Saddleback Leather Side Pocket Duffel Review & Giveaway (Winner: Nick S.)- $655

[Congratulations to Nick S. for winning this beautiful Saddleback Leather bag out of 13,000 entries. He told me he would be using the bag for traveling and overnight trips!]

The Saddleback Leather Side Pocket Duffle is a redesigned weekender bag from Saddleback Leather. The very first thing I noticed when opened up the box was the rich, beautiful color. I own several SBL pieces in chestnut, but when I saw this one, my jaw dropped. It is positively gorgeous. I thought my other pieces were great looking, but it shocked me to see an exemplar of this idyllic hue in the real world. My other chestnut pieces are beautiful, but the color on SBL’s updated chestnut is somehow even richer.

For all of its beauty, however, there is what (initially) seems like a huge red flag: the strap containing the buckles that secure the side pocket flaps is fixed to the main pocket flap. It is just one long strap across the top of the bag that gets threaded through loops on the side pocket flaps and buckled to the side pockets themselves. This means that you cannot open the main pocket without the side pockets being unfastened. Either you travel with your side pockets unfastened, or you have to open three buckles every time you want to get into your main compartment. Opening the main flap all the way requires you to unthread that strap from the side pocket flaps. If you were opening the bag many times per day, this could get quite old.

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When I first saw this, I was surprised. Saddleback is typically very thoughtful in their designs.  SURELY, they know best and there is some brilliant reason for this that I will love once I figure it out. SURELY, they would not offer a bag with such an obvious design flaw. It seems that Dave uses his prototypes for something like 20 years to perfect them, sending a complimentary bag to Jesus of Nazareth by angelic courier via Jacob’s Ladder, and offering the remainder for sale to the rest of us.

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Then I remembered that this is luggage! The majority of my Saddleback Leather products happen to be everyday use items (like my backpack). But not so much with this one; you will put all your travel goodies in it and only open it up when you arrive.  More than likely, it will stay open on the hotel bed until you depart.

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As usual, you can see pictures and a 3D model of the bag on the Saddleback website, and you can see Dave handling the bag and commenting on it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kcf_gd-QNUQ. Also, as is par for the course, there are a number of reviews floating around on the web. The reviews on the site and on Amazon are standard SBL fare—the kind of glowing testimonials you would expect on an SBL piece.

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One issue that kept coming up is whether or not it fits into the overhead bins on various aircraft. One reviewer said it did not fit “easily” into an overhead bin on an aircraft flown by Southwest, though I assume that it ultimately did fit. Another said it fit easily into an overhead bin on a Jet Blue airplane, and a flyer in a Delta MD80 did not have any issues. In the video, Dave basically says it fits until it does not, in which case it fits below your seat. Based on the dimensions on Saddleback’s website (20.25” x 10” x 11.25”), it should be well within most airline carry-on size restrictions. If you are truly worried, you can lookup the dimensions acceptable to your airline for your upcoming flight at www.seatguru.com.

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For all of my complaining about the top flap, the five straps do add more security for checking the bag if it is unable to be a carry-on, and the flap is generous enough to keep out heavy precipitation (the lack of which on my Rustic Leather mailbag—despite how much I love it—plagues me).

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Users also seem to disagree about the utility of the interior pocket. In the video, Dave explains that it is for muddy sandals, sweaty clothes, or seashells (basically, anything you’d rather keep separate from your other garments). I say brilliant. Cut it out if it truly bothers you. It’s supposed to be floppy, but, being constructed from that nice pigskin, the one in this bag is fairly rigid (for now).

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It’s nice to see that the interior pocket is merely pigskin, and not the leather/pigskin sandwich that used to be used for literally every panel and pocket everywhere. I have an older version of the backpack, which I love, but it is quite heavy. A lot of the pigskin is just unnecessary, and it seems Saddleback has become sensitive to that. This duffle, like the newer backpacks, is constructed using a more appropriate use of pigskin (for example, the side pockets are unlined), which keeps the duffel a bit lighter.

