Backpack Review: Ebags Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible

brooke ebags backback crossing border into China

*Brooke wearing her red eBags backpack while crossing the border into China.

As a youngster, I used to shop for and choose my school backpack based on the number of compartments found inside. The more pockets, pouches, compartments, and zips running throughout the bag, the better it would be… no, the cooler it would be. Plus, I could just be super organized, storing specific items in special places and knowing in a pinch where to find them.

My love of compartments continued into the days of purse buying. I wanted multi-pocketed bags, secret pockets for secret stuff, pen slots and eventually a dedicated space for my cell phone.

Life just feels better when you have a well-made and well-organized bag, and – wouldn’t you believe it – I feel the same way about travel backpacks and luggage!

ebags motherlode TLS weekender convertible
eBags Motherlode TLS Weekender Convertible

When Ebags offered to let me review some of their travel gear on the Silk Roadistan tour, I was ecstatic to receive two of the Motherlode TLS Weekender Convertibles in the mail (one for me, and one for Patrick) because it lived up to my desire to have an organized piece of luggage.

ebags backpack packed up
My eBags Motherlode TLS Weekender Convertible packed up before taking off!

Let me just say this: It’s one well-made bag!

Every handle, zip, and separated space seems to have a purpose, and to share it all, I could probably write an essay. Instead, I’ll go through the top features, why I like it, what I don’t like it, and who I think the bag is perfect for.

Top Features:

Carry-on to RTW Capacity: The word “weekender” is in the name because the bag is ultimately made to work for long weekend trips and as a carry-on. However, unzip the expander and this bag reaches nearly 60 liters, which in my opinion is perfect for many RTW trips.

Backpack to Handbag: The bag has cushy backpack straps that easily unclip and zip inside the bag (great for checking – straps will not get caught). It can then be carried by a side handle, or by attaching a shoulder strap (also included). Whatever works best for you!

Open Interior or Compartmentalized Unit: The inside of the bag can be kept as one big open space (perfect for the largest of the ebags packing cubes), or you can snap the optional divider into place to give you two separate spaces.

See also the: popout water bottle holder, the mesh zippered interior, the easily lockable zips, the side-zip front grab-n-go pocket, the compression straps, and the dedicated laptop slot.

ebags backpack top compartment
The top compartment of my eBags Motherlode TLS Weekender Convertible.

Why I Like the Bag:

Even though my ultimate goal in life is to travel with nothing but a daypack, I honestly feel that this bag is the perfect size for just about any length of trip from long weekend to 3 months. When packing this bag, I made sure to not extend it, so that I would pack even just a little less and give myself the room to eventually extend it when I want to buy a heck of a lot of cool stuff on the road.

The compartments, the pockets, the durability of the fabric – they all combine to make it an easy bag to work with. I know where certain items go, if I should need them in a pinch, and I never have to worry about standing around the conveyer belt at baggage claim and getting a shock like my bag had ripped or exploded.

brooke wearing the bags backpack
Brooke wearing her red eBags backpack.

Why I Don’t Like the Bag:

There is pretty much one thing keeping this bag from being perfect: a decent hip-belt. I guess to have a decent hip-belt, one might also need a suspension system as well. But, seriously… there is an attachable strap that acts as a hip-belt, but the help from that is not enough in my opinion. If you happen to be walking around with a rather heavy bag on your back for more than 10 minutes, it is my experience that you start to feel it. At 20 minutes, you sort of start hating life.

Ok, perhaps a bit dramatic on my part.

I don’t have a heavy backpack – it weighs in consistently at around 11 kilograms (not including my daypack), so the fact that it gets so uncomfortable is a major downfall.

However, perhaps this bag was not meant for my style of travel…

ebags backpack zippered pouch
The eBags Motherlode TLS Weekender Convertible zippered pouch — great for maps and boarding passes.

Who the Bag is Perfect For:

With the issue of the hip-belt, I would not recommend this bag for a backpacker, or someone that plans to do a bit of walking from time to time with it on. Pat and I generally don’t walk long-distances with our bags on, but we also consider ourselves to be somewhat thrifty travelers at times (not quite a backpacker, but someone willing to forgo certain luxuries to save a few bucks).

However, if you are the type of person heading to one destination for a long weekend, or if you love taxis and never plan to be lugging luggage around on you for long periods of time, then the Ebags Motherlode TLS Weekender Convertible is something worth considering.

>> Purchase a eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible on Amazon

Updated March 2015: Brooke now feels this bag is too heavy and too big for most of her trips. If you’re going for lighter, then go smaller and with fewer bells and whistles (pockets and pouches) as they just add weight. And, there’s that whole thing about if you have a bigger bag, you’ll probably fill it.

>>Check out more female backpack reviews on Her Packing List.

Written by Brooke

Brooke Schoenman runs the show at Her Packing List. Inspired from years of travel experience, Brooke decided there needed to be a travel gear site focused on the needs of a wandering female.

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Gear We Use

Organization

Packing Cubes – Organize your luggage with the lightweight, durable and compressible Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Compression Cubes.


Backpacks + Daypacks

Pacsafe – Since they come with extra theft-resisting features, Pacsafe bags make you a more confident traveler. We especially love this bag.

Sea to Summit – Of all the Sea to Summit products, our most recommended is the fits-in-your-palm, super packable Ultra-Sil Daypack.


