Saddleback Leather Company Explorer’s Satchel Review

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Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

Anyone else out there ever had a secret fantasy about wanting to be like Indiana Jones? Come on, I can’t be the only one. I remember the original movie and falling in love with the character. Traveling to exotic locations, searching for treasures, yeah, that’s me in a nutshell! Ok, not quite… But I do live in Indiana and… ok, the similarity ends there. Or it did till now. Now I am one step closer to fulfilling that fantasy because I have an Explorer’s Satchel from Saddleback Leather Company.

Saddleback Leather Company make fantastic handmade leather bags that are the real deal. These aren’t cheesy bags that might last a year or so before falling apart. They don’t design bags with snaps, zippers or velcro that can wear out or break. These bags can last a lifetime and beyond. I reviewed their briefcase bag last year and was extremely impressed with the quality. The only issue was the size and weight. As a result, I was really happy when I found out that they were offering a much smaller bag called the Explorer’s Satchel. Available in Chestnut, Black, Dark Coffee and Tobacco Brown, I was sent the Chestnut version of this bag.

Sized at 10 x 9 x 3.75 inches, this bag is like a mini version of the briefcase that I previously reviewed. It weighs in at 2 lbs empty and is made of 100% waterproof full grain boot leather. It has a buckled flap and a grab handle, which is one of my must have features for a gear bag.

Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

If you flip the Explorer’s satchel around to the back side, you will find a 8.5 x 9 inch flat open topped pocket that is capable of holding items like plane tickets, a passport, etc. There are also two D rings sewn into the front and back seams on the ‘shoulders’ of the bag.

Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

The bottom of the bag has four more D rings. One in each corner. You can use these rings to attach items to the bottom of the bag – like a mini umbrella, treasure map, etc. It’s also interesting to point out that the leather seams at the bottom of the bag create a pseudo stand to keep the base from actually touching the ground.

Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

There is a pocket on both sides of this bag. The pocket is sewn between the seams, so it’s a bit hard to get your hand inside it due to the attachment ring for the shoulder strap.

Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

The adjustable shoulder strap is also made of thick rugged leather. It’s easily removable if desired. It also has a shoulder pad, that I found to be somewhat uncomfortable for me.

Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

When you unbuckle and lift the flap, you are greeted with a nice whiff of leather. Mmmmmmmmm, yummy. The interior is lined with super tough pigskin. Inside is an metal key clip attached to a strap of leather.

Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

The key fob has a nice sturdy spring loaded clip attached to it. I never use these things though… do you? They tend to just flop around inside the bag getting in my way. I almost am tempted to cut it off and use the clip for something else ;o)

Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

The interior of the Explorer’s satchel has one main compartment that is approximately 8.5 inches across by 8 inches deep and 3 inches wide. There are two smaller pockets sewn into the sides. I like the fact that the leather is rigid enough that the bag keeps its shape when empty or full.

Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

Here’s subset of the gear that I carry with me every day (minus my Centro, which isn’t pictured). I couldn’t fit all my stuff into this bag, so I just picked the essentials. Some of the items include my Centro, 180gb iPod Classic, stock earbuds, a 4GB USB flash drive, ATP USB card reader with cable, iMono USB MicroSD card reader, Huntlight FT-A3 mini flashlight, sun clips in case, Bic pen, Carmex lip balm, eye drops, screw top plastic pill holder, car keys, Cummins badge, check book, clipped stack of index cards with super secret info scribbled on them, Miquelrius notebook and my Waterfield wallet.

Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

And here’s what all that gear looks like piled into the Explorer’s satchel. It’s not crammed completely full, but it’s pretty close. The only real problem with carrying this many loose items is that you have to remove the bigger items in order to get to the smaller ones at the bottom of the bag. I only use the interior side pockets to hold items that stick out far enough for me to easily retrieve them.

Saddleback Leather Company Explorer Satchel

To give you an idea of the size of this bag, here I am wearing it. I’m about 5’6″ tall. Even when stuffed full of gear, the bag was easy to carry bandolier style as I’m wearing it here. The only comfort issues that I experienced were with the padded shoulder strap pad. The edges of the pad had a tendency to dig into my collar bone causing it to become sore. Shoulder strap pads usually drive me nuts sliding around, so I just removed it. Problem solved :o)

The Explorer’s satchel doesn’t have the capacity to function as my every day gear bag, but it works perfectly as a weekend out on the town or travel bag. I really love the style of it and it does garner some envious looks from passersby. Its price tag of $275 will probably cause a lot of people to run away in fear though. I agree that it’s expensive. But if you want a small leather bag that will out last you, and your kids, the Saddleback Leather Company Explorer’s Satchel is the one to get. I highly recommend it. Now I’m off to plan my next archeological adventure…

