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.
One of my favorite parts about the leather industry is the fascinating history behind many of the its traditions. It’s amazing how some of the smallest details of classic bag designs can have the most interesting backgrounds. Mission Mercantile is a company that really seems to share this passion for history, and their Steamer Backpack demonstrates this perfectly.
ABOUT MISSION MERCANTILE
Mission Mercantile is a new brand, launched in fall 2015. They operate out of their own factory in Leon, Mexico– Blue Artisan Group. We recently reviewed Mission Mercantile’s Stateroom Weekender, an incredibly tough overnight bag made entirely with full grain veg-tanned leather- just like all their products. Learn a bit more about the company in my recent interview with Chuck Bowen, one of MM’s founders, who is passionate about serving “mission men and women” who love leather goods.
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 bag was, in fact, perfected by Louis Vuitton in the late Victorian era.
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.
CONSTRUCTION & FUNCTION
The Steamer Backpack is made with full-grain vegetable tanned leather and thick waxed canvas. In accordance with its steamer and mail sack roots, it has a heavy, flat leather base with subtly squared edges, all held together with contrasting stitching and heavy rivets. It weights in at about 3 1/2 pounds, which is a nice medium weight for such a sturdy bag. Seeing as the bulk of the bag is canvas, it wears very comfortably for daily use.
The waxed canvas has survived several spring showers with no issue. There are three canvas color options and a total of six leather and canvas combinations at this time. The pictured backpack is Oil leather with Dirt canvas.
The bag is unlined with the exception of the top flap, which is lined with matching canvas. It measures around 14″ x 6″ x 18″, making it large enough to carry a laptop and school or business essentials. There’s also enough room to pack for an overnight trip. The bag is tapered, however, and is belted at the top, so larger items don’t fit in as easily as some wide-opening backpacks. Its tapered shape also makes it look kind of funny if there’s lots of stuff in it, but this isn’t an issue unless you have a habit of overpacking.
The ideal setup for this bag is to have your laptop and folders/notebooks at the back, and then chargers, wallet, and other small items at the front where they’ll sink down to the bottom and maintain the backpack’s nice tapered look. There’s a key strap and a hanging zippered pouch at the back, which works beautifully for keeping small items that you want to access quickly.
The Steamer Backpack has padded shoulder straps that are adjustable (about 6″ of adjustable length). The detachable straps attach at the bottom to two D-rings on either side, and a centered O-ring at the top. There’s a nice sturdy handle at the top, as well. The handles and solid brass hardware pieces all feel very sturdy and well-made.
The bag closes via a long belt that starts on the back of the bag, runs through three rectangular brass loops, and secures again at the back with a tuck lock. The belt closure with a quick release tuck lock is a nice compromise – it adheres to the aesthetic of vintage mailbags without requiring the user to padlock its contents every time. Still, the belt closure requires a little more patience than most backpacks, but its unique aesthetic is totally worth it.
The Mission Mercantile Steamer Backpack is another impressive piece from this young company’s product line. It’s a gorgeous, unique bag with heritage roots and a great story that just begs for more chapters. At $345, it’s priced very fairly for top-of-the-line materials (full grain leather, solid brass hardware, 18 oz canvas, etc.) that will last a lifetime and more.
*Keep an eye out next Wednesday, June 1st for an AWESOME giveaway from Mission Mercantile!*
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.
BestLeather had an absolutely fantastic, successful trip to Las Vegas in February for Fashion Week. Running around meeting new leather artisans and companies, making connections with popular brands, and taking the time to discuss leather with a few companies was enough to make our week fantastic. Hidesign was one of the leather brands we actually had the chance to sit down with and talk. This leather company provides a refreshing fashionable line of leather bags and accessories to BestLeather’s typically rustic product reviews – Hidesign’s product line is very refined and stylish.
“Founded in 1978, Hidesign has grown into a global leather accessories brand recognized for its quality, ecological values and personalized service. By keeping its focus on a classic contemporary look, Hidesign caters to the sophisticated urban professional and executive.” This stylish business values diversity, quality, and heritage. Each of these values is evident in their contemporary products. Head over to their website to read more about the brand, their product innovation, ecological mindset, and to check out some quality leather products.
The Hector Leather Backpack is a quality piece. This stunning bag is constructed using Hidesign’s full-grain vegetable tanned classic leather, heavy-duty contrast stitching, and 100% cotton green striped lining. Each of these elements comes together in a beautiful, chic bag. The bag consists of one large main compartment, and a smaller, slip in pocket. The main compartment was designed large enough to fit a 17” laptop in the padded sleeve. In this main partition there is also one zip pocket for pens and pencils, and two slip in pockets for other accessories. The press button closure is easy to use, yet durable, and the metal closure square is heavy duty and attention-grabbing. The leather shoulder straps are padded perfectly, and the modern metal hardware gives the bag an extremely durable impression. This bag is built with exquisite detail and materials, and will last for a very long time.
Every man needs a good backpack. They are extremely practical, provide adequate storage, and give you the option of carry additional bags. My go-to travel set-up is a backpack, messenger or duffel, and my beautiful self. This backpack has performed exceedingly well in every situation I have put it through, whether that was going to college classes, a coffee at a local café, or travelling to various places. Measuring 11.2” by 14.4” by 5.5,” the Hector backpack is spacious. Each time I used this bag, I would take my MacBook Air with leather sleeve, charging cable, notebook, textbooks, The Pienza Penholder, a headphone case, and other assorted daily use items. I have even used this bag to pack my Olympus camera and a few lenses, all while functioning perfectly as a multi-use bag.
The Hector backpack is gorgeous. Its elegant construction, handsome materials, and graceful feel make this backpack perfect for the modern gentlemen who appreciates purpose. The contrast stitching gives the bag an inviting look. The leather is tanned perfectly to a deep brown, and the inner green lining gives the bag just the right amount of individuality. This bag was not designed to get thrown around and abused, although it will withstand it. Like all quality leather items, attentive care and responsibility are key to this bags long-lasting lifetime. Like most of the leather items I have reviewed, I always receive compliments on this bag. It only makes sense for a backpack like this to receive praise, so people stopping and inquiring about the bag is always a good sign that my impressions are accurate.
Hidesign is a company that appreciates modern design, practicality, and quality. The Hector Large 17″ Laptop Compatible Leather Backpack is a great example of Hidesign’s core values. You may be surprised at Hidesign’s relatively low price-points, but they absolutely do not sacrifice quality to achieve this. With a new men’s line for this spring, any of Hidesign’s products will make excellent Father’s day presents. But if you are looking for a bag that will really make an impression, the Hector backpack is the perfect bag for you. Priced at $299.99, it also won’t hurt your budget. Head over to the Hidesign America website to check out their excellent product offerings and pick up a quality Father’s day present this week.
