A few weeks before Andy and I left for our trip to Turkey, I was asked to review the Mother Lode TLS Weekender Convertible, a suitcase/backpack from eBags, and some of their slim packing cubes. Since I seem to have an obsession with luggage, I thought this was perfect. And even though it’s called a weekender, I thought I’d really test it out by taking it on our two week trip to Turkey followed by a long weekend in Italy for the TBU travel blogging conference.

The Weekender Bag: Pros

The first thing I noticed about the bag was how many pockets it has. I love pockets! I always have a bunch of smaller items that are easier to store in a small pocket. This allowed me to put clothes in the main compartment, and then I could put things like my phone cord, camera battery charger, small notebook, brush, and laptop cord in the smaller pockets. It also has one of those handy little hooks for your keys so you don’t forget where you put them at the end of a trip. There are four compression straps on the outside, and each major outside zipper has loops for luggage locks.

The feature I was most excited about was the separate sleeve designed specifically for a laptop. It even has a strap to hold it in place inside of the pocket. I was too lazy most days to strap it in and my laptop was still just as secure. I loved not struggling to fit my laptop in with a bunch of other stuff.

The main compartment of the bag has a little divider in the middle, which was convenient for separating my clothes from Andy’s. About halfway through the trip, Andy ended up having all of his clothes in his bag, so I was able to unclip the divider and lay it flat. Nice to have if you want to be super organized or if you have two people’s things in the bag and want to keep them separate, but easy to move if you don’t want to use it.

I really like backpacks as opposed to wheeled bags because I think they give you a lot more freedom. You still have both hands free while walking around with your luggage, there’s less chance of knocking into someone with your bag, and they’re easier to handle on stairs or cobbled streets. But this bag was shaped and structured like a suitcase while still being a backpack. That meant I was able to find what I was looking for much easier than with a normal backpack. It also meant eBags didn’t waste an inch of carry-on restricted space.

The bag’s measurements (22″ x 14″ x 9″) fit most airlines’ carry-on restrictions, yet it’s around 54 liters, almost 60 liters when fully expanded! When I saw this on the tag, I thought there was no way I’d be able to take it as a carry-on, but after checking in for four flights on Turkish Airlines, no one questioned me and it fit in the overhead with no problems.

The backpack straps were comfortable and easy to adjust. The bag has a zipped panel on the back so you can hide the straps, which is perfect if you’re flying and want to check the bag. Hanging straps can get caught on any number of things in the bag’s journey from the check-in counter to the airplane and back to you, so I thought this was a great feature. (I did have to check my bag on our German Wings flight from Rome to Stuttgart because my friend Katie brought me a jar of peanut butter, which is considered a liquid.)

The bag came with a detachable padded shoulder strap. I didn’t use it because the bag was too heavy to carry around with just a shoulder strap, but if you are really using this bag as a weekender and only have two or three days of stuff in it, the shoulder strap would probably work just fine. The bag also came with a small pouch that snaps into the main compartment, perfect for toiletries.

The Weekender Bag: Cons

It also came with a detachable waist strap. I didn’t like it because it was just a simple nylon strap. It didn’t have any padding or offer any real support. A full bag can get heavy if you have to walk around with it a lot, and a good waist strap helps distribute the weight of the bag so it’s not all on your shoulders. But on trips where I’m not walking long distances to get to the hotel, or if I really only packed for a few days, it wouldn’t bother me.

I also wished it had a rain cover. Andy and I got caught in the rain several times with our bags, and since my laptop was in my weekender, I was a little worried about it getting wet. But the material is fairly thick and my laptop was fine. Having an umbrella helped ease my paranoia, but a rain cover would’ve been a nice bonus.

The Slim Packing Cubes: Pros

I had never used packing cubes before so I was a little hesitant. I’m the type to shove things into whatever little corners are left in my backpack, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the orderly nature of the cubes. But I loved them! There were three different sizes, so we ended up fitting 10 pairs of Andy’s underwear in the large one and 13 pairs of my underwear in the medium one. In the small cube I put my make-up, some medicine, and other miscellaneous non-liquid bathroom items. All three cubes fit perfectly into the outside pocket of the bag. It was a good way to keep clean underwear separate from dirty underwear, and we could easily assess how long we had until we needed to do laundry. (Yes we did laundry on our honeymoon.)