Personal Care

Nalgene Toiletry Bottles – These leak-free toiletry bottles and tubs come in all sizes – even super tiny, helping minimalists pack it all without bulk.

Turkish Towels – They’re thinner than most travel towels, and they actually cover your body! We can’t get enough of Turkish towels for travel.


Clothing

Speakeasy Supply Co. – They make the awesome hidden pocket infinity scarves that are perfect for stashing secret cash, lip balms, and passports.

Anatomie – Anatomie travel pants come with luxury prices, but they offer many benefits for travelers. See our review of the famous Skyler pants.

Travel Resources

Booking Airfare

Dollar Flight Club – Get flight deal alerts for your preferred departure airport. There is both a free and premium version (recommended for more sweet deals). Members save on average $500 USD per flight!

Skyscanner – Skyscanner is our preferred site for searching flights. They offer unbiased search results and are free from hidden fees. You can also book your hotels and rental cars.


Accommodation

Airbnb – Airbnb is the best place to book out apartments around the world. Sign up using this link to get $37 USD off your first stay booking + $14 USD towards an experience booking!

Booking.com – Search for hotels, hostels, and apartments using this one resource. Use it for flights, car rentals, and airport taxis as well.

Hostelworld – For hostels, Hostelworld remains our number one source for booking stays. Choose from straight up hostels, budget hotels and bed and breakfasts.

Trusted Housesitters – Save money on travel accommodation by becoming a housesitter. Housesitters often have extra duties, like caring for pets and gardens.

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. Megan E. says

    Good review, I have the older version of this bag and I’ve also used it all over. I disagree about the hip belt, I find (at least my bag) is good enough for walking as far as I needed – the bag does get a bit heavy feeling after the first 20 minutes, but it worked for walking around India for several hours.

  2. Adrianne says

    I LOVE this bag! I actually bought it because I saw your first review a while ago. I moved to Thailand in March and have used this bag so much. I carry gallons of water in it (instead of hurting my hands). I use it on weekend/week getaways. Also my parents sent me a huge box with 25 lbs worth of stuff in it that I couldn’t get on my motor bike. I literally opened the box at the post office, stuffed all the contents into my bag and was on my way. Perfect! It can be small or big and the zippers are so strong I have never had a problem with them. One of the things I love most about this bag is the ability to add locks to the zippers easily and effectively! They really thought of everything. The one thing I don’t like about the bag is the water bottle pouch is usually not big enough for the bottles of water that I carry around but there are plenty of other spots to stick my water!

  3. Ali says

    My thoughts exactly. I really love the bag, I’m a big fan of bags with lots of pockets and compartments, and I love just about everything about this bag. But I completely agree about the hip belt. I couldn’t even tell I had it on. But that’s about the only negative, and I definitely use this bag when I’m not planning on walking around with it too much.

  4. Sasha says

    I love my REI Overnighter but it doesn’t have a hipbelt (though the straps are pretty comfy). Try the new Osprey Farpoint 40!!! Lots of organization, awesome hipbelt, has a FRAME but only 2lbs, and it’s carryon sized! Just got mine, I’m obsessed. I think I’ve found the perfect bag.

  5. AnnieG says

    Seems like the one negative that consistently dogs this Ebag is its subpar hip belt. Hopefully Ebags will take heed of all the negative comments and add a more substantial one soon. In my opinion it would make the eBags Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible the ultimate travel pack for me.

  6. Gwen says

    I have used this bag in Europe and liked it very much as well.

    Beware–you can definitely over-pack it, especially with the expandable option!

    I see that eBags has a “junior” version now that is just slightly smaller. If I were to buy again, I think I would try that one.

    The hip belt did not bother me. Maybe it depends on your frame (where it hits you).

  7. Victoria Rosales says

    I love this bag. Used it for several week long trips as well as a month long trip. The backpack worked great for me but my walking was under 2 miles at a time. You can really fill this baby up so I also don’t expand it when packing it from home.

  8. Emily says

    I have this bag and I love the warranty, pockets and simplicity. I’m not a backpacker- I use this as a carry on and for vacations because it’s easier to get around the airport and to the hotel with it! Especially in Japan where you have a lot of stairs, few escalators and elevators are for people with special needs. When you’re not carrying it while you tour the city it’s a great bag!

  9. Dave says

    Brooke,

    Thanks for the review, i was wondering if you found a new bag with less pockets and lighter ?

    The more i travel the more I realize that too many packets are not as good as they appear. I like 1 large compartment with compression straps and 2 other compartments. My perfect bag no longer has a laptop compartment, i do everything on my phone. Seems like the perfect bag keeps on getting reinvented.

    Take care, thanks for the review it was very helpful,

    Dave

    • Brooke says

      Hi Dave, I like the Tom Bihn Smart Alec, but it doesn’t have compression straps. You might be interested in the Tortuga Air as well (a review will come in a few months after it is traveled with by one of our writers).

  10. Jenny says

    Just like to say I have this bag, the junior and Osprey Fairpoint 40L. I love all three. I do think the ebags are easier to pack and do look more professional compared to the Osprey. I gave up on the rollers when one of the wheels blew out and I had to drag it through the airport in Vancouver then mass transit since I refuse to use a taxi.one disadvantage I have to say is due to the professional look (can’t think a better word for thenon-backpack look) it was not possible to use it as a day bag as compared to the Osprey. I used the Osprey as a day pack to hold three people’s stuff/food for the day at the beach and a walk around town.

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