Review: Mother Lode Jr. backpack for travel - une femme d'un certain âge

A cabin bag review, and what to expect if you’re traveling now

Susan B. at airport, packed and ready for long flight.

After I posted my “departure” pic on Instagram, so many people asked about my cabin (carry-on) bag, I thought I’d share the details here.

Above, dressed for long-haul comfort:
cardigan | tee | jeans | handbag (similar) | sneakers | cabin bag | suitcase (similar)

First, I knew I was going to want a larger, hard-sided checked bag, in case we pick up some wines, vinegar, etc. along the way. And I brought just a little more clothing, as we’ll be changing destination every 2-3 days and probably won’t have time for laundry. The larger spinner bag is an older Briggs & Riley Sympatico medium size (current version HERE). Mine is not expandable, and I used about half the available space.

Click here to see what I packed for this trip

(Last minute wardrobe changes: after checking the forecast one last time before we left, I decided to take a lighter down jacket rather than the down coat, and a pair of walking loafers rather than the rain boots. I also ditched one pair of jeans, one of the sweaters, and added a short-sleeve tee.)

My new cabin bag, the Mother Lode, Jr.

I’ve been wanting to try a backpack as cabin bag, and this one was well-reviewed. I’d originally ordered one for le Monsieur to replace an older and very heavy hand-held cabin bag. I liked his so much I ordered one for myself as well.

ebags Mother Lode Jr. backpack top

After two flights, and lots of shlepping in airports, I’m quite pleased with this bag!

First, it’s very well designed for organization.

  • The main compartment is quite large, with two compression straps.
  • There are three outside pockets, and a padded laptop compartment.
  • The largest outside pocket has additional zippered compartments inside.
  • The main compartment opens like a regular suitcase, so it’s easy to pack and find things inside.
ebags Mother Lode Jr. backpack open

The Mother Lode Jr. backpack holds quite a bit! I didn’t even pack mine anywhere near capacity*, as I wanted to keep the weight down. It goes easily into overhead bins, and le Monsieur was able to fit his under the seat in front for one of our flights. There are the shoulder straps, of course, and two padded handles to carry vertically or horizontally.

What I did pack in the carry-on:

  • a change of clothes
  • toiletries kit
  • travel documents
  • laptop
  • charging cords
  • TSA liquids bag
  • my en cas snacks (a couple of protein bars)
  • extra masks

The size in the top photo is deceiving; the bag was closer to the camera and so looks larger than it actually is. 😉 📸

Susan B. with ebags Mother Lode Jr. backpack

Here’s a better photo to show the actual size. For reference, I’m 5’1″. It was comfortable to wear as a backpack, and easy to get in and out of.

There’s also a larger size HERE, and a wheeled version HERE.

What it’s like to travel now: our experience so far

I have to say, apart from having to deal with filling out, presenting, and managing extra forms (passenger locator forms for both UK and Italy, negative covid test documentation), our transit here was a lot smoother than we anticipated! Airports were far less crowded. Lines to get through security and immigration were short.

One new procedure I really liked and hope airlines make standard is requiring passengers to remain seated until they are called by rows to disembark. It’s much more orderly than the usual mad scramble for the door, and honestly I think it’s actually quicker.

Masks are required in airports, on planes, and in taxis, and indoors here in Italy, unless one is eating or drinking. Outdoors, masks are optional, though we’ve been keeping ours on in lines/crowds. Our proof of vaccination is checked for entrance to any indoor public space like churches or museums, and a couple of places had some high-tech, no-touch temperature checks in place.

Most businesses here seem to be open and operating normally. Staff are masked.

Style and travel updates

It’s been my experience that some of you love both style and travel posts, while others are primarily here for the style. I’m trying a new process for my subscribers to filter which email updates you receive, based on your preferences.

If you’d like to opt in or out of travel updates, you can click on the “update subscription preferences” link at the bottom of my emails. Click to be sent a form to select your preferences, then select either Yes or No for travel content. (If no selection is made, you’ll receive all updates.)

This is a new setup, so I appreciate your patience while we refine the process!

Stay in touch.

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  1. Katie
    October 11, 2021 / 4:18 am

    Great post. I’m traveling to England next year for a twice delayed girls trip and your cabin bag recommendation is spot on. I need to look into a new carry on. Safe travels

  2. Marilyn Luiken
    October 11, 2021 / 4:19 am

    I enjoy your posts – you have it all figured out and I enjoy everything you post. You are sensible and brief – just keep doing what you are doing and please don’t take me off either of your travel or fashion post. Trust your travels are without drama and you have lots of fun things to tell us about along with pics!

