The Empire Builder - 2 years, 10 months, 23 days.
I can't say that no one has put their EB through a more rigorous work life than I have. I'm sure that Empire Builders are acquitting themselves honorably in unGodly situations aboard oil rigs or in the middle of the Sunni Triangle or far out on the western arm of the Milky Way.
That said, I beat my Empire Builder Bag like a borrowed mule. And it keeps on ticking. 3 years into EB ownership, here are some thoughts:
- I have beaten the crap out of this bag. Furreal. It's ridden gently on the front seat, it's been slung into the trunk. I've picked it up by the handles, the strap, the front flap, the buckle and the back pocket. It hasn't budged.
- The buckles still buckle, the zippers still zip. The hardware has performed outstandingly with one exception. The metal clip on one end of the Absolute Strap has worn out at the point where the clip itself swivels. I expect this is more of a function of the abusive overloading of the case and not a materials flaw. I plan on dropping the fine Tom Bihn folks a line and seeing if they will sell me a new clip.
- The fabrics used look as clean, black and unscuffed as the day I unpacked it. That's saying something because typically nylon fibers pill or scuff at some point. On the EB, none. Not one.
- No cheesy logoage, plastic ribs or other garbage. The bag still looks high-end and undated because the exterior is well-proportioned and doesn't have a lot of the Hy-Tek garbage thats the hallmark of lesser bags.
- In my initial review, I mentioned the fact that I needed to be conscious of the fact that just because I could fit it in the bag doesn't mean that I should. I carry so much crap in this bag.
- My favorite pocket is the slanted open one on the flap. It's perfect for dropping keys and sellfone in when I sit down. Wide enough for a leather reporter's notebook I carry and still has room of my iPod is in there.
- Just structured enough to look profcessional. But because the flap and rear magazine pocket backs up on soft, fabric-backed panels. The net-net is that the pocket flaps can be overstuffed without deforming the outside appearance. I like that.
So there it is. I was initially reluctant to drop 180 bux on the EB/Brain Cell combo. But I've gotten so much use out of this thing that it's been worth every penny. I'm a fan. Buy with confidence. This thing's a freaking tank.