Many have been asking me to compare Tom Bihn’s new bag against the GR1 and the CPL 24 I recently reviewed, but those 1:1 comparisons can make it hard to remain in perspective of all the bags out there. So I think a better way to look at this is in the common context of use cases and what is best for those. I’ve broken this down to four categories, and let’s talk about which is best for each before we wrap up with an overall look at things. I’ve also limited this to just the Synik 22/30, CPL 24, and GR1 21/26 as those are the best backpacks on the market currently. ((Prove me wrong, seriously.))
Easily the best bag for daily carry in any situation is the Synik 22, but only as long as your laptop fits in it. So 13” and smaller laptop, if you carry a 15” then the best daily carry is the CPL 24. They both work well for daily pursuits with the ability to blend in to any scenario.
The reason the Synik 22 takes the prize though is simply because of the organization. You don’t need anything else but the bag, the only trade off is how it fits your body if you are tall, or how it might fit your laptop. That’s it. In the Parapack I have it in, the looks are stellar and it won’t damage even a suit. It’s a really smart bag.
For travel the Synik 30 is the hands down winner here with the GR1 26L coming in a close second. The Synik beats everything because of the size, it’s big while still not being stupidly big. It organizes stuff well, while still allowing you to easily pack clothes with the horizontal internal straps.
I wasn’t being hyperbolic when I said it’s probably the best one bag travel bag on the market. You could get away with it as a daily bag, but it’s a tad too large to really blend in, but if it were your only bag when traveling I doubt you would care much. One thing I will note is that I feel the capacity is only marginally larger than the 26L GR1, and based on how the bags are designed you might find you can fit more in the GR1 despite the capacity difference. Most people will find more room in the Synik.
GR1, and this isn’t even fair, but all three are marketed as handling the outdoors. The Synik fails because of the mesh back, I can’t tell you how many hiking bags I have jammed with crud in the mesh backs. The CPL fails because of the crappy harness when carrying weight — I wouldn’t want to take it on a day hike.
The GR1 just doesn’t care that you are outdoors, indoors, whatever. It’ll easily haul more weight than you can, and it will wash clean with your garden hose when you get home. You can slither through brush and not phase it. You have a water pass through and modularity you don’t with the others. Easy win.
Here’s the thing, about this, no one bag swept all the above. And most people will not even consider owning all three. The Syniks are $290/300, the CPL is $229, and the GR1 is $295 (they dropped the price again, I can’t keep up). That’s $814 for one of each. So we need to talk about the actual advice part: which bag is the best for everything.
That’s clearly the GR1 and that’s what I have always said. But only if you evenly weight every category, it’s the only one that rates as at least very good in every category.
But that’s not how you should weight it. You should weight it based on which you do the most of. And further you should completely ignore the category you do the least of. For most that means the Synik will be the best option, with the only issue being which size. I wish there was a 24L Synik that might replace my GR1s for me, but there isn’t so things are trickier. My advice has always been a GR1 because even if you use it for a year and want to move on, you can sell it for about $230 with ease. Not too shabby.
The Synik 22 is too small for travel and 30 is too large for EDC. The CPL is ideally sized for EDC and outdoors, but the harness system sucks. The GR1 is the only one capable of all of it, and doing all of it well. And now that the price is right back under $300, it’s a no brainer.
So here’s the thing, pick the category you will use the backpack for the most, look at the two bags I talked about, and then buy the one you like the best. Not the one I say is the best, but the one that speaks you to.
What I Use
On Monday’s and Friday’s I carry my laptop and two iPads, so that’s GR1 days. I carry my white one, because of course I do, it’s 26L. Couldn’t be happier. The rest of the week I carry my Filson Original Briefcase because sometimes you need to ignore everything I preach and do what your heart wants you to do.
When I do travel I carry a GR1 or a GR2. It’s that simple. I would carry a Synik, but only if my GR2 was broken, so that seems unlikely. The reason? My heart.