In May, I wrote about a great new backpack, the ECBC Hercules. I liked it, and in the months subsequently, I’ve become familiar and comfortable with it, and continue to like it very much, although one thing that is increasingly annoying is its inability to stand up if I put it on the ground – it inevitably falls over.
That’s actually a bit more of a big deal than you might think. It isn’t a problem on a dry clean floor, but on a dirty wet footpath, it is a nuisance. Happily, that one downside is more than compensated by its empowering me to more conveniently and comfortably carry a heavy load of ‘stuff’ through airports, onto planes, etc. I’m definitely a convert to using a backpack rather than a hand carried briefcase/bag/tote for all the various ‘road warrior tools’ – computers, tablets, eBook readers, chargers, adapters, mice, plus unavoidable ‘old fashioned’ papers, books, etc that many of us struggle with on our travels.
Anyway, with that as background, I was approached by the people who make the Everki range of backpacks, and asked if I could add a review of their backpack, too. We swapped emails, and they came up with some credible reasons why their bag was better than the ECBC bag, and so I agreed to give it a careful and (of course) critical look.
It took me a while to adjust to their new backpack. If you’re like me, you end up with a ‘system’ for where you put stuff in your carry-on bag, and the system is of course built around the design of the bag you have. A new bag, a new layout of pockets and pouches, and you need to develop a new system, and that’s a hassle to start with. But the adjustment has proved to be positive and worthwhile.
Comparing the Everki Atlas Business Backpack to the ECBC
The first thing I checked was the bag’s weight. It came in at 3.75lbs compared to the 2.5lbs of the ECBC bag. 1.25lbs isn’t a fatal extra weight, but it is slightly regrettable with it being so easy to butt heads with the airlines and their ridiculously low carry-on weight limits (albeit rarely enforced, thank goodness!). The positive way of looking at the Everki bag’s weight is to note that it still remains considerably lighter than the carry bag that I formerly used (5.5lbs). So we’ll give it a qualified pass on the weight front.
Everki’s response to the weight issue was to bluntly explain that if you want a solidly made bag with a lifetime warranty, you’ve got to use heavier grade materials, and sufficient padding to truly protect the bag’s contents. They explained several different things they did to concentrate the weight, padding, and material only where it was needed, but the bottom line – while there would be no problem using less and lighter weight materials, the bag wouldn’t be as strong or protective if they did. In their opinion, this represents the best compromise. I’ll not second guess that.
The next thing was to look for the feature I really missed on the ECBC. I want a convenient external zippable pouch in which one could stuff copies of itineraries and other printed documents – ie, something with a wider than 8.5″ opening, and reasonably shallow, so you don’t have to go fishing all the way to the bottom of a huge big compartment to find the papers you need.
Unfortunately, the Everki bag also fails to provide such a feature. The most promising pouch at the top is just a frustrating half-inch or so too narrow. That means a single folded sheet of paper is difficult to shift in and out, and a sheaf of multiple sheets much more difficult again.
The good news is there are a dozen other places (almost literally) where you could shove papers, passport, etc, but none of them are small spaces targeted exactly for this. They are all parts of capacious compartments where there’s every chance your papers will get lost in with all the other stuff you have stored there. There is a suitable zippable pouch, but it is inside the ‘main’ storage compartment. Needing to unzip the main compartment, then reach in among everything in there, and unzip a pouch inside that compartment, then reach into that pouch and grab what you want is not very convenient. There are other ways you could adapt and put your papers into a space vertically rather than horizontally. And so on. Not a deal breaker, in other words, and Everki gently encouraged me to open my mind to other possible ways of keeping documents available.
Don’t get me wrong. It is no worse than the non-solution with the ECBC bag either. But, for what you and I would reasonably think to be an essential feature of a business travel bag, both bags score less than a resounding pass.
I don’t want to dump and then dump some more on the Everki bag. There are a lot of good things this backpack has, including things the ECBC bag does not have.
For example, something else I bemoaned the lack of with the ECBC bag was compartments to store business cards – one compartment for your own cards, and another for cards collected during the course of one’s travels. The Everki bag definitely scores two thumbs up in that respect, with two perfectly sized compartments for storing cards, and lots more compartments of all shapes and sizes for all sorts of other things too.
It has other nice clever features, too. For example, another thing missing from the ECBC bag that I only came to realize was missing, after using it for a few trips, was any way to couple it to a regular suitcase. The Everki has a nice sleeve on its back that can fit over a roll-aboard or regular suitcase handle, meaning you don’t have to carry it on your back all the time.
