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I live in Nashville, TN, and the stereotype of guys here is that we're burly dudes with cowboy hats and boots who drive pick-ups with gun racks. I'm 165 pounds, go hatless and prefer tennis shoes to boots. I also drive an Escort (gun not included).
But I can ride a horse and -- yippee ki yay -- if the Saddleback Briefcase from Saddleback Leather (http://www.saddleback.com) doesn't bring out the cowboy in me. And it may bring out the cowgirl in you ladies.
Saddleback Leather specializes in bags made of real saddle leather. The Saddleback Briefcase is a full quarter-inch thick, meticulously cut and hand-stitched, and simply jaw-dropping. You'll have to pony up about US$520 for this baby. That's a lot of loot, but I doubt there's a more durable briefcase in existence. And, unlike most of its ilk, this will only look better (more authentic, perhaps) as it experiences wear and tear.
According to Saddleback Leather owner Dave Munson, their bags are constructed of 4-5 ounce full grain leather, which comes from the top layer of the cow hide (the toughest part). They come with only three major seams, no breakable parts and are reinforced with hidden nylon straps. They come with a 100-year guarantee. But I suspect they'll last longer than that.
I can cram a 15-inch MacBook Pro, my iPad, a digital camera, a lot of accessories and two second cousins into the Saddleback Briefcase and -- with its spacious pockets and stiff leather -- it does change shape. Of course, I'm exaggerating a bit. I didn't place a camera in it.
A nice touch: you can convert the bag to wear like a backpack. Disconnect the shoulder strap completely. Attach the end of the shoulder strap that is closest to the buckle of the shoulder strap to a rear bottom d-ring. Run the shoulder strap through the d-ring beneath the handle along with one shoulder pad and then attach the other end of the shoulder strap to the opposing rear bottom d-ring. The shoulder strap is adjustable from 36 to 59 inches.
The Saddleback has absolutely no froufrou in its looks or design. Want lots of weenie pockets? Not here, bucko. There are two Texas-sized compartments, one of which contains four smaller compartments, and a rear pocket for magazines or an iPad. There's also a fake bottom compartment good for hiding valuables such as -- if you want to live dangerously -- cash, a wallet, passport, etc.
You buckle this baby closed. You want a briefcase you can Velcro shut or zip shut? Look elsewhere.
An interesting aside: the Saddleback Briefcase comes with a little book of Bible verses. I find that a nice touch, but your mileage may vary.
Another interesting aside: a chunk of the amount that you sent to Saddleback goes directly to one of those aid organizations on the company's web page.
Still another interesting aside: the removable side straps double as a belt for a size 34-36 inch waist -- or as a tie-down in a pinch.
The Saddleback is comfortable, but a bit on the heavy side (six pounds, 11 ounces when empty) so you mamby pamby types should avoid it. This is a briefcase that John Wayne would have carried. So if you've got 500 smackers and need a briefcase that's tougher than a love child between Clint Eastwood and Michelle Rodriguez, well, man up! (Or woman up, as the case may be.)
Macsimum rating: 9 out of 10
-- Dennis Sellers