In our last Satch & Fable review, we were introduced to the 13’’ Leather Satchel. Made of goat leather from India, it exemplified the Buddhist concept of Wabi-sabi which finds imperfection and transience as beautiful. This time around, owner Fabrizio Giuliani has introduced a whole new line of travel and backpacking gear with the same concept and beautiful leather. If a satchel isn’t your thing, then take a look at the Satch & Fable Laptop Backpack.
Like the leather satchel, the leather of the backpack is full-grain goat leather. This means the backpack is exceptionally light while retaining its water-resistant properties. As previously described, the Indian goat leather is tanned using traditional Moroccan techniques giving the leather the misnomer of “Moroccan leather.” Because Moroccan tanning is a manual labor-intensive and odorous process, the leather often has a distinctive smell. The satchel I received did have a mild unique leather smell that I noticed right away. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it was distinctive and different from the chemically created leather smell that most western leathers have. This backpack, however, is much less “smelly.” Inside, there is waterproof canvas lining. Outside, brass hardware is sourced from India, and the external pocket has an interesting Oklahoma state button. Each bag is made by hand using vintage sewing machines with cotton stitches. Because goats are smaller creatures, multiple panels are sewn together to create this larger bag. Don’t expect this bag to be able to handle a hike up the Himalayans or outlive your children. For a bag constructed for enjoyment in the short-term, it still has all the bells and whistles of the many durable rugged leather backpacks out there.
The backpack measures 16x10x4. The key number here is “4.” This backpack is designed with a laptop in mind. Therefore, it is thin but still surprisingly roomy given the ample length and height of the bag. It easily fits my 13’’ MacBook Pro and iPad Air, but should be able to fit a 15’’ laptop and more. The middle compartment is padded on the bottom and sides to offer a nice pleasant cushion for your prized electronics without the hassle of an additional laptop sleeve. On the outside, there are three external bucked pockets and there are two zipper pockets on the inside. Inside, there are also pen holders and a cell-phone pocket made of leather sewn against the canvas lining. The only downside to all these multiple storage areas is that each of the 3 compartment/pockets drop all the way down to the bottom of the backpack. Therefore, things like laptops, folders, papers, magazines are great and easy to place into the backpack. One the other hand, smaller items I take to work such as my snack bag of almonds, notepad, measuring tape, vitamin bottle, and iPod all fall to the very bottom which requires a bit of rummaging and emptying everything out to find what you to want. The backpack also comes with detachable carrying straps. Placed slightly narrow on the backpack, they may fit a bit snug on people with wider backs or waists but the straps are soft and thin and the backpack can be carried off a single shoulder.
Well if you’ve never had a tanned goatskin bag, then you should get one. The leather comes weathered, soft, and completely unique. No two bags will ever be alike and every single blemish, mark, and scar only adds to the character and attractiveness of the leather. Inside, the dark blue canvas lining adds a flash of color and modern flair to a bag that looks like it’s been in the family for decades. In two weeks of carrying the backpack around work, no less than three random strangers have stopped to compliment me. I guess the bag speaks for itself.
The Satch & Fable Laptop Backpack at $269 is a beautiful, attention-grabbing backpack. It is ideal for those looking for an affordable, lightweight, back and shoudler-friendly bag for carrying their laptop and other items – something you can just grab and hang over your shoulder the entire day without sacrificing comfort.
2014 was a great year for many different leather artisans and companies. It was a great year for BestLeather too. One of the great things that we look forward to every year is seeing how product innovation and development takes place. And, we weren’t let down. We have seen the development of many exciting products that have generated some great interest. One of the innovators that we follow routinely – and we get the privilege of working with frequently – is Saddleback Leather Company. Saddleback introduced several new products in 2014. One of those products is the Saddleback Leather Bucket Backpack (Chestnut)
About Saddleback Leather
Just in case one of our readers doesn’t know about Saddleback Leather, here goes a quick summary: Founded in 2004 and based in San Antonio, Texas Saddleback Leather is dedicated to building ridiculously tough, long lasting leather bags, backpacks, and accessories. The family owned company has grown significantly over the years and has a very dedicated customer base…and, as expected, they have their detractors too. But, the fact is – they make some pretty fantastic products and they back them up with a 100 year warranty.
The Saddleback Leather Bucket Backpack we received for testing and review features Saddleback’s classic tobacco colored leather, copper rivets, and nickel-plated hardware. The Bucket Backpack is a simple design. At 16” h X 10.5”w and 8.5” d it will haul plenty of gear. It sports a drawstring closure, a removable strap handle that can also be used as a key ring strap or to secure other products within the pack. It’s made just like all of Saddleback’s other bags and accessories – with thick leather, pigskin lining, and heavy duty hardware.
Weighing in at 3.5 pounds, this is the lightest weight backpack that Saddleback makes. The one obvious thing about this backpack is the complete absence of a top flap. I’m not sure if this is advantageous or not. There are definitely situations when it will not be a good idea to carry certain items in this pack (i.e. electronics in a rainstorm). So, some forward planning will need to be made when utilizing this pack. Or, you just plan to never carry anything that will be affected by adverse weather.
On the other hand, the lack of a top flap sure makes it easy to get into quickly and easily. In that vein, it holds big advantages for certain people. I can see this serving well as a diaper bag or even as a bag full of all the things a parent needs while managing a busy family. It’ll also serve a student well carrying books and assorted gear for school. Or a dedicated gym bag. There are a lot of great ways this bag can be used. The interior is spacious and also has a good size interior flap pocket and a smaller pocket sewn on the front of it that will easily house a normal sized smartphone.
As with most products that are built from sturdy leather, it is stiff at first. The shoulder straps will take some time to break in and soften up. The shoulder straps are easily adjustable to create a custom fit. To date the bag is looking good and developing a nice patina. With the tobacco color, it will certainly darken up with time and use.
I have a hard time deciding what color is my favorite with Saddleback. Black, carbon, chestnut, and dark coffee brown all have a certain appeal. The great thing with tobacco though is that it will develop its own unique color dependent upon your use and time. That feature alone consistently sways me to make the claim that tobacco is my favorite.
The Bucket Backpack also generates quite a bit of interest from others too. Given its unique design and great leather, people ask and comment about it frequently.
At $259, this is the most affordable backpack in Saddleback’s lineup. There are concessions made (the lack of a top flap), but as noted it also yields certain benefits too. The beauty is that you get to choose. And, you can rest assured that Saddleback’s a company that will be around for a long time. The company is as solid as the products they make. The Saddleback Leather Bucket Backpack is well built, backed by a warranty that will outlive you, and looks fantastic. As they say on their website, “they’ll fight over it when you’re dead.” I think there’s a lot of truth to that!
