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A Tale of Two Bags (Saddleback v. Zero)

post #1 of 32
Thread Starter 
I've been carrying my Saddleback for a week after switching from what has literally been my signature brief for the last five years -- my 3" Zero-Halliburton Elite. I like to have a lot of stuff with me (queue Carlin joke here), everything from a supply of extra calling cards to a knife, a roll of electrical tape (can seal up most any cut and used, in a pinch, as a torniquet), LED flashlight, and the cable that lets me tether my laptop to my cell and check my email most anywhere you can see a tower. The Zero stowed everything with aplomb - I carried it through undergrad with a text, folder, and my TI-89. I once carried a bottle on Pinot Noir and two glasses (Reidel, obviously) in it. I have inserts for it that let me carry a set of camera gear one day and my competition pistol the next. You can even use it as a seat (have done many time) But it met its match in law school. One casebook and my netbook fill it up, leaving no room for another binder or book. Plus, with that much weight it gets tiring on my 10-15min walk. I needed a backpack, and I am not a backpack kind of guy, at least, not an urban backpack kind of guy. Member Sigmatic recommended a bag from Saddleback Leather to me and after carrying it a week I'm sold. The bag is the Traveller's Cut Medium Briefcase in Chestnut. This is a serious piece of kit. I post it in SW&D because it has got to suit the ethos here -- it is not an Edward Green Chelsea, it is the Gentleman's Traveler of briefcases:
  • The Impression: Cool. I got two compliments the first day. I have worn it with a suit and my three year old Earnest Sewns. It is does not contradict either role.
  • The Leather. That bridle leather everyone talks about? That's what this thing is made of. Completely. The smell when you open the box is incredible. I cut the edge at one of the shoulder straps to confirm that it is, indeed, vat dyed through and through. The bag is lined front to back with pigskin, left suede on the sides. It's as heavy duty as a saddle. All the major seams are double-stiched, none of the edges are rolled. This is no Gucci bag, it is not a pair of jeans with the oil-filter mark pre-stained at the factory for poseurs. It is a serious piece of kit.
  • The Hardware: All corners and load-carrying areas are riveted. There's nickel-plated steel throughout the twelve D-rings, one round ring, four buckles, and three clips -- none for show. The hardware is stout and allows flexibility in your carrying of stuff, you can clip the shoulder strap to different points to better balance the bag for unusual loads, or run the strap from the bottom Ds through the central ring to carry it as a backpack/knapsack. I was worried that the ring that makes this functionality possible was going to pull out it's rivet, but I see that it is in fact riveted to a wide aluminum bar sewn between the top flap and its pigskin lining. Nice engineering there -- it's never coming out.

I've already used a carabiner on a Dring to attach my baby Slik tripod to the bag. The clips on the shoulder strap are particularly interesting to this engineer -- for your bag to drop due to clip failure at its weakest part, two separate pieces of metal would need to break. Interesting. There are no snaps, zips, buttons or other closures other than buckles.

  • The Storage: The bag has two main compartments, about 4.5" x 15" each, two small external compartments (cell-sized), an external paper/magazine pocket, two large and two small internal pockets. The most I could stuff in the bag was my 15" HP laptop and a 1" binder in the back, two casebooks (vertically) in the front, and all my other stuff. That's a ton of weight, surely over 30lbs, and I hope to never have to carry all of that.

I mainly use one compartment for my Eee netbook a binder, and sometimes a file or two, while the other compartment gets a casebook and my Lumix DMC-LX3 in its fitted case. The lumix would fit in the largest of the four internal pouches, but I've already got those crammed. The outside two pockets are a little small, but remember, this is good leather that will stretch and conform like holster -- my thermos bottle now fits securely in one of those pockets.

  • The Functionality: It's a briefcase with a very comfortable carry handle and a shoulder strap, so I tend to think of it as a messenger. But the shoulder strap has two pads, and in about 45sec you can convert it to a backpack/knapsack. It's very secure in that mode, and while not perfectly comfortable, it's what you need and want when your arms are tired or you need to be hands free. If you were broader than I, you might feel the lower Drings against your back (I do if the bag's not centered), and I'd advise getting the wider bag then. I wonder if Saddleback could arrange for little leather flaps to guard against this? They probably could. I wouldn't buy it as a pure backpack (Saddleback does make one of those also), but as a 50% duty item it would be hard to ever live without.