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

Manufacturer:Saddleback Leather Company
  • Rugged, built to last forever
  • Unisex style
  • Grab handle
  • Shoulder strap pad can be uncomfortable

About The Author

49 thoughts on “Saddleback Leather Company Explorer’s Satchel Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. I also have the fantasy of Being Indiana jones but my problem is that I live in the U.K where it rains alot of the time

  3. Jake:

    No worries, this bag is pretty much waterproof! ;o)

    Also, I’m sure you’d look awesome scouting out all the castles with this bag on your shoulder. I really want to travel back over to the UK again. Just wish the dollar to pound conversion rate wasn’t so crummy…

  4. I don’t think the price tag is a problem for me as my philosophy is to buy good quality product which can last for a long time. That is how I save money. One of my jackets is more than twenty-year old.

    What I like about this bag:

    • Construction–seems solidly built
    • Adjustable strap (obvious, but I like to mention it)
    • Beautiful color

    What needs improvement:

    • The bag needs to have compartments inside to better organize items
    • Based on the pictures, the leather strip used to buckle the bag is too long, which touches the ground and might cause the bag to topple. I don’t know if the later is true, but that is how I perceive it.

    Over all, I enjoy your review as I have been for years. Thank you Julie.

  5. Hai:

    Since this bag is so small to begin with, I don’t think separating the interior into sections would be a good idea. I think it would cause the bag to feel even smaller than it already is.

    The leather strip for the flap is a bit long, but it doesn’t cause the bag to fall over. :o)

  6. Pretty rad travel bag – good pics and review. @ Hai if its an issue just chop off the excess leather with some good quality dressmaking scissors.

  7. Well I just got my new bag today. I have been using Coach Station Bags since the mid 70’s and this is the 1st alternative that I like well enough to stick with.
    I am awaiting some extra rivets as no one seem to have the copper color that the bag is maid with. Saddleback would not send me a shortened version of the strap but is mailing rivets.
    I got the dark coffee brown color and really think it’s super.
    I carry a bag every day and have since 1976, when my wife pointed out men in Italy carrying shoulder bags. I bought one and carried it all over Europe. It seems as soon as I was comfortable with myself, no one else looked at me funny(or at least not as MANY people look at me funny!).
    This bag is the only one to give the Coach any competition, in my opinion.

  8. Hi Julie,
    I guess I only alluded to it but I am having my strap shortened.
    I like to carry the bag so I can reach the bottom of the interior with one hand. I have it to the right length but the “leftover” really dangles a lot. I am kinda surprised that they don’t either give you some extra rivets or make obvious that you can get them upon request. I already have looked all over the county and no one has copper rivets, only gold and silver ones.

  9. I think that the flap strap is fine, considering that many people will really stuff a lot into the bag and this means that the strap will need to fastened on a lower hole especially as it softens and breaks in.
    Anyway I really love it and just got notice that my rivets have been shipped to me(by UPS for unknown reasons)

  10. I just received my Saddleback Leather Company Chestnut satchel on 9/10/08 and it is worth every hard earned penny!!

    This satchel is absolutely breath-taking!!!

    I have been going onto their website for the past year looking at their different items and dreaming. I was afraid to purchase something in this price range over the internet from a company I never heard of before or for an item I have never seen in person.

    It wasn’t until I saw Julie’s reviews on the briefcase and satchel that I took the plunge. I wanted the briefcase but due to the price I thought I’d start off smaller to see the leather workmanship & quality first.

    Julie’s photos at different angles, opened and closed and modeled on a real person is what did it for me along with her text.

    Saddleback’s website on some pages show the chestnut color sort of an orangey-brown but after seeing it in person it is much better. It is a dark brown but with a beautiful reddish-wineish hue. Sort of like cherry-cola. The color is exactly like an “old-school” leather school bag that use to resemble Doctor’s satchels. (If you are old enough to remember those.)

    The leather smell is overwhelmingly great and intoxicating!
    The leather is strong and sturdy. It is classy & rugged at the same time.
    Made for both men or women. You can dress it up or down. It is classic, clean and stylish.

    I do not like prissy, girly-girl bags and this one will definitely last forever. The leather is thick, well sewn together and a little stiff at first. You can tell with some use it will soften up and still have structure.

    It stands up on it’s own and the strap is long enough to fit any frame-size even cross-body. The padded shoulder pad it thick and comfortable.