There are those occasions when you need a big bag – a really big bag. Now, you could certainly just go out and buy a nylon or cotton behemoth, which will easily get the job done. But, what if you plan on carrying this big bag for a long time and want to do it in style? Well, you stumble onto the vast array of leather bags. And, when you do you find that there are a myriad of bag makers and bags that come in every size, shape, and style. But, if you’re looking for a large briefcase, it narrows the options down quickly. One of those large briefcase/messenger bag manufacturers is LederMann.
Since 2002 LederMann has been making high quality products using full grain leather, old world craftsmanship, and strict quality control. The result are bags, briefcases, travel bags, and backpacks designed to be durable, serve you well, and stand the test of time.
The LederMann Extra Large 18” Vintage Chestnut Belting Leather Briefcase is a beast – both in name and stature. It definitely lives up to its ‘extra large’ name. The body of this chestnut colored bag (also available in black) is made from 4-5 oz. full grain leather while the flaps and shoulder strap are 7-8 oz. in thickness. There are a lot of big pieces of leather sewn up in this bag. The precision stitching is comprised of heavy duty nylon thread while the interior of the bag is swathed in suede. Hardware is all brass and the stress points are reinforced with machine pressed heavy duty rivets.
Everything about this bag is big. And, if you’re looking for a big that then you’ll be happy about that for sure. Spacious is the most accurate description of this bag, which is 18″W X 13″H X 7″D and has two inner compartments measured at 3.5″ each compartment. It affords plenty of room for a laptop (or two) of any size, your Xbox, games, and controllers (know this one by experience from my son), books, accessories, and clothes.
There is a large slip pocket that runs the length of the back, suitable for a newspaper, magazine, or notepad (even a legal sized pad). The handle is thick and sturdy. The shoulder strap is wide and easy to adjust. It features two large, well-padded shoulder pads which is excellent for carrying heavy loads in traditional briefcase form or in backpack form.
That’s right – this thing converts into a backpack using a traditional three point connection system. The strap easily comes apart and allows quick transition into shoulder straps. Again, the shoulder pads work very well in this arrangement. As an 18” bag, when loaded having the ability to carry this bag in backpack mode is a very nice feature.
If you are looking for a bag to carry a fully equipped office with you – this is it. Need a bag to carry your basic office needs and your needs for a night or two? This is it. It’s big, but it’s versatile.
It will test you though. Empty this bag weighs in at around approximately 8 pounds. When you load it up, it’s going to require some effort to transport it. But, its size also lends itself to staying in proportion with people of larger stature too. At 6’5” tall, this bag fits my middle son and me well. As a backpack or a messenger it doesn’t look out of place. As a combination office and overnight bag, it’s ideal because it will easily accommodate our larger clothes.
The classic lines of this bag make it very attractive. The gussets, fine leather, heavy duty hardware all combine to create an elegant, classic look. It’s just bigger than most of the other bags in this style that you’ve seen in the past.
The leather has a high gloss, waxy finish to it and looks very attractive. It certainly garners attention when you set it down at a meeting. It can’t help but be noticed.
I recently read an article about a gentleman who spent one year traveling the world with everything he needed safely tucked into a 26 liter backpack. If you’re thinking of doing the same thing, this backpack is slightly larger than that and fully capable of serving you in the same capacity…and it will look much better than a nylon bag! I look forward to seeing how this bag ages and performs as time goes on. It was a little rigid right out of the box, but with limited use over the past six weeks or so it has already softened up. It’s a well made bag and should withstand the rigors of daily use without issue for decades. The $445 price tag for the LederMann Extra Large 18” Vintage Chestnut Belting Leather Briefcase is substantial – but so is the bag. And, it’s a multipurpose bag that you’ll be able to use and enjoy the rest of your life.
There are certain products and companies that you encounter during your life that just exude quality in everything that they do. When you find one of these companies, it’s always pleasurable to work with them and use their products or services. Such has been my experience with Chris Pak and his company, Sandast.
Sandast was founded in 2006 and re-launched in 2010 with Chris Pak at the helm. Chris’ focus in re-launching was on quality and his efforts have paid off. With a host of accessories, wallets, belts, and bags Sandast has created a luxurious line of sumptuous leather products that have received a lot of notice. Johnny Depp proudly carries a Sandast bag. One of the phrases you’ll see and read frequently on Sandast’s website is “modern vintage” – which quickly explains their efforts to create leather pieces that have a uniquely vintage look and a hint of modern taste.
After a great phone conversation with Chris about Sandast, we determined that it would be great to showcase the Sandast Debbie Pack.
Here comes one of our favorite words here at BestLeather…Horween. However, the Horween component chosen by Sandast is only vegetable tanned leather. Sandast is dedicated to using only vegetable tanned leather, as it involves only natural ingredients and is not harmful to the environment. Once the craftsmen at Sandast receive the leather from Horween, they apply their own proprietary mix of oil, wax, and fats to the leather. As a result of their efforts, the leather takes on a texture and quality that is easily seen and felt as soon as you touch it. It’s soft, waterproof, and extremely durable. And…it’s gorgeous.
In addition to using thick, uber quality leather, Sandast also uses heavy gauge buckles from France and an attractive, heavy-duty clasp that’s manufactured in Italy on the Debbie Pack. I’m not sure what type of thread is used on the pack, but the color and stitching create a nice contrast to rich, Cognac color of the Debbie Pack.
The two small pockets on the outside are quickly and easily secured with a magnetic latch system. This was a surprise to me. Prior to putting hands on the pack, I assumed these two pockets closed with the heavy gauge roller buckles that each sports. However, I was mistaken and they close with an incredibly strong, reliable magnetic closure system.
The bag features a heavy gauge leather drawstring with thick brass end caps that runs through heavy antique looking grommets. The interior is lined with an attractive plaid fabric. The zippered interior pocket sports a Swiss made Riri Zipper. The Debbie Pack, along with all of Sandast’s products, are designed and created in their Los Angeles, CA facility.
The Sandast Debbie Pack elicits a playful and easy-going attitude. At 15” tall, 11” wide, and 6” thick it’s a great size for use every day – whether you sport it as a bag for school or work, it will perform well.
The main compartment is large enough to store a full day’s worth of gear. It will easily fit my 13” MacBook Air, my camera, extra lenses, and an assortment of other small wares in the two external pockets. And, it does it all while looking fantastic.
The main flap’s quick, easy to use clasp closure works well. The leather tab just above the closure sports the Sandast logo – an image of Elias Howe’s world changing sewing machine that was patented in 1846 (and a machine that Sandast uses in the production of all of their pieces). The adjustable shoulder straps are thick enough to allow you to carry the pack all day without them digging into your shoulders. The thick handle is comfortable and allows for easy carry.