  3. Ann in Missouri
    October 11, 2021 / 4:24 am

    First comment in a long time — although I’ve been reading your posts. BTW, you look GREAT!

    I’m very interested in posts about your trip and any travel. I’ve been traveling only within the U.S. since December 2019, but have booked six international trips in 2022. Wish us luck!

  4. Susan Shepard
    October 11, 2021 / 4:49 am

    I’m interested in travel updated

  5. Beth Lowe
    October 11, 2021 / 4:53 am

    Your travel advice has helped me so much in my travel planning, thank you, I have been looking at cabin bags and this one appears to be perfect. I am traveling in the Spring., destination as yet to be determined, since I can’t make up my mind–which doesn’t” happen very often. But London and a week in The Cotswolds is very appealing. Have a fabulous and safe trip.

  6. P
    October 11, 2021 / 5:14 am

    Travel and style, please.

  7. Lyn
    October 11, 2021 / 5:57 am

    Love the bag and your experience so far. Very encouraging. Safe travels and looking forward to all your posts.

  8. Kristen
    October 11, 2021 / 6:02 am

    Does the backpack come with a zipper or pocket to conceal the backpack straps? We have been places where backpacks have to be checked, but large bags don’t. And sometimes the straps can get in the way.

    • Linda T
      October 11, 2021 / 7:42 am

      I have the same bag and the straps unclip at the bottom and tuck into the back pocket. Very best and tidy.

      • MaryJane Fisher Morgan
        November 20, 2021 / 6:59 pm

        Ditto here. It’s a terrific carryon and a nice overnight bag.

  9. Linda McCormick
    October 11, 2021 / 6:15 am

    Love your posts on both travel and style. Please keep me on both lists.

  10. Marci
    October 11, 2021 / 6:31 am

    Yes, yes, yes to travel! AND fashion too, of course. I hope you have a wonderful and safe trip. Really enjoyed seeing your photos so far!

  11. Lisa B
    October 11, 2021 / 6:46 am

    Travel and style! For a great little wine bar in Rome try MAGAZZINOSCIPIONI Great food and wines to match. Nice place to sit have a little food and a wonderful wine! We love it there. Nice way to end an evening. For just wine, RIMESSA ROSCIOLI. My husband belongs to several wine clubs and orders wine from them for tastings so it’s very good and has everything you’d like. Also, MARIGOLD for a quick brunch, lunch or dinner and some amazing pastry.
    GUNTHER GELATO for ice cream. He uses 70% fruit in his gelato. Can also find His gelato In Punto Gelato and Taste and also Taste near the Piazza di Spagna. Check Honest for a review. Not written by my daughter but still, great review.
    Last one. Because you’re in Rome and you need to eat some pizza, a restaurant called SEU! These are all non touristy places my girls and my family frequent.
    Have a wonderful time! Such an inspiration to see your wonderful outfits and travel tips! I cannot wait to get back to Rome.

    • Susan Blakey
      October 11, 2021 / 7:23 am

      thanks for the suggestions, but we actually won’t be in Rome this trip. We’ll be in the north of Italy, in various regions.

  12. Lyn
    October 11, 2021 / 6:51 am

    The eBags Mother Lode Jr. is a great backpack. You will love it. It was big enough to be my only bag for a 2 week trip to France a few years ago. When I say “only” I mean that literally — it held all my worldly possessions for the trip, including a raincoat and my purse. (16 pounds, fully loaded) I was in a different place almost every day and needed something nimble for train travel.

    I had the opposite “checked bag” problem that Kristen had. When I had the bag in its suitcase configuration with the straps tucked into the zippered pocket, a bus driver insisted that it had to go in the under-bus storage with the other luggage.. I pulled the straps out and, wearing it as a backpack, I boarded the bus with no objections.

    • kb
      October 11, 2021 / 1:41 pm

      Hooray! Lyn, you are my kind of packer. I’ve been on international trips for 3-11 weeks with a small wheeled backpack — also 16 pounds loaded — and have never had even a puddle-jumper refuse to let me carry it on. Life is so much easier with “less.” Thanks for sharing.

  13. Karen
    October 11, 2021 / 6:53 am

    Very helpful post and am glad it’s all going well. Can you show your vaccination shots on your phone or did you bring a paper copy as well to enter places? Yes to travel posts, please!

    • Jan Whichard
      October 11, 2021 / 8:54 am

      We just returned in September from a month in Europe and I took multiple paper copies of my vax card and I had it on my phone as a photo and I used both. Put your card in a plastic cover and pop it in your wallet.

      Great time to travel!

      • citizen spot
        October 11, 2021 / 5:18 pm

        Hi Jan,

        Did any country or venue require a digital copy with a QR code via an App, instead of paper copies or just a photo of the vaccine card on your phone?

