Category Archives: Bags

Albatross Leather Goods Postal Bag and Wallets

In the days before the Civil War, there was no internet. There was no telephone. There was no radio, there was no telegraph. There were men, horses, and leather bags, riding from point to point ferrying messages back and forth between offices that sorted messages and put them in the next rider’s bag who was heading in the right direction. This simple method allowed a previously impossible feat: A message could leave St. Joseph, Missouri and arrive in San Francisco a mere ten days later. Some bags used for similar purposes in the 1890s and early 1900s still exist today, and Albatross Leather has launched and successfully funded a Kickstarter Project to recreate bags in this tradition.
Continue reading Albatross Leather Goods Postal Bag and Wallets

Rugged Material’s new Mission Brief Kickstarter

Somehow, I missed it the first time around. Last summer, Rugged Material raised a respectable $84 thousand dollars to get their oil-tanned leather bags going. Now, they’re a full-fledged company selling bags made in the USA in the sub-$300 price range with a lifetime warranty. Creator Tyler Condie reached out to me a few weeks ago about their latest project, a second Kickstarter to raise funds for expanding into Horween Chromexcel leather. Here’s what we thought. Continue reading Rugged Material’s new Mission Brief Kickstarter

Saddleback Leather Part 3: Spring Travel Update

It’s a busy time of year. After heading to research conferences in San Diego and Pittsburgh, you can consider me exhausted. But today, I got home and had a bit of free time after finishing up some house chores to snap a few pictures of my travel companion: my tobacco brown Classic Briefcase from Saddleback. Continue reading Saddleback Leather Part 3: Spring Travel Update

Saddleback Leather: Part 2

Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium

If you saw Part 1 of this series on Saddleback Leather Company’s fine leather goods, you already know that Saddleback has for some time been regarded as one of the best leather bags available. Their Chestnut satchel is a beautiful piece, but what about their other products? After returning the last bag, Saddleback was kind enough to let me check out their Classic Briefcase in their (recently controversial) Tobacco Brown color. I took this bag home during the holiday, and had this photo shoot in their backyard.

Bag Layout
Saddleback’s Classic Briefcase has an interesting layout that achieves a lot of storage space. Take a few pens, a laptop, some notepads, a tablet, and a few other items and put them into the bag, and you still have ample room to take on more cargo. The bag is separated into two primary sections: A main compartment on the outside of the bag holds two leather pockets large enough for a Macbook charger along the divider, and two smaller pockets perfect for fitting pens or small paper items. The compartment is also the recommended place for a computer if you carry one: The exterior pocket on the “Medium” bag is just large enough to fit a 13 inch Macbook, while larger models are available for larger payloads.

How much can a Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium hold?
All this…

When I compare the Classic Briefcase to the Satchel, I think of it as a “Double Hull” design. While the Satchel has a single compartment, adding a second onto it more or less approximates the classic briefcase. The added pockets are a nice use of the added space.

How much can a Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium hold?
Fits in here.

Design and Functionality
The other major, noticeable difference between the satchel and the classic briefcase is the added straps. The leather buckles and straps can be used to compress the bag, slimming the profile substantially. They can also be used to keep the bag more securely closed, and pulling on the straps can also adjust to keep the flap open. They also just look cool.

Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium

Leather Imperfections
Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium bottomAfter Saddleback announced a change to their leather cutting policy, concerns were raised by some that the tobacco brown leather bag would lose quality. Based on what I see here, I don’t believe that to be the case. To the right is the bottom of the bag, and you can see some of the imperfections in the grain: The dark brown spot on the right of the bag is a scar from the animal’s hide. Some of the lighter marks are surface scratches from wear. Having both present on this bag adds depth of character: If the darkest spots were the light brown, and scratches and scuffs only add light colored marks, the bag wouldn’t look as interesting. So at least with regard to this bag, I have to say I agree with Saddleback’s decision on appearance alone.

Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium
The stitching on the flap can add nice surface texture to the bag underneath it. This happened to some extent before delivery.

A Criticism of the Message:
Saddleback claims that their new leather cutting policy may end up costing them more. Frankly, I’m a touch skeptical of that claim. But even if it does end up saving them a little bit of cost in leather, I believe that it adds character to the Tobacco Brown color. I hope that it does allow them to use fewer pieces of leather: That means more bags per animal, minimizing the impact of the industry on farming, and is more respectful to the animal. Less waste, more use. Go green?

