This Filson 257 in navy was as a gift from my mother for my Christmas 2018. She didn’t know I already had the same model (I’ve been told I’m a person hard to find gifts for!). I didn’t feel the need to tell her as I was quite astonished she managed to score a deal that I hadn’t seen! I really, really eventually wanted to have a navy Filson bag for myself – the only previous navy bag was a 261 zippered tote that I purchased as a gift to my former girlfriend. I myself am a stickler for the original Filson colors (tan and otter green!).
I gladly handed it over to my girlfriend to use as her work bag. She is a teacher at an elementary school, so nothing out of the normal is expected to happen to the bag. After several months primarily as her shotgun seat companion, I decided to re-examine the briefcase. I asked her opinion on the bag, and these were her comments:
Navy color is nice
Complimented by others
Outside pockets useful
Too large for [her] size
This newer 257 briefcase in Navy was manufactured September 2017 (according to the tag) compared to my tan briefcase in February 2002 – so a 15 year difference.
I can’t say for sure that these changes are applied for the 258 Padded Computer Briefcase. Although the 257 Computer Briefcase is discontinued, I thought I’d point on some things.
The most outstanding change is the bridle leather, a much darker brown (dark chocolate burgundy) versus the older leather that is well known to patina/fade to a chestnut brown. The underside of the leather is overall smoother, but does still show piling.
The zippers now are “Filson” logo’d instead of “YKK”, but are still robust and smooth to slide. From my understanding they are just rebranded version of YKK zippers.
The shoulder pad is now made of two separate leather pieces (one thin and one thick) stitched together with a foam insert in between. The older model shoulder pad is one single piece of leather. I’ve had my experience with both types of shoulder pads, and I do prefer the single piece one.
The new pad starts off really stiff and doesn’t contour well to your shoulder initially in my experience. The pad often “slips”, leaving the thin strap digging into your shoulder. The two pieces of leather do eventually break in/soften up, but I don’t think the foam insert does as much. Although the dimensions of both new and old shoulder pads are the same, the necessary stitching to hold the two pieces together reduces the foam area coverage. So there’s essentially a few cm border around the whole pad that doesn’t have foam. One purpose of a shoulder pad is to spread the bag’s weight evenly over the pad area.
But at the end of the day, the new pad is by no means bad, and there are methods to quickly break in the pad. The first is to fill the briefcase up with heavy items such as textbooks, attach the strap, and leave the shoulder pad hanging on a doorknob for a few days to form a good curvature. Because the new pads bottom side tend to be smooth, the second method is to take some fine grit sandpaper and lightly sand the bottom of the pad. Avoid the stitching on the outside. A rougher texture allows the pad to “grip” your shoulder more easily.
*The changes below have already been applied to the 258 Padded Computer Briefcase for many years already. I have a 258 model manufactured in 2002 which had these new modifications even though it was made in the same year as my 257. Just extra information for the enthusiasts or if you’re considering purchasing a vintage 257 from eBay!*
A short, green cotton webbing with a brass clip is permanently affixed to the inside of one outer pocket. The intended use is to attach and find your keys easily instead of loosely throwing it the whole pocket (which I do on my tan one). A welcome and practical addition if you ask me!
The material for the pockets on the inside are now a lighter weight canvas compared to the previous (likely?) identical twill used on the whole bag. The canvas material seems to be the same as the canvas used to bind the inner seams of the bag. The outer two dividers are still made of twill. In addition, the bottom of the three pockets have a closed bottom. I like both of these changes. The open bottom pockets prevented me from confidently placing smaller items inside.
Within the first year of use after I purchased my Filson Otter Green Zippered Tote in back 2013, I noticed a stain on the bottom exterior panels of the bag. The stain was brown/tan-like in color and had a distinct outline of its edges. I initially thought it was a coffee or beverage stain spilling on the inside, but then noticed it appeared only on the outside panels of the bag – no stains were present on the interior.
Here’s a gallery of the before images of the Otter Green Tote over several years (I tried to color balance the images to look somewhat consistent). The “stain” is towards at the bottom of the bag
I felt it was due time to really try and get the stain out or at least reduced. I used a mixture of water and a few drops of laundry detergent and then vigorously scrubbed whole bag in the bathtub using a soft plastic bristle brush. The brownish water that constantly came out after each wringing deceived me into thinking that the bag was still dirty. It was actually dye coming out from the bridle leather handle straps.
I let the bag dry inside out in my patio for a few days. The primary change I noticed after it dried was that the canvas portions of the bag lightened a few shades. The bridle leather also started to crack on one strap, but it was only on the surface. I applied a few coats of Obenauf’s Leather Oil to all leather areas which was much needed. The oil didn’t noticably darken the color as the straps were dark to begin with.
