Review: ECBC Zeus could use some improvements
Like so many Facebook relationship statuses and plots to TV dramas, the ECBC Zeus Messenger bag is...complicated. Or rather, my feelings about it are. I don't usually get torn over a bag but the Zeus seems to be the exception: It is simultaneously a great bag capable of carrying and organizing a good number of items, but it falters on some key details. Let me elaborate.
The ECBC Zeus is a medium-sized messenger that can be had in black, blue, green, linen, or berry. It sports a single main compartment with a padded notebook sleeve and enough room for a couple of books and magazines. The front of the bag features ample organization pockets to fit just about everything you need for a day of work or an overnight trip, as well as a wide document compartment for passports and plane tickets and a phone pocket with waterproof zipper. Meanwhile, the back has a pass-through area to easily secure the bag to luggage handles; there are pockets on each side of the bag as well.
The notebook sleeve on the Zeus is designed to fit 15-inch notebooks or smaller, via a "modular insert"—basically a chunk of padding secured by Velcro which should give smaller laptops a more snug and secure fit. But because the sleeve is designed to fit all varieties of notebooks, it runs into a classic quandary: It doesn't really fit any of them very well. Even with the insert, my 13-inch MacBook Air seems like it's swimming inside the bag. The bonus to the insert, which is sewn a few inches above the bottom of the bag, is that there is a protective buffer no matter what notebook you stash in it.
Now, on to the organization pockets of this bag—because there is a welcome variety of them. I counted 11 pockets of varying sizes between the front and inside compartment, all of which are perfect for keeping chargers, phones, cables, pens, keys, and other small items organized and quickly accessible. A side mesh pocket is good for a water bottle, while the other side pocket is zippered and expandable for those fast-access yet easy-to-lose items. A small quibble here, however, is that ECBC went a little overboard with the Velcro. While most of the front and internal pockets have a small piece of Velcro at the top to secure their contents, I often found them to be a hindrance in accessing my stuff. I wish the pockets had been designed a little tighter, or with another zipper or two instead.
The ECBC Zeus's nylon shoulder strap and pad are both pretty comfortable (the bag also has a padded handle, if you prefer to avoid shoulder straps). They didn't go overboard with sticky padding so it's good at keeping the bag in place while minimizing the cling factor. Another complaint here, however, is that ECBC sewed the strap to the bag, which often leads to tangling. I've seen other bags use rotating metal or at least plastic clasps, which are removable, tangle-free, and easier to work with.
While overall the ECBC Zeus Messenger is a solid bag, the gratuitous use of Velcro and a sewn-on strap are a detraction from the bag's better features. That said, like all of ECBC's lineup, the Zeus packs a stellar array of organizational pockets and will fit even the bulkiest of 15-inch notebooks. If my complaints aren't deal-breakers, give the ECBC Zeus Messenger a look.