This is a guest post by Kristin from Los Angeles, California.
I’ve had this bag since August of 2013. I liked it when I first saw it but since then I have grown to love it more and more.
It’s a beautiful coffee brown Marlondo Leather Classic Briefcase. It has a strap that can either make it a one shoulder briefcase or a backpack. That feature is extremely useful because of the weight of the bag. I am a young lady and not terribly weak, but this bag is heavy when you put a computer and a few books in it. I have a huge dell laptop (which adds a lot of weight) and so when I had it during school I couldn’t take it to all my classes like I needed too because I didn’t know about the backpack option and the one shoulder that it was hanging on started hurting really badly. However, I soon learned how to make it a backpack and since then I have had no issues at all.
It has two main pockets, two smaller pockets on the inside, and one pocket on each end outside the bag. The leather is strong and durable. There was a time where I accidentally dropped it with my computer in it but the bag protected my computer and it had no damage whatsoever. It holds and protects its contents quite well.
It’s very professional looking and perfect for my meetings with photography clients.
Like I said before, I used my bag primarily for school. I was using it on a daily basis taking my books and computer to classes and in that way, the bag is tremendous! I also have used it as a camera bag. It protects my gear as well as holds it all with plenty of room.
The bag is extremely durable. It is extremely comforting knowing that I don’t have to worry about it falling apart and breaking. The wear and tear that the leather gets looks awesome and as time goes on the bag simply looks cooler. It has some scratches on the front but they add character to the bag.
I get comments and compliments on the bag everywhere I go. People are very impressed with the quality and appearance of the bag. It’s very classy and professional looking. I feel pretty cool walking around with it.
“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.
White Wing Label was founded in 2010 by two brothers out to live a dream. That dream was to create 100% American made textile products. Three years later, that dream is fulfilled in White Wing Label, a company based out of Texas that makes men’s luggage and equipment. Bestleather.org had the opportunity to review a new tote that is being added to their product line.
This tote from White Wing Labelis a simple, yet timeless bag. It is a good blend of durability and class. The sturdy construction equals a solid bag that should resist wear and tear. The straps have small brass hardware, giving it a nice touch without being too industrial.
The construction is a solid canvas with a fully lined interior and leather straps. It appears like it would be easy to wipe off if something were spilled inside. Empty, it stands up without falling over, which is always a big plus when I am looking into getting any kind of bag.
There is one interior pocket with a zipper that is almost the width of the bag. It is a very shallow pocket which can be good or bad depending on your needs. It is good in that you won’t have to be fishing to the bottom of a large pocket looking for a small object- it is bad in that it is just barely deep enough for a wallet. There are two pockets on the sides of the exterior, ideal size for a water bottle or glasses case.
Overall this a nice, sturdy tote that would be well suited for either a man or lady’s weekend travel bag.
This is an opinion guest post by Paul Evans, Co-Founder & CEO at Paul Evans, a fairly new NY based shoe company.
You have most likely heard that American manufacturing is undergoing a renaissance. Many believe that our country’s manufacturing costs are becoming more competitive and that future economic prosperity will be tied to growth in the manufacturing sector. While many industries are well situated to benefit from a rise in American manufacturing, I do not believe footwear is among them.
In the United States there are virtually no footwear manufacturers still in operation. Beyond Alden in the Northeast and Allen Edmonds in the Midwest, shoe manufacturing in the United States is limited to a select number of local boot manufacturers. Believe me, I’ve looked. I spent over a year sourcing factories internationally to find the best possible product at my retail price point. I found that factory in Italy after extensively traveling the country.
Italy is a superior choice for shoe manufacturing because of expertise, tradition and location. There are thousands of factories in Italy that have been in operation for generations, passing along the savoir-faire and passion necessary to create beautiful shoes. The Italian artisans have been around for so long that their experience ensures stylish, quality footwear. They’ve seen thousands of styles throughout the years and know how what works and what doesn’t. Feedback from my factory has ensured I am able to produce a shoe that will endure.
Additionally, factories are clustered in communities that are dedicated to producing shoes. During one of my sourcing trips I was driven around town to meet the many suppliers involved in the production process. The relationships my factory has with its suppliers ensures production will be as seamless as possible, while also keeping production costs low. And of course, the numerous trade shows in Italy contribute to the continued success of the Italian fashion industry as ideas are shared, relationships are forged and new and creative merchandise is sold for international distribution.
