While a lot of our viewers love scratching up their products as part of establishing a personalized patina on leather goods, I recognize that others would rather minimize the scratches. Depending on the finish of leather, scratches may enhance or destruct the aesthetics. Sometimes, a bag or other leather product is in need of a surface makeover, which is where Chamberlain’s Leathermilk Healing Balm can assist.
The healing balm comes in a small tin along with a sponge-like applicator. Don’t be fooled by the size of the tin: a little goes a long way. The smell of the balm is pleasant, reminiscent of coconut macaroons. The product has a beeswax-like texture, and is made from various oils and waxes. Application of the product to leather goods is very simple with the applicator, and like I stated before, a small amount goes a long way.
I intentionally created some scratches and scuffs on products to show a before and after. Note that I did follow Chamberlain’s instructions to let the balm absorb, than later buff out any leftover balm that did not absorb. They have a nice guide on using the healing balm here.
Photo heavy Before and After Shots:
Outcomes and Conclusion
Overall, the Chamberlain’s Leathermilk Healing Balm is great for toning down scratches and scuffs in varying textures of leather. It does an excellent job of muting the harshness of surface level scratches. If you are not a fan of the scent, rest assured it does fade quickly especially after a quick buff of the leather. I would use this most often for things such as wallets, which can become scuffed up if you throw your keys or pocketknife/flashlight into the same pocket incidentally.
I have a feeling it would also be great for automobile leather, but my light colored leather seats were too tan to test any discernible areas. Priced at nearly $17.00 with free shipping, its well worth it and the small tin will last quite some time even treating multiple bags and small goods. I’d like to reiterate that this product is mainly for spot treatment, I don’t see it being ideal to cover an entire bag, but in some cases that may be the best idea, particularly with darker or black bags. Deep gouges or bug bites in full grain leather would likely not be treatable.
There comes a time to take the leap from a nylon messenger bag to a quality leather piece that excels in both form and function. If you search for “best leather bag” in Google, the first hit will be the Saddleback Leather Company website– and for good reason. Saddleback Leather (SBL) is a Texas-based company specializing in full-grain, fully tanned leather goods designed to last a lifetime and beyond. This is an online company whose commitment to well-made leather products have earned it a cult following among the style and leather forums across the internet. Today I’ll be taking a look at their Large Leather Satchel.
CONSTRUCTION & AESTHETIC
Saddleback uses full-grain chrome tanned leather, all fully dyed. This particular satchel is in their Black color, which is a darker version than the Carbon color they used to use. The satchel also comes in Chestnut, Dark Coffee Brown, and Tobacco. The leather, as always with Saddleback, is extremely high quality and sturdy, getting softer and more supple with age. You can learn a bit about the leather Saddleback uses on their website.
Some bags have seams at the edges of the bottom, or a seam down the middle of the bottom, which binds multiple smaller pieces of leather. But each seam is a potential weak point, which is a problem for someone who wants their briefcase to last a lifetime. Saddleback’s Leather Satchel is made up of only two main pieces of leather: the front flap going around all the way down the back, and the front panel. The edges are rounded to accommodate this design.
To further strengthen the bag, all seams are double-stitched and the stress areas are reinforced with copper and brass rivets, as well as hidden polyester strips. The hardware is nickel-plated brass and can hold up well against any abuse you’d give it. I appreciate that this satchel has only one strap and is relatively minimalist with the hardware. I think it has a simple and classic look while still maintaining the hefty “Saddleback” look. I’m not always a huge fan of their products that have tons of pockets and jangly bits, so I think this satchel strikes a nice balance.
A large ring at the top of the bag allows you to convert the satchel into a backpack if you so choose. Just detach the lobster claw clasps from the sides, run the strap through the ring, and reattach to the smaller rings at the bottom. There’s even two shoulder pads to keep you comfortable. Of course, using such thick and sturdy leather means the bag weighs about 5 pounds empty. This isn’t terribly heavy, all things considered, but it will be an adjustment if you’re not accustomed to carrying around quality leather bags.
The bag features a two side pouches and a slim pouch that runs across the back for quick access. The inside of the satchel has two small phone or pen compartments, a key fob strap, and a sleeve for an iPad, book, or notebook. You can also fit an 11″ MacBook in the sleeve. A 13″ MacBook or other laptop can fit in the large pouch. At 14” W x 11” H x 5” D, the satchel is a nice in-between size. Not too bulky, but has plenty of room to fit what you need to run to a class or a meeting.
This satchel comes in two smaller sizes. The small is 10” W x 9” H x 4” D, for $308, and the medium is 12” W x 10” H x 4” D, for $378. I imagine these sizes would function well for ladies as a purse, too.
The Saddleback Large Leather Satchel is an excellent choice for an everyday carry bag. It is spacious and functional without being bulky. The hefty leather, strong seams, and sturdy hardware will outlast you and all the items you put in it. Its simple lines and classic color means this leather satchel will never go out of style.
