≡ Menu > Menu

Saddleback Leather Company Briefcase Review

I love leather gear bags. Not the froo-froo kind though. I’m talking about the more rugged style of leather bags. The kind that Indiana Jones might appreciate if he was a real person. The kind of bag that might be able to tell stories if it could talk. The kind of bag that isn’t made on an assembly line, but in a more personal setting. Bags from the Saddleback Leather Company of Texas fit this criteria and according to owner Dave Munson, these are the kind of bags that your grandkids will fight over when you’re dead. Sounds good enough to me, let’s take a closer look…

The Saddleback Leather Company sells four types of leather products. They sell briefcases, satchels, suitcases and messenger bags. I was sent their medium sized Light Tobacco Brown briefcase to review. This style of bag is available in four sizes (S, M, L, XL) and four colors (Light Tobacco Brown, Chestnut Reddish Brown, Dark Coffee Brown and Carbon Black).

Upon first seeing this product, I was struck by its robust look and feel. I had an overwhelming urge to beat my chest like Tarzan or something… I resisted that urge though as I’m a girl and it just wouldn’t look right ;o) This bag has been built to last. I mean really last. Saddleback Leather bags are constructed of 4-5 ounce full grain leather, which comes from the top layer of the cow hide (the toughest part).

You’ll notice if you look closely at my pictures, that you can see scuffs, scrapes and blemishes on the surface of the leather. If you like your bags to look perfect and pristine, you probably won’t like these bags. Personally, I think they look very cool and give the bag character.

The briefcase has a large flap that is held closed by three straps with buckles. You don’t have to fasten all three buckles though. I would leave the outer straps tucked under and would just fasten the middle buckle. You’ll also notice an adjustable shoulder strap and a convenient grab handle at the top of the bag.

The flap straps wrap around the bottom of the bag, to give it stability. If you like, you can stow an umbrella, newspaper or tripod under these straps. You can even remove the straps completely. It’s up to you.

There are only three pockets on the exterior of the briefcase. One on either end, that can hold items such as your cellphone. My Treo 680 fit fine. The other pocket is located on the back of the bag and can accommodate a standard sized magazine (the top of the magazine sticks above the flap by about 2 inches with my Medium sized briefcase).

You might notice the extra metal rings on this bag. You can use them to attach key rings and other items. Three of them are also used when you convert the bag from shoulder style to backpack style. More about that in a bit.

All of the hardware used on the briefcase is super sturdy. From the buckles to the rivets, these bags are made to last a lifetime. In the picture above, you can also get a good look at the quality stitching and the thickness of the leather.

I really like the grab handle which is made of a large comfortable roll of leather. Once you have a gear bag with a grab handle, you’ll never want one without it. It makes taking the bag in and out of a car so much easier.

Unbuckle the main flap to gain access to the interior of the bag. As you will notice, there aren’t any pockets on the exterior, under the flap. I kinda wish there was at least one flat pocket for papers or other thin items.

The interior of the Medium sized bag is separated into two main compartments. The back compartment is completely open and can be used for a laptop, books or other larger items. A 10 inch strap of leather with a spring clip for your keys is riveted to the divider wall. There is a false bottom in the back section. A leather flap lifts up so that you can hide flat items such as your passport or extra cash.

The front section of the bag has four open topped pockets sewn into the sides. One on each outside edge and then two on the center divider wall.

Here’s what the briefcase looks like loaded with some of my stuff. My 15″ Macbook Pro fits in the back slot. It’s a snug fit though and would not allow for an additional protective sleeve. In the front section, I have a couple of my favorite Waterfield gear pouches, along with a Waterfield Design wallet in one of the pockets. In the other pocket, I have a checkbook and my iPhone. The side pockets have pens and other small items.

Here I am wearing the bag bandolier style. For reference, I’m 5’6″ and weigh 125lbs. It looks great doesn’t it? It’s an eye catching bag, that’s for sure. But here’s the thing… This bag is heavy. Empty, the bag weighs in at 6 lbs. 11 oz. That’s with absolutely nothing in it at all. Load it up with your gear and it’s going to give you a work out. At least it did for me… Maybe I’m just a shrimpy wimp though. ;o)

You can convert the bag to wear like a backpack. For heavier loads, this may be more comfortable. To convert it, you detach the shoulder strap, reattach one end to the bottom metal D-ring, pass the other end of the strap through the large metal ring near the grab handle, then reattach the end of the shoulder strap to the opposite bottom D-ring.

The shoulder pads can then be adjusted for just the right fit. Adjusting the straps to wear this bag backpack style is a bit tricky though and might not work for everyone, depending on their size.

Although I am able to wear the bag this way, I couldn’t quite get the fit just the way I wanted it. I almost wish there was another strap to go across my front.

I’ve been extremely impressed with the materials and workmanship of the Saddleback Leather Company Briefcase. I have no doubts that it will last longer on this planet than I will. It has a classic simple style that catches eyes better than all those other lame looking designer bags on the market. The only complaint that I have is that it’s heavy. But I suppose if you want a bag made with the kind of materials that will last forever, you will have to deal with the bulk. This issue keeps me from using this briefcase as my every day bag, but on those days when I want to be noticed, I strap it on and bask in all the envious looks I receive.

Small (12 x 10 x 6 inches) – $410.00
Medium (14 x 11 x 9 inches) – $485.00
Large (16 x 12 x 9 inches) – $520.00
Extra Large (18 x 13 x 9 inches) – $545.00

Note: The links to Saddleback Leather Company on this page are affiliate links. If you use one of these links to make a purchase, we will earn a small percentage of the sale, so we appreciate it if you click through.

 

Product Information

Price:$485.00
Manufacturer:Saddleback Leather Company
Requirements:
  • Premium leather gear bag
Pros:
  • Eye catching
  • Quality materials and workmanship - will last forever
  • Can convert into a backpack
Cons:
  • Heavy

{ 99 comments… add one }

  • Julie August 31, 2007, 9:15 pm

    Post your comments on the Saddleback Leather Company Briefcase review.

    http://www.the-gadgeteer.com/review/saddleback_leather_company_briefcase

    Just click the POST REPLY button on this page.

  • HeftyP September 3, 2007, 2:57 am

    I bought my first bag from Dave just over two years ago when he was doing business on eBay. I bought a second (chestnut brown, I believe) as a more “professional” briefcase. Both bags are great, I use one for work and the other as a weekend bag.

