One of the joys of owning a Saddleback product is the joy of breaking it in.

The quality of leather that makes up this Saddleback front pocket backpack is simply unsurpassed. Once broken in, the beauty of the leather competes with any designer product.

The quality of leather that makes up this Saddleback front pocket backpack is simply unsurpassed. Once broken in, the beauty of the leather competes with any designer product.

I personally own three large bags and a couple of pouches and two travel cases, each of them loved and broken in in their own special way.

The first step for me in the actual part of breaking in a bag is Chamberlain oil. Working the oil in the leather, bending it back and forth and every which direction until the leather becomes more soft. I usually do this step before taking any bag on its maiden voyage.

That leads me to the sentimental first use of the bag. Some of these may be long journeys, some may be purely work related but for me I relate to my bag by where it’s been. My oldest bag is a medium-size, dark coffee brown satchel. While I had used it prior, I call it the “Paris bag” because it traveled with me in 2012 to Paris.

Accompanying me on the cobblestone streets, shopping, eating, to the Moulin Rouge and the Eiffel tower. I purchased a silver medallion at the Chapelle de Madeline that serves as its jewelry to remember the journey.

Next I have a tobacco-colored messenger. It’s a well-broken-in tobacco that serves as a purse and overnight bag. It’s had several romantic Eureka Springs (Ark.) and Branson (Mo.) overnight trips. I carry this bag on several shopping occasions as it is large enough to carry most everything I need and can tuck away some purchases from throughout the day.

Now I’d like to tell you about the Saddleback front pocket backpack. This is a larger bag than what I am used to carrying on a daily basis but it weighs about the same as the medium satchel.

When my husband first became a Saddleback customer, I desperately wanted one of their wonderful bags. I initially tried a couple of briefcases but they were way to heavy for me. Over the years Saddleback has addressed this issue and the backpack is a great option for a lightweight, large bag. It has two large side double compartments on each side. A large front pocket in the same way opens against the side of the bag yet clasps shut for another more secure storage option. The main interior compartment has ample size for a weekend amount of clothes and toiletries.

My maiden voyage with this bag was to Branson earlier this summer. I was able to put all I needed for our one-night stay in this bag. I spent a little bit of time with the Chamberlain oil on this bag prior to the trip and the bag was still pretty firm, so I decided to carry it to work the next few weeks.

I am a salon owner and manicurist, and many days I carry products and equipment to and from the office. A large open bag is great for such needs. After a couple weeks of regular daily use, the bag was starting to wear and soften nicely.

A second application of mink oil did a nice job to give the bag some sheen. Saddleback only suggests “milking” or oiling your back once or twice a year, but I personally like a bit more shine to my bags so I tend to work it especially hard in the first year allowing the bag to show any of the leather coloration and imperfections that make the bag unique.

The backpack has become a staple go-to piece as earlier stated, I do carry a lot of equipment. It’s even nice for shopping excursions allowing you to wear it in backpack mode. Most of the time for casual wear I put both straps over one shoulder and use it as a large purse.

Many women spend a lot of money on their purse collections. Frankly, it’s hard for me to take a designer bag over Saddleback’s quality and craftsmanship. The quality of leather is simply unsurpassed. Once broken in the beauty of the leather competes with any designer product.

One has the ability to customize any Saddleback bag with tattoos and accessories to make it something uniquely yours.

The bags will never wear out and the fact that you can pass them down for generations to come means a lot to me. These bags are rugged yet beautiful. I receive compliments each and every time I carry one of my prize Saddlebacks.

The backpack will continue to serve me regularly daily and, of course, during travel for both business and pleasure. To view the other fine Saddleback products, visit their website at and check out the selection.

By Rhonda Sexton

(Rhonda Sexton is a staff writer for the River Hills Traveler. She can be reached at