Last year we published a review of High On Leather’s goat-leather satchel. It was one of our most hotly contested reviews–in fact, yours truly even got involved in the debate! High On Leather took the feedback to heart, and decided to start making some products in our beloved, tried-and-true cowhide, and created the full-grain Hiking Backpack. High On Leather has asked us to give their new and improved design a fresh look.
High On Leather was founded in 2013. Based in India, they’re striving to overcome the notion that quality leather needs to be expensive. High On Leather prides itself on using higher quality hides and tanning concepts than competitors, particularly in goat leather, which is infamous for often being cheap and smelling terrible. Thankfully, for this review, we can set the goat leather debate aside.
The cowhide used for the Hiking Backpack uses a tan that results in a crazyhorse type of leather; a gentle suede/nubuck feel to the touch, soft yet strong, with some distressing and pull-up aesthetically. The leather is unlined and reasonably thick through the main body and pockets. This is important especially at the base, which will likely take a fair amount of abrasive wear. The leather is quite a bit thinner on the shoulder and closure straps, however, which are the highest pull stress points of the bag. The shoulder straps use a layer of polyester lining on the underside, making them extremely grippy. This lining is also used on the flaps over each pocket.
If you’re wondering why I mention the use of lining, there are two big reasons. Since this lining is polyester, it won’t have the longevity of the leather, making it the “weakest link” of the product. It isn’t used in any load-bearing ways for the Hiking Backpack, but this brings me to my second point: such lining creates a thicker appearance, even though the strong leather that we want is actually much thinner than it appears.
Stitching is quality and uniform and the thread is fairly thick. No rivets are used. The hardware has so far held up well and appears to be made of quality metal.
Overall, this is a fairly well built backpack. While it may not compare to the longevity and durability of other leather backpacks that utilize thicker leather and additional reinforcement in construction, the High On Leather Hiking Backpack will well outdo many typical nylon backpacks which are often in the same price range.
Functionally the Hiking Backpack strikes a good balance of space and organization. The main compartment is a medium sized bucket of space with a small polyester zipper compartment at the top that’s good for a wallet, phone or your keys. Then you have three good pockets around the outside, two with a magnet closure and one with a more secure buckle, for organizing smaller items. It’s not enough for a vacation, but it’s served me well as an overnighter and for school items. I must confess that I’ve never actually tried it for hiking! The thin straps, high weight of leather, and vulnerability to water have prevented me from trying.
The buckles are a bit finicky, particularly with how thin the straps are. These closure straps only have one hole, so no length adjustment, which I would have liked with the main compartment closure. The main compartment has a drawstring (drawleather?) closure, so if the buckle won’t close or you’re in a hurry you can still close your items in pretty securely. The part-canvas handle at the top is convenient for quickly grabbing the backpack. Many leather satchels need to be buckled close in order to use the top handle, so having one that I can use anytime was refreshing.
For a mere $138, a paltry sum compared to backpacks made by top leather brands, the High On Leather Hiking Backpack is a great introductory leather product. The thinness of leather and lack of rivet reinforcement at stress points makes me think this will need replacing in the user’s lifetime, but it should well outdo standard nylon backpacks (normally a comparison we’re not interested in making, but since the price range fits, we’ll make it). I’ve gotten heaps of compliments on this bag, and for carrying a modest amount it can fit the bill in a variety of situations. If you’re aware of the setbacks and looking for a leather backpack that saves the bank, this may be just right for you.