Saddleback Leather Company Briefcase Thin Review

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First off, I REALLY love Saddleback Leather Company‘s motto of ‘They’ll fight over it when you’re dead’. That is saying something in today’s disposable society; where electronics are engineered to last a few years before their battery dies, motherboard fries, or they simply self destruct. Saddleback believes their products are so well made they guarantee them for 100 years.

I have had the opportunity to tryout many laptop bags over the years here at, most very nice but none of them perfect enough to make me switch permanently (aka I roll through them pretty regularly). I have read most of the Saddleback reviews Julie has done over the years and always wanted to see/try one for myself. Well, I have finally been given the chance to try one out. I will be looking at Saddleback’s Briefcase Thin a thinner, lighter version of their standard briefcase Julie reviewed a couple of  years ago.

The first thought that ran through my mind when I first saw the Saddleback Thin Briefcase was that it reminds me of the Old West. A bag not made by a machine in a factory in China but one hand-made by an artisan, constructed to last a lifetime….truly a world of difference.

The main flap is secured in place by a belt type of latch. Both sides of the closure are stitched and riveted to survive being latched and unlatched countless times over a lifetime. It has taken me some time to get use to the added time and (for lack of a better word) complexity needed to open and close/secure the flap. A minor thing that I am sure will become easier as the leather of the belt closure breaks in.

The back of the briefcase has a slim slipper pocket ideally sized to hold paperwork or a magazine. Definitely quicker access than the main compartment.

All seams are stitched with a thick industrial marine grade polyester thread. All points of stress have rivets to further ensure they will not fail. The top of the thin briefcase has a very strong, well engineered handle for carrying the briefcase.

As I said, the chrome tanned leather is as Old West as it can get. It is 2-2.2 mm thick and extremely rigid. It will take years to fully break in and soften up.

According to Saddleback, the thick vertical leather seams absorb the shock from an impact or a fall. I must concur, the 5mm thick vertical seams not only act as a shock absorber but holds the briefcase vertically when you set it down.

The three seams on the bottom of the case also help to enable it to stand upright by itself. Although I doubt it will be able to stand on it own when the bag fully breaks in and has aged a bit.

All of the corners of the briefcase have D-rings to clip things/items/stuff to the bag like a water bottle, flashlight or set of keys.

The interior is lined with a tough pigskin leather. The inside is relatively spacious and easily holds all my tech-stuff.

These are the items I travel with both daily and on trips:

Saddleback’s thin briefcase is available in two sizes:

  • 15″ Medium – 15″ x 11 ½” x 4 ¼” (38.1cm x 29.21cm x 10.795cm). Weighs approx. – 4 ¼” lbs
  • 17″ Large – 17″ x 12 ½” x 4 ¼” (43.18cm x 31.75cm x 10.795cm). Weighs approx – 5 lbs.

And four colors:

  • Chestnut
  • Carbon black
  • Dark coffee
  • Dark tobacco

The front and rear compartments are both 2 1/4” deep and as I said….spacious. But my two complaints are the lack of interior pockets and padding on the bottom of the back compartment. Saddleback has included a single pocket and two pen slots in the front compartment. I would have preferred 2-3 mid-sized pockets. I do not like my equipment flopping around, willy-nilly. Plus it would be nice to have the option to order the briefcase with additional padding on the bottom of rear compartment, as added drop protection for laptops.

There are a total of 10 D-rings (5 on each side) plus one O-ring on the thin briefcase. All designed to either carry the briefcase or to hang/carry items on the bag.

The O-ring allows you wear the bag as a backpack. I do not know if I will actually wear this bag as a backpack but I am surprised just how comfortable it is in this mode.

As Julie has mentioned in a majority of her reviews, Saddleback bags are extremely heavy. The Thin Briefcase is no different, at 5 lbs it starts out heavy and only gets heavier as I added my tech-stuff. Total weight is over 13 lbs; that is a fair amount of weight to lug around.

To suspend the weight, Saddleback includes an equally well made shoulder strap that is engineered to carry the briefcase around for a 100 years. Like the bag itself, the ends of the strap are riveted and stitched. The shoulder pad is comfortable and the clips are nicely made as well.

Weight aside, this case sure looks good, feels good, smells good….you get the picture. I have received many comments on how nice the briefcase looks and one friend ask if they could have it if I decided I did not want it (doubt that will be the case). Overall I really like Saddleback’s Thin Briefcase, (definitely) enough to keep it around for a while. Like many other Saddleback bags, their Thin Briefcase is not cheap. At over $400, this is a relatively expensive item. But if you breakdown the cost (based on the 100 warranty), its just $4/year, $0.34/month, or about $0.01/day; a pretty darn good bang for the buck for a rugged, Indiana Jones fashion statement that is made to last several lifetimes.

