Waterfield FIELD Leather Backpack Review — $249

Phone reviews always talk about the screen-to-body ratio. This metric isn’t about how big or small your phone is. Instead, it’s about how much of the thing you’re carrying is actually useful. You want many pixels, not many bezels.

For a bag aficionado, it’s the same: You want a high contents-to-bag ratio. I have backpacks that I use and love, but they’re for carrying a lot of stuff, and that means I’d be carrying them mostly empty on most days. And this is why I love Waterfield’s new FIELD BACKPACK. It’s not too much bag. In fact, it’s just right for a photo shoot, a day hike, or a trip to campus.

Along with being purposefully small, it’s also designed deliberately for the digital lifestyle and has stylish looks to boot. It’s my favorite backpack by a long ways.



Most backpacks have excess pockets all over the place so you never know where you put your chapstick. And they have straps hanging off everywhere so you can adjust the storage volume. You end up with something that is anything but sleek and simple.

Not so with the Field Backpack.

It’s the exact opposite of the average bag you see on campus. The design is very intentional. And very simple. It has one main outer pocket, two side cases, and the main compartment.

There’s a trend for hipster backpacks to be, in my opinion, too rudimentary and too square shaped, which makes them awkward looking. (It’s NOT hip to be square.) The Field Backpack has a really nice, round shape. It’s simple but refined.

When you order, the backpack can be customized in two ways: First, instead of the brown with grizzly leather like I have, you can get an all-black version with ballistic nylon and black leather. It’s a little more professional looking. Second, you can get it as a sling. This means that, instead of two shoulder straps, it just has a single strap that can switch sides based on your preference. Check out their video here to see how this works.



While the leather on the main outside pocket gives the backpack a lot of style, the leather on the base gives it a lot of structure. In fact, the backpack stands upright on the floor quite easily. It’s actually surprisingly convenient to not have to find a desk leg to lean it against like I do with many of my other bags.

When I get home, I hang the backpack on a hook from the loop up top. This loop is sturdy and has a bit of full-grain leather rounding it off. Makes it comfortable in the hand. The canvas of the whole bag is sturdy too, and I imagine it will hold up well on outdoor adventures, although it’s clearly designed for a more digital lifestyle.

The buckle on the outside flap has a nice click. And I mean nice. Like it could easily replace your fidget spinner. And it’s super durable too.

The back is made of a mesh designed to provide more airflow and keep you cool.

Oh, and all the zippers are water resistant, so you can carry your tech in the rain and not have to worry!



For you digitalphiles, the Field Backpack upholds the moto “less UI; more UX” really well. (If you’re not a software designer: Less user interface means less clutter. More user experience means you’re happy with what the product does for you.)

Some bags I’ve had will zip open all the way down to the base, making it so your stuff can press against the open zipper and eventually fall out. But this bag can’t be opened very far, so you can wear it around and have lots of heavy stuff in it and not even need to zip it closed. Nothing’s going anywhere. I love that.

One frustration I had was that the clasps for the adjustable shoulder straps would slide. (It’s the photo above that looks like a Batman mask.) This never happened while I was wearing it and the straps were taut, but while they were loose. I ended up tying knots to keep them in place. That was a little disappointing for a bag that is so elegantly designed in every other detail. Honestly, I think you won’t have this problem if you opt for the Sling, which seems to be the primary version from Waterfield’s perspective.

The side cases are the highlight of the design. The zippers are tilted so that you can conveniently access them while the bag is still strapped to one shoulder as the picture shows. Talk about good UX! As the sales page shows, these pockets do expand into the inside of the backpack slightly. Personally, I wish they were even deeper so that they could hold more because they’re just so easy to access that I use them all the time.

The backpack also has a plush lining for the laptop slot. Its softness has surprised me over and over when my hand brushes against it. By the way, this slot is sized for 13″ and smaller devices (and so probably won’t fit a monster laptop if that’s what you own). In the big outside pocket, there’s another plush slot for your phone. That pocket also contains a narrow slot to hold your digital pencil. That’s essential for my workflow.

As with all Waterfield products, this has the gold interior lining, which reflects light really well so you can actually find your chapstick when you’re looking inside. Don’t settle for a bag with a dark interior!



