“They’ll fight over it when you’re dead” is a pretty strong motto, but not one that comes without thought or promise. It’s taken me a long time to even start writing this review. Honestly, I wanted to make sure this bag was worth the $800 they were asking for it. I’ll admit that price tag did seem over the top to me, but both my lawyer brother and my cowboy brother (the third one’s a cop, go figure) have been carrying Saddleback bags for years and swear by them. With all the hooks and loops offering a wide variety of carry options, it seemed like it would suit my needs on the bike as well, so I decided to take the leap.
My older brother Spencer went to law school in Montana and was given his bag as a gift when he started. It stayed with him all through his time in Missoula and has been his daily companion to the office and back since. Fletcher, my younger brother, got his when he was running the horse unit at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and has since moved on to become a crop adjuster, bringing his bag with him from farm to farm in his pickup. I’m proud to say that mine has seen more miles and more wear in the short six months that I’ve been using it than either of theirs have, and it’s the wear that really gives these bags character over time. Not that brothers get competitive over petty things.
It sounds sort of silly to say, but I waited for this bag to arrive like a kid waits for Christmas morning. I was watching the tracking page—I turned on text alerts and everything. I was fully dorking out. It was bigger than I expected, and wrapped in a nice canvas bag to protect it inside the box. Also inside were a leather keychain and two business cards from the owner of the company, Dave Munson. I didn’t know who he was at the time, but as I dug further into the bag, I got more and more into his story and how he developed these carry systems.
“Every piece of Saddleback Leather and Canvas is built for you to break in for the next guy. We believe in our craftsmanship, materials, and designs so strongly that we warrant them against defects in faulty materials and poor workmanship for 100 years. If it’s our fault that it broke because we didn’t put it together well or we used defective materials that didn’t hold up like they were supposed to, then we’ll fix it or replace and send it back on our dime. But If you’re out having a good time and you jack up your bag, then give us a call and we’ll see if we can help for free or for a small charge.”
With most companies, a 100-year warranty is a hell of a gesture, but I don’t have all the confidence that you’re going to stand the test of time and be there when I come hunting you down for my money back. Then what. Dave says we can contact his descendants and promises they’ll make it right (he has kids, we’re cool).
I trust this warranty, but I don’t think I’ll ever need it. Most importantly though, the warranty is a nice safety blanket but not the reason anyone is initially attracted to this bag. It’s rugged, it’s timeless, it’s durable…
It doesn’t take long to realize how much thought and effort went into not only the construction of this bag, but the design. There is one big bull ring under the top handle of that is the primary load-bearing component while wearing it as a backpack. From the outside, it looks like this is being held on by only one rivet, but when you open it up and look underneath, you see that it’s actually riveted to a 1/8-inch aluminum shank under the flap that attaches to both sides of the handle as well. A structural component to help redistribute the weight and make sure that no one piece takes the stress of the entire bag.
All of the hardware is made of high-quality stainless steel, and there are loops just about everywhere you might need one to secure this bag to just about anything. You can run this as a saddlebag on your bike if you want to; all it would take is a couple of clips or straps. Actually, I plan on doing just that once I finish up a project I am working on.
If you want to carry it as a messenger bag, that’s pretty self-explanatory. If you want to carry it as a backpack, as you probably would for riding, It’s easy to convert the strap, and there are two shoulder pads included for just this purpose. The flat back and placement of the lower hooks make it sit nice and comfortably against my back when I ride. The strap is adjustable as well, making it easy to keep the bag high up on my back. While the weight of the bag can be a little cumbersome, the pads and variety of carry options help alleviate any discomfort that might occur.
The weight of the bag is really the only negative, but the durability wouldn’t exist without it. Leather is uniquely strong and durable, but it’s also not the lightest material out there. If you want the look, feel, and function of this super high-quality leather, you’re going to have to deal with the weight as well. Luckily, like I mentioned earlier, there are a stainless steel hoops and loops throughout the bag, making it incredibly easy to strap to whatever you may need.
Lastly, this is just one of many designs. They are available both larger and smaller, more simple or more complex. This is the one that I chose to walk the line between weekend traveler and daily commuter, and it does so incredibly well. Maybe the ideal bag for you is something a little smaller that fits in a saddlebag more easily, or maybe you want to go with a more traditional backpack or full-blown duffel. Saddleback has options for everyone in a handful of colors, each made with the same attention to quality design and material.
So I’ll keep working on breaking this one in, and my brothers will do the same to theirs. A little conditioning every once in a while and our kin will be fighting over these when our time comes.