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EDC with my Empire Builder

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    EDC with my Empire Builder

    So, as I mentioned, the EB is my new every-day-carry (EDC) bag. I don't mean that in the "survivalist" concept of EDC, though given my job it does include a few items for dealing with emergency situations (I'm an emergency manager and fire department captain).

    I actually don't have anything in the two zipper pockets on the front of the messenger flap. I prefer to keep these empty for stashing extra items when traveling or going to/from the office. I may come up with something to keep in these in the future, but I find myself falling prey to the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" phenomenon when it comes to pockets like this.

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    Front organizer pocket

    Under the front flap in the main organizer pocket, I have my iPad 2 and various other "quick access" items. The black portfolio-looking thing is the iPad case. I use this a lot for meeting notes and in lieu of hauling my laptop around. I went with a portfolio-type case so I can carry it around to meetings while protecting the iPad and not making it obvious to a passerby that it's anything more than a padfolio.

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    Another view of the organizer pocket

    This shows the organizer pocket with the iPad removed. The far left pocket contains an Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG, a fire service reference book) as well as a case with 4 AA batteries and 4 CR123 batteries. The next pocket is currently empty, so I can stash my cell phone and/or iPod in there while I'm at work or traveling. The pen pockets have a black and a red "embassy pen" from CountyComm with the appropriate colored ink (use the red for making notes on documents or grading when I teach training classes) plus a mechanical pencil and an eraser. The short pocket on the far right has a stack of my business cards.

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    Organizer pouches

    I have a mini padded organizer pouch clipped to the "back" O-ring and a small clear organizer pouch and a small regular organizer pouch clipped to the "front" O-ring. The padded organizer has my Verizon MiFi wireless broadband access device and the cord for it. The clear organizer has one of the TB microsuede cloths folded up inside it, and the solid organizer has a few more pens (Sharpies, dry erase, etc.)

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    Apple Bluetooth Keyboard

    The zippered pocket under the front flap holds my Apple bluetooth keyboard (for use with the iPad) in a Waterfield Slip Case. This pocket is just the perfect size for the keyboard.

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    Main compartment

    As you can see, I don't have a Brain Cell or even room for a laptop. That may change, but for now I'm experimenting with whether I can get by with just the iPad and not have to haul my laptop most of the time. From the back (top of the picture), I have a reference binder for work and a Waterfield iPod/iPhone Organizer which holds all the iPad accessories (charger/sync cable, SD card reader, USB port, VGA port). There's also a small Pelican flashlight which runs on 2 CR123 lithium batteries (hence the spares up front) clipped to the sidewall (the thin part where the foam padding ends).

    Next I have the file dividers. Right now they have papers I need to sort through, but I'll just put any files, travel documents, etc. I need in here.

    The grey pouch in the front left is a small Outdoor Research camping/travel organizer I use to hold my iGo travel charger pieces. This is an interchangeable tip travel charger with both 12V and 110V connections and I have tips for pretty much every electronic device I own, plus most of the other common cell phones (in case a co-worker needs it).

    The blue pouch is a TB medium organizer pouch with an iGo laptop charger (also the same interchangeable tip design). I have tips for my personal laptop, my work laptop, my netbook (mostly used during field disaster response work) and the Panasonic Toughbooks we have on our fire department vehicles. Even though I don't carry the laptops, I keep the charger with me just in case.

    There's also a thin black pouch (hard to see, between the medium organizer and the file dividers) which has some radio earpieces for my fire department radio and my radio pager (so I can monitor in meetings if needed).

    I've only been using this setup at work for a couple days since I was traveling last week and have only had the bag for less than 2 weeks, but so far it is working great for me. I really like the setup with most of my frequently-accessed items under the front flap and readily accessible. About the only thing I miss having from my old bag is someplace to stash a water bottle, but that's a small price to pay for such a great new bag.

    As I'm searching through the forums for photos to add to our Flickr photostream, I'm coming across great reviews like this one. So cool -- thanks, ChrisG.
    Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

    Current carry: testing new potential materials in the form of Original Large Shop Bags.


