The $327 Gear Bag You Must See from Saddleback Leather

This is a really beautiful and durable bag. I think Indiana Jones would be jealous.

This is a really beautiful and durable bag. I think Indiana Jones would be jealous.

You know, I love the way Saddleback Leather positions their products. It’s very “retro” — but retro as in turn of the 20th Century retro. I’m serious. Have you ever seen what items they place in their bags to stage em? It’s hilarious. It’s like a moleskin notebook, three hardcover books sans dust jackets, a rangefinder camera circa 1936, a Red Delicious apple, among other things that nobody carries nowadays (we have computers and e-readers and camera phones and protein bars, etc).

But I get what they’re selling. They’re selling us on an old-time adventure. John Muir-type stuff. The sales pitch is something like,”Quick, grab your galoshes, your pith helmet, your surveyor’s compass, your vintage thermos and let’s go sojourning through the Appalachians! And, don’t forget your Saddleback pack!”

 

Need a new range bag?

Need a new range bag?

Plenty of room for your handgun. And a handgun case, too.

Plenty of room for your handgun. And a handgun case, too.

It’s an effective pitch. There is something romantic about venturing out into the great outdoors with really old-looking items placed in a beautiful gear bag.  You can imagine yourself hiking up a wooded trail, finding a nice big rock overlooking a quiet brook, pulling out your 2nd Ed. “Ulysses” and reading until the sun kisses the horizon.

There’s something else going on here too. It’s the implicit notion of quality. Saddleback is basically saying, we make em like they used to, which is to say the way we used to make things in this country, i.e., with pride, an attention to detail and with an emphasis on quality so that they lasted you a 100 years or more. Most of the crap packs and bags we buy at WalMart or on eBay are made on the cheap and have a shelf life of about 10 years, if we’re lucky. Saddleback is bucking that trend. They’re putting out products that last a lifetime. You know, like they used to.

The Murse vs. The Backpack

I'm a murse guy. What do you prefer?

I’m a murse guy. What do you prefer?

When it comes to backpacks and bags, I divide into two categories for better or worse: Backpacks and murses, aka man purses. Yes, it’s probably a bit immature on my part, but this dividing line makes sense in my head. If it has two straps, it’s a backpack. If it has one strap, it’s a murse. Size to me is really irrelevant.

I will openly and freely admit that I’m a murse guy. Though, it’s not by choice but by happenstance. My mother gave me a one-strap computer bag four or so years ago. She got it for free at a work function, one of those remote two-day events where they build “team synergy” and discuss “corporate strategy.” From that day forward I’ve toted my man purse with aplomb.

Like the pistol versus revolver debate, there are pros and cons to each the murse and the backpack. In a nutshell, the backpack is more masculine; it’s what soldiers carry. In terms of comfort, it distributes the weight of the gear across two shoulders instead of just one. And with respect to functionality, the backpack typically has more pockets and places to attach extra stuff, especially if it has MOLLE webbing. The downside of the backpack is that it looks odd in professional settings. Showing up at a corporate board meeting toting an olive drab or coyote tan tactical pack might make you stand out, though not in a good way, like a lost boy scout.

The murse, on the other hand, is great for professional settings. You can wear it with just about anything. Of course, what you give up is that extra strap and, as a result, a bit of comfort when it comes to carrying your stuff for long durations. Also, with a murse, you don’t typically have the MOLLE webbing or extra pockets. In terms of its divisional structure, the murse is more simplistic — one big pocket, with maybe an extra pocket or two on the inside.

Before I get to the review, I should ask, are you as murse guy or a backpack guy? Or, do you carry both?

Specs

  • Price $327
  • Adjustable strap length: 38 ½”-61″
  • Exterior: 12” H x 13 ¾” W x 3 ½” D
  • Interior: 11 ¼” H x 12 ½” W x 3 ½” D
  • 4.2 pounds
See a theme here? A cynic could say, that's an overpriced bag, with an overpriced knife and an overpriced revolver.

See a theme here? A cynic would say, “That’s an overpriced bag, with an overpriced knife and an overpriced revolver.” But I would argue it’s a gentleman’s knife, gun and bag.