Two of the most well known Italian trade shows are Pitti Uomo and Micam. Pitti Uomo is a menswear extravaganza with something for everybody. Held twice a year in Florence, menswear buyers, brands and enthusiasts are able to see new product, order merchandise for their stores and of course create lasting relationships. Micam is held bi-annually as well in Milan and is arguably the most important footwear trade show in the world. Anybody who is anybody in footwear is there. And again relationships are key in this industry. The relationship I have with my factory is without a doubt my brand’s greatest asset. They don’t pick up the phone for just anyone. It takes time and effort to cultivate a lasting bond with these Italian artisans who are so passionate about fashion.
And that’s why my shoes are made in Italy. The skilled artisans, the convenient infrastructure and the presence of a large footwear community make Italy a superior choice for shoe production. Italy is the ideal country for new brands looking to break into the world of fashion.
There are five distinct ways of soling a leather shoe. Each shoe’s sole impacts its comfort, durability, and waterproofing. Here’s a quick breakdown.
Goodyear welted shoes are distinctive for their waterproof soles since the stitch that attaches the sole to the shoe runs along the outside edge instead of piercing through to the inside of the shoe. The sole attaches to the welt (a strip of rubber, leather, or plastic) which then attaches to the upper. The welt forms a cavity which is then filled with cork or similar material. Because the stitch line runs around the outside of the shoe it is relatively easy for a shoe-maker to resole Goodyear welted shoes.
As you may suspect, the name comes from Charles Goodyear who patented the machine capable of sewing around the perimeter, replacing the need for hand-sewn welts. These days, it is rare to see shoes with Goodyear welting because of the time and difficulty, and the fact that it requires skilled labor.
Advantages: Waterproof, and durable. Easily resolable, extending the lifetime of the shoe for many years.
Disadvantages: Cost. Because stitching is done on the outside of the sole, Goodyear welted shoes tend to be bulkier and less sleek.
Blake Construction (a.k.a. The McKay Method)
Lyman Reed Blake invented the machine in 1856 to make this method possible and later sold it to Gordon McKay. It is a simple process of joining the sole directly with the shoe’s upper with a large strong stitch. This makes the sole thinner than the goodyear welted shoes because they do not need an intermediate layer connecting the shoe sole to the shoe upper.
Advantages: Ease of construction, sole flexibility, and sleeker, more fashionable shoes (which the Italians are famous for).
Disadvantages: Less waterproof soles due to the stitching. Sometimes the thinner soles can be less comfortable on cheap shoes, and most seriously, the thin leather soles can wick water from the ground into the shoe (rubber soles negate this).
Many shoes made with Blake construction are of lower quality BUT there are many good makers who utilize this technique and are worth considering. Blake construction is most popular among Italian shoemakers, who dominate the high-end leather shoe market.
Blake-Rapid is a synthesis of Goodyear and Blake methods, where the stitching technique of Blake is combined with the extra midsole of the Goodyear. Many manufacturers that utilize the Blake method will also use Blake-Rapid. Blake-Rapid shoes tend to be bulkier because of the midsole introduction and thus is typically used on more rugged shoes.
Advantages: Waterproof and more durable than the Blake method.
Disadvantages: Soles are less flexible and added bulk makes soles further from the upper.
Norwegian (AKA Norvegese)
The Norwegian method is an uncommon demonstration of shoemaking virtue. It was originally designed to make shoes more waterproof but has faded from common usage due to its difficulty.
The unique feature of the Norwegian method is the shoe upper is stitched to both the outer sole via the Goodyear method and by the insole. This effectively closes off the channel that water would otherwise use and makes the shoe quite waterproof compared to other methods.
Beware of Blake constructed shoes that knock off the Norwegian method by applying stitching around the base of the upper that does not connect it to the insole. Some manufacturers charge much more for this worthless feature.
The Bologna style is suitable for shoes with flexible soles such as slippers or moccasins because of their simple design. The leather upper is wrapped around the bottom and sewn up. Then the sole is sewn directly to the upper. So, no sole touching your feet. Just soft leather all the way around your foot.
The stitch is very similar-looking to Blake, except the stitching is closer to the edge on the inside of the shoe so you don’t feel it.
Advantages: Very comfortable and easy to make. Suitable for moccasins and slippers.
