Ember Equipment Modular Urban Pack

Let’s talk about bags for a minute.

I was never one to judge a person for buying “needlessly expensive” stuff in general.

The truth is, you get what you pay for. and in the world of bags, luxury bags are worth their price tags – in both their [literal] material and subjective (personal and social perception) merits.

I appreciate the luxury bags just like a person who actually spends for them. But personally, I like bags that are built to take a beating. While I think the LVs or Hermes, or other high-end brands are made of the sturdiest of materials that could last a lifetime, 1 Or not, I’m just assuming the best for their given price but let’s be honest – if that luxury bag of yours gets soaked in the rain, wouldn’t your day be ruined?

So let me tell you of the bags that actually get me to pull out my wallet. I’ve got tons of stuff from PacSafe, A bunch of Crumpler bags, an Ergon BC3, too many Lowepro (photography) bags to mention, Victorinox luggage and EDC 2 Everyday carry bags, a tricked out Boblbee Mentor. For my motorcycle riding, I use Kreiga stuff almost exclusively with the exception of a couple of Givi Tanklock stuff.

Now what do these bags say about my preference? That’s right, the first obvious one is that, they too, aren’t necessarily the cheapest you can buy. But one of the reasons they aren’t cheap is that all of them are all built for some serious abuse – and aren’t meant to be coddled.

Thankfully though, even the most expensive bags in that entire lineup don’t even come close to $1,000 – hell maybe not even $600. So I would say I’m definitely one willing to pay a premium, but I prefer the premium to be put in the functionality of the bag, no more, no less.

So let me tell you of a bag I just got, because I went through a considerable amount of effort just to get it. It’s not available in the market (yet) and I’m not sure if it will ever be. 3 I hope it will, as I would want to buy some extra accessories for it I’m talking about the Ember Equipment Pack

So I wouldn’t have to repeat basically what has already been shown before, have a look at this video.

So the thing that makes this bag special to me is that it was a Kickstarter campaign that I had actually missed. I wanted the bag so bad, that I (among others) stalked the creators asking them when they intended to commercialize the product so that we may purchase it. Long story short, nobody could be certain if it was going to market.

Thankfully, there were some people who had ordered extra packs and had offered to sell them brand new (at retail price). And luckier still, a friend’s cousin was on their way home in a few days – so I was able to route it through them just in time. In fact, there were still some people still waiting on their packs 4 They probably those who pledged late during the campaign the day I held mine.

With that, let the bag pornography commence!

The bag comes in a nice hi-viz waterproof storage sack. What I got was the “Founders Edition” which, based on the video is basically the Outfitter pack with two extras: the design journal which chronicles the design stages of creating the pack, and what’s supposed to be a woven KS tag to indicate it’s a limited edition model. For some reason, the only “tag” I’ve seen is a rubberized one inside the bag. No big deal really.

Modularity

Now as demonstrated in the video, the pack is modular. Literally everything can be detached from the main shell. Here’s what that base shell looks like after taking everything off:

And the other side…

Everything can be stuffed inside the main shell, which makes me wonder why they didn’t ship it this way. Not that it makes any difference, but it’s kinda cool when you leave the user to “build” the pack for the very first time.

And of course building it up again:

There are a bunch of ways you can deviate from the “typical” build, that’s the nice thing about these kinds of bags. So if you’re a yoga fan, you can do it this way, of if you’re wondering how to best mount your water bottle, here are a few suggestions or perhaps you want to be ultra minimal and just bring your laptop – no problem!

Over-engineered

I like it when things are over-engineered. It means the creators took time to fuss about every single detail – even when unecessary. Such attention to detail speaks volumes of how reliable this pack is going to be.

Take a look at the hardware / materials they use below. Aluminum hooks, with engraved (not printed) logos, leather grip guards and pull extensions with embossed logos., etc.

The base shell picture shows clearly how the bonded-hypalon utility patches allow for the hardware to interface with. This is similar mounting Kreiga uses. In fact, the fastening mechanism format are identical – and since I can attest to how good this method of fastening is with my motorcycle, I’m pretty sure this is more than enough for everyday carry.