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!
You can tell a lot about a man by his wallet. A wallet bulging with loyalty cards, coupons, and a small photo album might signify the sentimental, family guy. A small, sparse bifold might represent the stoic loner. But one thing we all have in common is we usually tend to use a wallet until it falls apart and simply go buy a cheap department store replacement. Tired of the endless cycle I went on a quest to find the last wallet I would ever need and found just that with the Saddleback Leather Front Pocket ID Wallet in Tobacco.
The Saddleback Leather Front Pocket ID Wallet is made in Mexico of full grain chrome tanned leather. While I usually prefer vegetable tanning because of its earthier tones and environmentally friendly processes, I think the chrome method suits the wallet more as it makes the leather more pliable and stain resistant, both of which are important for an item I use on a daily basis. Polyester thread is used to to keep everything together, and it is double stitched over high stress areas. There is also a pigskin lining on the interior which makes sliding money in and out easier.
This is where the wallet really comes into its own. It’s there when you need it, and seems to disappear when not in use. At 4” wide and 2.75” tall it’s very discreet yet has the capacity to hold up to 12 cards. The ID window is not only useful for storing your ID, but gym cards, security access cards or any card where you’ll need to expose to a barcode scanner frequently. 2 slots on the sides can hold up to 3 cards each without being too difficult to remove. There is also one slot behind the ID window for additional storage. The wallet can easily slip into your front pocket and even a chest pocket when not in use. The only issue is getting money in and out is a chore. You have to really pinch to access bills and often have to remove the whole wad of cash and wait for any change so you can put it back uniformly. However, since most of my transactions involve credit cards or apps like Google Wallet, I don’t find myself needing paper money as often.
The look of the wallet in general is understated quality. It likely won’t garner any ooohhs or ahhhs when you pick up the tab though. I chose the Chestnut color but carbon, dark coffee brown, and tobacco are also available. The simple, sleek design is efficient and classy. It’s the type of wallet I’d imagine the owner of a ‘69 Porsche 911S using.
Overall this wallet is great for the minimalist looking to simplify their everyday carry. The beauty of this wallet is that it forces you to carry exactly what you need and nothing more. So if you’re ready to drop your George Costanza wallet and go for something more streamlined, the Saddleback Leather Front Pocket ID Wallet is worth your consideration.
In a world of big bags, big sunglasses, and oversized sweaters, sometimes a tiny bag is refreshing. At 8″ x 7.5″ x 3″, the Saddleback Leather Mini Hobo Crossbody Purse is definitely tiny. It’s a miniature version of their Hobo Crossbody Purse, a bag that I also happen to own in the Carbon color. I have been a big fan of that bag over the ten-ish months that I’ve owned it, so I was excited to check out Saddleback’s smaller version when they sent it in for review last month.
Made of full-grain leather and double-stitched with polyester cord, this bag is not going to fall apart any time this decade, or probably this century. The dark coffee brown leather is lined on the inside with light pigskin, which is easy to clean. The leather itself has a lovely matte, dark brown color and is nice and stiff, which is better for such a small bag so that the sides don’t fall in on themselves. The Hobo Mini Crossbody Purse comes in four colors: tobacco, dark coffee brown, chestnut, and carbon. My dark coffee brown bag is a very versatile and rich color.
Three rivets fasten the top half of the latch to the body of the bag, which is a hefty nickel-plated lobster claw clasp. The adjustable strap is held on by D-rings and lobster claw clasps on either side. There is a slim pocket on the back which spans the width of the bag. There’s another similar pocket on the inside, for quick access to your cell phone or cards.
The leather is extremely strong and sturdy, as are the seams. There have been a few flyaway threads, which is not uncommon with Saddleback Leather products. The company recently posted a video of a fun way of getting rid of pesky threads, which you can view here on their Vine account.
The Hobo Mini Crossbody Purse is the perfect size for all your essentials, and you can dress it up or keep it casual. It only weighs a pound, and it’s nice to take on a night out when you don’t need anything more than your phone, keys, and cards. The strap is nice and long, and it’s adjustable, which is nice if you’re on the taller side. You can wear this over the shoulder or crossbody, and adjust the strap to your liking. You could even detach the strap altogether if you wanted to use it as a clutch.
Now, while I think this purse is very cute and well-built, I have a bit of a beef with the functionality. The gigantic clasp is total overkill. On the original, bigger version of the Hobo Crossbody Purse, the clasp is cumbersome, but still openable with one hand due to more surface area. This miniature one is virtually impossible to open one-handed, and even with two hands, it’s not fast or easy. Which is fine if you don’t really plan on taking your stuff out or are worried about pickpockets. You can slide your phone in the back pocket if you need to access it in a pinch. So, if you plan on purchasing this bag, just think about whether or not quick, one-handed access to the main pouch is important to you.
