Koch Leather Custom Tote Review

Joshua and Jen Koch have been booming with new designs in their store lately. We’ve reviewed a few of their products before but never a custom one. Outside of BestLeather, I consider Koch Leather to be one of my go-to companies to contact when I want a custom piece made. One of the most recent products is this custom tote with a masculine edge to it. Josh and I spoke via emails to come up with a tote that had some risky modifications: side straps to cinch the bag, a drop-down key leash, d-rings for shoulder straps and a stitched bottom 1/4th of the way up. After carrying it over the last few months every day, I figured it would be a great showcase for review.

Koch Leather Custom Tote, breaking in nicely but still able to stand on its own due to reinforced bottom.

Construction

One thing I can always count on Koch (pronounced “coke”) leather for is quality leather and materials choice. This bag is fully made of Horween Chromexcel with plenty of pull-up and pretty decent resistance to scratches. The hardware used is mostly stainless steel, with a few hammered copper rivets that add a nice touch. For the side cinch straps, a stud closure is used as well as an optional stud closure at the top of the tote, which would help secure the contents.

I didn’t purchase a shoulder strap with this tote design, but could easily pick one up in matching leather from Koch leather, or use any of my straps from other bags. Exterior D rings accompany the sides of the bag, as well as the extended key latch inside the bag. A standard pouch that seems customary to all Koch totes was also included inside.

Detachable key strap also nicely finished with a logo and copper rivet.

Function

The tote has been a great secondary every day carry option for me. I believe that the design and function of a tote-style bag is underappreciated amongst men, and certainly underrated in terms of quick, no zipper/closure access to your goods. Typicallyy, I carry my DSLR camera, a small pouch with extra memory cards and batteries, and a light jacket. There is still plenty of room for a water bottle, wallet, keys etc. I mainly chose the tote design because I didn’t want to have to unbutton or unzip any closures to access my camera. There is that optional stud closure up top, but I find myself rarely using it, in fact tucking it behind the inside pocket often.

It is very useful however, on rainy days. I have also carried a full size notepad along with my regular set up with no issues or bending of the pad. As I stated previously, I didn’t order the optional shoulder strap with the bag, but for this review I did spend a few days carrying it via a shoulder strap. The less amount of bulky items in the tote, the more it will lean in towards your body. Even with my big camera inside, it did not bump up against my side enough to cause any discomfort.

Cinch straps on the side make it easier to increase or decrease the opening and capacity.
Fully packed for the next trip with room to spare.

Aesthetics

With Horween leather and copper rivets, what’s not to appreciate about the look? As this bag has been used, it has gained some floppiness, and scratches and scuffs have been kept at a minimum. I intend on utilizing a shoulder strap more, to add some shiny patina to the sides of the tote. The accent stitching and reinforced bottom also add to the overall beauty. Two small logos occupy the bag minimally and pleasantly, and I had to search for them to notice.

I believe the most masculine or gender-neutral feature is the shortened straps as opposed to traditional totes with a longer strap drop length. When I propositioned Josh to make the tote, I knew beforehand I didn’t want a bag to sling on my shoulder via the straps, so the design modification shines. In hindsight, the only modification I would add, which I could still do, is request a snap button handle wrap, to make carrying via the straps a little easier and more uniform looking.

Minimalist logos are my favorite.

Conclusion

As you can tell, I couldn’t quite find anything negative to say about this custom tote from Koch Leather. Custom designs are done by Koch on a made to order basis, so its best to figure out what design ques and functionality you’re looking for prior to purchasing. Costs may vary but I highly recommend Koch Leather Totes, and adding your own modifications to get a bag unique to you.  Josh is also a great help at providing guidance if you are unsure and would like to ask questions prior to him putting the needle to leather.

Waterfield Bolt Crossbody Leather Laptop Bag Review — $199

My new roommate can’t believe how little I own.

I just feel good about not having things. I recently learned there’s a psychological term for this: Obsessive Decluttering.

I realize this may sound like a contradiction, but I’m also continually hunting for quality items. Yes, that’s true. I will pay almost any price for a product that is exactly what I need and nothing more. Well, I needed a case for my tablet, and I found a solution with everything I needed and nothing more: the Bolt Crossbody Laptop Bag by Waterfield Designs.

Construction

I’ve reviewed several Waterfield products, and, like the others, the build quality on the Bolt Crossbody is impeccable. It’s made of a durable waxed canvas with full-grain leather for the accents. I tend to use mine for urban adventures, but I think it would withstand a wilderness (and rainfall) adventure just as well. That’s the kind of quality we’re talking about.

Beyond the leather and canvas, it’s the little things that drive this bag from adequacy to excellence. Sturdy YKK zippers seal the main compartment and protect the secure pocket in the back. The interior has a separate pocket lined with padding to help protect your tablet (or laptop) against bounces and jostles. It’s lined with a golden material, a color that reflects light really well, which makes it easy for you to see your stuff inside (I love that). The front has a magnet closure with a nice snap to it, inside of which is an ultrasuede pouch, just big enough to hold your iPhone Plus or Pixel XL. Stout rings hold the strap in place but also allow for some contour motion as you carry it.

In short, Waterfield has a lot of experience designing bags for tech, and that history has led to some insightful features. This attention to detail makes me excited to own this bag.

Functionality

I’m an author who writes on a tablet—that’s an example of how I try to minimize what I carry. The Bolt matches that same ideal. I love it. It’s small enough that when I carry my lunch to work in it, I can throw the whole thing into the fridge. (Make sure your electronics aren’t in it when you do.) Because it’s small and lightweight like this, I’m never reluctant to bring it along.

The magnet on the outside pocket is a brilliant addition. It always stays closed, which looks nice, but it’s also super easy to access. Frustration free. A great feature.

There are a few slots to hold your pens, or, in my case, a digital stylus. (Really, they thought of everything.)

The handle on the back is one of my favorite features. It’s sewn tight against the bag, which gives you control when holding it, so the bag doesn’t swing around loosely. I’ve found myself using this handle (rather than putting the bag over my shoulder) about half the time.

I got the smallest size, which is 11×9” inches. That’s just right for my Pixel C tablet or your iPad. (They say it’ll fit an iPad Pro too, but I haven’t tested that yet.) If you need something bigger, Waterfield makes two larger sizes, the biggest of which is 14×12”, which should fit your 15” MacBook (or similarly sized laptop) just fine.

Aesthetic

This bag looks great. The waxed canvas has both a rugged and a classy vibe, fitting a variety of styles. The dark chocolate leather is beautiful and provides a nice accent. In the photos, you’ll notice a slight shift in the apparent contrast between the leather and canvas; that’s all accurate though and just depends on the lighting.

Also, when you buy, Waterfield offers three colors of leather; I chose chocolate. They also let you swap the waxed canvas for a ballistic black nylon, which is a synthetic textile that gives the bag an entirely different look, which you can see on their site if you’re interested. These variations leave room for a lot of variety.

As usual, though, I’ll let you judge the style from the pictures.

Conclusion

I have owned three Waterfield products, and I’ve been impressed with each. The Bolt Crossbody Laptop Bag is my favorite though. It is built with the same quality I’ve come to expect from Waterfield, and it also matches the utility I’m looking for—without any excess.

Overall, I am an avid fan of their designs. I would eagerly buy another bag from them in the future to match whatever device I might own next.

Go Forth Goods Gunnar Leather Duffle Bag Review – $400

We have partnered with Go Forth Goods to give this leather duffel bag away to one lucky winner. You can enter into this giveaway here!

I got really excited when the opportunity to review the Go Forth Goods Gunnar Leather Duffle presented itself. A classic military style top-loading clip closure duffle, but made with gorgeous, full-grain pull-up leather. This duffle is made sturdy, has both modern and vintage appeal, and I think you’re going to love it.

About Go Forth Goods

Founder Nathan Martin began Go Forth Goods in 2014 when bags currently on the market just didn’t fit the bill. Now they create leathergoods that are based on tried-and-true timeless designs of the past, while looking toward the future. Products are designed to last a lifetime.

Go Forth Goods remains a small operation in Georgia where orders are made individually or to-order. They hope to provide quality items as well as inspire: “So no matter where your journey takes you, go forth and do good!”

