Super Ego vs Empire Builder, and the winner is......
For me, Super Ego.
I thought it was going to be the Empire Builder. Was about to order one and then won an ebay auction for a Super Ego. Used it for a week and really liked it, but wanted to try an Empire Builder and see if I'd like that better. So, ordered a new one and transferred everything over and carried it around the house, unpacked and repacked it, tried different usage scenarios, etc... For me, the bottom line is, while the Empire Builder is a really nice bag, there were some things about it that just bugged me to the point where I would not be happy with it as my EDC.
First, and this was discussed on a different thread, the attachment points for the strap mean the strap is in the way when you lift the front flap up. For many people this may be no big deal. After 2 days of test-using it around the house it was already bugging the heck out of me. Had to manually, consciously move the strap out of the way before I could lift the flap. That was just not going to work.
Second, is the Empire Builder allergic to o-rings? I honestly don't understand why there are virtually none of them in this bag? Every place I'd expect them to be, there they aren't. The 3 pockets in the front? Not a one. The main compartment? Nope, nada. I don't get it, not sure if it was intentional or an oversight, but if intentional, it makes no sense to me. Regardless, for the way I pack stuff it makes the bag significantly less functional.
Third, I just couldn't find a home that felt right for all my stuff. For example, the sunglasses case for my Maui Jims. It could theoretically fit in several places, but didn't lay right in any of them. It just felt to me like the bag was missing some functional pockets. The ones in the front flap were too shallow to accommodate something bulky like this without awkwardly changing the profile of the bag. For some people, the pocket structure and organizational detail is probably perfect. For me, it just wasn't a great fit. I ended up having to make heavy use of pouches, and now I'm running back into the o-ring issue and either having to just drop them into a space 'free floating' or have multiple pouches attached to the same o-ring.
The one thing I will miss about the EB was it's a very structured bag so it stood up on its own very nicely. And its nicely styled, it's a sharp looking bag.
With the Super Ego, every single place I expected to see an o-ring, there was one. The multiplicity of pockets and organizational spaces fit my stuff much better than did the EB. And with a brain cell and freudian slip, the bag gets enough structure that for me it stands up almost as well as the EB did.
And then there's just the size aspect. I was surprised to find that for me I didn't think the EB was as roomy as I expected it to be. The SE just seemed more appropriately sized. I'm used to having a bag where I can have all my normal stuff, and then if I need to throw something extra in for the day (maybe a sweater and an umbrella, for example) there is plenty of room. Didn't feel like I'd have that with the EB.
One other thing. At first, I didn't really care for the styling/design of the Super Ego. But as I had both the EB and the SE sitting side by side each other through last weekend, I went from strongly favoring the EB to beginning to find the EB a bit on the conservative side and starting to enjoy the more free flowing look of the SE a bit more. I guess one way I look at it is, coming from the Brain Bag and looking for a horizontally oriented alternative, the SE was a more natural transition. It's almost like a horizontally oriented backpack.
Both are great bags, and while the SE is a better fit for me, I'm NOT saying it's a better bag. Just some aspects of the EB I really didn't care for.
So, I'm going to be returning the EB, and I'm actually going to be selling the SE I bought on ebay. It's all black and I decided I wanted the Black/Navy/Wasabi SE instead of the black/black/steel one. Ordered the new SE yesterday, can't wait to get it!
So there you have it. I'll still use my Brain Bag for things like airport travel. Nothing carries all my stuff more easily than that bag. But for my EDC schlepping stuff to and from my office, I'm excited to start using the SE.