The Saddleback Leather Mini Hobo Crossbody Purse is adorable, and very sturdily crafted from high-quality leather. Its simple and straightforward design won’t go out of style and will last you a lifetime. If you don’t mind fiddling around a bit with a clasp, then this is a great, handcrafted purse, at the fair price of $159.
As many of you are aware, we’ve reviewed quite a few pieces from Saddleback Leather Company over the years. And, we hope to bring more to you as time goes on. Right now, the good folks at Saddleback are celebrating reaching the 10,000 follower mark on Instagram. And, they’ve decided to keep the celebration going by giving some stuff if you follow their simple, 3 steps (check the image).
BestLeather has reviewed numerous items from the Saddleback Leather Company, ranging from tote bags, duffel bags, MacBook sleeves, wallets, and more. But when it comes down to it, sometimes all a person needs to feel put together is a special place to put all their junk. The Saddleback Leather Valet Tray is an ideal solution to this problem.
Being a man who enjoys keeping everything in order and in one place, the Classic Valet Tray was a treat to receive. Every night when I come home and look at this piece sitting by my bed, contentment is on my mind. Because I know that this tray will hold all my items, and it will do it in a flawless fashion.
Construction and Aesthetic
The Saddleback Leather Valet Tray is constructed using Saddleback Leather’s chestnut colored Full-Grain leather. Fastened by two brushed rivets on each overlapping corner for maximum durability, and stitched using marine-grade polyester, the tray’s structure definitely lives up to the Saddleback Leather standard. The inside is lined using dark-tanned pigskin leather. Being 7 ¼” by 7 ¼”, there is plenty of real estate to organize your items in the tray. The best part about this tray is the removable leather bottom panel. This allows for quick cleanup in the case of a spill or mess. Or, if you’re like me, you can keep loads of cash underneath hidden from covetous siblings.
You might be thinking this is just a tray to hold stuff, but it’s so much more. It’s one of the best trays to hold stuff. It holds my phone, wallet, watch, keys, chap stick, headphones, and various other EDC items. It does it all. It is made from the highest quality materials and it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s also small enough that you can easily pack it in one of your bags an take it with you while you travel. This will ensure that you have a place for all your items at your hotel or wherever you may be staying.
Saddleback’s reputation for quality, well-functioning products is well known. So don’t settle for something less than this and buy a knock-off. In fact, Dave Munson from Saddleback Leather has quite a bit to say on this subject.
The Saddleback Leather Valet Tray might seem like an item you will buy and use occasionally or forget about, but if you are new to leather and want to test a piece out that has numerous practical uses, this is the piece for you. This particular version is in their chestnut color, but they also offer it in tobacco, dark chocolate brown, and carbon. My children won’t need to fight over it when I’m dead…they’ll be able to buy themselves one because it’s reasonably priced at $59.00.
Dave Munson from Saddleback Leather recently put out a new video on leather tanning and how to avoid purchasing bad leather. The 13 minute video is informative and sports the same “tongue in cheek” spirit of Saddleback’s “How to Knock Off a Bag” video. This new video shows how some people cut corners and use cheaper quality leather (while at the same time conveying Saddleback’s dedication to using high quality leather).
Here’s some details from the video description itself:
“Education is the best defense against low quality and that’s why I want to show you how high quality leather is made. This is a behind the scenes, step by step, explanation of how the professionals tan leather, and how they tan it right. There are a lot of steps, that if not correctly followed, will produce low quality and even dangerous carcinogenic leather. Hope you enjoy. Note: the tannery just let me know that it is not accurate to infer that hot dogs are made from this meat, but rather dog type foods after a great refining process. And the fats are not used in the raw for a chaffing lubricant between the legs or for a healing balm. And, they mentioned that there are a number of reasons why Chromium III could turn into cancerous Chromium VI and that it is a culmination of things rather than just that process. This is very rare and not a concern.”
So, without further words on this page…”here’s Dave”! (Yes, that’s my lame attempt at referencing Ed McMahon’s intro to the old Johnny Carson Show and dangit, I just really made myself feel old there).
Now that you’ve watched the video, be sure to visit the Saddleback Leather Company website and check out all of the great leather products they have there. We’re sure you’ll find something you like there!
****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.
Saddleback Leather is clearing out their inventory of discontinued or slow moving items. I haven’t seen a sale like this before and they claim they won’t do another for the foreseeable future. 35% off on a leather product is very significant considering the high cost of making these bags. On top of the 35% off Saddleback Leather is also offering free shipping on orders over $200
Use the code PIGSFLY on the items on their sale page for the 35% off these certain items.
