Google “travel backpack,” and one of the first results you’ll see is for the eBags TLS Mother Load Weekender. The bag comes in many different “versions,” from a full-size, junior, wheeled and more.
I bought the Convertible Junior, and this review would have been totally different if I had written it a month ago. The truth is, ever since I purchased this travel backpack last November, it’s been my go-to for quick road trips, as well as for flights.
There’s SO much to love about this bag, and I’ll certainly give it its due. However, there’s a BIG drawback that came to light recently and will force me to keep this beauty on the closet shelf for the foreseeable future.
Why I bought it:
As an unapologetic overpacker, I still refuse to check a bag on the way to my destination. I just don’t want to land somewhere without my essentials, and when you’re an overpacker, everything is essential.
With that, I try to pack everything into a roll-aboard suitcase and my personal item, which always pushes the limits of what will actually fit under the seat. On the way back, I’m fine checking a bag, as I have a closet full of clothes to come home to, and typically no specialty items (dry bag, swimwear, etc.) needed upon landing.
For my trip to Costa Rica last year, I was looking for a backpack that would serve a dual purpose: I wanted it to be small enough to fit under the seat in front of me on the way out, but expandable enough to hold all the cool souvenirs I knew I’d end up with (thereby becoming my bag in the overhead bin). Tall order, I know.
After much research, I bought the eBags Motherload Weekender Convertible Junior. When it arrived, I was a bit worried about it fitting under the seat in front of me, and with good reason: it was nearly the size of my roll-aboard suitcase. I knew I’d have to be careful to not pack too much in it, and I crossed my fingers that it would (a) get past the gate agents, and (b) actually fit under the seat in front of me. I achieved both on two outbound flights, but just barely.
What I LOVE about this bag:
Capacity and Organization: This bag is an overpacker’s dream. It can cinch down fairly small (though note the size notes below), but it will also hold as much as my roll-aboard suitcase. That’s a ton of stuff, which stays neatly organized thanks to numerous pockets, dividers and more.
Color: I do NOT do black/boring bags. They’re hard to spot if you have to check them, and well, I just like to live out loud in general. I purchased the “Tropical Turquoise” one, which has a super fun orange lining (making finding stuff in it a breeze). It’s honestly hard to find travel bags with personality, so I give eBags big props on the color front.
Sturdiness: I stress the hell out of my bags—taking them to the absolute brink of bursting open. Not once was I ever concerned that this bag would tear or that the zipper would fail. It’s sturdy and feels very well made.
What I DON’T love about this bag:
Water Bottle Pocket: Admittedly, this *is* a small thing, but it’s still a thing. The water bottle holder comes out from a little zipped pocket, and it’s so flimsy. Because it’s only attached at single seam, it doesn’t do a good job actually holding a normal sized water bottle. I grabbed an extra carabiner and found a way to clip the top of the bottle in so it wouldn’t fall out, but this was a big drawback overall.
Size: I really wanted this bag to be a couple of inches shorter height-wise so it would fit more easily under the seat in front of me. I made it fit, barely half packed, by cinching down the straps and shoving it underneath the seat. That made it more difficult to get into when I needed to grab my laptop. And while it definitely had the capacity to expand to fit all of my souvenirs, which were many. But this is where it gets tricky, leading to my next point…
Support: The bag is amazing and sturdy and spacious—especially if you pack it full. I was AMAZED at how much I could fit into it, until I had to pick it up. Precisely because it holds so much, it gets heavy, and quickly. With only two (admittedly plush) backpack straps and a measly little chest strap that literally does nothing, there’s simply no way to shift which part of your body is supporting the bag. (It does come with a long strap, but that’s even worse for heavy bags.) I ended up having my travel buddy carry my backpack, while I wore his bigger, but better designed, 55L hiking pack that engaged my entire torso to carry the weight.
Unfortunately, I threw out my back about a month ago by lifting a few too many things in a row that were too heavy (including this bag packed full after a road trip). I’m 37 and in decent shape, but I’m going to have to be cautious about what I carry for quite some time. And with no additional support in the carry position, this bag is simply out for me.
The Final Word
So would I recommend it? That depends. If you have either the strength to carry it fully loaded, OR if you plan to stack it on top of a rolling suitcase, then yes. I absolutely recommend it.
As for me and my back, I’m currently searching for hiking packs that will serve the same purpose but provide more support.