    I own many bags, from many designers like Coach, Dooney & Bourke. Marc Jacobs etc. but this bag is wonderful. If you have ever owned DR. MARTEN’S SHOES, these bags are in the same great long-lasting leather league.

    I am goling to order the briefcase soon. I can’t decide on the 14″ or 16″ size though.

    If you are not sure, please take the chance you will love this bag and Saddleback’s leather and workmanship.

    Thank you Saddleback and thank you Julie !!

    [Edited at September 13, 2008 10:56:13 AM.]

  11. silvergirl:

    I’m so glad that my review helped you to make your buying decision :o)

    Definitely let us know what you think of the briefcase once you get one.

  12. Julie:
    Since you have the 14″ briefcase, do you think you might be able to give me an opinion since you have one?

    I am 2 inches shorter than you and I have the same bone structure as you. Right now I have to lose 150lbs. to get back down to my thinnest, which is 25 lbs. more than you..
    Do you think the 14″ briefcase would be too small based on my frame and contents wise? I would only carry a novel, loose-leaf spiral notebook, agenda, checkbook and some bills.
    Also, I eventually I want to get a breifcase for my son, 26, 6’4″ 180 ibs. Would 16″ be too small for him or should I go to 18″?

    Thanks for your great reviews.

  13. silvergirl:

    In my review of the briefcase, I’m wearing the Medium sized version of the bag. I think it has more than enough capacity to hold the items you describe. For your son, the Medium or Large should be plenty big. One word of caution for you though… the Medium sized bag weighs almost 7lbs empty. That’s pretty heavy… at least it feels heavy to me. For a guy, it’s probably nothing though.

  14. Thanks Julie, your opinion was helpful. Yeah, 6-7lbs. seems kind of heavy also. I have a Dooney & Bourke briedcase/tote that was made with the original all weather leather which is very heavy too. It’s about 5lbs But your information gave me more thing to think about to help me decide. Thanks.

    [Edited at September 14, 2008 11:58:11 AM.]

  15. Thanks for the info on the satchel. I like their products, but I’m very curious about the weight/bulkiness of the messenger bag. I would love to see a photo of a woman with it….I’m thinking of purchasing a bag such as this, which could carry a laptop, but I’m nervous it may be too much bag. I’m also about 5’6″. –What do you know about the messenger size bag? Thanks!

    1. Charlotte:
      The messenger bag is only 4 inches longer and wider than the Explorer bag. You can see a picture of me with the Explorer bag in this review. I’m about the same height as you. I don’t think 4 extra inches all the way around would make that much of a difference as far as size. Bulkiness is another matter though… I have a feeling that the extra leather would add an additional pound to this bag even when empty. I’ll see if I can get confirmation on that fact from Dave Munson at Saddleback Leathers.

  16. wow! Thanks for the quick reply! Very helpful. I’m still shopping…not quite ready to decide for sure. I was wondering…have you reviewed any other companies that carry similar products–quality, leather bags?

  17. Dear Julie ,
    Thanks for a detailed review with pictures of Dave’s Satchel & Briefcase bags . I too have bought a Satchel bag recently and again it is awesome ! The price is out of this world too . Anyone out there still doubting whether to buy one or not , be brave and try one first , you wont regret it in your life , or if you do later , hit me on the head , please 🙂 Cheers .

  18. Please tell me about the color. Your pictures are much darker brown and less red than the company’s web pictures. It is hard to get a good feel for the colors they offer.

  19. Hi Julie,
    Just purchased a messenger bag from Saddleback. Do you think it would be large enough to hold a 15.4 (diagonal screen size) laptop? If not, it’s not a deal breaker. I guess I could have emailed Saddleback about this but thought I’d ask you since I was here and thought you might know. If you’re too busy, I’ll understand.

    1. @Geo: I didn’t review their messenger bag, but I just looked on their site and see that the dimensions are: 14″W x 12.75″H x 3.75″D
      Hope that helped…

  20. Julie, another great review. I bought the briefcase you reviewed which I got yesterday (and I love already!) but I would like the satchel too. It costs a lot to ship to UK but a friends parents live in Texas so might get one for me and take over when they visit in July. By the way, do you drive a Miata. I see your keys look the same as mine for my MX5 (as we call them in the UK)

  21. Ah, I see. It’s just the keys that are the same. Nice colour by the way.
    Getting back to the briefcase, do you have any ideas on how to make the bag look a bit lived in quickly. I love it to bits but I just know that it will stand out a mile as a “new” bag. While this is good for some things, like a car, I kind of want the bag to have a slightly used look before we venture outdoors. The weight of it is something else too. I am at university so I hate to think what it will be like will books and stuff 🙁

  22. Pete Williamson


    I purchased this satchel 30 minutes ago on the internet, just before finding your review. I have been looking for reviews for a few weeks now and just found yours today and I must say, I made a very good choice.