Another deliberate aspect of the design, which I was glad to have pointed out to me, is the flat handle. I love the round briefcase handle and wish my backpack had the same. For me, it is much more satisfying to hold the rigid, round handles than the flat ones. However, they can cause problems for a bag of these dimensions when being stuffed into an overhead bin.

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From a practical standpoint, this bag should have enough space for the average adult to comfortably pack for a 2-3 day trip, minus any speciality equipment or bulky warm clothing. That said, you can fit your blueprints, map tubes, or harpoons right underneath the top flap of this bag and still fasten it closed, if you run the top strap through slits designed for this purpose. The side pockets can fit about three cans of beer.

BestLeather conclusion

This is a nice bag that is excellent for travel, but does not seem designed for the everyday grind (unless yours is at 35,000 feet in between investment property visits). Aesthetically, it is a knockout and the construction is the standard robust Saddleback Leather fare.

Check out the Side Pocket Duffel on Saddleback Leather’s website here.

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170 Comments

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  1. Thanks for taking the time to post this review. I’ve often wondered about the side pocket closures and your explanation makes a lot of sense…

    • We are really glad that was helpful, Mark. Do you have a Side Pocket Duffel?

  2. I would use this bag for everything! It would be great for work, and for weekend trips.

  3. I’d use this bag for travel; it’s so elegant and beautiful.

  4. I’d definitely make it my go to carry on bag, as well as a prepacked bag for unexpected travel needs.

  5. Beautiful bag – thanks for the opportunity.

  6. I would use it for carrying stuff to the coffee shop to work remotely.

  7. I’d use it as a weekender, for sure, but I think it would also become my everyday city bag. It’s a beautiful, beautiful bag, and I love that it’s made with a sense of pride and a sense of humor.

  8. Oh I love how this looks with so many uses.

  9. Saddleback makes the highest quality, most luscious leather bags in the universe!

  10. This bag is so beautiful. I can almost smell the leather.

  11. I am almost at the point where I need a replacement carry-one travel bag for trips, so I would use it as my new travel bag

  12. Replace our current leather duffel bag, which is well past its prime after many miles and years of service, with this new one

  13. We at BestLeather would like to thank all of you for your enthusiastic participation and Saddleback Leather for providing this awesome bag for the giveaway. They have been very great to work with.

  14. I JUST LOVE THIS, I WOULD CARRY EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK IN IT

  15. I would keep this bag for me.. but I’m sure my husband would be VERY jealous. I’d use it for work to keep my books/papers and for travel.

  16. I would probably give it to my son, but which one?

  17. I love everything about this saddle bag! My fingers are crossed and would love to be your lucky winner!

  18. I would love to win this bad. It is a very high quality bad, and looks like a true luxury!

  19. I would use it as an overnight bag or a school/work bag! Thanks for the giveaway!

  20. I would use it as an everyday bag for work.

  21. I would use this while traveling for my job.

  22. I’d take this bag with me every time I leave the house.

  23. This is beautiful bag. I would certainly make good use of it. 🙂

  24. I don’t know what I’d use it for but I would definitely use it.

  25. This would be my everything bag! It’s sooo gorgeous
    Thanks for the opportunity to win it!

  26. Thank you for the in depth review.
    How do we enter the giveaway? Thanks

  27. I would give it to my father, he would LOVE this!

  28. I would use this bag for lots of things–it is quite versatile. My husband will probably try to steal it , though. I like that it has a very rugged, yet polished look to it. It makes it work for everything from work to travel to casual things–it really is a great bag!

  29. What an absolutely gorgeous leather bag I absolutely need for work. Thank you for giving your fans this chance to win this beautiful bag. Good luck to all!

    iane K.
    kleimanlaw at aol dot com

  30. I would use this bag for EVERYTHING. It’s probably kinda big for my everyday, but I want it for a camera bag…except I’d have to fight my partner for it ’cause he’d want it for a briefcase.

  31. I would love to win this bag!!! It’s beautiful!!

  32. I would use this bag for everything!! I would live in this bag it’s so beautiful!!

  33. I will soon be transitioning back into the working world and I would use this bag as a carrier of all things work related. The strong supple leather would easily transport my laptop, papers, and all other work essentials.

