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  1. #1
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    Sep 2019
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    Synik 30 Initial Review: Great Bag, Disappointing Straps

    I lucked out and received a PPB Synik 30. Here are my thoughts after carrying it for a couple weeks. Quick background: I recently stumbled down the backpack rabbit hole and have been looking to upgrade my EDC bag, which functions as a glorified bookbag, to something that can perform the same daily carry work but also serve as a good travel bag. I bought a Synapse 25, plus Cache & Freudian Slip. I discovered that the Cache was too small and hopped on the TB site to look into exchanging it. I lucked out and spotted info about the Synik, which was just popping up. It looked like it would be the better bag for me so I returned the S25 and got the S30 instead.

    I'm starting with the negatives so I can end with the positives. Biggest negative: the straps are uncomfortable. I had such high hopes. My impression of the straps on the S25 was mixed: the one evening I had it out of the box, I loaded it up with books, laptop, water bottle...probably 20lb+, to get a feel for it. I did not like the way the straps (nor the single-layer webbing loop) felt in my hands. The squared corners of the straps were reminiscent of those on the terrible hospital gift store bag my wife recently purchased in desperation. At least, that's how they felt in my hands. This was important to me because I frequently engage my bag not only by the handle but the straps and I want them all to feel good in my hand. My expectations for how they'd feel on my shoulders were instantly lowered. Then I slipped on the bag and...wow! Very comfortable on my shoulders. Though narrower than what I'm used to, they were plush and made the weight of the bag seem to disappear. I decided the straps were good; as much as I didn't like how they felt in the hands, what counts most with shoulder straps is how they feel on the shoulders.

    Based on early reviews of the S30 straps, I expected them to be awesome. But they just aren't. The experience is like the S25 in reverse: these feel much better in the hand, much worse on the shoulders. The edgeless design got rid of those corners, and between that and the thicker padding, they fill the hand nicely. But, they kind of bow inward, sort of a slight C-shape, with the ends of the C contacting me and the middle of the strap not. This results in the straps (still narrower than I'm used to) contacting my shoulders with a much reduced surface area, creating pressure points. Making it worse, when the bag is loaded up (and it usually is, often over 25lbs), the straps want to twist, so that the outer edge digs in more. It's like I'm carrying the relatively heavy pack with just a couple of padded cords digging into my shoulders.

    I don't know how to account for it. I know nothing about making bags or about sewing in general, but it seems like cover material doesn't fit the padding, causing it to warp. I can feel space between that cover material and the padding. Whatever is causing it, it's doesn't feel good and that's a bummer with a pack of this quality and at the price I paid.

    I know it was a long gripe, but it's my only real one. I mention the grab handle; I'm neutral about it. It's better than the webbing loop on the S25. It's a bit padded and feels sturdy. I would be confident hanging the bag by it, fully loaded, from a peg. I use the handle a lot to reposition my bag and I prefer a substantial handle. It doesn't feel as good to me as the handle on the bag it replaces because it still doesn't fill my hand as much as I'd like, but I gather that the TB folks just prefer a slimmer, more streamlined look, and I suspect there may be functional reasons, especially when using as a travel bag, such as avoiding snagging, that I just have not considered or experienced.

    I don't know if I'd call this a negative but I still need to figure out if the frame sheet is right for me. I still have it the way it arrived. It feels too straight and I will try adjusting it to the contours of my back, or maybe just take it out. That straight feeling is not a big deal to me, at least not for short-term carrying like I've done. However, with how tightly (or loosely) I like to carry my bag for EDC, the frame sheet rests atop the back of my belt, basically pushing down on my belt as I walk. I keep my belt cinched so there's no risk of <ahem> wardrobe malfunction, but that push from the frame sheet does bug me.