    I had problems with the first bag he shipped me. It was a manufaturing problem that wasn’t evident until after the first week. I got in tought with Dave, and he set things straight right away. I just sent my bag in; the problem was not repairable, so he sent me a replacement.

    I highly recommend Dave and Saddleback Leather, and hope to get a suitcase soon.

  • kripaws September 5, 2007, 10:06 pm

    Being an owner of Ghurka and Mulholland satchel bags, I have only one word for my new Saddleback satchel:
    ILUVDISBAG!! Its got the toughness of a saddle bag as well as the pizazz of a designer bag. If you want a bag built to last, is extremely good looking, and is way cool,look no further. I have already given the Ghurka to the wife, and the Mulholland to the eldest of the kids. I have finally found a bag that can “take a beating and keep on ticking”. Highly recommend you visit the Saddleback Leather website, and say hi to the owner Dave Munson for me! Great guy, great product, great service, great price. Nuff said.

  • shrink September 7, 2007, 11:02 am

    Nice review.
    I emailed them twice with questions before I ordered, but never got a reply.
    Guess I’ll look elseware. I really hesitate to do business with companies that ignore consumers.
    alan

  • MarkY September 8, 2007, 8:15 pm

    That’s a beautiful bag and I’d love to get one when my Timbuk2 wears out (assuming it ever does). The only problem I can see is that there are no outside pockets or enough inside pockets to carry small items. If you commute with this bag, I could see it being a hassle if you frequently need to grab things from it.

  • Julie September 8, 2007, 8:24 pm

    MarkY:

    There is an open pocket on each end that is large enough for an iPod or cellphone.

  • Chrisinbalto October 15, 2007, 8:30 pm

    Looks like an awesome bag. Will the bag stand up on its own when the two exterior straps are not secured? I would use this primarily without the two straps on the outside (i’m aslo assuming they can be completely removed). This has been a problem with other bags that I’ve used especially when they are not totally full. How easy is it to access the exterior pockets? Any help would be appreciated.:)

  • Julie October 15, 2007, 8:58 pm

    All of the straps with the exception of the middle buckle strap can be removed. There is no issue with this bag falling over even when totally empty. As for the exterior pockets (side pockets), they ever so slightly hard to access due to the fact that the main bag flap extends over the sides a little bit. So, if you put something very small in one of those pockets, it might be hard to get your hand in there to fish the item out. If you put something that pokes out of the top of the pocket, this will not be an issue. Hope this helps. :)

  • Adolph Cabañas October 26, 2008, 1:33 am

    I got Saddleback Leather’s 16″ x 12″ x 9″ Large Chestnut Briefcase and it is beautiful! I’m very pleased with its superior craftsmanship, quality and elegant style! So far, not a single brand I know of can compare!

    Excellent customer-service, package was in perfect order and shipping time was as promised. So many bags have come and gone! Without a doubt, this Saddleback Briefcase will stay and be with me for many years of service and good looks.

    The 16″ x 12″ x 9″ Large Light Tobacco Brown Briefcase would be a tempting next purchase…

  • Richard December 20, 2008, 6:35 pm

    Amazing bag. I own 5 now and working on 6, 7 and 8 on eBay. The policies for assuring this bag is perfect are so high that they are selling “seconds” on eBay. 1/2 the price and all the guarantee. The “problems” Dave lists are so slight, they are almost unnoticeable. But they are unacceptable as “firsts” for him.

    I have never had problems getting responses from them. In fact, casual conversations happen with the family in near record time on email.

    I am addicted to the quality, workmanship, sheer beauty and rugged toughness of this bag. You couldn’t go wrong.

  • jimmunsw January 7, 2009, 12:18 am

    Dear Julie,
    Thanks for the good review , i love this bag too , so far 6 star for Sbl . I am very satisfied with my buy , worth every cent . But i wonder why /what is the real problem with Alan – shrink of above ? People from Sbl are so accomodating and communicable , they will answer his email some how . But anyway , it ‘s a damm good bag -out of this world , you will have no regrets owning one . Cheers :) jimmunsw

  • George Vrabeck February 18, 2009, 4:17 pm

    Saddleback Leather Company

    I sent a question and received a detailed, very specific reply within two hours. The person that said they didn’t hear from the company after sending an email must have sent it to the wrong address.

  • Steven Hodas March 1, 2009, 12:14 am

    Hi Julie,

    Great review. I’ve also got a 15″ Macbook Pro. That looks like a pretty tight fit: would you have preferred having the large bag rather than the medium? Did you miss being able to use a sleeve? I’ve got a Waterfield padded sleeve as well as one of their microfiber ones, and it would feel weird to just drop it into the bag “unprotected”.

    Thanks,

    Steven

  • Julie March 1, 2009, 9:16 am

    @Steven The medium bag is large enough for me… it’s pretty darned heavy even when empty. If you’re concerned about placing your MBP in it without added protection, then yes, you should probably consider the larger size.

  • Lorraine Grant March 4, 2009, 3:30 pm

    Hi Julie, my bag is the same as this one here and I can hardly carry it when I have my kit for university in it. It weighs in at 14lbs and that’s without any lunch etc. How do you guys manage to heave it about? The women who own one must be very strong!

  • theMama March 10, 2009, 1:28 pm

    This review helped me decide to buy the large briefcase last spring which I love (thank you Julie), but girls, what gives? It’s really not that heavy, I’m the same size as Julie and I have no problem loading up the bag and carrying it around every day. Maybe it’s because I’m a mother of two small children and I carry them around every day as well so I’m used to carrying a lot of weight around, lol!

    Seriously though, these bags are so solid and look so good that if I did have a problem with the heft I would hit the weight room to build up my muscles so that I could carry mine ;)

  • Lorraine Grant March 16, 2009, 5:02 pm

    You got a point there theMama. I am just being wimp like! I start a 16 week work placement soon then go on holiday to Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan so can’t wait to use it then. I really want ti to have the “I’ve been round the world” look.

  • Todd May 11, 2009, 2:16 pm

    Wondering if anyone has thoughts/insight into large v. extra-large. Am 6’1″ attorney. Looking for something I can stuff w/ files and the occasional large book (or two), and perhaps a laptop.