Some people get to a point in life when they decide to take the leap from their college nylon messenger bag to a quality leather piece that excels in both form and function. If you search for “best leather briefcase” in Google, the first hit will be the Saddleback Leather Company website–and for good reason. Saddleback Leather (SBL) is a Texas-based company specializing in full-grain, fully tanned leather goods designed to last a lifetime and beyond. This is an online company whose commitment to well-made leather products have earned it a cult following among the style and leather forums across the internet. Out of all the products, the Saddleback Leather Medium Thin Front Pocket Briefcase is the earliest and best-selling product and a fine example of the quality of goods this company has to offer.
The classic briefcase is constructed in Mexico and comprised of only 4-5oz American-sourced, full-grain, fully chrome-tanned leather hides with subtle pull-up features. There are 4 interior pockets and 2 exterior side pockets. To make sure this bag makes it at least 100 years, only nickel plated D-rings, reinforced double stitched straps, UV resistant polyester thread, and 3 large leather sheets with minimal seams are used. Two years ago, the shoulder straps were constructed with dog leash style clasps that were later converted to stylish screw clasps. Unfortunately, these did not hold up as well to daily abuse and suffered problems from becoming unscrewed on its own to detaching at the hinge. The company has since switched back to the dog leash clasps. It took me one e-mail and the customer service rep handled the free exchange process immediately. Not only was the clasp replaced, but they kept the original leather strap which had two years of patina builtin.
In the past two years, my briefcase has seen its fair share of abuse and travel. It works equally well as a daily carry for a professional environment as well as a personal item during travel. Due to the thickness and quality of the full-grain leather, this bag has some weight to it. Weighing in at 6.6lbs empty, it can easily become a strain on your shoulder and back once filled to the maximum. Add in a hot or humid summer day and running through an airport to catch a flight, and you may regret having thrown away that college nylon messenger with the torn corners. Once this bag is used as a daily carry however, it seems as if the body adjusts and the weight eventually becomes a non-issue. Certain features of the bag may see more or less use. The D-rings are less useful if you’re daily activities don’t require strapping on equipment and the open outer pockets, perfect for a soda can, are not ideal for smaller items which can easily fall out.
This bag runs the gamut. Fresh out of the delivery box, it is smooth, pristine and tough as nails. Although clearly not a fashion bag designed for the runway, it can work for a casual business meeting where everyone else is carrying a boring zippered black leather briefcase. After some time, there is no guarantee what your bag will end up looking like. Coddle it and it will stand clean and firm. Abuse it and it will transform into a handsome rugged bag better suited for a camping trip or rodeo. Wipe off the dust, add some conditioner and you can bring it back to the office the next day. Two years later, my bag feels so much softer but just as strong. Areas of heavy contact at the edges and handle have collected the oils from my skin, leaving behind unique character and highly valued patina. So far the full grain leather and stitching has shown no indication of breaking down.
Best Leather Conclusion
The Saddleback Leather Medium Thin Front Pocket Briefcase is a durable and unique bag with a classic and versatile design. It is not for the buyer who is looking for a lightweight bag or prefers to keep their leather goods flawless. It may not work as an everyday carry bag for some, but it’s pros make this a bag worth keeping in your arsenal of leather goods. Based on my issues with the carrying strap hardware, the customer service is top notch and the company seems to be holding its promise that this bag will last a lifetime.
If you spend any amount of time away from home base, whether it’s hiking through the Tongass National Forest, sightseeing at Chichen Itza, hauling your camera gear to a wedding photo shoot, or just attending an out-of-town conference, then you’re going to need a sturdy bag to carry your necessities. After several years of journeying with cheap bags, I finally realized that if this is an important item I use on a regular basis, then a higher quality bag is worth the extra money. My search for a proper bag led me to the Saddleback Leather Large Leather Satchel. It was the right size and made of the right stuff, it has done a great job for the past 6 months, and its classic design is the right look.
Saddleback Leather makes all of their bags with full grain leather, but several months ago, they unveiled a new controversial leather style for all of their products. It is still full grain, but now the natural scarring and marking from the life of the cow aren’t cut away and are clearly seen on the finished bags. It’s not necessarily a design that fits everyone’s style, it’s not what I would call chic or suave, but it’s a rugged look that many will certainly find appealing.
I bought the new tobacco color. Saddleback’s previous tobacco color didn’t interest me–it was too light and too yellow. However, all the pictures of this new tobacco color on Saddleback’s website showed it as a rich color with much more character. When it arrived in the mail, I first thought they accidentally sent me a dark coffee brown satchel–it’s much darker than all of the pictures on their website. I emailed them with pictures, but they assured me it was indeed tobacco. Ultimately it’s still a beautiful color and texture, but unfortunately the real-life color is not quite as beautiful as the official pictures.
The aesthetic of this bag is simple; the large pieces of leather and double stitching complemented by the straps and buckles make for a classic design. The leather, with its barbwire scars and cattle-prod scars from the cow, is beautiful. Despite the slight downtick for the color not being quite as light as I thought it would, this satchel is still an amazing looking bag. In a sea of cheap backpacks and bags, this one is certainly eye-catching. Be prepared to get noticed (and most likely complimented). I would make it our dining room centerpiece if my wife would let me.
