Empire Builder 11 months in
So. I got me that Empire Builder to haul around my laptop last christmas after years of waiting. How am I liking it now after 10+ months of daily use?
As my posts on the eternal diaper bag thread have suggested, I am an overpacker. The bag probably weighs slightly more than a Marauder with all my gear, or so I'm told by people who've tried to carry it:
Macbook Pro 15"
Brain cell for above MBP
MBP power plug
Small belkin power outlet multipler
Backup battery for my smartphone
Small pocket first aid kit
Small odds and ends (usb hub, WLAN card, charger for bluetooth earpiece, headphones, other things that I've forgotten are in there)
More pens than I really need (ie: I've filled every pen pocket with something)
Nissan commuter mug
Occasionally a fleece jacket
Occasionally a lightweight rain jacket
What sort of use it's been through:
It is my primary and usually only bag I have on me for daily commutes (car, train and bus commute). It has been taken on a few out of town trips.
So after about 11 months in, here are my thoughts:
The bag is outfitted with the Absolute Shoulder strap, which is still comfortable, but I do find I put the bag down on the ground if I expect to stand around for any length of time. The grip on the strap is very grippy; which means it pulls down the shoulder of either my jacket or shirt, sliding the strap to what feels like the very edge before falling off. I do find myself readjusting the shoulder strap while walking regularly. The strap works perfectly fine to use in a messenger bag configuration, which I do for any walks longer than a few blocks.
The padded handles on the bag are still awesome. Despite the actual weight of the bag, they are always in place ready to go making entry and exits on buses and trains a breeze.
BTW, a public transit commute offers a daily reminder of the advantages of non-wheeled luggage. I've seen all manner of awkward wheeled luggage entry/egress methods, and they all share the same fact that they're slower than non-wheeled equivalents. I understand if you're a lawyer that needs to haul around a forest's worth of paper or have a back that cannot support the weight of a shoulder bag/backpack, but them's the breaks of having wheels.
Yes, it still flops over to its flap side. I lean that side in to a supporting wall or object.
The brain cell/empire builder combo works just fine at TSA checkpoints and putting my laptop away on the train before I get to my destination. Very quick to get everything sorted back where it was. And despite my efforts to kill the main compartment zipper, it still operates smoothly. Wheeling it around in airports on the handle of my eagle creek switchback seems a little precarious, since it feels top heavy, but works just fine.
It was involved in an unfortunate soda can explosion, but applying a wet towel to the affected area seemed to clear that up. Reapplying the Nikwax waterproofing seems to have really revitalized the look of the bag to really brand new, whereas before it was merely nearly new.
Probably against better advice, I hook the Nissan commuter mug (which has a carabiner) to the metal loop thingy on the end of the strap where the webbing goes through. There is some inevitable wear of the paint there, but I can live with it.
Overall, it's still the best laptop bag I've owned. It doesn't get in my way, and doesn't have too many nits that annoy me.