Saddleback Leather Classic Briefcase Medium trademark

But to Close:
Saddleback’s Classic Briefcase is a great bag. In the month or so I have been testing it, I often receive remarks about the quality. When someone asks about it, I point out the quality stitching, the pigskin lining, and tell them about the 100 year warranty. While the company receives some criticism for the recent change, I feel it was a good one. But for those who prefer less marked leather, I the Chestnut keeps such flaws to a minimum, and they show up minimally on the Coffee Brown and Charcoal brown thanks to the darker hue. But if you want a beautiful leather bag that shows the impact of wear from day one, and will still last longer than a lifetime, checkout Saddleback in Tobacco Brown.

I’ll be doing at least one more piece on this bag before it gets sent back to Saddleback, so be sure to check out how it responds to Chamberlains Leather Milk soon!

-Mash

Update: If you are interested in seeing this same bag 5 months of wear later, check out the Spring Update!

Saddleback Leather: Part 1

See also Part 2

Wefty and I did our research when we started this blog. We looked at our favorite items, and discussed them with online communities like the Buy It For Life subreddit. We lurked, discussed, listened… and one of the names that kept coming up was Saddleback: Usually in the “I want a leather bag that will last forever, what would you recommend?” category. With that in mind, we reached out to Saddleback’s Sarah Farver, who was kind enough to let us borrow a bag or two for a review. This post will be about the Chestnut Satchel I got to try for the last few weeks. As of this publication, the bag has been returned to Saddleback at their request.

First Impressions
When I first opened the box this bag came in, I was overwhelmed with the smell of high quality leather. It burst out of the plastic bag securing the bag. After opening it and inspecting it, my attention became focused on the details of the bag. Using a thick thread consistently throughout, this bag’s 5 stitches per inch stands out from a distance as clean, even, and consistent across the entire product. That and a few antiqued copper rivets hold together the three main components of this bag: metal, leather, and more leather.

The Metal
Standing out with a bright sheen, the metalwork for this particular Saddleback consists of two dog-leash style clasps (I suspect an homage to creator Dave Munsen’s dog, Blue), a key-clip, a bull-nose style ring, and a dozen D-rings. The rivets themselves are an antiqued-style copper that fades nicely into the rich chestnut color of the leather. This two-tone metalwork certainly works nicely for the bag, although I find the sheen of the non-rivets to be a bit much. Fortunately, that is nothing a year or two of use wouldn’t fix: As these pieces get worn, this sheen will fade, and the bag will look even nicer. But as is, it gives the leather bag a crisp appearance that would be well suited in a variety of work environments.

The Leather
Saddleback’s recent change in leather cutting policy has ruffled some feathers of late, but on this bag, it is not applicable. While I am no leatherworker, I have seen my fair share of leather bags and wallets. From Tanner Goods to Cole Haan, I like to think I can recognize quality full grain leather, and that’s exactly what this cowhide is. When it first arrived, it bore not a single blemish– Any that you see in these pictures are a result of my personal use with the bag. Having spoken with the folks at Saddleback, they explained that this is normal for the Chestnut leather: This color is meant to be delivered crisp and unmarked as possible. If all their bags look like this one, they certainly hit the mark there.

The “More” Leather

I had to ask what the interior of this bag was made of. At first I thought it might be some sort of rubberized neoprene– It is grippy to the touch, smooth, and easy to clean. When Saddleback indicated that it is Pigskin, It all came together: The pigskin lining is secured to the cowhide by the stitching, and serves as a liner to prevent spills and the like from damaging the exterior shell. The leather also is more pliable, making it a great material for the laptop sling– Which on this “large” bag is sufficient to hold my 13 inch Macbook with Retina Display alongside a 10 inch Android Tablet. The interior also houses two cowhide pockets on either side– One of which has a leather strap with key-hook. The interior pockets can hold a small set of keys or a cellphone charger, while exterior pockets are large enough for a small umbrella or water bottle. 
Additionally, the briefcase-style handle has a rather ingenious leather support. In the picture above, you may notice a bulge on the interior of the satchels’ flap. That bulge is the anchor for the handle on the top of the bag. Instead of dismantling the bag, I asked about it– It is composed of a piece of “Suela,” or sole-leather, wrapped in pigskin. It feels sturdy enough to be mistaken for steel, so I have little doubt the bag’s shape would be maintained by this piece for quite a long time.  Edit January 6: I have just been told that this component is actually a strip of metal, not “suela” leather.

In Closing
Saddleback makes a great leather satchel, and the attention to detail on this product makes me expect the same will hold true for all their products. From what I can tell, these bags should hold up to daily use for many years: With proper regular care, It is possible for this bag to last longer than the 100 year warranty. Expect products in the chestnut color to arrive more or less flawless. While this one is on its way back to Saddleback, stay tuned for Part 2, where I’ll be reviewing the Classic Briefcase in Tobacco Brown. Expect that one to have more character out of the box.

-Mash

If you enjoyed reading this, you may also enjoy our post on Will Leather Goods