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A week with the eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender Jr.

Several of us took advantage of the eBags clearance sale at the start of the first summer under covid and gave initial impressions and reviews after taking short trips using their new purchases
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/packing/july-4th-sale-at-ebags
but it wasn't until now that I could really put my Weekender Jr through its paces -- I'm back from a 7-night trip, and it worked out very well as an alternative carry-on to the RS convertible.

The Weekender Jr. expanded is about the same capacity as the RS Convertible unexpanded, with the major differences being that the Weekender is hinged like a book and the RS opens from the top. I like the RS and have used it for a few years, but it's often bigger than I need as a light packer, and the Weekender proved to be a better fit - the Jr. size is an inch or two shorter and rests on my back easier. Both bags have internal and external cinch straps; the Weekender has another grab handle at the bottom front, and an eyebrow or cap pouch instead of the belly pouch that marks RS luggage, plus a slash zipper pocket on the front. The laptop compartment has a divider and sits against your back, while in the RS convertible the compartment is away from your back, which I find unbalanced (that compartment was probably originally intended for a jacket, though, not a laptop, and it works for that).

Outbound I used a large folder, a small cube, a cables/chargers pouch, a shoebag to hold sandals, and the RS civita shoulder bag inside the main compartment and the zippered mesh inside-the-lid area, with an iPad and backup paperwork in the laptop compartment. On the way back I used the civita as my personal item and had the laptop compartment stuffed with museum exhibition catalogs that I got for souvenirs/coffee-table books. If I was packing for longer than a week I would probably use a medium cube instead of a small, and add a sweater or jacket in addition to the one I wore on the plane.

The extra height of the RS convertible means I can stuff both a sack lunch and a hat in the top; with the Jr. I could only fit the hat. The RS has a waist belt while the Weekender has a sternum strap; I prefer the sternum strap (watch for squishing whatever is in your shirt pocket, though!)

The Weekender Jr. did not fit into the overhead compartment of a Bombardier jet - I'm forgetting the model number -- on first try at least so I put it in a locker at the forward part of the cabin. As with the RS convertible no gatekeeper or other staff ever looked sideways at the bag as not a legit carryon size, especially considering the behemoths that we all see people tugging and rolling on to planes nowadays. Overall I would say that going forward this eBags is going to be my go-to choice for travel, with the RS convertible carryon now held in reserve for occasions that call for bulkier clothes or an extra suit. And unexpanded it will serve for trips that only require one change of clothes.

I am a little confused. Ebags has several different travel backpacks: pro-weekender, pro slim weekender, mother lode, and mother lode jr.. Which bag do you have? Is your model now discontinued?

Posted by
5697 posts

Thanks for the review, Avi. I took my new Weekender Jr. aboard Amtrak for a 3-night trip to Reno and it held everything except our lunch-for-2 bag. Most likely will use my RS Euro tote on the handle of a 22" roller bag for an upcoming 1-month winter trip (sweaters get bulky!)

Posted by
4341 posts

I appreciate that you posted a review of the Mother Lode Jr. backpack and your likes and dislikes compared to your RS bag.

I also couldn’t pass up the sale on the same bag about a year ago. I’ve used it for domestic vacation trips for a long weekend and also for a week visiting family. I also like that it opens like a book, and the top spot where you stashed a hat is where I place my TSA liquids ziploc bag.

I really wish the padded laptop slot had removable padding because I don’t bring anything larger than an ipad and always want to minimize carrying extra bulk for no reason.

My regular international carry-on is the Eddie Bauer Expedition with wheels, and it’s still what I would take to Europe for my 3-week trips. But this Mother Lode Jr is great for the reasons you mentioned for domestic trips.

Posted by
1630 posts

Chiming in on this topic since I have both the Mother Lode and Mother Lode Junior models from eBags. The larger size has been on 7 international trips and worked great, though it is a little long for me (I am petite). I used the junior version on a 6 day trip to Iceland and it is also a good option, though it was packed very full (winter clothes). For those that don't want to use the laptop compartment for its intended purpose, it is easy to make more space by removing the internal sleeve holder using a sewing seam ripper. I use that long flat space for a jacket, paperwork, or anything else that can fold flat. I also use the pack flat toiletries kit from eBags and it fits perfectly in the larger outside pocket of either version. My only nitpick with the bags are the plastic clips for the backpack straps are not very sturdy. I had one pop open in an airport when I had a very full load. Easily fixed with a carabiner (yes I pack those) and now I just use them from the start for peace of mind. I plan to use these as my carry on bags until my back/shoulders no longer agree with backpack usage.

Posted by
1837 posts

It's been mentioned in the forum before that there were slight differences/changes in different production runs, not just in the naming. I notice that the navy blue version that Myra and I bought summer before last is not listed now. But this is always true-- my RS civita shoulder bag is in the now rare 'camel' color. Maybe one day it will be considered a collectible .. /s

Hi Avirosemail,
That’s the problem with ever changing merchandise. I have an old Ebags bag that I really like, but don’t bother mentioning. It was on clearance when I bought it and seems to be permanently on the extinction list. (Made before designated computer/electronics compartments.)

I also have a “rare” RS brown Appenzell pack.

Posted by
10951 posts

Ever changing merchandise....I have the original "Back Door Bag" from " Europe Through The Back Door." The tag inside says 1988.

It is nothing like today's bag except it is also a convertible bag.

For newcomers, "Europe through the Back Door" was the original name of "Rick Steves Europe."

Frank II,
I have an old RS rolling bag that is still going strong. I find, in general, that I favor the older style bags over the newer ones. Probably just my age and nostalgia kicking in.

Posted by
2882 posts

I, too, purchased the navy blue Weekender Jr last year during the sale...or one of many sales. I used it every week for two night stays at my daughters for babysitting duties for over one year. It still looks like new. I really like the bag and it held more than I needed. I packed almost as much as I would have for a trip to Europe as I wanted to be comfortable, have enough replacement clothes for baby accidents, and have all my 'toys' for the off duty times. However, these weekly trips were by car. While it is not heavy, I would not want to be wearing/carrying this during airport waits, etc. In and out of the car was fine. This is just me, of course. For international travel, when it happens, I will be using my international EC Tarmac wheeled bag. I do not like to schlep, but I see the benefits of doing so for other people.

Posted by
1837 posts

Yes, Wray, my fingers are crossed that I'll have several years yet of being able to enjoy the backpacking life. I can think right off of two moments when other people hefted my bag and praised me for being such a light packer, and I honestly didn't know if they were being facetious b/c it wasn't seeming so light to me :-)