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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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