Disadvantages: Not waterproof or very durable compared to other methods.
Cheap soles are glued to cheap leather uppers by cavemen.
Advantages: It’s cheap.
Disadvantages: Not durable and falls apart quickly. This method was officially banned by the United Nations in 1957 in the Resolution To End Crap Shoes (hehe). It is punishable by mocking.
Editors Note: This is an out of date review. The latest Marlondo Leather Backpack compares quite favorably against the SBL backpack.
Prolegomena: a discursive introduction
I impressed it upon TJ that I retain the full copyright for this piece and TJ is permitted to use it so long as he publishes it in full. He is a good friend to me, and an excellent human being, in my judgment–and he let me borrow the backpack for the review. I insist on full disclosure, and not all of what I am about to say is positive. I would rather write something and have it never see the light of day than to have it shred to pieces by an editor as if it were the American constitution and he were an American president in the late 20th or early 21st century.
Disclosure: Conflict of Interest and/or Bias
I own an older Saddleback Leather Backpack in chestnut. I am the guy in this review. The data reflects a strong correlation between owning the Tank and liking it. Therefore, due to my background, my interest in reviewing the Marlondo Backpack as objectively as possible conflicts with my unavoidable confirmation bias.
And, in the spirit of full disclosure, at the risk of adding unnecessary details, I should also tell you that I own an SBL chestnut iPad case and a chestnut portfolio. I’m sure I’ll be smeared as an overly loyal SBL fanboy by that one obnoxious dude in the Facebook forum. I forget his name. But at least now you can’t accuse me of hiding it. So go pound sand, obnoxious guy whose name I can’t remember and prefer not to look up (for obvious reasons).
“There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.” -Thomas Sowell
The good news is that I am in a good position to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Marlondo piece in light of extensive use of a rival bag. And in fact, rather than attempting an uninterested, context-insensitive review of the Marlondo bag, I think I’ll take the liberty to review this backpack as it relates to my specific use cases. For those who can’t relate, tough. There will be someone out there who finds that this review provides the exact insight he or she needs, right when he or she is at the decision- making stage of the sales funnel. And you, my good sir or madam, are welcome.
Should you buy this bag?
It is my assessment that this leather backpack represents a remarkable value given its retail price. Whether it is the most beneficial leather backpack option for you, given what it costs you personally, is contingent on data and subjective qualitative states that I neither have access to, nor any interest in attempting to evaluate.
What could you use this bag for?
This bag is good for going to the gym, going to the beach, traveling (casual affairs only; and it should be ok as a carry-on), toting your study materials and gym clothes around campus, and day hikes. In terms of utility, it is 1. lighter, 2. more flexible, and 3. has a greater capacity than the classic SBL backpack (I understand Best Leather has a forthcoming review of the newer SBL Square Backpack, so stay tuned for a comparison there).
Leather is good.
Let’s get one thing on the table. Leather is beautiful. It smells good. It is durable. When I saw this piece, it was a delight. The point is that this is a good bag and it is made of leather. It is 1. beautiful, 2. fragrant, and 3. durable. I would rather own it than not own it. It bears some finite, nonzero quantity of value.
What’s more is that the Marlondo backpack is unique. The Saddleback backpack is unique too, but that’s a red herring. So given that 1. leather is good and 2. the Marlondo leather backpack is unique; therefore the Marlondo leather backpack gives off an eerily deceptive allure.
I will proceed to rip this thing to shreds and say that the SBL backpack is far superior (it is), but there is a part of me that already misses this bag. There are aspects of it that are uniquely attractive, even if, net of everything, I still prefer my current bag. It is a strange disposition to articulate, but there it is.
Misc. Initial Observations
• I do like the appearance of this bag. I like the overall visual impression it gives, and I really like the profile of the bag when worn. My model of SBL backpack has a well-known tendency to dig into the lower back and lean away from the shoulders of the wearer. The leather on this thing has a remarkable matte texture. The leather on my SBL BP is further toward the shinier end of the spectrum.
• The hardware on this thing is not shiny at all. I strongly prefer the shiny nickel-plated brass on the SBL goods.
• The pigskin liner is significantly different than the SBL material. Thinner and more flexible. The interior of my SBL bag feels like a smooth football. I hardly noticed that this bag had a distinct liner.