Leather & Construction

The Gunnar is constructed entirely from full-grain, pull-up leather, without a lining or other materials (except the brass hardware, of course). I’m personally a big fan of pure leather products. Lining in these sorts of bags tends to break down relatively early in the product’s lifetime, and the leather is much better looking (and smelling!) anyway. The main body has thick leather for strength, but it’s also tumbled for softness. The carry handle and strap are much thicker and stiff 10oz veg-tan leather. The strap has a buckle that is adjustable for length.

The main body is stitched together around the bottom and center seam. The carry handle and strap are both reinforced with rivets. Construction is well done, with no notable imperfections or irregularities. One change I would have made is a rivet or addition reinforcement at the end of the center seam on the opening side. This stitch does seem somewhat vulnerable when items go in and out of the bag. However, all seams are reinforced with triple backstitching, and so far I haven’t seen any issues.

Construction and materials are all done so this bag will last a lifetime–which Go Forth Goods guarantees!

Function

If you’ve used a military style top-load bag before, the function of the Gunnar will be familiar to you. It’s essentially a large bucket of space. To close it off, you fold down the pin near the top, then fold down the three rivets onto the pin. There’s a clip at the end of the carry strap that is then used to hold the rivets onto the pins, which both completes the carry strap connection and secures the duffle shut. It may not be familiar to some, but it’s fun to use and very effective for securing items.

The single bucket of space takes some organization to use effectively. It’s best to put least-used or just-in-case items at the bottom. I’ve also learned a trick of using a small cinch bag or something similar to keep smaller items together in one place within the duffle.

One way the Gunnar really hits a sweet spot is its size. If it was much larger, not only would it be harder to organize well, but it would also start to feel like a more cumbersome piece of luggage. The size is good for both holding all you need for a couple nights and feeling very portable and easy to use.

So far I’ve taken the Gunnar on camping trips, to the gym, and on a quick overnighter or two. The just-right size and easy to use military closure have made it a pleasure to use in every case.

Aesthetic

I don’t think I’ve taken the Gunnar out without receiving at least one compliment. This bag is gorgeous. Pull-up leather is always beautiful, but across the wide landscape of a duffle bag, it turns heads! The soft leather will move quite a bit as you fill and carry it. This causes the pull-up to create a subtle marbled pattern that is always changing.

The strap and carry handle are additions to the Gunnar that leaves the duffle with an overall simple, understated, beautiful look. It’s stunning yet unpretentious. You’ll love the way this bag looks hanging over your shoulder.

Conclusion

I find myself looking for excuses to use the Go Forth Goods Gunnar Leather Duffle whenever I can. Each time I do it serves me well. It’s made well, fun to use, hits a sweet spot for carry capacity, and fantastic to look at (and be seen with!). The price may seem high for those used to more common polyester duffles, but is actually quite reasonable for the caliber of leather and assembly. If you’re gawking at the photos of this bag as much as I was, I suspect you won’t regret springing for the Gunnar. It’s a guaranteed Buy It For Life product that I highly recommend.

If you want to have a chance at winning this awesome bag for free you can enter the giveaway below:

[RF_CONTEST contest=’5917′]

Meqnes Handmade Moroccan Leather Weekend Bag Review — $795

The French word for leatherwork is maroquinerie. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice the root word Moroccan embedded in it. In fact, you might transliterate the word as “Moroccan artistry.”

“If the French guys give you a name, you know it’s a serious business.” That’s what Kamal Jahid said when I spoke with him over the phone about his upcoming Handmade Moroccan Leather Weekend Bag by Meqnes.

“Tourism is changing Morocco,” he said. In their rush to see site after site, tourists readily pay the same price for lower quality. That makes high quality no longer worth it. A people that were once famous for their leatherwork now create cheap products for undiscerning masses. And the craftsmen are not teaching their children either, so the art is dying.

That’s why Kamal and his co-founder David Liebers created Meqnes. They went directly to these marketplace artisans to talk in person. “They are generous and authentic–real people who sit down with you and ask about your family.” Together they made a deal: Meqnes would get a pledge from Kickstarter backers, and the artisans would then fulfill the order. Not having to stock these products lowers the risks for the artisans.

And it ensures that the world will get to see real maroquinerie once again.

Construction

Meqnes will make these bags from a thick calfskin leather sourced from Poland. It’s full-grain, vegetable tanned leather. When you knead it between your fingers, it’s especially thick and full—feels hardy, like it’ll last forever. I mean it—just touching it is a huge selling point.

As you may have guessed, I am using one of just three prototypes of the bag. But it isn’t the final version to be produced with the Kickstarter funds. So while the leather is top notch, the prototype’s metals aren’t. This is because, as David, explained, “It was difficult to get them in small quantities, so the zippers and buckles will be a lot higher quality in the final version, made with solid brass from a designer Italian company.”

Functionality

The dual handles are firm and comfortable. The shoulder strap is made from a single thickness of leather, which, again, is sturdy stuff. The strap is also removable if you’d like to minimize. At roughly 12”x12”x24”, the bag fits IATA (International Air) standards, so it’s an excellent carry-on companion.

When you zip the bag closed, the flap where the zipper ends hangs disconnected unless you also affix it to its clasp. This adds an extra step, which is a bit of a hassle if you’re frequently opening and closing the bag. The same goes for the buckle that crosses over the zipper and fastens in the center. And the pockets on the front are real buckles, which look amazing, but aren’t designed for quick access. These are each cool looking features (I love how they look), but they’re a slight drain on the user experience–giving up functionality in exchange for the aesthetic.

If you’ve watched the Meqnes Kickstarter video, you’ve heard Kamal talking about the bag’s structure. This really is a stand-out feature. By contrast, I was trying to find a tube of lip balm in the bottom of a different bag, and I could never quite tell whether I had searched the whole thing, because I could only see into the part I was holding open–it was frustrating. Not so with the Meqnes weekender. You just pull open the top, and you can see all four corners of the interior. Nothing gets lost because the sides don’t collapse. This made me smile. What’s more, the velvet red interior reflects light and makes it easy to spot even small items inside. (And it really is quite bright–I even undersaturated the color in a few shots to recover some of the blown-out reds.)

The interior has one large pocket across the back wall. Big enough for a laptop, and perfect for tucking in your shaving kit and other small items. And I like the simplicity.

Aesthetic

I asked Kamal about how fashion changes people’s perceptions, and he said, “You have no idea how many deals I’ve closed in airports.” So his advice? “You gotta be proud, man. Get a suit and go out there and change the world.”

Kamal designed this bag to match that philosophy. It’s a bag that makes a statement.

I have the Bullet Black version, which has a rich and deep hue, and which shows the distinct patterns of wrinkles across the leather surface. The seams show the stitching, a white thread. And each stitch has its own unique but subtle length and angle–proof that it’s handmade. The felt interior shows through at the seams, splashing a nice accent color that you mostly only notice up close. Overall, it has an exotic feel, a tone reminiscent of the streets of Rabat or Marrakesh.

I rushed this bag’s review process because I wanted to tell you about it before the Kickstarter ended. That means I haven’t yet carried it around in a crowded public space, but I don’t doubt Kamal’s claims that it will turn heads. It really is a sharp looking piece of leatherwork.

The central evidence, though, is in the photos. You be the judge.

Conclusion

I like this bag. I like its backstory too.

If you want a fashionable accoutrement, one made of heavy leather and with an exotic air, I recommend the Handmade Moroccan Leather Weekend Bag by Meqnes.

Personally, I love it.

Pad & Quill Large Leather Backpack Review – $289

For the last five years I have been on the hunt for the perfect backpack for travel, adventure, and something that would hold up over time that I could hand down to my children and perhaps even my grandchildren. You know one of those bags that when you see it, it looks like its been through years of adventures and travel and has all the character. When I fist laid my eyes on the waxed canvas and leather backpack from Pad & Quill I was just about breathless as my vision for this bag finally found me.

About Pad & Quill

Kari and Brian, founders of Pad & Quill, are out to make their mark on the world of eCommerce. Instead of outsourcing their products to the lowest bidder, they have a strict code that they want all of their products to adhere to, which you can read about here. They have a 25-year warranty on their bags, showing their commitment to longevity. From their website:

“We think there are folks out there who have the same sense of awe as we do when they behold a beautiful thing. Who marvel at how a handful of seeds can become a majestic stand of Baltic Birch, that are then transformed, in artisan hands, into a gorgeous, organic product. There are friends who share our sense of adventure and love to have a bag they pull from their closet with 15 years of travel written upon it, and miles to go. Pad and Quill products will never resemble a trinket pulled from a fast food bag.”

