If you want a solid quality luggage that can go from city hotel to beaches of the beaten path, without having to pay the ever-increasing fees for checked luggage, a carry-on size backpack is your best bet. And the best one I have found in over 20 years and millions of miles, is the eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible. While that might be the worst possible name for a luggage ever, trust me, it is a great bag and here is why:
Luggage Facts: The measurements of the ebags TLS Weekender at 45 linear inches meet the requirements of most airlines for carry-on luggages. Even if it is technically too large for some planes, because it is soft and can be “squeezed to fit”, it’s not very likely to be rejected on a plane. If the overhead bins on a flight are full, the airline staff will usually go after wheeled carry-ons first and leaves backpacks well alone! It weighs just under 1.8kg (or 3lbs 15oz), which is much heavier than the CabinMax Metz designed for low cost carriers, but a lot less than any wheeled carry-on which often weigh more than 4kg! It has a zipper to expand it from 45l to 54l, giving you some flexibility for purchases along your trip. With a price of $120 it’s pretty expensive for a backpack, but worth the price for its design and quality.
Design & Features: Where the Weekender really shines is the well thought out design and functionality of the bag. Most backpacks are top-loading, which makes it hard to get to your stuff without unpacking everything. The Weekender opens clamshell-style like a suitcase, giving you easy access to all your clothes and making it simple to get organized.
There are a thin divider, a meshed pocket and compression straps in the main compartment to assist with organizing without adding a lot of weight! One of the neat design details is the small, zippered snap-out pocket: You can store small items there, for example keys, cash or credit cards, get to it quickly and take it out to put it into a room safe on arrival. Another detail is the bright orange interior lining – sounds horrible, but is very practical, because it makes it much easier to see your things than the typical black interior!
If you are planning to travel with a single bag, having a large organizer with lots of small pockets is very helpful. The Weekender has pockets of varying sizes, with zippers so nothing gets lost. There are pockets for phones, pens, cards and on and on. While I prefer to only keep little in that front pocket, it is separated from the main compartment by thin material and can expand to a depth of 5 inches, giving you lots of flexibility, for example to stuff a sweater or rain jacket into the front pocket for easy access.
There is a separate laptop compartment close to your back with a sling. It is shielded by your body and the main compartment when carrying it and protected by the sling in case you drop the pack. The compartment doesn’t take up a lot of space or weight with foam cushion, without compromising protection, making it a much better design than most laptop backpacks!
Ever since security became a traveler’s nightmare, this small, zippered pocket on top of the bag became a godsend: You can put your metal items or liquids there quickly at the security check point and get them back just as fast. It doesn’t add weight or take away space if you don’t use it, as it is also separated by thin material from the front compartment. This is the type of well thought out flexibility of use that makes this pack special!
You also have a pocket for a water bottle and an ID card – both can hide away, in case you need to check the bag. The shoulder and waist belts to carry the Weekender as a backpack fold away into their own pocket – something I do when I have to check the bag or when I arrive at an expensive hotel: It looks a little cleaner and smarter than a backpack! There are four outside compression straps to tighten up your bag and keep it as small as possible. For safety, all the outside pockets have loops in the zipper pulls, so you can lock them separately – a feature I use on every trip regardless of the hotel I stay at!
Materials & Quality: Even though the Weekender is a light backpack, it’s made of 840D/900D twisted Polyester, which is a high-strength material found in a lot of more expensive brands. Most of the broken bags I’ve seen on my travels involved broken handles or zippers – the Weekender has solid handles and zippers that can take a lot of abuse! You can tuck away the backpack straps in their own pocket, giving you the option to check the pack without having to worry that it won’t survive the airport handling! Neither me (nor my friends who also bought this) have had any issues over years of using it – and it comes with a lifetime warranty, just in case.
What you can bring: The eBags TLS Weekender is big enough to store two weeks worth of clothes. I am able to pack 20 shirts (mix of buttoned long-/short-sleeved, polo & t-shirts), 4 pairs of long pants, 3 pairs of shorts, 15 pairs of socks & underwear, swimwear, sneakers, flip flops, toiletries. Check out my post Top 10 Tips to Pack Light to see how I did it!
Bottomline: Solid quality & materials, an ingenious design, the perfect size for a carry on – take all of this together and add a price of $120, and you have a great luggage with great value! The solid quality, hidden straps and expansion are helpful when you want to check it on occasion. If you are planning to go places a wheeled carry-on can’t go (a small boat to a romantic beach, cobble stone streets in Europe, safari in Africa,…) then the eBags Weekender should be on the top of your shopping list. I have recommended it to friends before and it has received plenty of enthusiastic reviews. You can find more details, photos and buy it on eBags website here! (and no, I don’t get a commission for recommending it, in case you are wondering!)
For flights on low-cost carriers with weight restrictions for carry-on, check out my review of the much lighter (but less solid and versatile) CabinMax Metz as an alternative!
If you are looking for a personal item to travel on Basic Economy fares in the US or on low-cost carriers like Wizz Air or Wow Air, read my review of the CabinZero 28L.