I love Waterfield’s FIELD BACKPACK. I threw it on while driving my daughter to school, ostensibly to show solidarity with the kindergartners but really because I wanted to keep using it. I even wore it to bed once. I love it that much.

The quality is top notch. It’s designed deliberately for human use, made to be easy and simple and to accommodate your digital lifestyle. It’s purposefully small—that’s key. And it looks great: the wonderful result of tech meets leather.

GIVEAWAY: Mission Mercantile Steamer Backpack & Laptop Sleeve ($460 Value!)

We are excited to partner with Mission Mercantile to offer our readers the chance to win a Steamer Backpack & Laptop Sleeve set. This is a beautiful carry set that will last you a lifetime and more. The backpack and sleeve are made with full grain veg tanned leather and thick waxed canvas.

From our review of the Steamer Backpack:

Many of Mission Mercantile’s products hark back to inspiration found in days gone by. The Steamer Backpack in particular was designed after the steamer bag – a sturdy, flat-bottom bag built to be packed into a larger steamer trunk that was loaded onto a train or steamboat for lengthy travel…The Steamer Backpack also has its roots in vintage mail sacks, many of which were mainly canvas but reinforced with sturdy leather at the bottom and top, where they featured a similar belted closure.

This backpack certainly has an eye-catching look, with its wide swath of solid waxed canvas and unique belted closure. The bag instantly looks like there’s a story behind it…so prepare to have LOTS of people ask you about it wherever you go.

The giveaway runs til midnight on June 30th, when we will pick one lucky winner! Enter below – we have lots of ways to enter, so good luck!

Mission Mercantile Steamer Backpack – $460 Value

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Pad and Quill Roll Top Leather Backpack Review – $319

Who else remembers having a Jansport backpack or LL Bean backpack with their initials on it? That seemed to be the thing in high school, right? Well, now that I’m all grown up, I’m looking for something with a little more class and style — not to mention a slimmer and more chic design, so it doesn’t look like I’m carrying half of my body weight in it.

Well I’m happy to say that I found just that in the Roll Top Leather Backpack from Pad & Quill. It’s handsome yet rugged, minimal yet practical, and really will get the heads to turn (almost like in high school with those Grateful Dead bears or smiley face patches).



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.”



The backpack is made from full-grain tumbled American bridle leather, hand-pounded copper rivets, parachute grade nylon stitching, sturdy zippers and solid nickel hardware. A small pocket on the exterior is about 5 x 7 inches and secures with single leather strap and nickel eye. The interior has a large open pocket that can hold up to a 15 inch laptop. There is also a smaller zippered compartment.


On one side of the backpack is a zippered access to the main bucket of the bag,


Their shoulder straps that are adjustable but not removable, along with a leather handle on top of the bag,


The dimensions of the bag are 12 inches wide x 16 inches length x 4.7 inches deep when closed, 25 inches long when unrolled. The bag weighs about 3 pounds empty.


As a medium sized bag, this bag is ideal for a day trip and possibly a minimal weekend. Although deep, The width and depth of the bag restrict it from holding a ton of gear which, in my opinion, is not a bad thing. Simple yet elegantly designed bags are sometimes meant to carry simple and minimal things.

The shoulder adjustable shoulder straps are ideal for shorter and taller people. I am 6 feet tall and my girlfriend is 5 feet tall and the design and look work great for both of us. Of course, Veronica will always say it works better for her!


The quality of this bag is top of the line and very durable. Out of the box, the tumbled leather has a nice broken-in and subtle flexibility to it which is nice since full grain leather takes serious time to break in! Again, the size is great for weekend/overnight travel and the bare necessities.

Being a tall guy, at first I thought the bag to look a little too small for my frame and suiting more to a shorter man or woman. However, I reminded myself that this bag is not a big, burly hiking or work bag but more of an everyday essentials bag. It fits 15″ laptops comfortably and can carry around work or school materials with ease.

One thing I disliked was the the body of the bag being a tad bit narrow and long, making it difficult to take things in and out. Although the side zipper is extremely helpful and aesthetically pleasing, it could be a hair longer to easier remove larger books or articles. But this is the only thing I would change and like anything, I will adapt to this over time where I will adjust to the bag rather than the other way around.



The Pad & Quill Roll Top Leather Backpack is an ideal companion for many occasions, including walks around the city, walks around the park, overnight trips or even as an everyday carry bag. I honestly can’t wait to see how this bad boy ages and wears in! At the price of a little bit above $300 I feel you are getting a good value for a handmade piece of such craftsmanship, design and detail.