    Any other negatives are just niggles. I'd like the opening of the divider pouch in the main compartment to sit more flush with the wall of the bag, i.e. to be more closed than open. No biggie. I have a zipper pull attached to the small accessories pocket that wants to dive into the nearby vertical pocket when the vertical pocket is open. I came up with a couple workarounds and again, no biggie. The bag doesn't like to stand on its own but I work around that, too.

    Here are some of the positives: The quality of materials feels excellent. I got the 525 ballistic and I really like the sturdy, firm, durable feel. I appreciate that TB offers a material that is rugged like the ubiquitous Cordura but that won't abrade my clothing. Overall fit and finish are excellent. The zippers are great: beefy, firm, smooth gliding. (More on them later.) The capacity of the outer pockets surprises. The bag looks about the same with those pockets loaded up as it does with them empty, and yet I can cram so much stuff in them! I love the water bottle pocket concept (I'd carried my bottle similarly on my last pack because it wouldn't fit the side bottle pocket). Pulling my bottle out of that pocket, I feel like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It would not hold my 36oz Yeti Rambler with the (slightly taller) pour spout lid, though for EDC I have no problem letting the bottle ride in the bag with zipper open. It will hold that large bottle with its regular lid on, though the zipper feels some stress especially when closing. It can swallow my Eco Vessel 32oz Boulder no problem. (I think the diameter on all 3 is about 3.5".) The outer pockets are nicely designed and arranged. I can see what I think is the evolution of the Brain Bag setup, with the vertical pockets shortened to create space for the cool bottom horizontal pocket, and with the centered water bottle area moved inside from outside the bag. (Speaking of Brain Bag: maybe should've gotten that one instead?) The laptop compartment design works well. If I haven't made it clear, I (over-)pack a ton of stuff in my bag. Thus, the outer, side entry to the laptop compartment is golden. The main compartment is spacious and the divided area is very useful. (I'm also making great use of the Freudian Slip.) I didn't get the color option I had on the S25 (deep blue exterior, wasabi interior) but I'm very happy with the dark grey outer, which goes with my subdued style, and that wasabi interior, which adds little glimpses of personality when revealed. Coordinates well with my tennis ball zipper pull.

    I haven't used it yet for travel so I can't comment on the internal straps; I removed them for EDC. Same with the sternum and belt straps, but I do plan to add them back when I travel or carry the bag for longer durations. I have been pleased with the strap keepers TB sent; they're a solution to a problem I didn't know I had. I greedily wish they'd sent enough for me to wrangle the other straps (waist, maybe even sternum) when I have them all employed.

    I bit more on the zippers. I've appreciated all the thoughtfulness that makers like TB and users in forums put into creating and using the bags. Other users' comments have made me consider things I probably never would have. One example is regarding the clamshell opening. Some have mentioned that it's a liability because it could open up and dump your contents. This seems to be a concern with people who use the bag for hiking. I'd never thought of this. But, heavy as my bag usually is, it was a great insight. I wondered if I'd have to worry about this myself, so I performed a very un-scientific test. I loaded up the bag as mentioned (books, laptop, full water bottle, lots of little stuff); it tipped the scale at 26lb. I zipped it all up, main compartment pulls meeting at the top of the bag. Then I held the bag by the handle and shook it (over my bed), up and down and even up/down and forward, forcefully, basically trying to force the zippers to open up. I repeated this with the zippers opened up as wide as the bottle pocket zipper, again with the zippers pulled down to the horizontal seams that occur just a bit lower than the top of the vertical pockets, again with what I'd consider halfway down, and finally with the zippers pulled down to the horizontal seam below the vertical pockets and just above the bottom horizontal pockets.

    I was trying to make it happen. I wasn't just holding it by the grab handle once I had the zippers opened up, I was holding it by the lip of the main compartment itself, thrusting the books and water bottle forward and trying to push the clamshell to open up further.