  14. SusanR
    October 11, 2021 / 6:55 am

    I’m loving all your posts, so oeep ‘em coming. Because I’m only 4’11”, you are one of the few bloggers wh’s , ahem, mature, and petite. ( Although we are differnt shapes, I’m very straight- and low waisted, short legged. No Eileen Fisher for me!) But your choices give me more Ideas, even if I can’t duplicate your look ( I’m more winter / summer coloring).

  15. Mary Clifford
    October 11, 2021 / 6:59 am

    Love the bag! I would love it if you shared your wisdom on packing toiletries as well as what and how much. I have tried numerous bags, etc. but still find that toiletries can take up a lot of room.
    I agree with you on the deplaning methods. As a teacher it always made sense to me to have a system frontto back of deplaning!
    Looking forward to more travel posts! Bonne vacance!

  16. cynthia willis
    October 11, 2021 / 7:23 am

    We have a European trip planned for Spring of 2022, so I am relishing your travel posts and suggestions! Your style is always on pointe! I look forward to both! Savor the moments on your trip and be safe.

  17. Elizabeth
    October 11, 2021 / 7:26 am

    Thanks, so much, for these travel updates. The world has changed, but maybe safer and efficient travel practices will be the result. As a subscriber, I enjoy all the subjects you present.
    Was just sent these lovely informative readings, from an art teacher, about a few spots in Italy where I think you are passing through. Scroll down the first few opening paragraphs to the links for Florence, Tuscany and this article about Lombardy. Includes great info & restaurant, wineries, etc, from women who live in these areas.
    Have a wonderful time in Italy!

  18. Tina
    October 11, 2021 / 7:32 am

    I love my eBag suitcase and can’t wait to purchase the backpack! I also plan on buying the large eBag as well.

  19. Alexis
    October 11, 2021 / 7:49 am

    Thank you for this posting, the information on the items that you packed and travel/airport experience was very informative! I’ll be checking out the backpack, the tennis shoes and the jeans – they all looked like winners to me. I wanted to let you know that I did try to update my preferences for your new travel offerings, and I kept on getting an error message that “something went wrong, please click on the button below for a new link.” I know that the last thing you want to think about is tech issues while you are traveling 🙂 but I just wanted to let you know for when you return!

  20. Linda T
    October 11, 2021 / 7:53 am

    I love my Ebag! Both my husband and I have them and have packed for up to 8 weeks using just them and packing cubes. All those bridges in Venice were much easier than schlepping a regular suitcase, wheels or not. Enjoy your trip, looking forward to the pics.

  21. Eve
    October 11, 2021 / 7:54 am

    I’m traveling through you so yes to both. I like the outfit you chose to travel in. Put together but comfortable.

  22. Joan
    October 11, 2021 / 8:01 am


  23. K
    October 11, 2021 / 8:10 am

    I am getting an email every time someone comments on this post. How do I stop that?

  24. Beth M
    October 11, 2021 / 8:22 am

    Your travel posts helped me when I was traveling, and I hope to resume traveling in 2022. What I really like is your post-travel review of what worked and what didn’t and what was the MVP of your travel wardrobe. Please keep up the wonderful posts about style and travel!

  25. Eva Cox
    October 11, 2021 / 8:24 am

    You look great! I know you have having a ball right now. We haven’t traveled anywhere since our Christmas trip to Amsterdam in Dec. of 2018 & it is about to kill me! I love to travel & not being able to has made me nervous. We’re taking a short trip to Dallas next weekend to see my stepson then I will start planning a trip overseas next year; I can’t wait to find out where we’re going to go & me researching it! Glad to hear about the airports & the airline deplaning by rows (that is the smart way to do it). Thanks for ALL of your posts, I learn something new every time I read your blog. Godspeed on your trip!!

  26. Melinda
    October 11, 2021 / 8:24 am

    Love it all! Please keep up the good work you are doing on your blog!

  27. Ellen
    October 11, 2021 / 9:08 am

    My husband and I have the same ebags which we use as our only bags for trips to Europe. They are easy to move around with and hold all we need for spring or fall travel for 3 or 4 weeks.

  28. October 11, 2021 / 9:52 am

    Your travel posts are always on pointe Susan. I am not sure when we will travel to Europe again, perhaps next fall.

  29. Elizbeth
    October 11, 2021 / 10:39 am

    I love your travel and fashion posts! So interesting! I admire your ability to pack efficiently, something I strive to do while traveling. I am getting better over time with practice. I noticed during my last trip to Palm Desert, some specific holes in my wardrobe that would really help pack fewer things! I love to get ideas from your posts. I am thinking the Mother Lode backpack JR would make a good Christmas present for hubby.

