Sandast Debbie Pack – $730

There are certain products and companies that you encounter during your life that just exude quality in everything that they do. When you find one of these companies, it’s always pleasurable to work with them and use their products or services. Such has been my experience with Chris Pak and his company, Sandast.


About Sandast

Sandast was founded in 2006 and re-launched in 2010 with Chris Pak at the helm. Chris’ focus in re-launching was on quality and his efforts have paid off. With a host of accessories, wallets, belts, and bags Sandast has created a luxurious line of sumptuous leather products that have received a lot of notice. Johnny Depp proudly carries a Sandast bag. One of the phrases you’ll see and read frequently on Sandast’s website is “modern vintage” – which quickly explains their efforts to create leather pieces that have a uniquely vintage look and a hint of modern taste.

After a great phone conversation with Chris about Sandast, we determined that it would be great to showcase the Sandast Debbie Pack.



Here comes one of our favorite words here at BestLeather…Horween. However, the Horween component chosen by Sandast is only vegetable tanned leather. Sandast is dedicated to using only vegetable tanned leather, as it involves only natural ingredients and is not harmful to the environment. Once the craftsmen at Sandast receive the leather from Horween, they apply their own proprietary mix of oil, wax, and fats to the leather. As a result of their efforts, the leather takes on a texture and quality that is easily seen and felt as soon as you touch it. It’s soft, waterproof, and extremely durable. And…it’s gorgeous.


In addition to using thick, uber quality leather, Sandast also uses heavy gauge buckles from France and an attractive, heavy-duty clasp that’s manufactured in Italy on the Debbie Pack. I’m not sure what type of thread is used on the pack, but the color and stitching create a nice contrast to rich, Cognac color of the Debbie Pack.

The two small pockets on the outside are quickly and easily secured with a magnetic latch system. This was a surprise to me. Prior to putting hands on the pack, I assumed these two pockets closed with the heavy gauge roller buckles that each sports. However, I was mistaken and they close with an incredibly strong, reliable magnetic closure system.


The bag features a heavy gauge leather drawstring with thick brass end caps that runs through heavy antique looking grommets. The interior is lined with an attractive plaid fabric. The zippered interior pocket sports a Swiss made Riri Zipper. The Debbie Pack, along with all of Sandast’s products, are designed and created in their Los Angeles, CA facility.



The Sandast Debbie Pack elicits a playful and easy-going attitude. At 15” tall, 11” wide, and 6” thick it’s a great size for use every day – whether you sport it as a bag for school or work, it will perform well.

The main compartment is large enough to store a full day’s worth of gear. It will easily fit my 13” MacBook Air, my camera, extra lenses, and an assortment of other small wares in the two external pockets. And, it does it all while looking fantastic.


The main flap’s quick, easy to use clasp closure works well. The leather tab just above the closure sports the Sandast logo – an image of Elias Howe’s world changing sewing machine that was patented in 1846 (and a machine that Sandast uses in the production of all of their pieces). The adjustable shoulder straps are thick enough to allow you to carry the pack all day without them digging into your shoulders. The thick handle is comfortable and allows for easy carry.

I do wish that a slightly larger version of this pack was available. Selfishly, it’s a little small for me. At 6’5” tall, the straps are a little short/tight. That’s the only negative thing I have to say about it…and that’s not really a flaw of the bag…I’m just a big guy. So, much to my wife’s benefit, she eagerly and happily “claimed” it. And, since then has carried it virtually every day. To date, it’s spent a weekend in Bend, Oregon and a few days up in Glacier National Park as well as joining her in trips to Spokane, WA and all around our hometown. Unfortunately, she was in Glacier without me. Next time, I’ll be sure to get some pictures of this gorgeous pack up on Going to the Sun Road or in front of one of the beautiful glacial fed lakes there.



As I said in the beginning, there are certain companies and products that just exude quality. Stop reading for a second and stare at any one of the images of the Debbie Pack. Chris from Sandast has succeeded in creating a product that oozes quality and immediately conveys a message of luxury. The modern vintage feel definitely comes through when you look at individual components of the pack and the pack in its entirety.

