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Deciding between Empire Builder and Super Ego

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    Deciding between Empire Builder and Super Ego

    In March I purchased my first Tom Bihn bag, a Brain Bag with a vertical brain cell and freudian slip. I love it, just a terrific bag. I had a bit of a walk to get to my office, including going down a steep hill and up a few flights of stairs. The backpack configuration was MUCH more comfortable than a briefcase slung over one shoulder, but I found myself missing the horizontal organizational structure of a briefcase-style bag. But in that usage scenario, the comfort of the carry far outweighed the organizational preference.

    But now we've moved our clinic and it's just a very short simple walk from my car to my office, and I'd like to go back to a horizontal orientation. I'll keep the Brain Bag and for anything like airport travel where I need to haul a laptop through a terminal, there's no question that will be my bag of choice.

    So I snagged a Super Ego via eBay and put a horizontal brain cell and freudian slip in it and used it for a week or so. Also ordered a new Empire Builder. Figured one of these items would be my selection. I'm typically carrying a 15" macbook pro, about 5-6 different files, and a bunch of misc stuff organized in a few different pouches. I still haven't made up my mind which I like better, but here are some random thoughts comparing the two bags, things I like or dislike about each.

    I love the way the structure of the EB makes it easier to stand it up. The SE is just a bit floppier of a bag.

    I like the clean look of the EB. The SE seems designed to allow one quick access to a bunch of things without having to open the bag up. It's got the water bottle holders on each end, these little neoprene sleeves that I can't figure out what they'd be used for, etc... Gives the bag enhanced messenger functionality but creates in my mind a sloppier appearance.

    I prefer the attachment points for the strap on the SE. One concern I had about the EB was the attachment on the front, being in the way of the front flap. I don't think that's a deal breaker, but I wish it were located elsewhere.

    I prefer the attachment style of the EB. I have absolute straps on both, but I don't *get* the SE attachment. Why is it different than, for example, on the Tri Star or EB? Instead of just hooking into place, it's a strap thing, which means switching shoulders for carrying the bag is going to entail significant hassle.

    The EB is o-ring deficient. Seriously, why are there so few o rings on the EB? This makes no sense to me. There are 3 pockets on the front panel of the bag, and in those 3 pockets there is a grand total of 0 o-rings. Why? All 3 pockets would seem to lend themselves beautifully to such functionality. Then the main compartment has none, and the two compartments under the flap have only 1 each.

    From a styling perspective, I like the cleaner look of the EB. I'm not a fan of the strip on the SE and Ego.

    Like most things in life, this decision will be one of tradeoffs. I'm leaning towards the EB, but wish it had more o-rings and different strap attachment points. The SE is a nice bag, but probably a bit larger than I need. I very rarely carry around power cords, etc.... I'd consider the Ego, but presently it appears to be available only in all black, and I want some color in this bag. The EB is the black/navy/wasabi, which I really like.

    One color request: there is one color I've never seen in a Tom Bihn bag that I would love, and that is orange. Would love to see that color make an appearance in the TB palette at some point.

    Anyway, both the EB and the SE are terrific bags. I'm not even mentioning things like construction because that goes without saying. They're TB bags. Will play around with them a bit more before making my decision.

    I am trying to understand what you mean about switching shoulders involving any hassle at all on either bag?
    I switch all the time,literally every 5 minutes maybe when carrying a heavy bag and I merely switch,am I missing something?

    Also if you already have both bags then what is the question really?

    I also have both and they are both great but I just use them each for different things as needed,are you thinking of getting rid of one?

    If I need my 17" MBP then the call is always the SE because the EB is not really big enough. If I will want to make sure I can carry water outside the bag,same call as the EB has no obvious provision for water carrying.

    If I need a more professional look and the added structure of the EB then I use it as it does convey a little more of a conservative feel compared to my 2 tone SE.

    I switched the factory strap on my SE for an Absolute Strap and it has become my most hated piece of gear that I can remember for it.
    I seem to be the only one to ever have the problem I have but the strap will simply not stay on the bag at all. It is too short to use with the locking slide deals that I think must insure it will stay on and without them the strap just slides off the bag all the time.
    The factory strap and pad were equally annoying as the pad would constantly flip over and let the strap cut into my shoulder which is why I tried switching straps.

    In fact I was on the road last week and wanted to take the SE with me but did not because of the strap issue I am having.

    Otherwise I really like the SE though it is HUGE and really heavy when loaded up but I am always astounded by what I am able to get in there!

    I also equally love the EB and the more square opening of the main compartment often is an advantage depending on the load.

    Keep both it is the best of both worlds.



      Yeah, only keeping one. Don't need both. I'll either keep the SE and return the EB within its 30 day period, or keep the EB and put the SE back up on ebay or craigslist and try to get back what I paid for it (which is likely). Don't see myself switching between them, ever.

      and re the strap issue, yeah, you're right. Not sure what I was thinking there. I do wish, though, the SE and the same strap connectors as the EB. The Absolute Strap is configured in a gentle arc, and I'm assuming that for optimum stability the arc should be oriented TOWARDS the wearer's body and not away from it, but I'd like to play with both angles to see which is more comfortable and stable. Easy to switch the EB around, a lot more hassle with the SE.