When I die, will my grandchildren fight over who gets it?
July 29, 2009 3:57 PM   Subscribe

I am writer in search of a messenger bag. What is your opinion of the Saddleback Leather Company, specifically its briefcase? In your opinion, is really it worth a month's rent?
posted by litterateur to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (22 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
It seems like it would make a pretty poor messenger bag. Those buckle straps wouldn't allow you to open and close the bag quickly, and there doesn't seem to be anything to keep it from moving around when you're on the bike.
posted by box at 4:06 PM on July 29, 2009

I've wondered this same thing, because I lust for the satchel.
posted by firei at 4:08 PM on July 29, 2009

Response by poster: (Wow. My internet is acting choppy and so my question's grammar and structure are terrible! Sorry.)

I've noticed that there are a few here and there on Ebay, but they're still going for a couple hundred.
posted by litterateur at 4:13 PM on July 29, 2009

Only you can answer how important it is, to you, to have an heirloom to pass down to your descendants.

I think as a writer you'd be much better served if you bought a cheaper bag and used the extra money to buy some good blank journals and filled those for your descendants to read after you're gone.
posted by seancake at 4:20 PM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

I bought a PAC bag while in art school. It was an exorbitant expenditure at the time, but it had everything I wanted and was lauded by every bike messenger I knew, so I took the plunge. I got the Ultimate bag with many of the bells and whistles, and it's been just about as indestructible bag as a person could hope for. I've used it as a field sack for my travels as an oceanographic technician, a fly-fishing gear sack, an art-supply bag, a computer bag, an overnight camping sack and, on occasion, for it's intended purpose as a messenger bag. I don't think I'll ever have to buy another one. I love it.

Not quite as 'Indiana Jones' as the bag you're looking at, though.
posted by Pecinpah at 4:49 PM on July 29, 2009

Can I ask why you'd need such a fine looking messenger bag? That's not snark--if you're meeting a new, important editor, that kind of flair will broadcast a writer who takes him or herself seriously. I know lots of fashion writers/GQ contributors who flaunt that kind of leather tote, but most of them got theirs for free. Is it waterproof, or does it have more pockets than a cheaper bag? Can you safely store your laptop and manuscripts and take them out in inclement weather? I might be wrong, but if you're looking for utility and function, that bag probably won't cut it. It looks like an elegantly flimsy accessory, neither briefcase nor backpack. I've never really considered a messenger bag to register as 'heirloom' status, anyway. Pecinpah's PAC bag is far less attractive (no offense!) but seems to do its job much better.
posted by zoomorphic at 4:56 PM on July 29, 2009

Saddleback makes beautiful bags, although frankly if I'm not a fan of the leather shoulder bag. If I were, though, I'd splurge and get the Filson leather Field Satchel. Of course, that's probably because I'm a Filson...uh... enthusiast.

That said, Ernest Alexander makes some very handsome messenger-style bags at a much more reasonable price-point.

Bear in mind that none of these bags are actual messenger bags, of course-- as box notes, above, they would be pretty impractical for a bike messenger. Which is fine-- you're not a bike messenger and don't need your bag to be useful in precisely the same way that a bike messenger does.
posted by dersins at 4:59 PM on July 29, 2009

I think everyone above is commenting on your use of the word "messenger bag", which is is a waterproof bag slung on the back used by couriers and other bike folk. The link you provided is definitely not a messenger bag in that sense.

As far as the bag on its own merits, it's a lot of money, and Saddleback seems to sell itself on mystique and an interesting story rather than product quality. I'd rather go with a traditional company with a longer history, like Filson, if I wanted something fancier than the usual cordura-n-zippers crowd. And I don't see how I'm going to wear out a good bag in the first place (I have Timbuk2 and Chrome bags which refuse to quit).
posted by meowzilla at 5:05 PM on July 29, 2009

I wouldn't buy that, especially if that's how much you pay per month for rent. But! I was similarly looking for a good quality and hardy bag recently, and ended up with a Filson Medium Field Bag. I didn't buy it from the main site though. I picked it up here at a discount, and was more than satisfied with their delivery speed (ie: it was free and arrived within the week).

My only issue with it is that when they're new, they're very stiff, and I'm currently in the process of breaking mine in. But it carries everything with ease - EeePC, big camera, notebooks, waterbottle etc.

