- Buyer's Guide
First Look: Black Ember SHADOW Collection
Black Ember makes some of the most technically advanced everyday and travel bags on earth. I say that and I mean that. In fact, I personally know some folks who have been interested in BE’s offerings… but they have almost been a bit too advanced for them. Well, the geniuses in this San Francisco-based design studio worked in the shadows to create their interpretation of the best minimal waterproof pack yet. Introducing the Black Ember SHADOW COLLECTION.
Minimal and simple… yet technically complex and advanced.
In my opinion, this is Black Ember’s most dialed-in crossover backpack. Why’s that? Well, I’m glad you asked.
Let’s start with the technically complex and advanced aspects.
Like all of their family of products, these aren’t just fabrics stitched together. The Shadow starts with BE’s proprietary HTX coated fabric, which they define as a waterproof nylon crossweave. What that translates to? Rain will bead off, it’s very strong, it’s super durable, and well… it looks great, too. Pair that up with our favorite YKK AquaGuard zippers and another BE-specific innovation, their BOND-STITCH construction. Additionally, they use lasers in the construction for incredibly precise cutting of patterns and trims.
Okay, we understand this is from the future. But, will it actually function and work for someone like you or I?
It’s available in both a 22-liter and 26-liter option. As someone who is 6’0″ and far from thin, the 26-liter option fits me (and my gear) extremely well. Like many of BE’s bags, the shoulder straps cleverly tuck away behind the back panel, so it can be converted into a briefcase. A bit about that… I’ll admit, I’m generally not a massive fan of convertible bags. But the Shadow seems to pull off a complicated idea in an elegantly uncomplicated way, with a simple and easy one-hand operation. The two side grab handles (one on each side) disappear while the Shadow is in vertical backpack mode. But they’re right there when you need to grab it while in horizontal mode.
The exterior pocketing is exactly how I prefer it. One main compartment clamshell-style zipper and then one quick-access zipper for your smaller accessories. This front accessory pocket has a few organizer pockets. Plus magnetic hardware to hang keys from. Just like the BE TKS we recently looked at. Clever, clever. But not clever just to be clever, if that makes sense.
Now…let’s get into my favorite part; inside the main compartment that fully opens for packing and access. This is the area where 90% of my gear lives. As I’d come to expect from Black Ember, there are two padded (and elevated/suspended) sleeves, one for a 15″ laptop and one in front for a tablet. My 15″ MacBook Pro and my 11″ iPad Pro both fit perfectly into the soft-lined sleeve. But the standout for me? There is a built-in tech kit! Similar in construction and execution to the TKS, there is a magnetic closure which flicks open with ease, and then accordions out, revealing six accessory compartments for your small tech items. Sure, adding a TKS as a modular pouch into the Shadow’s main compartment makes you next-level expert. But it’s seriously awesome a tech kit is included into the pack.
Adding to the main compartment’s organization: just below the tech kit, a generously sized zippered mesh pocket with a simple drop pocket stitched to the exterior. I love organization, but too much can be limiting and force you to carry your particular loadout in a manner you’re not happy with. Plenty of options, without all the excess.
The Black Ember Shadow is brand new (just released TODAY). These are production sample units that have just arrived here to me. I’m honestly very excited to use both the 22 and 26-liter options. I plan to use the 26-liter for my next 2-4 day trip and the 22-liter for everyday adventures around town. Ultimately, I’m very excited about using these both in the coming weeks, months, and years. Where can you find yourself a Black Ember Shadow? Their Kickstarter is currently LIVE and you can find it right here.