For those who know me, aside from TTRPG’s my other big obsession is bags. I have a modest collection of various backpacks, sling bags, messengers, and satchels from a number of designers. I also have a large collection of pouches and other bag accessories. When I am not coming up with new games to design and sessions to run, I spend a lot of time reading up on bag reviews and figuring out the best way to carry my stuff.
Last month, I got a wonderful opportunity. Tom Bihn, one of my favorite bag designers, contacted me and asked if I would like to review their Synik 30 bag from the viewpoint of a gamer. I gave a very enthusiastic YES!
So for the last month, I have been using the Synik 30 for several different game nights, as well as a mini-con in Wisconsin where I lived out of the bag for four days. Let me tell you what I learned…
Disclaimer – Tom Bihn provided the Synik 30 for this review.
The Synik 30 is a backpack with a 30 Liter capacity. It has 4 front pockets and a front water bottle pocket. The interior of the bag has one interior pouch and the rest of the main compartment is open space that comes with removable straps for securing items inside the compartment. There is also a padded laptop compartment that can be accessed from the inside top or from a side zipper.
The bag is 525d Ballistic Lining with aquaguard YKK Zippers, which means that the bag is water-resistant. You can take this out in the rain, but not a monsoon and you cannot submerge it. Getting from your car to the FLGS in the rain or getting from the convention center to lunch, no problem.
The bag has padded straps, a top carry handle, a chest strap, and a way to add in a waist strap (I did not try the waist strap for the review). There is also a removable plastic and aluminum frame in the back of the bag, that gives the back of the bag a rigidity.
For more details about the materials and features check out the product page on the Tom Bihn site. The rest of this review is going to focus more on how gamers would use this bag.
Here are some additional pictures of the bag. Click to see them full size.
Overall, I was impressed with this bag the second I removed it from the box. I broke my impressions down into Roses (things I liked) and Thorns (things that could be better). Let me say though, to be fair none of my Thorns are deal-breakers, but I want to be as objective as possible.
- Feel – The bag feels good to the touch. The ballistic nylon feels nice to the touch. Overall, the bag feels solid. The shoulder straps have a sold and comfortable feel to them. The zippers move smoothly along most of the bag (see Thorns).
- Construction – The stitching on the bag is exceptional. Everything is tight and there are no visible threads or uncovered seams anywhere in the bag.
- Interior Fabric – The interior of the bag is 200d Halcyon lining and the blue color does a nice job of making the interior contents of the bag more visible.
- Carry – This bag carries well with light or heavy loads. The shoulder straps are firm and distribute the weight evenly, and the internal frame keeps the bag rigid and tight to your back. The padded back panel is comfortable for short or long walks.
- Capacity – I will get to this more throughout the review, but I was consistently impressed on how much I could fit in this bag. The main compartment is cavernous, and I was shocked to see that my Peak Design Tech Pouch fit into the bottom front pocket.
- Center Water Bottle Pocket – I did not think I would love this feature, having the water bottle pocket in the front, center of the bag, but using a water bottle I trusted not to leak (Camelback Chute 2), I quickly got over that. Having a water bottle in its own compartment, and not hanging off the side of the bag made the bag more streamlined.
- Style – The cut of this bag is tear-dropped and I liked how it looked when it was on me and when I set it down. It has its own simple style, that I really appreciated the more I carried it. The bag has its own style and shape that I think is visually pleasing. It has a more classic look and at times is almost understated in a good way.
- Accessibility – Getting in and out of the bag is easy. The main compartment is a clamshell so that you set the bag down and open it fully, but you can also just open the zippers part way and access the interior of the bag. The font pockets were easy to get in and out of.
- Zipper Action – The zippers are a bit tough to open and close on the clamshell when you have fully unzipped it. You have to move the zippers around the bottom corners of the bag and along the sides before it becomes smoother. Which really means if you open it full clamshell and have to close it quickly, it can be tricky. Otherwise, just taking a second to get one zipper going, and then the other one, works fine.