Features

  • Built with uncommonly thick 24 oz waxed canvas from Scotland that is extremely rugged and water resistant
  • Top flap secures with one-handed pad eye closure
  • Removable canvas shoulder strap with a thick leather shoulder pad
  • Can be carried by adjustable shoulder strap or top Old Bull handle
  • Old Bull leather pad adds comfort and protection against your hip, and functions as an
    exterior pocket; Leather is also stamped with month and year of construction.
  • Two exterior pockets and three interior pockets
  • Fits a 13” MacBook or iPad with room to spare
  • A dependable workhorse bag built for constant abuse: heavy waxed canvas, full grain leather, solid copper rivets, sail grommets, and double stitching with 00 continuous filament polyester thread (the kind they use for parachutes and boat sails)
  • 100-year warranty and free shipping

Review

The Old Bull full-grain leather pad affixed to the back of the green canvas bag with copper rivets. You can see I put several big scratches on the pad, by accident.

The Old Bull full-grain leather pad affixed to the back of the green, waxed canvas bag with copper rivets. You can see I put several big scratches on the pad, by accident.

Alright, enough about marketing strategy and the murse vs. backpack debate, on with the review! What you really want to know, what every review essentially boils down to is performance weighed against cost. In a nutshell, is this bag worth its $327 price tag?

My answer to that question is, well, it depends. I know, I know, that’s a bit of a cop out, but hear me out. In terms of basic functionality, can you purchase a similar gear bag for less money that will function as well and last as long (remember, this baby has 100-year warranty)? Yes, you can probably find one. But will it be made in America?  Will it be made from the same high-end materials? And will it look as cool?

The inside of the bag is divided into two pockets. There are also two small pockets in the corner, which may be ideal for putting in a flashlight or pocket knife.

The inside of the bag is divided into two pockets. There are also two small pockets in the corner, which may be ideal for putting in a flashlight or pocket knife.

The smaller big pocket is where I put my MacBook Air. Fits perfectly.

The smaller big pocket is where I put my MacBook Air. Fits perfectly.

In addition to the materials the bag is made from, it’s really that last question that matters most in this “is it worth it” discussion. Yes, the cool factor. Many of us spend extra money on items and products because they look a certain way. Because they’re cool or because deep down they just tickle our fancy. It is what it is. And if you’re into murses, you’re not going to find a cooler looking murse than this Saddleback medium gear bag.  It’s a gentleman’s bag, through and through.

Okay, now that I addressed the elephant in the room, the sticker shock that many of you are undoubtedly reeling from, let me talk about utility and performance.

I carried the medium gear bag at the NRA 2016 Annual Meetings and Exhibits in Louisville, KY. In the bag, I placed my 13” MacBook Air, the power cord, some business cards, a bottle of water, a few pens, my sunglasses, and any press release material I accumulated on the showroom floor. The bag held up, as you’d expect, just fine. It was a rather stress-free test for the bag, I wasn’t excavating Sankara Stones from the Temple of Doom or anything.

You can see that outer pocket created by the leather pad. I put my notepad in there.

You can see that outer pocket created by the leather pad. I put my notepad in there.

A coloser look

Notice that Old Bull Handle and the ring underneath it. That ring is perfect if you want to hang the bag on a hook.

Since then I’ve carried the bag on various summer excursions. It’s been my go-to computer bag. Yes, yes, I know, it would make a cool range bag too, but I can’t bring myself to use it in that setting. Between gun powder residue, dirt and sand, inclement weather, I just feel that the bag is too nice to bring into a harsh environment. Not that it couldn’t handle it, it totally could, but to muck up the brand new bag at the range and then to have to go through the trouble of cleaning it, ugh, no thanks. I’m convinced that once you get sand or fine dirt in a bag, it’s impossible to get it all out. And if I’m going to use it more as a go-to EDC, computer bag, then it doesn’t make sense to get it all dirty and run the risk of getting that dirt or sand onto (or into) my laptop.

The bag is rather comfortable to carry. The removable canvas shoulder strap with the thick leather shoulder pad is nice. It doesn’t bite into your shoulder the way a thinner strap might. It’s a bit heavier than my previous murse. The full-grain leather pad on the back of the bag, which in addition to being an extra pocket provides added durability, certainly adds some weight. I sometimes wonder if they added that Old Bull pad just because it’s Saddleback Leather and they wanted to affix some leather onto it. I could go either way on the pad. I know that it helps provide some rigidity too, to keep the bag from flexing, so it’s easier to open the bag, but I would like to see an option without the pad. I think it would help to lighten it a bit.

Can you see how this works?

Can you see how to close the flap?

You place the

You place the slot over the ring and the leather strip through it.