After all was said and done, I think the stain appears less noticable. Looking back, I would have somehow covered the leather straps or at least let the bag hang on on something while I scrubbed just the canvas. Getting the leather completely soaked with water was a bad idea.
Here are the after images of the Otter Green zippered tote by itself and also compared with a Tan zippered tote.
In the past few years, Filson has expanded their use of their more than 100-year-old “Tin Cloth” to their bags (which originally used rugged twill). Tin cloth is a waxed canvas nicknamed “tin” by the forest workers. They they felt the garments were like armor protecting them from the harsh rain, wind, and brushes during the Klondike Gold Rush.
Filson’s original line of luggage used 22oz rugged twill as the primary exterior material. And while many bags from that line still utilize the twill, Filson has released newly designed bags that have integrated their renowned Tin Cloth into their construction. Some bags use a combination of both materials such as my Photographer’s Backpack, while other bags use solely Tin Cloth.
I really like the designs of the newer bags such as the 24 hour briefcase and the 48 hour duffle bag. Another change I’ve noticed with these bags is that they use a Nylon Webbed Shoulder Strap instead of the Bridle Leather Shoulder Strap. The nylon strap seems lighter in weight and appears to distribute the weight over a larger area. I haven’t tried out the nylon strap, but I prefer the look of the bridle leather strap!
If you are in the market for one of Filsons Tin Cloth bags, it would be beneficial for you to know some of the key differences between the Tin Cloth and Rugged Twill.
If you already have one of Filson’s rugged twill bags, the interior seams should be bound with Tin Cloth for durability. You will likely see that the tin cloth seams have darkened/patina faster than the twill around it.
Comes with a water repellant finish that will wear off over time
Material is quite stiff and takes a long time to soften up
The first areas to fray are typically the edges of bags where they receive the most rubbing
Twill’s diagonal weave (the weave used on denim) makes it more resilient than canvas to clean tears
Lighter in weight (Filson typically uses about 15oz) than the rugged twill
Repels water better than the rugged twill because of the coating and tightness of the weave
Consequently, this tight weave and wax makes the material not very breathable
Attracts dirt/debris more quickly than the twill
Has a cold, clammy feel especially when newly rewaxed
Seems prone to “tearing” especially at areas that are creased
Shrinks a bit more than the twill especially on outerwear that is repeatedly wet and then dry
Tin cloth seems to darken (or patina) easily. I speculate that the waxed finish helps attract dirt to its surface. The change in color on Tan tin cloth is more distinct than on the Otter Green tin cloth. In addition, rewaxing tin cloth with Filson’s Original’s Wax Finish darkens the material even more. The color will lighten up slightly again when the wax wears off. Tin Cloth is most well-known in the Filsons’s Tan color, while Otter Green comes as a second. Occasionally, black or navy tin cloth is used on bags/outerwear, and I suspect these colors won’t show dirt as easily.
Here’s are some older pics of my Levi’s x Filson Oil Finish Tin Cloth Trucker that was a limited release in 2011/2012.
Filson recommends a stiff bristled brush to clean the material and spot cleaning. Tin Cloth should not be put in the washer. Personally, I take a damp rag and wipe the areas down.
The Tin Cloth that Filson uses is 15oz compared to Barbour’s waxed cotton jackets which is 6oz or less. Between the two, Barbour’s jackets are soft, while Filson’s Tin Cloth jackets remain quite stiff throughout its lifetime.
While Tin Cloth repels water better than the rugged twill, the fabric is very unbreathable because it is tightly woven. If you’re wearing an unlined jacket with this material, expect to be soaked with your own sweat! Barbour’s outerwear typically comes with a cotton lining to help with this.
Tin cloth is an older formula than Filson’s rugged twill because it was used on their garments first. The extra water resilience that the fabric has requires periodic rewaxing to maintain it.
Most of the newer bags that have tin cloth come with a Nylon Webbing Shoulder Strap instead of a Bridle Leather Shoulder Strap (priced at $85 on their website!)
I suppose if you want the best of both worlds, you can take Filson’s Oil Finish Original Wax and apply it on a rugged twill bag. You’ll likely need more than one tin worth to cover the whole bag. In doing so, you get the water repellancy from the original wax and also the thickness of the twill. To prevent fraying or reduce additional fraying on my older Filson twill bags, I have taken a dab of the wax and apply it on the areas that receive the most wear (typically the bottom edges of the bag).
Here are some pictures of my Filson Small Duffle Bag 220 (or 70220 with Filson’s new numbering system) in Otter Green and a brief review of it. After purchasing my Filson Zippered Tote, I wanted another Filson bag that I could use on short trips and also as a gym bag.
