Troubadour Goods Ember Backpack Review
With style and a comfortable carry, the Troubadour Goods Ember Backpack transitions from work to weekend travel, though a back pocket is difficult to use.
- Plentiful organization for devices and small accessories
- Materials and design create sleek aesthetic
- Cushy harness system makes for comfortable carry
- Hard to get phone out of back pocket
- Front panel can cave in even when pack is full
- Larger computers rub against zipper when in sleeve
2.4 lb (1.1 kg)
17 in x 11.5 in x 4 in (43.2 x 29.2 x 10.2 cm)
Recycled Polyester, Vegan Leather, Neoprene, Duraflex Hardware, DWR Coating
Laptop Compartment Size
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It’s nice to have a bag to carry your daily essentials that can also function as a personal item bag for a weekend away. While plenty of travel daypacks match that description, they aren’t all sleek enough for the board room or a swanky hotel. Troubadour Goods calls out its Ember Backpack as an “everyday luxe for work and weekend” bag. While it certainly has a luxurious look with metallic and leather accents, a pretty package is only as good as its functionality.
The company says users shouldn’t sacrifice comfort and performance for a refined style, and the Ember Backpack includes a padded back panel for cushion and pockets for accessibility. Does it all work as Troubadour Goods intended? Let’s find out.
Materials on the 13L Troubadour Goods Ember Backpack include recycled polyester fabric and lining, and there’s also a vegan leather trim along the top and a portion of the bag’s front. The fabric is water resistant, so you won’t worry if you get stuck in a rain shower on your way to the museum or while walking home.
Since this backpack functions as a laptop bag or a daypack instead of a travel backpack, there are no compression straps or extra attachment points. It isn’t the style of bag that looks good with a bunch of small gear dangling off of it, though, so we don’t think you’ll miss it.
The unbranded zippers and the Troubadour brand name on the left side of the front are shiny metallic gold to stand out against the Black colorway we’re testing as a continuation of the stylish aesthetic. The same zippers and raised letters are gold on the Navy colorway, black on the Blackout colorway, and silver on the two-toned Khaki. The Troubadour brand name also pops up on the left shoulder strap and along the air channel on the back panel.
Our sample has a plain carry handle. However, online images show the brand name printed there, as well. There’s no way you’ll wonder what brand of bag you’re carrying with all these logos scattered around the bag, yet it’s not too much, and each instance is sleek and professional-looking.
There is a carry handle spanning the top of the Ember Backpack. The underside is neoprene for a non-slip grip, although your mileage may vary as to whether or not you appreciate the feel on your fingertips. However, it stays put when you hang the bag up, so the non-slip surface works as intended.
You can also slip the Ember Backpack over the handle of rolling luggage, thanks to the pass-through built into the back panel. It blends in so well you may not spot it at first, yet it’s there with an opening centered in the back and another below the back panel padding. It’s a nice inclusion, and its covertness means you’re unlikely to catch it on anything if you don’t need it.
Before moving on, let’s talk more about the back panel. It includes three panels of padding covered in a breathable mesh so tightly woven that it feels like Spandex athletic pants or a women’s swimsuit. In short, it’s smooth and soft, although it does attract a bit of lint and pet hair, which seems to work its way into the mesh instead of easily brushing off.
The top two panels run vertically. An inch-and-a-half wide air channel separates them to promote breathability and keep sweaty backs at bay. The third panel spans the bottom half of the bag; this is the portion that slips over a luggage handle when you want to cruise through the airport without carrying something extra on your back.
The top of the back panel has a secret, too. Look closely between the shoulder straps, and you’ll see that you can pull the back panel slightly less than 2 inches away from the backpack. There’s a 1.5-inch wide magnet here that, when unfastened, reveals a slender hidden pocket behind the back panel. Troubadour Goods shows its intended use as a phone pocket, which is about 5 inches wide and 8 inches deep. “Great!” you think. “I can fit a big phone here!” And you likely can since the pocket opening is about 4.75 inches wide.
The issue comes when you want to get your phone out again. Reaching in to retrieve your phone is more challenging than you may think it should be. Even users with small hands have a hard time wiggling them down into the pocket, and woe to the traveler with an iPhone Mini or a Galaxy Z Flip—that device will slide to the bottom of the pocket in transit, and it’s difficult to wrangle back out again. While this seems like it should be a quick-access area, it doesn’t work that way in daily use. You can also feel the phone between your shoulder blades if you’re rocking a super-thick case, like one with an attached wallet.
On the bright side, you can slip your passport here once you’re through TSA for added security. You’ll pull it out less frequently than your phone, so it’s a great spot to tuck it away.