Two things I absolutely love about the bag are the Scottish waxed canvas and the one-handed pad eye closure that secures the top flap. Besides the beautiful deep green color, the waxed canvas is super tough and water resistant to boot. You can tell it’s durable as heck. It follows the design concept of the bag, which is built with toughness in mind: between the heavy canvas, the copper rivets, the sail grommets and the double stitching with continuous filament polyester thread, Saddleback put together quite a bag.

What I love about the pad eye closure is really easy to use, especially when you’re on the move, which is nice. You don’t have to fiddle around a bunch or remove the bag from your shoulder to access it. There are three slots, so depending on how packed the bag is, will depend on where you slot in the closure.

The grommets are great.

The canvas strap with the leather patch attaches to the sail grommet.

A look at the bottom of the bag. You can see how the leather pad continues from the back of the bag until the bottom. It's secured there by the copper rivets.

A look at the bottom of the bag. You can see how the leather pad continues from the back of the bag until the bottom. It’s secured by the copper rivets.

As far as downsides, I don’t really have much to report.  I’ve read some reviews that said they noticed some slightly frayed edges, a loose stitch or two and other minor, minor breakdowns in the integrity of the bag (if I had to guess, I think these users were nitpicking), but I’ve noticed none.  However, I did manage to put a few big scratches in the leather pad.  I don’t know how that happened.  But it adds some character, I think.

Overall, I’m impressed with the Saddleback Medium Gear Bag. I really am. I’m not known for being a stylish person. But this murse is not only going to help me get my computer from show to show and hotel to hotel for the rest of my life, it’s also going to up my profile as a cool-looking dude. Who knows, maybe I’ll become a better journalist because, you know, when you look good, you feel good and when you feel good, you write good well. LOL.

To pick up your Saddleback Leather medium gear bag, click on this link: http://www.saddlebackleather.com/medium-gear-bag

To look at other cool Saddleback products, click on this link: http://www.saddlebackleather.com/

You can see the small outside pocket near the bottom of the bag. There's two of these on the inside as well.

You can see the small outside pocket near the bottom of the bag. There’s two of these on the inside as well.

At this angle, you can see one of the inside pockets. In total, there are six pockets, if my math is correct. Four inside, two outside.

At this angle, you can see one of the inside pockets. In total, there are six pockets, if my math is correct. Four inside, two outside.

{ 32 comments… add one }
  • JoshO September 25, 2017, 6:29 pm

    $330 buys a lot of ammo.

  • Jeff Arthur February 28, 2017, 9:32 am

    Looks like Duluth pack design,I’d look to them , their not cheap either but a bit less. US MADE

  • Roy Simmons February 27, 2017, 6:35 pm

    Well quality does cost but I prefer Bob Timberlake and have several of them, very high quality, rugged, look great, expensive but more reasonable than this for the size.

  • Bill Martin February 27, 2017, 4:20 pm

    If you have $327 burning a hole in your pocket and can find nothing better to spend it on, why not? But, if you have any brains at all you will buy some thing else. So it may not last 100 years but then neither will you. As for me, I will buy my murse from some place like Wally World. No, it won’t last 100 years but if it lasts 10 years it will likely outlive me. When I kick the bucket and my kids have to dispose of my stuff things like this will go to Good Will anyway. Once it gets to Good Will someone will pick it up for $10.

    I don’t know what Saddleback pays for it in Mexico but if they spend more than $50 in bulk they are crazy. My guess is that there is one hell of a Saddleback mark up on it. But, I could be wrong…….I was once…or was it twice? before.

  • PaulWVa February 27, 2017, 4:03 pm

    $450.00 pocket knives, $5000.00 scopes, $20.000 revolvers, $60,000 pick-up trucks and now $327.00 for a canvas bag…????
    A world gone mad.! As the man said, “…a sucker born every minute”.

  • Robert February 27, 2017, 3:29 pm

    The Hidden Woodsman make great “”haversack” that is better quality than this over price foreign made crap. Also the Hidden Woodsman is totally American made and Les than half the price. I have one of his haversack and they are an excellent piece of kit.

  • bison1913 February 27, 2017, 2:26 pm

    Guys/Gals…
    I think the $327 is not correct. It may be $27 the extra 3 is if you want the gun and knife with it. LOL 🙂

  • Charlie February 27, 2017, 11:53 am

    $327.00 This has got to be a joke. Looks like a grade school project!