This backpack is an absolute beautiful piece of design and construction. The inspiration for this bag came from a cafe racer motorcycle in which vintage materials mixed with a modern design. Whether on a bike, hike or just and adventure, this backpack is just a real eye catcher.  Read more here.

Construction

The backpack is made out of a robust 24 ounce waxed canvas, full-grain American bridal leather, parachute grade nylon stitching, and nickel hardware. The bag measures 15 inches wide by 16.5 inches in length and 5.5 inches deep. The front pocket is about 9.5 inches across by 7 inches high and secures with a nickel eye. The exterior has 2 side pockets. On the interior there is a back slot with a leather strap closure for a laptop or portfolio. I have a 15-inch Macbook Pro and it fit in the pocket with no problem at all. On the front of that pocket is a large pocket suitable for an Ipad or other items, a smaller pocket and 2 pen slots. Empty, the bag weighs a little shy of 4 pounds. The bag closes with a nylon drawstring and the leather top secures with two buckles. The shoulder straps are lightly padded and adjustable with nickel buckles.

Function

This is a good size bag that can both serve as an every day carry commuter bag, a hiking companion as well as a weekender. I had no problem packing enough clothes for a two night trip recently with plenty of room to spare. The backpack is very comfortable as I have already taken it on 2 long hikes.

At first I was concerned that the bag was going to look too square but was happy of how it was able to fit rolled up clothes and books with ease.

Although the interior is basic without all the zippers and multiple pockets, It has the essentials,- a roomy padded laptop pocket and a few pockets to organize you smaller gear. The side pockets and front pockets are also great for the easy to access items like water bottles, sunglasses, passports and often in my case, doggy treats!

Aesthetic

Being a tall guy (6’1) I always loath when backpacks don’t fit my frame well and look too ‘dinky’ and I was very impressed with the look and feel of this bag, At first I even thought it was going to be too big. But after the first few outings and trips, I was rest assured that this was the perfect fit without being awkwardly bulky but also having a rugged and hefty character.

I love that the bag has just the basic pockets, and really lends to a rustic and minimal feel.

I always try to find a less desirable feature or function to a bag but in this case I could not find one. I just love every detail and am thoroughly impressed with the durability of materials and parts.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a stylish, rugged, and beautiful bag that fits a lot without the awkward bulges or uneven weight distribution, I can’t speak any more highly of this bag. The price is right!! Check it out -here-.

Buffalo Jackson Denver Laptop Messenger Bag Review – $299.95

It’s almost a symbolic rite of passage, the messenger. As a boy you’ve got your trusty backpack, filled with indispensable necessities like peanut butter sandwiches, Hot Wheels and maybe some homework. As a man, you might have passed that pack down and taken up a new method for carrying the tools that you need in life, and for many guys that is the quintessential messenger. Buffalo Jackson’s Denver Laptop Messenger Bag is one such example, and we’ll take a look to see if it merits such a respected position in your life.

Construction

The leather used is semi vegetable tanned, top grain cow leather. This gives it a smooth finish with a nice pull up. The bag is manufactured in Mexico. The leather is definitely on the thick side, so you will have to work at it before it rewards you with pliability. I would have liked to have seen double stitched rows along some of the leather panels, especially the bottom.

The hardware is really top notch and meets my Triple B Criteria: Big, Beefy and Brass.

Antique brass hardware is used throughout including the shoulder strap D rings and handle strap. A turn lock closure secures the main flap over the interior compartments and the back side features a zippered slotted pocket. The interior lining is soft suede which is a forgiving surface for delicate electronics. The dimensions are 16″ L x 11″ H x 4″ W and the bag weighs in at just under 5 lbs.

Function

The Denver has no problem executing its purpose in carrying your laptop. The thick leather in conjunction with the padded interior shields your laptop  from bumps and drops. Light rain is no issue and the flap closure of the bag means quick and efficient retrieval. Probably my favorite aspect is that the bag is self standing and with the orientation of the pockets, sitting down and bending to get items is a breeze. As the bag continues to break in, it might not stand as well but then you’re rewarded with a more comfortable carry as it will be less rigid.   Adjustable shoulder strap provides a great fit and the metal D rings that attach the straps are ideal for attaching carabiner key chains. With a laptop in the bag I was still able to fit in a bag lunch, light sweater and water. The Denver definitely functions as well as any messenger.

Aesthetic

This is a good looking bag, no doubt.  It has that effortless Paul Newman vibe of exuding cool without trying. Some bags seem to yell, “Look at me, I’m from an overpriced designer!” Whereas the Denver is appreciated in a more subtle manner. The bag for me at least, teeters on the edge of casual business. I see it as a great looking option for students or those who need a carry option that can transition from the field to the office. The brass trimmings are what really do it for me, they give the bag a rustic, rugged vibe. The leather is very prone to scuffs which in and of itself is not really a bad thing as it adds character over time.

Turn lock clasps are infinitely superior to magnetic closures. You sacrifice half a second in opening them but the security more than makes up for it.

Conclusion

Buffalo Jackson’s Denver Messenger is a solid bag, inside and out. The materials are durable and the craftsmanship shines. The 299.99 price point is about ballpark for bags in this quality range. I particularly like the rugged aspects of the bag and the adventure vibe I get from it. If you’re the type that likes to buy the best and only cry once, I’d tell you to consider the Denver.

Ledermann Thin Briefcase – $269

An essential item of anyone who carries documents to and from the office is some sort of briefcase. Here at BestLeather we are of the opinion that there isn’t any better solution for that than a well constructed leather option. Queue the Ledermann Thin Briefcase.

Construction

Ledermann uses full grain vegetable tanned leather as the foundation for for their bag. It is lined with canvas and there is a layer of leather board in between the leather exterior and canvas interior to provide structure as the bag breaks in.

The metal used throughout the bag is all iron, which has proven to be durable but brass or nickel plated brass would have been a better choice for longevity.

The back of the strap is lined with a nylon belt. While some manufacturers use similar techniques it’s typically masked by using leather on both sides. The underside of the pad on the strap is a soft suede that keeps it from falling off your shoulder when carrying it which is a nice touch.

Function

This briefcase certainly performs all the duties that you would expect it to. It holds plenty of notebooks and documents with just enough space to hold a small laptop if needed.

There are a few pockets for sorting small items but is mostly open to put and sort you items as you would like.

Aesthetic

The Ledermann Thin Briefcase is certainly a handsome bag that fits in well casually and in a business casual setting. Some briefcases go to far in trying to add too many bells and whistles but here what you get is a tried and true design.

There is some unsightly creasing on the closure strap but being a high wear area this isn’t unexpected. It would have been nice to see this constructed in a way that would prevent it though.

Conclusion

The Ledermann Thin Briefcase is another great contender in the leather briefcase space, and coming in at under $300 prices it competitively.

Megan’s Mark Leather Addison Tote Review — $208

I think I have—quite simply—found THE perfect leather tote.

It’s the Addison Tote from Megan’s Mark Leather, and there are so many things I love about it. But first, let me tell you some behind-the-scenes.

As a leather blogger, I spoke on the phone with Megan, the creator, before I ordered—wanting to get the inside scoop on the product. She told me she’s always been drawn to leather products with a classic aesthetic and personalized touches to show they were hand-made. She looked for simple design too—no buckles, zippers, or anything superfluous. But “it was hard for me to find my style,” she said, “so I created it.” Luckily, that happened to be the style I was looking for too.

She sums up her design philosophy with a simple line: “Let the leather speak for itself.”

Construction

First up, let’s talk about the craftsmanship and materials.

The tote is made in the U.S., sourced from Tandy Leather. The leather type is called oiled kodiak, and it’s chrome-tanned and medium temper, which gives it rich colors and a little bit of texture. Mine even has some unique scarring, which I like.

Aesthetic

Megan makes two versions of this tote. The first is simpler and has a straight-cut edge at the top opening. I ordered the upgraded version, which has that top edge turned-down and stitched. And I love the contrast of that finished edge with the raw edges you’ll see on the straps. It really emphasizes the leather as a material and brings the design together in a way that makes it perfect for any occasion.

