Waterfield FIELD Leather Backpack Review — $249

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

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

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



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

Not so with the Field Backpack.

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Waterfield ZIP Laptop Briefcase Review — $219

UX (user experience) is a big topic in the Bay Area. And it’s not only important with software, but also with the briefcase that carries your hardware. It’s real meta. I like that.

This briefcase I’m about to tell you about has the perfect UX.

It’s the second iteration of Waterfield’s ZIP Laptop Brief, and it’s clear they paid close attention to the smallest details. In fact, my first draft of this review began with, “Wow, wow, wow. This bag is amazing!”

I still feel that way.


Deciding to Buy

The positive user experience started even before I made the purchase. When you’re buying online, it’s often hard to get a sense of the spatial aspect of products, but Gary, the founder of Waterfield, makes hands-on videos of everything they sell. His video overview gave me the sense of the size and dimensions, and I felt like this was the right product before I’d ever handled it myself.

I wanted a briefcase for my laptop and tablet and a few extras, but I didn’t want a bunch of unnecessary pockets that would complicate storing and finding things. The ZIP matches those criteria perfectly. It’s super sleek, just the right amount of bag and nothing extra.

Now I carry it when I travel, and I put my most valuable things inside. There’s not a bit of waste in the design, which might be a problem if you’re hoping to carry a lot, but it works great for my style.



I’ve ordered and used a lot of Waterfield bags, and this is the first time I’ve strayed from the waxed canvas with grizzly leather (which I’ve loved, and which is still an option for you, but this time I wanted a change).

The ballistic black is a cool synthetic textile. It’s clean but also sturdy and feels like it could take a lot of wear (though admittedly I haven’t had it long enough to verify that). It’s also incredibly water resistant. The leather accents look great with the black, giving it a bit more class. Personally, I like the look, but you can make that call yourself from the pictures.

The front pocket is hidden. The back looks super sleek–all black without significant seams. I just like the visual appeal overall.


Traveling with It

The grip on the inside of the shoulder pad clings, so it stays on well. If you want extra security, it’s comfortable wearing across your chest with the brief at your back. And the whole strap is removable, for when you want to be more streamlined. Oh, and it has a strap designed to slide over your luggage handle, making it an easy extra.

The zipper has a watershed design so you can carry your electronics in the rain without worry. I even tested this out: I put a tissue on the inside and then drenched the zipper with my water bottle, but nothing got through. I was surprised and impressed.

When the briefcase is zipped up, it’s thin and doesn’t take up much space. And it’ll even stand up on its own, though not too stably (depending on the weight and position of what’s inside).

The zipper also lets you open the briefcase 180 degrees, so it’ll lie flat on a table. This makes it TSA friendly, ideal for getting quickly through airport security. I’ve found this to be helpful when using the bag as a workstation too. It makes it easier to access things when you can lay it all the way open like that. And when you’re ready to go, you just grab the handles and everything folds to the inside. I love how simple and functional it is.


Delightful Details

This second iteration of Waterfield’s ZIP has only gotten more refined. For example, the zipper is positioned to one side, directly above the laptop slot, making it easier to access your primary item.

Another of my favorite UX design features is that you can charge your laptop while it’s still in the bag! They cut out a little notch to accommodate the power cord even while the bag is zipped up. What a clever thing to think of!

Oh, and as usual, Waterfield uses a gold inner liner, which not only looks good but also reflects light really well, making it easier to see your things (unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to the padded parts, which are the hardest places to see things).


Where to Put Stuff

On the inside, it has a couple padded pockets for power cords or a mouse. Next to these is another of my favorite features–a dedicated spot for your digital pen, where it won’t get lost.

On the opposite side are two additional padded slots, a larger one for a laptop, and a smaller one for a tablet. There’s also a velcro strap to keep them in place, but that’s a feature I generally don’t bother to use.

Between these two halves, there’s enough room to squeeze an extra shirt or other odds and ends.

The outside has a zipper guarding a pocket that rests flush with the side, but it’s designed to expand to accommodate more stuff if need be. It’s a good spot for your keys, wallet, or emergency floss.

The zippers on both this compartment and the larger one give me confidence that my stuff will never fall out, no matter what kind of turbulence we go through.



I’ve gone through several laptop bags, always looking for the optimal solution. The Waterfield ZIP Laptop Brief has been my favorite of the lot, and I’m grateful to have found it.