  34. This is the perfect weekend bag for tons of trips!

  35. I’m into photography. This would make a great camera/equipment bag!

  36. Yet another exceptional Saddleback bag I wish I could afford.

  37. I am a stay at home of 3, and this would be the ULTIMATE Daddy-Diaper-Bag! Pick me 🙂

  38. I will use this bag for weekend trips.

  39. I would give it to hubby who would use it daily for work and play.

  40. If I won this duffel bag, I would give it to my buddy John. He is a hard working and all around great guy. Because he works in the AV installation industry he gets sent all over the country for various install jobs. He’s mentioned to me before in passing how he could never afford one of these duffel bags but would love to one day own one to use on all these trips. John and I both own Saddleback Leather wallets and belts and cannot get enough of how great of a product Dave Munson and his company make.

    John is one of my best friends and is one of the most loyal and selfless people that I think you could ever meet. He seldom thinks of himself and always seeks the needs of others before his own. I very truly believe that if I won this bag and gave it to John as a gift, he would use it with pride and integrity all while looking sharp as a tac!

    Thank you for the opportunity to be considered in this extremely generous giveaway.

    -Alexander J

  41. I’d love to use this for traveling back and forth to CA…and maybe I’d let my husband use it when he travels overseas…maybe.

  42. I am a high school wrestling coach that does a lot of traveling and would love to take this bag around the USA.

  43. As a weekender/travel bag–and a great one at that!

  44. I think my cameras and board shorts would all fit well for foray’s into sultry, surf soaked, tropical destinations through the America’s. I would use it well, and pass it on to my son one day!

  45. why is saddleback leather having problems keeping their bags in the inventory..this has been going on for weeks now…the answer I get is two more weeks bags will be coming in….I’m down to e-bay looking for a particular bag
    but I will only go so far..not going to pay for used bag when I can ante up another 150 for a new bag.

    • The question you should be asking is why is the demand for SBL bags so high that they sell out quickly.

  46. Geez, I’d need to travel more just to live up to this beautiful bag!

  47. I have never had a real leather duffle and would love to win this.

  48. My husband travel 4 days a week and takes several flights per week as well. He need a new bag to carry his computer, paper work and all the other stuff he has to have with him on his trips. If I won this, this bag would be taken many flights ascots the US.

  49. Wow! This bag is amazing! I loved the knockoff video. If I won the giveaway, I’d probably use it for everything. Just because. Really, I’d probably use it on the go when I need my computer, camera, and writing supplies.

  50. I would use this as my every day going out bag.

  51. I will carry this bag everywhere! and use it for everything! lol I’d make up reasons to carry it. lol

  52. Gorgeous bag. I’d use this for travel and wish for a much smaller one for daily use. 😉

  53. Trying this comment thing again! Not sure my last one was successfully submitted. ; )
    I’d give this bag to my hard working husband who works in a professional environment as a structural engineer. He LOVES leather and this bag is so much nicer than what he currently carries. Thanks for the opportunity! Awesome giveaway!

  54. I would use this bag to travel, collect stories, display as art in my home, and hand it down to the next generation to repeat.

  55. What a beautifully styled bag. I can see multiple uses for this. I love the look and durability of leather.

  56. would use to house expensive tech for work. YouTube clip amazingly informative. wife now demands this for her birthday.

  57. this will for my boyfriend’s parents, they travel for work!

  58. I’d use this bag for vacations and roadtrips for the rest of my life.

  59. I would use this bag for literally everything. I have been looking for a nice heavy duty bag to haul my stuff around for years, whether it be the occasional road trip, a nice day hike, a flight back to the homeland or just going to a friends house. This bag would also be perfect for school since I will be commuting about an hour and walking a mile or two everyday to get to class next semester.