The large version of the Saddleback Leather Satchel (pictured in this article) is 14 inches wide, 11 inches high, and 5 inches deep. It’s made up of only two main pieces of leather–the front flap curves over the top and down the back, around to both sides, and then curves under the bottom to meet the large front panel. Fewer pieces mean less seams, which in turn means a more durable bag with less points to wear down or break. All of the seams are double stitched and the stress points are reinforced with rivets.
There are no zippers or snaps at all on this bag. Those tend to break or wear down quickly on a bag that gets used regularly. Instead, this satchel has ten D-rings in strategic places all over, and a large O-ring on the back behind the handle. The shoulder strap clips onto the D-rings with a dog leash-like clasp, and the front flap secures into a large buckle. All of the hardware is nickel-plated brass, and after more than six months of use it’s showing no signs of damage or wear, and it works like the day I got it.
Saddleback’s relatively newer leather style is noticeably softer than older versions. It strikes that delicate balance between soft and supple, while remaining tough and durable. This is especially evident with the pigskin. Whereas with previous versions you wouldn’t be able to scratch or scuff the pigskin at all, this newer kind is considerably softer and scratches and scuffs just as easily as the rest of the bag. The only downside of this leather is when friends or strangers catch you groping it–the thick material folds and bends softly–and really, that’s why we love leather so much.
The large version of the Saddleback Leather Large Leather Satchel is mainly one large open compartment on the inside. It’s not neat and tidy; it’s a free-for-all for whatever you can fit in there. I once had in there a winter coat along with a camera, first aid kit, notebook, and various other smaller objects. The leather stretches bulges and stretches, and it looks beautiful when it does, so it can be pretty accommodating. There are outside and inside pockets on either side, and they can easily fit a phone, knife, or other small water bottle, and can stretch a little to fit a medium sized water bottle. The back pocket runs along the entire back side, and is useful for sliding in loose flat items like newspapers. Running the entire length of the inside is a pigskin flap, which is perfect for sliding in a notebook or folder while the bag is already packed full of other stuff.
The bag weighs about five pounds by itself. If you’re hiking with it over your shoulder and you have it loaded full of stuff, it can get heavy after a couple of miles. Likewise, having it flapping around while biking can be cumbersome. Fortunately by attaching the strap clasps to the bottom back D-rings and running the strap through the large O-ring, it converts easily into a backpack mode. This is perfect for carrying a heavier load or doing more strenuous activities. The way the satchel is rounded at the bottom means it fits comfortably as a backpack. I wore mine like this while hiking, skiing, biking, and various other activities and didn’t feel a bit of discomfort.
Best Leather Conclusion
This is a great travel or adventure bag. It’s versatile and large enough to carry anything you’d need while spending a day away from home. The rugged look of the scarred leather might not be everyone’s cup of coffee, but the bag is durable and the classic design has adventure written all over it. If you’re considering buying this bag then do yourself a favor and go for it.
The Saddleback LeatherSide Pocket Duffle is a redesigned weekender bag from Saddleback Leather. The very first thing I noticed when opened up the box was the rich, beautiful color. I own several SBL pieces in chestnut, but when I saw this one, my jaw dropped. It is positively gorgeous. I thought my other pieces were great looking, but it shocked me to see an exemplar of this idyllic hue in the real world. My other chestnut pieces are beautiful, but the color on SBL’s updated chestnut is somehow even richer…
If a bag is something you use every day, then sooner or later you’ll come to realize that it’s worth the money to invest in something of better quality. One year ago I was in this predicament and I finally decided to bite the bullet and spend a little more on a leather briefcase. I wanted something durable that would last, as well as something functional and easy on the eyes. When the mail arrived with my Saddleback Leather Large Thin Briefcase I knew I had made the right choice.
After opening the clear plastic packaging and slipping the briefcase out, I immediately noticed the aroma of the fresh leather. You know the smell. Before I examined the bag any further, I had to first bring it close to my face and take a few seconds to enjoy the scent–something I’ve repeated many times since.
Saddleback Leather is known for their classic briefcase. It is a beautiful design, but at 9 inches deep, it is a little too big for my tastes. The thin briefcase is a 4 1/2 inch deep version of the same design, minus the cool belts that wrap around the whole bag.
I originally got the medium, but as soon as I opened the package I knew it was too small. At 15 inches wide, it looked too small in my hand and too small over my shoulder. The carrying capacity was fine; I was able to snuggly fit my 15 inch Asus laptop in it, but it just didn’t look right to me. I am not a huge guy (I’m about 5 feet 10 inches tall with broad shoulders), but it looked like a mini briefcase on my frame. So I contacted Saddleback and exchanged it for the large, which their customer service made very easy for me.