The Slim Packing Cubes: Cons

None! I really liked these, no negatives to report.

Really long weekend

So how much was I able to fit in this so-called weekender bag? A lot more than you’d ever need for just a weekend! Here’s what went in the bag at the beginning of the trip, before things got shuffled back and forth between my bag and Andy’s:

19 T-shirts
4 long-sleeved T-shirts
2 pairs of pants
2 bathing suits
13 pairs of socks
10 pairs of Andy’s underwear in the large cube
13 pairs of my underwear in the medium cube
1 bra
small cube with miscellaneous items in it
2 liquids bags
hair brush
small notebook
laptop and its cord
external hard drive
camera battery charger
2 phone chargers

All this when it was not fully expanded, and there was still a little wiggle room. Overall, I love this bag!


The bag and packing cubes were complimentary, but all opinions are my own.

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27 comments on “Review: eBags Mother Lode Weekender and Slim Packing Cubes

  1. Amy

    That bag looks awesome! I would have never suspected it could hold as much as you listed went into it!

    1. Ali Post author

      I know, right? And it would’ve held more if I had it fully expanded!

  2. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    When I was researching bags my husband and I to use on our upcoming RTW trip, I looked at this one because I really wanted a smallish bag that I could use as carry-on when we fly. I am really impressed with it’s capacity, but I think that the fact that it doesn’t have good waist straps would bug me. I also noticed from your pictures that it doesn’t have a ventilated/ergonomic back… I tried on an Osprey Porter that had a similar design and after about 20 minutes, my back was drenched in sweat! So I concluded that “duffel style” backpacks just aren’t for me, because I’m sure we’ll be doing a fair deal of walking.

    We’ll definitely be using packing cubes on our trip though! We decided to go with 40L bags (eep!) so every inch of space counts!

    1. Ali Post author

      I don’t think I’d like this for a long term RTW trip because of the waist strap, I agree with you there. And you’re right, it doesn’t have a ventilated back. I sweat so much anyway, that even the backpacks I have that are ventilated don’t seem to make a difference for me, so I didn’t even think of that. This bag probably isn’t ideal for the type of trip where you’ll do lots of walking and changing locations often, but good for taking a lot of stuff to one or two places. Thanks for your thoughts!

  3. Andrea

    What an awesome product! I usually use plastic bags for packing “cubes” so those would certainly be a step up =) Always good when you can take a bag onboard.

    1. Ali Post author

      Ha! I’ve done plastic bags before, I think these are a step up! I was shocked this bag worked as carry-on considering how much it carries, but the measurements fit most carry-on standards.

  4. Kieu ~ GQ trippin

    Omigod Ali.. I have the exact same bag! And packing cubes. Lol. Mines black, been using it for 4 months now. Love the size, but I too hate the waist strap. I can’t breathe with it on. But other than that, it’s been real good to me so far. Great review! 🙂

    1. Ali Post author

      Awesome, thanks Kieu!! Yeah, that waist strap is kinda crap, but other than that I think it’s a pretty awesome bag. Glad you like it!

  5. Heather

    Oh my gosh, I want one! I like to get away with a carry on if I can, but I usually check a suitcase that’s just an inch or two over carry-on size. This would have been perfect for the trip I’m on right now (visiting Gavin for a month in London). Thanks for sharing!

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Heather! If I had it fully expanded, I don’t think I could get away with it as a carry-on bag, but it worked pretty well for 18 days considering we did a load of laundry in the middle.

  6. Courtney


    I am going to be traveling around europe for 12 weeks. Would this bag work as a carry-on/day bag for my trip??

    Also, is the laptop sleeve padded at all?