- Side Laptop Access – My 15” Mac Book Pro did not slide easily out of the side access. There were times where I could get it in and out without much problem, but other times it would get stuck, and I would have to turn it a bit to get it in or out. Sometimes, I would skip the side access and just use the interior top access.
- Chest Strap – The chest strap is a standard two-piece connector which works fine but requires two hands to fasten. I am spoiled by the Peak Design’s chest strap for their Everyday Backpack.
- Tightening and Loosening the Pack – Again, I am spoiled by my Peak Design’s Everyday backpack, which uses a seatbelt material and metal fasteners for a very smooth action. The Synik has standard nylon webbing and plastic buckles, which work great, but the action is not as smooth.
- Lack of a Tablet Compartment – There is no specific spot in the bag to place a tablet. It easily fits into the laptop compartment, but it floats in there. Tom Bihn does make an accessory for this bag, the Freudian Slip, that will hold your tablet, but that is separate.
- Standing The Bag – For the most part, the Synik 30 does not stand up on its own. You have to lean it on something. The exception is if you can fill the bottom front pouch. When I put my Peak Design Tech Pouch in that compartment, the bag stood up on its own.
Ok. So now that we have gone over the bag basics, let’s get to the heart of the matter. You are a gamer, and you need a bag for your games and conventions. How does this bag perform from a gaming perspective? Well, I took it to a number of gaming events, both big and small, trying to cover a variety of ways that a gaming bag could be used.
While most of the things in the bag were changed out there are a few things that I kept in the bag at all times:
- iPad – Has my rulebooks and OneNote session notes.
- Peak Design Tech Pouch – This contains all my dice, index cards, pens, and other accessories for all my games (this is likely worth its own review).
- Chargers and Battery – I have a Topo Designs pouch that I keep a battery, wall charger, and associated cables for my phone and iPad.
- Water Bottle – got to keep hydrated.
So here is where I took the Synik…
Sunday Story Games
On Sunday’s I game at the local Panera, playing story games. Most of these games are pretty light, with a single book and a few pieces of paper. This was no challenge for the Synik, in fact, most of the time the bag was pretty empty. That was part of my test though – how would the bag look empty? Some larger bags start to look frumpy when empty, or they need compression straps to keep the bag tight, and then have straps flopping all over the bag.
The Synik, on the other hand, looked great mostly empty. The front of the bag, which is heavier due to the front pockets, just falls into the main compartment, compressing the empty space without making the bag floppy. The bag felt solid on my back, even with only a few items in it. I really appreciate the versatility of the bag in that it is comfortable when it is full or empty.
One of the games I run is Forbidden Lands, and I have the boxed set, supplement book, custom dice, and cards. I also grabbed my pencil case and a Topo Designs pouch with one of my notebooks.
All of this fits easily into the Synik with the capacity to spare. On the other hand, I cannot fit all of this into my Peak Design Everyday Backpack (20L) and would wind up carrying a second bag for the boxed set.
You can see from the side view that the bag closed easily, and I could have put more stuff into it, before hitting the capacity of the bag.
Here are a few more pictures of the bag loaded for the game.
Dungeon Crawl Classics Game
And all of that would not have maxed out the capacity on the interior of the bag. I am confident I could have put in another hardcover or two before the bag got cramped.
I am also running a DCC game. As you may know, the DCC main book is a tome. In addition, I have the Annual, the GM screen, and my book of tables, along with some other gear, my pen case, and an additional notebook.
Again the Synik ate this up. In fact, there was enough room to spare, that I could have fit my Tech Pouch on top, and still had room for a few smaller things on the side. And all of that would not have maxed out the capacity on the interior of the bag. I am confident I could have put in another hardcover or two before the bag got cramped.
Now I normally put the Tech Pouch in the front pocket, so the top of the bag would have been open for a box of minis, snacks, etc. I could have rolled up a light sweatshirt and put it in the top as well.