Swinging the bag over your shoulder after making your way through security, you’ll realize that the same comfortable padding and mesh on the back panel is also on the ergonomically-curved shoulder straps, making the Troubadour Goods Ember Backpack uber comfortable to carry. You can adjust them to get the proper fit with Duraflex slides, and the extra strap connects with a plastic keeper to the webbing running from the end of the shoulder strap to a piece of fabric attached to the bag. While this means there’s still a little extra looped strap hanging around, it’s much less noticeable than a strap dangling from each side like twin tails.
That’s it for the harness system, although you can purchase an additional chest strap from Troubadour Goods if you like. Rails hidden under material on the shoulder straps allow you to find the perfect place for it. However, the additonal support is probably unnecessary unless you’re hauling heavy tech for miles every day.
No matter which colorway you choose, the Troubadour Goods Ember Backpack has a sleek and professional style. It doesn’t look out of place in chic metro areas, restaurants, museums, and offices, so it’s a backpack you may reach for in your daily commute and while traveling. Whether shiny zippers are your thing or you prefer a more matte and minimalist look, there’s an option to suit different styles.
As with the larger Troubadour Goods Pioneer Backpack, the fit is comfortable thanks to the similar padding on the back panel and shoulder straps. The Ember Backpack has a 13L capacity, compared with the Pioneer’s 23.5L, so the harness system is more than capable of handling the load.
At only 4 inches deep versus 6.3 inches for the Pioneer, the Ember is even easier to fit in tight places, whether a crowded subway or a German Beer Garden during Oktoberfest, since it protrudes less from your back. If you can spare the volume, it may be the Troubadour Goods backpack for you.
Inside The Pack
Diving into the Ember Backpack’s organization, two secondary compartments allow you to pack the bag as you like. We’ll start at the front, where a 7.5-inch horizontal zipper opens to a pocket about 8.5 inches deep. This open pocket is suitable for accessing small gear you want to get quickly, whether it’s your wallet, lip balm, hand sanitizer, or keys.
Also at the top of the pocket is a 5-inch black leash ending in a clip so you can pull your keys or other small gear up from the bottom. The clip swivels and opens with a lever, although the leash isn’t long enough to reach a door or your mailbox while the bag is still on your back.
A separate laptop compartment against the backpack’s rear opens with a single horseshoe zipper. This zipper (and all of the zippers on the Ember Backpack) has a long leather-like pull that’s easy to grasp, even with gloves, so it’s simple to slide out your device whether you’re at your desk or in transit. The back of this compartment features a “Troubadour | London” patch along a soft microfiber that runs into the laptop pocket.
Troubadour Goods says a 16-inch MacBook fits here. It’s a tight squeeze if you slide it into the padded laptop sleeve in the compartment, though, and the zipper rubs against the corners of the computer. A 13-inch MacBook fits perfectly in the dedicated sleeve, while the 16-inch device does better inside the general pocket area to gain a bit of head space. There’s an additional pocket on the front of the laptop sleeve, as well, that fits a tablet, Nintendo Switch, or e-reader. It also includes light padding to protect your device from what’s packed in the main compartment.
Another horseshoe zipper in front of the carry handle opens the main compartment. This one extends another 5 inches on each side so you can see three-quarters of this section simultaneously.
There’s quite a bit of organization here, so let’s review it. Against the front panel is an 8.5-by-7-inch zippered mesh pocket for small accessories like AirPods or small toiletries. On the opposite side is an assortment of slip pockets in various sizes, beginning with a large one spanning the width of the backpack. It’s 10 inches deep, so it’s a suitable space for notebooks, files, or pouches, although it’s also an excellent spot to slip your wireless keyboard.
Adjacent to this is a zippered pocket where you can store small tech accessories like USB hubs, dongles, and wall chargers if you don’t want to pack a separate tech pouch. Then, on the front of that pocket are two five-inch slip pockets and a pen slot. Finally, one more stretchy pocket at the bottom is the perfect size for a mouse. With all this organization, you can pick and choose what works well for you.
The Ember Backpack lacks a pocket for a travel water bottle, although since the rest of your daily carry may fit into all the various pockets, you can stash it in the remaining space provided you’re confident it’s leak-proof. While there isn’t much space unoccupied by gear organization, there is enough extra room to stash a packing cube and a packable travel jacket for a weekend getaway.
- Metallic gold accents are fancy
- Interested to see how rear phone pocket works in daily use
- Good organization for a personal item bag
- Pet hair holds tightly to fabric
- Pop your passport in the rear pocket
- A great size for everyday carry or a quick trip