Guest Gear Review: EMS Big Bang 38L Daypack

Our guest reviewer and EMT extraordinaire with
the EMS Big Bang all loaded up!
Most of us who go from school or work directly to the gym or into the woods for play struggle to find a backpack that will hold everything we need. Eastern Mountain Sports provided us with a pack that just might have all the answers! Find out more in this guest review by Dan Herscovitch.

Gone are the days of carrying around a book bag, laptop bag and gym bag. The Big Bang Daypack does it all without making you look like you're on an intercontinental expedition. Though the Big Bang is clearly made for the overburdened student or business person looking to carry everything they need for multiple activities, I found it quite useful as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

The layout of the smaller compartments keeps my gear organized and accessible while the big compartment swallows everything I feed it, and hungers for more.

The massive main compartment has one thick piece of fabric dividing it in half. This keeps books and laptops snug against your back while your lunch, gym clothes, shoes, and other items float freely in the remaining space. Give your laptop one taste of the 11x16" plush padded compartment and it won't want to come out. It's big enough to fit a giant-screened media laptop, and you know your electronics will be well protected.

On the outside, a smaller organizer compartment provides a padded Velcro sealed iPod/phone holder, space for pens, two large slip pockets and an internal zippered pocket for smaller loose items. Just bear in mind that this "small" organizer compartment could hold a 2L hydration pack; it's only small in relation to the bag itself.

A laptop and big books fit in perfectly.
(D. Herscovitch)
Last, but not least, there are separate zipper pockets on each side of the Big Bang that sit behind the wearer's shoulders. I love the innovative placement of these pockets; they allow for quick and easy access to, well, anything you need quick and easy access to! In my case, that includes items like shears, a flashlight, a stethoscope and gloves.The pack gets uncomfortable if you try to cram bulky items, like a Nalgene bottle, into them, but they are ideal for smaller items.

The Big Bang is comfortable thanks to thick, breathable padding around the lumbar area, upper back area and shoulder straps. The outside of the pack, not the sides, is made with thick ripstop nylon and the zippers are the same heavyweights found on more rugged backpacking packs. There is also an adjustable sternum strap and removable waist strap.

Though I was generally impressed with the Big Bang, there is room for improvement. Despite the pack's burly construction, I noticed the stitching starting to pull away at the edges of the shoulder straps after a short period of use with light to moderate loads. For a pack that could easily be loaded with 30 pounds, the shoulder straps could be attached more securely. (Editor's note: EMS product engineers confirmed this isn't typical of their packs. A replacement is on its way, and we'll update the review when we've had a chance to test it out!) The pack could also use compression straps on the shoulders. This would add adjustability, increase strength and durability, and make carrying heavier items more comfortable. I found that the bottom part of the shoulder straps with webbing occasionally rubs against my sides. There is also only one water bottle pocket on the outside, and a second could easily be added for more water carrying fun. The pocket is also much too short for a 1L Nalgene bottle.

The separate zipper pockets keep essentials
close by. (D. Herscovitch)
I'd also like to see the Big Bang better equipped for rain. I don't expect a pack like this to be waterproof, but it sucks up rain like SpongeBob Squarepants crossing Death Valley. I walked for about ten minutes in moderate rain and the entire back pad was socked through. Water was also running down the inside of the main compartment. If you're planning to be out in the rain even a few minutes with the Big Bang, take plastic bags to line it with or get a pack cover.

Overall, it's a quality pack with a well thought out design allowing someone away from home all day involved in multiple activities to keep everything they need well organized. It will be a great asset for any student or business person on the run who carries a laptop, large books, an ensemble of small electronics, snacks, and even a rock collection with them everywhere they go.

Huge thanks to EMS for giving us a complimentary bag to review! As always, the opinions expressed here weren't influenced by the fact that the product wasn't purchased. What do you think, is this backpack for you?


Sam Graves said…
Great review!  Would  you recommend this bag for winter hikes? or not, because of the lack of water resistance?
Katie L. said…
Thanks Sam!Glad to see someone else is thinking about winter. Bring on the snow!

I don't think the lack of water resistance is the problem you'd run into if you took this pack on a winter hike. I have a similar non-waterproof pack I took to the summit of Algonquin in the Adirondacks without any trouble. That being said, it was so cold there wasn't a worry about snow melting!

One of thee problems I think you'd run into on a winter hike, or any hike, is the fact that the water bottle pocket is too small, and there's only one of them. It's not hydration pack compatible, which is fine because hydration packs can freeze in winter, but you want good sized water bottle pockets.

I also don't like to hike with packs that don't have compression straps, even if it's just a little daypack. I'd prefer something like the Osprey Sirrus 24 ( or the Deuter ACT Trail 4 (

That being said, those two might not be the best packs for everyday use. It's a balance, and when selecting a pack, I'd recommend figuring out what activities you'll really need it for before you decide. Hope this helps!