  • Paul May 12, 2009, 7:06 pm

    Todd – I’m about 6′ 2″ and found the XL to be a little too large to look normal. Since a normal legal file folder is around 15″, I thought the XL would be best, but it is just too big.

  • MARIE ANNE May 19, 2009, 3:56 am

    HELLO, I HAD BEEN WANTING TO GET A SADDLEBACK LEATHER COMPANY BRIEFCASE FOR TWO YEARS, BUT PUT IT OFF BECAUSE I COULDN’T JUSTIFY SPENDING THAT MUCH MONEY ON A BAG, UNLESS IT HAD A FANCY NAME LIKE COACH, GUCCI OR LOUIS VUITTON! BUT AS A UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR AND NURSE I NEEDED A BAG THAT WAS STURDY ENOUGH TO TAKE FROM THE CLASS ROOM INTO THE HOSPITAL. I HAVE NOT USED IT, AS OF THIS POSTING I HAVE HAD THE BAG FOR 4 HOURS, IT IS 12 MIDNIGHT, I’M GOING TO USE IT FOR THE FIRST TIME TOMORROW MORNING TO SCHOOL. UPON FIRST OPENING THE BOX, I SMELLED THE HEADY AND INTOXICATING AROMA OR FRESH HIGH GRAIN LEATHER, IT SMELLED LIKE A TACK ROOM, LIKE A NEW SADDLE OR BIT. IT WAS A COMFORTING SMELL, LIKE THE NEW LEATHER SMELL OF A NEW CAR! I PULLED EVERYTHING FROM MY JANSPORT BACKPACK WHICH SAW ME THROUGH VACATIONS THROUGH THE PHILIPPINES, EUROPE, BRAZIL AND OTHER VACATIONS, AND FILLED THE BAG WITH A 8 INCH NETBOOK AND CHARGER, SEVERAL FILE FOLDERS, A NOTEBOOK, A TEXTBOOK, ASSORTED PENS, A STETHOSCOPE, AND MY CELLPHONE AND WALLET. IT FIT PERFECTLY. I HEAVED IT OFF MY DESK AND WAS INITIALLY TAKEN ABACK BY THE WEIGHT…YES IT IS HEAVY, ABOUT 6 LBS EMPTY AND ABOUT 8-9 FILLED. I TRIED ADDING A SIGG WATER BOTTLE BUT IT WAS EVEN HEAVIER. I PUT IT OVER MY SHOULDERS SLING STYLE, AND EVEN THOUGH IT WAS INITIALLY HEAVY, IT SOON FELT OK TO WEAR AFTER SOME ADJUSTMENT. I LOOKED IN THE MIRROR. IT LOOKS A BIT BIG, BEING A 5″ 1′ FEMALE BUT NOT OVERLY SO. I WAS IMPRESSED WITH THE STITCHING, THE RINGS, THE LEATHER ITSELF SEEMS TO BE BUILT TO LAST, I COULD EASILY IMAGINE THIS BAG AS ONE BELONGING TO AN EXPLORER, OR ADVENTURER, EVEN INDIANA JONES HIMSELF! IT SCRATCHES AND SCUFFS EASILY JUS BY DRAGGING I ON MY BED OR A TABLE BUT IT MAKES IT LOOK THAT MUCH MORE OLD OR RUGGED. I MAY DECIDE TO DARKEN THE LEATHER WITH NEETSFOOT OIL OR HORSE TACK CLEANER SOME DAY SOON. I GOT THE LIGHT TOBACCO BROWN BECAUSE I CAN DARKEN IT IF I WANT, HAD I GOTTEN THE DARKER COLOR, SUCH AS COFFEE OR CHESTNUT IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TO LIGHTEN UNLESS YOU SCRAPED OR SCUFFED THE HECK OUT OF IT, WHICH WOULD LOOK REALLY BAD, SO I’M HAPPY WITH THE COLOR. THE TRUE TEST WILL BE TOMORROW AS I MAKE MY WAY FROM HOME TO COLLEGE CAMPUS AND AROUND CAMPUS TO CLASSROOM AND BACK. I’VE HEARD OF THOSE “PEOPLE WILL STOP YOU TO INQUIRE ABOUT THE BAG” COMMENTS, LET’S SEE IF THEY ARE TRUE. WILL LET YOU KNOW WITH AN UPDATE BLOG. SO FAR IT’S LIVING UP TO IT’S REPUTATION.
    MARIE ANNE L.
    LOS ANGELES, CA

  • Grant June 8, 2009, 4:26 pm

    Julie, your review was very helpful. Thank you. Three weeks ago I bought the large briefcase in chestnut. It certainly looks and smells beautiful! And, while its a substantial bag, I don’t find it too heavy. I also didn’t expect how much I’d use the backpack feature. I commute to work by motorcycle most of the time, and I always crammed my soft briefcase in a side pannier on my bike. If I ever had to run an errand on the way home I’d be very limited in space because my briefcase took half of it. I expected to do the same with the Saddleback briefcase. But, the first day I had the new Saddleback I put it in backpack mode, hopped on the motorcycle, and it worked just fine. Now I pretty much keep it set up as a backpack, commute with it that way, and am very pleased. I’m sufficiently impressed that I’m considering the smaller satchel as an airplane carry-on/travel bag.

    BTW, Todd, I’m a 6’0″ attorney and got the large because a legal pad is 14″ long and I didn’t want to cram one into the 14″ medium case, and my laptop has a 17″ screen and is 15.6″ wide and fit nicely in the 16″ large. For my purposes its not too big, and its certainly not too small. At at 18″ wide the XL would be overkill for me.

  • Julie June 8, 2009, 4:33 pm

    @Grant Glad you’re liking it! :) They sure do make nice bags.

  • stamlaw July 10, 2009, 11:29 pm

    Hey guys very interesting reviews. Ok well my question is the new backpack? or the bag you all are talking about. I am a lawyer and at times need to carry my office with me. Both these products are made with the same leather and quality that SBL promise.
    Thanks in advance. :)

  • Plymouth PJL July 19, 2009, 12:49 pm

    I got the Saddleback Leather 16″ x 12″ x 9″ Large Chestnut Briefcase 2 weeks ago. It is a great briefcase. The leather could not be of higher quality and it is extremely well made. The handle feels great as well as the shoulder strap. The open interior design is nice, I use Eagle Creek cubes to organize belongings in the front section while storing my Macbook and paperwork in the back portion. The only thing that I find to be of lesser quality in this bag is the key fob, which strikes me as flimsy compared to the other hardware. The bag is heavy but that is due to the thick quality leather used to make it. If you want something light and durable buy a ballistic nylon Briefcase from Brigs & Riley. The Saddleback briefcase looks like a rugged update of a classic design, I have already received several compliments about the bag in the short time I have carried it. I think I will use this briefcase for many years.

