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Best in larger size, go with the etech 2..0 for carryon
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.