(Reading up, I see dersins also recommended it - they really are very nice bags!)
posted by saturnine at 5:25 PM on July 29, 2009

Anecdata: I know someone who was given the briefcase as a law school graduation present and he loves it with the fire of a thousand suns.
posted by barnacles at 5:30 PM on July 29, 2009

I think everyone above is commenting on your use of the word "messenger bag", which is is a waterproof bag slung on the back used by couriers and other bike folk. The link you provided is definitely not a messenger bag in that sense.

It's important to know what you're planning to do with your bag in order to recommend something for you. Are you riding a bicycle or motorcycle in all weather? Or do you need something that won't look out of place when you're wearing a suit? Do you (would you) carry more than a file folder, paperback, and phone?

For what it's worth, I tend to like surplus Swiss military satchels, but my 'leather enthusiast'* friend swears by his Duluth.

*think jackets, bags, pen cases rather than adult garments.
posted by a halcyon day at 5:43 PM on July 29, 2009

I've purcahsed 2 bags from Korchmar's ebay outlet - one for me, one as a gift (this bag, one of them was that color). I like my bag a lot - it gotten softer and better looking with age.
posted by milkrate at 6:14 PM on July 29, 2009

I just bought one that was from a traveling craftsman who hits arts/crafts festivals (only, no web or mail-order business.) It's a replica of an old-school satchel that quickly converts to a backpack (so, not technically a messenger bag, but close.)

Point being, it was a bit over a hundred bucks. That one looks really nice, but I'm not sure if it's worth the extra moolah.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:52 PM on July 29, 2009

I would also recommend something from Filson. They have a yearly seconds sale that was the functional equivalent of Christmas for my people when I used to live in Seattle.
posted by jessamyn at 7:01 PM on July 29, 2009

I'd recommend Tom Bihn bags
posted by mathiu at 12:16 AM on July 30, 2009

I have a large Dark Coffee Saddleback briefcase and I love it. You can't beat the style and the craftsmanship is top notch. I really do believe one of my grandchildren will inherit it, assuming I ever get around to having children. Dave the owner makes some pretty strong claims, but his products back those claims ups. Honestly, I can't say enough good about them. If you have any specific questions, fire away.

I also have a Tom Bihn backpack that is great, if you decide to look at other styles. But I have found once I have something specific in mind, anything else seems like a compromise.
posted by Silvertree at 5:17 AM on July 30, 2009

Pretty, but I'll bet you $495 it's as heavy as a sack of bricks.
posted by heather-b at 6:13 AM on July 30, 2009

Depending on the size, it could weigh as much as eight pounds. That's going to be uncomfortable to schlep.

I like bags, and like getting new ones. I would get tired of having the same bag every day long before this one wore out.

(I can't think of any reason why writers need special bags, by the way. Nice pens, sure; good computers, makes sense. But bags? I'm not seeing it.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:37 AM on July 30, 2009

Yeah, if you are looking for light weight, I wouldn't buy a good leather bag. Stick with cloth. Mine has some heft once I get a 17" MBP, a few books, and other stuff in it.
posted by Silvertree at 9:10 AM on July 30, 2009

Those bags weigh between 6.5 and 8 pounds, depending on the size. If you are serious about spending $500+ on a bag for carrying your writing stuff, I'd do a little "carry" test first. Take another bag about the same size and fill it with small heavy stuff until it weighs around the same as the one you want (empty). Then fill it with the stuff you want to have with you. I think you'll find that the aesthetics of the bag don't outweigh (ha!) the utility. I have lots of cool bags and I pretty much always avoid the neat, but heavy, options if I have to carry anything around for a while.

Now, that being said, there are uses for a bag that looks great – such as business settings and personal aesthetic. But I would get a bag that most easily let you do the things you need to do as a writer, and if it means travel and flexibility, then another bag is probably best. Lots of great suggestions on alternatives above.
posted by qwip at 9:50 AM on July 30, 2009

I also highly recommend Tom Bihn bags. I've used one of his backpacks almost every day for nearly ten years, and it has been stalwartly indestructible. Plus, when I called once to ask some questions, the guy who answered the phone was Tom Bihn.
posted by itstheclamsname at 10:38 AM on July 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, as another person that lusts over a Saddleback bag -- you can get about $100 off a new bag or as much as $250 off of a used bag on eBay. Here's the search if you are interested.
posted by suburbanrobot at 5:03 AM on September 12, 2009

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