    The thing never opened up. Not once. The clam just wouldn't relinquish the pearl. Now, I realize the zippers will lighten up with use, and that while my shaking might have been more forceful than what the zipper endures while we walk or hike, it was also very short term and a zipper could open up if subjected to similar force longer. But it was good enough for me. I just don't think there's a real risk there. If someone does, maybe consider positioning the pulls elsewhere than the top when the zipper is closed. I have played around with having them on the side and it works well. I feel like the only way it'll open up on me is if I walk off with my bag open and if I do that, I'll blame myself and not the pack.

    I think this is actually my first public forum post of any kind. Not usually my thing. But I valued all the input that I got from others before making the purchase that it only seemed right, and TB buttered me up with the strap keepers and invited me to join in. The title was my TL;DR version: wish I didn't dislike the shoulder straps, but it's a great bag overall. I look forward to lots of use and to getting to travel with it.

  2. #2
    Volunteer Moderator
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    Welcome to thé forums, @guod, ans thanks for posting your opinions on thé Synik 30 straps. I hope that @Cristina comments on this, since her experience of the Synapse 25 vs. Synik 30 straps has been different from some of the other commentators, and the impressions may be more relevant for you.

    Some people have found the bag carries better for them with the frame sheet out, although that may not be a solution for you, given your description of your strap fitting experience. The shoulder straps have, indeed, been the subject of much recent testing, so all feedback of this type is being read with interest.

  3. #3
    Forum Member SIM's Avatar
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    I haven’t seen a Synik in person, but my opinion having owned multiple S25s and using them for EDC and travel, is that you are trying to carry to much weight for this type of pack. 20+ pounds is a lot of weight. Just because it will fit in the bag doesn’t mean it is appropriate or will be comfortable.

  4. #4
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    @SIM, great point. I have tried it with less weight and the issue isn't as bad. My daily carry will always involve books, binders, and other heavy items, but I certainly could be more selective. Yet I am still struck by how comfortable the S25 was with a similar weight; I thought these straps would be at least as comfortable. Credit to the folks at TB, who read my post and reached out for more info. I plan to send pics demonstrating the curvature I'm talking about and see what they think.

  5. #5
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    Hey @guod,

    I have had some similar fit problems with various TB bags. The Luminary 12 and the S25 specifically.

    Have you tried it with the frame out yet? How high are you wearing the bag?

    Does the bag make full contact with your back? I personally prefer my Synik30 without the frame or with the S25 frame instead because the bag touches more of my back this way. The Synik30 kind of pulls away from my shoulders in a strange way with the included frame. If I didn’t have direct comparisons available I would probably not notice this particular detail but it stood out when comparing side by side.

    Thanks @moriond for the heads-up.

    Quote Originally Posted by guod View Post
    I lucked out and received a PPB Synik 30. Here are my thoughts after carrying it for a couple weeks. Quick background: I recently stumbled down the backpack rabbit hole and have been looking to upgrade my EDC bag, which functions as a glorified bookbag, to something that can perform the same daily carry work but also serve as a good travel bag. I bought a Synapse 25, plus Cache & Freudian Slip. I discovered that the Cache was too small and hopped on the TB site to look into exchanging it. I lucked out and spotted info about the Synik, which was just popping up. It looked like it would be the better bag for me so I returned the S25 and got the S30 instead.

    I'm starting with the negatives so I can end with the positives. Biggest negative: the straps are uncomfortable. I had such high hopes. My impression of the straps on the S25 was mixed: the one evening I had it out of the box, I loaded it up with books, laptop, water bottle...probably 20lb+, to get a feel for it. I did not like the way the straps (nor the single-layer webbing loop) felt in my hands. The squared corners of the straps were reminiscent of those on the terrible hospital gift store bag my wife recently purchased in desperation. At least, that's how they felt in my hands. This was important to me because I frequently engage my bag not only by the handle but the straps and I want them all to feel good in my hand. My expectations for how they'd feel on my shoulders were instantly lowered. Then I slipped on the bag and...wow! Very comfortable on my shoulders. Though narrower than what I'm used to, they were plush and made the weight of the bag seem to disappear. I decided the straps were good; as much as I didn't like how they felt in the hands, what counts most with shoulder straps is how they feel on the shoulders.