  • Adolph Cabanas July 27, 2009, 5:38 am

    Great bag! I’m a proud owner of 2 large briefcases! Light brown and Chestnut! These bags are beautifully crafted and made to last…Great investment!

  • AF61 July 30, 2009, 11:31 am

    Hi all — thanks for the great info. Having trouble deciding between the medium and large (I’m a 6’1″ male). I actually carry a macbook air (very thin) laptop, but I do carry a good deal of electronic accessories, umbrella, water bottle, and occassionally a book. The whole fit of the medium pictured in the review looked snug side to side so perhaps I could benefit from two inches more width? Thanks for any experiences you can share.

  • sahm August 1, 2009, 7:30 pm

    Julie, what is the small leather tag on the rght side of the bag, I got mine but there was nothing like that with it, as a traveller thats something missing in these bags, a matching travel tag, then i saw yours and there is this nice little tag. Did it come with the bag? or did u get it separately, it matches so perfectly i thot it came along the bag, can u tell me the details maybe i can get myself the same. BTW this bag is the best bag 10/10

  • Julie August 2, 2009, 11:18 am

    @sahm It’s just a thin piece of leather that says Saddleback Leather Company on it. It’s not a travel tag.

  • Glenn August 2, 2009, 10:27 pm

    Af61-

    go with the large. I am the same height and I carry a 15″ laptop as well as a portfolio style note pad. Large leaves a little more room for other items. You won’t regret spending the extra cash for the room.

  • The REALTOR August 18, 2009, 1:05 pm

    Great People! I am considering purchasing the briefcase and had several questions before making that large of a purchase. Within minutes, I had an email response, with more than enough information and references to explain the answers. I am getting close to making the order, just can’t decide on the color. I wish there was a more classic, smooth, leather finish available, like the old saddle bag leather that just shines a little, and gets better and better with age. I am sure the suede will be great too.

  • Dave October 8, 2009, 12:37 pm

    After reading this site and others and looking at the bag on the company site, I decided to risk a purchase sight unseen. I chose a large briefcase in dark coffee. After some initial concerns (I didn’t get a confirmation email and a call during Saturday business hours went to voicemail), I received good customer service and the bag was delivered two days ahead of schedule (way to go UPS). The bag is serious. As someone who likes to get off the beaten path, I can assure you that I have no concerns as to whether this bag would survive. In fact, if you manage to tear it, you have a lot worse problems than the fact that the bag is damaged. This is not a bag for you if you are looking for Italian styling or ornate detailing. This is a working bag that will haul gear and won’t care if you spill coffee on it or drop it in the dust or get caught in the rain. The only negative is that packed in the bag was a small booklet of religious theme which I could have lived without. It was unoffensive, but I am a man who believes such things should be private. That aside, I can safely say that I believe I have gotten my money’s worth.

  • Jeff October 31, 2009, 11:28 am

    I am considering buying the large briefcase. Will the large bag reasonably stuffed with laptop and essentials fit under the seat in front of you on an airplane? I’ve had some backpacks that were very difficult to fit under the seat in front of you on a plane? Thanks for the assistance.

  • Julie October 31, 2009, 12:09 pm

    @Jeff My guess is that it would be a tight fit. I’ve never traveled with that bag, so I’m only guessing.

  • Mark November 8, 2009, 4:25 pm

    Julie, did they let you keep the bag? :)

    I am getting a Piel Traveler’s Men’s Bag delivered this week. Perhaps I’ll do a review.

  • Julie November 8, 2009, 4:38 pm

    @Mark Yes, they let me keep the bag. A review of the Piel Traveler’s bag would be great :)

  • Justin November 9, 2009, 4:12 pm

    I’m curious, how well do you think the top flap would keep rain out of the main compartments?

  • Julie November 9, 2009, 4:59 pm

    @Justin I don’t think you’d have a problem with water getting into the bag unless it was a torrential downpour or something of that nature.

  • Kimberly Coast December 16, 2009, 11:30 am

    I love your review! I am actually looking for this kind of sturdy bag for my 15 inch macbook pro, accessories, phone, and wallet. I was ecstatic to see that you had one in your review as an example photo. I always wonder how my stuff will fit and look in a bag when I go shopping. Thanks! :) I am also happy to see that now that I’ve found my bag at least it may be affordable if I buy it on ebay.
    Thank you so much for the entertaining review!
    Kim

  • Julie December 16, 2009, 12:41 pm

    @Kimberly If you end up buying one, let us know what you think about it once you’ve had a chance to use it.

  • alicia December 27, 2009, 4:35 am

    Hi Julie or other saddleback owners,
    I was wondering if you had any issues with the leather treatment of the bag rubbing off on your clothes or your papers. I had this issue with another handcrafted bag – all of my papers and folders that I put in the bag were always discolored brown from the leather stain. Although it was a beautiful bag, it was a real bummer. I love the look of the Saddleback bag, but I’m worried I’ll have the same experience. This happened on the outside of the bag too – it would stain my clothes (ugh).
    Thanks!
    Alicia

  • Julie December 27, 2009, 9:47 am

    @alicia This isn’t a problem that I’ve noticed with any of the Saddleback Leather products that I’ve reviewed.

  • Wolf December 30, 2009, 2:33 pm

    I feel there is a lot of hype about Saddleback out there, and not everybody is telling the truth. I am writing this for frequent fliers and professional travelers mainly, and they’ll know what I am talking about. I am not trying to dog a product, it might be suitable for most, it just isn’t for me. Before I start: I have no affiliation with any luggage companies, but I used to work for company that imported shoes and purses from Italy, so I do know what to look for when it comes to leather goods. I also know how to hype a product on the internet. I read the reviews before I bought the bag, and there was ecstatic praise all over. I can’t believe that nobody before has seen the flaws I am going to point out. Either only clueless kids buy them, or there is some sort of hype involved.

    I bought a medium Saddleback briefcase for my Son for Christmas. He is going to college and wanted one badly. The bag was supposed to be a late graduation present, or I wouldn’t have spent that kind of money. I had never heard of Saddleback before, and simply ordered one in black from the website.