Larger or taller men should definitely consider the size and use for this bag as it does not lend to hauling a large cargo. But, in my case, it’s a great thing to downsize the amount of stuff I take with me on a given excursion. In addition, the minimal size and classic color will lend great to any attire, casual or business. Check it out here.


Jaunji Designs Explorer Rolltop Backpack – $173 on Kickstarter

Jaunji Designs, a small design studio out of Vancouver, British Columbia, recently launched a Kickstarter campaign for their new Explorer Bag. We got our hands on one of these Explorer bags a few months ago. The version we received was a prototype and it seems that a few things have already been improved since that time. Here are our thoughts on the Jaunji Designs Explorer Rolltop Backpack.

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“We are a quality driven lifestyle brand and we believe that our designs/products should be simple, functional and lasting – We will never settle for anything less! Our team compasses decades of experience in the creative and design fields. We strive to design with functional features and use the best materials available. Our aim is to create products that make everyday life more enjoyable.

As we evolve to perfection as a young company that symbolizes the approach – “more than meets the eye” – our goal is to bring you products that are just as unique as you.”

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The Explorer Rolltop Backpack is made of vegetable tanned full grain goat leather. Goat leather is naturally water resistant, making it useful for everyday products. Goat leather is softer than some of the other leathers due to the presence of lanolin wax. Goat hide is lighter than cowhide and is more supple requiring little break in time. The downside is that it can be less sturdy – some of the leather on the closure straps stripped off upon my first real use of the bag because there is not much room for the straps to slide through the hardware. It is, however, reinforced at the seams and stress points like the buckle closures. In addition, some of the stitching around the mouth is a bit uneven, but not noticeable unless you’re looking closely. Previous experience with goat leather from some of our reviewers has elicited comments about adverse smells from the tanning process. In this case, the Explorer pack does not emit an adverse odor at all, which is great. The texture and color of the goat leather is great and it will definitely darken with time and use to develop a unique patina.

The Explorer features brass YKK zippers and brass finished metal hardware. The metal hardware hasn’t failed on me but it feels a little light weight. Again, this could be due to the fact that this is a prototype and hardware choices may have changed and been upgraded since then for the production pieces.

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The top closure straps run right over the shoulder straps when the top is open, making for a very ergonomic and natural design. There’s lots of padding in the main section of the bag, enough to protect fragile cameras or electronics. There’s also a padded laptop sleeve. The straps and fit of the bag feels comfortable on my shoulders, even when relatively full of stuff. The straps are thick and padded, making them quite comfortable and less of a hassle to put on.

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There is a slot pocket for an umbrella, as well as several lash points for other gear on the bottom and main body of the bag. These tie-down points and straps make the bag very customizable for whatever purpose you have in mind. The rolltop makes the bag expand from 14″ to 20″ inches, so it can fit quite a lot if you need it to. I hope Jaunji Designs will come out with matching straps that can be used to accessorize the Explorer in time.

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The interior is lined with a thick, medium brown colored fabric. It feels good to the touch and will certainly aid in protecting whatever treasures you store inside of it. It does create a dark cavern, so you’ll need to fish inside for your items, but that’s pretty normal for most backpacks of any style. The quick access document/tablet pouch is a nice touch. It’s secure, but quickly accessible due to the large zipper on the pack.


Everyone likes the look of this bag; I get compliments on it from everyone who has seen it. Jaunji Designs pulled off the rolltop look very well. The bag tapers nicely and doesn’t look scrunched; it’s definitely an ideal and classic design that can open up or be strapped down however you like.

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The Jaunji Designs Explorer Rolltop Backpack is very aesthetically pleasing and its Kickstarter price is right. There are still a few spots left on the Kickstarter campaign. The Explorer is extremely aesthetically pleasing and its design is quite useful. You shouldn’t plan on it lasting you forever, but $175 is a reasonable price for a great looking bag that you’ll enjoy and find useful for several years to come.

