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.

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