Everything with this bag is tastefully done. This is not a mass produced piece – but a backpack that has been assembled with a love for art, respect for the leather trade, and a desire to convey the modern vintage message. It hearkens back to an era of American industry when things were designed and constructed to last a lifetime.



The Sandast Debbie Pack is definitely one of those pieces that squarely falls into BestLeather’s Buy It For Life category. It’s an outstanding representation of high-quality leather craftsmanship. And, it will truly last a lifetime. At $730, it is a fairly costly investment – but, rest assured, it will be the last backpack you will ever need to purchase.

Horween Leather Company and Thrux Lawrence All Leather Thrux Pack – $990

In the not too distant past, BestLeather received a hide of the Horween Leather Company’s latigo leather, in a chestnut color.  Thinking of one of the best places we could take the hide to and develop it into something beautiful and functional, we immediately thought of Thrux Lawrence of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.  We asked them to craft something fine from the leather so that we can showcase Horween’s latigo leather and something fine they indeed crafted.

Tanden Launder, the proprietor of Thrux Lawrence, took the project a step further and crafted something new for them, an ALL leather Thrux Pack.  They craft many of their thick 24 ounce canvas and latigo leather Thrux Packs, which are beautiful and extremely rugged, and which they sell online and at their brick and mortar store in Coeur d’Alene, but they had yet to make an all leather Thrux Pack.  This was a serendipitous opportunity to try something a little new.

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The Horween Leather Company was founded in 1905 by Isadore Horween.  The company has remained in family hands (currently run by Arnold “Skip” Horween, Isadore’s great grandson) ever since and is now the last remaining tannery in the Chicago area, and one of the few remaining industrial tanneries in the United States.  Horween’s first product was shell cordovan for razor strops.

After the invention of the electric razor and the subsequent reduced demand for razor strops, Horween recognized the need to diversify it’s leather portfolio.  The result has been some fine leathers, and some tanning recipes that are still being used today, decades later (think Chromexcel).

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Avid readers of BestLeather will be very familiar with the name Horween.  The simple reason for this is that many, many of the leather companies whose products we review use Horween’s leather.  And the simple reason for that is because Horween produces some of the finest (if not the finest) leather for consumer goods.  Their Chromexcel and Shell Cordovan probably get the most attention in the realm of high quality leather goods, but one line of leather that needs a little more recognition is their Latigo line of leather.

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Tanden with Thrux swears by latigo leather.  In my conversations with him he has repeated that latigo is the time tested leather, and of course he is correct.  Latigo is a form or method of tanning leather.  Traditionally tanned from cowhide, latigo is normally combination tanned, usually chrome tanned and then vegetable tanned, which is how Horween still does it.  Latigo has traditionally been used for horse tack, namely for saddle cinches.  The reason for this is the durable nature of latigo.  It is tanned in a way that makes it more stiff than many of your luxury leathers, with less stretch, and as a result is more durable.  This is the main reason that Thrux Lawrence prefers latigo, its durable nature.

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Another benefit in using Horween’s latigo is that their leather is struck through.  This means that after tanning the hide, the hide is then dyed with the color of choice, and they allow the dye to penetrate through the entire hide.  Many tanneries simply dye the exterior of the leather, but when cut into you see either a blue strip running through the middle of the leather (in the case of chrome tanned leathers), or a light brown strip (in the case of vegetable tanned leather).  For the purposes of luxury consumers goods, this is unacceptable.  Striking the leather through is more time consuming and expensive, but Horween doesn’t take any shortcuts and that shows in their leather.

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Like all of Thrux Lawrence goods, the All Leather Thrux Pack is ridiculously tough and overbuilt, which is just the way I like it.  This particular Thrux Pack uses two different colors and weights of latigo.  Horween provided BestLeather a chestnut hide that is four to five ounces in weight.  This hide was used in the construction of the main body of the Thrux Pack, as well as the internal computer sleeve and pocket.  Thrux used a darker brown latigo leather from Horween that is eight to nine ounces in weight for the shoulder straps, the top flap and straps, the handle, and their signature bucket tray, or bottom of the bag.  Eight to nine ounce latigo leather in an of itself is thick and extremely rugged.  Thrux takes that thick leather and doubles it for the shoulder straps and handle.  The result is one hardy backpack that is bound to last generations.