    Briggs and Riley tend to be heavy, how are you finding the med bag traveling thru Europe.

    Also, You look fab on your trip! 🙂

  30. Betty Goldberg
    October 11, 2021 / 12:14 pm

    Travel and style please.

  31. Betty Goldberg
    October 11, 2021 / 12:15 pm

    Travel and style please. Love all your posts.

  32. Sally
    October 11, 2021 / 12:23 pm

    I live for your postings! They’ve always been so helpful for me. I like the backpack a lot and think I might get one. I’m doing a road trip right now and I’m so out of practice!! We had to pack our ‘go bag’ because of the red flag warnings. Two destinations and very cold and windy. I can see the holes in my wardrobe!!

  33. madeleine
    October 11, 2021 / 12:36 pm

    more style than travel please….no where to go!!!!!

  34. Carol
    October 11, 2021 / 2:36 pm

    I love your style and travel posts. Wishing you and your better half a safe and enjoyable vacation.

  35. Lily
    October 11, 2021 / 4:31 pm

    Trave and style, please. Bon voyage.

  36. Lily
    October 11, 2021 / 4:41 pm

    style and travel, please. bon voyage.

  37. Jacqueline
    October 11, 2021 / 8:55 pm

    I came for the Fashion and was delighted to discover the travel. Without your suggestions and experience to guide me, I never would have enjoyed visiting Chenonceau!

  38. October 12, 2021 / 1:06 am

    We have the health pass in France, too. I usually take out my phone, but I keep a paper copy of my vaccination record in my bag. At the airport on a recent trip to the U.S., it was easier to scan the paper versions than to go in and out of different apps–one for the ticket, one for the vaccine…
    We are required to wear masks in any indoor public setting (all stores, for example) and also outdoors in more-crowded areas, like town centers and markets.
    Our flight to the U.S., in mid-August, was completely full. The flight back to France, at the end of August, was nearly empty. Connecting flights within the U.S. and France were also full. Airports have automated a lot, which means fewer lines–and fewer collections of strangers together.
    I had a soft suitcase/backpack back in the ’80s for an around-the-world trip. Backpackers, especially young ones, were not welcome in some hotels. I could tuck the backpack straps into their pocket and attach the shoulder strap to look more presentable. It was a great bag. Now, however, I like wheels on everything; it is just too much to carry stuff.
    For packing wine or olive oil, I highly recommend using wine boxes, which you can get at grocery stores for free. Cut them down and wrap around the bottle, then tape well. I’ve never had any break, and TSA doesn’t seem to mind (I suppose they send them through x-rays). They’ve never unwrapped my bottles. I put a tutorial on my blog a few years ago:

  39. Jacqueline
    October 12, 2021 / 9:42 am

    We take Wine Skins (purchased on Amazon) when we travel. We are very much into wine tourism having been to several wine valleys in Chile, as well as in Mendoza, Argentina, and of course Bordeaux, and Épernay. WineSkins have never failed us.

  40. Jill
    October 14, 2021 / 3:43 am

    I ordered the Mother Load, Jr. i accidentally ordered two, and when I explained to hubby how early this would be versus trying to balance and overnight bag on a roll on suitcase, running thru airports, he decided to keep one for himself. They are very well made, and the convenience factor of carrying them backpack style really appeals to me. We never check luggage, so this is just the perfect solution! Thanks for always keeping us informed and on top of the travel and fashion world!

  41. Janet Wood
    October 14, 2021 / 8:00 am

    Is a picture of your vaccination card on your phone acceptable, or do you need the actual card? Thanks

    • Susan Blakey
      October 14, 2021 / 10:01 am

      You should bring the actual card, through we’ve also been able to use a photo of it when it wasn’t handy.

  42. Alison M Gunn
    October 14, 2021 / 6:41 pm

    Curious to know how early or near to leaving on your trip you procured the Covid test? And do you have to take another one before returning? Have a good time, and I hope your trip is as stress-free as possible. 🙂

    • Susan Blakey
      October 15, 2021 / 1:46 am

      We had to have a negative Covid test within 48 hours of our arrival in Italy, so we tested near the airport the morning of our departure. We’ll have to have a negative test again within 48 hours of our return to the US, and one 3 days after our arrival in the UK (hoping we can combine the last two requirements in a single test if the timeframe works…) And thanks!

      • Alison M Gunn
        October 15, 2021 / 2:47 pm

        Thank you! You are a travel goddess, and I throw in my vote for travel (and fashion), since that was what brought me to your blog in the first place.

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