It’s thin and sleek, has sufficient pockets for what I need, but doesn’t go overboard like a lot of its competitors. It’s simple, functional, and looks great.

Most of all, it’s a bag I love using.




Waterfield Bolt Crossbody Leather Laptop Bag Review — $199

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Waterfield Designs Syde MacBook Case Review — $159

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


Waterfield Designs Vitesse Messenger Bag Review — $159

Vitesse is a French noun meaning speed. The word suggests a European zest combined with rapid utility. It’s the perfect name for the Waterfield Designs Vitesse Messenger Bag. The bag is simple, lightweight, and has a certain flair in its design.




About Waterfield Designs

Waterfield is a San Francisco based company, and they seem quite tech savvy. Their products are designed with phones, tablets, and laptops in mind. You can get a feel for their team by watching some of the videos on their site. The founder, Gary, is featured in many of these, and he’s kind and friendly as he gives you details on the designs. Overall, the team gives the impression that they’re proud of their products, and for good reason.





Let’s start with the leather, which on this design is minimal. Distressed leather straps hold the flap down, and the holes fit snugly around black metal screw studs; this combo at first seemed too tight, but after using it awhile they loosened up and now are the perfect fit. The bag also has a leather briefcase-style handle on the top, which I’ve found convenient and have used quite a bit.

The bag is made primarily of canvas. It’s thin and lightweight, as is the strap. The bag on the whole isn’t at all heavy. It’s also mostly without structure, so it can fold up and go inside another bag. It would be perfect to take empty to Europe and bring home full of souvenirs.

On the flip side, because it’s relatively thin, don’t expect it to provide a lot of protection to whatever you put inside. If you’re carrying a laptop, you’ll want to put it inside of a padded case, and then slip that into the large interior pocket on the inside.





The designers seem to have put a lot of thought into the details.

Even at its longest, the strap is fairly short, which keeps you from having to deal with the slack getting tangled or in the way. And I’ve found that wearing it shorter gives me more control, which is perfect if you’re sprinting through an action sequence or doing some casual parkour. I like to push the bag to hang at my lower back when I’m on the move, and I swing it around to the front when I need quick access.

The bag has a pair of pockets on the outside which you can get to even when the flap is down. They’re sealed with these sweet looking black, waterproof zippers. Altogether, this feature made me want to applaud the designers. It’s so convenient to access your phone and keys without having to open the top. Again, great for when you’re on the run. There are also three hand pockets on the inside, which are great for small stuff you don’t want getting lost inside.

The interior is pretty spacious. You might be surprised by what you can fit in it. For example, when I carried a large tripod inside, the flap wouldn’t close on one side, but I could still secure the other side, and that held it in securely. The straps also have two holes each, which lets you fit things of different sizes.





I love the colors!

The hues are slightly muted, both the canvas and the leather. The canvas gray hints at a brownish green. The leather has a warm tone, but muted and calm. (But if the color doesn’t do it for you, you can also get it in navy or a deep burgundy.)

This bag politely doesn’t demand attention. Yet it’s pretty classy—nice enough to accompany a business-casual outfit, but it also goes great with jeans and a baseball cap.



BestLeather Conclusion

The Waterfield Designs Vitesse Messenger Bag is lightweight and collapsible, yet spacious. And I’ve liked it so much that sometimes I’m tempted to bring extra things with me just so I have a reason to carry it. It’s an excellent companion for an on-the-move sort of protagonist.



WaterField Designs Field Tote Review – $119

To quote Ezra Koenig of indie rock band Vampire Weekend, “I find it hard to choose which tote to take out into the world. All those hours spent staring into my tote nook – I can’t get them back.”

I feel you, Ezra. There’s so many great totes out there, it’s tough to decide sometimes. Let’s take a look at the WaterField Designs Field Tote, made of waxed canvas and full grain leather.

Waterfield Designs Field Tote 5


WaterField Designs was founded in 1998 by Gary Waterfield, who now leads the design process at his San Francisco workshop. Each product is designed and manufactured in small batches by artisans at the WaterField production center in San Francisco, CA.They make everything from gadget sleeves to handsome tote bags to Surface Pro covers, and their small, local operation allows them to quickly get multiple styles and sizes up and running (like sleeves for both Apple and Android devices), and they also crank out covers for random electronics like the Apple Superdrive, Apple TV, or even your wireless keyboard.Waterfield Designs Field Tote 1 From their website:

“We cut out the clutter with simple and focused design. We are mindful of how bags hang on your body, how cases protect your devices, and making them lightweight and easily accessible. Customers also influence what we make. Our most popular products came from customers requesting a certain feature, bag, or case.”