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To combine all of this beautiful and sturdy leather, Thrux uses very durable bonded nylon thread.  For this Thrux Pack, they used a white thread which contrasts nicely against the chestnut colored leather.  Note the double stitching for increased durability on the shoulder straps as well as the bottom tray, another indication of attention to detail.  The hardware used for the buckles is solid brass.  The zippers used are oversized, solid brass, YKK Zippers.  And the rivets used to further secure the leather are solid brass rivets and burrs.

I stated in a previous article written for BestLeather that solid copper rivets are the toughest rivets you can use for leather, but I was mistaken.  As brass is a combination of tin and copper, which results in a much harder metal than copper, solid brass rivets are much tougher than copper.  The use of solid brass over solid copper rivets is indicative of Thrux Lawrence’s approach to leather crafting.  They use only the very best materials in the making of their bags and goods.

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With a lot of thick, sturdy latigo leather, the All Leather Thrux Pack is going to take some time to break in and be comfortable.  On the flip side, after you use the bag for work or travel, you know your kid will be able to use it for college and work, and their kid will be able to do the same.  The bag is that well made and the Horween leather that durable.

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The All Leather Thrux Pack from Thrux Lawrence is a ridiculously well made bag.  The choice of using latigo leather from the Horween Leather Company is the best choice.  Latigo is time tested, is very durable, and Horween’s latigo is struck through and beautiful.  $990 may seem like a lot to put down for a backpack and it is.  But this really is not any ordinary bag.  The attention to detail, the use of the best possible and most durable materials, and the quality craftsmanship means this is an investment in an heirloom quality good.  The use of Horween’s latigo means you’re also getting the best quality leather that is used by the best leather companies in the United States and beyond.  BestLeather definitely recommends the All Leather Thrux Pack and could not speak more highly of Horween’s latigo leather.

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Saddleback Leather Bucket Backpack & Umuragi Legacy Bag Giveaway – Ends Oct 30th

****The first winner has been selected. Congratulations to Jonathan P! Jonathan P has chosen to receive the Bucket Backpack. Our second winner, Nancy B. will receive the Umuragi Legacy Bag. Congratulations to both of our winners! Thanks to everyone who entered! And, stop by the site frequently…we have another giveaway coming soon!****

Saddleback Leather is partnering with BestLeather to give away not just one, but two of their new products – a Classic Bucket Backpack and an Umuragi Legacy Bag. Both of these are amazing pieces and are sure to be best sellers. And, with all of Saddleback’s expertly crafted leather products, they will most likely outlast you – so, be sure to plan ahead as to who will inherit your new Saddleback gear.

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We will be choosing two winners – whoever is chosen first will get their pick of which piece they want to receive while the second winner will receive the other piece by default.

Please continue to read below and learn more about these great pieces being offered by Saddleback Leather for you to win. They are also offering 35% off on select items.

Here’s the scoop on the Classic Bucket Backpack:


  • Simple and strong design for our lightest backpack yet
  • Leather drawstring closure for a quick in and out
  • Back panel reinforced with pigskin lining for added strength where needed
  • Removable top handle can be used for over arm carry
  • Interior unlined tablet pocket & lined cell phone pocket keeps things organized
  • Drawstring color may not match your Bucket Backpack color
  • No breakable parts, e.g. zippers, snaps, buttons, etc.
  • Because of natural oils shade of leather may vary
  • Dimensions (approximate size):
    • Exterior: 16″H x 10 ½”W x 8 ½”D
    • Interior: 15″ H x 10″ W x 8″ D
  • Empty Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Is available in Carbon, Chestnut, Dark Coffee Brown, and Tobacco

The Umuragi Legacy Bag

This is a purse designed by Suzette Munson. Instead of carrying the Saddleback Leather brand, it proudly displays the Love41 moniker. You may not be fully aware of Love41 and its commendable mission. So, we encourage you to visit the Love41 website and learn about how this company is making a positive impact in Rwanda, Africa and beyond. Here are the details about the Umuragi Legacy Bag:


