The Black Ember CITADEL Modular Pack is a new pack from the Black Ember line. It is a high-performance, modular vaping system that offers unprecedented customization and versatility.
Black Ember is a modular pack that focuses on creating a new world for your Minecraft. The pack comes with many different mods and has been updated to work with the latest version of Minecraft.
The Black Ember Citadel pack is the subject of this review. We’re particularly interested in the modular version. For context, this pack comes in two flavors: simple and modular, each with different degrees of flexibility.
The basic version essentially has a sleek, smooth appearance with just a handful of removable handles and compression straps. On the other hand, the modular version includes a slew of connection points that let you attach a slew of pouches, belts, and other extras.
We were able to get our hands on the modular version and had a great time utilizing it during our field testing. But, of course, the obvious question is: Is all of this modular nonsense really worth it? Is it really beneficial? In our review below, we’ll try our best to address those questions and many more. So let’s have a look.
Aesthetics & Materials
Without any of the add-ons, the overall appearance of this bag is very basic. The modular version is clearly not as minimalist as the minimalist version, but Black Ember has managed to achieve a very clean look even with all of those connection points.
We surveyed our Instagram followers and found that most of them disliked the appearance. So that’ll be the end of it.
There isn’t much going on in terms of branding with this bundle. The zipper pulls and hardware has some branding, but everything else is black. We like it since it’s nice and discreet.
This pack is composed of a 900D three-layer micro-hex fabric that is IP6 certified in terms of materials. We’ll break it down for you quickly since that’s almost comically a lot of fabric jargon for one phrase. You’ve got a really strong, long-lasting cloth that’s just shy of waterproof (AKA, very weather resistant). It’s fantastic.
This bag also has YKK AquaGuard zippers for further weather protection. Finally, we can confidently state that this is one of the most weather-resistant bags we’ve tried so far. It isn’t entirely waterproof, but it comes very close.
You’ll see that the outside of this pack has several modular connection points. They’re just laser-cut squares, which we believe look a lot better with something connected to them. Instead, you have these strange-looking tabs all throughout the pack with nothing connected to them… This isn’t the best situation.
One thing to keep in mind: as you utilize these attachment sites, they may begin to loosen. Although the material is durable, there is some stretching throughout the break-in phase. It’s not a huge issue; we’re just putting it out there.
There is also a slew of additional materials in this bundle that are worth mentioning:
- The zipper pulls are constructed of Hypalon that has been laser cut (a material used in military-grade rafts).
- The metal hardware is composed of aluminum that is “aircraft-grade, anodized, and laser engraved.”
- EVA foam is used in the straps and back panel.
- For further weather protection, the outside is covered with polyurethane.
- ITW manufactures buckles and plastic hardware (which is a plastic company that makes military-grade buckles).
- “German Magnetic Fidlock Hardware” is used in most of the attachment locations and part of the hardware, which is essentially a good magnetic buckle system.
We believe that all of this comes together to provide a strong, long-lasting pack. Plus, some of the marketing jargon had us laugh out loud.
Finally, without any of the extra attachments, this pack weighs in at a staggering 3.8 pounds when empty. So, although they’ve gone all out with a lot of these things, it’s not without cost. Beware of ultralight travelers.
Components from Outside
There’s a lot to cover on the outside of this bag, so buckle up (specifically, please buckle up with your ITW German Magnetic Fidlock hardware). After that, things are going to get a little crazy.
The rear panel of the harness system is somewhat curved, which you’ll notice right away. The back panel is intended to follow the natural curve of your back; however, if you’re tall, the bottom portion of the back panel may dig into your back a little. You may tighten the load-lifters to raise the bar higher on your back; however, this may or may not solve the issue, depending on your height.
On the other hand, the load-lifters aren’t your typical load-lifter straps. Instead, they include a little Velcro piece that connects to the top of the shoulder strap and enables you to modify the cushioning on the shoulder straps. You may modify it as needed according to your body type and the weight you’re carrying. We liked this modification since it gives you the function of load lifter straps without adding bulk or extra adjustment straps that hang and eventually get in the way.