  • Mau Rice February 27, 2017, 11:48 am

    Decades ago I did photography for a living. I always carried a bag with a couple of Nikons, lenses, film, and junk. I did a lot of “street photography” and learned early that you didn’t want it to look flashy and the best ones didn’t look like camera bags [unless you like getting a gun stuck in your face]. I finally used a old beat up custom “skate” bag gifted from a lady friend. It was very basic but versatile worked in my next life in LE. Guys loved harassing me about my “man bag” but it kept everything I needed until it started falling apart about 10 years ago.

    Now I have 2 bags, both nice quality, all leather. One keeps everything an old fart like me needs: 2 pairs of glasses, checkbook [yea- I still carry one], smart phone, gum, car smart key, hearing aid supplies, and it is possible but not friendly for a small automatic. It requires a zipper closure so it is hardly a gun bag. I have a larger bag that looks too slick and rarely use it.

    Here is my point: My smaller bag is finally getting worn enough it no longer looks “cute”. I am finally starting to feel comfortable with it. The appeal is that I DO NOT CARE where I use it or how dirty, scratched, or abused it gets. It is well constructed for a specific job and the nastier it looks the more I will like it. I must add that it was a present from my wife and she wishes I kept it polished and clean but that’s not gonna happen. The specific military style bags? OK- whatever. I carried a surplus Korea pack in Boy Scouts, rarely used a pack when I served in Vietnam and .. for God’s sake – they are just tools. If you want them clean, whatever. BUT really, take it to the range, take it in the muck, get it FILTHY and torn up a bit as it should be heavy duty enough to take it and be used. If it gets torn, send it in and have them patch it up.. [It will look a lot more macho! ;->]

    Yes, this is way overpriced. If you like it and can afford it, why not? I see guys spending more than this for dinner or stupid expensive wines.. and we know how that ends up. MAINLY- USE IT! Take it with you next time to the range and make sure it looks like it’s been to the range. [I hope you know I am laughing. I used to get harassed so much about my man bag that I nearly stopped carrying it. It helped when one of the officers I worked with asked if I still knew the guy that made it, When I didn’t he offered me silly money for it.] BTW, I know it is an “age thing” but I can’t think of anything that looks sillier than a decently dressed business type carrying a back pack.

  • oleman February 27, 2017, 10:59 am

    I do use a DUNY & BURKE saddle leather bag, handles a 4″ barrel S&W 64 nicely. Normally sold as a Lady’s shoulder purse.
    Cost us more that that!

  • oleman February 27, 2017, 10:55 am

    Does it come with the revolver and the knife?

  • ~ Occams February 27, 2017, 10:45 am

    “No one ever went broker underestimating the intelligence of the American public” ~ H.L.Mencken

  • Kyle Shelton February 27, 2017, 10:20 am

    What am I missing here ? It”s a green-waxed-canvas-bag w modest leather trim.
    – I’ve seen sim. items on the net & at gun shows for two (2) decades @ less than $10.
    – It’s relatively small…
    – It has no compartments…
    It’s the ridiculously over-pric-ed item I’ve ever seen…krs

  • Alan February 27, 2017, 9:30 am

    What next fellas, a Hot skinny model walking down the runway with a leather rifle sling??
    If I want Victoria’s Secret, I’ll call my G.F.!

  • Tom February 27, 2017, 8:51 am

    So, why “must” I see this?

    Your article never did answer that question/admonition…

    At least William from Saddleback told us it was made in Mexico.

  • Allen Lawson February 27, 2017, 8:25 am

    To buy this you should be wealthy or perhaps out of your mind. I think it looks like some old military surplus.hey I’m sure it will pack some stuff just fine but so do hundreds of others . To each his own. How many hot links and cold Coors could I buy for those bucks?

    • Ricky Price February 27, 2017, 9:22 am

      You spoke the truth. Looks like a old military surplus bag. Plenty of money and no walking around brains.

      • DON JOHNSON February 27, 2017, 10:04 am

        WHAT THE HELL IS THE BIG BOARD ON THE BOTTOM FOR? IS IT A TOILET SEAT? THAT WOULD MAKE THIS ALL MAKE SENSE…

  • Griffendad February 27, 2017, 7:58 am

    Smoke in a box. Please, it’s a briefcase. 100 year warranty from a company with a 10 year life expectancy.

  • One GunAndy February 27, 2017, 7:38 am

    We’ve become a culture of retards when our trusted firearms forums think we will bite on a $327 shoulder bag!