Complaints After Use
1. Lack of External Hardware.
2. Lack of Convenient Exterior Pockets.
3. Lack of Interior Pockets.
5. Narrow Closure Piece
6. Short Distance Between Closure Loop and Closure Hardware
7. Skimpy Top Flap
8. Rucksack Drawstring Thingy
9. Seams Not Double-Stitched
10. Lack of Detail
11. Lack of Hardware
1. Hardware adds weight and utility.
I like to do things like hang my sunglasses and my keys from the d-rings on my SBL backpack. This Marlondo piece has none such. It’s lighter for it, but if there is a use case for the d-rings and the trade off is worth it to you, take heed.
2. Lack of Convenient Exterior Pockets.
I keep a microfiber cloth on the keyboard of my MacBook when the clamshell is closed to keep the screen clean. When I first sit down and open it up, I swipe the cloth from the keyboard and stuff it into one of the exterior pockets. I was thrown off when I went to do this with the Marlondo bag and discovered that it didn’t have any always-open exterior pockets. After this I started realizing how much I take those pockets for granted. Buyer beware.
3. Lack of Interior Pockets.
When I first got my SBL backpack those two interior pockets got in the way. They are a bit rigid, especially when they’re new, and if you already have half of the bag full, vertically, the interior pockets make it difficult to fill the space beneath them. This is a problem for me because I utilize all the space in the bag. That said, I started relying on them to carry my Magic Mouse, USB cable, external hard drive, etc. It’s nice to have them at the top of the bag, and it’s nice to have them in leather pockets that prevent them from banging around and scratching each other. The bag has become slightly more flexible with use and I’ve molded my packing workflow around them. The Marlondo bag has none such pockets, and it changes the way I have to pack the bag. I actually had to introduce smaller pouches just to carry these pieces, and I never got comfortable with it.
Oh! I also used the flat pockets on the sides of the interior of the SBL backpack for business cards and writing utensils. I have no good place for that stuff in the Marlondo bag.
4. Flexibility (AKA lack of protection from rigidity)
The pigskin on the classic SBL backpack is fairly rigid and the general construction of the bag results in a fairly sturdy structure. One time I had an older MacBook in a Jansport and, upon entering my Toyota Corolla, I lost my grip on the bag and it slid down a couple of feet and met the road. It did $900 worth of damage.
Flash forward a few years and I have my current machine in my SBL backpack on top of a stack of luggage in the back of a shuttle in Las Vegas. The driver opens the rear door and my backpack rolls off, drops about five feet, hits the road, and rolls another five or so. “Whoops,” he says, and smiles. I was furious, but I kept my cool. Anyway, the bag and it’s the thousands of dollars worth of contents, were all entirely unscathed. As if it never happened.
I can tell that if I dropped the Marlondo bag on the street it would damage my laptop. I feel like I need a case for my computer while it’s inside the bag, which 1. eats into the available space, 2. adds weight, and 3. adds expense to the setup. It also gives me one more thing to handle when I need to retrieve my laptop and setup for work.
But again, it’s a tradeoff. The flexibility of the bag may be an advantage for certain use cases.
5. Narrow Closure Piece
This strip of leather is slightly wider than the ring through which it must pass. This makes inserting it and extracting it more difficult than necessary.
6. Short Distance Between Closure Loop and Closure Hardware
The short distance between the closure loop and the closure hardware makes it difficult to insert ones fingers in order to pull the closure piece out when opening the bag. This does not reflect usability testing.
What other issues might this bag have due to lacking usability testing that I haven’t yet discovered?
And, actually, the closure loop is surprisingly thin. Given than I carry very expensive cargo, which I use to earn my living, I can’t tolerate this kind of thing.
7. Skimpy Top Flap
For the generous capacity of this bag, its cover flap sure is skimpy. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where encountering rain and snow on the three-to-four block walk to my car from the café where I work is not uncommon. I need my goods to stay dry in my bag.
This flap makes me nervous.
8. Rucksack Drawstring Thingy
Not impressed. It feels cheap, it’s inflexible, and it’s insecure. It bothers me that, given the large mouth of this beast, it is drawn together with this sorry excuse for a closure and immodestly covered to boot.
9. Seams Not Double-Stitched
The double-stitching on the SBL bags looks strikingly handsome. 20% of the people who come within 20’ of my SBL backpack approach me with compliments.
The batting average of the Marlondo backpack fell somewhere between a Jansport and the SBL.
