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Saddleback Thin Front Pocket Backpack review: The best rugged leather backpack for your MacBook


To hear it from some people, Apple is the king of daily-wear conversation pieces, but I don’t think those people have ever seen a Saddleback Leather bag. Let’s put it this way: If you don’t like talking to people, you probably shouldn’t get one.

As for me, I’ve made a bit of a game out of my past few days with the Saddleback Thin Front Pocket Backpack, counting down the moments to the next compliment, the next thumbs-up from a fellow Saddleback owner, or the earnest bus conversation from someone who’s eager to know how they can get one for themselves. (I’m currently sitting at nine hours.) It helps to know this admiration is justified. Much like an Apple product, a Saddleback bag delivers style and substance in equal measure. It gets the job done, and it looks fine while doing it. And in stark contrast to most laptop bags, there’s a good chance that it’ll outlive my MacBook Pro. In fact, it may outlive several of them.

Saddleback Thin Front Pocket BackpackLeif Johnson/IDG

If you’re worried about water seeping in, a cinch keeps the main cavity sealed fairly tight. And yes, it’s made of leather, too.

And that, dear readers, is why you shouldn’t feel too bad about dropping $469 (yes) on a bag like this. It’s tough. It’s dependable. Sure, you may be used to leather bags that demand so much love and attention that you might as well call them Fido and sign them up for vaccinations, but you could pull this thing out of the boss, toss all your stuff in it, and never worry about it again.

You can tell it oozes quality just from looking at it. True to its name, this is saddle-grade leather; the kind of stuff that’s meant to weather Colorado snowstorms or sweaty days on horseback under the Great Plains sun. It’s sure as heck going to be fine along your sidewalk commute through Chicago or New York. It’s a bag built for enduring pain, scuffs, and even sharp objects, and you can be confident that it will shrug off almost any outside force that attempts to assail your MacBook during your daily routines. Small wonder that these things come with a 100-year warranty.

Inside the bag is another matter. Other Saddleback bags like the Slim Laptop Briefcase come with a handy sleeve that can compartmentalize a regular MacBook (but not many bigger laptops), but the Thin Front Pocket Backpack merely has the main, yawning 16-inch cavity. Everything in there shares the same space. If you’re going to keep your MacBook in here, it’s best to keep it in a separate sleeve to keep anything else from scratching it up.

Saddleback Thin Front Pocket Backpack InteriorLeif Johnson/IDG

In some ways I’m happy that it doesn’t have a partition, as it allows for some extra space when I need it.

It’s roomy in there, though, even considering that this is the smaller of Saddleback’s two flagship backpacks. On a regular day, I toss my MacBook Pro in there inside its own padded sleeve, along with my 12.9-inch iPad Pro, my case for my Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones, a Logitech mouse and its cable, a heavy power bank for my iPhone, and even a denim hoodie. Occasionally I’ll even toss a regular MacBook in there as well. Even with all that smooshed in, I still have a bit of room left over for small items I pick up in stores on the way home.

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