    The bag arrived within 5 days, customer service was very good and overall pleasant. Wow! is the first thought after opening the box. The product has character and looks overall beautiful. The smell when it comes out of the box is stunning.

    I can see why this bag is hip with kids, it screams ADVENTURE!! What most kids don’t know: There is a difference between ruggedness and quality, as there is a difference between a natural blemish and a flaw. Upon closer inspection I came to the conclusion that Saddleback tries to sell one for the other.

    Design issues:

    – Extremely simple design, not really suitable for people traveling with lots of gadgets, or you need to carry additional pouches.

    -The “secret compartment” is a joke. I found it immediately without knowing there was one.

    – backpack-feature doesn’t wok properly because the straps slide in the ring. A different solution could be easily found, but would increase production cost.

    Quality issues:

    -stitching not even, and unequal to the edge.

    -rivets not even, misaligned.

    -glue stains, excessive glue in several spots

    -thickness of the leather is uneven and decreases towards the stitched areas, probably to allow easier sewing.

    – small cracks in the leather which identifies some of the material as seconds.

    – as we found out this week, the black leather does stain.

    This bag hits me as a bag for preppy Indiana Jones-wannabes, who cannot tell tool-bag quality from breifcase quality, and will probably not travel that much in real life. I fly about 150k miles every year, and could not imagine carrying one of those. For professional travelers weight is one of the most important factors, especially now, with the weight restrictions for carry-on luggage of some major US airlines try to introduce, and basically all European airlines already have in place. This bag is extremely heavy and bulky. It weights over twice as much as the 15″ Apple laptop it is supposed to hold, and fitting the laptop in is still a tight squeeze. Put some paperwork, toiletry for long-distance flights, and some wire-clutter in there, and we are probably talking 25 lbs. total!

    The website tries to sell weight as quality, which is not the case when it comes to luggage. The trick is to manufacture superior quality at minimum weight, and that is what makes design and manufacturing expensive. The old swiss leather-cloth ammunition bag, which sells for 20 bucks at surplus stores weights a fraction and is just as sturdy, but it unfortunately only holds 13″ laptops. It is of superior quality, though, and I would probably pick it over the saddleback laptop bag on their website.

    Why am I being so picky? These Saddleback bags are nice, I see that, but we are talking about a hefty price tag here. If the bag was in the mid $ 200-range it would be absolutely perfect and fair. Asking $ 520 plus shipping is extremely overpriced for this kind of quality. There is probably a 500% mark-up.

    Reality is this: The Saddleback briefcase is typical Mexican leather-work. Considering the estimated production time at a typical Mexican wage, leather, thread, and rivets, the manufacturing-cost in mexico is about US$ 80 or less. We are talking Southern Mexico here. I’ve seen leatherwork of comparable and sometimes better quality also in Northern Africa. Comparing these bags to brands like Papworth in the UK, as the Saddleback website does, shows that the business owner himself does not know a lot about leather work. The company has obviously found their niche, with the adventure-kids. My Son is in heaven, that’s what counts.

  • Critique March 18, 2010, 4:53 pm

    Not sure where Wolf’s true issues come from, but he obviously did not work in the business he indicated or was not directly affiliated with the products….
    You PURSE your lips
    You read a pocketbook
    You carry a HANDBAG.
    If you were in the industry of working with or importing leather HANDBAGs, you wouldn’t be caught dead using the word purse. (it used to be ok when referring to a cinch-bag with which to carry coins)

    That all being said, the above review is great if this were a fancy italian bag, but it is not. I’ve blown through many a $800-$1400 ‘fancy’ name brand bag. If you treat handle them with kid-gloves they wear nicely and look beautiful over time. If you hike, camp, ride in the back of a bus in the desert, yadda yadda…they get wrecked. This bag stands the test.
    I’m a bull in a china shop. I buy the best because I tend to wear out or ruin anything else. My wife’d tell you, if these folks want someone to test their 100 year warranty, I’m their guy. I’m the reason Sharon Luggage got rid of their lifetime “no matter what” warranty :).

  • John April 11, 2010, 9:57 am

    I myself have had experience with this bag, as my dorm mate was interested for a few months in purchasing one. He ordered the “small one” which in its self is still quite heavy. After trying it on and walking around for a bit I have come to this conclusion.

    The bag’s durability outweighs it’s practicality. While a bag such as this one with thick leather would suit a very large bag such as for Backpacking, it is quite unnecessary for such a small bag.

    The aesthetics of the bag should really stay in the outdoors, this is certainly a quite unprofessional bag to bring into the workplace or school. It has a rustic charm but it’s ruggedness really offsets things.

    I myself am an avid bag collector, and I would suggest perhaps a Swaine Adeney Brigg. For an office setting I see Coach Totes that double as Messenger Bags and Louis Vuitton that offers non-monogrammed dark chocolate leather bags as well. And for personal use, I myself have 3 Balenciagas, which are of upmost quality, and are very stylish.

    What really enfuriated me was to read on this “man’s” website as he compared this bag to 3 of the Companies above and even more. Really? You are going to compare Mexican Workmanship ( I mean the poor Mexican Workmanship that is 2 dollars an hour in some rural Mexican village ) as Wolf noted to a fine British leather craftsman that has been operating for about 250 years and has ROYAL WARRANTS to the Queen of England, The Prince of Wales, and The Duke? I smell robbery as he laughs his way to his Paypal bank and cashes in on the probably 900 percent markup he charges. At least in similar priced bags, they are generally handcrafted and a good amount of time and professional workmanship is used. Seems to me like a lazy couch surfer with a penchant for trading cheaply made goods. Well that’s my two cents, my underlying advice would be to not buy this bag, This company wont even see 2015 if it’s lucky.

  • mark April 15, 2010, 7:53 pm

    I have owned many diffrent bags and I can say that for $400-$500 these saddleback bags are worth 3 times as much. Sure they might not be as cool walking down sunset strip with your starbucks mocha and your poodle in a louis vuitton. But these bags will last forever and are a great bag for straight non metrosexual men.

