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  1. #1
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    Empire Bag - First Impression

    I just received my Empire Bag, and I thought I'd share my thoughts after three days, including one business trip. (Pls overlook the typos)

    Plusses:
    - Perfect size for a traveling lawyer like me.
    -Love the combination of the briefcase main compartment with the messenger bag style front pocket.
    -really love the magazine/newpaper back pocket
    -pockets on the front flap are ideal for quickly stowing wallet, keys, etc. before going through airport security.
    -the dividers have proven more useful than I expected (although I only use one right now to separate business and personal docs).
    -no velcro

    Mixed reviews, wants, constructive criticism:
    - No safe way to secure a water bottle or wet umbrella without risking leakage on documents or electronics. My old bag had straps on the bottom and a separate waterbottle pocket on the side
    - I would have preferred a Key ring holder on the front side of the flap (maybe in the flap pocket) instead of the inside the front pocket. Everytime I open the flap, the contents of the open flap pocket (and any unzipped pocket) dumps out.
    - or better yet, it would have been nice to have either strap loops or d-rings on the front flap to clip a carabiner for a quick way to clip keys, water bottle, or my fancy compass/pocketwatch.
    -The internal compartments within the front pocket could have been better spaced. Only one of the compartments -- the one that seems to be designed for my PDA -- can hold a checkbook, but it can't hold both. Two dedicated pen/pencil slots are not enough.
    -The position of the open pocket on the front flap is not ideal. Because I usually carry the bag on my right shoulder, the open pocket is toward the back. I'd prefer an option of having the front flap pockets reversed (mirror image for those of us who carry the bag on our right shoulder).
    -I'm ambivalent about the strap. The stretchy-ness and rubberized bumps give me the sense that the strap will stay put on my shoulder, but I actually miss the easy adjustment and floating pad of my old messenger bag. If i want to lengthen the strap (to go from over the shoulder to cross-body) or just shift the angle by which I carry the bag, it takes a complicated set of adjustments on both sides. I also worry about the lifespan of the stretchy material
    -While I like the size and structural support, I'm not to keen on the fact that the bag stays at its full (or near full) thickness even when its empty. I think I might have preferred the ability to take out the side and bottom stiffeners when I'm not carrying much so that the bag can collapse in thickness.
    -Seems heavy even when empty (almost like my leather case, certainly heavier than my comparably sized messenger bag)
    -Brain cell takes up more space than it needs to because the clips center the braincell inside the bag. This leaves unusually small open spaces on either side of the brain cell. It would have been better to allow the cell to be clipped in a little off-center to have a more usuable space.
    -Finally I was kind of perturbed (to say the least) that the ETA that was quoted to me in my invoice was unilaterally delayed by two weeks. I don't think that's excusable (even for a small company), especially without contacting the customer. On the positive side, Teresa did commit to a firm final delivery date when I complained and the bulk of my order (still waiting for the t-shirt) and it actually came 3 days earlier than that date (although 2 wks after original ETA).

    Still I'm pretty pleased with the bag
    Last edited by jdejesus; 10-14-2004 at 12:37 AM.

  2. #2
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    Interesting review. I have one on order. I too am a lawyer. I must say your list of disappointments strikes me as both long and significant to you. I wonder if you really like the bag.

  3. #3
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    I guess the comments were significant enough to bang out a long list, but I was really trying to be constructive. Also I did quite a bit of research when my prior bag gave out, and I really couldn't find another one that better suited my needs suited my needs.

    The most significant gripes may be the thickness & weight of the bag when empty. I'd be interested your reaction when you get yours.
    Last edited by jdejesus; 10-14-2004 at 11:37 PM.

  4. #4
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    My bag shipped yesterday and should arrive late next week. I'll post my impressions after I've had some time with the bag and we can compare notes.

  5. #5
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    Re: Empire Bag - First Impression

    Originally posted by jdejesus

    Mixed reviews, wants, constructive criticism:
    - No safe way to secure a water bottle or wet umbrella without risking leakage on documents or electronics. My old bag had straps on the bottom and a separate waterbottle pocket on the side
    Straps on the bottom we've prototyped, but the problem is that the bag will not stand up by itself anymore. Elastic, which will lay flatter than other materials, has a limited life span.

    We concluded that a water bottle pocket would look too sporty on the Empire Builder, a bag that appeals mostly to those who want a conservative looking briefcase.


    - I would have preferred a Key ring holder on the front side of the flap (maybe in the flap pocket) instead of the inside the front pocket. Everytime I open the flap, the contents of the open flap pocket (and any unzipped pocket) dumps out.
    - or better yet, it would have been nice to have either strap loops or d-rings on the front flap to clip a carabiner for a quick way to clip keys, water bottle, or my fancy compass/pocketwatch.
    Great idea to have another small d-ring inside the front flap pocket. This would allow you to move the snap hook into the front flap pocket like you suggest. An exterior d-ring to clip things would, like a water bottle pocket, create a sportier look than we are trying to achieve.


    The internal compartments within the front pocket could have been better spaced. Only one of the compartments -- the one that seems to be designed for my PDA -- can hold a checkbook, but it can't hold both. Two dedicated pen/pencil slots are not enough.
    We will review the placement of those pockets. Thanks for your input.


    -The position of the open pocket on the front flap is not ideal. Because I usually carry the bag on my right shoulder, the open pocket is toward the back. I'd prefer an option of having the front flap pockets reversed (mirror image for those of us who carry the bag on our right shoulder).
    It's tough to please everyone! One might think left-handed people carry the bag on their left shoulder and right-handed people carry the bag on their right shoulder, but we have found that that is not always the case.


