After my trip to Costa Rica, I realized that I needed a new laptop bag. I was using the Booq bag, which is a great bag (especially for a MacBook Pro), but it just screamed “laptop”, and was not really very versatile. It meant that everywhere I went with my laptop, I needed two bags. So I started looking for the perfect bag.
I knew I wanted a leather bag if possible, and something that would perform more duties than just hold my laptop, although it had to do that well since it was the primary purpose. I looked on sites like eBags.com, and checked out more high-end places like Tumi and Louis Vuitton. But in the end I just couldn’t find what I was looking for. Then one day I stumbled across a site that looked like it sold the perfect bag…Saddleback Leather.
The site is pretty great. It gives you not only specs on the bag, but stories about people who use the bag, and even a lot of back story on the creation of the bag. The site also explained some great details of the bag’s creation.
The website was pretty compelling, so I ordered a bag. The one downside of these bags is the cost. I paid nearly $600 for mine! I went with the Extra Large Reddish Brown Briefcase.
The bag arrived quickly, and I rushed to open the box. As soon as I cut it open, this amazing smell of leather came rushing out. After pulling the bag out of the box I started to examine it more thoroughly. It looked a little smaller at first than I thought it would be, but after measuring it, and comparing it to my current bag, I realized it’s actually quite large. I guess it’s good that it doesn’t look too big from the outside.
I immediately got my Mac and placed it into the bag, with it’s protective Booq sleeve. It fit like a glove, which I was very happy about. I then started loading other things into the bag and found that everything fit quite nicely.
My first trip with the bag was just to San Francisco for a meeting. I drove down from Oregon and checked into my hotel. I rode the elevator with another guest who told me she loved the bag. So far, so good. The next day I went to my meeting. No one commented on the bad, but I did see them checking it out. On the way back from the meeting I stopped by a clothing store to grab a jacket while in SF. The sales guy was all over the bag, which was a little creepy. He asked where I got it and how much it cost.
It’s safe to say that you will get attention with the bag. I almost forget how great it looks, and it still catches me off guard when someone comments about it.
I should go into some details about how the bag is made. It’s truly amazing how much thought the bag creator put into this. First the bag is full-grain leather. From what little I know about leather, this is the best leather you can get. It’s difficult to work with, but is amazingly tough. The bag is stitched together with some sort of synthetic string that just doesn’t break. There are also solid rivets at stress points throughout the bag.
But here are a couple details that really amaze me. First, the handle isn’t just connected to the leather, but there is actually a piece of metal in sewn inside the leather. This is to prevent the bag from stretching out of shape from being pulled up by the handle. Another idea to keep the leather in form is the nylon strap sewn inside the leather strap. Because when you carry a heavy bag with just a leather strap, of course the leather will stretch, but the nylon won’t allow it to stretch. This is part of what makes the bag great. Old world material (leather, steel, etc…) when it makes sense, combined with new material (synthetic string, nylon, etc…) when it makes sense.
The interior of the bag is a nice simple suede. It lacks the nice clean surface of a vinyl covering, but there is nothing to rip or damage.
Carrying the bag through the airport is easy. The strap doesn’t have quite the cushion that the Booq bag had, but it does seem to slide off my shoulder a lot less. There is also a nice side pocket built into the back of the bag, which is great for stashing your boarding pass and magazine while getting on the plane.
After using the bag for a while, I think I only had one complaint. Many laptop bags have a nice slip that allows you to slide the bag over the handle of a rolling suitcase. But that would be prone to damage, and the point of this bag is that it’s indestructible. Plus with my new luggage, it’s not an issue for me.
The more I use the bag, the more broken in it becomes, and the better it looks. The bag worked great on my trip to Hong Kong, as well as all my conferences in Vegas. It works really well with my new Rimowa suitcase.
If you’re looking at getting one of these, rest assured it’s as great as the website makes it look.
would say that the 18inch bag that you bought is more of travel bag and less of a daily bag? hows it holding up? do you still love it?
Just a quick follow up, I still love this bag. It’s been three years and I have used the hell out of this thing. It’s holding up great and looks better than ever. I don’t see a time when I can possibly wear this briefcase out.
Josh – I work from home, so I don’t really need a “daily” bag. But, I do use this as my briefcase when I do need one. My Macbook Pro fits perfectly in the bag, so it works very well for meetings. If you’re using a daily bag now for your laptop, I’m guessing you would like this bag. Although it doesn’t have the extra padding that a laptop bag would have, so you may want to get a protective sleeve for your computer as well.
The bag is holding up great. The more it gets broken in, the better it looks. I just returned from Vegas and had the bag with me on the plane and at the airport. I got 2 compliments from people at the airport about the bag.
