The Co-Habitant and I are often asked about our satchels. And as they are bike related (we use them to transport our laptops while cycling), I thought I'd review them here.
Mine is a brown leather satchel from Scaramanga. His is a black leather satchel from the Cambridge Satchel Co. Both are from the UK and both were purchased last summer.
The bag from the Cambridge Satchel Co. is technically not a satchel, but what they call a "batchel" - a satchel with a handle on top, so that you can carry it like a briefcase in addition to messenger style. The Cambridge Satchel Company offers traditionally made satchels, batchels and music bags in a variety of colours ranging from classic black, dark brown and navy blue, to eye popping red, yellow and purple. Their logo is a very cute bicycle, which is appropriate, as Cambridge is one of the few towns in England where bicycles rule the roads. The bags are handmade by skilled artisans in the North of England using traditional methods. I have to admit that I am biased in favour of this company, because the owner and I have a common alma mater and she generally seems like such a nice person. I wish her all the best, and definitely see a batchel of my own in the future once I have a smaller laptop.
This bag is the 15" size, measured on the outside. They come in a variety of sizes, but this is the largest. It accommodates a laptop that is 13" across (such as the smaller MacBooks) but will not fit a larger laptop. All satchels and batchels are available messenger style or backpack style, which I think is great. And notice the cute bicycle logo at the bottom!
Our favourite thing about this batchel aside from its beauty, is that it is structured. The leather is thick and stiff and retains its shape perfectly when the bag is empty. You can place the batchel down on a flat surface, and it will stand up on its own. This is great for carrying a laptop, because it provides support. The bags are unlined, but given the way they are made, I feel that lining is not necessary.
Closure is via the beautiful chrome coloured buckles you see in the photos. Everything is very sturdy; very well made, with beautiful forms and stitching.
Here is what the batchel looks like from the front, worn messenger-style. If you are male, the 15" size is really the only one that will fit your proportions, unless you are very short. If you are female, the smaller ones can be worn as a purse. And of course for children the smaller sizes are ideal and absolutely adorable in the red, yellow and purple colours.
I do not have any photos of the Co-Habitant wearing this bag while cycling, but he says it's great. The one alteration we had to make (to this and to my Scaramanga satchel as well), was to punch extra holes in the strap to allow us to shorten it - otherwise it is too long for cycling. Everything else was marvelous and perfect out of the box.
Now for my satchel! I do not know as much about Scaramanga Co. as I do about the Cambridge Satchel Co., but they sure make beautiful and comfortable bags. Available in a variety of sizes and styles, they offer purse-sized bags, laptop-sized bags, and enormous travel bags, in a choice of messenger style (the front flap is longer and has no buckles) or satchel style (shown in these photos). The natural, slightly distressed leather of my bag is the only material/colour available. It is a similar colour to Brooks "Honey", but perhaps with more tonal variation.
I love the way this bag is made - from the natural look of the leather to all the beautiful hardware, such as the rivets around the handle and closures. My bag is the "large, wide satchel" model, with handle (which is an optional add-on). It accommodates my 15" MacBookPro with room to spare. This is a very different bag from the Co-Habitant's batchel. The leather is soft and slouchy and the bag does not retain its shape when empty. Also, the leather does not provide enough thickness to support or cushion a laptop. If this is an issue for you, you will need to keep your laptop in a protective sleeve.
The sea green lining is beautiful! Inside, the satchel has two main compartments - each of them large enough to fit a 15"+ laptop or some books. There is an additional, smaller zipped up compartment in the front. However, as with the Co-Habitant's batchel, there are no small inner pockets for a mobile phone or camera, no pen loops, etc. For me that kind of stuff is actually important, but the overall quality of the bag nonetheless won over other bags that did have the small inner compartments. Perhaps some day I will make some pockets in it myself.
View from the front. As I have mentioned, we had to punch extra holes in the straps of both bags in order to make them short enough for cycling. So this is why you see the excessively long folded-over strap here. It is not entirely convenient, but not uncomfortable either. My only problem with this bag is that when I put my laptop and books in it, the overall weight is too much on my shoulder and back for cycling in the summer when I am wearing no extra padding over my skin: I get sores if I cycle with any bag other than Chrome worn over my bare skin. So if I am carrying something heavy, I can only wear satchels like this one once Fall begins and I have a sweater or a jacket on. However, with a smaller and lighter laptop this would not be a problem.
You can see some photos of me cycling with this bag here and here. I keep it either in the front basket or wear it, depending on the bike. Hope these reviews were useful - satchels are such wonderful things!