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  1. #1
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    Empire Builder & Zephyr: A Comparison, Part I

    Trying to choose between the Empire Builder and the Zephyr? Wondering if one is too big, or the other too small, for your daily haul? Until a couple of days ago, so was I. The good folks at Tom Bihn gave me the opportunity to try both of them out--thanks, Darcy!--so I figured I'd post a few pics of the two bags side by side for anyone else who might be going back and forth between them.

    On paper, the two briefcases seem like they are almost the same size. The Zephyr is 16.7"x12.4"x6.3"; the Empire Builder is 17"x12.75"x7". And viewed head on--the Empire Builder is on the left--they don't appear that much different:


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    But in real life, the Empire Builder is substantially larger and a bit bulkier to carry than the Zephyr. It's not an enormous difference. Both are big bags, and both will carry a lot of gear. But the difference is immediately noticeable when you pick them up. In hand, the Empire Builder feels--to me--about 1/3 larger than the Zephyr.

    Looking at the front of the bags, you can see some small differences. The webbing and buckle securing the front flap is 1/2 inch wider on the Empire Builder, and the Empire's front flap zipper pockets are just a big bigger. The size difference between the two bags is more apparent when you look at them from the side (again, Empire is on the left):


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    And from the bottom:


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    As you can see, the Empire Builder is a bit longer, and deeper front to back. This is where the Empire gets most of its additional space, and it is the main reason it feels larger to carry around.


    One more outside comparison, from the top:


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    Let's move inside to the pockets under the flap. (I didn't bother with photos of these, since they didn't capture the differences between the bags.) On the Empire Builder, the big open pocket under the flap is 13" across at its widest point, about an inch longer than on the Zephyr, and about an inch taller (10" vs. 9"). But the bigger difference is in the front-to-back depth of this pouch. The mouth of the pouch opens 4" on the Zephyr and 6" on the Empire. These extra inches give the the Empire Builder's front pocket a luxurious amount of space--enough that I can easily slip my 13" Macbook, in a neoprene sleeve, inside the pouch with room to spare, even if all of the hanging pockets are full of stuff. (I wouldn't actually carry around my laptop in the front pouch--not nearly enough protection--but it illustrates how roomy the pocket is.) The Zephyr's pocket isn't large enough for that. It isn't small--I can still fit a book, a digital camera, a small digital video camera and an iPod in there, even if the hanging pockets are full. But the Empire Builder can hold all that, and more.

    The hanging pockets themselves are also just a bit smaller on the Zephyr. My wallet, for instance, easily slipped into one of the two larger pockets in the Empire Builder, with room left over for business cards. The Zephyr's pockets fit the wallet just fine, but snugly. The long zipper pocket under the open front pocket is about the same on both bags.

    (To read the rest of the review, go to Part II)
    Last edited by Zasky; 09-16-2007 at 09:58 AM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Lone Piper's Avatar
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    This is exactly what I was looking for...thanks so much!!!! Search truly is my friend!

  3. #3
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    Very useful images. Thank you.

  4. #4
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    Well done! The photos are very useful.

  5. #5
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    Tnx for posting, these are very helpful pics.
    Bags: Super Ego (Black/indigo w/cork seatbelt); Aeronaut (Crimson/Steel); 2 Medium Cafe Bags (Navy/Cayenne, Linen/Olive), w/an Ultrasuede Shoulder Strap Wrap; Large Cafe Bag (Cocoa/Wasabi) w/Absolute Strap; Imago (sadly lost to hazmat); a Brain Cell w/ another Strap Wrap; and a Shop Bag (Steel). Accessories: Bunches and bunches.
    Wanted: Zephyr or Empire Builder.
    " ...all [that] you have to depend on is yourself and your luggage." - The Luggage Salesman (Joe Versus the Volcano)

  6. #6
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    Now, what folks need to see are more pictures of people wearing/carrying these briefcases, to get an even better "real world" feel for them.

  7. #7
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    Hey MtnMan, I found 2 fellows who posted on Flickr, here and here.
    Last edited by ex machina; 11-12-2009 at 06:40 PM. Reason: style correction (added some bolding)
    Bags: Super Ego (Black/indigo w/cork seatbelt); Aeronaut (Crimson/Steel); 2 Medium Cafe Bags (Navy/Cayenne, Linen/Olive), w/an Ultrasuede Shoulder Strap Wrap; Large Cafe Bag (Cocoa/Wasabi) w/Absolute Strap; Imago (sadly lost to hazmat); a Brain Cell w/ another Strap Wrap; and a Shop Bag (Steel). Accessories: Bunches and bunches.
    Wanted: Zephyr or Empire Builder.
    " ...all [that] you have to depend on is yourself and your luggage." - The Luggage Salesman (Joe Versus the Volcano)

  8. #8
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    The picture of the guy posing in the snow (and his emptied bag) are great... very interesting... Thank you for providing links to these!

    It never ceases to amaze me how many self-portraits you can find on the 'net that include the potty. Is that the only place anyone keeps a mirror anymore?

  9. #9
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    Talking

    Quote Originally Posted by MtnMan View Post
    The picture of the guy posing in the snow (and his emptied bag) are great... very interesting... Thank you for providing links to these!
    Your quite welcome.


    Quote Originally Posted by MtnMan View Post
    It never ceases to amaze me how many self-portraits you can find on the 'net that include the potty. Is that the only place anyone keeps a mirror anymore?
    Hmm... Budget cuts?

    I do get your observation. I agree. Besides, mirror shots are kind of played out in general. I have ordered a knock off of a gorillapod (small, adaptable tripod for a camera) which allows the legs to wrap around stuff. So when it arrives, as long as I have an object I can set it on, I can take pics of me without holding the camera and using a mirror. Now I just have to find my manual to learn about that timer feature. Ha! Had a flash while typing this post and POOF I found my manual! Yay!

    By the by, the pod I ordered was on ebay for $8.00 USD, which includes the shipping from Hong Kong. I'm nervous now wondering if I made a mistake. Will this hold? Will it keep my camera safe? I think I should have gotten the real McCoy in hindsight. If for no other reason than peace of mind.
    Bags: Super Ego (Black/indigo w/cork seatbelt); Aeronaut (Crimson/Steel); 2 Medium Cafe Bags (Navy/Cayenne, Linen/Olive), w/an Ultrasuede Shoulder Strap Wrap; Large Cafe Bag (Cocoa/Wasabi) w/Absolute Strap; Imago (sadly lost to hazmat); a Brain Cell w/ another Strap Wrap; and a Shop Bag (Steel). Accessories: Bunches and bunches.
    Wanted: Zephyr or Empire Builder.
    " ...all [that] you have to depend on is yourself and your luggage." - The Luggage Salesman (Joe Versus the Volcano)


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