Saddleback Leather: Giveaway and Review*

Those in the academic community are in a unique place among other professions in that they don’t have many “tools of the trade.” Unlike carpenters, professional athletes, or other trade workers, our set of tools is typically limited to several different items: computer (Mac vs. Windows), backup software (DropBox vs. SugarSync), word processors (Word vs. well, unfortunately there aren’t many other options), Bible software (Logos vs. Accordance), and writing utensils (fountain vs. ballpoint)—the obvious choices, of course, are Mac, SugarSync, Accordance, and fountain pens.

With the exception of other productivity management tools and techniques, those in the academy don’t give much thought to their other tools. However, some of you may have, like me, wanted to find a briefcase/bag that was conducive to academic work. The academy is an odd environment somewhere between casual and professional. A sleek leather briefcase may be appropriate for a professional office or the courtroom, but it can look odd in the classroom. Similarly, a cloth laptop bag or backpack may be appropriate for the college student, but it can look juvenile when carried by a professor.

So whether it be teaching in front of a class, presenting a paper at a professional conference, interviewing for a faculty position, or simply spending a day researching at the library, one’s choice of a bag or briefcase is quite important. A bag is one of those things that we often forget about until it becomes a problem: a ripped seam, a broken zipper, not enough space, etc.

Today I’d like to direct your attention to a company that makes leather briefcases that are nearly perfect for those in academia: Saddleback Leather.


Saddleback’s Medium Classic Briefcase is perhaps the most popular of the company’s product line, whose goal is “To love people around the world by making excessively high quality, tough and functional leather designs.” They offer numerous leather products from bags and briefcases to luggage and iPad cases in four different colors. And for those of you who may have a difficult time deciding between colors, they even provide a “What color should I get?” section on their FAQ page, in which they psychoanalyze different personalities and recommend a suitable color. With a 100-year warranty on almost all of their products, Saddleback’s slogan is “They’ll fight over it when you’re dead,” and I have no doubt that this is an accurate assessment.

Let me offer what I take to be the four most attractive features of Saddleback’s briefcase for the academic.

1. It’s Beautiful

My initial impression when opening the package in which the briefcase came—that is, after being overwhelmed by the intoxicating scent of the leather!—was that it looks even better in person than it does online. In just over one week of using the briefcase I have received numerous complements and questions about the bag from random people I run into. I think one would be hard pressed to find a bag that blends sophistication and ruggedness as well as Saddleback’s. This bag just looks like it belongs in an ornate library or on the beautiful campus of the University of Chicago. For whatever reason, Saddleback bags just look “scholarly”—like they belong in the hands of Indiana Jones. All of the seams are stitched with the highest quality leather and thread, and the bag is virtually indestructible.

2. It’s Functional

In the end, bags and briefcases are intended to carry stuff, and a product would be judged as a failure if it didn’t do this one thing well no matter how good it looks.

IMG_6166The Saddleback Classic Briefcase can easily carry everything a PhD student could need for his or her day’s work. I am able comfortably to fit my 13” MacBook Pro, an iPhone charger, a computer charger, a small umbrella, several writing utensils, headphones, keys, earplugs, an iPhone, a notepad, an iPad, several manila folders, and 2-3 textbooks in the bag without any difficulty. The plush leather shoulder strap comfortably spreads the weight of the bag out over your shoulder so that you don’t feel like you’re carrying around your entire library.

3. It’s Rugged

One of Saddleback’s trademarks is the rugged nature of their bags. In fact, after being featured on an episode of “Mythbusters,” Saddleback held a “Destroy Your Bag” contest to illustrate just how tough and durable their products actually are. There are some pictures floating around the Internet of some Saddleback products that look like they’ve been through battle; however, the great thing is that those products that have been heavily broken in actually look better with age! While a 100-year warranty may seem like a marketing ploy, once you actually see and feel the quality of the bag, you will likely think that 100 years may not be sufficient to describe how long the bag will actually last. This is truly a piece that one would pass down to his or her children. In fact, Saddleback is so confident in their products that they provide a page of links to their competitors’ websites.

As I’ve walked around for the past week with my briefcase, I’ve bumped into things and even dropped the bag on one occasion. Not only was I not worried about the bag itself snagging on a corner or ripping, but I was also not concerned about the things inside of the bag. They were well-protected.