  • Wolf too May 8, 2010, 9:59 pm

    I guess Wolf is just a bitter dude who was forced to please his son. That is why he is so upset about this briefcase. Saddleleather bags are great: functional, tough, practical and stylish. The price is high but you get what you pay for. Of course, if you are looking for LV, Gucci, etc. type of a bag that needs to be polished every day or touched with your gloves on, Saddleback is not for you. If you are looking for a bag that lasts looooooong time, durable and reliable, just get one for your self. As Dave said on his site: Cry once buy the best.

  • At John May 16, 2010, 9:05 pm

    Wow…ok, that is EXACTLY why I buy saddleback. I’ll be damned off the face of the planet, the day I support the Brits or any other country that is gone the way of the fascist. Too bad I’ll have to stop buying American products as well, soon. Oh well.

  • Jake July 2, 2010, 6:29 pm

    Have you checked out Rustic Leather? They offer the toughest, most durable distressed leather briefcases, messenger bags, and satchels on the PLANET! The products are so well made that they offer a LIFETIME GUARANTEE!

    They are similar to this one, but are better designed and most importantly are LESS EXPENSIVE!

    Here is a link: http://www.RusticLeather.com

  • Julie July 2, 2010, 9:39 pm

    @Jake Hmmmm, a couple of their products (iPad case and Shoulder Pouch) look like blatant rip-offs of Saddleback’s designs.

  • renato hernandez July 4, 2010, 3:47 am

    I’m still not sure what size should i buy, i love the tobacco color briefcase, I’m 5’10”, 198lbs, I only use a notepad @ work and regular folder. please advice, thanks.

  • Julie July 4, 2010, 9:04 am

    @renato I think Medium would be fine for you.

  • Amir July 17, 2010, 10:12 am

    Jake, I just purchased the XL Briefcase from Rustic Leather and while it looks like an almost identical copy of the Saddleback Leather XL Briefcase, the quality of the leather does not appear to match the quality of Saddleback’s. There is not much heft in the leather Rustic Leather bag. I definitely have buyers remorse and learned my lesson to just buy the best the first time. Unfortunately I’ll have to live with the consequences.

  • Jake July 30, 2010, 11:36 am

    I don’t know about that Amir, when you are talking about a leather product of this grade you are splitting hairs. I have an old baseball glove from the 1950’s and the leather on that is not nearly as thick as the Rustic Leather bag and the glove has held up perfectly. Now if you wish to carry around an extra 3 pounds of unnecessary weight in leather, go ahead.

    I have had my Rustic Leather Bag for over a year and it is quite hefty. The durability is astonishing and it looks more beautiful the older it gets… people always ask me where I got it and I am happy to tell them Rustic Leather.

  • Adam September 1, 2010, 1:39 am

    @ renato (if you’re still in the market): I have a medium briefcase that I use for college almost everyday and it serves me fine, carrying a couple of classes worth of books, notebooks, pens, ipod, cell phone, kindle, snacks and water bottle. I was really surprised at how much the bag could hold. I’m 5′ 9″ 175 and wanted a bag that wasn’t too large or too small that I could take anywhere. Sort of a “do it all” bag. The medium brief fits the bill quite well and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. The overnight bag will be my xmas present this year and needless to say I’m pretty stoked about it.

    As for the “Rustic Leather” products, these are obvious blatant ripoffs of Saddleback’s ORIGINAL designs! However, it’s easy to tell just from the pictures that they are made from much lower quality leather. And actually reading the site is a total joke. Click on the “Our Story” link and read about how “Dave Jasak” spent years coming up with his designs… More like he spent 2 minutes STEALING and COPYING a reputable business’ original designs. I wouldn’t touch these things with a 10 foot pole based on principal alone (perhaps use the pole to beat the truth out of “Dave Jackass”?) People like this make me sick.

  • PAIBOON September 15, 2010, 5:43 pm

    Julie, I use MBP 15″ and my body size will have to go with medium briefcase. Can you put MBP 15″ in portrait on the medium briefcase? (like you do on Messenger Bag) Or any other alternative to fit MBP15″ into Medium Briefcase. Thank you.

  • Julie September 15, 2010, 8:33 pm

    @Paiboon I just tried it and it is possible to fit the 15″ MBP into the medium sized briefcase. It takes a little persuasion, but not much :)

  • Keith December 6, 2010, 8:11 pm

    Julie,

    Do you think the medium briefcase (11″x 14″) can be used as an everyday bag, similar to the messenger bag and satchel?

    The reason I’m asking is because I prefer the look of the briefcase over the messenger and satchel (more rugged). However, the word “briefcase” throws me off assuming it’s mostly for professional purposes. Just looking for an everyday bag to carry ipad, book(s), magazines, snacks, bottled water, phone, keys, paperwork, etc.

    Thanks again for your help; your reviews are the best out there on the SBL line.

  • Julie December 6, 2010, 9:03 pm

    @Keith Sure, of course it can. Go for it and don’t let the word ‘briefcase’ throw you. All the Saddleback bags look rugged to me.

  • Keith December 6, 2010, 10:22 pm

    Julie, do you ever sleep? :-)
    Thanks again for your quick response!

  • SlotDr December 8, 2010, 8:44 pm

    I have been debating on the classic briefcase. I read a review that the extra large one is more like a giant duffle than a briefcase. The large seems to be the one for office use. Can any insite be offered on this?

  • Dan December 24, 2010, 6:43 pm

    I absolutely love my saddleback messenger bag. It took a while to convince my wife that it would be worth it but as soon as we got it she dove into the site and ended up getting the tote! She loves her tote as much as (actually more than) I love my messenger bag!

  • Logan January 6, 2011, 8:03 pm

    I recently received my large classic briefcase (dark coffee brown) in the mail. A really beautiful and tough bag indeed. But I have found out quickly that there is a “fatal flaw” with the bag if you are carrying around a 17″ MacBook Pro as I do. With or without Saddleback’s beautiful laptop sleeve, 17″ computers push the inner rear of the bag beyond the width of the bag’s top closure flap. Not a good thing since, even when closed shut, rain will enter the bag fairly freely if you are unfortunate enough to get caught in even a moderate downpour, thus damaging your computer. Now I must seriously consider returning my beautiful bag to find something more all-weather appropriate with a 17″ MacBook Pro.