As I said, the leather has some imperfections, making it authentically one-of-a-kind. The stain is rich and warm, while still being perfectly modern. The rivets are a nice, complementary copper color.

On a personal note, the bag arrived during the coldest part of winter, and it had lighter marks across it where it was bent. This concerned me, because it didn’t look too great. But when I brought it out of the package and let it relax in the warmth of my home, all the discoloration went away. Now the bag is beautiful, as you’ll see in the photos.

Functionality

Inside the bag, there’s a special treat (at least to any woman who’s previously owned a tote). The inner side features a small pouch, perfect for holding small items you’d rather not have floating at the bottom. It includes a clasp attached to a length of leather to keep your keys secure. It’s a thoughtful design, particularly if you ask my phone screen.

In the month and a half I’ve owned it, I’ve found many occasions to make it my companion. It’s a wonderful upgrade to my old shoulder bag and the perfect size for a busy mom—large enough to fit several items, and yet never so large that it’s in the way.

On outings with my baby, I slip my small purse inside, along with diapers, wipes, a spare outfit, and treats, topped with her favorite quilt and stuffed kitty—and it all fits wonderfully! I once loaded it full of Christmas packages and waited in line at the post office, and my shoulder felt no fatigue because the leather straps molded comfortably to its shape. I take the tote to church every week, where it fits an 8×11 binder, activities to keep children quiet, and my purse tucked inside. It’s been my car bag on day trips, my gym bag, and my favorite bag.

Conclusion

This tote has a unique, simple style that really sets it apart from something you’d find at Target. It’s made from hearty materials and was hand-crafted precisely. And, best of all, it has worked well for every situation I’ve used it in. If these are qualities you’re looking for, the Addison Tote from Megan’s Mark Leather is a great choice.

[Jill Washburn and J Washburn wrote this review in collaboration.]

Waterfield Designs Syde MacBook Case Review — $159

I was so excited to get my new MacBook Pro. It’s such an elegant machine! But that excitement quickly turned to worry—I didn’t want to scuff it up! My solution was to put it inside a small protective case and then put that inside my actual bag—a hassle, to say the least, since these days I’m moving from class to class in an MBA program.

So began my frustrating search for a better solution, which finally ended when a good friend introduced me to the Waterfield Designs Syde MacBook Case.

The next day I walked into class and set my new case on the desk. I pulled apart the straps, the magnet clasp popped open, and I slipped the computer out. My classmate responded with, “Whoa! You just pulled a computer out of your purse.” He proceeded to admire the size and quality of the bag, which has now gotten more attention than my laptop.

Functionality

This case is designed for a minimalist user. That was initially a concern for me. For starters, it meant carrying my binder separately, in my hands. I soon realized I could do without most of what was in there. And when teachers gave us handouts, they fit nicely into the bag’s outer sleeve, which provided safe transport till I got them home to my binder.

In the leather pouch on the outside, I put pens, wallet, calculator, and charger. That all fit, though it was a little snug (maybe it’s time for a slimmer wallet). Everything else had to stay behind.

If you’re a minimalist, or a wannabe like me, I think you’ll like the simplicity of the bag. There are no extra pockets, inches, or frills. But it won’t work well if you’re the type who likes to bring the kitchen sink.

The strap is adjustable, and the shoulder pad has grips, which makes it comfortable and stationary on my shoulder.

Construction

The main compartment is an exact fit for the 13” MacBook Pro. In fact, my friend told me that Waterfield delayed the final design till the latest MacBooks (with the lightbar) arrived so they could make sure the design had no excess. This main sleeve is pretty impressive. It’s cushioned in a high-grade neoprene that’s soft and great for absorbing shocks. As for keeping my MacBook safe, it put all my worries at ease.

The outer pocket and the handle are made from premium, full-grain leather. At first I was worried about scuffing up this leather, till I learned that mild wear actually gives the surface more character, which does make it look better over time.

The coolest part of the design is the silent, magnetic closure. (I consider it the spiritual reincarnation of the magnetic power plug from the old MacBooks—my favorite abandoned feature.) You just pull the handles, and the seam pops open. Then pick up the bag by the handles and the clasp gently snaps back closed—almost automatically. I love it! The magnetic closure also gives the bag’s opening some structure, so it’s never left hanging open. It’s a beautiful design and a remarkable match for the technology it carries.

Aesthetic

I really like the look and feel of this bag. It’s perfect for conferences, recruiting events, interviews, and any other event in which you want a minimal, protective bag. And it’s quite stylish.

The strap and the fastening loops at first seemed too flimsy—not that I thought they might break, but they just looked dainty to me. Now I’ve gotten used to it, and the lightweight straps feel more fitting for the minimalist aesthetic.

The main compartment is made of a durable waxed canvas which has a rugged look that compliments many different styles. It’s soft to the touch and, like the leather, gains some personality with use.

The outer pocket is a beautiful, grizzly-colored leather. If this isn’t quite your style, Waterfield also makes this bag out of ballistic-black canvas, with either black or grizzly brown leather for the pocket as an accent.

Conclusion

This is a high-quality product, made from durable yet fashionable materials. It’s designed to fulfill the simple task of transporting your MacBook and its accessories in style, and it does this without an ounce of excess. I’ve been quite happy with my Waterfield Designs Syde MacBook Case, and I think you will be too.

[Megan Spencer and J Washburn wrote this review in collaboration.]

    

Mission Mercantile Stateroom Wash Bag – $225

If you are anything like myself there are goods that you typically don’t think much about. In my case, this fell in the category of my toiletries bag. I never gave much thought to the hideous looking black pleather monstrosity that held my toiletries when traveling. I just assumed that everyone dealt with flaking pretend leather, crushed toiletries, and an eyesore on the counter holding their various products of choice. Once I got my hands on the Stateroom Wash Bag I knew that was a thing of the past.

The Stateroom Wash Bag is a handsome bag indeed.

Construction

As soon as you put your hands on the Stateroom Wash Bag you know that you have a serious piece of leather that is going to last long enough to pass on to your children. It is constructed with vegetable tanned leather, durable solid metal YKK zippers, and brass feet on the bottom. The stitching is immaculate and robust, and the inside of the bag is lined with an easily cleaned water repellent fabric. The bottom of the bag gives just enough structure to not crush completely while being soft enough to be easily pack-able.

The inside of the bag stays organized while leaving room for larger items.

Function and Aesthetic

The design of this particular wash bag is extremely thought out. The high stress points are sewn extremely well, and the bottom where it will get the most wear has extra rivets added for durability. There is also a handle on one side to help carry the bag if you are anywhere you might need to travel to the bathroom and not want to leave your items there.

The handle is attached well, and the bottom has rivets for added durability.
Just a few of the things I travel with. Much more than this will fit of course.

The interior of the bag is fairly simple, including only a couple open pockets and one zippered pocket allowing for some organization while leaving a large space to store your various products.

The Stateroom Wash bag features a great looking water repellent lining.

In my use of the bag I ended up with some shaving cream leaking out (my fault for not putting the cap on) and put the liner to the test, which it passed with flying colors cleaning up easily. I’ve taken this on a few trips now and it has performed spectacularly. My family no longer has to look at an eyesore when I visit, none of my toiletries have gotten damaged, and thanks to the well placed brass feet even when the sink gets wet the bottom of the bag isn’t soaked.

Brass feet on the bottom of the bag, because no one likes their goods getting soaked.

If I had to issue a complaint it would be that initially the zippers on the bag could bite your hand while moving goods to and from the bag due to the stiffness of the leather. With a little bit of use that problem has almost completely disappeared but I did end up with a few scratched knuckles.

Conclusion

If you or someone you know is looking for an upgrade for their toiletry travel bag you don’t need to look any further than the Stateroom Wash Bag from Mission Mercantile. While it certainly costs more than your typical toiletry bag from a bargain store this will be the last one you, and possibly your favorite child will have to buy.