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Product Information

Price:- Medium: $411- Large: $423
Manufacturer:Saddleback Leather Company
  • Old West styling
  • Excellent materials and craftsmanship
  • Can convert into a backpack
  • No breakable parts
  • 100 year warranty
  • Very heavy
  • Should have option for additional padding
  • Should have option for additional pockets
  • Expensive

15 thoughts on “Saddleback Leather Company Briefcase Thin Review”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Bought a tote after Julie’s review. As she warned It was HEAVY..too heavy..never use it. (Unfortunately iPhone keyboard does not have sad face. )

  3. Totally agree with your review. I just bought this exact bag about two weeks ago. Looks great, smells great, and is worth every penny. However, like you, I like a home for all of my stuff, and that single pocket in the front portion of the bag just isn’t enough. Ditto the padding for my laptop. Will probably end up selling it on eBay and revert back to my Swiss Army backpack.

  4. Nice review! I recently sold my full sized Saddleback briefcase….it was drop dead gorgeous, but just way too heavy. This seems like a better option…but only a couple of pounds weight savings still might be a pain to carry. Tough call though…they just look so good and they do smell great too!

  5. It took a while to get used to the weight, and I’m actually on my second standard briefcase, having sold the medium a while back to get the next smallest size. Provided I’m economical with what I pack, I’m good for the whole day with it, though I tend to leave the removable shoulder pads off, as combined, they add a minute but noticeable mass over the course of the day. When it’s time for a weekend trip, I just open it up and in goes a change of clothes and the laptop (a netbook, to be perfectly honest) and it’s fine to carry to wherever I’m staying, whereupon arriving I can unload anything that will keep me loaded down during the day. It’s what I like best about the bag – flexibility.

  6. Just bought this bag. it’s a little heavy, and forces me to be very deliberate in what I pack for a trip. Typically, my trips are fairly short, 3-day trips, so the briefcase is only for business day stuff, not socks or toothpaste, etc.
    In the past, my Ogio bag was the storehouse for a collection of cables, EU plug converters, etc…but not any more. My Saddleback bag is just for the stuff I need for that trip. small organizing bags are useful — check out Eagle Creek quarter cubes.
    The real assessment of this bag will come 10 years from now, when it’s buttery soft, and lovely, and re-oiled, and an old friend. I’m willing to bet that you will never pry that bag out of my possession then.

    So, a little heavy now, with the promise of awesomeness later….

    1. 5 YEAR UPDATE: I still have this exact bag. this one in the article (thank you, Dave Rees). It’s been on almost 1,000,000 miles of airplane travel and all the other duties required of one’s briefcase, and still going strong.
      It’s gotten a little more worn, and little more scratch, and it’s awesome. I’ve grown used to the weight, it’s the perfect size, and with the SBL attachable pouch, it attaches to my roll-aboard suitcase with ease. I love it.
      still 5-stars.

  7. I bought two bags from saddleback this month. First off, I agree they are expensive and my messenger bag could use a few more internal pockets for me to segregate some important things, like iPod, thumb drive, glasses, etc. The second bag is the tote for my wife. I gotta tell you…she has FLIPPED for this bag. Now, I’m not a woman but I guess after years of carrying bags that are “not quite right” or “almost right” when you find the right one it is apparently some kind of spiritual moment! So, certainly no negatives to report on the tote!

  8. I just got my chestnut brown 17″ slim briefcase, very, very nice. I’ve had other cases but this one is me. Better than the pictures, and to me (a big guy) not very heavy. Not quite as much room inside as I pictured, but I easily put my Xoom w/case, travel charger and data cords, travel kit, a good size book and other misc. stuff in it w/o stretching it. Definitely a well made piece and I expect alot of compliments on it, worth every penny, go get one!

  9. Please, please, please tell us which size… I bought the XL Full size Briefcase in Dark Coffee, and I can’t believe how much I love it! Truly the finest of quality. However, it is crazy big and crazy heavy. I will keep it as an overnight/short trip/camping bag. I am going to pick up the Thin Briefcase for everyday usage, and I’m pretty sure the Large (17″) version is what I want, but not 100% sure. Knowing which one was photographed would be clutch!! I also have the MacBook Pro sleeve and iPad 2 sleeve from SBL, and they are equally impressive. Thanks for the review… Nice job!!

  10. “CO July 23, 2011 at 11:31 pm Please, please, please tell us which size…”
    The size is probably the “Large” because he said 5 lbs empty


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