10. Lack of Detail
You get what you pay for.
The SBL backpack is meticulously assembled. Compare and contrast:
While we’re taking pictures however, note that the older SBL “overstuffed” straps use leather so thick that it can’t comfortably conform to one’s shoulder. In order to bend, it creates bumps that are fairly hard and uncomfortable. This is unfortunate. They may wear with time (20-100years?) and there may be workarounds, but still.
Also, the seam that rubs along your lower back can be extremely uncomfortable after a while.
Over-engineering comes at a cost. All of the touches SBL wanted to put on their straps added up. There is some added functionality/aesthetic value due to some of these little touches, but the end result is a lot of added thickness and weight and price.
The Marlondo straps lack the detail, but aren’t plagued by the thickness and weight. They were fairly comfortable. Also, significantly cheaper.
Thrux Lawrence is a relatively new men’s dry goods company that focuses on leather and canvas materials. They are local to Coeur d’Alene, my hometown, so I have been able to see their growth over time and enjoy the single-minded focus on quality. Tanden Launder, the founder, is a good friend of mine and invited me to the grand opening of his new location.
I have been out hiking for a few hours now. You can see the sun is starting to go down. It’s really gorgeous down here in the middle of this stream bed. I wanted to give you some details on the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack.
comfort on a long hike
It’s been impressive so far, the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack, especially compared to the last Classic Backpack. These straps here are a major improvement over the classic. You notice when I bend this shoulder strap there’s no giant nodules. Those nodules would have made things pretty painful when you’re hiking or going for long distances with the Classic Backpack, the tank. But this, there’s a lot less of that leather scrunching up. And this leather is also a lot softer. It’s a much more comfortable shoulder strap.
They’ve got some padding right there that they’ve sown in (on the bottom of the backpack for your lower back) and it is a massive help. I have not noticed, really, any discomfort except for a shoulder scapula injury that I’ve got but unless you’ve got that sort of injury you shouldn’t be having much of a problem.
Leather products aren’t known for being ultra-comfortable. This is no sophisticated hiking backpack. I’m using it outside of the normal realm in which people would use it, but I wanted to give it a good test.
I’ve got about 15 pounds of gear in here with food and water for a couple of hours of hiking and it is doing really well as far as comfort goes. And obviously there’s plenty of space to get more stuff in here. You could travel for a few days out of this backpack. Over time you will get soreness in the tops of your shoulders. I think some of my pain is from a lack of hiking lately.
The build quality is just showing itself to be quite immaculate. They have really done a great job. You notice that this front flap of leather goes around to the back and all the way to the bottom. This is all one piece of leather, which is just remarkable. That’s a large piece of leather. In the classic there is a seam and this right here, along with this extra piece of padding—you can kind of see an outline there—is much more comfortable. No seam digging into your back and much more flexibility.
I’ve got a friend with a Classic Backpack (we’ll be comparing these two backpacks soon) and he’s used his for a year now or more than a year —this back area has formed to his back given enough time. But with the added flexibility of this Squared backpack, and extra width, I’ve noticed that the Squared Backpack just forms far more easily to your back, much more easily than the Classic Backpack. So there’s none of these big seams that are digging into your back.
leather & the main compartment strap
The leather is just doing really well. You’ll notice it’s acquiring some scratches just from use. Another thing which is interesting is when it’s sitting up, because it’s not as rigid as the Classic Backpack. See how the top flap is crooked. That’s because of this strap adjustment here so you can close up the top. This is now more flexible than the Saddleback Leather Classic Backpack. And sometimes when the front flap is buckled over it it will sit crooked, depending on how you’ve got this top strap tightened down. So I don’t have it tight at all but I did want to mention that because some people have asked me if it was actually made incorrectly or if it was sewed crooked but no. It’s not sewed crooked, it just collapses the top of the main compartment a bit which makes the front flap buckle down crooked (as shown in the photo below).
UPDATE: I have since decided I do not like the leather strap on the main compartment since I cannot determine any good purpose for it. The front flap sufficiently covers the main opening so that water can’t drip in so I don’t know why one would want to tighten the main compartment up. It’s not going to make the backpack any smaller since the front flap is still the same size. The strap and the flexibility just makes that front flap crooked way too much of the time. I was going through a lot of my photos of the backpack and noticed it is crooked in a majority of them.