  • Leon Jester February 27, 2017, 7:18 am

    Egad. It’s a messenger/musette bag, tarted up with some leather and what appears to be copper rivets. I’ve still got the mil-spec one I paid about ten bucks for at the local surplus store, over twenty-five years ago. This is for the guy that wants MOA accuracy offhand with a handgun, that he polishes before, during, and after shooting. It separates the gullible from their money, without the satisfaction of being able to (maybe) land a four-pound small-mouthed bass.

  • Mike February 27, 2017, 4:33 am

    “Murses” used to come with pockets for cell phones and notepads, slots for pens and pencils. I’ve noticed a trend lately to exclude those features, and it’s really annoying. Aside from the extravagant price, I wouldn’t buy this bag because there’s no place to put stuff like that. The two internal side pockets are too general; anything you put in them would slide around and get all mixed up.

  • Neil Jonielunas February 27, 2017, 4:23 am

    Are you kidding me? Is the reviewer marketing this bag? It looks cheap, and poorly constructed in every photo. I would never consider this junk bag at any price.

  • Joe Mac September 14, 2016, 10:00 pm

    $327 for canvas and made in Mexico lol looks cool yes but I prefer to buy American at that price point. Thanks for the review though .

  • William, from Saddleback Leather September 2, 2016, 1:14 pm

    Great article. Just wanted to say one thing. Someone pointed out to us that this article says Mountainback is made in USA. (“But will it be made in America?”) Just wanting to let you know that we’re based in Fort Worth, Texas, and we do build some leather goods here, but the bulk of our manufacturing is done at our factory, Old Mexico Manufacturing, in Mexico. Thanks a bunch. -William

  • John Bennett September 1, 2016, 10:17 am

    What are the two knives you have in the photos?

    • S.H. Blannelberry September 1, 2016, 10:46 am

      Oh, sorry, forgot to include that. The fixed blade is a Swamp Rat RMD LE. The folder is a Chris Reeve Sebenza with snakewood inlays and a ladder damascus blade.

  • Johnny Fjord August 22, 2016, 10:26 pm

    I have a Saddleback all leather “murse” so I am biased enough to have already purchased a Saddleback product. All disclaimers aside I would spend the money again and I love this bag you tested. I work in the corporate world and it is funny you mention carrying a military color or style backpack. My 5.11 camo backpack is high quality, very functional and I carried it from the board room to the job site and to the mountains for years. It was great but in the end I decided to retire it to mountain duty only because I constantly had people thanking me for my service (in the military) while in airports. That was a generous and kind thought from many people but unfortunately I never served in the US Military as I would always explain. I have great respect for our soldiers and I didn’t want to dishonor them in anyway. Good quality doesn’t come cheap. Everyone has their quick response on how their bag is just as good or that these products are a waste of money. I’ll waste my money how I choose and when I die, my kids can fight over this bag because it will live on long after I’m gone. We all want quality firearms, that is why we read these articles. There are also some other areas of my life where I enjoy things of beauty that are tough and work hard. My women, my vehicles and my “man purse”. Thanks for the great review!!

    • gary anderson February 27, 2017, 10:21 am

      Great response.
      You should consider writing!!

  • Tom Horn August 18, 2016, 1:30 pm

    Looks almost identical to my $20 bag, except for some extra leather trim. I could take it to my shoe repair guy, and have him update it to this for about $50, or repair it any time, to last a lifetime. I can see spending the money for a backpack with armor plating, but $327 for this? Not even if I had Bill & Hillary’s money.

    • Tom Horn August 18, 2016, 1:57 pm

      P.S. I don’t know about that pad eye closure. I think it would be an extra thing to fumble with if you had to access your side arm. My bag has a light snap closure. If I slide my hand under the flap it pops open, and I can access my concealed weapon in one swift move. I suppose you could keep a small handgun in the back leather pocket, though.

  • Will Drider August 16, 2016, 10:51 am

    They do make fine leather ptoducts, this is not one of them. $20 Of leather on what is basically a mil surples canvas bag. JUNK and extravagantly over priced junk at that.

    If I need a carrier bag I use one. I don’t get hung up on style or give a damn if people think its a manbag or murse, i only care about function. Anybody who worries about what others think is insecure in their projected sexuality, I’m sure Freud said something about it. Real men often have to deliver a kids spong bob backpack or frilly diaper bag, does that reflect something negative? Insecure men should use their Bedazzler Kit and write manly man on their bag.
    $327 LMAO

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