I do wish that a slightly larger version of this pack was available. Selfishly, it’s a little small for me. At 6’5” tall, the straps are a little short/tight. That’s the only negative thing I have to say about it…and that’s not really a flaw of the bag…I’m just a big guy. So, much to my wife’s benefit, she eagerly and happily “claimed” it. And, since then has carried it virtually every day. To date, it’s spent a weekend in Bend, Oregon and a few days up in Glacier National Park as well as joining her in trips to Spokane, WA and all around our hometown. Unfortunately, she was in Glacier without me. Next time, I’ll be sure to get some pictures of this gorgeous pack up on Going to the Sun Road or in front of one of the beautiful glacial fed lakes there.
As I said in the beginning, there are certain companies and products that just exude quality. Stop reading for a second and stare at any one of the images of the Debbie Pack. Chris from Sandast has succeeded in creating a product that oozes quality and immediately conveys a message of luxury. The modern vintage feel definitely comes through when you look at individual components of the pack and the pack in its entirety.
Everything with this bag is tastefully done. This is not a mass produced piece – but a backpack that has been assembled with a love for art, respect for the leather trade, and a desire to convey the modern vintage message. It hearkens back to an era of American industry when things were designed and constructed to last a lifetime.
The Sandast Debbie Pack is definitely one of those pieces that squarely falls into BestLeather’s Buy It For Life category. It’s an outstanding representation of high-quality leather craftsmanship. And, it will truly last a lifetime. At $730, it is a fairly costly investment – but, rest assured, it will be the last backpack you will ever need to purchase.
****The first winner has been selected. Congratulations to Jonathan P! Jonathan P has chosen to receive the Bucket Backpack. Our second winner, Nancy B. will receive the Umuragi Legacy Bag. Congratulations to both of our winners! Thanks to everyone who entered! And, stop by the site frequently…we have another giveaway coming soon!****
Saddleback Leather is partnering with BestLeather to give away not just one, but two of their new products – a Classic Bucket Backpack and an Umuragi Legacy Bag. Both of these are amazing pieces and are sure to be best sellers. And, with all of Saddleback’s expertly crafted leather products, they will most likely outlast you – so, be sure to plan ahead as to who will inherit your new Saddleback gear.
We will be choosing two winners – whoever is chosen first will get their pick of which piece they want to receive while the second winner will receive the other piece by default.
Drawstring color may not match your Bucket Backpack color
No breakable parts, e.g. zippers, snaps, buttons, etc.
Because of natural oils shade of leather may vary
Dimensions (approximate size):
Exterior: 16″H x 10 ½”W x 8 ½”D
Interior: 15″ H x 10″ W x 8″ D
Empty Weight: 3.4 pounds
Is available in Carbon, Chestnut, Dark Coffee Brown, and Tobacco
The Umuragi Legacy Bag
This is a purse designed by Suzette Munson. Instead of carrying the Saddleback Leather brand, it proudly displays the Love41 moniker. You may not be fully aware of Love41 and its commendable mission. So, we encourage you to visit the Love41 website and learn about how this company is making a positive impact in Rwanda, Africa and beyond. Here are the details about the Umuragi Legacy Bag:
Love 41’s most durable purse
Unique no-stitching, riveted construction
Umuragi means legacy in Kinyarwandan (the language of Rwanda), befitting a bag you can hand down to future generations
Two small interior pockets for keys, cell phone, and other accessories
Fully adjustable shoulder strap and turn-lock closure
Antiqued brass hardware
Made with thick, vegetable tanned full grain leather
Love 41 products are covered by a 41 year warranty
A portion of the proceeds from this item will be donated to Africa New Life Ministries
Dimensions (approximate size):
Adjustable strap length: 37 ¼” – 52 ¾”
Exterior: 13“ W x 7 ½“ H x 4” D
Interior: 12 ½“ W x 7 ½“ H x 2 ¼” D
Empty Weight: 3 pounds
Is available in two colors: Carbon Black or Tobacco Brown
With Holiday shopping already beginning to ramp up, this contest’s timing is excellent. The contest will run for 21 days, starting today, October 9, 2014 and ending on Thursday, October 30, 2014.
Please be sure to follow all of the steps to ensure that you are entered to win. Enjoy! We look forward to seeing who wins. And, please be sure to comment below and let us know what your plans are for these products should you win one.
Smells good, looks good – and no, I’m not talking about coming home to a tasty dinner prepared by my amazing wife. I’m referring to my initial response to opening up the box containing the Far Horizon Traders Ascent Rucksack. The rich leather aroma is tantalizing and long lasting with this bag. It has garnered attention in my office for the past week simply based on its pleasant fragrance – and most people haven’t even seen or touched the rucksack yet.
About Far Horizon Traders
All of the bags from Far Horizon Traders (FHT) are handmade in several locations around the globe. Matt, the founder of FHT, has traveled extensively over the years and through his adventures has met and worked with skilled leather craftsmen with whom he has partnered to offer unique, high quality bags with conventional cow leather, camel leather, and water buffalo leather. “Everybody’s got a water buffalo, yours is fast but mine is slow…” I always think of that Veggie Tales song when I read the words ‘water buffalo’.
The Far Horizon Traders Ascent Rucksack is handmade in the highlands of Central Mexico. It’s constructed of 4-5oz. full grain, vegetable tanned cowhide and has a nice earthy brown hue to it that’s pleasing to the eye. Heavy duty hardware is used in the grommets that surround the opening – through which a heavy strip of leather runs acting as a drawstring closure.
Matching “aged” brass buckles are used to secure the bag’s lid and for adjusting the carry straps. There is one well-placed pocket on the outside of the rucksack that is ideal for a boarding pass while traveling or other small wares. The inside features a heavy canvas/twill liner in a classic off-white color, which makes it easy to view and locate items inside the bag without getting frustrated. Also inside, you’ll find a leather pocket, several pen loops, and a leather key lanyard.
I like heavy duty stuff – it’s just the way I am. I have a ¾ ton truck, a ¾ ton Yukon XL, big sons, big tools…the list goes on. And, I like thick, heavy leather. Initially I was a little skeptical of the FHT Ascent Rucksack. It’s thinner and lighter than my other leather goods. So, what did I do? I loaded it up with my usual items. My MacBook Air, iPad, camera, assorted gear, pens, and other miscellaneous EDC (every day carry) items went into the rucksack to test its mettle. While exploring one of our beautiful, local rivers the rucksack performed without issue. It was comfortable – no complaints.
The FHT Ascent Rucksack has exceeded my initial expectations. Its 18”h x 12”w x 9”d size certainly will handle plenty of gear and all the while doing it in high style. The strap/buckle system is easy to use and frustration free when you want to access the contents of the bag. Long term, my only concern is the skinny shoulder straps. If there is anything that calls for improvement on the Ascent Rucksack, it’s an upgrade in the shoulder strap department. Even if the same 4-5 oz. leather is used, but widened from the current one inch in width to even just 1.5 inches, I think that would provide additional substance to eliminate apprehension when loading it up and carrying it on long adventures. And, heavier straps will definitely serve it well for many years. The small shoulder pads are sufficient in distributing the weight comfortably, enabling you to wear it for extended periods of time.