BennyBee Leather 13” Messenger Bag Review – $282.05

Too often when discussing durability of bags, there is talks about utilizing rivets, metal bars to attach handles, and other rugged components. When I first started buying bags, that’s all I knew to look for. After seeing and handling some French/Swiss packsaddles from the early 1900s, I was taken back and realized what ensures quality and longevity. These packsaddles were made when rivets and a lot of reinforcements weren’t so prevalent – yet they’ve lasted nearly a century due to bare-bones materials – quality leather and quality stitching.  With that in mind, when I stumbled upon BennyBee Leather of Edinburgh, UK, I was not so hesitant when I noticed the beauty and simplicity of their bags.I was overtaken by first the look of the bags, and spent less time looking for rivets and reinforcement bars.  After reaching out, Dani of BennyBee decided to let us test out the 13 inch messenger in chestnut, one of their top-selling bags.

As for those who have read some of my previous reviews, I am a big fan of discovering the etymology of company names. BennyBee is broken down from “Benny” which is the nickname of Dani’s brother, and “Bee” to signify the preservation of nature and respect for the namesake insect. Dani began making small leather goods after borrowing tools from his late grandfather’s shop, who had worked as a cobbler. Upon advancing to making bags, BennyBee Leather was born in 2014. They currently offer a variety of bags and wallets for both women and women.

It’s not often I talk about aesthetics before going into the construction and build quality, but the chestnut color of this bag is absolutely gorgeous. Indoors, the color at times looks a nice dark brown. Outdoors, the chestnut-red color really blooms into a hue that I cannot stop gazing over. Even while taking photos at a nearby park to me, I was interrupted a few times by passerby’s to explain who made the bag and how to get it. I must also mention that the shipping time internationally was fast – 3 days from shipment to receiving. To add icing on the cake, the bag comes nicely packaged inside its shipping box with brown wrapping paper, a twine closure with a red candle stamp seal. Included was also a can of homemade wax and instructions to treat the bag.

The overall construction of the bag is quite simple. The exterior boasts one large piece of full-grained, vegetable tanned leather from the front flap to the back; One long strip to serve as the gusset, a front piece and a small front pocket constructed of two pieces of leather. Considering the shape and size, it is easy to tell the bag was constructed to avoid patchwork – stitching of multiple small pieces of leather, which often leads to poor durability. The entire bag is saddle-stitched by hand, with lovely characteristics such as the honey-comb like corners decorating the handle pieces and belt keepers and the slightly angled stitch pattern from the classic saddle-stich. Avoiding traditional rectangular patterns, I believe is a nice feature. The front buckles, side d-rings, and handle mounts are constructed of aged brass hardware. The buckles are riveted in, with the rivet partially hidden under the leather keeper. Over my use I have gotten more familiar opening and closing the buckles quickly so it really does not seem time consuming when compared to quick-release bags, also with the benefit of being much more secure against pickpockets. Each bag of this style takes roughly 15 hours to assemble, and is well worth the time spent.

The interior pocket of the bag sports a small sleeve insert as well as a panel with pockets for business cards, a cellphone, and pen holder loops. Being complete unlined, the suede finish is lovely to touch. If carrying a small laptop or tablet, I would suggest keeping it in a small sleeve or case, as this is not necessarily a tech bag, but would protect contents fairly well.  My iPad mini fits perfectly in the insert, as would a full sized iPad. BennyBee also makes a larger 15’’ messenger that accommodates a MacBook Pro and other larger laptops. The front pocket on the bag is perfect for holding field notes, a cellphone, or other small items for quick access without digging into the main compartment. The main compartment is spacious enough for a leather-bound notepad holder, a few books, and other daily carry items.


Cased iPad Mini with plenty of room in the sleeve; iPhone SE, business card wallet, two pens and carabiner with keyset attached. 

The strap is constructed of one thick piece of full-grain, vegetable tanned leather, with a non-padded shoulder pad. I love the feel of the pad as it is just one piece of thick, soft leather with the suede side exposed. Though it is not padded, it is quite comfortable and contours well to your shoulder whether wearing off one shoulder or crossbody.  Longevity wise, the shoulder pad may be the first component to wear out, especially if one neglects to condition their bag. However, a replacement or repair would be an easy fast fix if a problem ever developed. The brass buckle is riveted in as well as the lobster-style clasps at each end. These attach to the d-rings at on the sides of the bag. While the d-rings are not riveted to the bag, I highly doubt under normal use and the intended amount of things carried that they will fail to support the load. Like I refereed to earlier in the post, early Swiss packsaddles did not have rivets, and they are proven to hold up. The bag handle is thick and sturdy, stitched from two pieces of leather and quite comfortable.

The rear of the back is sans pocket. When I asked about it, Dani said the number of requests for a rear pocket (2) compared to the one thousand-plus messenger bags made so far didn’t constitute a design change. Of course, Dani did say they can accommodate as they do honor custom requests, so do not hesitate to ask if you are wanting a rear pocket or other design modifications. Quite frankly, the only modification I would request is a key keeper on the inside pocket panel; however, that is easily remedied by slipping a carabiner upside down through one of the three pen loops as I’ve shown above.

Truthfully, this bag has become my go-to for daily carry. I’ve typically enjoyed slightly bigger bags in length and interior dimensions, but the BennyBee Leather 13 Inch Messenger bag has convinced me to just carry what I need to carry. Priced at roughly $285 plus shipping, I honestly would pay more and still be impressed knowing and having experienced the bag thus far. I need to make it a point to say that even though BennyBee is based in the UK, buyers in the United States can breath a sigh of relief as we won’t be charged hefty import and duty taxes as long as the value of items shipped is below $800. This makes it a clear benefit for US customers to explore leather products internationally. You can check out BennyBee Leather on Etsy as well as Instagram to see more shots of their products.

 

 

First Impressions – Rugged Material Messenger Bag

Recently I reached out to the good folks at Rugged Material. Having successfully funded and provided goods through a Kickstarter campaign, I expected great things. I think it is fairly understated to have the ability to speak directly with the founder of a staffed company as a first-time customer. I got that experience from Tyler Condie, the founder of Rugged Material. He’s surrounded by a great team of folks dedicated towards designing and making goods guaranteed for life, and proudly made in the USA. Tyler was kind enough to send in a pull-up brown messenger bag that I’ll be giving my first impressions on, with a long-term use review in the future.

The Rugged Material Messenger Bag is a merge between the classic messenger design with modernized, rugged construction. The exterior of the bag is constructed of four major pieces of full grained oil-tan leather, with additional belt straps and a front pocket which bears the laser-burned logo. A polyester thread is used that is UV-resistant and also resistant to breakdown from leather creams and conditioners. Nickel-plated brass hardware is evident in the rivets, d rings, and handle. The closures are constructed of matte finished aluminum slide release buckles. The outside dimensions of the bag are 16.5″ x 5″ x 13″.

While the bag is definitely rugged, it has some formal finishing. The rounded corners on the leather as well as the attention to detail played on the stitching of the entire bag and the handle make solid statements.

The strap is the epitome of ruggedness – substantial full grain leather with nylon webbing (think seat-belt) stitched to the backside to prevent stretching and sustain heavy loads. This webbing is also implemented in the d-rings for the shoulder strap attachment as well as the handle. Adjustment of the strap is simple using tri-glide keepers and the bag can be worn on one shoulder like a briefcase or cross body like a messenger. The width of the strap is 1.5 inches, not too thick to look overbearing on a person of smaller stature and expandable from 36” to 59”.

The interior of the bag is nicely lined on the front and back with a black pigskin leather. This adds rigidity to the bag as well as it is a durable, easy to clean surface in case of spills. I do wish that a piece of pigskin coated the bottom of the bag, but that may add too much construction/rigidity if stitched in. A removable piece of pigskin would be nice to prevent spills to the bottom as well as stash extra bills or small documents under. The pockets hold a cellphone, most 14 inch laptops, and a full sized iPad or similar tablet. The front pocket could easily hold document folders, receipts, and other small items.

 

After handling this bag initially, I can say that the Rugged Material Messenger Bag is one of the bags I wish I’d had to get through undergraduate and graduate studies. At $295 it is very competitively priced among bags of the same dimensions and quality. Being a direct-to-consumer company, customers are not hit with the additional costs associated with outsourcing production from companies that choose to only design their products. Going along with their motto, their bag is USA-made and guaranteed for life. The bag  is also set to handle the working environments I am in, so I am looking forward to giving it some long term use and following up on its durability and function.

Korchmar Garfield Laptop Messenger Bag Review – $465

We’ve recently partnered with Korchmar to host a giveaway. Prior to the giveaway, I was given a chance to review the bag chosen. Check out this review and head on over to our giveaway page to participate!

