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Thread: Newbie question: ID vs Empire Builder

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    Registered User Lone Piper's Avatar
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    Newbie question: ID vs Empire Builder

    Folks,
    I've been lurking for a few weeks now. After reading tons of reviews, I decided to order the Aeronaut for my first attempt at carryon only travel. I'm in the military and recently moved to a job which has a lot more travel (short trips, 2-4 days) and do not want to have to wait for checked bags. I'm excited to receive my aeronaut this week but now am wondering if it is time to upgrade my laptop bag.

    I have a couple of different laptop bags: a BBP Hampton and a Ebags Firewall. I like the concept of the Hampton but when shoulder carried, it is extremely uncomfortable. Plus I have a hard time getting much gear in their other than the laptop and bare bones accessories (charger, cell phone, spare laptop battery, etc). The Firewall was a bargin bag, lots of pockets and about as streamlined as an 18 wheeler. I use it to keep my l laptop in at home but would not consider travelling with it because of its bulk.

    The more I read about Tom Bihn, the more addicted I can see myself becoming. I'm a sucker for well made bags (I'm a huge Kifaru junkie on the military side of the house) and have started my search for a good laptop travel bag. I currently have a gateway tablet PC that I travel with, although I may have to take a dell 17" for work.

    That being said, I'm looking at the ID or the Empire Builder. Owner comments are extremely welcome. Thanks for any help or advice you can offer.

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    I love my EBs, but I have gone to the Checkpoint Flyer as my everyday bag for my 17" PB now. I've trimmed my load out back a bit - with the EB you CAN carry EVERYTHING comfortably - but I've learned that there are some things I can do without in exchange for the streamlining of the security checkpoint process.

    If you're going to be doing a lot of quick trips, consider the Checkpoint Flyer in the mix as well.
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    My TB bags: 2 - Empire Builder 1 - Checkpoint Flyer

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    17 inch Dell restricts your options...

    Hi there!

    I have the ID, and I absolutely love it. I posted a bunch of pics of what I can stuff into it in the bag review forum, if that helps you.

    Having said that, the 17" Dell definitely restricts your options. I have an e1705 that fortunately does very little travelling. It won't fit safely in the ID (even without the Brain Cell), and I am lead to believe that it won't work in the Empire Builder either. Maybe some other folks here could confirm this?

    I wrestled with this same problem when I was choosing my bag, and opted for something that would meet my needs 90% of the time. I just don't travel that heavy as often. I am personally considering a super-ego for those times when size is a priority, but I am also thinking about the Brain Bag. My doctor tells me that if you're carrying that much weight a backpack-style bag is a better choice.

    Hope that helps!
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    Bob P.
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    Registered User Lone Piper's Avatar
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    All,
    Thanks so much for your replies. I'll have to measure the size of my work-issued computer just to verify it is a 17"er. Either way, I love the feedback. Please keep it coming!

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    I have a Dell D810 for work which I think is 17", but if not let's just say it's a beast. After checking the fit charts on the site I realized I didn't have many options but for now I'm using the Brain Bag. I agree with Magic Tiki's doctor in that if you need to carry a lot of weight it's best to have it backpack style. I'm in pretty decent shape but for some reason I am a total wimp when it comes to carrying bags.

    The BB works out well for me because I take a lot of junk to/from work. The laptop is huge but I also take my coffee and water in containers about the same size. The dual compartment is nice for this because if something should go wrong it will be contained to the other compartment. The BB does end up be really big and slightly unprofessional looking but I am carrying a lot. I don't think you can carry as much as I can and look professional.

    I did try the Smart Alec and I actually preferred it to the BB. I found it better looking and more comfortable. But it just barely able to hold everything I had. The nice thing about the BB is that if I need to take my laptop on vacation, I can use the BB to carry more than the Smart Alec. In my case I wanted something that could hold my laptop plus a DSLR and the Smart Alec was just too small for that, but the BB can do it. So in the end it was a matter of going with the BB which could serve dual purposes.

    So to make your decision harder, give a look to the Smart Alec and Brain Bag. For a really short trip you could even use the Brain Bag for your clothes instead of the Aeronaut. If you just want to carry a big laptop and few other items then the Smart Alec is a good option too.

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    Registered User Lone Piper's Avatar
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    Good news...I looked up the measurements of my work laptop (Dell D830) and it is a 15.4" screen. That should free up some more options for me. Thanks again for any and all feedback!

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    If the laptop isn't huge, then for travel my preference would be to get a bag only big enough for the bare minimum. For me it's fine having the Aeronaut on my back but that leaves one bag one my shoulder or in my hands and I am most comfortable when that is a small bag, or as small as possible.

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    Pretzelb, you can also cich up the brain bag if you don't need full expansion, right? I have been debating between that and the Smart Alec myself.
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    Bob P.
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    Empire Builder (black/steel), Brain Bag (steel), Small Padded Organizer Pouch, Clear Wallet, Soft Cell, Snake Charmer (cayenne) and assorted trimmings.

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    I have both the ID and the Empire Builder. I moved up to a new position and realized I didn't have a very practical "briefcase" for the meetings, etc. that I expected to attend more. Well, as it turns out, I hardly use the EB. Not because it doesn't work, it's just that I don't need it as much (work can get pretty casual sometimes). I also find it a bit stiff to rest comfortably against the hip because it's so robustly constructed.

    The ID, which I hauled around Italy, is a great bag for moderate business use. Coupling it with the Quick Adjust strap means it can be carried messenger style when you need to do some walking. It's not as good as a camera bag as my Crumpler, but since this trip was business plus pleasure, the ID won out.