  • Steve C January 22, 2011, 9:13 am

    I like the Saddleback products and own the satchel but find them way too pricey for what they are (Mexican crazy horse leather, do a search). I recently found Rustic Leather http://www.rusticleather.com and purchased an XL (18″) briefcase on eBay for $299 half of the price of SBL’s XL bag. I will tell you that the Rustic Leather bag is beautiful and constructed extremely well. They do offer a 100% Satisfaction so I am happy with that. They came out with a new duffel bag that I hope to purchase before my trip in February. It looks sweet. For the money Rustic Leather is the way to go.

  • Daemmerung February 12, 2011, 7:48 pm

    A lot of Rustic quasi-spam popping up here. If you’re looking for a cheaper SB alternative, there’s also Vagabond Traveler. Google it yourself, I’m not linking there.

    Also amused by the classist posing. “Fine British craftsmanship” indeed. The English make beautiful things, but so do our neighbors the Mexicans. The leathers in question have different kinds of beauty. You can like one and not have to piss all over the other.

    I have two SB bags. One is an old style (two-rivet) briefcase, size XL. All of the standard complaints apply: it weighs a ton, and the shoulder strap is ridiculously long for shoulder use. If I had to remake the purchase, I would buy this bag in L instead of XL, as I am not quite Goliath. I nevertheless love this bag dearly. It is simple, beautiful (actually gets much more attention than I would prefer) and indestructible.

    (I also have one of their older all-pigskin laptop bags, a style no longer offered. It is less impressive, and judging from its discontinuation the company agrees with me.)

  • Dave from Hawaii February 26, 2011, 11:50 am

    Enough is enough Saddleback is simply an handsdown the strongest SOB out there an believe me I’m tough on everything I own jus ask anyone that knows me thank you Saddleback an Davek

  • Steve C March 1, 2011, 8:08 pm

    I got the Rustic Leather bull hide duffel bag that I’ve been lusting over and it is beautiful! It is sturdy and well crafted plus it matches my XL briefcase perfectly. I now have a great travel set. I got the duffel off of ebay for $314 (it was $299 but had somebody try and snipe it at the last minute). Anyway, I love it and can’t wait for my trip to Colorado in 2 weeks to test it out.

    As for Daemmerung’s comment “Rustic quasi-spam”, I assure you that that I am not affiliated with rustic leather other than being a happy customer.

    I looked at the Vagabond bags and they do look cheap. The text is horribly written and reads like a badly translated Chinese instruction manual, which was good for a chuckle. They really need a copy writer. Anyway from this, I believe the Vagabond bags are an inferior Chinese import.

  • Jon March 5, 2011, 3:44 pm

    This is a really nice looking bag that caught my eyes and I made it a point to get one. Fortunately, I was able to get something even better in terms of looks and durability coupled with excellent customer service from another manufacturer. Their website is http://www.glanor.com However, they are now selling only to retailers or through high-brand stores in malls. If you can lay your hands on one of these brands, I am sure you will agree with me that they are way better and more affordable than some of the really expensive brands out there.
    Good Luck!

    Jon

  • artymercy March 15, 2011, 12:42 pm

    I had been looking for the perfect satchel for years and visited the saddleback leather website more times than is healthy. One of my concerns is weight. I am an artist who draws on the hoof, and like to have as little weight on me as possible. The saddleback bags, while visually attractive, seemed too heavy to begin with, especially as i fly frequently. I however found a fantastic, and reasonably priced craftsman in England, who not only makes practical, strong bags, but can also custom-make one for you (an will ship them overseas too!) He is also very friendly. Look at http://www.htleather.co.uk. I am ever so pleased with my satchel and recommend him to everyone.

  • davebo March 21, 2011, 2:02 am

    Wow this review has really stood the test of time, thanks for it. I had seen the Saddleback site years ago but put it off since the bags were so expensive, but recently was giving it more serious thought. After the review it really seemed like it was the place to go, but after visiting their site I just got turned off by how religious the founder’s blog seemed. I mean to each their own, but it was a real turn-off for me.

  • Matt Fraser June 11, 2011, 8:14 am

    Steve C

    I got the Vegabond bags from ebay as well, and here is a link to my review of the bag with pictures:

    http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/index.php?/topic/119049-whats-your-favourite-manbag/page__view__findpost__p__1691558

    It is far from a “cheap” chinese imitation! It’s an excellent bag that is in every way the equal of the Saddleback (unfortunately this includes weight too).

  • zoe C. June 16, 2011, 1:43 am

    Hi, I’m5’2″ and I have a macbook pro. Should I get the medium or the large one?

  • Julie June 16, 2011, 10:01 am

    @Zoe C. I’m only 3.5 inches taller than you, so I recommend the medium sized bag (shown in the review).

  • C.W. June 17, 2011, 1:57 am

    This is my first time commenting here. I’m surprised people are still talking about this bag; It must be very popular. Concerning the weight, did you really find it that heavy? I would be using it (or a comparable one like the Vagabond Traveler) for school with my 3 ring notebook, textbook for class (Calculus, Physics, and the like) and a calculator. Any comments?

  • C.W. June 17, 2011, 2:12 am

    P.S. My previous post was meant for Julie.

  • Julie June 17, 2011, 11:34 am

    @C.W. Saddleback bags are heavy to me because I’m a small person… 5’6″ 125lbs. Empty they are already bulky, but add your stuff and it was too much to lug around for me. Bigger people / men, will probably have no issues at all.

  • freddy July 1, 2011, 5:36 pm

    How on earth am i supposed to work out if i want to buy this bag!

    Half the people on here either are against saddleback or love it so much they want to marry them

    A lot of very fake feedback here…… a lot of fake feedback everywhere

  • Gerald Wales. July 10, 2011, 4:44 pm

    Ordered one today. Initially ordered the Xl in Black Carbon – then saw a picture on the web of a guy with the L and that looked big enough – so sent an email requesting a change. I have been hankering for one for years after a long search and given my current job a rucksack will not cut the mustard in e.g. Canary Wharf (London) for key meetings! My wife has also suggested i get the overnight bag (for xmas ;-)) and I will do! It is clearly a quality product. As for weight – well – I’ll have to pick up some more weights and get in training for when it arrives ! Quality sells.

  • Matt September 8, 2011, 11:57 pm

    Julie, why were you SCREAMING throughout your entire review?

  • Julie September 9, 2011, 10:25 am

    @Matt if by screaming you mean all capital letters, My review does not have them… If that’s not what you mean, then please explain.