Most carry on requirements limit your total linear inches to no more than 45 inches. After some research, these were the Filson options that fit the requirements at the time:
-Sportsman Bag 266
-Small Duffle Bag 220
-Medium Travel Bag 246
-Large Travel Bag 248
At that time in 2014, Filson had already discontinued the 246/248 which in my opinion were really well designed bags. The Travel Bags had 4 outer pockets (2 lengthwise and 2 widthwise) and one large empty compartment.
Between the Sportsman and Small Duffle, I decided on the Duffle because of the simpler design and lesser price. I was able to get the bag on sale.
I’ve had the small Duffle since 2014, and have used it primarily as a gym bag for about 2 of those years since 2014. Therefore, the bag has roughed up on the floor quite often! The color started out as a dark forest green and lightened up to a a grey likely from sunlight and rain.
The bag was very stiff and rigid to start with. Early on, I took the empty bag, essentially crumpled it up into a ball, and repeated multiple times. I also applied Obenauf’s Leather Oil to the bridle leather. The oil was not needed for conditioning purposes, but in hopes that it would soften the leather, and it did!
One of the reasons it’s an attractive bag is that it meets carry on restrictions, and of course it looks nice. It is large enough to hold about a weekend’s worth of clothes.
18″ x 11″ x 10″ = 39 total linear inches, meets most carry on restrictions which is typically less than or equal to 45 inches.
The duffle is shaped like a trapezoid, tapering slightly as you go up. I think the duffle bag looks great when filled up, but not so great when near empty. The major gripe I have with this bag is the single layer twill cotton bottom. All of my other Filson bags including the briefcases, totes, field bags, sportsman have a two layer bottom.
Filson’s first original colors were Otter Green and Tan. If you search for pics of some of the oldest, most worn, tattered Filson bags on Google, they were likely originally Otter Green and not Tan. Take a look at the picture above.
The associates who work at a Filson retail store will typically estimate they sell twice as many Tan bags as they do Otter Green bags. And sure enough, there are quite a number of convincing reasons why they do!
Tan is the classic Filson color and is likely how people recognize a Filson bag. The contrasting brown bridle leather against the tan canvas really makes a bag “pop”. Also note that the bridle leather is always brown regardless of the canvas color bag you choose (black is an exception – it uses black bridle leather). The contrast of Tan and the rich brown bridle leather is what makes a Filson bag iconic!
As of now I’m at about a dozen plus Filson bags (I’m a bagoholic!). I guesstimate the distribution of colors is about 6 Otter Green, 5 Tan, 1 Black, and 1 Brown. I’m biased towards olive because it is also my favorite color for menswear. For further pics, check out my review on the Filson Zippered Tote.
The way that Tan patinas is that it picks up dirt, indigo dye, and easily darkens. Especially if the bag is carried by your side rubbing against a pair of raw denim. I think Tan is a solid color that won’t go wrong. In the long run, Tan gets darker in most areas of abrasion.
In contrast, the aging of Otter is an unusual phenomenon. Otter Green tends to hide stains very well such as dirt, spilled coffee, or indigo dye. I’ve noticed that the color lightens up over the years to a grayish color. The fading doesn’t happen uniformly on the bag – areas exposed to the sun tend to fade faster. Personally, I love how Otter Green fades over the years.
These are some of my Filson Otter Green bags over the years compared to a Filson Tan Zippered Tote Bag. The colors of the bags are quite accurate to how they are in person.
If you’re reading this review, chances are you already know about Filsonand/or perhaps heard of the small brand Vermilyea Pelle (pronounced ver-mil-yuh pel-lee) that also makes great bags, belts, and wallets. Perhaps you already own a couple of Filson bags or maybe you’re ready to purchase your first quality briefcase for work/school! Rest assured, I hope this post will be of help to you.
My first briefcase was purchased in mid 2015 towards the end of my first year of graduate school. It was a Filson 256 Original Briefcase in Brown purchased on sale from Gracious Home (it was so random that this site stocked Filson briefcases!). The price with shipping came out to $148.80 USD. It was more an impulsive buy because of the price; the brown color wasn’t my most ideal choice but that’s all they had at the sale price. My opinion of a Filson’s Brown is that it doesn’t have much of a contrast between the brown leather straps and the canvas. It’s pretty low-key and doesn’t screen Filson from far away. Navy and Brown are great colors for the briefcase if you want something that’s less flashy.
I didn’t need a briefcase as I was already using a Tanner Goods Wilderness Rucksack as my everyday school bag. Backpacks were so much easier on my back, especially when I was carrying a day’s worth of stuff – my gym clothes and sneakers, a laptop and charger, water bottle, camera, and sometimes a tripod. Also, about all of my classmates were also using backpacks (98% of 200 people)!
