- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: ECBC Sparrow Wheeled Garment Bag
When it comes to luggage, a solid piece of carry-on is one of the most important things to invest in. Short jaunts, long-haul journeys, mad dashes for trains and planes, laidback road trips and everywhere in between…a good carry-on bag is one of the best travel companions you’ll ever have. Carry-on carry (say that five times fast) needs to hold everything from clothes and tech to work supplies and pesky toiletries. Plus it should be able to take a beating.
Airport codes of the test:
SYD – MEL – SYD
SYD – BNE – SYD
SYD – MEL – SYD
SYD – HKG – LAX – SFO – LAX – JFK – LAX – SYD
SYD – WLG – SYD
SYD – DRW – SYD
There are two ways of looking at the size of a bag. It’s the classic scenario of what the bag can fit vs. where the bag can fit. Until Kip Thorne and a carry brand collaborate to create a bag with a black hole in it, legally sized carry-on is man’s best traveling friend.
Now I’ll save the details in inches or centimeters until the end but I’ll say this: the Sparrow has a deceptively large amount of room for a bag so filled with features. Thanks to multiple compartments that can be utilized to suit your needs, with some clever packing I could fit almost a week’s worth of clothes as long as I kept my shoe and jacket counts down.
“With some clever packing I could fit almost a week’s worth of clothes as long as I kept my shoe and jacket counts down”
In terms of where the bag could fit, it was on the larger size of what I feel comfortable rolling onto a plane. On smaller aircraft or those with older style overhead bins I struggled to fit the bag in wheels first (the way they like you to stow it) – it seemed just an inch or so too big. But if you rotate it around it fits with plenty of room to spare. On larger aircraft or those with deeper overhead bins it fits fine stowed correctly. When it came to cars and trains there was never an issue fitting the bag into a tight space.
The Sparrow has three main compartments; on top (front) there is the tech compartment for quick access to all your gadgets, in the middle there is a garment compartment designed to keep clothes wrinkle-free, and the bottom is more of a standard compartment with some compression straps and a few nifty pockets.
The tech compartment has awesome intentions but falls down just slightly in my eyes. Let’s start with the pros. There are plenty of pockets to stash your iPad, laptop, laptop charger and the included ECBC portable power pack. The pockets are decently padded and come with some extra removable pads for smaller devices. The big plus for me though was that the front pocket is TSA approved to unzip and lay flat on the X-ray machine. That means no taking the laptop out of the bag anymore, no annoying trays, just unzip, scan, re-zip and you’re off.
“The front pocket is TSA approved to unzip and lay flat on the X-ray machine. That means no taking the laptop out of the bag anymore, no annoying trays, just unzip, scan, re-zip and you’re off”
Now let’s talk about the power pack. It ticks all the convenience boxes, being small, light and removable. It was good for charging my iPhone up from zero maybe twice a day, which is great, but I wouldn’t buy the bag for the power pack alone. There are lots of great alternatives out there. A cool feature is the pocket that fits most mini power packs and an even cooler one is the small hole to wire directly into the separate phone pocket – no more tearing holes in my new bags. However, my biggest gripe with the tech compartment was probably due to my favorite feature – the TSA approved opening flap. I didn’t feel my tech goods were all that safe in the front pocket. I believe over-padding would have cost the bag its TSA stamp of approval but that’s no excuse to leave tech vulnerable.
“I didn’t feel my tech goods were all that safe in the front pocket”
I called this the ‘suits and undies’ compartment. Let me explain: this compartment is principally for the clothes you don’t want wrinkled – the nice ones. There are Velcro flaps to keep your shirts flat, an extended and removable flap to wrap your pants around and a buckle to hold shirts and jackets that you’re too lazy to take off the hanger. A lot in one compartment, hey? Plus there are two little triangular zippered pockets that are removable by Velcro. The only use I found for these was storing socks and undies, items I felt were rather interesting to be putting next to your fancy bits. Aside from that oddity I really did like the versatility of the compartment, with my shirts and slacks staying nicely folded and in place. The buckle to hold jackets and shirts with hangers is a neat idea on paper but in reality it didn’t function so well for me. I think you might need some special or small hangers as mine didn’t quite fit.
“I really did like the versatility of the compartment, with my shirts and slacks staying nicely folded and in place”
This compartment was as it sounds, quite standard. There was ample space for an extra pair of shoes and some rolled up t-shirts amongst other things. Two lightweight and elastic strap downs did a good job keeping things in place. On the reverse side or the lid side there were a few smaller pockets that worked quite well for a spare belt, tie and some boardies. Overall, I had no major gripes with the standard compartment but an extra strap down or two would be a welcome addition.
“I had no major gripes with the standard compartment but an extra strap down or two would be a welcome addition”
Water bottle holder
Sometimes it’s the simple things that win me over and I loved this. This little pocket popped out perfectly to carry a small water bottle that would otherwise get discarded due to a lack of hands.
ID card slot
Kind of a standard offer these days but I did appreciate that the elastic ID card slot wasn’t hidden and was clearly labeled “ID”.
The build of a bag isn’t the easiest thing to judge when you pick it off the shelf but once you’ve taken it on one decent trip you can tell if it will last. This one is built to do just that, last. Durable fabric, strong construction, adequate stitching, and smartly positioned/angled zippers gave me confidence no matter who handled it or how much the bag was packed.
Not once did I notice an issue with the zippers. They are positioned in a smart way where they fade away to relieve pressure when squeezing an overloaded bag closed. The handle was sufficient and adjustable to full height and half height. It had a little bend in it due to its modular construction but seemed very solid. The wheels worked fine too; they are quite large and I feel they stick out too much but saying that, I never had an issue with the Sparrow getting stuck in cracks.
“Durable fabric, strong construction, adequate stitching, and smartly positioned/angled zippers gave me confidence no matter who handled it or how much the bag was packed”
The exterior and interior fabrics were put through their paces, as I’m not the best at treating things lightly. I was running the black version and it easily avoided scuffs, snags and spills like a dream. I even sent it in the belly of a plane a few times and nothing happened. ECBC claim the fabric is “nearly indestructible ballistic nylon” – some pretty big marketing words if you ask me – but I was impressed with how well the fabric actually held up.
Available Colors: Black, Grey
Measurements: 22″ x 14” x 9” & 9 lbs
Materials: Body – 840d HD Ballistic Nylon
Base – 1640d HD Ballistic Nylon
Lining – 210d Double Diamond Ripstop Nylon
Overall I really enjoyed the ECBC Sparrow Wheeled Garment Bag. There are a few red flags like its weight and the lack of serious protection in the tech pocket but overall I’ve enjoyed it more than most carry-ons I’ve tested. The Sparrow is quality built and has some well-thought-out features inside. If you like to stay charged and organized and don’t mind the extra dry weight I’d 100% recommend this bag for your next adventure.