The buckles take about a day to get used to. I have thus far only used the center one to close the bag, leaving the other two belts just tucked away, though they serve fine to keep my umbrella or raincoat. They are also completely removable belts and could be used as such admirably. Some call the bags too heavy. Well, the leather just is. It's heavy because there are no shortcuts. I've been carrying a

metal briefcase, and that is just not an issue for me -- the straps/pads are excellent, and unlike thin nylon webbing, do not tend to collapse into the smallest possible area to cut through your neck. Loaded, I'm around 22lbs now.
  • Conclusion: This is the raw denim of bags. It is made very, very, very well but is not an Anderson and Sheppard suit. It has, as I once described myself, "a white collar, but blue hands." They would understand the notion of wabi-sabi. You buy it and make it yours as age and life scars it and you -- after a week of hard use you can see mine is already picked up some 'patina.' But it's honest and that appeals to me, as does this company's ethic. The bags are made in Mexico by people they claim who have "never made as much money before in their lives" which I'm sure is not U.S. standards but I believe from all my interaction with Saddleback that they treat their people much better than comparative firms. After I ordered this bag (I bought a second on eBay as I thought it would be too big for my needs, nope), I was informed that 10% of my total was being donated to charity -- this stands in contrast to the max profit at any cost model that much of the Western world has adopted and I applaud that sense of humanity. It is something I look for in all of my purchases.
So yeah, I love the bag. It is going to replace my trusty Zero day to day. When I break out the Kilgour suit for a big meeting, the Zero will still go with me, but for everything else it's the Saddleback for me. ~ Huntsman (ps. sorry for too much compression in the pics)
LL
post #2 of 32
Nice bags and description; thanks for sharing it. Though I must say they pale in comparison to storing all your stuff in a Jag.
post #3 of 32
Thread Starter 
And from the Bag Man himself -- thanks, Prof. I can't, unfortunately, store my stuff in the Jag as I have to keep tools, spare parts and stuff in there.
post #4 of 32
What do you wear to class? I have gotten more casual than when I was at work. It's not just conformity, though I admit there is some of that - it's that I have to walk uphill 15-20 minutes to class, and I'd get nicer clothes rather sweaty. Also, I have less time for looking presentable now, sadly. I still don't wear the lame uniform of a t-shirt and shorts, but am most days just wearing an OCBD and jeans now. It really saves time to wear jeans, since I don't have to wash them.
post #5 of 32
We need more threads like this one. I've been checking out Saddleback bags for a couple weeks and growing more infatuated with them, so good timing here. You answer just about all the questions one would have about the bag. How much did this one run you?
post #6 of 32
Just thought I'd say that my bag has been great for years and filled every purpose I've needed a bag for. Only time I don't use it is when I go grocery shopping or need a different color basically.
post #7 of 32
The write-ups for these bags on the site and eBay are fantastic. They do a great job driving home the logic in taking a big hit in the wallet now, but getting a bag that'll last you until you croak.
post #8 of 32
I recently bought a saddleback messenger back and its going to arrive on tuesday with any luck.
post #9 of 32
These bags seem amazing. I've been looking at them for years and just haven't pulled the trigger yet. They are expensive but they definitely look like they'll last forever.
post #10 of 32
Nice bag. If you are good with the weight, then it is a win.

Good fit on the suit. Lots of shirt cuff showing, I usually don't do that much but looks good.

That ConLaw book looks a bit too tidy though. I would focus on putting some wear on that : )
post #11 of 32
I have the exact same model, bought the previous month. It illicits compliments from everyone, coworkers, family, young, old and especially from women. More than once I've caught complete strangers seemingly in awe of it, it oozes quality without being pretentious like a designer briefcase from say, Hermes, would. Walking among Kings while keeping the common touch, if you would.