Best Leather Conclusion
You will need to search far and wide to find a better handmade, quality leather bag at this price point. With that and Far Horizon Traders full satisfaction guarantee, it’s even more appealing. If you’re looking for a light, low bulk, handmade leather bag with supple, attractive leather that’s cut and assembled by hand, then the Far Horizon Traders Ascent Rucksack should a serious contender as BestLeather.org considers this a good value/cost option. And…you’ll really like the way it smells.
My Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack gets used every day. It’s been a trusty backpack to haul quite a lot to quite a few places. I have simutaneously carried a 17″ MacBook, Canon 6D, extra large lens, notebooks, several books, chargers, and lots of miscellaneous items on long trips. There are two huge advantages to this bag that make it much more usable than the Classic Tank backpack; it’s comfortable and roomy.
Comfort is ensured with shoulder straps that are flexible and break in quick. The previous iteration had straps that weren’t terrible, but would cause serious chafing if you carried it for several hours. Also, the back of the backpack is one large piece of leather that molds to your back instead of molding a crease into it. This is the most comfortable leather product, including briefcases, I have used that has this kind of capacity.
Because of the more flexible design and some extra inches, you can fit a lot more in there. Overnight trips, school, work, diaper bag, whatever–it’s going to fit a lot.
The interesting bit is the patina–that classy aged look leather acquires when it is used. Here are some pictures from this evening in a nice sunset. This is something like eight months of use. The most wear is on the bottom of the bag and I provided a close up photo of the thread.
(Pro tip: if you want to take good pictures of your goodies, wait till the sun is coming up or going down. It’s very soft warm light.)
So why would you want either one? The Tank is discontinued. You can get it cheaper on eBay, between $350 and $400 as opposed to nearly $600 for the new Squared Backpack. There are some comfort differences and capacity differences and I want to show you those real quick.
With the original Tank backpack, you’ve got a piece of leather that goes around it from the top down to right here in this seam. This seam is about half an inch and it is pretty brutal on your lower back after a while of walking. This backpack is more than a year old. It’s been used every single day and you can see it right here where it’s formed to the back, but this hasn’t broken in at all. It’s just still as brutal as ever. Also, the shoulder straps—these little ridges right here—those can get uncomfortable after a while. It’s also a bit narrow so these edges, if you have a wider body, can rub and dig into your skin as well.
On the other side, with the Squared Backpack, is an update and evolution from The Tank. You’ve got one piece of leather that goes from this flap all the way around to right here. Now there’s no seam here and you can see, as I can push on this, that it’s pretty flexible. This will mold to your back quite nicely. There’s a nice patina right here. There’s also a piece of foam embedded in the leather. So as far as your lower back goes I have absolutely zero complaints. I’ve carried this hiking for hours, I’ve taken it through airports, long trips, and it’s been very comfortable. The shoulder straps are also a lot thinner and are a lot simpler. They’re more comfortable; they’ve broke in very quickly. I think it’s just a better design, a simpler design than these more complex, heavy-duty straps on the Tank.
However, I will admit that there’s a real classiness to The Tank with these straps and with the rigidity of the design. Even though it’s got some flaws, it looks really sharp. So if you’re willing to put up with those things, I think it’s still a great backpack and it was designed with durability in mind for sure. You can see massive seams of leather going on here.
The Squared Backpack isn’t designed any less ruggedly but there are some good things that really make it more functional. It’s also bigger. It’s got about 1,400 cubic inches of internal capacity whereas The Tank has about 900 cubic inches. So you’ve got more capacity and the flexibility makes it a little bit easier to work with.
You can see right here with this strap—this is something that I would change if this were my design. I haven’t used these straps at all since I got the backpack because I don’t see a reason to. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe somebody can point out in the comments what the real purpose is for and what they use it for.
It seems to me that this front flap totally encloses that main compartment. I’m not worried about water or anything getting in there, especially when you cinch it down to the lowest level. But with this flexibility here, it folds a little bit. You see how it’s crinkling right there. But when you put that flap down, sometimes it closes a little bit crookedly and it looks like it wasn’t made correctly. I think they should make this a little bit stiffer but that’s the only thing that I would change thus far.
Pockets-wise, usability, they’re pretty close. Identical pockets—you’ve got one up front, two in the sides, you’ve got slots where you can fit stuff in, pens and whatnot, between the pockets and the main compartment, pockets inside the main compartments here and then two here. They’re a little bit larger on the squared backpack because of the larger dimensions than on The Tank but they’re still very good.
I think this is one of the best backpacks that you can buy on the market if not the best. I’d really like to see another backpack that can compare. We’ve got an article coming out on the Marlondo backpack versus the Saddleback Squared Backpack and it just really doesn’t compare. There’s a lot of thought that’s gone into this. For working with the limitations that leather has, I think they’ve done a really good job.
I like the new tobacco leather also. You can see we’ve got some patina going on right here. It looks fantastic. It’s definitely more rugged than the chestnut—chestnut being my personal favorite—but it looks good and it’s wearing well. This one doesn’t really have any scars on it that I can speak of, but I like the used look of it. It’s fantastic.
So we’ve got pros: It’s (Tank) sharp-looking, it’s cheaper, but it doesn’t have quite as much capacity. Whereas this (Squared) has got more capacity, it’s more expensive. You’ve got this flexibility up here that I don’t really get.
So that’s about it. Thanks for watching. We’re going to be doing some more videos here upcoming and hopefully some giveaways. So subscribe and stay tuned. Also, I’d like to hear from you guys with these backpacks and what you think of them, especially people who have had The Tank and have upgraded to the Squared Backpack. What do you think about that?
I know some of you are considering this; you have Saddleback Leather Tank Backpack and are considering the Squared Backpack. I would encourage it. I think it’s a good switch. The pros are worth it. Hopefully that is helpful to you. Have a great day!
Editors Note: This is an out of date review. The latest Marlondo Leather Backpack compares quite favorably against the SBL backpack.
Prolegomena: a discursive introduction
I impressed it upon TJ that I retain the full copyright for this piece and TJ is permitted to use it so long as he publishes it in full. He is a good friend to me, and an excellent human being, in my judgment–and he let me borrow the backpack for the review. I insist on full disclosure, and not all of what I am about to say is positive. I would rather write something and have it never see the light of day than to have it shred to pieces by an editor as if it were the American constitution and he were an American president in the late 20th or early 21st century.
Disclosure: Conflict of Interest and/or Bias
I own an older Saddleback Leather Backpack in chestnut. I am the guy in this review. The data reflects a strong correlation between owning the Tank and liking it. Therefore, due to my background, my interest in reviewing the Marlondo Backpack as objectively as possible conflicts with my unavoidable confirmation bias.
