Customer Reviews: eBags TLS Mother Lode Mini 21" Wheeled Duffel (Eggplant)
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Color: Eggplant|Change
Price:$161.49+ Free shipping with Amazon Prime
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on April 19, 2010
I just returned from two weeks in Italy and this was my only bag. I packed 4 pair of jeans, 2 dresses, 2 dress slacks, 5 sleeveless tops, 5 short sleeve tops, 5 long sleeve tops, 3 pair of shoes, socks, undies & personal toiletries including a curling iron in this bag (I did use the expanded space) and still had room to pack 3 bottles of wine in the bag for the return trip. This is an amazingly versatile and spacious bag. Everyone in our party was dragging around a couple of large suitcases while I was able to zip my little bag around with ease. It is well made and appears to have survived the baggage handling with no problems. I travel extensively and this is clearly the best bag I have used. I love it.
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on June 20, 2010
The Mother Lode TLS Mini 21" is a well-designed bag. I love the adjustable divider in the main compartment. The ability to access the front compartment from the outside is really helpful; I put my carry-on "liquids" in the front and it is easily accessible during the security check. There are two mesh, zip pockets in the main compartment where I put my smaller items (socks, underwear, misc) and it is easy to see and access. The over-all quality of the bag is good; easy to wheel about. The handle locations allow me (5'2") to easily stow in overhead compartment. I had no problem with tipping although I did not over-stuff the bag. I would definitely consider buying the matching larger bag because the organization/pockets were so well-thought out.
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on March 30, 2013
Lets start off with what I like. Great size, perfect for about one weeks worth of clothing unless you need heavy winter clothing. I love the Sinful red color. It is about a red wine color. It has zippers and compartments to spare. The backing is stiff and it has tie down straps to squeeze the bag without putting too much pressure on the zippers. The material sheds light rains and it is very light for as big as it is. It comes with multiple handles for lifting the bag. It has a strap to add a smaller bag on to it. It rolls nice. It comes with a great warranty from Ebags. It is almost everything I would want in carryon luggage. Based on that I would easily have given 5 stars.

BUT the reason for such a low rating is the quality control. The bag comes with two TLS rods that you are supposed to put in yourself inside the front cover panel. Ebags has a video on how to install it. The side next to the hinge goes in perfectly with a slight bed that I am sure will straighten out as the material stretches. The rod goes in about 2 inches into the bottom rod holder. The side next to the zipper is the problem. The rod goes into the holder less than one inch. Taking a toothpick I can see that the holder is the same depth as the other side. Apparently the holder is made of two parts and they are not joined correctly which leaves a lip inside the holder preventing the rod from going all the way in. I, my wife and my daughter all tried. Ebags could have prevented this problem by just inserting the rods themselves, then they would have been able to detect the problem and correct it.

Ebags has sent us out a replacement bag but it has the same problem proving it was not a fluke. The reps are very nice but do not have much knowledge about the product and we couldn't be transferred to someone who actually knows something about the bag. They are sending us out another one but I do not have much hope. I know I can always take a drill and correct the hole but for $150 you would think that would not be necessary. We leave for our cruise in one week, I hope the other bag works or Ebags can come up with something.

Just to let you know we did not buy this on Amazon. I was going to, but I got a better price directly from Ebags. Sometimes they are higher and sometimes lower.

update **********

I received a call from Ebags today offering to do whatever they could to make it right. They are checking to see if other bags in their shipment have the same problem. This is impressive for a company. I did end up drilling out the rod holder, very easy to do. As I said everything else about the bag is very nice and having a company that cares about customers gets extra points.
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on July 31, 2015
I wanted to offer a comparison of the TLS Mother Lode series and the eTech 2.0 Mother Lode bags which seems to be sorely lacking on eBags site. When I tried to get some kind of qualitative comparison from a phone rep, he clearly had no familiarity with the bags other than the same information I had access to.

I ended up ordering a few bag in different sizes so I could make my own comparison. Here's what I learned:

Handle on short end: TLS stronger, retractable -- eTech 2.0 much more comfortable.

Handle on front surface: etech centered, TLS close to top - TLS better for lifting into a trunk, but etech better for general carrying, especially in a carryon size. (In the larger size, people have reported strap latch failures on the etech series).

Retractable metal pull handle -- TLS seems a bit more solid, but I don't think it's a big difference.

Overall construction - TLS definitely more rugged - heavier material and semi-solid botton and back. If you're checking your bags, this is a distinct advantage. For carryon size, maybe lighter is better.

Access while rolling: TLS has an extra slit pocket on side, and the top opening opens flap down - better if you need to grab something at the airport without everything coming out. On the other hand, the etech has a bigger top opening - the TLS one felt too small for serious access - you'd really need to unzip from inside. (In the 25" TLS, the opening is much better in size, while retaining the better orientation).

Inside mesh compartment: TLS has it split in two, etech has one larger one. In carryon size (21"), the two TLS ones feel too small - but in the 25" size, they work better.

Distribution of storage:
The etech splits space between top and bottom fairly evenly. The TLS has much more in the bottom and the expander is also on the bottom - so you're going to see this as a conventional suitcase with an extra smallish-compartment up top - rather than two distinct areas. However - in the 25" TLS the compartments work much better.

The TLS has the expansion ability - but in the carryon size - I'm not sure this is so valuable. In the larger size, this feels more important, as you're going to check this bag if you fly. Similarly - the compression straps (TLS only) don't seem as useful in the small TLS as they would in the 25" model.

Strap for carrying another bag in front - TLS only.

Wheels: TLS has larger ones, but the etech 2.0 has much quieter and smoother ones. On pavement, the etech was considerably quieter.

