The Best Budget Leather Duffel Bag

If you've ever tried online shopping for a leather weekender, you know how hard it can be to find a bag with good reviews, supple leather, no loose grain, clean stitching, hefty hardware, and a reasonable price. This is the one. Don't even bother with this wall of text.

Extra Large Duffel Bag Carry-On Duffel Bag

Not sold yet? Let's talk about the best budget weekender you'll ever see.

About three years ago, I got this bag as a graduation gift. Needless to say, I thought they spent a fortune on this thing. After searching far and wide, I found this exact bag for only $133 on Amazon. I knew right then and there, I'd be shooting this album for the world.

I've learned a lot about leather since I got this weekender, and my opinion has not lessened—if anything, I'm even more impressed with it now. My years of searching for anything similar tells me that you don't often find leather like this for a price like this.

I've been using this something like two to four times a month, for the past three years. I have a fair stupid amount of designer stuff, I make my own leather bracelets and wallets, and I spend loads of time thrifting old leathers—so I like to think I'm qualified to say... this bag is an absolute steal.

Both sides have a lengthwise zipper pocket that are perfect for quick access documents like passports, bus tickets, or whatever your heart desires you need at a moment's notice. I've used it for slim books mostly, but I suspect a medium-sized tablet would also do well here—the leather at the base of the bag pads the contents so that you won’t have to worry about it.

If you're thinking about using this as carry-on luggage, this bag is too big according to this guide. Never fear, this bag is also available in a 20x10 inch duffel, which will do the trick.

The hardware is branded EKA and, boy, is it sturdy. Unfortunately, the zipper teeth are plastic. Fortunately, they are remarkably smooth. It's hard to compete with the Riri and YKK zipper overlords, but these are metal teeth short of being a serious competitor. There are buckles on both sides of the shoulder strap so that you can shorten or lengthen it to your liking. The shoulder strap has a nice black felt that provides a comfortable grip around your shoulder.

handle-body connections
All load-bearing connections are sewn and riveted—the proper way when it comes to leather goods.

Velcro fastens the two handles together, though I hardly use this feature. I just grab both handles together and let the extra material pad my grip. If you have strong negative opinions about this budget fastening, you can probably have a tailor replace it with black felt to match the pad on the shoulder strap.

On the bottom of the bag you'll see five metal studs that are just tall enough to keep the leather off the ground. You'll see some scrapes on these metal studs over time. Don't worry, it tells a story or whatever.

handle-body connections
Dropping and sliding the bag over the years has shown (expectable and reasonable) wear.

You may have noticed some unusual wear around the corners of the base. I keep a metal sign inside (that I probably should not mention on the internet). It's slightly larger than the base of the bag, the addition of this unusual shape has made two corners wear in faster than the others. Wabi-sabi. The base of the bag is perfectly sturdy without the metal layer, I just don't know where to put a decorative sheet of metal these days.

One of my few gripes about this bag is the stitching. It could be a little neater as you can see in the images, but it's nothing problematic. Time takes its toll and this is a quick fix for any cobbler or hobbyist.

My other gripe about this bag is the organizational system in the side pockets. What the hell are we supposed to put in these? I usually just stuff dirty clothes or books in here.

Materials

One of my favorite things about this bag is the black lining inside, the tag does not mention the composition but I suspect it is polyester. Every picture I took left it shimmering in the afternoon light like some magical fuckin' fairy tale.

I'm not certain of the leather composition. The tag gives it the ever-worrisome 'genuine' prefix—though it's not the obviously or painfully cheap crap you often get with that label. The quality of the leather shines in the thickness of the handles and shoulder strap. You can see the way the handle leather rolls rather than creases—thats how you know it's the good stuff.

handle-body connections
More rolls than an Olive Garden dumpster.

Care

I have not conditioned the leather nor do I plan to in the near future. It has held up to light rain, about a dozen roadtrips, and the dank undersides of many sketchy buses. Their website recommends using a leather conditioner for good measure. When it comes to conditioning my leather goods, I default to a general purpose conditioner. Some people have different preferences for various leather types. Maybe one day I'll get my life together—until then, this exists.

TL;DR:

This does not feel like a budget bag. This bag receives compliments, stares, applause, etc. I'm pretty surprised this bag sells for $133. If I were a better businessman I would find their manufacturer, stamp an italian word into the zippers, and mark this shit up like I was the only drug dealer in town.

Where To Buy

This bag will run you around $130 shipped on Amazon prime so if you're impatient like me you can have it in just two days. Both models of these bags are currently available in tan, cafe, black, and a few others that I wouldn't put a stamp of approval on without handling myself.

Extra Large Duffel Bag Carry-On Duffel Bag Shave Kit

Honest Customer Reviews, Courtesy of MFA

Apparently, there are minor variations in the coloring of this bag between models. You can read a first hand account here. From what I understand, each bag will have a consistent color, but there's no guarantee your bag will be exactly like mine. Still not sure? See what else the /r/MaleFashionAdvice community has to say about this bag!