“Holy Cow”! I think those were the first words I uttered when I opened up the oversized box and pulled out The Beast. I purchased The Beast Duffel bag from Saddleback Leather as a Christmas present to myself. It is a bag meant for hauling serious gear, and can be found in Saddleback Leather’s luggage section.
As I was considering this purchase, I read on Saddleback Leather’s website that it takes four huge pieces of full grain leather to make this bag, which is almost an entire cow. So apparently my first expression was not that far off. I suppose that I could also have said, “Holy Pig”!, because most of the bag is lined with pigskin, as is Saddleback’s norm. Considering cows are bigger than pigs, I wonder how many pigs it took to complete The Beast?!
I admit that I am a fan of Saddleback Leather products, as Saddleback was my first foray into fine leather goods. Most of Saddleback’s products are given simple descriptive names (i.e. thin, classic, utility, travel, squared, etc.). I think this bag is the only one so named that uses a term reserved for fairy tale monsters or jungle predators – The Beast.
Obviously, the duffel bag is large. My family of six (four small kids and two large adults) recently took a weekend trip to a cabin and I wanted to see if The Beast could handle all of our goods, without any accessory bags. Sure enough, we piled everything we needed for the weekend: clothes, toiletries, medicine, shoes, computers, iPads, etc., and The Beast handled it with no problem. The bag was designed well to handle such large amounts of paraphernalia. You open the top flap and what stares at you is one large, cavernous space.
There are two, large interior pockets, one on each end of the bag, which we used for our toiletries. There are no exterior pockets or pouches, which I did not mind at all, simply because it was not needed. The bag has no less than five straps to keep everything tied down and kept in. They probably could have gotten away with the three on the front of the bag, but instead they added one to each side. These side straps also go through a slot on the top flap, in order to provide more secure closure of the bag. It works perfectly and I never felt like any of our things were going to slip out. This is classic Saddleback Leather over engineering, which I love.
The entire bag is double stitched with continuous double filament polyester thread, which is much stronger and durable than linen or nylon thread. It is an appropriate thread choice for a bag like this, which uses tough, vegetable tanned leather adhered to thick pigskin. This thread choice, combined with the double stitching and the choice of leathers used, virtually guarantees that the bag will last a lifetime, and then some. One of the interesting things I noticed with the stitching is that some parts of the bag are stitched where it is not functionally necessary, which is obviously done to increase the aesthetic appeal of the bag. This makes the bag that much more beautiful.
I was curious to see if the bag could carry one of my sons (who is five). He jumped in and fit comfortably. I then wondered if the bag could carry my second son (who is four) at the same time. Same result. Then I added my twin one year old girls, and they fit snugly as well. What a bag! I was tempted to do some traveling with this configuration, but my wife put her foot down on that.
room for improvement
The only complaint I had was that I felt the carrying straps could have been a bit longer. Hoisting the bag onto my shoulder took some effort (with the bag fully loaded) and it did not help that the straps were a little short, which made carrying the bag long distances a little difficult. The bag was designed, though, so that you could carry it as a backpack as well, so Saddleback had obviously considered this issue. Saddleback has also posted a video on their site describing how you can convert The Beast to a backpack, so it was not too difficult to figure out. See that video here: www.saddlebackleather.com/beastduffel. You simply reroute the two, long straps, one on each side of the bag for each arm, and there you go – The Beast Backpack. This is a handy configuration for those airports that do not come with wheeled luggage carts.
Let us not forget one thing that will be important to most of us considering this bag. It’s the 800 pound gorilla in the back of the room. Or should I say 907 pound gorilla? $907 is a lot of duckets to pay for a piece of luggage. Could you buy a large canvas bag, or a lesser quality leather bag, or traditional luggage that had the same basic utility – yes. But you would then be sacrificing something that lovers of fine products appreciate – elegance and sophistication, not to mention durability. Though this bag is massive, it is elegant. It is beautiful. In my view, it is a work of art. Is it worth the money? Absolutely.
BestLeather conclusion – so far
My overall impression of The Beast Duffel Bag – pure awesomeness. The bag is simple and does what it is supposed to do, carry a boatload of stuff and look great doing it. It is made with some of the finest leather made, and it is obvious that it is made to last a lifetime, and then some. The bag is heavy duty and I never worried about the bag being able to handle the weight I put in it. Like the majority of Saddleback’s bags, it is double stitched all the way around the bag, is made with as few pieces of leather as possible, and is riveted at all potential weak joints. I’m already looking forward to the next trip to see how many days my family can make it, with just The Beast as our luggage.