As soon as I saw the Large Thin Briefcase, I knew I had made the right decision. It’s 17 inches wide, 12 1/2 inches tall, and 4 1/2 inches deep. Like all of Saddleback’s bags it’s made from full grain leather and doesn’t have any zippers, snaps, or anything like that. Instead it’s all straps, buckles, and D-rings.
The aesthetic is classic and the design is functional, but it’s not for everyone. I don’t necessarily see it as a slick accessory for an executive in the boardroom. It is more suited to a photographer lugging gear around the city or a young professor carrying documents across campus. However you choose to use it though, be prepared to get noticed and receive compliments.
The more I have used this bag, the more beautiful it has become. Over time, it has collected scratches, scuffs, and wrinkles that make for a beautiful patina. As the leather softens and develops more character, it only adds to the classic and already attractive design of the bag. And with Saddleback’s 100 year warranty, you’re guaranteed to be able to use this briefcase for a lifetime.
Some other bags you’ll come across will have seams at the edges of the bottom, or a seam down the middle of the bottom, which binds multiple smaller pieces of leather. But each seam is a potential weak point, which is a problem for someone who wants their briefcase to last a lifetime. Saddleback’s thin briefcase is made up of only four main pieces of leather: the front flap going around all the way down the back, the front panel, and the two gussets that run the entire length of the bag.
It is all double-stitched and the stress areas are reinforced with copper and brass rivets, as well as hidden polyester strips. The hardware is nickel-plated brass and can hold up well against any abuse you’d give it.
On the inside it’s made up of two main compartments, with a pigskin pocket and two side pockets in the front compartment, and a simple open compartment in the back. The inside is lined with pigskin, which is incredibly tough stuff made to reinforce the already tough full grain leather. An additional full-sized pocket runs along the back of the briefcase. There aren’t a ton of compartments, it’s more of a minimalist approach, and with the lack of zippers and pockets it might not to be to some people’s liking.
It’s surprising how much can be packed into this thin briefcase. I carry it with me every day and it is typically filled with my laptop, notebooks, lunch bag, pens, knife, folders, and often much more. The more you pack in, the more the leather stretches and bulges to accommodate a full capacity. Is it heavy? Yes–compared to many of the other options out there, especially a canvas bag. But it’s tough leather and in my opinion looks much better, so it’s a trade-off you’ll have to consider. Do not expect this briefcase to float in the air behind you, but it will not bend your spine, either.
This briefcase has been used almost every day back and forth from my house to my office, and the leather has softened considerably, especially in the front strap and shoulder strap. The front flap in particular has developed a lot of wrinkles, but there is not any cracking, nor anything that is not natural for leather.
You can put it in backpack mode by running the strap through the large O-ring on the back, but I never have a need to use it that way. I removed one of the shoulder strap pads because I only wear it across the body over my shoulder. Except for a little bit of fuzz on the handle, the stitching has held together well. And despite getting a heavy amount of usage, there are no signs on the hardware of wear, weakness, or anything broken.
Best Leather Conclusion
Ultimately I’m very happy with the Saddleback Leather Large Thin Briefcase and I recommend it to anyone who relies on a briefcase or bag to carry their stuff around on a regular basis. It’s a little bit heavier and might not have all the compartments and zippers some like, but it’s strong leather that will carry your gear for decades to come, all while developing a beautiful patina. If you don’t have a briefcase from Saddleback Leather yet, I recommend either going to buy one or start saving.
Saddleback Leather has multiple styles of wallets to choose fron. This review will cover the Saddleback Leather Small Bi-fold Wallet in Tobacco and Black (and it seems they do not even have the black color available any longer). The wallets come in two other colors; chestnut and carbon (a grayish color). I do plan on purchasing the other colors to see which I like best, especially after they have developed a nice patina. Patina is a shiny or dark surface that forms naturally on something such as wood or leather that is used and or worn for a certain period of time. Here is a great example of patina. Upon the six month and year follow up reviews there will be pictures posted so you can see the developed patina.
Some companies have awesome packaging that somehow sends you back to your favorite Christmas, yet this is not so with Saddleback. But even though the packaging may not be overdone the product you receive certainly will be.
Some Initial Details
The first thing that stood out was the smell. That true leather smell is so delicious. Among many things, the smell was what I kept showing and telling people about. Then after some odd looks I would explain that the wallet only cost about $36. I could not get over the fact that I had purchased a full grain leather wallet that people were raving about for less than 50 bucks. Saddleback did not disappoint. The wallet has aged for about three months and the smell, unfortunately, has worn less pungent than I would like. Yet as the smell has declined the quality of craftsmanship is really starting to show off.
When you receive your wallet do not be shocked by the stiffness of it. This is how a lot of good leather starts off before the user breaks it in. At first, barely any bills fit into the slot (unless you put some strength and finesse into it); yet that has slowly gotten easier over the last three months. The bottom right corner on the face of the wallet has “Saddleback” stamped on it and the bottom right inside flap has Blue, Dave Munson’s (the founder and owner of Saddleback Leather) late dog stamped on it.
