I have certainly experienced a fair share of broken suitcases throughout my travels. On several occasions, I would purchase a new high-end suitcase in one city, to only have it come out with dents or in pieces at the baggage claim after its first trip. I don’t think I can blame it entirely on the suitcase, as our airport in Manila is notorious for screwing things up, but it had become so frequent that I now I refuse to buy new luggage and I try to make do with the crap that I’ve been left with.
Though pricey, purchasing new luggage was always a thrill and I have missed that feeling, being the bag nut that I am. In order to no longer get burned by the broken parts, I decided to continue my new fascination with Saddleback Leather and get one of their pieces of luggage – and not just any one, but SBL’s biggest, almost perfectly named, The Beast.
The reason why I say almost perfectly named is because “beast” depicts both enormous size and ghastly appearance. This Beast though is gorgeous. 100% top-grain leather in a smooth Chestnut color, the Beast is majestic to look at. There’s a lot to share with you so I hope you brought your appetite.
Consistent with all of Saddleback Leather’s products, this bag is made with the highest quality of leather and it is more evident with this bag than the other SBL’s I have in my collection – I attribute it to the large continuous pieces of full grain leather needed to even make this thing. When you comb the sides of the bag with your hand, it does feel like you’re petting a thoroughbred horse right before a big race. It’s smooth, strong, and wild. The exterior has a ton of straps branching out in a variety of directions, and though it may look like an overkill of belts, they do serve a function. There are five short belts that secure the Beast and one incredibly long belt that serves as the handle for lifting or conversion into backpack mode. Backpack mode is a great option if you need to carry the Beast over a long distance, but it is impossible for me to use because I’m too short, the bag goes from the back of my head to my Achilles. It seems you would need to be well over six foot to have this comfortably useful in backpack mode. The plethora of straps certainly does slow down the opening and closing process; however, I find it so much more secure than using a zippered suitcase (as you will see in the video) and SBL does give you the option to place an additional travel padlock, if you wish to put one for even more security.
As you would expect, its capacity is MASSIVE. Lined with pigskin, the interior is almost as beautiful as the outside of the duffel. According to SBL, “it fits about 1 ½ times more than what a lesser’s man suitcase can” and I believe them. Aside from the main compartment, there are two large interior pockets on each end if you need to zone some cargo. The Beast weighs in at hefty 11.9 pounds, leaving with you anywhere between 38 and 58 pounds of cargo depending on your airline limits. It could easily fit a few weeks worth of clothing and accessories, and if you find a huge souvenir while on vacation, you can throw it in and it should fit that too. Once again, there are no breakable parts such as wheels, you’re going to have to carry this mother around, so you must keep that in mind when deciding to go with the Beast. I traveled a lot in New York City and London last year and many times I would take the train to the airport, and that meant a lot of walking, stairs, and lifting. It’s in these moments wherein a suitcase with wheels seemed mandatory. I would not suggest you use the Beast in those cities unless you’re certain to travel by car or shuttle. When at the airport, you can always put her on the luggage cart that are usually supplied.
Listen, I absolutely love this bag and if you know what you’re getting into when you decide to purchase one of these, then it’s flawless. Yes, it’s big, heavy, and it doesn’t have wheels – but that is exactly how I want it. If I can find one con, one regret, it would have to be in the choice of color. I think this Chestnut color is by far the most beautiful, but I have to keep in mind that people in NAIA will handle this and it will likely fall off a luggage truck a few times in its lifetime, and while full grain leather looks great when it ages, I really would love to keep this one in pristine condition. Hence, I would purchase this in the Tobacco color. I just feel like Tobacco would look better after a NAIA ass-kicking, this Chesnut is just too fancy and stunning that it would break my heart to see a single scratch on it.
It sells on SBL’s website for a little over $900 and if like me, you have spent that kind of money on the newest, shiniest Samsonite to only see it get destroyed or broken into, let those worries go away with the Beast. This thing looks like it fights back. Here’s a hint: These bags tend to show up regularly on Dave’s Deals, where you can find a piece that may have the slightest of imperfections, and these can get discounted from 10% to 25%. The bag are just as sturdy and of high quality as all of the SBL bags, but it may have a slight surface issue. These are minor things that may likely end up on your bag anyway once it cycles through a baggage claim carousel, so I definitely think it’s worth it.