So yeah, the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack is doing well. I’ve got another couple of hours to go on my hike so we’ll see how she does. Perhaps I’ll have more thoughts. I would say, basically what they’ve done here is they’ve taken the classic and the benefits of it, the good pockets and what not, and they fixed all of the problems—limited capacity. It’s very narrow yet deep so you could put stuff way down into it and you kind of have to stack your stuff. Another problem with it was that seam on the back. That was a major comfort issue. And the shoulder straps. But I’ve think they’ve done a good job of fixing these problems.
You can tell that there’s a lot of design and a lot of thought that’s gone into fixing those issues.
If you have any questions, feel free to put it in the comments and I’ll try and answer you on any questions that you might have for the use and comfort of it.
I hope you guys find this useful and if you have any questions, feel free to be giving me a call. ‘Til then, I’ll catch you guys later!
Hi folks! This is TJ with Best Leather and for this review I’m going to do something a little bit different. I received a Saddleback Squared Backpack. Saddleback sent me one to review and I think I’m going to do some videos and walk you through what it looks like to live with it, to use it frequently, the pros and the cons—there are always cons when you’re buying something this expensive. Hopefully it will give you a really good understanding of why you’d want to spend so much money, nearly $600, on an item like this, or you wouldn’t.
So this is also a backpack with the new tobacco leather and there’s been some controversy as to the quality of the leather and whether or not Saddleback is saving money and not passing those costs onto consumers. So we’ll also take a look at the quality and see how that stacks up against some of the older stuff. I have access to a Tank Backpack, Saddleback’s classic backpack, and will be able to compare it there. So let’s dive in.
This is the Saddleback Squared Backpack and I want to go through and show you guys a few details on it. This backpack retails for $582 and I’ll show you some of the features and reasons why it’s quite so expensive. The classic backpack was actually what got me into Saddleback leather and quality leather products elsewhere. I had a friend who had one and I couldn’t believe that it was $600. The more I researched into it, the more I realized it cost a lot to make these bags. I think there’s—maybe this is a little bit of a guesstimate – 12 square feet of leather here.
If you are looking at leather prices, you could be spending $100 just on leather, not to mention hardware and the time to make it. These people have to be craftsmen because there’s a very high level of precision required for leather working. You don’t want to waste this leather.
So let’s go into some of the details on this. I’ve had this backpack for two days now and so far it’s been a very enjoyable process. The first thing I want to show you is the straps. Now these straps are different than the Saddleback classic backpack straps. A little bit different design there. I’ll show a picture of the old straps there. The problems that they had was they were very thick, they were very padded and they would scrunch up so you can see how it’s scrunched up there. You’ll notice that those bumps there can get really uncomfortable. It’s worse on the old one. So that’s nice. Those are pretty comfortable straps, surprisingly. The first day that I was using it I was kind of stretching it and twisting with my hands to help it break in a little bit quicker, but it’s been very comfortable so far.
Another aspect that’s helping the comfort, as opposed to the tank, the classic backpack, is right here there was a seam. That seam would irritate your lower back if you wore it quite a bit and people would get pretty severe chaffing. So this is actually one piece of leather that just goes right around that corner. And that has not posed a problem whatsoever. Now I haven’t worn this for an extended period of time. I’m going to try and do some hiking with it. I’ll go out with 4 or 5 hours and see what kind of issues may come up but so far I’m really enjoying the straps.
Another detail on the straps is the flexibility and how easy it is to change the strap sizes. So on the old one there was all sorts of straps to undo, one strap that was very long and you’d end up with—if this is the old one you’d have layers and layers and layers of strap, a lot of extra weight. So they’ve really trimmed that down. These are very easy to change and adjust. It took me about 10 seconds to get it right for my size. So definitely the shoulder straps are very nice. I haven’t noticed any problems with them at all.
new tobacco leather
So the next thing, the elephant in the room for some people, is the new leather. This is the new tobacco leather. You’ll notice if I do a close-up here that it comes with kind of a patina. Now I like this. I like this patina because as much as the backpack looks used, it’s still in very good condition. The leather is just as strong as it’s ever been. I don’t notice any things that I would consider blemishes—deep scarring or anything like that. It’s just unique. You see stuff in leather that I think you should see. It’s not one mass-produced product and I kind of felt like the older leather that they were using; it looked like it had been coated in plastic. It didn’t feel that great. Well their tobacco was just kind of a muted yellow color. So this is kind of a more true tobacco and I quite like it.