      Well, after having used the Empire Builder for a year and a half now, thought I'd add some updated thoughts.

      First off, the bag has held up great! Other than a few scuffs on the side-release buckle and the waterproof zippers, there are really no signs of wear anywhere else. I do carry this bag every day to/from work and have traveled with it several times as an airline carry-on (not to mention the train trip). I'm using it less for air travel though because I've found I prefer a backpack as a carry-on - borrowed my wife's Brain Bag for the last flight I took and serious considering getting a Smart Alec.

      The front zippered pockets work well when traveling. I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I only found the O-ring in the horizontal pocket a couple months ago when I saw a picture of it in use somewhere. I've now added a Key Strap to it and use it primarily for my keys when traveling, though I can stash my wallet in there too. I keep a couple cables in the vertical pocket.

      The front pocket is still setup pretty much the same as shown in the pictures above. I stopped carrying the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard daily because I found I rarely used it and currently the zippered pocket is completely empty. I was worried that the business cards would get worn in the semi-exposed pocket they're in, but that's not been the case the location near the side keeps them pretty well protected. I've changed the organizer pouches - now the iPad power supply (with the extension power cord) is in a medium pouch and the other iPad adapters (SD, HDMI, VGA, etc.) are in a small. Still have the clear one with the screen cloth in it too.

      The plastic file dividers in the main compartment do a very good job of protecting papers in the main compartment - usually I don't even bother with file folders. I've stopped carrying most of the pouches I showed in the main compartment. I don't use the iGo chargers very much anymore because I'm steadily becoming a Apple guy - iPhone 4S, iPad 2, and waiting for the arrival of a new 15 inch rMBP to replace my 6 year old Toshiba laptop. Yesterday I got a box from Seattle with my new Horizontal Brain Cell (for the rMBP) and a Freudian Slip. Still trying to decide what - if anything - I'll move from the front organizer to the FS. Will be figuring out how to incorporate the rMBP power supply and adapters into my current setup when it arrives. Between my wife and I, we have a couple spare TB pouches floating around and I also have a new Kit that I'm trying to decide what to do with.

      One thing I noticed is that the iPad fits perfectly in the Brain Cell's front mesh pocket (I changed from the portfolio case to a molded plastic back & Apple Smart Cover recently) and that may become it's new home. That way, I can just open the main compartment when I get to work and get both my laptop and iPad out. Since I plan on carrying the BC occasionally as a stand-alone, I got a shoulder strap for it and found that if it's shortened to the shortest length possible (with the shoulder pad), it can stay clipped on one side, pass under the BC and then the shoulder pad fits perfectly up the other side (that side's clip has to be unfastened though. This keeps the strap handy, but out of the way.

      The one feature I've not used is the zippered pass-through on the back pocket. Love the idea from past travels, but I've never had the Empire Builder and a rolling suitcase on the same trip so far.


        Great report. My Empire Builder is somewhere in transit from Seattle to my front door; it should arrive in a couple of days. I can't wait for it to take over the task of carrying my MBP and other "stuff" back between home and my office.


          Originally posted by GoBruins View Post
          Great report. My Empire Builder is somewhere in transit from Seattle to my front door; it should arrive in a couple of days. I can't wait for it to take over the task of carrying my MBP and other "stuff" back between home and my office.
          You'll love it. I've carried a few different bags over the years, from a traditional hard-sided briefcase to a Lands End brief and a few in between, and the EB has the best mix of big open space and organizer pockets I've found so far. The Lands End bag was mostly a big compartment with a couple minimal pockets up front and it was a little too plain for me. Others have had more slots and pockets, but when you start looking for stuff to fit a specific pocket, that's a problem too. The EB just seems to work all-around. And it's held up the best of any of them - the Lands End bag was tough, but it looked worn after a year and just wasn't professional enough for many settings.


            My EB arrived yesterday. I couldn't wait to load it up with the MBP and assorted cables, adapters, etc. Everything fits great and I still have room for the extra things I carry when my wife and I travel.