  • Brandon September 9, 2011, 9:05 pm

    Julie, GREAT review. I have been debating an SB for awhile now, and despite the snooty nature of some of our friends posting on your site and the clearly “I work for the company I am pushing” folks – the honest reviews and your review have convinced me to purchase. I will try to keep this site and post back when I have received the bag…

    Out of curiosity if anyone out there has purchased the SB Waterbag, I would be interested in your thoughts…..

    Best!

  • Julie September 10, 2011, 9:26 am
  • Guan September 27, 2011, 11:26 am

    Hey Julie,

    Did you find that the briefcase was a little too large for you? I am about the same build as you and I am worried that the medium briefcase will look too big on me. The 9 inch depth makes it look monstrous.

  • Julie September 27, 2011, 11:55 am

    @Guan The medium sized briefcase isn’t too large, but it is heavy…

  • Shirish January 15, 2012, 3:21 pm

    I removed all of the really heavy steel rings, and the weight dropped substantially. if you do not see yourself hanging things off the steel rings, remove them. Your shoulders will thank you.If you later feel the need, you can always use carabiners; they are much lighter and easy to take off.

  • Dennis February 2, 2012, 5:37 pm

    @Julie

    I’m 5′ 8″ about 200lbs and I can’t decide if I should get the large or the medium briefcase.

    I travel a l ton for work and currently carry a 13 inch Lenovo for work, but you never can tell was the IT department is going to give you next, an iPad, a couple of Moleskins, power brick, bag of cables (although I making it smaller), LiveScribe pen in case, small key board from my iPad, a book, sunglasses with hard case and at times a GPS for the car.

    What are your thoughts? I’ve been carrying a backpack for the last couple of years because most briefcases I’ve had won’t hold what I need. But I work for a company now that is a stickler for no backpacks. I refuse to pay the cost of a tumi alpha when SB makes such a good bag.

  • Julie February 2, 2012, 5:38 pm

    @Dennis sounds like you carry a lot of stuff. I’d suggest the large for you.

  • Dennis February 2, 2012, 6:05 pm

    @ Julie,
    Thanks. You Rock.

    Dennis

  • Quinn April 17, 2012, 5:41 pm

    Would you recommend the large thin briefcase for us in school? I would need to be able to carry about textbook or two at a time.

  • Dave June 2, 2012, 10:54 pm

    I have the large satchel in black. I have had it about 3 months. It gets light use because I just got out of school. I wanted a Saddleback bag while I was in school but could never afford it.

    Anyway, the large satchel is reasonable in size, but it’s no briefcase, that being said I had to go out of town on a moments notice and could not afford the luggage on Spirit Airlines (they would charge for air if they could), I needed a carry on.

    I am 5’11” and about 210 lbs. I wear large on all shirts and 36″ waist.

    In my Saddleback Leather large satchel I fit
    3x white T-shirts
    3x printed T- shirts
    3x boxer underwear
    3 pairs printed long socks
    3 pairs low cut socks
    1x leg length pajamas
    a pair of bulky knee length shorts
    3x Button up short sleeve shirts
    an 11″x4″x5″ leather bag that I kept my deoderent, toothbrush, toothpaste etc etc (I put it on the top cause I could tether it with the included strap from Saddleback, this ensured nothing would fall out).

    I also slipped my 7 page airline itinerary in the bag, a couple pens, my phone charger for a Nokia Lumia 900 (its tiny). A comic book a pair of flip flops and 2 bottles of water.

    Now, the bag was packed and I folded everything to fit in it making the most of all the room. Xray scanner at the airline looked like the bag was solid inside. I had to lean on top of the bag to latch it to the 3rd notch, 1st and 2nd notches could have easily been substituted.

    I absolutely love this bag. I also got the medium wallet at the same time and it still is not broken in.

    I love the black, but it does seem to lack some of the character of an “old crafted bag” that you might get with the other colors, BUT it has its own character in being more modern. I love it.

    15″ laptop wont fit into the satchel, horizontal or vertical, but should easily in the briefcase.

    When I get the cash I plan on a briefcase. I think I could fit a ton into that.

  • Julie June 3, 2012, 9:24 am

    @Dave Wow, it sounds like you’re a packing savant! :) That’s a lot of stuff to crap in that bag. I’m impressed!

  • Dave June 3, 2012, 4:00 pm

    @Julie. :D Thank you. That is what happens when you grow up in a small home, in the smallest room yet have a desire to make things look uncluttered. Legos being my favorite toy as a child also helps and various jobs where I had to stack boxes to make the most fit. Its really just about maximizing space and reducing clutter. :D

  • Joshu November 7, 2012, 7:39 pm

    My wife and I love Saddleback. Really love the Saddleback duffel also. Super overbuilt, but will last a lifetime. I also have my eye for the next bag on a Filson waxed canvas briefcase, or Bexar Goods Porter Satchel.
    Cheers.
    J

  • Ryan February 6, 2013, 11:31 am

    Julie, Seller mandariana on eBay has copied your review to apply to a knock-off Saddleback brand. Check out the item descriptions – word-for-word.

  • Julie February 6, 2013, 11:39 am

    @Ryan thanks for the heads up. I’ll check it out.

  • Julie February 6, 2013, 12:28 pm

    @Ryan I looked through at least a dozen of their bag listings and didn’t see any that had our reviews as the description. Can you give me a link to the one you found?

  • Ayus Hidayat September 22, 2013, 9:12 pm

    Julie, what is the small leather tag on the right side of the bag, I got mine on chestnut color but there was nothing like that with it. Did it come with the bag? Or maybe only on that particular color and year?

  • Julie Strietelmeier September 23, 2013, 7:50 am

    @Ayus The tag just had Saddleback’s logo if I recall. It came with the bag.

  • Rich December 28, 2013, 10:42 am

    I received SBL Front Pocket Briefcase (medium) as a Christmas gift. I asked for a briefcase to replace a Wilson’s Leather briefcase that I’ve been using daily for work for about 14 years. I hate to part with it, but its seen better days. I am very reluctantly going to return the SBL briefcase. Why? 1) Its too heavy, 2) it doesn’t have enough, or large enough, pockets to carry the multiple small items I carry daily for work, and 3) I find the buckle closures to be a pain as opposed to clasps. I do love the quality of the leather that SBL uses and am very sad to let it go, but if I’m going to be using this thing for the rest of my life, its got to be just right.

  • Scott March 4, 2014, 2:30 pm

Leave a Comment