It also has an open-topped pouch in the front where you can stuff magazines or newspapers. That is clever. Often I’ll find myself reading a newspaper at an airport or in the hotel room prior to checking out, then leaving it behind because I’ve nowhere to put it. The Everki nicely solves that problem.
There’s another nice feature of the Everki bag and not found with the ECBC – it has a padded bottom in its main compartment. This is particularly beneficial if you might find yourself sticking a bottle of duty-free liquor into the pack – there’s always a danger that you’ll at some point put the pack down onto a hard surface a bit too enthusiastically, and in the past, I’ve seen bottles break as a result of being dropped virtually straight down and without protection onto a hard surface. You can debate which is worse – losing a nice bottle of something, or having other things in your bag drenched in liquor, and both outcomes are massively better avoided if at all possible.
The Everki bag has a flexible approach to how you store your laptop, too. It has a velcro-adjustable pouch that can expand or shrink to snugly fit the computer you’re putting in there – Everki say it will fit up to a 17.3″ screened laptop, and down to a 13″ one, which covers most common shapes and sizes. Both my 14″ and my 15.4″ laptop with external battery ‘bulge’ could fit easily and securely in it.
The bag also zips open into two sides, allowing for you to put your bag through the X-ray machine without removing the computer.
The Everki bag definitely has more compartments and places to put things than the ECBC bag, and is also a bit larger, although the two bags have similar seeming official measurements. I hesitate to try and measure something made of nylon and of irregular shape, but putting the two side by side shows the Everki bag to be deeper, although length and breadth are similar.
What else? The Everki looks reasonably discreet and ‘businesslike’ and doesn’t act as a beacon to muggers and other miscreants, although it does show a bit more gratuitous color than the ECBC, and also has a mysterious D ring on its outside that seems to be not much more than flashy ornamentation, but which Everki tells me was placed there in response to customer requests, and is a popular mounting point for adornments – various trinkets that seem to multiply on some people’s bags.
The backpack has a lifetime warranty, which is generous, but it is limited to defects in the product, not to damage from airlines or other sort of ‘hard life’ events.
I wore it fully loaded while cooking lunch (as a way of recreating a travel experience), and it was reasonably comfortable (well, as comfortable as 25 lbs on your back ever can be!). It has an additional adjustment – you can cinch in the top of the straps as well as the bottom of them. I’m not really too sure what this actually does, but careful study in the mirror seemed to suggest the bag sits closer to my back when the cinch straps were at their tightest.
Talking about its weight makes me think about putting it down. It does seem a bit more stable than the ECBC bag, but it too doesn’t have any sort of feet or anything to protect the bottom of the bag from dirty/wet surfaces. But Everki gently corrected me when I asked about the lack of feet. They told me that in the past, poorly made bags needed feet to protect thin fragile material that would quickly wear, and the feet also provided some necessary protection against water leaking in through the fabric. But these days, their fabric is sufficiently strong and dense as to not need extra wear protection, and it is covered with a layer of waterproofing compound to keep water out.
They did concede, however, that water could still seep in through the seams. So I filled my bath with half an inch of water and placed the backpack in to see what happened. Good news and bad. Everywhere stayed perfectly dry – expect for, alas, the zipper seam that necessarily went all the way down and around onto the bottom of the backpack, this being the zipper that opens the backpack up for allowing the laptop to be separately visible to the X-ray machine, and therefore, the water that did indeed leak in through the zipper seam was destined for the laptop. The other compartments withstood a five minute dunking with no problems, and that is good, but not so much the laptop compartment.
It was not awash in water, but there was a bit of moisture inside when I checked.
So – feet? Maybe there’s still some benefit? But not as much as I’d thought.
And So, the Winner Is?
I like both bags. I prefer the better protection and padding in the Everki bag, and I fear I’ll probably end up using the extra space in it too. The Everki’s ability to be placed over a pull handle for a wheeled bag is also a big bonus.
On the other hand, the ECBC bag is a little more discreet and demure, and starts off with a 1.25lb weight advantage too, although at the cost of some loss of protection for items in its main compartment and possibly less robust materials overall.
Price wise, there’s not much between them. Everki’s Atlas bag is $142 on Amazon, ECBC’s Hercules bag is $131 – $140 depending on color.
The winner is, on points rather than a spectacular knock-out, the Everki bag.
They are both good, and both better than using a tote/briefcase type bag, but they are also both a couple of frustratingly small tweaks away from being perfect.