4. It’s Big and Heavy

Some may view a bag being “big and heavy” as a negative, which would certainly be a fair critique. However, while carrying around this bag at SBL or AAR for an entire day filled with as many books as you can stuff in it would undoubtedly be heavy, I take its heaviness to be an indication of its quality and durability.

In Conclusion

All in all Saddleback’s classic briefcase is the perfect tool for those in academia. Its quality is unsurpassed, and its looks easily match its quality. With graduation right around the corner for many, a Saddleback bag or briefcase would be the perfect gift or splurge. A Saddleback briefcase is definitely an investment—certainly not cheap at $568 + tax/S&H—but it will almost assuredly be the last bag you will ever have to purchase. Let’s just put it this way: if Karl Barth would have bought a Saddleback Briefcase when he began his teaching career at Göttingen in 1921, it would still be sitting on his desk at Princeton today with eight years left on the warranty.


The Giveaway:

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for: To whet your appetite for their products, the folks at Saddleback have been kind enough to give us several of their products to give away in a contest.

We will be giving away one Medium Notepad Holder (in Chestnut) and two Medium Leather Bible Covers (one in Dark Coffee Brown and one in Chestnut).

To be eligible to enter the contest, all you have to do is the following:

  1. Leave a comment on this post saying that you’d like to win one of the Saddleback products, and tell us what “tools of the trade” are valuable to you in your professional life.
  2. Tweet the following: The @WheatonBlog is giving away some beautiful @SaddlebackBags products. Visit here to enter the contest:

While you’re at it, follow @WheatonBlog and @SaddlebackBags on Twitter, “Like” For Christ and His Kingdom and Saddleback Leather on Facebook, and visit Saddleback Leather’s website to check out the other great products they offer.

Contest ends Wednesday, May 8, 2013 at 4:59 PM (CST). One winner will be randomly chosen from Twitter, and two will be randomly chosen from the comment section on this post.

*Full disclosure: this bag was graciously provided by Saddleback Leather, but the opinions expressed in this review are solely my own.

About James R. Gordon

I did my PhD at Wheaton College in Systematic Theology, and I currently teach in the Philosophy Department at Wheaton College.
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61 Responses to Saddleback Leather: Giveaway and Review*

  1. Many of my friends—the more sophisticated ones—carry Saddleback products on campus. I would like to be more sophisticated along with them. My most valuable tools are my 15″ MacBook Pro, and external hard drive, my favorite Micron pens for marking in books, and of course any one of the numerous texts I am reading at the moment. All these tools would love to have a new Saddleback bag to call home.

  2. Peter Green says:

    Great review, James! You’ve definitely made me want to buy one. Maybe I’ll get it as a graduation present.

  3. I’d love to win one of these, and am looking into the big bags. My indispensibles are a yellow legal pad, whatever pen is at hand and my Ipad and keyboard, all of which would fit neatly into a great-looking Saddlebag.

  4. Matthew Arbo says:

    I’d like to win a saddleback product! Fingers crossed!

  5. Count me in. I’ve been going back and forth between a Timbuk2 messenger and a Briggs and Riley backpack for a while, but have been thinking for sometime that I need to invest in a more “scholarly” bag and I love the Saddleback products. My everyday carry list includes: Mac, iPad, iPhone, phone charger, iPad-VGA cable, a black uni-ball pen, and a few Moleskines.

    • JRG says:

      I had a STM laptop bag that served me well for 5 or 6 years, but the Saddleback briefcase is definitely in a whole different league.

  6. I’d like to win a Saddleback bag!

  7. Mike S. says:

    Thanks for this giveaway, I’d definitely like to win this. As for “tools of the trade,” it has to be my laptop.

  8. Jon Hoglund says:

    Wow, I could carry one of these and look like Indiana Jones? Or perhaps like his dad. In Connery mode I could say someday, “Personally, I give this dissertation one chance in three.” James, you neglected several essential tools of the scholar, like the tweed blazer and aging photo-copies of class notes.

  9. JT Holderman says:

    What a bag! Great review. This would be a wonderful tool for me in pastoral ministry with all that I have to lug around. My tools would be laptop, commentaries, sermon notes (moleskines), coffee mug, and quite a few pens/pencils/highlighters. Enter me please 🙂

    • JRG says:

      I’m with you on the coffee mug, JT. I recently bought a Thermos Sipp, and it keeps my morning coffee hot until 1 or 2 in the afternoon–though, it never lasts that long! You should check out Tonx coffee to fill your mug. They even offer a free sample:

  10. Jacob says:

    This is a great looking bag! I’d love to win. Tools of the trade would be laptop, Bible, pens and paper. Simple stuff really.