    Thanks- Courtney

    1. Ali Post author

      Hi Courtney! The laptop sleeve is on the back, so when you’re wearing it as a backpack it’s the part right on your back. The outside layer of the bag is pretty thick, so I felt perfectly safe putting my laptop in there and placing the bag in the overhead compartment with the laptop on the bottom. That said, I still wouldn’t just throw the bag around. There is a triangular piece of material inside the sleeve that has a clip on it so you can clip your laptop in and it won’t slide around in there, but I usually didn’t clip mine in and it was just fine.

      I had no problem taking the bag as carry-on on Turkish Airlines. The bag measures 22inches x 14inches x 9inches, which is roughly carry-on size for most airlines, but make sure you check. If you know what airlines you’re likely to fly on, check out the baggage section of their websites, and remember that European airlines will list it in centimeters.

      I wouldn’t bring this as a carry-on/day bag in addition to a larger bag, I think that would be overkill. If you’re traveling for 12 weeks, you’ll have to do laundry no matter what, so your best bet is to pack enough clothes for a week to 10 days and be willing to wear the same t-shirt 2 or 3 times before you wash it. This bag would work as your main bag but probably too big as a daypack.

      I hope this helps, let me know if you have any questions!

  7. Clay

    Thanks for the review very thourough and helpfull. I ended up getting one from the ebags.com website 20% off AND free shipping for purchases of 99.00 or more total cost 79.00 seems like a good deal. I will be using it in the Cinque Terre Italy and Scottland for the most part . Not to worried about the waist strap if I was “backpacking” probably would get a more backpack design anyway should be fine for trains, planes and automobiles ~ Cheers

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Clay, I’m so glad the review was helpful! And the discount and free shipping sounds like a great deal! I really love the bag, how much it holds, and the fact that it still works as a carry-on. Have a great trip!

  8. Alex Dodd

    Would quite like to be able to buy this myself in the UK! Looking at a Red Oxx, MEI Executive Overnighter etc… But this would be a cheap great alternative to see if I can live with a one bag philosophy!

    1. Ali Post author

      I think you could definitely do one bag with this one! I can’t believe how much stuff we were able to fit in it. Give it a try, I hope you enjoy it!

      1. Alex Dodd

        Yeah, but it literally isn’t available in the UK 🙁 I can pay for Int. delivery but it’s almost as much as the bag itself!

        1. Ali Post author

          Ah, ok I didn’t realize that. Yeah, paying for the shipping really isn’t worth it! But hopefully you can find something similar in the UK.

  9. Brenda H

    I”ve had this bag for a few years now and LOVE it! Have abused it horribly in southeast Asia,Nepal, India, South America and other places. Lived out of it for up to two months at a time. Yes, agree the waist strap is not good, but at least it does have one – not all do – and I do use it.

    1. Ali Post author

      That’s awesome Brenda! I’m so glad you like the bag and it’s done well for you. I’m not a fan of the waste strap, so I don’t even use it, but other than that, I think it’s a great bag.

      1. Brenda H

        Yes, agree. I only use the waist strap if walking long distances, otherwise don’t bother.

  10. Pingback: How to Pick Carry-on Only Luggage

  11. Mariah Dan

    I had to buy this item from USA cos we don’t have them retail in Australia. Have given it a good workout in the last week. It suited my Eagle Creek packing cubes perfectly and was easy to use with either the shoulder strap or the backpack set up. Was a little heavier item (on its own) than I was expecting initially but after hauling it around on a road trip was easy luggage and a pleasure to use.
    Easily holds more than a weeks worth of stuff and look forward to using it in the future, including carry-on air travel.

  12. Amanda

    Love this bag..it’s my go to for travel, school or work! Have you tried taking the padding detachable padded shoulder strap and putting it on the waist belt for padding if you’re not using the shoulder strap? – works like a charm! 🙂

    1. Ali Post author

      Thanks Amanda, no I haven’t tried using the shoulder strap as a waist strap, but I might have to give it a try next time I use the bag!

  13. Michael

    Packing cubes are great but if you are thinking about getting them, from my experience traveling for 1 year around the world, buy the cubes that have 2 compartments to keep your clean and dirty clothes separated when traveling. Otherwise your dirty clothes will be compressed with your clean ones. I use this dual sided cube cube set from Amazon and I highly recommend it. http://amzn.to/1UwdC28

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