There is no luck in creating a quality leather backpack, especially when it has to last for 100 Years. To geek out about the fine unseen or usually unnoticed details in design and materials that make this leather backpack maybe the longest lasting and most durable backpack in the world, read at the bottom of this page, just below the different backpack options. You'll also read the story of how these backpacks came about.
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No Breakable Parts
There are no breakable parts on this leather backpack like snaps, zippers, buttons, Velcro or any other Hello Kitty construction parts. Just hard buckles and D-rings. Even a billion dollar submarine quickly becomes a worthless heap of junk if they build it with a cardboard hatch.
Full Grain Leather
Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a cow being killed. Now imagine it being skinned. Okay, now imagine that thick hide is sent to the tannery to be tanned, but it’s too thick for most to use, so they split it in half, the top half from the bottom. Watch our video of how they tan and split it and also watch me ride a longhorn bull in my full leather suit. Now the tannery has two hides to sell to leather backpack makers. The top half is sold for a lot of money because it still has the top layer on it which is made up of what is called the “grain”. They are the toughest, densest and most water resistant fibers of the whole hide. The same fibers that protected the cow its whole life and that give leather it’s bareknuckle tough reputation are the same fibers that we use on each of our leather backpacks. It’s called FULL GRAIN leather because it still has the FULL amount of GRAIN on it. Not only is it strong, but the thickness of our leather is a little thicker than boot leather. And then our thick wristed, calloused handed craftsmen make really durable and long lasting leather backpacks with it.
Reinforced Stress Points
Anywhere the leather backpack could get stress, it gets a double layer of leather cut from the hardest part of the hide (the shoulder or along the back), extra stitching, a rivet to back up the backpack’s stitching and usually a reinforcing hidden Polyester strap sewn in for good measure. Even the best leather stretches over time (it’s called creep), but polyester strapping does not.
Instead of lining our leather backpacks with some shiny pretty nylon fabric that tears, we glued and then sewed on tough smooth pigskin to the back of the already tough and thick full grain leather. Pigskin is not as tough as kangaroo skin, but stronger than cow skin and that makes our leather backpacks twice as strong as a normal leather backpack and much longer lasting.
Overkill Backpack Hardware
This is a BIG DEAL. Building a leather backpack using 316 Stainless Steel hardware is kind of like killing a fly with a shotgun, but we’ve never once had a backpack have a problem because hardware failed. It’s not Stainless 404 or even 310. It’s Stainless 316 and that’s a big deal for any backpack. Seriously, look it up. If you tell a metallurgist that we use 316 Stainless Steel hardware on our backpacks, they'll gasp and then get angry and then they’ll cry. It is expensive and kind of overkill, but if your life had to depend on the hardware of your leather backpack making it through, you’d want it to depend on ours. Of the 150 types of Stainless Steel one could choose, ours is rated at a whopping 91 on the Rockwell Hardness Scale. Our large buckles on the bottom of the backpack shoulder straps are rated for up to 750 lbs. It's one of the hardest highest tensile strength metals out there and what most high end watches and even Apple's most expensive iPhone bodies are made of. It's expensive but we decided to never have a problem with the hardware of our backpacks... EVER.
Leather backpacks sewn with low quality nylon thread will fall apart in a short time because that thread is made from a whole lot of really short fibers wound together to make one long thread. Those fibers release from each other with hardly any friction, heat or UV light and then the backpack falls apart. Our expensive German thread was engineered to last long and be strong. It is made from long continuous filaments of Polyester with no breaks in them. And we use the thicker double ought version for all of our leather backpacks.
FYI. Polyester is horrible when fabric is made with it but great when thread is made with it. In bed sheets and clothing, it causes poor sleep, infertility and skin problems but when a leather backpack is sewn with it, it causes great rejoicing in your life and big fights in your death. Check out my writing and findings about the evils of Polyester here.
Only Large Pieces of Leather
HUGE KEY TO DURABILITY: These leather backpacks are designed with as few pieces of leather as possible. Usually only two pieces for the body. This has taken a lot of thinking and failed attempts to get the backpacks to look and feel just right, but it was worth it. The reason is because seams are where backpacks always start falling apart. So we designed this leather backpack with as few seams as we could. Check out our fun video on measuring quality by Seam Feet, or how many feet of seems a bag has.