Internal structure: I like the wings on the etch 2.0 better than the fiberglass rods on the TLS. In addition, the position of these rods on the 21" TLS doesn't seem quite right - but much better on the 25".

Carrying handle: NEITHER of these bags has a handle on the long side - which you really need if you have to carry your bag up/down a flight of stairs. This seems like a really big omission, particularly in a 25" or larger bag. You can't always count on an elevator or working escalator.

Overall: in the carryon 21" size, I like the etech 2.0 much better . The TLS seems to work better in a 25" size, and its construction is more important in a bag that will get checked, or dragged up and down stairs since it lacks the side handle.
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Disclaimer: I received a free eBags TLS Mother Lode Mini to review and to use and here is my honest review.

A little back story: My other bag is a TLS Mother Lode Weekender Convertible Junior which I bought here on Amazon and loved it so much that I made a light packing video and put it on YouTube. It went crazy viral and eBags was very kind to send me this new bag to review and to pack with - and I just made a video of packing it for 3 weeks in Japan.

You get a long black rod when you get this bag and it's supposed to be used inside the suitcase in such a way that it gives it better frame and structure so it can easily stand up by itself - we followed instructions and inserted the rod no problem.

So first off, this eBags weighs about 7 pounds empty. That means you have to take that into account, not to mention the room that the wheels take up in order to pack in such a way that it fits comfortably in the overhead compartment of your seat in the plane. I have to say that the junior eBags had more room than this but this is much nicer, higher quality, still both have the same orange interior which I love, and the wheels and the material of the bag is very nice quality.

Packing was interesting but I was surprised by how well I fit everything in. So you can see in the pictures I also used eBags's packing cubes which I'll review next, but with the help of those and always rolling my clothes, and using as much of the space in the corners and sides and around the wheel rods as possible, I got everything in. I had the expanded compartment opened but then I was able to close it and after zipping it all up, I used the side straps to cinch it up even tighter and I would say it looks pretty darn smart and ready to go after all that. I am excited about taking a new bag and not having to carry it on my back - that was the main reason I wanted to have a wheeled luggage to take it easy on my lower back.

Even though I'm a wee bit disappointed at how much the luggage weighs when empty, I love eBags, the company, the make and feel of the luggage and all the compartments and straps and design so much that I'm giving it a heart-felt 5 stars. I hope this helps you pick the right luggage for you.
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on July 22, 2010
I cannot believe how much I can stuff in this bag! The compression straps are great, as is the construction. Best piece of luggage ever purchased!
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on December 13, 2013
Don't buy this older version... buy the eTech 2.0 version, which fixes all the problems with the MotherLode TLS and then some! I had all three sizes of this bag and wanted desperately to like them but I just didn't. The rods are a complete joke - difficult and dangerous to install, impossible to nest the cases with them in, etc. The 2.0 version eliminates the rods completely and uses a simple, quick, and versatile snap system to expand the bags when desired. PLEASE don't waste your money on these bags, but the 2.0 version gets an easy five-stars from me!
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on December 23, 2012
We just got this duffel bag and it is everything other reviewers say - versatile, rugged, cleverly designed - but it isn't the next best thing after sliced bread. My first feeling upon picking up the bag was that it was heavy. Because of the hard bottom, the weight distribution isn't even and this may be a problem for people with lesser physical strength. Also for sheer space, it isn't superior as claimed that other 21" bags. If you are a math person, you will recognize that adding compartments to a fixed volume does not add more space but may actually take away space! That said, the idea of the separation is to give one the option of organizing one's items better and allowing easier access during airport check-in. This bag is built for a frequent air traveler and its utility in that respect is undeniable.

One thing I will note here is how the price for this bag changes almost on a daily basis. During T'giving this bag was sold at $98 (yes that is true) and I also saw it advertised for about 50% of the time at $119. But I have also seen it being sold at $150+ at many other times. So if you are not in a hurry, I suggest you wait till after Christmas, it may save you about 50-60 bucks. Funny that the prices for this bag move up and down in real-time like airline tickets!

This isn't my dream bag (which may not exist!), but it is a great bag nevertheless.
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on November 7, 2013
We received two of these bags as wedding gifts, which we promptly used for our honeymoon to St. Lucia. I'm a guy who likes bags: the more pockets, the more gizmos, and the more organizational features, the better. Based on that criteria, this bag does not disappoint. There's plenty of room for everything for a long weekend or even a week-long trip if you know how to pack smart. The expandability of sections is key to keeping the bag compact and tightly contained regardless of the amount that is packed within.

It's easy enough to pack the main section full and tie down any excess bulk, but this really shines in the easy accessibility to items packed within the top section and front pockets without having to dig through layers and layers of packed items. Certain travel documents and commonly used items were easily and quickly accessed, while still remaining secure and stable when packed away. Try getting some packing cubes to compliment this (I got them at Ikea for a really great price) and you'll be packing like a true Boy Scout.

In regard to the poles that need to be inserted upon receipt: They are not difficult at all, if you have any muscle greater than a 5 year old's. Just don't be afraid to push and bend the rods – they're not going to break. The tension might seem a little odd at first, but they settle right into place in no time.
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on August 8, 2014
Just back from a Europe vacation, on which this handled very well. Got dragged over cobblestones in Spain and Portugal without any issues. My wife said that the interior felt slightly cramped for packing, but generally a flexible bag that is very well constructed and served our needs very well. I bought it after first buying a Rick Steve's bag, whose build quality just didn't seem up to heavy duty travel. This one, however, seems like it was built to last.
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