  • Love 41’s most durable purse
  • Unique no-stitching, riveted construction
  • Umuragi means legacy in Kinyarwandan (the language of Rwanda), befitting a bag you can hand down to future generations
  • Two small interior pockets for keys, cell phone, and other accessories
  • Fully adjustable shoulder strap and turn-lock closure
  • Antiqued brass hardware
  • Made with thick, vegetable tanned full grain leather
  • Love 41 products are covered by a 41 year warranty
  • A portion of the proceeds from this item will be donated to Africa New Life Ministries
  • Dimensions (approximate size):
    • Adjustable strap length: 37 ¼” – 52 ¾”
    • Exterior: 13“ W x 7 ½“ H x 4” D
    • Interior: 12 ½“ W x 7 ½“ H x 2 ¼” D
  • Empty Weight: 3 pounds
  • Is available in two colors: Carbon Black or Tobacco Brown

Saddleback-Leather-Giveaway-10-2014-1 With Holiday shopping already beginning to ramp up, this contest’s timing is excellent. The contest will run for 21 days, starting today, October 9, 2014 and ending on Thursday, October 30, 2014.


Please be sure to follow all of the steps to ensure that you are entered to win. Enjoy! We look forward to seeing who wins. And, please be sure to comment below and let us know what your plans are for these products should you win one.

What do you think?

Far Horizon Traders Ascent Rucksack Review – $349.99

Smells good, looks good – and no, I’m not talking about coming home to a tasty dinner prepared by my amazing wife. I’m referring to my initial response to opening up the box containing the Far Horizon Traders Ascent Rucksack. The rich leather aroma is tantalizing and long lasting with this bag. It has garnered attention in my office for the past week simply based on its pleasant fragrance – and most people haven’t even seen or touched the rucksack yet.


About Far Horizon Traders

All of the bags from Far Horizon Traders (FHT) are handmade in several locations around the globe. Matt, the founder of FHT, has traveled extensively over the years and through his adventures has met and worked with skilled leather craftsmen with whom he has partnered to offer unique, high quality bags with conventional cow leather, camel leather, and water buffalo leather. “Everybody’s got a water buffalo, yours is fast but mine is slow…” I always think of that Veggie Tales song when I read the words ‘water buffalo’.

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The Far Horizon Traders Ascent Rucksack is handmade in the highlands of Central Mexico. It’s constructed of 4-5oz. full grain, vegetable tanned cowhide and has a nice earthy brown hue to it that’s pleasing to the eye. Heavy duty hardware is used in the grommets that surround the opening – through which a heavy strip of leather runs acting as a drawstring closure.


Matching “aged” brass buckles are used to secure the bag’s lid and for adjusting the carry straps. There is one well-placed pocket on the outside of the rucksack that is ideal for a boarding pass while traveling or other small wares. The inside features a heavy canvas/twill liner in a classic off-white color, which makes it easy to view and locate items inside the bag without getting frustrated. Also inside, you’ll find a leather pocket, several pen loops, and a leather key lanyard.



I like heavy duty stuff – it’s just the way I am. I have a ¾ ton truck, a ¾ ton Yukon XL, big sons, big tools…the list goes on. And, I like thick, heavy leather. Initially I was a little skeptical of the FHT Ascent Rucksack. It’s thinner and lighter than my other leather goods. So, what did I do? I loaded it up with my usual items. My MacBook Air, iPad, camera, assorted gear, pens, and other miscellaneous EDC (every day carry) items went into the rucksack to test its mettle. While exploring one of our beautiful, local rivers the rucksack performed without issue. It was comfortable – no complaints.



The FHT Ascent Rucksack has exceeded my initial expectations. Its 18”h x 12”w x 9”d size certainly will handle plenty of gear and all the while doing it in high style. The strap/buckle system is easy to use and frustration free when you want to access the contents of the bag. Long term, my only concern is the skinny shoulder straps. If there is anything that calls for improvement on the Ascent Rucksack, it’s an upgrade in the shoulder strap department. Even if the same 4-5 oz. leather is used, but widened from the current one inch in width to even just 1.5 inches, I think that would provide additional substance to eliminate apprehension when loading it up and carrying it on long adventures. And, heavier straps will definitely serve it well for many years. The small shoulder pads are sufficient in distributing the weight comfortably, enabling you to wear it for extended periods of time.