Here is a picture of the Synik from the side so you can see how much room there is, just before I zipped it up.
Game Day in Wisconsin
Mid-February, I had the chance to go to a game day in Wisconsin, a surprise party for a good friend. I was flying on a few smaller jets with a short turn over (45 min between flights), so I wanted to one-bag travel for the trip, carrying 4-days of clothes and my gaming gear in one bag; the Synik 30.
Here is a picture of what I took: a large packing cube with 4 days of clothes, my CPAP and components (hose and mask in smaller travel cubes). Toiletries (green pouch), iPad, GMing Kit (Tech Pouch), Character sheets and handouts (orange pouch), water bottle (not seen), and a few smaller pouches with odds and ends.
All of this fit into the bag and took it right up to its limit. The Character Sheets, clothes and CPAP took up the main compartment. The iPad went into the laptop compartment. The GMing kit, toiletries, water bottle, and other pouches went into the front pockets.
The bag was tricky to zip up, but it fit everything!
I was beyond impressed.
While the bag was not light, it carried evenly on my back without any discomfort. On the tiny jet, which did not allow roller bags because the overhead bins were small, I was able to board without any issue and the Synik fit in the smaller overhead with just a little push. When I landed I was able to make my tight connection, because I grabbed my bag and deplaned without having to wait to pick up a roller bag that I would have gate checked.
Once I got to the hotel, I unpacked the clothes and CPAP from the bag. I then had so much room that I offered to Senda to carry her gaming gear, in addition to mine, to the game day — which I did with ease. I could have taken a few more people’s gear before maxing out the bag.
On the off chance that you would not dedicate a bag like this to just gaming, I also used the Synik 30 as my everyday carry for work.
No surprise, but everything I need for work fit in this bag. My laptop fit in the dedicated compartment, and I put my charger and Bluetooth headphones in the interior pocket. With it being winter, the bag had enough room that I could carry my sneakers (size 11.5) or a sweatshirt without filling the bag. It was nice to not have to carry those things in a separate bag.
I work on a college campus and have to sometimes park in lots that are a 10-15 min walk from my office. A few times I got caught in either snow or rain, and in both cases, while the outside of the bag was wet, the contents remained dry, and the bag dried off with just a quick wipe of a paper towel.
Ok. Let’s be honest. This bag is expensive. It retails at $300. It is not an impulse buy and it’s not one that everyone can afford. A bag like this is an investment. You will go through a half dozen less expensive backpacks before this bag shows any wear and tear.
I am an advocate of buying quality items when you can. In full honesty when I got into bags, I started with a free backpack I got at a work conference. As I came to understand what makes a quality bag, I saved and purchased more expensive bags. Those bags are still around. So if you can afford to, I highly recommend the investment in a good bag.
The Tom Bihn Synik 30 is an ideal gaming backpack. The capacity of this bag will let you bring your full D&D loadout (books, maps, minis, dice, etc) with ease. The construction of this bag is superb, it feels nice to the touch, the zippers are big and easy to open and close, and the bag sits well on your back. Beyond just gaming, the bag functions superbly for work and for travel. It is cavernous in terms of what it will carry, and after you stuff it full, it still feels great to carry.
As much as I liked it for going to gaming nights, this bag is ideal for convention use. The size will allow you to either carry a day’s worth of gaming gear for your events or allow you to do some serious shopping on the convention floor, as well as keep your water, snacks and other essentials, without ever having to run back to your room. You are going to easily be able to go a full day at the convention with this bag.
This is a bag that is going to be with you for a long time. It can go to work, travel, and make it to game night. It will be on your back for numerous conventions. It is a bag that you are going to have for a long time, easily into D&D 7th or 8 Edition.
For sure, this is going to be my convention bag going forward. It has the capacity, flexibility, and comfort that I have been looking for.
Because all good reviews need to have a rating system, I am giving the Synik 30 a roll of a 20 on my d20.
This bag is a critical hit.