    Based on early reviews of the S30 straps, I expected them to be awesome. But they just aren't. The experience is like the S25 in reverse: these feel much better in the hand, much worse on the shoulders. The edgeless design got rid of those corners, and between that and the thicker padding, they fill the hand nicely. But, they kind of bow inward, sort of a slight C-shape, with the ends of the C contacting me and the middle of the strap not. This results in the straps (still narrower than I'm used to) contacting my shoulders with a much reduced surface area, creating pressure points. Making it worse, when the bag is loaded up (and it usually is, often over 25lbs), the straps want to twist, so that the outer edge digs in more. It's like I'm carrying the relatively heavy pack with just a couple of padded cords digging into my shoulders.

    I don't know how to account for it. I know nothing about making bags or about sewing in general, but it seems like cover material doesn't fit the padding, causing it to warp. I can feel space between that cover material and the padding. Whatever is causing it, it's doesn't feel good and that's a bummer with a pack of this quality and at the price I paid.

    I know it was a long gripe, but it's my only real one. I mention the grab handle; I'm neutral about it. It's better than the webbing loop on the S25. It's a bit padded and feels sturdy. I would be confident hanging the bag by it, fully loaded, from a peg. I use the handle a lot to reposition my bag and I prefer a substantial handle. It doesn't feel as good to me as the handle on the bag it replaces because it still doesn't fill my hand as much as I'd like, but I gather that the TB folks just prefer a slimmer, more streamlined look, and I suspect there may be functional reasons, especially when using as a travel bag, such as avoiding snagging, that I just have not considered or experienced.

    I don't know if I'd call this a negative but I still need to figure out if the frame sheet is right for me. I still have it the way it arrived. It feels too straight and I will try adjusting it to the contours of my back, or maybe just take it out. That straight feeling is not a big deal to me, at least not for short-term carrying like I've done. However, with how tightly (or loosely) I like to carry my bag for EDC, the frame sheet rests atop the back of my belt, basically pushing down on my belt as I walk. I keep my belt cinched so there's no risk of <ahem> wardrobe malfunction, but that push from the frame sheet does bug me.

    Any other negatives are just niggles. I'd like the opening of the divider pouch in the main compartment to sit more flush with the wall of the bag, i.e. to be more closed than open. No biggie. I have a zipper pull attached to the small accessories pocket that wants to dive into the nearby vertical pocket when the vertical pocket is open. I came up with a couple workarounds and again, no biggie. The bag doesn't like to stand on its own but I work around that, too.

    Here are some of the positives: The quality of materials feels excellent. I got the 525 ballistic and I really like the sturdy, firm, durable feel. I appreciate that TB offers a material that is rugged like the ubiquitous Cordura but that won't abrade my clothing. Overall fit and finish are excellent. The zippers are great: beefy, firm, smooth gliding. (More on them later.) The capacity of the outer pockets surprises. The bag looks about the same with those pockets loaded up as it does with them empty, and yet I can cram so much stuff in them! I love the water bottle pocket concept (I'd carried my bottle similarly on my last pack because it wouldn't fit the side bottle pocket). Pulling my bottle out of that pocket, I feel like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. It would not hold my 36oz Yeti Rambler with the (slightly taller) pour spout lid, though for EDC I have no problem letting the bottle ride in the bag with zipper open. It will hold that large bottle with its regular lid on, though the zipper feels some stress especially when closing. It can swallow my Eco Vessel 32oz Boulder no problem. (I think the diameter on all 3 is about 3.5".) The outer pockets are nicely designed and arranged. I can see what I think is the evolution of the Brain Bag setup, with the vertical pockets shortened to create space for the cool bottom horizontal pocket, and with the centered water bottle area moved inside from outside the bag. (Speaking of Brain Bag: maybe should've gotten that one instead?) The laptop compartment design works well. If I haven't made it clear, I (over-)pack a ton of stuff in my bag. Thus, the outer, side entry to the laptop compartment is golden. The main compartment is spacious and the divided area is very useful. (I'm also making great use of the Freudian Slip.) I didn't get the color option I had on the S25 (deep blue exterior, wasabi interior) but I'm very happy with the dark grey outer, which goes with my subdued style, and that wasabi interior, which adds little glimpses of personality when revealed. Coordinates well with my tennis ball zipper pull.