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Marlondo Leather Backpack Review – $398.00

Serendipity means the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not looked for.  When I received the Dark Brown version of Marlondo Leather’s new Backpack two days prior to a camping trip in Montana, I understood what it meant to be a beneficiary of the concept. If you’ve never been excited about owning a backpack before, you will be when you see this one. It is gorgeous in its full-grain leather, brass rivets, and nickel-plated hardware construction. Equally at home in the office or on the trail, the craftsmanship and durability of this pack will serve you for years to come.

Marlondo Leather spent a significant amount of time re-designing this pack from the previous version (read their no longer produced Rucksack review here), and the thought that went into it shows. They managed to combine beauty and functionality into a design that yields the perfect day pack for the adventurer, traveler, or full-time student.


About Marlondo Leather

“Ma”, as he is known, is a Chinese entrepreneur who has worked to give the Marlondo name the meaning it has today. He turned early setbacks into a thriving online leather store that ships all of its products from US distributors and understands the importance of good customer service.



The Marlondo Backpack is a heavy, beautiful beast constructed of full-grain cowhide leather, sourced from the United States, weighing in at 3 pounds, 10 ounces. Leather thickness varies from 2 to 3 millimeters (6-8 ounces) depending on the part of the bag measured. It is stitched with marine grade thread that can withstand exposure to sun, salt, chemicals and more without degrading. The designers saw fit to use heavy duty nickel-plated hardware for the buckles to ensure worry-free closure of the outside and main pockets.


The D-rings on the outer flap of the main pocket, designed to be used with the optional utility straps – available in 3 different lengths – for holding a blanket, sweater, or similar item, are just as solid in their design. In addition to the aforementioned hardware, brass rivets at all stress points ensure you will probably wear out before this pack does.



There is an outer pocket held closed by two buckled straps, two open side pockets, and an unlined main inner pocket featuring a two-pen holder (a neat idea, since I always tend to lose pens when the holders have been on the outside of the bag). The main chamber also sports a recessed pocket big enough to hold a 7” tablet. There is also a carrying handle, and two adjustable shoulder buckle-style shoulder straps.



Overall, it is a tough, heavy bag designed to take the stresses of the road. It’s less likely you’d want to take it on long hiking trips due to the extra weight the leather adds.


I’ve carried this pack for three weeks in the mountains of Montana and the concrete jungle of Spokane, Washington. In every case, I’ve carried the pack for a mile or less at one time. The pack never felt uncomfortable or too heavy, even packed up with 25 pounds.


There’s room for water bottles on the outside pockets, and the front pocket serves for carrying a phone and other odds and ends. The main pocket has buckles on the sides that allow you to expand or contract the opening. By loosening these buckles, I was able to fit my 17-inch laptop inside and then cinch them back up for a snug fit. With no padding in the main chamber, you will want to be a little more cautious about dropping the pack on the floor after a day at the office. Even after putting in the laptop, there is still room for accessories and your schoolbooks. It also sports an inset pocket that held my 7” tablet and case with room to spare. I was still able to access the penholder on the inside of the main pocket, but it becomes somewhat less useful when the main chamber is filled with other items.


In regards to the closure systems on this pack, everything is secured by buckles. These buckles do make getting into and out of the pack slower than other pack closure systems such as a drawstring or quick release plastic clips. Some might see it as a criticism of the pack, while others will appreciate the quality and craftsmanship that went into building the pack this way. In this case, it depends on whether you value function over aesthetics.



If you want a backpacker’s pack, you can find them everywhere. If you want a beautiful leather backpack that you can take to work and out to play for a day, look no further. The covetous looks of family members when I first brought this pack home were enough to tell me what I already knew: don’t let this pack out of your sight, because someone will steal it.


Full grain leather has a tendency to scratch easily. I think the scratches add to the look and patina of the leather on the pack. However, it is possible to buff out the scratches with a good quality leather conditioner depending on your preference. I do recommend you use a good conditioner (Marlondo offers one on their site), as this pack is an investment. The nickel-plated buckles and D-rings give a nice contrast to the bag. The brass rivets look great as well. However, I’d consider using non-plated buckles and D-rings in the future to give an even look to the metals on the bag. For me it is a very minor issue, but one worth considering.


In regards to the buckle and strap closure system on this pack, I love the charm and toughness they give to the pack. While I may miss the occasional phone call if I put my phone in the front pouch, I can live with that.