Best Leather Conclusion

You will need to search far and wide to find a better handmade, quality leather bag at this price point. With that and Far Horizon Traders full satisfaction guarantee, it’s even more appealing. If you’re looking for a light, low bulk, handmade leather bag with supple, attractive leather that’s cut and assembled by hand, then the Far Horizon Traders Ascent Rucksack should a serious contender as considers this a good value/cost option. And…you’ll really like the way it smells.

Check out the Far Horizon Traders Ascent Rucksack here.

Click here to see our other leather backpack reviews.

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Eight Month Checkup On The Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack – $582

My Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack gets used every day. It’s been a trusty backpack to haul quite a lot to quite a few places. I have simutaneously carried a 17″ MacBook, Canon 6D, extra large lens, notebooks, several books, chargers, and lots of miscellaneous items on long trips. There are two huge advantages to this bag that make it much more usable than the Classic Tank backpack; it’s comfortable and roomy.

Soon it will be replaced by the Basader Gusset Messenger Bag.

after eight months – is it comfortable?

Comfort is ensured with shoulder straps that are flexible and break in quick. The previous iteration had straps that weren’t terrible, but would cause serious chafing if you carried it for several hours. Also, the back of the backpack is one large piece of leather that molds to your back instead of molding a crease into it. This is the most comfortable leather product, including briefcases, I have used that has this kind of capacity.

Because of the more flexible design and some extra inches, you can fit a lot more in there. Overnight trips, school, work, diaper bag, whatever–it’s going to fit a lot.

But, that stuff is boring and you probably already know because I wrote a few reviews on it already.

patina – that nice aged look

The interesting bit is the patina–that classy aged look leather acquires when it is used. Here are some pictures from this evening in a nice sunset. This is something like eight months of use. The most wear is on the bottom of the bag and I provided a close up photo of the thread.

(Pro tip: if you want to take good pictures of your goodies, wait till the sun is coming up or going down. It’s very soft warm light.)

Check out the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack here.

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Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack

Lineo Rollup Parva from Orox Leather Review – $445

Orox Leather is a family owned and operated manufacturer of leather goods based out of Portland, Oregon. They feature a full line of interesting and cool leather goods, including leather/canvas lunch bags, leather/canvas backpacks, totes, wallets, and bicycle gear. This is one of their leather/canvas backpacks, the Lineo Rollup Parva in Grey.

The Lineo Rollup Parva in Grey
The Lineo Rollup Parva in Grey


The Lineo Rollup Parva bag features waxed canvas with English bridle leather straps from Pennsylvania, and oil tan leather accents from Red Wing in Minnesota. The shoulder straps are stitched on with nylon thread and the leather accents are attached with copper rivets.

The English Bridle shoulder straps are stitched to the canvas with nylon thread.
The English Bridle shoulder straps are stitched to the canvas with nylon thread.

The waxed canvas is unbelievably waterproof. I rode with this pack through a complete deluge and my stuff was totally dry. Absolutely fitting for a company based out of rainy Portland, Oregon.

The bridle leather straps are lightweight and strong. Bridle leather is associated with durability and using it on the shoulder straps indicates a commitment to quality and longevity.

The copper rivets featured on the leather accents.
The copper rivets featured on the leather accents.

The stitching is solid and well done — not suitable for hundreds of pounds, obviously, but great for light loads and daily carry stuff.


This has become my go-to bag for daily stuff, as well as my main cycling bag — trips to the coffee shop, carrying water, a book, my pipe and a few different tins of tobacco, a notebook or two, maybe a sketchbook, etc. This is the perfect bag for riding around town and enjoying the day. It seriously weighs nothing. It will fit exactly what you need for the day and still have room for something extra if you need the space — plus, it will keep everything dry if a rain storm comes up.

It also features a unique locking system on the shoulder straps, which took me a few weeks to figure out. There are two claw clasps on the shoulder straps that act as the anchor for the strap itself (hard to explain, but check out the photo above). There are two D-rings — when the bag is in normal-unlocked mode, the claws are attached to the upper rings. But, if you want to lock the bag to you, then simply unhook the claws, cross them across your chest, and attach them to the lower D-ring. This is a great design — it is incredibly secure.