Is your MBPro the 15 or 17″ one? With the Xtra large bag you have, how much space is left over (in the longest dimension) after you put the Pro with its sleeve into the bag? Is there any problem with putting pens, etc into the two interior side pockets? Thanks for your review.
Jay – I have the 15″ Macbook Pro. It fits perfectly with the Booq sleeve. It has plenty of room left over.
No problems with pens or and stuff into the bag. I usually keep my cords, pens, notepad, etc… in the front area. I’m still very happy with the bag, and it just looks better the older it gets.
I just bought one of these bags as well and it looks great. I use it as an every day bag and for my macbook and i also bought the XL bag as well. A bag has to go with your height me i am 6’2 and i had a chocie of the L or XL so i just got the extra Large one.
Do you think the MBP with a sleeve would fit in the Large bag (2 inches shorter)?
Brian – I’m not sure. It looks like I would have a couple inches, but it would be a snug fit. I would be worried it would fit, but would be right up against the side so would get knocked around a lot. I like having the “crumple zone” like protection of a a couple inches.
I am considering a similar Saddleback briefcase but have read several reviews that were not complementary. Are you still satisfied with your briefcase?
Frank – I’m still really happy with it. I noticed some of the comments on the Web about Saddleback, and I think some of them are really silly. It looks like people are examining every inch of seam to see if something’s off-center. I couldn’t tell you if the seams are straight.
I would make sure to check and see if the bag stands up straight on it’s own. Mine still holds it shape well.
and it looks like there have been no issues with returns if you’re not happy.
Well, I hope my bag is half as nice as the glowing reviews I’m seeing. I will say that they seem to take their good ole time in getting the products shipped…..which is a turn off. I made the purchase (by credit card) 4 days ago (a Tuesday) and as of this evening (Friday) hey haven’t even confirmed that it has been processed internally….let alone shipped.
Why does it take them so long for a bag that they claim was “in stock”. Hopefully, it will “knock my socks off” when I receive it, but as of now, I’m no too keen on their customer service.
I got the Saddleback XL briefcase as a birthday gift and really love it. All of the comments above pretty much ring true: many positive comments, ruggedness, heft, quality, etc. The interior pockets really do hold onto stuff remarkably well, like thumb drives and pens. Thr friction of the leather acts as a deterrent to things sliding around. When I first got it, thought to get some kind of interior storage bag to catch small stuff, but the bag seems to hold onto and protect stuff really well. That being said, if you tend to collect junk in your carry-on bag, this is not really the bag for you; there are just not enough places to store nick-nacks. I’m glad to know the key strap is there as I have found my keys escape the outside pockets pretty easily. I have only two negative comments about the bag. First is the rough tin looking rivets next to the top handle. With all of the attention paid to matching the dark brown rivets with the leather, why did they ruin the look with these two in the most visible place on the bag? Go figure, no else seems to be bothered with it. Also, it would have been great to have a couple of brass grommet and loops to quickly close the bag as the center leather strap is the only way to fasten the bag and that takes longer than I would like, esp. when trying to gather my stuff (laptop, wallet, belt, etc.) at the security line at the airport. Of course, the single strap does protect the interior contents very well from theft and is sturdy enough to carry a olot of weight, so I guess it is a good trade-off. Otherwise, I love the bag and hope to hold onto it for a very long time.
Looks really very nice one, thank you for share.
Does anyone have any tips for unbuckling the center strap? I am all thumbs when it comes to opening my bag, especially with 20 people behind me in the airport security line.
Good question. I agree that how I love my Saddleback bag, it's not the most airport friendly. One thing I can say is that it gets easier with time. Both because I get better at it, and the leather loosens a bit and becomes more bendable.
When I travel for business, I usually stay at least one night. So I usually pack my Saddleback bag into my overnight rolling cary-on (http://bit.ly/7rKKr8). This bag from eBags has the simple slide out for my laptop, and is big enough to hold my Saddleback briefcase, along with clothes and toiletries for a 2 day trip. The laptop slide out makes things really simple.
So I just got the XL . . . quick question, have you noticed the holes in the straps getting 'too stretched' looking. I Particularly the middle one. I was thinking about putting grommets in the straps to prevent such an occurence But if you haven't noticed any damaging effects due to heavy loads, then I am a happy man 🙂
In just five years, this case will be as relevant as a 1980′s cell phone case is now. Don’t get me wrong, this is beautifully made to be sure, but it reminds me of the blinged cell phones you see for thousands of dollars that will be hopelessly outdated in a year. Not only that, but as beautiful as leather cases like this are, they are bloody heavy!
What the hell are you talking about? This is a briefcase. I’m pretty sure we’re going to be stuck with briefcases for quite a while. And as briefcases go, this one is incredible.