SURPRISINGLY IMPORTANT: A sewing machine is really just a big perforation machine and each hole is the beginning of a tear. We set our beastly industrial Dutch and German sewing machines to stitch the backpacks at only 5 stitches per inch so we could get the needle holes as far apart from each other as we can without the backpacks looking dumb. If the holes are too close together, then the leather can tear like a sheet of perforated paper. Most leather backpacks I’ve seen are 7 stitches per inch (I count them at the store sometimes). Our leather backpacks are stronger than anything you’ll ever need it to carry.
Cheap Leather Backpacks
Grain is to leather what shingles are to a roof. Imagine you paid someone to re-roof your house. So they tore off the old shingles and then painted on shingles to make it look nice. Some might kick them in the ear. That’s what happens when low quality backpack manufacturers buy that super low priced bottom half of the hide that doesn’t have any grain on it (split or genuine leather). They have the tannery press it and paint it to look like full grain leather, send it to their soft little tear stained handed workers who then make crap backpacks to sell to ignorant people. I actually did a video message to all of those low quality people and pirates here. And that leather backpack will dry out soon enough because the leather doesn’t have that tough dense top layer to hold moisture in or to resist abrasions or punctures.
The Story of Why I Designed Backpacks
When I was young, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I was ignorant of a lot of things. But that’s normal, and especially when it comes to backpacks. I rode my bicycle back and forth to school most everyday from jr. high through college and so a backpack was a necessity. And since it had never crossed my mind to get a cool backpack, I just got a Jansport backpack because they lasted for so long.
Nobody ever yelled from across the parking lot, “Hey, nice backpack” or stopped me at the park to ask “Hey, where can I get me one of those cool backpacks?” I didn’t know backpacks that were cool were even a thing. And I don’t think they were because I had never seen a cool leather backpack or had thought of owning a backpack that I would love. Have you ever dreamt of owning the perfect yard rake. One that you would fall in love with and secretly let sleep with it in your bed?
I didn’t know what I didn’t know, particularly about leather backpacks, until I designed my first leather satchel. I used to get compliments all the time with it. People stopped me 4 or 5 times a day to tell me how much they liked it or to ask me where they could get one too. It was surprising and actually pretty cool.
I took that leather briefcase with me on a 3 week hitchhiking trip around Southern Mexico as my only bag and it was so full that it got uncomfortable after awhile as I switched it from one shoulder to the other. Oh how I wished I had a leather backpack with me instead of a leather satchel. The shoulder strap on that first one was fixed in place, so I couldn’t convert it to a backpack, but that gave me the big idea.
So, when I went to have some more satchels made, I had some improvements in mind. And one of those was a detachable shoulder strap that would feed through a center O-ring just behind the handle so it would make into a leather backpack. And boy did the compliments come flying in when people saw that cool leather bag on in backpack form.
That was great, but it didn’t hold as much of the stuff as I needed a backpack to hold on longer trips. And that’s when I went to work on designing my first official leather backpack. I designed it in 2008 and it was actually the first design we made when we opened our factory on October 13th, 2008. That leather backpack is now affectionately called “The Tank” among Saddleback collectors and aficionados. And it was rightly named. The thing was as thick as a backpack can get and it was heavy. If I recall, just the shoulder straps alone weighed about one pound each. But I didn’t care. It was cool and I loved that backpack.
Over the years, I have made slight tweaks here and there to lighten the backpack or to make it more comfortable while maintaining the quality. In fact, I know I’ve raised the quality and comfort of that leather backpack in slight ways that most people would never notice. I have also designed a number of other canvas and leather backpacks that you’ll see here. Not all of the rucksacks I’ve designed will you see here. I never want to offer too many backpacks because it keeps people from making a decision. So, when I launch a new one, I retire an old one. And this is what you see here. The best of the best of the best backpacks I’ve designed since 2008.
My wife, Suzette, has designed some backpacks for herself and other women here at Love 41. They have a slightly more feminine flair. My designs are just plain and simple, built for everyone. But generally for those with a little stronger frame.
My son, Cross, designed a much lighter weight set of backpacks out of pigskin, which is what we use for the lining of our backpacks. We worked together on them and I absolutely loved it. And so did he. They are very strong and very comfortable backpacks for kids, women and men. My daughter, Sela, is not into designing and we’re totally cool with that. She’s an incredibly coordinated girl who is compassionate and has a flair for retro. She’s amazing. Anyways, I hope you’ll check out our leather backpacks and fall in love with one. Maybe it’ll be one of those things you didn’t know that you didn’t know. It happens to all of us and I hope it is about to happen to you.
If your life has to depend on a leather backpack, let it depend on ours.