And, in the spirit of full disclosure, at the risk of adding unnecessary details, I should also tell you that I own an SBL chestnut iPad case and a chestnut portfolio. I’m sure I’ll be smeared as an overly loyal SBL fanboy by that one obnoxious dude in the Facebook forum. I forget his name. But at least now you can’t accuse me of hiding it. So go pound sand, obnoxious guy whose name I can’t remember and prefer not to look up (for obvious reasons).
“There are no solutions, only tradeoffs.” -Thomas Sowell
The good news is that I am in a good position to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the Marlondo piece in light of extensive use of a rival bag. And in fact, rather than attempting an uninterested, context-insensitive review of the Marlondo bag, I think I’ll take the liberty to review this backpack as it relates to my specific use cases. For those who can’t relate, tough. There will be someone out there who finds that this review provides the exact insight he or she needs, right when he or she is at the decision- making stage of the sales funnel. And you, my good sir or madam, are welcome.
Should you buy this bag?
It is my assessment that this leather backpack represents a remarkable value given its retail price. Whether it is the most beneficial leather backpack option for you, given what it costs you personally, is contingent on data and subjective qualitative states that I neither have access to, nor any interest in attempting to evaluate.
What could you use this bag for?
This bag is good for going to the gym, going to the beach, traveling (casual affairs only; and it should be ok as a carry-on), toting your study materials and gym clothes around campus, and day hikes. In terms of utility, it is 1. lighter, 2. more flexible, and 3. has a greater capacity than the classic SBL backpack (I understand Best Leather has a forthcoming review of the newer SBL Square Backpack, so stay tuned for a comparison there).
Leather is good.
Let’s get one thing on the table. Leather is beautiful. It smells good. It is durable. When I saw this piece, it was a delight. The point is that this is a good bag and it is made of leather. It is 1. beautiful, 2. fragrant, and 3. durable. I would rather own it than not own it. It bears some finite, nonzero quantity of value.
What’s more is that the Marlondo backpack is unique. The Saddleback backpack is unique too, but that’s a red herring. So given that 1. leather is good and 2. the Marlondo leather backpack is unique; therefore the Marlondo leather backpack gives off an eerily deceptive allure.
I will proceed to rip this thing to shreds and say that the SBL backpack is far superior (it is), but there is a part of me that already misses this bag. There are aspects of it that are uniquely attractive, even if, net of everything, I still prefer my current bag. It is a strange disposition to articulate, but there it is.
Misc. Initial Observations
• I do like the appearance of this bag. I like the overall visual impression it gives, and I really like the profile of the bag when worn. My model of SBL backpack has a well-known tendency to dig into the lower back and lean away from the shoulders of the wearer. The leather on this thing has a remarkable matte texture. The leather on my SBL BP is further toward the shinier end of the spectrum.
• The hardware on this thing is not shiny at all. I strongly prefer the shiny nickel-plated brass on the SBL goods.
• The pigskin liner is significantly different than the SBL material. Thinner and more flexible. The interior of my SBL bag feels like a smooth football. I hardly noticed that this bag had a distinct liner.
Complaints After Use
1. Lack of External Hardware.
2. Lack of Convenient Exterior Pockets.
3. Lack of Interior Pockets.
5. Narrow Closure Piece
6. Short Distance Between Closure Loop and Closure Hardware
7. Skimpy Top Flap
8. Rucksack Drawstring Thingy
9. Seams Not Double-Stitched
10. Lack of Detail
11. Lack of Hardware
1. Hardware adds weight and utility.
I like to do things like hang my sunglasses and my keys from the d-rings on my SBL backpack. This Marlondo piece has none such. It’s lighter for it, but if there is a use case for the d-rings and the trade off is worth it to you, take heed.
2. Lack of Convenient Exterior Pockets.
I keep a microfiber cloth on the keyboard of my MacBook when the clamshell is closed to keep the screen clean. When I first sit down and open it up, I swipe the cloth from the keyboard and stuff it into one of the exterior pockets. I was thrown off when I went to do this with the Marlondo bag and discovered that it didn’t have any always-open exterior pockets. After this I started realizing how much I take those pockets for granted. Buyer beware.
3. Lack of Interior Pockets.
When I first got my SBL backpack those two interior pockets got in the way. They are a bit rigid, especially when they’re new, and if you already have half of the bag full, vertically, the interior pockets make it difficult to fill the space beneath them. This is a problem for me because I utilize all the space in the bag. That said, I started relying on them to carry my Magic Mouse, USB cable, external hard drive, etc. It’s nice to have them at the top of the bag, and it’s nice to have them in leather pockets that prevent them from banging around and scratching each other. The bag has become slightly more flexible with use and I’ve molded my packing workflow around them. The Marlondo bag has none such pockets, and it changes the way I have to pack the bag. I actually had to introduce smaller pouches just to carry these pieces, and I never got comfortable with it.
Oh! I also used the flat pockets on the sides of the interior of the SBL backpack for business cards and writing utensils. I have no good place for that stuff in the Marlondo bag.
4. Flexibility (AKA lack of protection from rigidity)
The pigskin on the classic SBL backpack is fairly rigid and the general construction of the bag results in a fairly sturdy structure. One time I had an older MacBook in a Jansport and, upon entering my Toyota Corolla, I lost my grip on the bag and it slid down a couple of feet and met the road. It did $900 worth of damage.
Flash forward a few years and I have my current machine in my SBL backpack on top of a stack of luggage in the back of a shuttle in Las Vegas. The driver opens the rear door and my backpack rolls off, drops about five feet, hits the road, and rolls another five or so. “Whoops,” he says, and smiles. I was furious, but I kept my cool. Anyway, the bag and it’s the thousands of dollars worth of contents, were all entirely unscathed. As if it never happened.
I can tell that if I dropped the Marlondo bag on the street it would damage my laptop. I feel like I need a case for my computer while it’s inside the bag, which 1. eats into the available space, 2. adds weight, and 3. adds expense to the setup. It also gives me one more thing to handle when I need to retrieve my laptop and setup for work.
But again, it’s a tradeoff. The flexibility of the bag may be an advantage for certain use cases.
5. Narrow Closure Piece
This strip of leather is slightly wider than the ring through which it must pass. This makes inserting it and extracting it more difficult than necessary.
6. Short Distance Between Closure Loop and Closure Hardware
The short distance between the closure loop and the closure hardware makes it difficult to insert ones fingers in order to pull the closure piece out when opening the bag. This does not reflect usability testing.
What other issues might this bag have due to lacking usability testing that I haven’t yet discovered?
And, actually, the closure loop is surprisingly thin. Given than I carry very expensive cargo, which I use to earn my living, I can’t tolerate this kind of thing.