  11. Henry says:

    Hey there, I’d like to be entered in the contest to win one of those beautiful Saddleback bags.

    I currently work as a part time chaplain, full time preacher, and quarter time book reviewer, so I carry all sorts of tools around with me across the course of the day.

    My tools of the trade at present are — a tie (never know when you’ll need one), a map of New Orleans (I’m a chaplain at the Port and it’s surprisingly easy to get lost)), my government ID to get me into the port, my IPad and keyboard (and the ever important IPad charger), my worn out Bible, a little note book to mark musings, and books. Lots of
    Books, of various sizes and quality. Oh, and a v5 Precise Pilot Pen. I would never go anywhere without one of those beauties.

  12. Mike says:

    Does the giveaway include a leather hat as well? That’s the tool I’m really missing. Most valuable tools: Dell Inspiron 1420, Brown ESV Thinline Classic, Moleskine 18 Month Planner, iPhone 4.

  13. Wayne says:

    Very cool! I would love one of those. As a pastor I carry my Bible and study notes around all the time. This would be great.

  14. I’d love to get one of these! As a pastor, many of my tools have already been mentioned above: iPhone, iPad, ESV, commentaries, and Moleskine. Three additional indispensable tools: Evernote (where I keep my own notes, sermon ideas, etc), Pilot G-2 .38 pens, and Post-It flags.

  15. Books! Books! Books! How can you not mention books among the tools of the trade? I know that you are taking books for granted, but for a knowledge professional books are still essential.

  16. Robbie says:

    I’ll throw my hat in the ring for a chance at the briefcase! Good for both books and laptop, essential tools of the trade.

  17. Jack Bates says:

    I’d love to win a Saddleback product. I’ve coveted the briefcase for quite some time but haven’t yet been able to justify the expense. My essential tools are books (of course), iPad, Kindle, smartphone, Moleskine, pen, messenger bag, and a travel mug full of coffee.

    • JRG says:

      Thanks for the entry, Jack. Have you tried Tonx coffee? I’ve tried a bunch of roasters (Intelligentsia, Blue Bottle, Counter Culture, Verve, etc.), and Tonx matches them all in terms of quality and beats them in price! They offer a free sample as well:

  18. Josef Simpson says:

    My tools of the trade: waterman fountain pen fine nib and blue ink, graph ruled composition book, moleskin 7 in notebook, MacBook Pro, and a book having to do with free will or epistemology.

  19. Lisa Carey says:

    I would like to win one of the Sadleback products you are giving away. Tool of trade? I only need my Bible.

  20. Josef Simpson says:

    Would love to win one of these. My tools of the trade: waterman fountain pen fine nib and blue ink, graph ruled composition book, moleskin 7 in notebook, MacBook Pro, and a book having to do with free will or epistemology.

  21. Wow, I’d love one of these! Tools of the trade: books, laptop, my little collapsible book stand, and my contacts (for walking around without walking into things, and being able to read things more than 6″ from my face).

  22. TJ says:

    Mmmmmmm… That is a nice bag. My most important tool would be my MacBook and a moleskine notebook to keep thoughts straight.

    Very generous of you to give this away. These bags are not cheap.

  23. Jordan says:

    I. Want.
    Also, my most important tool is a french press.

  24. Michelle Y says:

    I would love to win one of these. Tools of the trade for me? I’m a stay at home Mom, so I’d say patience and graciousness. Or at the very least a few good snacks.

  25. Michael says:

    I am a web designer so my keyboard and computer are my tool of trade

  26. Jeremy Otten says:

    Count me in. Leak-proof coffee mug is an essential tool of the trade.

  27. Aaron says:

    I carry a tobacco pipe to smoke, because if you are not relaxed, writing and researching is that much harder!

  28. I’d like to win one of the Saddleback product! My “tools of the trade,” besides my textbooks, notebooks, and pens, include brain electrode caps & conductive gel!