    If you do get the ID though, I'm a bit mixed as to the ID for heavy business use. The Quick Adjust strap is a lot more slippery than the Absolute Strap, so you need to carry the ID cross chest rather than on the nearest shoulder to keep it steady to prevent it from slipping off. So, you're really forced to carry it messenger style if you don't get the Absolute Strap (which I have on all my other TB bags). Messenger style might not work well if you are dressed up for business. Also, the ID's grab handle is fine, but it's on the back of the ID, as opposed to being centered, so it's not as comfortable to haul the ID using your hand for a longer distance if need be (say you also have a backpack on and can't easily sling the ID).

    So, the EB might be your best bet for heavy business use - it can take a lot, and carry it well.

    Finally, I'm like pretzelb... I have the Brain Bag in black and I use it 90% of the time. I work out and eat a lot - my lunch is often the heaviest item going to work! Oh, and I've given up on hauling big laptops around.
    Last edited by ozone; 10-06-2008 at 04:40 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ozone View Post
    I also find it a bit stiff to rest comfortably against the hip because it's so robustly constructed.
    So true! Never articulated it like that before, but that's a great description of why the Empire Builder isn't as comfortable for carrying next to your body via strap. I always felt awkward carrying the EB via Absolute Strap. It sticks out quite a bit and doesn't really sit well against your body.

    I stopped using my EB because I didn't need the size. I then started grad school and needed the size (and more!) but found the EB very poor for school use. It was tough navigating the close quarters of a classroom or coffeeshop carrying the EB on my shoulder with an Absolute Strap. The EB is really best to be carried by hand. It's the most "professional" looking of the Tom Bihn bags and works well for business use. But for school, I ended up getting a Brain Bag and loved it.

    As many will tell you, the BB is HUGE. But it's an awesome backpack. I sometimes use it as my only luggage for short trips (including laptop). But re-reading the original post, I understood Lone Piper to already have an Aeronaut and was looking at the ID and EB.

    So, I currently have both the Aeronaut and the ID. I use the ID every day for work. I love my ID. Perfect size for me, and with the Quick-Adjust Messenger strap, it's extremely comfortable. As for the Aeronaut... that is one fine engineered piece of travel kit. It is quite possibly the greatest travel bag ever invented. I cannot say enough good things about the Aeronaut. You already have one, so I'll stop there. Mine is superhero red.

    I have traveled a few times with the Aeronaut and ID. Because the Aeronaut offers so many carrying options (backpack, handles, strap), you can rotate with another bag. Walking through an airport I liked having the Aeronaut on my back, with my ID carried at my side by hand. When I arrive to a gate, I would switch: put the ID on my back (Q-AM strap) and carry the Aeronaut. This is the easiest method for getting down the aisle of an aircraft and quickly putting the Aeronaut in the overhead cabins. I know I said I'd stop, but the Aeronaut fits everywhere on a plane! You know that sinking feeling when you are in the last group to board a crowded plane and there is no room for luggage? I've been there. While others had to check their rolling boxes, I crammed my Aeronaut in an overhead space and got the door shut.

    As already mentioned, the ID handle is not centered, so it's not ideal for walking long distances carried by its handle. It's not uncomfortable, and is really only a minor quibble. However, the Empire Builder *is* definitely built to be carried by hand. The EB is a great bag, and if you carry a lot of stuff, might be a better fit than the ID. I like the styling, size and fit of the ID much more. But if I traveled extensively, I might consider the EB (or Zephyr) because it can be carried by hand easily (with Aeronaut on my back), and will stand up when you set it down - the new ones at least The Aeronaut and EB would be a good combination for a frequent traveller, and you could carry a LOT of stuff between the two.

    One thing you might consider - especially since you said a lot of short 2-4 day trips: buy a Brain Cell and simply put that in the Aeronaut. If your laptop is small enough, this might work. Then you could only take the one bag.

  11. #11
    Registered User Lone Piper's Avatar
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    Ken, thanks for the excellent comments. Still haven't made a final decision but all of you are a tremendous help!

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    Kind of a picky point, but it reinforces what Ken just suggested. I used to travel with my BB and my Aeronaut. This, strangely enough, was not the ideal combination. The BB was often loaded up, and because it's a backpack, it can only *really* be carried on the back. The Aeronaut would also be on the heavier side, and so carrying it by hand over a distance would be tiring. But because you have a backpack on, it's not so easy to use the Aeronaut's shoulder strap and you don't have the option to use the Aeronaut in backpack mode.

    So, if you use two bags and the Aeronaut is one of them and if you need to go some distance, try to fit everything into one bag, or else go to backpack mode for the Aeronaut and get a smaller bag that can still be carried on the shoulder or by hand.

  13. #13
    Registered User Lone Piper's Avatar
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    Ok, after reading all the threads, I'm thinking the Empire Builder may be just too much bag for me. Does anyone have any opinions on the Zephyr vs the ID? I'd especially like to see any pics of a side by side comparison.

    I like the look of the ID but I think the Zephyr has a few more features (the pockets in the front and the ability to run a pass through handle in the back).

    Any comments or thoughts between these two? Thanks again for the great feedback all!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lone Piper View Post
    I like the look of the ID but I think the Zephyr has a few more features (the pockets in the front and the ability to run a pass through handle in the back).
    Do you have rolling luggage? I thought all Aeronaut owners eschewed the wheels ....

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    Honestly, I think both the ID and Zephyr are great bags. Styling-wise, I prefer the ID. And we can post all day about our different tastes, but either bag would be a good choice. If I were you, I'd order both - keep the tags on them - and return the one that didn't "work" with you walking around the house and standing in front of the mirror posing with your luggage at every conceivable angle. (not that any of us would do that).

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