Now like I said, there are no scars. Part of the controversy is that scars are decreasing the value of the product and Saddleback isn’t lowering the price of their products. I don’t think I can speak to that because I haven’t seen any scarring or anything on this. So maybe in another product we’ll get to check that out. But I’d say as far as the quality of the leather goes, it’s top notch. However, when I first got it, you’ll notice there are some spots here. Those are actually bug bites but when I first got them I thought, “Oh boy. This backpack has had water damage.” It hasn’t. These are just bug bites but it is something to note. If you’re looking to have a leather product that doesn’t have a unique character to it in the leather, something like the old tobacco, then you’re better served by going on e-bay or going on one of the Facebook pages and buying one on there. You can buy some really great, lightly used, older tobacco-colored leather. It pretty much looks immaculate when it comes. It takes quite a bit to wear it in. This looks very nice. I really enjoy this leather.
So the last thing I wanted to talk about here was the pockets. Now when it comes to backpacks, Saddleback is I think one of the best in terms of options. You’ve got a lot of pockets. You’ve got 7 pockets total. You’ve got this one here and a matching one on the other side. This front pocket here will hold a small laptop. I don’t think I can get this off of my hand. There we go. Alright. So we’ve got this front pocket here and that will fit an 11” laptop, maybe a 12” and a mouse pad. That one’s from Urban Cow on Etsy. They did a great job with that. So you’ve got a lot of pockets. You’ve got one, two, three, four interior pockets. And I like this because you can really use this usably, every day. So if you’re going to class or you’re going to work and you’re looking for something that has a lot of class, a lot of style and is going to last a long time looking good, this is a good option.
new pigskin lining
I should also mention the pigskin. This is very interesting pigskin compared to what it was. It used to be very dark and I thought it looked rather inorganic. I think it had been treated, died, most likely. But this has a very nice, soft feeling to it. It’s not very rigid like the older pigskin. And I very much like it. You can see little spots, not only the hair spots. I’ll try to fix it so you can see there that there’s some little hair spots where it’s been de-haired but if we look carefully we can find a bit of scarring. I don’t know. I can’t tell if that’s a scar or not but there are slight, minor issues but that’s what happens when you work with leather and animals that run into fences and whatnot.
durability and weight
You can see we’ve got lots of rivets everywhere. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to tear leather that’s riveted together. I encourage you to try, but don’t get a hernia doing it because it is tough. This leather is thick and these are big rivets. So I don’t know what the world’s going to look like in a hundred years but I think if any leather product that I’ve seen so far is capable of lasting a hundred years, it would be the Saddleback products because they’re pretty much just over-engineered. That’s ridiculous. They’re using high-quality thread here, they’re double-stitching it. I think they’re going to do a good job of lasting. They are using hollow rivets and that’s so that you can apply them more easily. They go on with a foot press and these aren’t solid rivets. I don’t think that’s going to be a strength issue. If you had a lot of sheer force on these rivets it might be an issue but it shouldn’t be an issue at all with these. It also makes it a little bit lighter. Lightness is kind of an issue. Once again, it goes to pros and cons.
So if you want a really light bag, don’t get this bag. It’s 8.5 pounds or so which honestly I think is well worth the cost but carrying leather items there’s always pros and there’s cons. The pros are it looks really classy, it will last a long time, and you won’t need to buy a new item for very long. But the downside is you don’t want to get it stolen because the replacement cost is really high and it’s heavy and it can be a little bit bulky or awkward. You have to decide whether or not you want to put up with something like that in order to have a bag like this.
So those are my first initial thoughts on the bag. I’ll be doing more as the coming weeks come up and hopefully you’ll enjoy it. So feel free to put comments and tell me what you’d like to see. If you have any suggestions on video editing or cinematography I’d love to hear them.
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Most leather mouse pads are crap. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of good options on the market. But for some reason since they are so simple it allows for a lot of shortcuts to be taken. Most of the mouse pads you see on Amazon take the shortcuts. The easiest way to see this is if they say genuine leather.
Genuine leather is essentially reconstituted leather. Leather that gets shaved off other hides is collected and pressed together with glue to form sheets of “genuine leather”. In my opinion it is desperately poor form to be calling this cheap imitation of leather “genuine”, but that is the state of our system right now. Anyways, avoid everything marked as “genuine leather”. It’s crap.