On the other hand, the shoulder straps seem to be a little excessive. On the exterior, there is high-density foam, and the straps are thickly cushioned. They’re comfy, but they seem like the straps protrude outward from your chest a little more than other packs while you’re wearing them (because they do). Again, you seem to be wearing a life jacket, which we don’t think is a good idea.
The advantage of these straps is that they may be hidden if necessary, thanks to a triangular clasp on the bag’s bottom. Unclip the straps and slip them into the two long sleeves that go along the back panel. The bottom buckles spin 360 degrees, which means your straps will never get tangled, and the straps are also well-managed thanks to the plastic hardware on the bottom. Super simple to conceal, with no hanging straps—I love it.
The sternum strap functions well and has a Fidlock clasp that is both pleasant to click and fast to unbuckle with one hand. The main drawback is that it tends to slip off the attachment rail. There are two buttons at the top to assist minimize this, but the rail stops a little sooner than you’d think, so sliding the sternum strap off without unbuttoning anything is really quite simple.
Great concept, but the execution was lacking. We see this “removable sternum strap that’s really too easily removed” issue on backpacks a lot more than we’d want.
Also, speaking of items that quickly come off the bag, the side compression strap buckles are quite simple to remove. Unfortunately, one of them slipped off the pack during regular usage during testing, and we lost it. This is really clever thinking from Black Ember, and although we appreciate how simple it is to attach and remove, we believe it is a little too simple to remove. If you’re going to utilize these compression straps, make sure they’re cinched as much as possible to keep them in place. They may easily be jostled about and fall off on their own if they’re simply free-floating. That’s not cool.
A hip belt, which is quite covert and quickly hidden, may also be stored on the bottom of the pack. (Please note that the hip belt must be purchased separately.) We don’t believe a hip belt is necessary with a pack this size, but your mileage may vary.
Now we’ll look at the primary attraction of this bundle, the feature that makes it so creative and distinctive. The modularity of the system. It’s insane how many different attachments and pouches you can put on this thing. As a result, you can really personalize it to your heart’s content, which we think is very cool.
All of the accessories are attached in the same way. A Fidlock-made magnet connection point remains connected well but is yet simple to detach when necessary. All you have to do now is tug it correctly. It works by inserting a plastic prong into the laser-cut webbing and then clipping it in for a more lasting connection. We like how this method works since it is simple to attach and detach while being permanent enough to stay on your bag without you having to check it every two seconds to see whether it has come off. We’ve discovered that the smaller attachments and pouches are much simpler to attach than the bigger accessories.
In terms of connection points, there is one at the top of the bag where a handle may be attached. (If you want, you may also connect extra handles to the bag’s sides.) The handle is attached to the boulder hook using an aluminum boulder hook.
Moving on to the outside of the tiny admin bag, there are two D-rings on the rear of this item that you may utilize to connect a strap and carry it independently. Two pens, pencils, or styluses may be stored in the pouch, which opens with a (surprise) magnetic Fidlock clasp. There’s a tiny pocket on the outside on the opposite side of the flap opening, and the whole pocket opens up clamshell-style to provide extra organizing possibilities.
The big admin bag comes next. There is no Fidlock buckle on this bag, but it does include a magnetic flap closing (sad face). There are D-rings on this one, much like the smaller one, enabling you to carry it independently. This one includes two exterior pockets and a main clamshell pocket with a lot of organization, much like the tiny pocket.
There’s also the M&M bag, which is designed to be used only for keeping M&Ms and nothing else. (Aside from the jokes, it’s the ideal size for a couple of packs of M&Ms.) It features a single D-ring at the top for attaching a shoulder strap and two tiny pens/pencil compartments on the side. It opens with another—you guessed it—magnet Fidlock, which you may pull down to open. For further organizing, there are two divider pockets on the interior. Again, it’s a bag that might theoretically be used for anything other than M&Ms, but we already know what we’ll be storing inside.
