First Impressions

Way back in April, we wrote about our fascination with a Kickstarter project from a new company called Ember Equipment. The group set out to raise $150,000 to build their first product, a military-inspired product known as the Modular Urban Backpack. I dug the concept and made my own personal investment in the project – choosing the Outfitters Pack with all the accessories and geegaws. So did a lot of other folks. Ember raised more than double their initial target, enough to produce about 1,000 of their prototype. Mine arrived in August about a month or so behind the initial promise date replete in a bright orange Ember-branded storage bag.


Modular is in the name for a reason. The Ember Equipment Modular Urban Backpack is nothing if not customizable and configurable in what seems an almost infinite number of ways. The pack itself is rather simple. Ember built it in Asia from a heavy duty nylon. Six pockets cover the basic unit, three internal (including a laptop and separate tablet sleeves) and large main storage area. Two zippered vertical side pockets hold accessories, keys and the like. All zippers are water resistant.

From this core pack, you can start attaching and customizing. Six magnetic couple points line the exterior of the pack. Use them to attach two different style pouches, either soft or hard sided. Loops line the exterior as well. Those can be used to attach additional handles or straps that can lasso externally carried gear. There’s also an external laptop sleeve that folds out for easy pass through your favorite airport security checkpoint.

Couple of comments on the above items. Just about everything worked pretty well in our tests. We were able to easily customize the pack to our liking. However, we noticed a few little issues. First, the external pouches look far larger than their real capacity. The soft-sided versions can handle two pair of glasses or a MiFi hotspot and mouse but not much more. The hard cases include internal mesh organizers for small corded devices and USB drives. But be careful as the contents can spill out when the cases are unzipped. The included compression straps are far too long to provide any real compression. The sternum strap often became unattached from its attach point.

By the way, this dude is heavy. My fully loaded version, complete with external laptop sleeve (and Macbook Air) came in around 19 pounds.


Despite the weight, I found the Modular Urban Backpack comfortable. Adjustments were somewhat difficult to make, but once dialed in, things stayed pretty well locked. It carried all the gear I needed and the external laptop sleeved breezed through numerous TSA security checkpoints. Adding a bottle holder like this from Amazon allowed me to further customize the pack and carry some refreshment in the airports I hit along the way.

Final Verdict

Nice first effort, Ember. We liked the Modular Urban Backpack as much as we thought we would. It’s cool looking and functional. And it often gets compliments from our fellow urban warriors. It’s also a touch heavy when fully loaded, but not outrageously so. We’re not sure when these will be available for order again, but you can always inquire on Ember Equipment’s Facebook page.

Thanks for reading another outdoor gear review from GearGuide.