Anyways, UrbanCow on Etsy sells a pretty thick REAL leather mousepad. Pretty simple construction with two pieces of 3 oz stone oil leather sewn together with a single nylon thread. Double stitching would just be overkill.
If you haven’t tried a leather mouse pad I really recommend it. One of the great features of leather is its wonderful tactility. It feels good. I don’t know of any other leather products that I have my hands on nearly all day. UrbanCow’s mouse pad is made with this stone oil leather that I haven’t touched much of. It feels wonderful. It’s not exactly a pull-up leather since it doesn’t mark when you fold it but the feeling is very similar. Very rich in leather fragrance and feeling.
At $22, it’s a good deal. Fancier mouse pads are available from Bexar and Saddleback Leather but I’d rather just keep the dough.
There is a small company on Kickstarter called Opus. They are selling, amoung some other really neat things, a leather wrapped journal. Kate Burrow from Opus sent me one to check out and share with you guys.
I’ve seen these hand bound notebooks but moleskines have always been my choice notebook because of how many pages they hold. What pops out to me with this Opus journal is the heavy paper and coptic stitching (here is a guide on doing your own coptic stitch binding notebook) for the binding which gives fantastic flexibility, unlike glued bindings. Several pages are already tearing off on my latest moleskin because of inflexibility in the glued binding.
So, with a coptic stitch binding you can do things like this without damaging the journal:
While the journal is bound in leather it isn’t full grain. There is a light 1 oz stamped (for texture) leather sheet wrapped around book board, commonly used in hardbacks. It feels nice. It’s soft and the texture is nice. Nice but not full grain grade.
The inside of the journal covers are glued down to the book board with a linen cloth lining.
The one problem that Kate assured me they were fixing was the weakness of the glue holding the interior fabric down to the backboard. I was able to gently tear the fabric away from the book board revealing the secret message; “Your determination will bring much success.”
The paper is heavy weight at 98 lbs and it is pretty nice to write on. My pen, a Pilot G-2 and a Parker fountain pen, glide right over the heavy paper.
If I were more of an artist I could use this journal more completely since the heavy paper allows you to draw and paint quite easily. If you paint in the journal I suppose you can’t close it, but a journal of paintings would be cool. Point is; you can use it for a lot more than journaling about your annoying boss.
Dimensions are the standard journal size, 5.5 inches by 8.25 inches. Normal.
I think this journal is for a lot more than just daily journaling. It deserves an artist with cool handwriting and an eye for pastel colors. Or use it for a special event where you write a series of meaningful letters that you want to save.
With the improvements to the book board adhesive that Kate is going to make I would recommend this journal for serious writers, artists, and people who want a memorable notebook to hold special memories (which is exactly what Opus designed it for).
Check out the other rewards Opus is offering as well. Some of them are pretty intriguing. Handwritten Shakespear scroll anyone?
Even in the intense environment of foundry work and the dirt and grime that can be acquired there, this bag has stood the test of toughness and continually demonstrated a hardy design. There has been no fraying of the leather around any edges and the only real sign of degradation is the missing button on the left side of the bag, which fell out after a few months.
The functionality of the bag is impressive. Every book needed for school, a laptop, and even some lunch can be contained in the bag and nothing would be protruding, yet still easily accessible. The shoulder strap guard is inconveniently placed, as it cannot be adjust to be used on both sides, only one.
The amount of pockets and dividers inside the back is convenient, allowing for separation and protection of goods placed inside, while the same time, not being too much. The thickness of the leather gives great protection for anything placed inside.
Due to me taking this bag to a multitude of places, i.e. a foundry, coffee shops, and school, it has acquired a unique look, from metal dust staining the bottom and back, to the worn look of everyday use. None of the acquired characteristics in any way diminish the bags looks or functionality, but instead add to the character of it and make it more enjoyable to use. This bag’s sturdy construction and how it can handle the wear and tear make it fit in perfectly in my working environment, yet it’s style allow it to stand out.
This bag has brought me compliments left and right, it has great functionality, a beautiful look, and a tough character that earn my respect for it. It is definitely a bag I would recommend.
I am surprised that it has already stood up to so much, in the rough conditions it’s used in, and still in the shape that it is.
If the small durability problems are ironed out; this will be a great bag.