Six cards can barely fit in each card slot (more will go in if you really want them to). There are two card slots. When accessing cards be aware that you might be tempted to take out all of the cards, shuffle through them, and then pick which one you want. It is possible to leave all the cards in the slot and nimbly pick through them depending on how many cards you are going to put in each slot. The wallet is geared more toward a minimalist tool and I normally carry four cards max in each side and it fits them perfectly. Currently I have four bills in the bill slot with 4 paper punch cards, one stamp, and a receipt from Papa Murphy’s. All of it fits great with room for more. The bills have enough room to go deep enough as to not stick out, which is admirable. For those of you who usually put a giant rock-sized thing called a wallet in your back pocket, this might be the cure the doctor has for you to minimize the things you carry and be a little easier on your body. When I received it I definitely had to go through and prioritize the things I actually need to carry.
Quick Aside of Dave’s Deals
So how was this product obtained for only $36? Dave’s Deals. Since his products are hand made (another star for him) sometimes small mistakes are made, usually in the stitching. He will then mark down the product by as much as 25%, depending on the flaw. Each flaw will be different. On the wallet I purchased, the only flaws were about four places where the stitch must have been messed up so they re-stitched it. Now it looks just a little thicker than the normal stitch. There is slight fraying from one of the stitching flaws but if it ever breaks I will happily let them uphold their warranty.
I will add some thoughts and updates as time goes on to see how this wallet ages but these three months make me think that there is going to be much enjoyment of this great product for years to come. My family just might fight over it when I am dead. This is a great purchase for a wallet especially since it is in the lower price range for such a good quality product, Dave’s Deals or not. Make sure to check back in the following months for updates and let me know your thoughts if you own or have had a significant encounter with the wallet. Overall the Saddleback Leather Small Bi-fold Wallet was a great purchase.
[Congratulations to Nick S. for winning this beautiful Saddleback Leather bag out of 13,000 entries. He told me he would be using the bag for traveling and overnight trips!]
The Saddleback Leather Side Pocket Duffle is a redesigned weekender bag from Saddleback Leather. The very first thing I noticed when opened up the box was the rich, beautiful color. I own several SBL pieces in chestnut, but when I saw this one, my jaw dropped. It is positively gorgeous. I thought my other pieces were great looking, but it shocked me to see an exemplar of this idyllic hue in the real world. My other chestnut pieces are beautiful, but the color on SBL’s updated chestnut is somehow even richer.
For all of its beauty, however, there is what (initially) seems like a huge red flag: the strap containing the buckles that secure the side pocket flaps is fixed to the main pocket flap. It is just one long strap across the top of the bag that gets threaded through loops on the side pocket flaps and buckled to the side pockets themselves. This means that you cannot open the main pocket without the side pockets being unfastened. Either you travel with your side pockets unfastened, or you have to open three buckles every time you want to get into your main compartment. Opening the main flap all the way requires you to unthread that strap from the side pocket flaps. If you were opening the bag many times per day, this could get quite old.
When I first saw this, I was surprised. Saddleback is typically very thoughtful in their designs. SURELY, they know best and there is some brilliant reason for this that I will love once I figure it out. SURELY, they would not offer a bag with such an obvious design flaw. It seems that Dave uses his prototypes for something like 20 years to perfect them, sending a complimentary bag to Jesus of Nazareth by angelic courier via Jacob’s Ladder, and offering the remainder for sale to the rest of us.
Then I remembered that this is luggage! The majority of my Saddleback Leather products happen to be everyday use items (like my backpack). But not so much with this one; you will put all your travel goodies in it and only open it up when you arrive. More than likely, it will stay open on the hotel bed until you depart.
As usual, you can see pictures and a 3D model of the bag on the Saddleback website, and you can see Dave handling the bag and commenting on it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kcf_gd-QNUQ. Also, as is par for the course, there are a number of reviews floating around on the web. The reviews on the site and on Amazon are standard SBL fare—the kind of glowing testimonials you would expect on an SBL piece.
One issue that kept coming up is whether or not it fits into the overhead bins on various aircraft. One reviewer said it did not fit “easily” into an overhead bin on an aircraft flown by Southwest, though I assume that it ultimately did fit. Another said it fit easily into an overhead bin on a Jet Blue airplane, and a flyer in a Delta MD80 did not have any issues. In the video, Dave basically says it fits until it does not, in which case it fits below your seat. Based on the dimensions on Saddleback’s website (20.25” x 10” x 11.25”), it should be well within most airline carry-on size restrictions. If you are truly worried, you can lookup the dimensions acceptable to your airline for your upcoming flight at www.seatguru.com.
