Empire Builder ~ 1mo in.
How I got here:
I was using a Jack Georges bag as my main bag to put my life in. Laptop, sewing kit, glasses cleaning wipes, you name it, that was the bag that had it. I joking called it "The Bag of Many Things" or a "Bag of Holding" due to the sheer amount of strange objects I've put in it, or found in it over time.
Alas, the handle was coming off constantly, and the strap had broken, the bag was just breaking down, and of course, I lost my original receipt. So no warranty service. Thus a replacement became needed, and I wasn't going to replace it with a "same" bag because they didn't even make bags with some of the key features I liked, as far as I could tell.
1. Fit my 11" MacBook Air + Sleeve if the bag requires it.
2. Zippered areas to stop things from flying around in the bag, and make them easy to reach for.
3. Enough carrying capacity that I can add random things to my bag, when travelling or doing day to day things. Like an extra day's clothing, and not having to think "how will this fit." The JG bag was failing this as was.
I narrowed my choice down to a bag from Etsy, the Super Ego, and the EB. I decided on the EB because of the sheer pragmatism of the design. It was clearly thought through, and at those times I'd need to "lean on it more" that thought through nature would come back to save me.
I ended up getting:
1 - Empire Builder
2 - Keystraps
3 - Medium Pouches
1 - Freduian Slip
1 - Set of extra dividers
1 - Absolute Shoulder Strap
Total price ~$300. Not unreasonable for a high end bag.
Initially, I discovered, I misclicked and had the wrong color shipped! In addition the strap was not shipped to me. Ah well, the color is no big deal, I realize there's a religion about such things, but I'm a pragmatist! The strap was shipped out the next day.
I used the strap off my old JG bag and transplanted my life into the EB. This is where I discovered how to attach pouches inside the EB, and what my eventual layout would be in there. It easily fit everything I threw in, in fact I was starting to wonder if I ordered too big a bag.
I used the bag about 2-3 weeks before my trip. I found it easy to use, and there was always "another pouch/compartment" to put something in. One bad thing I discovered. You want to carry this bag on your left side. That wasn't my default... it is now.
I lost my passport on the Sunday before the Friday I flew out. So I gathered my documents, and put them all in one of the back pockets of the slip. All nice and organized. When I got to the Passport Agency, i pulled the slip out of the bag, grabbed pens whatever off it, and proceeded to deal with my paperwork quickly. No wondering where something went. It may sound strange, but at a moment like that, anything that helps keep you organized and sane is a wonderful object. I discovered that the top zippered pouches on the slip were perfect for holding receipts. Great! At least I won't lose my receipt! Also this "Discovery" just made travel much easier. Throw all of my travel receipts into the zippered pockets in the slip. Done. No more "where is that one in my wallet..."
The bag performed as designed, which is to say quite well. The small horizontal open pocket that holds travel documents was a godsend. I used to carry them in the back pocket, and they'd fall over, and I'd have to dig for them. No thanks. The small passport zippered pocket was great. Protecting my passport, and allowing me to not worry about where it is.
I unzipped the 2nd back pocket and put the bag on top of my roll aboard's handle, nice and easy, the way it was designed to work.
In route, it fit right under the seat. Like it was designed to be there. Right at my feet.
In Germany, I found the bag wonderful. It had space to carry the extra stuff I'd need on various days. Be it papers, or stuff to give out when i presented. Even the little pockets to put receipts in were nice. Everything just made sense. In fact, I had pockets with nothing in them, which is *good*. Because if things came up, I was ready to deal with them.
Everything had a place....
And back in the States, that's how I'd still summarize the bag "everything has a place." If I could rewind time, I'd not order the extra dividers, and I'd order an extra keystrap. But that's all the adjustments I'd make. The bag is 100% the right choice for my needs. Small enough that I don't mind carrying it, unless I need it to be "large" in which case I get what I asked for.
Pouches + Keystraps == Great things.
Waterproofing held when I got rained on in a foreign country. After reading about some people having the bag leak I was a bit worried, but so far those fears seem ungrounded.
Good carry handles.
The initial order + shipping process. It happens. But it was dealt with solidly and competently. I accept my own blame on the color issue. And in fact, as with many "wrong" choices I've made, I've come to like it.
The shoulder strap can be a bit grippy, but far from the end of the world, and far better than the strap I had on the EB before it.
Carry the bag on your left side. You'll be happier.
A new "The Bag of Many Things" or "Bag of Holding" has been found. May it last longer than the 5 years of the previous one.
So what color did you want and what color did your end up with?
I wanted Black/Navy/Wasabi, it was out of stock, I wanted to order Black/Steel/Steel, I ordered Black/Black/Steel. So I guess about as big of a change as is possible.
In the end I do wonder... what would my bag look like after 4-5 years of use with a wasabi interior. And the black is nice. It blends in. I wouldn't mind the Steel if only to tell which side was which at a very quick glance. But beyond that, I'm happy with the Black/Black/Steel. Certainly not upset enough to have sent it back and re-ordered on my own error.
Why do you say the bag should be carried on your left side? I'd think you could just flip the shoulder strap around and have it be functionally identical on the right side. My old Tumi ballistic briefcase worked like that.
I'm actually thinking about buying one of these. I went through a long process of replacing my old worn out Tumi with a Brain Bag and I've liked it very much. Main reason I got it was I've got a bit of a walk to get from where I park to my office. Have to go down a grassy slope, then up a few flights of stairs, much easier with a backpack than a briefcase on one shoulder.
But we're moving our office in a week and getting from the parking lot into my office couldn't be more straightforward. Park close to the door, walk into the building first suite you get to off the lobby on the first floor. While I like the Brain Bag, I feel like I'm giving up organizational functionality with a vertically oriented backpack as opposed to the horizontal orientation of a briefcase or messenger bag. So I'm toying with the idea of picking one of these up.
Thanks for your review. And yeah, Tom Bihn service is unsurpassed.