  29. Sid Lane says:

    Saddleback products are the best leather products out there! I’ve been addicted to their stuff for at least 2 years. Yes, the price was a bit hard to swallow when I made my first purchase (the large classic briefcase). But when I saw the quality and how gorgeous the bag was, I discovered quickly that it was FAR cheaper than the $200 – $300 canvas bags selling at the fancy shops that would last for about 3 years.

    Also, I just wanted to post that there is an excellent alternative to word processors/MS Office/Word. It’s actually been around for quite some time. It’s called OpenOffice. It’s free and you can modify existing MS Office files, create files that can be opened and modified in MS Office, and even save your final document as a PDF! I’ve used it for 8 years and would never go back to MS Office.

    • JRG says:

      Yes, when you consider the 100-year warranty, the expense of Saddleback is definitely justified. It’s basically 1 cup of coffee from Starbucks per month for 20 years–and the bag won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth!

  30. MaeveBe says:

    I would LOVE to win one of the Saddleback products! In my professional life i always need a good pen and my planner to get me organized!

  31. Jeff says:

    I’d love to be entered in the contest! Saddleback products are the perfect combination of ruggedness and sophistication. My own tools of the trade are the standard PC alongside a 10-key calculator (both of which I have a tendency to haul around in getting my job done). Doing so alongside a Saddleback Bible Cover or Notepad Holder would be amazing!

  32. Daniel says:

    I’d love to snag some leather goodies from the giveaway. Tools of the pastor/scholar trade: ASUS netbook, Pilot V5 Precise, Field Notes memo book, handkerchief, composition notebook, reading glasses, pocket knife, tobacco pipe, Virginia straight tobacco, headphones, mug and metal Tea/Coffee filter for immersion brewing on the go, water bottle.

  33. Jonathan Toccoli says:

    Great review, James. I think you get Saddleback just right: quality and usefulness. I’d love a chance to win one of their products.

    Personally, I cannot imagine scholarship without my writing desk (Levenger); though I use mine primarily for reading – and grading. It’s large enough to have a book, notebook, and reference book open at the same time. And the amount of back pain it has removed from my life is astronomical.

    • JRG says:

      Which Levenger writing desk do you have, Jonathan? I’ve looked at those before and have thought they’d be useful. I’d love to make one myself.

      • Jonathan T says:

        Sorry, JRG, I just saw this. I’m not sure they carry it anymore, but it is the editor’s writing desk.

  34. rusthawk says:

    My valuable tools are my laptop and my quick books software, and a calculator. Love saddleback products, thank you for the entry!

  35. Tyler Wittman says:

    I would love one of these! My favorite ‘tools of the trade’ are definitely large, journal-sized ‘moleskin’ paperpack notepads, plenty of blue Pilot G-2 pens, and post-it flags (aside from a computer – windows or mac – with a word processor).

    And James, you are now officially the king of the review business.

  36. chsmithjr says:

    I’d love of these! Tools of the trade? Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

  37. nushechka says:

    I’d love to win one of these ! Tool of trade -book

  38. This looks great. I’d love to get one. My biggest tool of the trade is my coffee mug that houses the perfect amount of inspiration and motivation to complete seminar papers.

  39. Micah Bauer says:

    Sign me up. The biggest tools of my trade are people. They are why I’m in the business, they’re whom I’m in it with, and they are my inspiration and guide for doing my part.

  40. manda says:

    Love the giveaway. I would love the notepad cover. I always need my water tumbler and I am ready for the day.

  41. Clift Ward says:

    Would love one of these—it looks phenomenal. As for my trade tools, I have to express my appreciation for Mellel—an alternative word processor. It has tremendously expedited my workflow, and it merges well with Sente, my bibliography program of choice.

    Thanks for hosting this giveaway!

  42. Jonathan Kiel says:

    Would love to get a “grown-up” bag.

    As for tools, I can get away with my Mac and Accordance. Other than that, paper copies of my Hebrew/Greek/Aramaic text along with as many lexicons (and some grammars) that I can find.

    And if I’m honest, I should follow Andrew’s lead and include coffee.

  43. Steve R. says:

    I’d love to win one of these products! My important tools include everything everyone has already mentioned plus a flask of Scotland’s finest: Lagavulin 16!

  44. Pingback: Saddleback Leather Large Classic Briefcase in Chestnut: Full-Grain Leather with 100 Year Warranty | Coupons Promo Code Shop

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