If you spend any amount of time away from home base, whether it’s hiking through the Tongass National Forest, sightseeing at Chichen Itza, hauling your camera gear to a wedding photo shoot, or just attending an out-of-town conference, then you’re going to need a sturdy bag to carry your necessities. After several years of journeying with cheap bags, I finally realized that if this is an important item I use on a regular basis, then a higher quality bag is worth the extra money. My search for a proper bag led me to the Saddleback Leather Large Leather Satchel. It was the right size and made of the right stuff, it has done a great job for the past 6 months, and its classic design is the right look.
Saddleback Leather makes all of their bags with full grain leather, but several months ago, they unveiled a new controversial leather style for all of their products. It is still full grain, but now the natural scarring and marking from the life of the cow aren’t cut away and are clearly seen on the finished bags. It’s not necessarily a design that fits everyone’s style, it’s not what I would call chic or suave, but it’s a rugged look that many will certainly find appealing.
I bought the new tobacco color. Saddleback’s previous tobacco color didn’t interest me–it was too light and too yellow. However, all the pictures of this new tobacco color on Saddleback’s website showed it as a rich color with much more character. When it arrived in the mail, I first thought they accidentally sent me a dark coffee brown satchel–it’s much darker than all of the pictures on their website. I emailed them with pictures, but they assured me it was indeed tobacco. Ultimately it’s still a beautiful color and texture, but unfortunately the real-life color is not quite as beautiful as the official pictures.
The aesthetic of this bag is simple; the large pieces of leather and double stitching complemented by the straps and buckles make for a classic design. The leather, with its barbwire scars and cattle-prod scars from the cow, is beautiful. Despite the slight downtick for the color not being quite as light as I thought it would, this satchel is still an amazing looking bag. In a sea of cheap backpacks and bags, this one is certainly eye-catching. Be prepared to get noticed (and most likely complimented). I would make it our dining room centerpiece if my wife would let me.
The large version of the Saddleback Leather Satchel (pictured in this article) is 14 inches wide, 11 inches high, and 5 inches deep. It’s made up of only two main pieces of leather–the front flap curves over the top and down the back, around to both sides, and then curves under the bottom to meet the large front panel. Fewer pieces mean less seams, which in turn means a more durable bag with less points to wear down or break. All of the seams are double stitched and the stress points are reinforced with rivets.
There are no zippers or snaps at all on this bag. Those tend to break or wear down quickly on a bag that gets used regularly. Instead, this satchel has ten D-rings in strategic places all over, and a large O-ring on the back behind the handle. The shoulder strap clips onto the D-rings with a dog leash-like clasp, and the front flap secures into a large buckle. All of the hardware is nickel-plated brass, and after more than six months of use it’s showing no signs of damage or wear, and it works like the day I got it.
Saddleback’s relatively newer leather style is noticeably softer than older versions. It strikes that delicate balance between soft and supple, while remaining tough and durable. This is especially evident with the pigskin. Whereas with previous versions you wouldn’t be able to scratch or scuff the pigskin at all, this newer kind is considerably softer and scratches and scuffs just as easily as the rest of the bag. The only downside of this leather is when friends or strangers catch you groping it–the thick material folds and bends softly–and really, that’s why we love leather so much.
The large version of the Saddleback Leather Large Leather Satchel is mainly one large open compartment on the inside. It’s not neat and tidy; it’s a free-for-all for whatever you can fit in there. I once had in there a winter coat along with a camera, first aid kit, notebook, and various other smaller objects. The leather stretches bulges and stretches, and it looks beautiful when it does, so it can be pretty accommodating. There are outside and inside pockets on either side, and they can easily fit a phone, knife, or other small water bottle, and can stretch a little to fit a medium sized water bottle. The back pocket runs along the entire back side, and is useful for sliding in loose flat items like newspapers. Running the entire length of the inside is a pigskin flap, which is perfect for sliding in a notebook or folder while the bag is already packed full of other stuff.
The bag weighs about five pounds by itself. If you’re hiking with it over your shoulder and you have it loaded full of stuff, it can get heavy after a couple of miles. Likewise, having it flapping around while biking can be cumbersome. Fortunately by attaching the strap clasps to the bottom back D-rings and running the strap through the large O-ring, it converts easily into a backpack mode. This is perfect for carrying a heavier load or doing more strenuous activities. The way the satchel is rounded at the bottom means it fits comfortably as a backpack. I wore mine like this while hiking, skiing, biking, and various other activities and didn’t feel a bit of discomfort.
Best Leather Conclusion
This is a great travel or adventure bag. It’s versatile and large enough to carry anything you’d need while spending a day away from home. The rugged look of the scarred leather might not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but the bag is durable and the classic design has adventure written all over it. If you’re considering buying this bag then do yourself a favor and go for it.
Check out this thorough review video below to see it in action.