When shopping for a bag that can carry larger sized laptops, there is often a fight between major components such as size/weight, capacity, durability, and look. For those with 15-inch laptops, you can often run into a bag that is too big or too small, and made out of cheaper materials such as nylon. Too heavy – you’ll likely not want to carry it given the added weight your electronics will add. Too light – and you’re left wondering how long the bag will last. Korchmar has created the Garfield messenger bag as a solution to those who may need to carry larger laptops and other items while being durable enough to handle their daily activities.

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Korchmar is a fourth-generation family owned company which produces goods made in the United States. They have been in business since 1917, nearing 100 years. Michael Korchmar is the current President of the company that has been making business-style cases since the 1920s after originally starting with leather headlamp covers for automobiles.

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The Garfield bag is constructed primarily of Full grain leather. This bag is part of Korchmar’s Pull-up Collection which includes chrome tanned leather that was also re-tanned with vegetable tanned methods. This particular bag comes with its share of full grain characteristics – scratches and veining/marbling of the cowhide showing. While full grain, I suspect the Texas-raised hides for these bags are picked and cut such to avoid using high stretch-mark areas of the hide such as belly leather which could affect durability. Having previously carried another  heavier full grain bag for my laptops, this one is considerably lighter but not too light. As the bag begins to take on patina it will take on more scratches from use, perfect for those who love the aged look. The hardware is solid brass and compliments the leather color.The major edges of the bag are covered with another layer of leather, which adds to a more formal finished look. The logo is placed on the right front pocket, de-bossed in with a subtle appearance.

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The interior is lined with patterned canvas as well as the two outside gusseted pockets on the front and the newspaper pocket on the back. Inside, there is a keychain strap as well as multiple pockets for storing iPads, most 15 inch laptops, charging cables, and cell phones/PDA. The bag also sports a rear pocket and a nylon webbing-backed luggage strap along the backside for transport on rolling carriers. I was able to fit my 14 or my 15 inch laptop, an ipad, iphone, a full sized notepad in cover, phone, keys, field notes, and kindle eReader in the main storage. There is still space in the zippered pocket that I used to stash receipts or smaller papers. I’ll note that next to the cellphone there are multiple webbed pockets for other items such as card readers, business cards, and headphone cables. In the front pockets I stored chargers for electronics in one, and lunch (typically a sandwich, chips, fruit) in the other pocket. The back rear pocket typically holds my bullet journal.


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The shoulder strap is padded with a rough suede side that grips well to suit jackets, shirts, and sweaters. The only negative I’ve experienced with the strap is that its construction utilizes relatively thin pieces of leather glued and stitched together. I would have liked to see thicker leather strips sewn together for the strap.  The padded handle is one of the most comfortable handles on a briefcase I have used, nicely cushioned without pvc inserts which are sometimes to maintain structure.

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One of the most useful features of the bag is how it opens. The Garfield utilizes a Tuck-Tite quick release system partially hidden behind the buckles. They are magnetic and also release with a push of a button. The buckles are also functional in that they allow for expansion of the bags capacity. This is a perfect setup for the individual looking to hold that business briefcase look while also needing fast or frequent access to the inner compartments. I could classify this as a tech bag in that it adequately protects my 15-inch laptop as well as cased iPad mini. Fully loaded with my work gear, this the initial weight of the bag was not as cumbersome as bags I have owned in the past.

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This bag really nails the design and aesthetics, particularly with the quick-release buckles and the shape of the top flap. Notice how the edges in the photo below curve in slightly towards the bag. This is a functional element I enjoyed because when you carrying briefcases by shoulder straps, the edges of the flap can begin to crease inward if they are straight cut. Korchmar’s choice to curve the edges allows more maneuverability and avoidance of the bag creasing at those points. The ability to slide the bag onto rolling luggage via the back luggage strap is also an important feature.

While the gusset on the main compartment is not one complete piece of leather, the bottom piece is placed in a way to insure durability. The bottom of the bag has some added support or padding to avoid damage of the inner contents. The construction gives me no suspicions or fears of splitting like bags that are stitched in the bottom middle part of the bag.

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Overall, I can say with confidence that the Korchmar Garfield bag is a Buy it for Life product in all aspects. Priced at $465, it is worth the investment especially being proudly made in the USA. Accompanied by a 5-year warranty, the bag will surely stand up against regular use while protecting your goods. While some prefer suede or unlined interiors, I believe the canvas lining is the perfect choice when carrying electronics. The size of the bag is well-suited for the individual carrying a laptop and other business related items such as notepads and file folders.

Want this bag for free? Enter our giveaway below for your chance to win it!

[RF_CONTEST contest=’3805′]

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WotanCraft Night Rider Leather Sling Bag Review (2016 Christmas Special) – $449

I’ve had the privilege of getting hands on with WotanCraft’s creations several times for BestLeather. Each time is a unique experience and with their latest product, the Night Rider Leather Sling Bag, the trend continues. This time we stray from the typical camera bag to a versatile bag that is just as ready for riding as it is walking.

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CONSTRUCTION

WotanCraft really pride themselves and the construction and materials used. Don’t be fooled by the good looks. This little bag is bombproof. The vegetable tanned Italian cowhide leather is pretty thick and the bag has a hefty presence (Weighs in around 2lbs 5oz) Rivets are used in some high stress point areas and the velveteen lining is super soft and tech friendly. Bronze YKK zippers are used throughout and feature rustproof coatings. The straps are a leather and canvas combination.

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FUNCTION

The Night Rider can be used in any manner you wish. One of its design points is the ability to be securely fastened to the body via multi point harness. The bag has a second strap that goes under the armpit and over the shoulder. This secures the bag when riding from sliding across your back.

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Also noteworthy is that since shoulder strap is fully detachable, which means that for both left or right handed individuals, Night Rider can be worn with the leather shoulder pad on the weight bearing side.

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Around town it can be carried messenger style across the back or more like a duffel to the sides as well. There’s just enough space for the essentials. The tubular dimensions don’t really allow for transportation of large laptops or tablets although the compression straps can be undone to maximize space. Organization is made possible by the large main compartment and small zippered pocket on front.

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AESTHETIC

The Night Rider is a sleek bag to say the least. In fact I think in some ways it might be too good looking for prolonged riding. That’s just because any long rides usually require performance cycling clothes and having a designer bag might seem out of place. Rather, I feel the Night Rider is best at home for casual rides around downtown. The all black construction deftly conceals the blemishes and scuffs from normal use. Chrome hardware contrasts nicely. I definitely get a Bruce Wayne vibe handling this piece!

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CONCLUSION

WotanCraft’s Night Rider Sling Bag is another solid, good looking entry from the respected manufacturer. I feel the price is a little on the high side given the size of the bag. For someone who rides and wants an alternative to the typical nylon fanfare offered to cyclists, I feel this bag is a great option. WotanCraft offers free international free shipping which is a nice incentive.

WotanCraft is having a Christmas Special running until Dec. 31st. Orders over $150 USD will receive a free shock resistant lens wrap, just check their homepage for more.

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Sandast Dakota Shoulder Bag – $610

There are some bags that you just can’t take out in public without getting stopped at least once by a curious stranger. They’ll ask about the brand, where it was made, or just give a genuine compliment. Lately this bag has been the Dakota Shoulder Bag in Tan from Sandast, made by hand in a Los Angeles workshop.

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About Sandast

Sandast is a Los Angeles company 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 leather products that have received a lot of notice and praise from loyal customers. Sandast frequently uses the term “modern vintage”  to describe their efforts to create leather pieces that have a uniquely vintage look with plenty of modern taste.

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CONSTRUCTION & AESTHETIC

The Dakota Shoulder Bag is made with Horween leather in a rich, ruddy brown color. The leather has a nice layer of wax that brings out the colors and natural textures. The leather is quite striking in person, with a texture and bright color that you don’t see every day.  The bag comes in three other colors besides tan – cognac, navy, and black. The bag is lined with Sandast’s signature plaid fabric, leaving the outer flap unlined with scalloped, burnished edges.

The hardware on the bag is quite impressive, and again marks the bag as something you don’t see every day. All the hardware is solid brass, including the lobster claw clasps that attach the padded, adjustable strap.

