I’ve covered Saddleback before and still use my laptop sleeve on a daily basis. It continues to pick up scuffs and character marks and becomes more decidedly mine with each day. I’ve also written about laptop bags before, and my Moleskine backpack continues to be a solid performer. But here’s the thing; as much as I’d like to be, I’m just not a minimalist traveller. I get a couple of projects going at work and suddenly my “laptop and key card” carry becomes “laptop, key card, few hundred pages of document to review, notebook with notes from developer meeting, other notebook from other meeting because I forgot the first notebook on my desk, headphones to drown out the general office chatter…” Needless to say, my poor bag tries to keep up, but ends up looking like a baby manatee.
So what’s a packrat like me to do? Upgrade, of course. The folks over at Saddleback were kind enough to send along their rather understatedly-named Thin Briefcase. What they should have called it was “Awesome Leather Armor Bag for Your Gear” or maybe “Leather Bag of Holding +10” because this is the bag post-apocalyptic RPG characters find in the ruins of our crumbled society, dust off, claim for themselves, then use to fend off a radroach attack.
Like all of Saddleback’s gear, the bag is constructed of full-grain leather. They go into the leather making process extensively on their site, but what it boils down to is that this is the hardiest, highest quality leather you can get. I’ve owned plenty of leather items that were leather in name only–pieced together Frankenstein monsters that peeled or flaked as they aged. That’s never going to happen to your Saddleback bag because it’s constructed of just four single thick pieces of leather, lined with pigskin. Mated to that leather, is some seriously chunky hardware. The stainless steel O-rings are satisfyingly thick and the clasps for the shoulder strap (that also converts to a backpack strap if you’re so inclined) are decidedly hearty. These will never snap off in the middle of the airport as you run from your cab to try and catch the last plane out of Chicago.
Does it sounds awesome? It is. Does it sound heavy? It’s that too. Make no mistake, if you’re looking for a light and easy carry, this bag is not it. Saddleback does not scrimp on materials, and it shows in the heft of the bag. The nice thing about the weight is that your laptop and gear are protected without any additional bolstering. There are no “space-age-gel” inserts. There is no “unicorn hair inner sleeve.” There is the heartiest leather you can make molded into the toughest bag you can buy. It’s going to soak up a lot of damage.
So now here’s where I let you in on the downside–all of that craftsmanship doesn’t come cheap. The Thin Briefcase comes in just south of $500. But! Like all of Saddleback’s products, it comes with a no-joke 100-year warranty. That doesn’t mean you can use it to cushion your fall from a moving Harley or re-create Captain America’s second-story window entry from the Civil War trailer and expect them to replace the bag for you. But you can expect Saddleback to repair or replace your bag if anything goes wrong with it from now until your grandkids (or great grandkids) are taking it to college.
And they will be. I’ve had no less than three people a day stop and comment on the bag since I started using it. In a sea of IT-issued polyester laptop bags, be the one who stands out.