    I was looking for a nice bag to hold all the things we carry around these days and after looking at, and reviewing a hundred or so bags, this is the perfect man bag.

    Although my wife teases me about carrying a man bag, she does think its a good idea and it helps me to stay organized. I don’t think a little ole bag will help us men stay organized, however, every little bit helps.

    The Saddleback Leather Co could learn a lesson from your detailed photos. Their photos are dark and lack contrast, which doesn’t aid in making a sound decision on shelling out almost $300 bucks.

    Thanks for the great review and I’ll submit another comment when it arrives.


  23. Pete Williamson


    Received my satchel yesterday and as the younger crowd would say, “this thing is the bomb.” What’s impressive is how good it looks and much it holds. I’ve always carried a backpack to and from work, which takes up room and they are very bulky. This bag holds everything my backpack held (within reason) with the exception of 8×11″ papers. And, if you can’t put it in the bag, you can always hang it on the outside (i.e. stainless steel drinking bottles).

    This is a very strong and sturdy bag – on a good bet, you could probably stuff a small car in it. 🙂

    Thanks again for your review.


  24. Julie

    I’ getting ready to make a purchase of one of the briefcases and am having trouble deciding what size to get. i’m 6’0 and 175lbs to give you an idea. what size would you say would be best. i’m thinking the med may be to small and large too big. any suggestions?

  25. Hey Julie,

    Have been looking at the satchel for a little bit now and want one terribly. I’ve got a nice small messenger bag from L.L. Bean that I have really enjoyed, but the truth is that I’ve found that I want something a little smaller. The Satchel from Saddleback is it. I’m struggling over which color to get, however. Are you absolutely certain (why wouldn’t you be?) that the bag you reviewed is the chestnut and not the dark coffee brown? I did notice one other person on here noting that the chestnut looks much redder online than it does in real life. Was that the case with you? In your photos it looks strikingly like the dark coffee brown.

    Thanks for your review and photos. They are so helpful that Saddleback actually sent me your link in an email as an answer to some questions I had about additional photos of the bag. Keep up the good work!!

  26. hi julie,
    thanks so much for your review. i have been puzzling over medium, small, large sizes for the satchel. i actually put in a bid for a pre-owned large size on ebay. your pics give me a good idea of dimensions. Small satchel seems rather small for all my stuff. medium seems better, and large, well i can put my water bottle etc some workout gear, ebook reader (8 inch screen so not that small) possibly ipad etc. Now my concern is the weight! I’m about 5’5″, slim.. But when I cut out the dimensions betw the diff sizes, large seems best for all my things! fingers crossed that i have a good/honest seller!
    thanks again

  27. Hi Julie.
    I’ve enjoyed your reviews very much. After discovering saddleback online a few days ago, i’m in love. but i’m debating over which satchel to get medium or large. i like the looks of the medium for some reason better. But i’m concerned it wont be big enough for what i need. The large seems like it might look a bit big on me – i’m 5″4 and slimish. Would you say that the medium size would be able to fit one of those compact size umbrellas, medium size notebook, ipod, phone, keys, some pens, maybe few more small things? i know you reviewed the small but may you can take a good guess since you have some reference. thanks!!

    1. @Sara It sounds like you’re about my size. I’m 2 inches taller. I would go with medium. We’re going to have a review of that size very soon.

  28. Hi Julie,
    I’m in the same boat as Sara, except I’m 6′ @ 180lbs. I’m looking for the ultimate man bag to replace my corporate issued black nylon laptop bag and can’t decide on a medium or large satchel. The Saddleback backpack looks a little too bulky and the thin briefcase a little too professional {plain} (plus I already have a briefcase). Do you think the satchel looks “manlier” than the messenger bag? The goal is a perfect everyday carry bag: i.e. an ipad, book(s), bottled water, blackberry, newspaper, beef jerky, etc. that goes well on the plane, in the classroom, at the business meeting, coffee shop, etc. If I can possibly avoid “nice man purse/european shoulder bag”, then that would be great.
    Thanks for your excellent reviews, I hope Dave takes care of you.

  29. @Keith I think both bags are equally unisex but with more masculine leanings.
    When I wrote this review, there was just the one size… From your gear list, I think that Medium would be more than big enough to hold everything.

  30. Julie your review was really helpful! Do you or anyone else know if you can snugly fit an ipad2 (no sleeve) in the back slot? I know the medium size is meant for that but I don’t I need the extra room. Thanks!

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