Serving as an eye-catching day pack or traveler’s pack, the $398.00 retail price certainly isn’t cheap, but it is a good value. The Marlondo Leather Backpack, even with its beauty and functionality, is a significant investment in leather. If you choose to do so, you won’t be disappointed.


If you are someone concerned with the amount of weight you put on your back (back-country hikers, for example), you might look towards a synthetic material pack weighing significantly less. If you are someone who needs quick access to your pack all the time, there are no plastic quick releases here. I’d also have a hard time putting the pack somewhere that I couldn’t see it at all times. Its look and quality unfortunately make it a great target for theft in this day and age.

Other than those considerations, the aesthetic appeal, durability, and functionality of this pack make it an excellent choice for anyone who appreciates fine leather goods by artisans who care about the products they craft. While I do own other backpacks, they’ve been, ahem, temporarily set aside while I continue my study of this pack for the foreseeable future.





Fjallraven Rucksack #21 Large Review – $225

I don’t think I have ever met anyone who didn’t enjoy a few days away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. It truly is a natural thing that we all require to keep functioning. As you know I really do enjoy the luxury life, so completely abandoning everything is very difficult for me. But, when I do get the opportunity to sneak away, I love to have some of the finest, high quality gear to bring on my travels. The Fjallraven No. 21 Rucksack is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for quality, do-it-all gear.

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Like many of the leather companies we have reviewed, Fjallraven began because of a distinct lack in quality, specialized goods. Fjallraven was founded by Åke Nordin in Northern Sweden. Åke was an adventurous boy when he realized the world needed better, long-lasting framed packs. His designs were the first of its kind, and once it caught the attention of other adventurers, by 1960 Fjallraven was officially born. With the base principles, of functionality, durability, and dependability, Fjallraven has grown into an enormous, world-wide adventure-seeking company. Adeptly named after the Arctic Fox, each and every Fjallraven bag resembles the traits of this tough, steadfast predator and the Fjallraven base principles.

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The No. 21 Large Rucksack is constructed using natural vegetable tanned leather, YKK hardware, and Fjallraven’s signature heavy-duty G-1000 fabric. The rucksack is extremely durable and spacious. Standing at 52cm high by 29cm wide by 15cm deep, the rucksack is capable of 30 L of space. The thick leather straps attach securely to the metal posts and then are held in place by the metal loops, which covers the main compartment opening sheltered by a snow lock. The inside of the bag is very simple with only the large main compartment, padded laptop sleeve, and small items zippered case. The most durable, and most important part of this rucksack’s construction are the padded shoulder straps attached to sturdy leather strips with metal rivets. These straps are some of the more secure feeling shoulder straps I have pleasured my back with. The No. 21 Large Rucksack is constructed extremely well, and will definitely last for many, many adventures.

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I recently took the No. 21 Rucksack on a trip to Banff National Park. I was happy to be wearing the Fjallraven bag on my way to the Lake Agnes Tea House. In the bag I had an extra outfit, hoodie sweatshirt, Olympus camera, GoPro Hero 4, knife and flashlight, two bottles of water, portable power pack and phone charger, a glasses case, my tobacco pipe, and a Kammok camping hammock with straps. I actually still had room left over to put more things had I needed them. The No. 21 Rucksack functioned flawlessly. While I did receive a little irritation on my lower back from the leather rubbing my shirt, I realized later it was only because I had accidentally offset the adjustable shoulder straps when I was putting the bag on. The rucksack is a fantastic adventure bag with more than enough space for essential adventure items.

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The natural vegetable tanned leather is extremely soft and has already developed a lovely patina from consistent use. I have actually had this bag since February, so I have definitely used it often and taken it with me on several trips and motorcycle rides around central Oregon. The G-1000 material is pleasantly pliable, but still has that sturdy, well-made feel. The No. 21 Rucksack has been treated with Greenland wax, giving it an eco-friendly weather-resistant exterior. The rucksack comes in three sizes and several different colors. Each one contrasts perfectly with the natural leather and will definitely make a stylish adventure bag.

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I have been very pleased by the Fjallraven No. 21 Large Rucksack. Fjallraven has done an excellent job combining the high-quality materials, adept functionality, and durability to make a great adventure backpack. If you are looking for a bag that can truly function in all conditions and settings, head over to the Fjallraven website and pick out a size and color. At only $225, the No. 21 Large Rucksack is a wise investment for the adventure-seeking traveller.


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