  60. This will make an awesome gift for my husband’s birthday!

  61. I really enjoyed the up-close photos. It made the details as close as to really seeing it.

  62. My DS born on Easter Sunday in a hospital named “Saddleback” in CA turning 21 in a week would FREAK to be the recipient of this incredible bag…he’ll probably take it with him on our skydive 😮 (did I reeeally agree to that?)

  63. Outstanding bag. It’s going to look great for weekends away with my wife and as I take it on business travel

  64. THAT. is the most beautiful bag on the whole entire planet. Come to mama.

  65. I love this duffel bag. It is very well made with superior materials. My husband is very hard on his work bag and I think this would be the perfect bag for him. very durable and would take the hard use my husband would put it through

  66. I’d use this bag for work and for travel. Solid workmanship

  67. As a Carry on when I travel. Perfect for keeping all of my valuables safe!!

  68. I’ve been shopping (on a tight student budget) for a sturdy carry on size duffel to haul essentials with me on an internship 🙁 unpaid) this summer in the Balkans region to study disaster management and relief aid. This duffel would be perfect to carry my stuff while i’m working humanitarian aid (my career goal). I’m graduating this semester and this would make my future humanitarian travels quite nice.

  69. This would become my new laptop bag. Thanks!

  70. beautiful, my son in law would love this, he is traveling all the time for work

  71. Would be the perfect bag for travelling! Fingers crossed!

  72. I would use this as a traveling bag. Would love to win this! 🙂

  73. I would use it as a travel bag. It is so beautifully made! Loved the video, but it ran a bit on the long side.

  74. I would bring things home from work and back to work the next day.

  75. The bag should last the rest of someone’s life in durability!
    I would travel the world with the bag as a National Geographic photographer! That was my dream 25 years ago!

  76. My laptop and a carry-on for when I travel.

  77. I’m a college student so probably it’ll be laptop, books, clothes.

  78. I would give it as a gift to my boyfriend who has wanted a Saddlebag bag for a year now.

  79. I’ll use it for traveling as well as for everyday use.

  80. I would so use this everyday for everything. What a great looking bag.

  81. I would give it to my husband. He is in Upper Management and loves luxury items like this that are high in quality.

  82. This is truly to #Die for!! Praying & crossing my fingers!

  83. I would use this for traveling. i do a fairly large ammount of traveling and this would be perfect for a train or plane

  84. this would be a great work bag…. fingers crossed!

  85. I’d use it for traveling, which I do several times a year.

  86. My wife and I take a couple short trips every year and I like to pack light. This bag would be just about the right size.

  87. What a fantastic bag! I travel for business so this would be perfect.

  88. My husband is a blacksmith and makes things like beautiful hand forged barbecue tools, hooks, pen holders, dinner bells on and on. This bag would be great to transport them in so they don’t become projectiles if God forbid there ever is an accident. We are using a cheap canvas bag now that is going to wear out very quickly. This bag is almost as well made and beautiful as his stuff…LOL!

  89. I could carry a lot of things in that bag when traveling. I love that is is made of leather.

  90. I’d LOVE to transport my daily paperwork and use this as a basic, go all do all bag, it is BEAUTIFUL & I’m sure it would hold up well to daily use 🙂

  91. My husband is a professor and needs a new bag to carry all his lectures and paperwork. This will look more professional than the vinyl bags he has been using.

  92. This is truly one of the most handsome & beautiful bags I have seen! Really classic & high quality!!! My Sweetheart travels & really needs a new bag.I would be so delighted to win this Beauty for his Birthday! Love to borrow it myself! (Would use to travel)~SMILE~ He could use it to carry his work items. Also to pack for weekends to 4 day long trips!!! HE does computer networking & phone system & has to travel cross country on short trips!!! Crossing my fingers and wishing upon a Bright Star in Arizona Sky tonight! What a most wonderful giveaway!

  93. What an amazing looking bag I LOVE LEATHER!!!!

  94. This leather bag would be perfect for my teaching

  95. My son is a traveling DJ and needs a roomy duffel for his personal gear while on the road. He would be over the moon to get this beautiful bag for his birthday in June!

  96. Would love to own a bag like this..great quality!

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