    -While I like the size and structural support, I'm not to keen on the fact that the bag stays at its full (or near full) thickness even when its empty. I think I might have preferred the ability to take out the side and bottom stiffeners when I'm not carrying much so that the bag can collapse in thickness.
    One of the major design criteria for the Empire Builder is that it retains its shape and stands up on its own when you set it down.


    -Seems heavy even when empty (almost like my leather case, certainly heavier than my comparably sized messenger bag)
    The additional weight is a result of the elements added to maintain the bags rigidity. The Empire Builder was designed to be a briefcase, not a soft messenger bag.


    -Brain cell takes up more space than it needs to because the clips center the braincell inside the bag. This leaves unusually small open spaces on either side of the brain cell. It would have been better to allow the cell to be clipped in a little off-center to have a more usuable space.
    Seems like a good idea, however it would change the CG of the bag -- changing the weight distribution -- making it not nearly as comfortable to carry.


    Still I'm pretty pleased with the bag
    Glad you like it! Hope it continues to work out for you.

  6. #6
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    thanks for the reply, Tom. A couple of things, however:
    1. There are lots of non-sporty brief cases out there. I guess I was looking for this one to be an alternative to the mainstream targuses, etc.
    2. Without a lap top, but with all of the stuff I usually have in the fron pocket, the bag doesn't stand up so well, even as thick as it is. Anyway, when I suggested umbrella loops at the bottom, I was really talking about the lower part of the front or the back, and not literally underneath the bag.
    3. My concerns about the longevity of the strap have born out. In less than a week, all of the rubber bumps on the bottom of the strap have worn off.

  7. #7
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    Are you enjoying the bag overall? You still sound kind of unhappy with it. Mine is due in Friday.

  8. #8
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    I'm not in love with it, but I don't hate it. As I said, while there is room for improvement, I haven't found anything else out there that better suits my needs.

  9. #9
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    About the water bottle, why can't the open pocket on the outside flap hold a water bottle? My water bottle fits in fine.

  10. #10
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    Yeah, I thought about that, but the vertical zip pocket (which I use to hold my Ipod) has to remain flat (no Ipod).

    Glad to hear you got your bag. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

  11. #11
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    Originally posted by jdejesus
    Yeah, I thought about that, but the vertical zip pocket (which I use to hold my Ipod) has to remain flat (no Ipod).

    Glad to hear you got your bag. I'd be interested in your thoughts.
    I take it you like to listen to your iPod during your commute?

    Have you considered putting your iPod in the horizontal zip pocket and then putting your water bottle in the vertical open pocket?

  12. #12
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Re: Empire Bag - First Impression

    Originally posted by jdejesus
    Finally I was kind of perturbed (to say the least) that the ETA that was quoted to me in my invoice was unilaterally delayed by two weeks. I don't think that's excusable (even for a small company), especially without contacting the customer. On the positive side, Teresa did commit to a firm final delivery date when I complained and the bulk of my order (still waiting for the t-shirt) and it actually came 3 days earlier than that date (although 2 wks after original ETA).
    I'm sorry for the delay. It looks like we emailed you on September 20th to notify you of the delay. At that time we guaranteed you would receive the bag by the date you requested. Sometimes emails have been forgotten in spam filters, or lost in the shuffle, and we should have called you as well as emailed you to let you know about the delay.

    We do our best to predict when the bags will be finished by our factory, but sometimes things happen we can't control, like people getting sick or cars breaking down.

    Of course, none of that excuses the delays and that's why we are working on increasing our production capacity -- no, we're not going overseas -- and hope to have it up to speed in the beginning of next year.

    I understand completely how frustrating it is to have to wait for something you're so excited about. Keep in mind that every day we are working hard to get you that bag you need/want/must have, and we are making progress.
    Last edited by Darcy; 10-22-2004 at 11:08 AM.
    Current Carry: Skookum Dog Citizen Canine prototype, Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  13. #13
    TOM BIHN Crew (we work here) Darcy's Avatar
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    Originally posted by jdejesus
    3. My concerns about the longevity of the strap have born out. In less than a week, all of the rubber bumps on the bottom of the strap have worn off.
    Wow, sounds like you got a bad strap. The Absolute Strap is very popular and I've heard of this happening once before, but only once before.

    If you'll send me an email at darcy at tombihn.com, we can figure out how to send you a replacement strap.
    Current Carry: Skookum Dog Citizen Canine prototype, Founder's Briefcase (every day carry), Small Cafe Bag (every day carry), Shop Bags (groceries, extra random stuff), Aeronaut 45 (travel), Synapse 19 (day hikes), Smart Alec (longer day hikes), Skookum Dog Road Duffel (Medium) (travel), Clear Organizer Wallet, Travel Stuff Sacks, Organizer Cubes

  14. #14
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    I received my Empire Builder a week or so ago and have been very pleased. I use or have used all of the bags below and must say that the EB has lived up to my hopes.

    I love the divider system. Love it. They provide flexibility I have not seen in any other bag. All my previous efforts to find something like this have left me with a bag that is too compartmentalized or too unstructured.

    I find the bag is big enough to carry my laptop (both I own are small) with plenty of room for additional documents, etc. Also, it is not oversized.

    Like the author of the thread, I would like to see some work on the back of the bag. Swiss Army has a great back which puts a zipper on the side of the back pocket to stow an umbrella and one on the bottom if you want to put it over the handle to your rolling carry-on.

    That is about it so far. Great job.
    TB Empire Builder, Swiss Army Webmaster Deluxe, Timbuk2 Messenger (custom), Waterfield Cargo (Lg), Acme Made Slim

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the great feedback. We're always working to improve our products.

    I agree that more could be done to the back side of the Empire Builder. Right now I'm concentrating on the smaller version of the Empire Builder and will keep these ideas in mind.

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