    I haven't used it yet for travel so I can't comment on the internal straps; I removed them for EDC. Same with the sternum and belt straps, but I do plan to add them back when I travel or carry the bag for longer durations. I have been pleased with the strap keepers TB sent; they're a solution to a problem I didn't know I had. I greedily wish they'd sent enough for me to wrangle the other straps (waist, maybe even sternum) when I have them all employed.

    I bit more on the zippers. I've appreciated all the thoughtfulness that makers like TB and users in forums put into creating and using the bags. Other users' comments have made me consider things I probably never would have. One example is regarding the clamshell opening. Some have mentioned that it's a liability because it could open up and dump your contents. This seems to be a concern with people who use the bag for hiking. I'd never thought of this. But, heavy as my bag usually is, it was a great insight. I wondered if I'd have to worry about this myself, so I performed a very un-scientific test. I loaded up the bag as mentioned (books, laptop, full water bottle, lots of little stuff); it tipped the scale at 26lb. I zipped it all up, main compartment pulls meeting at the top of the bag. Then I held the bag by the handle and shook it (over my bed), up and down and even up/down and forward, forcefully, basically trying to force the zippers to open up. I repeated this with the zippers opened up as wide as the bottle pocket zipper, again with the zippers pulled down to the horizontal seams that occur just a bit lower than the top of the vertical pockets, again with what I'd consider halfway down, and finally with the zippers pulled down to the horizontal seam below the vertical pockets and just above the bottom horizontal pockets.

    I was trying to make it happen. I wasn't just holding it by the grab handle once I had the zippers opened up, I was holding it by the lip of the main compartment itself, thrusting the books and water bottle forward and trying to push the clamshell to open up further.

    The thing never opened up. Not once. The clam just wouldn't relinquish the pearl. Now, I realize the zippers will lighten up with use, and that while my shaking might have been more forceful than what the zipper endures while we walk or hike, it was also very short term and a zipper could open up if subjected to similar force longer. But it was good enough for me. I just don't think there's a real risk there. If someone does, maybe consider positioning the pulls elsewhere than the top when the zipper is closed. I have played around with having them on the side and it works well. I feel like the only way it'll open up on me is if I walk off with my bag open and if I do that, I'll blame myself and not the pack.

    I think this is actually my first public forum post of any kind. Not usually my thing. But I valued all the input that I got from others before making the purchase that it only seemed right, and TB buttered me up with the strap keepers and invited me to join in. The title was my TL;DR version: wish I didn't dislike the shoulder straps, but it's a great bag overall. I look forward to lots of use and to getting to travel with it.



    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  6. #6
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    Thanks for sharing your experiences with the Synik 30. My experiences are markedly similar. I just received the Synik 30, and I absolutely love how it incorporates everything I ever wanted my Synapse 25 to have.

    But I have a similar issue with the straps. For me, the full weight of the bag seems to press down only on the inside edges of the straps (the edges closer to my neck), instead of being spread out over the entire width of the straps. It's a rather strange experience that I didn't have with the Synapse 25 at all. Perhaps it's because the straps are placed wider apart? Or might it be the softer material of the straps that's causing this sensation? I'm really not sure. I still do really love the bag so this is a rather minor niggle - I'm hoping that it is perhaps a break-in issue that will go away with time.

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