But they didn’t stop there, they even use the Fidlock mechanism for quick connecting some components. Fidlock is a german made technology, and the first time I saw it was in my Bell Rogue helmet’s mouthpiece. Basically, it’s like Apple’s mag-safe that it immediately attaches and locks, but you must manually unlock it. That way you can mount it immediately, but not accidentally have it disconnect.

They even added this feature just to tidy up the main zipper (apart from other little slits/compartments and strap savers) – it’s obvious that the people who designed this are neat freaks.

Or how about this Emblem below – I mean honestly, you really don’t need this level of detail but they did it anyway. It’s also removable (velcro) because… why the fuck not 😉

The outer fabric is already hydrophobic, but you also see the inner waterproofed lining – so you have two layers of protection form elements of the liquid persuasion.

Of course we also have the external laptop sleeve:

Some people criticized this as a very insecure way to transport your backpack – but they miss the point of its usefulness. It was made with the intention of quick access so what immediately comes to mind is an airport scenario where they keep on having you take your laptop out at every checkpoint.

But should you still be too paranoid to have it that exposed, the base shell actually has a dedicated laptop compartment inside. Or just for the lulz, you can even put the entire external sleeve inside the pack if you wanted to. Again, it’s about giving us options.

The Founders/Outfitter pack come with more accessories that can actually be mounted on the bag at any given time. As seen below, here’s the bag with 3 out of the 4 pouches attached. You can attach these pouches horizontally or vertically as the Fidlock mounts are equidistant to each other. How many handles does it take to carry a bag this big – one right? But they give us two for both sides just in case I don’t know – we wanted symmetry? LOL There are also extra utility straps and of course the U-lock strap – which obviously indicates that these guys ride bicycles because it’s such an uncommon object to provide a provision for. But it’s all good 🙂

You can also see the utility strap on top (I’ll probably put a mini-umbrella or water bottle here), and there’s another strap going along underneath the pouches in case you need it for any had-hoc purpose. Then at the bottom you see the compression straps, which I guess could also double as an actual utility strap for securing something underneath the bag (a bag of shoes perhaps?) Or you can remove all of them and stuff them in one of the pockets (also waterproofed)

On the other side, we also have an iPhone pouch that mounts fia Fidlock system. This is actually one of the two gripes I have about the product. First is that the dimensions of this pouch is strictly for an iPhone 5/5S or smaller. Given that the 6 and 6+ had just been released, I don’t see myself using this pouch in the near future. I’m considering dismantling it (for the Fidlock hardware) and transferring it to a custom pouch made that fits more phones in general.

Another is that the Fidlock mechanism is right in the middle of the pouch, which essentially makes it a propeller – and not safe to be left open with your phone inside, they could’ve just offset it a bit to the top so that it would make the natural weight of the pouch/phone orient it right side up all the time.

The other gripe I had was that rubber KS tag I first mentioned, I would’ve really wanted a proper woven one like they advertised in the site – but this isn’t much of a big deal, the iPhone pouch is.

I’m not sure if you could see it, but all straps, as mentioned earlier have strap-savers to keep the ends from flailing about. The base shell even has some slits where you can slip the excess compression straps into for neatness.

Conclusion

The Ember Equipment Pack certainly lives up to the hype. It’s well worth the price tag it commands. I mean honestly, there are a bunch of known brands (Tumi, etc.) that can cost this much but have way less functionality – so I wouldn’t consider it expensive for what it is.

The closest commerical bag I’ve seen that’s of similar the “build quality” would have to be the stuff by Mission Workshop – particularly their Arkiv field packs.

Cons:

  • iPhone pouch design
  • Can’t find woven patch for Founders Edition

Pros:

  • Modular / Configurable
  • Waterproof
  • Neat and well organized hardware
  • Travel-friendly
  • Over-engineered / meticulously crafted

Notes   [ + ]

1. Or not, I’m just assuming the best for their given price
2. Everyday carry
3. I hope it will, as I would want to buy some extra accessories for it
4. They probably those who pledged late during the campaign

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