For all of my complaining about the top flap, the five straps do add more security for checking the bag if it is unable to be a carry-on, and the flap is generous enough to keep out heavy precipitation (the lack of which on my Rustic Leather mailbag—despite how much I love it—plagues me).
Users also seem to disagree about the utility of the interior pocket. In the video, Dave explains that it is for muddy sandals, sweaty clothes, or seashells (basically, anything you’d rather keep separate from your other garments). I say brilliant. Cut it out if it truly bothers you. It’s supposed to be floppy, but, being constructed from that nice pigskin, the one in this bag is fairly rigid (for now).
It’s nice to see that the interior pocket is merely pigskin, and not the leather/pigskin sandwich that used to be used for literally every panel and pocket everywhere. I have an older version of the backpack, which I love, but it is quite heavy. A lot of the pigskin is just unnecessary, and it seems Saddleback has become sensitive to that. This duffle, like the newer backpacks, is constructed using a more appropriate use of pigskin (for example, the side pockets are unlined), which keeps the duffel a bit lighter.
Another deliberate aspect of the design, which I was glad to have pointed out to me, is the flat handle. I love the round briefcase handle and wish my backpack had the same. For me, it is much more satisfying to hold the rigid, round handles than the flat ones. However, they can cause problems for a bag of these dimensions when being stuffed into an overhead bin.
From a practical standpoint, this bag should have enough space for the average adult to comfortably pack for a 2-3 day trip, minus any speciality equipment or bulky warm clothing. That said, you can fit your blueprints, map tubes, or harpoons right underneath the top flap of this bag and still fasten it closed, if you run the top strap through slits designed for this purpose. The side pockets can fit about three cans of beer.
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!
The Saddleback Leather MacBook Pro Retina Sleeve is a simple product meant to house and protect the Macbook Pro. I already had an inexpensive, foam type sleeve for my 15″ Macbook Pro. I decided that my beautiful Macbook needed to be sheathed in something more worthy, something a little more elegant, so when I found the Macbook Sleeve from Saddleback Leather, I did not think twice and bought it.
The sleeve is obviously pretty simple in it’s function – to house and protect your Mac. The function goes a lot deeper than that though. A sleeve or bag is pretty worthless if it does not protect your computer in the case of a drop, or bump, or coffee spill. The Macbook Sleeve from Saddleback does all of these things well.
As is Saddleback’s forte, they use thick four to five ounce leather, and then slap a layer of pigskin on top of that. For the Macbook Sleeve, they used three pieces of leather – a strip about one and a quarter inches thick that runs from one side down the bottom to the other side. That strip is connected to each side by a large piece of leather. This combination of thick leather and method of construction means that you have very thick edges, which serve very well to protect the computer, in the case of a drop, though I have not purposely tested this yet. Maybe when my macbook is on its last legs I can do some serious drop tests.
The other thing I noticed is that the leather seems to have a bit more padding than what normal leather would provide. You can read on Saddleback’s site that they actually sandwich high density neoprene between leather on some of their products for extra padding, like in their desk pad. This neoprene helps to act as a shock absorber, in the case of a fall. This certainly gives the sleeve a lot more function than without it, and doesn’t detract from the aesthetic of the Sleeve.
Another thing that I liked about the Sleeve is the attention to small details. The top of the sleeve, where you slide the computer into, leaves about one quarter of an inch between the leather and the computer, which further serves to protect the computer on the top side. I appreciate this attention to detail, which lesser quality products don’t have.
Also, the computer slips snugly into the sleeve without a lot of effort, but also keeps the computer in the sleeve without easily slipping out. Anyone that has made quality leather goods themselves, knows that this is not easy to make a product so precise, that an eighth of an inch off either way could mean a product being too tight or too loose. It has to be just right every time. To further improve the Sleeve’s aesthetics, it is double stitched with tough polyester thread all the way around the Sleeve. Though the Sleeve would probably be sufficiently tough without the second layer of stitching, the second layer adds to it’s beauty.
At $83, the Sleeve is not a cheap case, of course, but for what you get, it has high value. You can find other leather sleeves for less, and a number for a lot more. The price point is actually quite attractive considering you are getting a sleeve that is made out of the best possible leather, looks as beautiful as the computer itself, and will last the life of the computer, and many more after that.
I don’t have any major criticisms to levy at the Macbook Sleeve, but if there was a suggestion box on Saddleback’s site, I would recommend a strap to ensure that your Mac never comes out of its sleeve, in case of heavy jolting, or if the leather stretches a bit over time. I understand that there would be a tradeoff to the svelte appearance of the Sleeve if that were the case, but that’s a tradeoff I would take.
The Macbook Sleeve looks gorgeous and makes a serious fashion statement, while keeping a very attractive price point. If you’ve got a Macbook Pro, and you want a beautiful piece of housing, you won’t be disappointed with the Macbook Sleeve from Saddleback.