The bag zips with a partially attached Riri zipper that helps the bag hold its shape when carried. There is an inside pocket in the lining with a matching zipper reinforced with leather. The corners are reinforced with three brass rivets on each side.

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FUNCTION

The Dakota Shoulder Bag measures in at around 14.5″ x 11″ x 4″. It’s the perfect size to carry a 13″ laptop, a notebooks, and everyday items. It’s only 4″ thick, which gives it slim profile that’s perfect for a bag with feminine accents like the scalloped edges and contrasting stitching. There’s a small zippered pocket inside, but other than that, it’s a very simple, functional bag.

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CONCLUSION

The Dakota Shoulder Bag has quickly become my go-to bag– it’s dependable, practical, stylish, and incredibly high quality. This is one of about a half-dozen Sandast bags I’ve been able to see in-person, and I really can’t say enough good things about their products. Absolutely no corners are cut in the making of these bags, which are made right here in the USA (you can even watch the bags being made live via webcam). The Dakota is a bag that anyone would be proud to pass on to the next generation.

Intrepid Bag Co. Leather Tech Roll – $139

Picture this scenario: You’re traveling with a cellphone (as most would), a laptop, tablet, camera, and perhaps a kindle. You open your briefcase to retrieve the said cord to charge the right device and the inside of your briefcase is a tangled knot of cords and wires. Even worse, you can’t locate where one cord begins and the other ends.

Well in our age of multiple devices and other digital equipment, a professional and functional solution is needed to save time and perhaps embarrassment.

Intrepid Bag Co. has just released a new set of leather accessories to complement their original designs. Among them is this beautiful full grain saddle leather tech roll.

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Construction

The leather used in this piece is full grain USA saddle leather with a rich Mahogany color. The interior features a gray canvas lining with 3 cord slots, one middle pocket with a leather flap closure, and a large zippered pocket on the opposite end of the cord pockets. The entire piece is stitched with top quality nylon stitching.

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The roll is secured with two straps that fasten into simple leather closures.

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Rolled, the tech roll measures 7.5 inches long by 5 inches across and 1.5-4 inches deep (depending on how much you stuff in there). Unrolled it measures about 15 inches.

Having never really owned or used a tech roll before, I can say that at first I as hesitant to give it a fair shot in my daily carry as I usually like to pack as light and minimally as possible. But as I recalled SEVERAL incidents when traveling where I got slightly frustrated that I couldn’t find a cord or the cord I needed was wrapped around an article of clothing, so I decided to give it a fair chance.

One thing that was a little awkward was getting the cords in the pockets, but I imagine that in time it won’t be a big deal at all for the time and headaches you save on the road.

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 The function of the piece is to neatly organize cords, chargers, battery packs or external hard drives as well as a few other accessories like adapters or cleaning clothes. The interior’s 3 cord slots have slits in the bottom to allow the cord to feed through so it can be used without having to remove the whole cord.

The center pocket is large enough to hold a smart phone or thin battery or external hard drive with, again, a small slit in the bottom to allow a cord to feed through. As the zippered side pocket is all canvas, a good amount of small accessories can be stuffed in. However, the more stuff in the roll and pockets, the bulkier the piece is when rolled.

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 The mahogany saddle leather on the roll is very sturdy and already is breaking in nicely. As mentioned above, the roll does get bulky when crammed with a lot of stuff but what doesn’t? I really love the simplicity of the case and can tell it will age for many phone and device updates.

 At $139, I feel the tech roll Is well worth the money considering the material used and the design. Anyone who is looking for a solution to organizing varies electronics while maintaining a look of elegance, professionalism, and function will be happy with this piece. Check it out -here-!

Moore and Giles Benedict Bison Weekend Bag Review — $925

Man, this is a dang good-looking bag.

It’s the Moore and Giles Benedict Weekend Bag. I’ve owned it for about four weeks now. It has accompanied me on a 4-day and a 5-day trip. So far I’m loving it.

The leather itself has such a cool feel—soft, yet textured. The bag’s design scores high marks for style. It’s also spacious and durable. This is certainly one of the most impressive leather products I’ve seen in a while.

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Moore and Giles was founded in 1933 during the heart of the Great Depression. They’re headquartered at Forest, Virginia. They’ve posted some impressive videos on their site that show the leathermaking process and give you a good idea of their concern for quality.

On their site, they list kindness among their key values. Maybe it’s the Buddhist in me, but that goes a long way in my book.

They’re also environmentally conscious. They point out that hides are a byproduct of food sources, so they take what would essentially be a waste product and transform it into luxury bags and other leather goods. It’s a pretty cool take on sustainability.

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The Benedict Weekend Bag is constructed from nubuck leather.

Nubuck is an older word that likely comes from “new buck(skin).” Craftsmen create this type of top-grain leather by sanding off the upper (outside) hair-cell layer of the hide. This leaves a luxurious nap of short protein fibers with a soft, velvet-like surface (similar to suede). This buffing smooths out blemishes and makes the leather more capable of absorbing dyes and finishes, which provides for more consistent color across the surface. Because it’s not a full-grain leather, that means some of the scratches and uniqueness of the original hide can be lost, but I found my Benedict to still have tons of character, which you’ll see in the pictures.

The nubuck process is similar to but generally more expensive than crafting suede. It results in a product that’s thicker, stronger, and more resistant to wear, yet still soft to the touch. It can also mean the product is not as resistant to scratches, but I haven’t had any problems with my Benedict bag, no more than other leather products I own.

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I upgraded to the Benedict wanting something for longer trips, and it more than met my needs. I packed for a 5-day business trip (including 3 pairs of shoes), and everything fit nicely. It’s big. It also has clasps on each end which you can release to give yourself more room. Then when you clip them back down, the bag becomes the perfect size for shorter trips. I love this adjustability.

The handles are thick and sturdy and feel like they could heft a weight set inside. The shoulder strap is hearty too, and it’s layered for comfort when carrying a heavy load.

The interior walls are lined with pockets in a variety of sizes. I’ve found other bags with pockets that are too big to be useful, but these are just right. I put my toiletries and other accoutrements in them for quick access. It also comes with a gift bag, a drawstring you can put the Benedict inside, which I think makes the perfect travel laundry bag.

The bottom of the bag has a stiff footing that gives some stability to whatever you pack in it. When you lug the bag by the handles, this footing keeps it from flopping and bending so much, which means it’s easier to carry. This also adds to the aesthetic—the Benedict always looks its best.

I haven’t had any troubles keeping mine clean. If yours does need cleaning, Moore and Giles recommends using mild soap and water with a cotton cloth. But it’s recommended to just let stains work themselves out with use.

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Aesthetic

As far as style goes, this bag is versatile enough to fit with boots and jeans or a business jacket.

The interior is lined with an interesting textile. I suspect it’s a synthetic fabric, maybe vinyl. If so, it should be water and stain resistant and durable against wear (though I haven’t purposefully stained it). It feels papery, is somewhat stiff, and makes a ruffling sound when you move it. It adds body and structure to the bag, so when you pull it open it stays open, and when it’s empty it still stands upright. This makes packing a breeze—it’s easy to access and work with. This also makes it a great container for holding your stuff once you arrive—and not just in transit.

The leather has distinct lines running through it. These vary in size and direction, giving the bag a crude and natural feel. It also means that your bag will have a unique fingerprint.

I ordered the Nubuck Bison Chocolate variation, but Moore and Giles has a variety of colors and finishes. (To find them, just type “Benedict” into the search bar on their site.)

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Accessories Case

I also got a Moore and Giles Accessories Case which runs at $180. When it’s in your hand, you get a strong sense of its quality workmanship. Like the bag, it’s made with American bison nubuck leather. It is soft to the touch on the outside. The inside is lined with a plush wool, ideal for protecting whatever valuables you want safe from scratches (a watch, for example). For you fishers out there, the wool also makes an ideal surface for hooking barbless flies into. I’m sure there are a variety of other uses you could find for this case too.

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The Moore and Giles Benedict Weekend Bag is a fashionable leather piece. The craftsmanship is astounding. Its hardy structure means it’ll outlast competing bags. And its elegant design will draw compliments.

It’s an investment with a high price point, but, especially for a person who travels to earn, it promises a high-value return. I, personally, have been super impressed.