For what it's worth, there are really only two things that most women seem to find attractive straight up, good shoes and a good bag. Everything else in menswear just seems to look the same to them. To my frustration, I've had to explain the difference between a blazer and a suit more times than I would have liked. Though they do appreciate a good tie, cufflinks and pocketsquares.
post #12 of 32
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bluemagic View Post
What do you wear to class? I have gotten more casual than when I was at work. It's not just conformity, though I admit there is some of that - it's that I have to walk uphill 15-20 minutes to class, and I'd get nicer clothes rather sweaty. Also, I have less time for looking presentable now, sadly. I still don't wear the lame uniform of a t-shirt and shorts, but am most days just wearing an OCBD and jeans now. It really saves time to wear jeans, since I don't have to wash them.
It varies and depends on if I have time to change after work, which is rare. I still wear suits a day or two a week. I agree about the 'less time to look presentable now'! I enjoy wearing my jeans when I can, usually with whatever dress shirt I was wearing.
Quote:
Originally Posted by APK View Post
We need more threads like this one. I've been checking out Saddleback bags for a couple weeks and growing more infatuated with them, so good timing here. You answer just about all the questions one would have about the bag. How much did this one run you?
Thanks -- one thing I forgot to add was that there is a key strap inside also, which I use daily. This was an eBay second, as so was like $325 or so. 'Infatuation' is pretty how I wound up with this one....
Quote:
Originally Posted by DLester View Post
Nice bag. If you are good with the weight, then it is a win. Good fit on the suit. Lots of shirt cuff showing, I usually don't do that much but looks good. That ConLaw book looks a bit too tidy though. I would focus on putting some wear on that : )
Yah, my coat sleeves went up as I wandered back and forth getting the shot. The book is Torts, BTW. I've been trying to wear it out....
post #13 of 32
Oh shit. I was thinking it'd be closer to five bills. Man, now I'm really tempted to make that one of my next purchases.
post #14 of 32
I've had my Saddleback for two weeks now. It was a completely un-planned purchase, though I'd been drooling over them since I first heard about them a year ago.

Then my brother got one (dark tobacco color) several months ago and can't stop raving about it. I saw it with my own eyes when I visited in June. I liked it, but preferred the dark coffee flavor.

So then I saw a Facebook ad by someone that had ordered one to Korea, paid a 110,000 won import duty (about 80 or 90 USD), only to realize it was way too big for his 125 lbs frame.

It was the chestnut briefcase in large, which wasn't my favorite color, but I realized that what I was most in need of was a bag that would look presentable with a suit, and of all the saddleback colors, chestnut was probably the best for that.

So I bought it and haven't looked back. I still love the dark coffee color for that Indiana Jones look, but I've gotten used to the chestnut even for wearing with jeans and a polo shirt.

It certainly holds a ton of stuff. I even keep a small video camera (Flip MinoHD) and tripod that I keep in it. I use an altoids tin to store small stuff like chapstick, USB drive, hand sanitizer, etc.

I did a ton of research and took into serious account the negative reviews as well, and when suddenly I had the chance to buy one here in Seoul I knew I had to jump on it.

My girlfriend was pissed at first because it is definately pricey (even though I got it for quite a bargain), and there were already some scuff marks and things on it, but after I explained the whole philosophy of the bag, and she saw me taking it, rather than my usual vinyl laptop bag that came with the laptop my company gave me, to work the next day in my suit, she came on board 100%.

Yes, it is heavy. There's just no getting around that. But for me, it's worth it just because I'll always have a bag/briefcase for any situation for the rest of my life.
post #15 of 32
Quote:
Originally Posted by stvwrd View Post
Yes, it is heavy. There's just no getting around that. But for me, it's worth it just because I'll always have a bag/briefcase for any situation for the rest of my life.

And the thing will just get prettier in that time.

I can't chalk up $500+ for a bag I can't see in person ($650 with customs - not including shipping and currency conversion: basically, a $750 CAD bag), not counting the two or three breifcases currently on ebay. Then again, not an expensive investment for a lifetime bag.
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