Black Ember Kompak Review
The Black Ember Kompak is minimalistic and well-organized, though the strap can get in the way and feels less quality than the rest of this well-constructed cross-body.
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- Ample organization so every piece of gear has a home
- Durable materials ensure gear is safe and dry
- Can charge your phone while still having quick access to it
- Strap can get in the way when not in use
- Oversized gear struggles to fit
- Top handle can get in the way of compartment access
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0.75 lb (0.3 kg)
9 in x 6.5 in x 5 in (22.9 x 16.5 x 12.7 cm)
CORDURA®, YKK Zippers, Hypalon®, Aluminum
The Black Ember Kompak is black, compact, and offers a ton of internal organization. We’re curious whether the organization is overkill or whether it will help us keep our everyday carry items in check. The exterior looks professional, minimalistic, and organized, though if it can’t correctly stow the gear we use most often, what’s all that worth? Without further ado, let’s dive in!
The cross-body bag is 5 liters and crafted from CORDURA® RE/COR™ RN66. To put that more simply, it’s crafted from a recycled CORDURA nylon fabric. The material is extraordinarily durable (come on, it’s CORDURA) and also scores well in water resistance. Plus, since the materials are recycled, they’re better for the environment and more sustainable. Who isn’t up for that?
This pack only comes in black. It’s from Black Ember, so that isn’t terribly shocking. If you’re a fan of vibrant colors, you should either look elsewhere or ensure that everything you’re wearing is super duper saturated because you won’t get any color here. Black, black, and more black!
All of the zippers on this pack are from YKK, and the external models have AquaGuard finishes on their tracks. They’re a little harder to open because of this, but the extra water resistance makes it worth it, in our opinion.
The pulls are crafted from Hypalon and have an extra security feature. There are two zippers on the main compartment, and each pull has a small hole. You can loop the top of one into the hole of the other to attach them together. Then, there are two small Hypalon tabs with holes near the zipper track’s start and end. You can loop the end of the now conjoined pulls through that to add even more security. This isn’t as secure as a lock, but it’s a great deterrent.
Speaking of Hypalon, there’s a lot of it on this pack. Both places where the strap and handle attach to the pack are reinforced with it, and a ton of accents utilize Hypalon. This offers durability in the long run, as it’s a highly quality-made material.
A top handle on the upper portion of the cross-body makes it easy to grab onto when the strap isn’t attached. The handle connects to the pack with two aluminum hooks, so you can remove it if you don’t want to use it.
The strap attaches using two of those same aluminum clips. They’re durable and relatively easy to manipulate but can get caught on the structured nature of the Hypalon. This isn’t the biggest deal, so long as you aren’t constantly attaching and removing the strap.
As we mentioned earlier, the strap is removable. It is easy to adjust and stays put once you’ve got it in a position you’re happy with. A padded section of the strap adds comfort, but it doesn’t feel like it’s as high of quality as the rest of the pack because of a few key features. When not in use, the padded section is so structured that it tries to pop flat again, which gets in the way of accessing the pack if you set it on a flat surface like a table or desk. It also folds awkwardly if enough weight is inside the pack. It’s comfortable for the most part but can sometimes get in the way.
The back panel of the Kompak doesn’t have any padding or aeration, just CORDURA® RE/COR™ RN66. The materials have enough structure to stop items from poking you while you’re wearing the pack. The back pocket is well suited for a tablet or other flat things, which become the structure of the back panel. If you place something non-flat here, you can feel it more. However, that isn’t (most likely) where you’d place non-flat items. We won’t be mad if you do, though.
You can wear this pack in three different ways—all of which stem from the same carry method. Front carry feels the most natural, but you can also wear it on your side or back. If the pack is overly stuffed, the strap starts to dig in, but for the most part, it’s comfortable.
Inside The Crossbody
There are two secondary compartments on the Kompak. The first is a front slide pocket with a flap that secures down with two magnets. This is an excellent place to store your phone for two reasons. The first is that most phones slide in nicely. There’s even enough room to stow larger and plus-sized phones, too. The second reason is that the back wall of the pocket has a window crafted from Hypalon. The port transitions into the main compartment so you can feed a charging cable. Stow a battery bank inside the main compartment and charge your phone in the front magnetic pocket.
The next secondary compartment is on the back side of the pack. It’s secured by a YKK zipper and is the same height as the bag’s footprint. There’s a stretchy mesh pocket on both sides. The one on the interior side is a good place for an iPad Mini or Kindle, and the one on the back side works well for a notebook or other flat item. Whatever you stow inside this pocket becomes the back panel, so flat things are more comfortable to wear. This is also an excellent spot to slide your passport because it’s always closest to you.
Moving into the main compartment, there’s a ton going on.
It opens like a clamshell, so there’s a ton of access to the organization on both sides of the pack. Both sides have internal organization that lays somewhat flat, but the right side has additional depth on the sides, so you can stow extra gear on top if you wish. Think of the design like a lunch box, if that helps.
The left side has a large liner pocket that spans the entire surface area of the pack. This is where the window to the magnetic secondary pocket is, so it’s a solid place to stow a battery bank. You can leave it in this pocket while it’s charging your phone or for safekeeping—so it doesn’t need a vacation home.
There’s another liner pocket on top of that one that spans roughly three-fourths of the pack surface area. This is an excellent place to stow cables for the battery bank and other more oversized daily-use items.
Below that are two smaller liner pockets. The one on the right is thinner for pens or a stylus, and the one on the right is larger and has a key clip. It’s magnetic, so you can pop it off at a moment’s notice to open the door to your hotel or Airbnb, and it integrates with other Black Ember products so you can transition from using one to the other seamlessly. If you don’t want to use the key ring, you can just remove the magnetic attachment. The top portion is still there, though. This is a good spot to stow your wallet without the key ring in place.
Moving to the clamshell organizer’s other side, we’ve got more liner pockets and Hypalon. There’s a zippered compartment that sits behind the rest of the organization. This is an excellent place to secure important documents or your passport because it’s the hardest-to-access compartment.
To the left of the zipper for that compartment are two liner pockets with diagonal access points. The lower one is great for stowing a small notebook. The taller one isn’t as deep, so a smaller notebook works well here, or you can keep your wallet or other travel documents here.
At the bottom of this section, we have a large chunk of Hypalon that works as a built-in wallet. It’s basic—just a single card slot, but it works well. You can stow cards here and a few bills of cash, too. In theory, because of this inclusion, it’s easy to ditch your wallet entirely while using this pack. Even if you plan to keep your wallet intact, having a place to stow more critical or less used cards and cash is nice.
In addition to a ton of organization, you can stack gear in this section because of the depth offered by the sides. How much you can stow inside depends on how much gear you have inside the liner pockets and organizers. If you don’t have a ton of gear inside, you may be able to stow a water bottle or compact camera—if you do have a ton stowed inside, you might only be able to fit a small book. Either way, the extra space is appreciated and enables you to leave a daypack behind on shorter trips.
Overall, we’re amped with how much gear we can load inside the Kompak and how well the organization handles different assortments of gear. The strap is a little bit of a letdown, but at the end of the day, everything is still comfortable.
- Ample internal organization, so everything has a home
- Hypalon pulls paired with YKK zippers make for a smooth and durable closure system
- Strap doesn’t feel comfortable or durable from initial testing
- Materials have held up, but pick up pet hair and dust
- Strap can get in the way when not in use
- Internal organization is thoughtfully designed and easy to use
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