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Aunts and Uncles Networker Messenger Bag Review

Aunts and Uncles has been on the radar for quite some time now. After numerous reader requests to review items from this quirky, stylish German brand, we have finally been able to check out one of their men’s satchels. Today I will be reviewing The Networker, which is a sleek, modern men’s satchel from the Workmates collection.

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Aunts and Uncles is a German company that makes bags, backpacks, and luggage for men and women. The bags are designed at their headquarters in the Lower Rhine region of Germany and made in factories in India and Italy with vegetable tanned leather. Aunts and Uncles is a well-known brand in Europe, but is just beginning to make its way to the American market. Some of their bags are a bit hard to find in US stores, but a few of their collections are starting to pop up in some cities.

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The Networker messenger bag is part of the “Workmates” collection, which is designed to be a casual, functional line of work bags with useful compartments and versatile materials. The collection is made with corrected-grain vegetable tanned buffalo leather.

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The Networker has a vertical satchel design, with a long flap that has a magnetic closure. The matching black buckles are cosmetic only. The bag has an adjustable leather strap backed with cotton. It is a small bag at 9” wide, 12.5” tall, and about 3.5” thick. It fits an iPad or similar tablet and everyday necessities.

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The bag is lined with a denim look alike and uses carefully curated vegetable tanned buffalo leather for pockets interior and exterior. The Networker is extremely versatile, great for coffee shops and college classes. It has ample storage for small classroom accessories and charger space. This bag is also properly sized for my bike ride to and from college classes.

 

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The Networker has a modern, sleek look, with a rustic flair. The bag comes in black and brown leather, with matching colored hardware. The vertical satchel construction means that although the bag is smaller, it does not look especially feminine. In fact, I think this is a great satchel size for men who like to keep it minimal and sleek. It fits just the right amount of accessories in a small, functional, and stylish package.

The Aunts and Uncles Networker Bag is a professional, modern bag that’s great for when you need to carry around more than just your phone and wallet. It doesn’t use the highest quality leather or materials, but the materials are appropriate for the price. Again, Aunts and Uncles Bags can be a bit difficult to come by in the United States, so I’ve rounded up a few places the Networker is available for sale internationally.

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The Networker for sale in Canada https://unluggage.com/collections/aunts-uncles/products/aunts-uncles-workmates-networker-messenger-bag-1

The Networker for sale in the UK http://www.myleatherbag.co.uk/leather-bag-brands/aunts-uncles/aunts-and-uncles-networker-black-leather-medium-messenger-bag-post-bag.html

The Networker for sale in Germany http://www.idealo.de/preisvergleich/OffersOfProduct/4771982_-networker-aunts-uncles.html

The Aunts and Uncles informational listing in German http://www.auntsanduncles.de/kollektionen/kollektionen/taschen/workmates#networker

Bidinis Simone Purse – $298

When I was in college, I purchased a $40 women’s briefcase from Target that had black crocodile print faux leather and silver toned hardware. I loved that it was modern but looked appropriate in a professional setting. However, that bag started falling apart at the seams and handles within two months of use, and sadly I had to throw it away long before the semester ended. So I was quite excited when I got the chance to review the very similar Bidinis Simone Briefcase, made with genuine leather and much better craftsmanship.

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ABOUT BIDINIS

Bidinis was started by Italian founder and creative director Caterina Bidini. Caterina is creative and passionate and aims to bring designer quality at accessible prices. The brand is now based in Sydney and all of their bags are made in Italy with Italian leather. Bidinis offers luxury bags in bright colors and modern designs, as well as classic styles for both men and women.

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CONSTRUCTION & AESTHETIC

The Simone Briefcase is made with genuine leather from Italy in a crocodile print. The leather is lined with black fabric and backed to create flexible yet firm sides to the structured briefcase. It has a wide mouth opening with a silver toned zipper and matching leather pull.

The straps have a drop length of about 6 inches, meaning it’s best to carry handheld as opposed to over the shoulder. It does come with a matching strap that attaches to the handle hardware with simple snap clips. The bottom of the bag is protected with studs, helping it stand upright and maintain its professional look.

The bag comes with a silver toned pendant with the Bidinis logo on a leather strap, which adds some metallic shine without being gaudy. The bag itself balances boldness and elegance very well.

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FUNCTION

The Simone Briefcase measures in at around 15″ x 15″ x 5.5″ and tapers just slightly at the top. I can fit my 13″ Macbook Pro in there, although it is a little too snug if I have my Macbook in its sleeve. This would best suit a smaller, lighter airbook or tablet instead of a full sized laptop. Its lighter build and smaller straps aren’t conducive to hauling around heavy electronics and chargers. There are two pockets on the inside, one zippered for safekeeping. There is also a small, streamlined pouch at the front of the bag that’s perfect for snugly storing your phone for quick access. This feature is a trend that I’ve been noticing pop up in a few ladies’ bags, and I absolutely love it. Unzipping a bag and fishing around for your phone between papers and purse items quickly becomes a pain, and this makes it so much easier.

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CONCLUSION

The Bidinis Simone Briefcase is a beautiful, classic choice for working women who want something professional yet stylish. The Simone Briefcase is the perfect upgrade from that college bag I mentioned earlier. It has held up perfectly after several months of use, and shows no sign of slowing down. It’s an excellent investment for a professional wardrobe.

 

Vicenzo Leather Elle Hobo Handbag – $248

Vicenzo Leather is based in Houston, Texas, and offers a large product line that includes briefcases, handbags, waist bags, totes, and more. The styles range from dressy to casual, modern to classic. We’ve reviewed a couple of nice pieces from Vicenzo in the past, including the Arlette Leather Waist Bag and the Signature Full Grain Leather Briefcase. Today we’ll be taking a look at the Vicenzo Leather Elle Hobo Handbag in Brown, a casual handbag with a dressed-up bohemian look.

Vicenzo Leather has remained the internationally recognized leader in a combination of leather products including full grain, top grain, and genuine leather. Our taste for high quality and workmanship have allowed us to produce leather bags of exceptional quality that appeals to the discerning businessman or woman, soccer mom, road warrior and the ultimate professional.

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CONSTRUCTION

The Elle Hobo Handbag is made with genuine leather that has been finished with a pebbled grain. It’s a nice reddish brown color with darkened edges. It also comes in a lighter brown color.

The bag is constructed so that there are two reinforced panels on the front side that form a sort of “V” shape. This way, when the bag is held by the handles, the middle of the bag drops in and creates a slouchy, hobo bag silhouette. The back of the bag is made of two panels that assist with holding the shape. The bottom of the bag is reinforced and has metal feet to keep the bottom of the bag clean and standing upright.

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There are two rounded carry handles built in to the side panels of the bag. The side panels have a vertical zipper underneath the handles that can be opened to expand the gusset if needed. You probably won’t need this function as the bag is plenty big on its own, but they add a nice metallic finish to the sides of the bag. It also comes with a 36″ carry strap that attaches to D-rings on opposite corners of the bag. You don’t quite get the same slouchy effect when you carry it with the long strap, so I prefer to carry it by hand.

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The bag is closed via a floating zipper at the top. You can connect the ends of the zipper to the side panels of the bag with a snap attached to a leather tab. I personally really dislike this system, as the zipper ends up flipping upside down, making it hard to zip. It also doesn’t seem like a good choice for longevity as it puts unnecessary stress on the zipper. I’d prefer if the zipper was sewn completely around the bag or just not there at all.

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FUNCTION

There are two pockets on either side of the inside of the bag, as well as two small open pouches for storing smaller items like pens or cosmetics. There is also an external zippered pocket on the back side.

The bag measures 13.5″ x 9.5″ x 6″ which makes it a nice size for everyday use. You can fit all the purse essentials plus a notebook or tablet.

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One thing that does make everyday use of this bag a bit more difficult is the lining. The bag is lined with brown nylon fabric printed with the company’s logo, and there is a LOT of lining. So much that stuff sometimes gets lost in the folds, or pinched in the pocket zippers. If the lining was attached better at the bottom, it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but it does add a little bit of unnecessary frustration.

CONCLUSION

The Vicenzo Leather Elle Hobo Handbag in Brown is a unique looking bag with great contemporary style. I love the slouchy look and the construction of the shell of the bag. There’s definitely a few design issues inside that make it less than perfect for everyday use, though, so consider your feelings on zippers and linings beforehand.