7. Skimpy Top Flap
For the generous capacity of this bag, its cover flap sure is skimpy. I live in the Pacific Northwest, where encountering rain and snow on the three-to-four block walk to my car from the café where I work is not uncommon. I need my goods to stay dry in my bag.
This flap makes me nervous.
8. Rucksack Drawstring Thingy
Not impressed. It feels cheap, it’s inflexible, and it’s insecure. It bothers me that, given the large mouth of this beast, it is drawn together with this sorry excuse for a closure and immodestly covered to boot.
9. Seams Not Double-Stitched
The double-stitching on the SBL bags looks strikingly handsome. 20% of the people who come within 20’ of my SBL backpack approach me with compliments.
The batting average of the Marlondo backpack fell somewhere between a Jansport and the SBL.
10. Lack of Detail
You get what you pay for.
The SBL backpack is meticulously assembled. Compare and contrast:
While we’re taking pictures however, note that the older SBL “overstuffed” straps use leather so thick that it can’t comfortably conform to one’s shoulder. In order to bend, it creates bumps that are fairly hard and uncomfortable. This is unfortunate. They may wear with time (20-100years?) and there may be workarounds, but still.
Also, the seam that rubs along your lower back can be extremely uncomfortable after a while.
Over-engineering comes at a cost. All of the touches SBL wanted to put on their straps added up. There is some added functionality/aesthetic value due to some of these little touches, but the end result is a lot of added thickness and weight and price.
The Marlondo straps lack the detail, but aren’t plagued by the thickness and weight. They were fairly comfortable. Also, significantly cheaper.
I have been out hiking for a few hours now. You can see the sun is starting to go down. It’s really gorgeous down here in the middle of this stream bed. I wanted to give you some details on the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack.
comfort on a long hike
It’s been impressive so far, the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack, especially compared to the last Classic Backpack. These straps here are a major improvement over the classic. You notice when I bend this shoulder strap there’s no giant nodules. Those nodules would have made things pretty painful when you’re hiking or going for long distances with the Classic Backpack, the tank. But this, there’s a lot less of that leather scrunching up. And this leather is also a lot softer. It’s a much more comfortable shoulder strap.
They’ve got some padding right there that they’ve sown in (on the bottom of the backpack for your lower back) and it is a massive help. I have not noticed, really, any discomfort except for a shoulder scapula injury that I’ve got but unless you’ve got that sort of injury you shouldn’t be having much of a problem.
Leather products aren’t known for being ultra-comfortable. This is no sophisticated hiking backpack. I’m using it outside of the normal realm in which people would use it, but I wanted to give it a good test.
I’ve got about 15 pounds of gear in here with food and water for a couple of hours of hiking and it is doing really well as far as comfort goes. And obviously there’s plenty of space to get more stuff in here. You could travel for a few days out of this backpack. Over time you will get soreness in the tops of your shoulders. I think some of my pain is from a lack of hiking lately.
The build quality is just showing itself to be quite immaculate. They have really done a great job. You notice that this front flap of leather goes around to the back and all the way to the bottom. This is all one piece of leather, which is just remarkable. That’s a large piece of leather. In the classic there is a seam and this right here, along with this extra piece of padding—you can kind of see an outline there—is much more comfortable. No seam digging into your back and much more flexibility.
I’ve got a friend with a Classic Backpack (we’ll be comparing these two backpacks soon) and he’s used his for a year now or more than a year —this back area has formed to his back given enough time. But with the added flexibility of this Squared backpack, and extra width, I’ve noticed that the Squared Backpack just forms far more easily to your back, much more easily than the Classic Backpack. So there’s none of these big seams that are digging into your back.
leather & the main compartment strap
The leather is just doing really well. You’ll notice it’s acquiring some scratches just from use. Another thing which is interesting is when it’s sitting up, because it’s not as rigid as the Classic Backpack. See how the top flap is crooked. That’s because of this strap adjustment here so you can close up the top. This is now more flexible than the Saddleback Leather Classic Backpack. And sometimes when the front flap is buckled over it it will sit crooked, depending on how you’ve got this top strap tightened down. So I don’t have it tight at all but I did want to mention that because some people have asked me if it was actually made incorrectly or if it was sewed crooked but no. It’s not sewed crooked, it just collapses the top of the main compartment a bit which makes the front flap buckle down crooked (as shown in the photo below).
UPDATE: I have since decided I do not like the leather strap on the main compartment since I cannot determine any good purpose for it. The front flap sufficiently covers the main opening so that water can’t drip in so I don’t know why one would want to tighten the main compartment up. It’s not going to make the backpack any smaller since the front flap is still the same size. The strap and the flexibility just makes that front flap crooked way too much of the time. I was going through a lot of my photos of the backpack and noticed it is crooked in a majority of them.
So yeah, the Saddleback Leather Squared Backpack is doing well. I’ve got another couple of hours to go on my hike so we’ll see how she does. Perhaps I’ll have more thoughts. I would say, basically what they’ve done here is they’ve taken the classic and the benefits of it, the good pockets and what not, and they fixed all of the problems—limited capacity. It’s very narrow yet deep so you could put stuff way down into it and you kind of have to stack your stuff. Another problem with it was that seam on the back. That was a major comfort issue. And the shoulder straps. But I’ve think they’ve done a good job of fixing these problems.
You can tell that there’s a lot of design and a lot of thought that’s gone into fixing those issues.
If you have any questions, feel free to put it in the comments and I’ll try and answer you on any questions that you might have for the use and comfort of it.
I hope you guys find this useful and if you have any questions, feel free to be giving me a call. ‘Til then, I’ll catch you guys later!
Hi folks! This is TJ with Best Leather and for this review I’m going to do something a little bit different. I received a Saddleback Squared Backpack. Saddleback sent me one to review and I think I’m going to do some videos and walk you through what it looks like to live with it, to use it frequently, the pros and the cons—there are always cons when you’re buying something this expensive. Hopefully it will give you a really good understanding of why you’d want to spend so much money, nearly $600, on an item like this, or you wouldn’t.
So this is also a backpack with the new tobacco leather and there’s been some controversy as to the quality of the leather and whether or not Saddleback is saving money and not passing those costs onto consumers. So we’ll also take a look at the quality and see how that stacks up against some of the older stuff. I have access to a Tank Backpack, Saddleback’s classic backpack, and will be able to compare it there. So let’s dive in.
This is the Saddleback Squared Backpack and I want to go through and show you guys a few details on it. This backpack retails for $582 and I’ll show you some of the features and reasons why it’s quite so expensive. The classic backpack was actually what got me into Saddleback leather and quality leather products elsewhere. I had a friend who had one and I couldn’t believe that it was $600. The more I researched into it, the more I realized it cost a lot to make these bags. I think there’s—maybe this is a little bit of a guesstimate – 12 square feet of leather here.
