while carrying a 20lb plate. While both companies produce very well made American products, I think they fit entirely different categories. I find the TB bags to be more polished and the fit and finish is impeccable, and they are my main urban or travel packs. Conversely, I would feel entirely comfortable dragging my GR pack through the mud or exercising with it (it feels so robust), since I do not feel the need to baby it or be protective of it like my TB bags.

    While my Synapse 19 is only marginally larger in volume than the GR Echo, 98% of the time I reach for my Synapse, since it is just so well thought out and organized, versus the Echo. I also like that the Synapse strap placement feels slightly more narrow, and there is a removable waist strap, compared with the Echo. While I appreciate the concept of being able to unzip the GR flat in theory, in practice, it would be very unusual for me to do that. And since I am so spoiled by being able to swing my Synapse around to get my water bottle out or grab something from a side pocket, I found that I have struggled with the GR more organization wise. Would the Synapse be able to handle more rugged conditions like my GR? Probably. But I prefer to instead admire the parapack's sheen as it accompanies me on sunny and rainy jaunts around the city.

    Just my two cents.
    "Do one thing every day that scares you." - Eleanor Roosevelt
    "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." -Ferris Bueller

  15. #15
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    I like my new Synapse 25 and am very happy with how the zips work. I really don't want them to open the bag all the way.
    The only downside of the S25 for me is that the shoulder straps aren't comfortable enough to handle a fully loaded bag.

    Sent from my SM-T815 using Tapatalk

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