You may connect a sports pack to your backpack that covers the whole outside of the bag and works virtually as a second backpack on top of your backpack. It’s composed of a swishy nylon ripstop fabric with a split pocket on the front that can also be opened clamshell-style. This pocket would be ideal for segregating items that don’t belong in the main compartment of your bag, such as filthy clothing or shoes, or just adding additional space.
PSA: Depending on how much you have in there, the pocket of the sports may make it difficult to carry on.
Thus that’s all we’ve tried so far. Other attachments available on Black Ember’s website include a DSLR mod for your camera gear, shoulder straps for the admin pouches, utility straps, and an SR strap with cam locks for fastening down anything heavy.
So that pretty much sums up the pack’s modular components. You’ll appreciate this if you’re the kind of person who enjoys nerding out on things like this and customizing a pack to your precise preferences. On the other hand, if you’re looking for anything that works straight out of the box, you may be disappointed. This is because this item has so many setting possibilities, and it’s one of the most extensively adjustable packs we’ve ever tried.
Components on the Inside
Moving on to the pack’s inside, there are two pockets, the first of which is on the back. This is a lay-flat pocket that is ideal for storing maps, flat objects, or anything else you want to keep safe when traveling (since no one will be able to access it while the pack is on). There are two metal supports here to assist with the curved frame sheet and form, which will keep your flat things neat.
One interesting side notes: if you look closely at the details around the zippers on this pack, you’ll notice that there isn’t much stitching. This is because many of the connection points and seams are bonded using heat rather than conventional stitching. This helps to establish a firm seal and adds to the water resistance. It’s also very, really amazing.
We’ll begin by going over the top flap of the main container, which opens up clamshell-style. That flap has a sleeve that runs the length of the front of the pack and several extra equidistant-width compartments. The Velcro straps on these pockets are fantastic because they hold everything in place and enable you to fit smaller things within. Next, a mesh zippered pocket is located on the bottom of the bag. This pocket doesn’t have a lot of depth, so it’s best for smaller, more flexible objects.
The main compartment of the pack is on the other side. You’ll notice straight away that the primary clamshell has a strong frame divider wedged in the center. You can simply remove it, but it’s mostly intended to keep things orderly in the main compartment and prevent items from sliding about excessively when you’re carrying the bag. We believe it should be flat, but ours has bent somewhat over time due to the pack’s use. On the front, there’s a pocket that’s ideal for carrying a tablet.
You may reach the back organizers by unclipping this divider. Rear here, there’s a cushioned laptop compartment that’s also accessible through a horseshoe zipper at the pack’s back. There are three compartments of similar size and one velcro strap on the front. Just a reminder that these pockets, like the pockets on the other flap, are not flexible, which may be a pain depending on what you want to put inside. At the top, there’s a keychain ring, and there’s a similar zipped mesh divider pocket that doesn’t have a lot of depth but is useful for organization.
So, both inside and out, there’s a lot of organizing going on with this pack. To better arrange your stuff within your backpack, we usually suggest utilizing packing cubes or pouches. However, with this one, we don’t think that’s a good idea since there are so many nooks and crannies for you to stash your belongings.
Testing & Durability
We’ve had the Ember Black Citadel Modular pack for approximately a month of real-world testing at the time of this review. So far, it’s held up admirably—there aren’t many scratches or dents on the outside, and it’s been weather and moisture resistant.
We believe this bag has been over-engineered in practice, and it is also very hefty. We did have some issues with buckles and straps coming off—most notably, the sternum strap nearly came off (thankfully, it was connected to the opposite side through the Magnetic Fidlock), and one of the ITW buckles from the compression straps was lost. When the compression straps aren’t used, it’s generally best to remove them.
That said, we like the thought process that went into this, and we have to respect Black Ember for coming up with some new and creative backpack concepts. They are certainly moving the industry ahead, which we applaud.
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