I have long admired the exquisite leather offerings by Oberon Design; their embossed journal covers, Kindle and iPad cases, and their smartphone sleeves are handcrafted, gorgeous, functional and protective. Even so, I’ll admit that I was a bit skeptical when I read that they were going to offer a laptop bag. Plenty of other high-end accessory companies have tried to make this leap, and plenty of them have left me feeling unimpressed. I needn’t have worried. Like everything else they have made, the Oberon Design Laptop Messenger Bag is handmade by artisans, and it is composed of quality materials; it is well thought out, properly executed, and the end result is something that any commuter, student, traveler, or working-stiff would be proud to carry.
Let’s take a look …
Available in two sizes, the Laptop Messenger is made to hold either a 13″ or a 15″ laptop. There are two color schemes to choose from, as well: black leather with gray waxed canvas, or mahogany leather with field tan waxed canvas.
- Holds a 13″ Laptop
- Bag measures 15.5” Wide x 12” Tall x 5” Deep
- Optional Laptop Pouch Dimensions: 13″ x 9″ x .75″
- Interior of Bellow Pockets 7” Tall x 5.5” Wide
- Interior organizational pockets and pen or cosmetic holder
- Wide Back Pocket 12.5” Wide x 7.5” Deep
- Functional Length of Cross Body Strap: 57” longest 42” shortest
- Weight without laptop pouch: 3.25 lbs
- Weight with laptop pouch: 4 lbs
The leather is drum dyed, which is the old-school way, and because it is a natural product, it should be obvious that no two bags will be exactly alike due to variations in the leather’s grain.
The mahogany leather on my bag has such a large pebbly grain; I think it is absolutely stunning, and it reminds me of the bull shoulder that you’ll often see made into custom boots. The 20 ounce cotton canvas duck is water-resistant and made in the USA. It is a traditional waxed canvas, and you can expect it to wear well, develop a patina over time, and most importantly — be easy to care for.
If you have ever owned an Oberon Design journal, iPad cover or Kindle cover, then you have had a taste of the beautiful pewter work that they do. It only makes sense that this bag would include a bit of it, and it is evident on the front buckles, the shoulder strap attachment, and as trim on the handle. Unlike some of their more highly decorative pewter work, the trim on this bag is more subdued and stately, but it is no less beautiful.
The two Sam Brown studs on the front of the bag keep the thick leather straps securely shut, and yet they are easy to open one-handed. I have had other bags over the years that used this method of securing, and I know that it works very well.
Inside the flap is the one bit of branding found on the bag — the Oberon name embossed on a distinctive and yet unobtrusive pewter badge. This is typical for Oberon, as they have never taken a heavy hand with their branding.
There are two gusseted pockets on the front of the bag that have leather flaps over them to keep their contents secure. Either of these seems like a natural place to keep a small external hard drive (like the Seagate Slim I recently wrote about) or a phone.
The inside of the messenger bag is lined in black top grade ballistic nylon which is strong, lightweight, and spill-resistant. The bag’s interior is broken into three main sections: the back pocket which can hold the optional laptop sleeve and secures with the tab and peg closure, the open middle compartment that has an organizational panel with six open pockets and a sewn-in leather slotted pen pocket. There is also another pocket on the front interior wall which is kept secure with another tab and peg closure. I love that there is no velcro used in this bag, and that the closure methods used are secure and yet all one-hand operational.
The laptop sleeve is composed of black nylon with a felt flap that can either be tucked into the sleeve or folded over the other wall. The sleeve feels thickly padded, and I’ll admit that I was surprised and impressed to learn that rather than being stuffed with foam inside, it had 1/4″ of felt. I think that is the first time that I have seen that.
Here’s a peek at the interior organizational panel; there are plenty of slots for cables, extra devices, your wallet, and whatever else you might like to carry. As I mention in the video review Dan and I did, there are no zippered pockets inside, so if you have small loose items which need to be secured, then you might want to add a small accessory pouch. There is a leather fob with a metal key clip on its end; it is just one more quality touch on a bag that is already amazing.
Each bag is composed of 99 separate pieces, which sounds insane! But when you see the finished parts like the underside of the front flap, and you notice all of the different pieces which have been sewn or bolted together, it starts to make sense.
The bag’s leather shoulder strap measures 57” at its longest or 42” at its shortest; this means that the strap will work for smaller or larger people, and it also means that you can wear it cross-body style or on your shoulder. If you prefer to carry the bag as a briefcase, then you can even remove the strap by undoing the double pegs that attach it on each end.
There is a generously sized leather shoulder pad on the strap; it can easily be moved to work with wherever the wearer needs it to lie.
One of the many things I really like about this bag is its thick handle. It doesn’t matter how nice a bag looks, if it has a thin, stingy handle, I will eventually stop carrying it. I use the top handle on my bags, but thin, stingy ones hurt my hand. This handle is thick to the point of feeling padded; no doubt because of all those wonderful layers of thick leather.
There are no “feet” on the bottom of the bag (which is my preference), but there is a thick layer of reinforcing leather on both sides.
The Oberon Design Laptop Messenger Bag is truly a stunning example of what happens when a company takes their time and makes a product that not only looks good, it works well, too. As you’ll see in this video, I seem to have already lost possession of mine … for now. =P
This is a bag that will last a lifetime; it would make an amazing graduation gift, and it is a bag that can be handed down to the next generation after years of use. Over time the leather will grow softer, and the waxed canvas will develop a patina; that’s about the time you’ll decide that you’ll never need another laptop bag. The Oberon Design Laptop Messenger is a bag that anyone — male or female — would be proud to own and carry.
The Oberon Laptop Messenger Bag is available directly from the manufacturer; it is available to fit 13″ or 15″ laptops, and it comes in Mahogany Leather & Field Tan Canvas or Black Leather & Charcoal Canvas. There are four designs available: Tree of Life, Sky Dragon, Celtic Knot, and Wild Rose … or you can request the bag with no embossed design.
MSRP: $430 for the 15″, $355 for the 13″; the laptop pouch is an additional $30. Be aware that your bag is handmade when you order it; that means you can expect a wait of 5 – 10 days while it is being bench crafted; that doesn’t include shipping time.
What I Like: Excellent craftsmanship — bags are handmade of 99 different pieces, and they scream quality; the bag is comfortable to carry on the shoulder or in hand, and isn’t too heavy; interior is laid out well with plenty of pockets; the laptop sleeve is removable; bag can be worn as a messenger bag or carried as a briefcase; laptop sleeve is very padded and will offer excellent protection; This is a bag that will last a lifetime and will only get better looking with age
What Needs Improvement: You may have to buy a zippered pouch if you typically carry a lot of small loose items; there are no feet on the bottom of the bag (not that I mind)
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample