When I (Adrienne) travel for work, I typically carry a Tom Bihn bag, and the clamshell Synik 22 is my favorite. It has a lot of pockets, and they’re all thoughtfully designed. For example, the zippered water bottle pocket is located in the middle of the backpack instead of on the side, so it won’t tip you off balance. The pen pockets are located in flaps on the side rather than in the middle top, for convenient access. The exterior is made from Bluesign-certified 400-denier ballistic nylon with top-of-the-line YKK water-repellent zippers. Each bag has a lifetime guarantee.
Because the bag is so small, the pass-through on the back is only 7 inches wide—too narrow to slip over the handle of a carry-on. And the dense fabric and plentiful hardware—the zippers, O-rings, and buckles—make it a little heavy. But in the 22-liter size, I didn’t notice the extra weight. It’s the perfect, organized conference companion, but it’s on the highest end of what we think is worth spending on a bag.
★ A roll-top Tom Bihn: The Tom Bihn Addax for $294 has become one of my go-tos. Roll-top bags are more versatile than zippered ones. Don’t have enough room? Unroll it and stick your bike helmet in. Too much? Roll it down to compress the space. And if you live in a rainy area, roll-tops keep water from seeping through the top zippers.
Like all Tom Bihn bags, the pockets are metaphysical perfection, with a huge laptop pocket with two-way access that also has a tablet pocket for my Kindle, and front pockets with O-rings to hook keys and other sundries. It has a huge luggage pass-through and hefty padded shoulder straps. It’s also hand-sewn in the US from PFC-free material and has a lifetime warranty that’s as bombproof as the ballistic nylon fabric. It’s a good thing, because at this price, you only want to buy it once.