If you are looking at leather prices, you could be spending $100 just on leather, not to mention hardware and the time to make it. These people have to be craftsmen because there’s a very high level of precision required for leather working. You don’t want to waste this leather.
So let’s go into some of the details on this. I’ve had this backpack for two days now and so far it’s been a very enjoyable process. The first thing I want to show you is the straps. Now these straps are different than the Saddleback classic backpack straps. A little bit different design there. I’ll show a picture of the old straps there. The problems that they had was they were very thick, they were very padded and they would scrunch up so you can see how it’s scrunched up there. You’ll notice that those bumps there can get really uncomfortable. It’s worse on the old one. So that’s nice. Those are pretty comfortable straps, surprisingly. The first day that I was using it I was kind of stretching it and twisting with my hands to help it break in a little bit quicker, but it’s been very comfortable so far.
Another aspect that’s helping the comfort, as opposed to the tank, the classic backpack, is right here there was a seam. That seam would irritate your lower back if you wore it quite a bit and people would get pretty severe chaffing. So this is actually one piece of leather that just goes right around that corner. And that has not posed a problem whatsoever. Now I haven’t worn this for an extended period of time. I’m going to try and do some hiking with it. I’ll go out with 4 or 5 hours and see what kind of issues may come up but so far I’m really enjoying the straps.
Another detail on the straps is the flexibility and how easy it is to change the strap sizes. So on the old one there was all sorts of straps to undo, one strap that was very long and you’d end up with—if this is the old one you’d have layers and layers and layers of strap, a lot of extra weight. So they’ve really trimmed that down. These are very easy to change and adjust. It took me about 10 seconds to get it right for my size. So definitely the shoulder straps are very nice. I haven’t noticed any problems with them at all.
new tobacco leather
So the next thing, the elephant in the room for some people, is the new leather. This is the new tobacco leather. You’ll notice if I do a close-up here that it comes with kind of a patina. Now I like this. I like this patina because as much as the backpack looks used, it’s still in very good condition. The leather is just as strong as it’s ever been. I don’t notice any things that I would consider blemishes—deep scarring or anything like that. It’s just unique. You see stuff in leather that I think you should see. It’s not one mass-produced product and I kind of felt like the older leather that they were using; it looked like it had been coated in plastic. It didn’t feel that great. Well their tobacco was just kind of a muted yellow color. So this is kind of a more true tobacco and I quite like it.
Now like I said, there are no scars. Part of the controversy is that scars are decreasing the value of the product and Saddleback isn’t lowering the price of their products. I don’t think I can speak to that because I haven’t seen any scarring or anything on this. So maybe in another product we’ll get to check that out. But I’d say as far as the quality of the leather goes, it’s top notch. However, when I first got it, you’ll notice there are some spots here. Those are actually bug bites but when I first got them I thought, “Oh boy. This backpack has had water damage.” It hasn’t. These are just bug bites but it is something to note. If you’re looking to have a leather product that doesn’t have a unique character to it in the leather, something like the old tobacco, then you’re better served by going on e-bay or going on one of the Facebook pages and buying one on there. You can buy some really great, lightly used, older tobacco-colored leather. It pretty much looks immaculate when it comes. It takes quite a bit to wear it in. This looks very nice. I really enjoy this leather.
So the last thing I wanted to talk about here was the pockets. Now when it comes to backpacks, Saddleback is I think one of the best in terms of options. You’ve got a lot of pockets. You’ve got 7 pockets total. You’ve got this one here and a matching one on the other side. This front pocket here will hold a small laptop. I don’t think I can get this off of my hand. There we go. Alright. So we’ve got this front pocket here and that will fit an 11” laptop, maybe a 12” and a mouse pad. That one’s from Urban Cow on Etsy. They did a great job with that. So you’ve got a lot of pockets. You’ve got one, two, three, four interior pockets. And I like this because you can really use this usably, every day. So if you’re going to class or you’re going to work and you’re looking for something that has a lot of class, a lot of style and is going to last a long time looking good, this is a good option.
new pigskin lining
I should also mention the pigskin. This is very interesting pigskin compared to what it was. It used to be very dark and I thought it looked rather inorganic. I think it had been treated, died, most likely. But this has a very nice, soft feeling to it. It’s not very rigid like the older pigskin. And I very much like it. You can see little spots, not only the hair spots. I’ll try to fix it so you can see there that there’s some little hair spots where it’s been de-haired but if we look carefully we can find a bit of scarring. I don’t know. I can’t tell if that’s a scar or not but there are slight, minor issues but that’s what happens when you work with leather and animals that run into fences and whatnot.
durability and weight
You can see we’ve got lots of rivets everywhere. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to tear leather that’s riveted together. I encourage you to try, but don’t get a hernia doing it because it is tough. This leather is thick and these are big rivets. So I don’t know what the world’s going to look like in a hundred years but I think if any leather product that I’ve seen so far is capable of lasting a hundred years, it would be the Saddleback products because they’re pretty much just over-engineered. That’s ridiculous. They’re using high-quality thread here, they’re double-stitching it. I think they’re going to do a good job of lasting. They are using hollow rivets and that’s so that you can apply them more easily. They go on with a foot press and these aren’t solid rivets. I don’t think that’s going to be a strength issue. If you had a lot of sheer force on these rivets it might be an issue but it shouldn’t be an issue at all with these. It also makes it a little bit lighter. Lightness is kind of an issue. Once again, it goes to pros and cons.
So if you want a really light bag, don’t get this bag. It’s 8.5 pounds or so which honestly I think is well worth the cost but carrying leather items there’s always pros and there’s cons. The pros are it looks really classy, it will last a long time, and you won’t need to buy a new item for very long. But the downside is you don’t want to get it stolen because the replacement cost is really high and it’s heavy and it can be a little bit bulky or awkward. You have to decide whether or not you want to put up with something like that in order to have a bag like this.
So those are my first initial thoughts on the bag. I’ll be doing more as the coming weeks come up and hopefully you’ll enjoy it. So feel free to put comments and tell me what you’d like to see. If you have any suggestions on video editing or cinematography I’d love to hear them.
This new creation aims differently than The Backpack at being a more casual and easier to use backpack. Instead of being internally strong it is more collapsable and moldable. This will lend itself to travel and the diverse demands of the “stuff” that may need to be carried. One of the downfalls of The Backpack, despite its beauty, is the difficulty in efficiently using all its space. Although the cubic capacity of The Backpack is greater, one can fit just as much “stuff” into the Thin Briefcase because it is easier to fill the horizontally arranged compartments as opposed the vertically arranged compartments of The Backpack.
This bag will be popular with travelers, as Dave demonstrates in his video, for its flexibility, lightness, and capacity due to the simple interior design. It is to be hoped that this design lends itself to more efficient use of space then The Backpack.