The D-ring and claw clasp setup.
The D-ring and claw clasp setup.

The inner pocket is fairly spacious and features a divider to separate out your documents/laptop/reading material etc. and it features two smaller outer pockets to hold a journal, keys, wallet, etc. Great function in the pockets.

Nice design feature on the inner pocket.
Nice design feature on the inner pocket.

This bag also functions as a great ice breaker with the ladies. No need to start an awkward conversation when the conversation starts on its own with this beautiful conversation piece. Just a thought.


I have received more compliments on this bag than any other bag that I own — period. It is a cool looking bag — that classic leather on canvas look, complemented by the simply beautiful roll-top. It is a very simple design, but classically cool and aesthetically beautiful.

Leather on grey canvas -- classy, classic, and stylish.
Leather on grey canvas — classy, classic, and stylish.

The tan leather on the grey canvas is perfectly contrasting and the copper rivets on the tan leather is a beautiful touch. 10 stars. Perfect landing. Aesthetically speaking, this bag is perfect.

Also, any ladies out there looking for a good looking but not super rugged leather and canvas bag, this is a great option.

BestLeather conclusion

If you are looking for a cool, beautiful, classic, simple backpack, think twice before you click “buy” on the Herschel Supply bag and check out the Lineo Rollup Parva from Orox Leather. At $445, you are getting what you pay for — a well built, well designed, well functioning and unbelievably cool looking bag.

The Lineo Rollup Parva: a beautiful bag from Orox Leather
The Lineo Rollup Parva: a beautiful bag from Orox Leather

Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack & The Tank Comparison – Episode Three


Hey folks! This is TJ with and today we’re going to be taking a look at the original Saddleback Leather Tank Backpack and the newer Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack. We’ve also got the new tobacco leather here.

So why would you want either one? The Tank is discontinued. You can get it cheaper on eBay, between $350 and $400 as opposed to nearly $600 for the new Squared Backpack. There are some comfort differences and capacity differences and I want to show you those real quick.

With the original Tank backpack, you’ve got a piece of leather that goes around it from the top down to right here in this seam. This seam is about half an inch and it is pretty brutal on your lower back after a while of walking. This backpack is more than a year old. It’s been used every single day and you can see it right here where it’s formed to the back, but this hasn’t broken in at all. It’s just still as brutal as ever. Also, the shoulder straps—these little ridges right here—those can get uncomfortable after a while. It’s also a bit narrow so these edges, if you have a wider body, can rub and dig into your skin as well.

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On the other side, with the Squared Backpack, is an update and evolution from The Tank. You’ve got one piece of leather that goes from this flap all the way around to right here. Now there’s no seam here and you can see, as I can push on this, that it’s pretty flexible. This will mold to your back quite nicely. There’s a nice patina right here. There’s also a piece of foam embedded in the leather. So as far as your lower back goes I have absolutely zero complaints. I’ve carried this hiking for hours, I’ve taken it through airports, long trips, and it’s been very comfortable. The shoulder straps are also a lot thinner and are a lot simpler. They’re more comfortable; they’ve broke in very quickly. I think it’s just a better design, a simpler design than these more complex, heavy-duty straps on the Tank.

However, I will admit that there’s a real classiness to The Tank with these straps and with the rigidity of the design. Even though it’s got some flaws, it looks really sharp. So if you’re willing to put up with those things, I think it’s still a great backpack and it was designed with durability in mind for sure. You can see massive seams of leather going on here.

The Squared Backpack isn’t designed any less ruggedly but there are some good things that really make it more functional. It’s also bigger. It’s got about 1,400 cubic inches of internal capacity whereas The Tank has about 900 cubic inches. So you’ve got more capacity and the flexibility makes it a little bit easier to work with.

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You can see right here with this strap—this is something that I would change if this were my design. I haven’t used these straps at all since I got the backpack because I don’t see a reason to. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe somebody can point out in the comments what the real purpose is for and what they use it for.