Waterfield Designs Field Tote 2AESTHETIC & CONSTRUCTION

The Field Tote is made of beautiful waxed canvas with full-grain veg-tanned leather as trim. The body of the tote is 14″ by 8″ by 4″ wide. The front pocket has a leather and metal closure that stays nice and snug. There is also a metal key ring on the outside for clipping on your keys with ease. A small zippered pocket hangs in the interior of the bag.

Waterfield Designs Field Tote 4

The waxed canvas is beautiful and textured, and its distressed look adds a unique element to the bag’s aesthetic. The waxy brown pullup leather is stitched with sturdy nylon. The leather is simple, attractive, and compliments it well. The Field Tote comes in brown, burgundy, and navy, which is mine. A word of warning to dog and cat owners: The waxy canvas on this tote picks up and retains fur like no other, so consider purchasing this bag in the lighter brown color if your furry friends like to shed.

Waterfield Designs Field Tote 7


The design of the Field Tote was thought through very thoroughly. It is made to be entirely collapsible, so you can put your bag in a bag for extra carry space while traveling. The sides of the bag also have a subtle gusset effect so the bag lays flat when it’s empty or doesn’t have much in it. This means that it can expand to hold quite a bit when necessary – it’s easy to pack a couple sweaters in there without them spilling out. This makes the Field Tote quite versatile and a great bag to use (or pack) for a trip.

Waterfield Designs Field Tote 9

The straps are long and comfortable, and the bag is a perfect size and light weight for carrying anywhere. With a strap drop of approximately 9.75″, it’s easy to set this up on your shoulder and carry it. There is a nice amount of pockets to hold smaller items. The outside pocket is perfect for storing your phone so you don’t have to dig around for it in the bag.



The Waterfield Designs Field Tote is a great tote. At $119, it’s also pretty affordable for a full-grain waxed canvas tote made in the United States. This is a great choice if you are looking for something compact and versatile. It looks and feels like a high-end bag, but with a reasonable price point. Its modern and stylish, but won’t go out of style any time soon.

Waterfield Designs Field Tote 6

Waterfield Designs Razor Case Review – $30

Sometimes it’s the little things that please you the most. Here’s a question for those of you who use a traditional safety razor: have you ever cut yourself or sliced into something else while trying to retrieve your razor from your dopp kit? Chances are pretty high that you can answer “yes” to that question. Safety razors are great – but they’re not really that safe. Great news though – the folks at WaterField Designs have created a great case to house your safety razor. Best of all, it’s leather and looks fantastic.


About WaterField Designs

WaterField Designs is based in San Francisco, CA. They design and manufacture all of their bags in the same location. Take a minute (actually a minute and a half) and watch the Gary WaterField discuss his company.


The ingenious WaterField Designs Razor Case is constructed of what they describe as “full grain grizzly brown leather”. It also features a self-locking YKK zipper with a nice sturdy pull on it. The interior is lined with a retro styled, geometric patterned, water resistant fabric liner. The seams are all tucked inside of the bag creating a nice smooth exterior look.



I don’t have an iKon safety razor, which is the genesis for this case. I certainly wish I owned one of those great razors. Instead, I own a much cheaper version – but it still gets the job done. The Razor Case will easily house any conventional, classically styled safety razor. And, as a bonus, there is plenty of room to slip in a 5 pack of razor blades too.

The case sits easy in your hand and isn’t bulky. The zipper is easy to manipulate and locks into place, which is a nice feature and will keep your razor safely tucked inside.



The full grain grizzly leather looks and feels great. The interior lining is smooth and looks fantastic. I wish that the zipper didn’t have a plastic coated pull. The plastic pull seems out of place on this item. My opinion is that the case would look much better with a metal zipper and a brass or nickel zipper pull. I think that would set it off nicely. Perhaps they’ll create a couple more versions with those components to match up better with your choice of razor. In spite of that minor shortcoming, I think the case looks really nice.



The one thing that always concerns me when I travel with my safety razor is reaching in to my dopp kit and getting sliced by it. Yes, I know that I can remove the blade – but I don’t always remember to do it. This little case solves that safety issue and houses my razor in some awesome looking leather. How great is that? The $30 price point for the WaterField Designs Razor Case is completely acceptable due to the solid construction, unique lining, and uniqueness. I look forward to using this little case on many, many trips.