It seems to me that this front flap totally encloses that main compartment. I’m not worried about water or anything getting in there, especially when you cinch it down to the lowest level. But with this flexibility here, it folds a little bit. You see how it’s crinkling right there. But when you put that flap down, sometimes it closes a little bit crookedly and it looks like it wasn’t made correctly. I think they should make this a little bit stiffer but that’s the only thing that I would change thus far.

Pockets-wise, usability, they’re pretty close. Identical pockets—you’ve got one up front, two in the sides, you’ve got slots where you can fit stuff in, pens and whatnot, between the pockets and the main compartment, pockets inside the main compartments here and then two here. They’re a little bit larger on the squared backpack because of the larger dimensions than on The Tank but they’re still very good.

I think this is one of the best backpacks that you can buy on the market if not the best. I’d really like to see another backpack that can compare. We’ve got an article coming out on the Marlondo backpack versus the Saddleback Squared Backpack and it just really doesn’t compare. There’s a lot of thought that’s gone into this. For working with the limitations that leather has, I think they’ve done a really good job.

I like the new tobacco leather also. You can see we’ve got some patina going on right here. It looks fantastic. It’s definitely more rugged than the chestnut—chestnut being my personal favorite—but it looks good and it’s wearing well. This one doesn’t really have any scars on it that I can speak of, but I like the used look of it. It’s fantastic.

So we’ve got pros: It’s (Tank) sharp-looking, it’s cheaper, but it doesn’t have quite as much capacity. Whereas this (Squared) has got more capacity, it’s more expensive. You’ve got this flexibility up here that I don’t really get.

So that’s about it. Thanks for watching. We’re going to be doing some more videos here upcoming and hopefully some giveaways. So subscribe and stay tuned. Also, I’d like to hear from you guys with these backpacks and what you think of them, especially people who have had The Tank and have upgraded to the Squared Backpack. What do you think about that?

I know some of you are considering this; you have Saddleback Leather Tank Backpack and are considering the Squared Backpack. I would encourage it. I think it’s a good switch. The pros are worth it. Hopefully that is helpful to you. Have a great day!

Check out the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack here on the SBL website.

Search for Saddleback Leather Tank Backpacks on Ebay.

Saddleback Leather “Tank” Backpack vs Marlondo Leather Backpack Review

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

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the SBL Backpack
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the badass sporting said backpack

Silver Lining?

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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

4. Flexibility

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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10. Lack of Detail

You get what you pay for.

The SBL backpack is meticulously assembled. Compare and contrast:

Saddleback Leather & Marlondo Leather Backpacks Review11Saddleback Leather & Marlondo Leather Backpacks Review10

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.

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Also, the seam that rubs along your lower back can be extremely uncomfortable after a while.

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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.

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So there you have it.

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Buy Marlondo Leather Backpacks

Saddleback Leather Backpacks on Ebay

Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack & New Tobacco Leather Review – Episode Two

This is a continuation of my ongoing review of the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack which I am doing in video form. The text below is the transcript of the video. You can see/read episode one here.

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.

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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.Saddleback Leather Square Backpack Review1

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.

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compared to the Classic Backpack “Tank”

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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!

Shop the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack

Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack & New Tobacco Leather Review – Episode One

Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack Review04

This is the first video review in a series reviewing the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack. The text below is the transcript of the video. You can see/read episode here two here.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Check out the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack here.

Continue to episode two of the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack Review.

New: The Saddleback Leather Simple Backpack

For quite a while Saddleback Leather has produced one backpack, The Backpack. Now there are three Saddleback Leather Backpacks. Behold, the Simple Backpack.

This new creation aims differently than The Backpack at being a more casual and easier to use backpack. Instead of being internally strong it is more collapsable and moldable. This will lend itself to travel and the diverse demands of the “stuff” that may need to be carried. One of the downfalls of The Backpack, despite its beauty, is the difficulty in efficiently using all its space. Although the cubic capacity of The Backpack is greater, one can fit just as much  “stuff” into the Thin Briefcase because it is easier to fill the horizontally arranged compartments as opposed the vertically arranged compartments of The Backpack.

This bag will be popular with travelers, as Dave demonstrates in his video, for its flexibility, lightness, and capacity due to the simple interior design. It is to be hoped that this design lends itself to more efficient use of space then The Backpack.

Check it out here.

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