Less than 6 months later, my now ex-girlfriend purchased a Vermilyea Pelle Briefcase for my birthday. I was raving to her at least a month earlier how I wanted one. Read up on my other VP Weekender Duffle Bag Review to find more information on the construction of the bag (the quality of the weekender is exactly on par to the briefcase).
The Filson 258 Padded Computer Briefcase I bought used on eBay because it was from the “YKK zipper era”, had a single leather piece padded shoulder strap, and an absolute steal ($132.40 USD shipped). Head over to read my review on the Filson Zippered Tote to learn more about the my opinion on Filson’s change in quality over the years and why I recommend buying a used one. Again, another impulse purchase that I didn’t need!
Bookmark an eBay search for “Filson” in the category “Backpacks, Bags & Briefcases” and only show “Pre-owned” condition. I recommend sorting by “Time: newly listed”. Modify the title if you want a specific model like a 257, and you can also add email notifications.
During my final year in graduate school which is all clinical rotations (no more classroom lectures), it finally was appropriate to bring a briefcase over a backpack. At this point I owned 3 briefcase options – the Filson 256, the Filson 258, and the Vermilyea Pelle briefcase. The 256 could not fit my 15.6″ Acer laptop at all even without a case. The VP briefcase was able to fit the naked laptop but occasionally scratched the laptop it from the YKK zippers. The 258 had too much unnecessary padding which made it quite bulky in width and heavy.
Looking for something larger than the 256 and VP, but also less bulkier/heavier than the 258, I was certain the Filson 257 Computer Briefcase was perfect regarding size and bulk for my needs. After checking eBay for several nights, I eventually found a “YKK era” used one at $188.88 USD shipped.
Vermilyea Pelle Ranger Tan/Brown Chromexcel Briefcase
Price: $320-375 depending on leather/canvas makeup
Dustin Spencer of Vermilyea Pelle produces several makeups of the briefcase in varying leathers and briefcase material. At time of the purchase, I wanted the “standard” Ranger Tan / Brown CXL version which was the most popularly makeup posted on social media. The Ranger Tan waxed canvas is a dark tan color, is quite heavily waxed, and the texture of the canvas feels pebbly/bumpy (because of the canvas weave compared to unidirectional twill on Filson bags).
Waxed Canvas 18oz
The wax provides additional water and abrasion resistance for the canvas. Filson’s signature rugged twill is treated with some sort of water repellant which eventually wears off over time. If you want to keep your Filson bag pristine from rain and dirt, hit it up with a coating of Scotchgard spray every so often. Scotchgard is a synthetic water repellant spray used for furniture/fabric/carpet, and it does not change the original color.
Brown Chromexcel Leather from Horween
“9/11oz leather on the straps and 5/6oz on the bag”
The CXL on this bag was the thickest CXL I’ve ever handled. The CXL on my Alden footwear, Viberg footwear, and Tanner Goods wallets did not even come close!
I pulled out some digital calipers to test out the thickness of the CXL leather. Before measuring, I guessed that the exterior leather bottom and double stitched leather parallel to the zippers were thinner than the rest of the bag, and I was somewhat right.
The shoulder strap, shoulder pad, briefcase handles, parallel stitched leather were very similar in thickness 4.0mm +/- 0.2mm. For reference, 2 US quarter coins together are 3.5mm. Even the handle tabs holding the handles to the briefcase were just as thick. The leather bottom was thinner at 2.3mm +/- 0.2mm.
Leather lined bottom exterior
The bottom is also two layers (one leather, one canvas) just like Filson’s (two layers of 22oz twill canvas)
My bag’s bottom has superficial scuffs at the corners and a few nicks not too deep. I haven’t felt the need to condition the CXL bottom yet or other leather pieces. But when I do, I plan on using Lexol Leather Conditioner (I prefer it over Venetian Shoe Cream).
Copper rivets at stress points
The copper rivets are at the bottom of the bag to attach the handle straps to the bag, at the handle holders, and also at the shoulder strap attachments.
Because the CXL leather is very thick and packed with oils, the D ring leather attachments at the briefcase’s ends bend easily without any leather cracking. Filson briefcases have the tendency of their bridle leather to crack at this area.
Antique button snaps for each full length document pocket and also the hand grip
The snaps are most useful to keep the pockets close to the briefcase for a compact look. It also adds another layer of security in those pockets in case your bag ever completely flips over (lol). Filson document pockets sometimes tend to flare out both when empty and filled.
Another small detail that provides durability is that a circular leather piece was placed in between MALE parts of the stud to prevent the canvas from ripping through when using the snaps. The stud is the part that receives the most stress when unbuttoning with the Snap cap.
(outside of bag) Stud – waxed canvas – leather piece – Post (inside of bag)
Solid Brass YKK zippers with Rawhide Leather Pulls
The main zippers are Heavy duty YKK and have a great brass shine. I really like the rawhide leather pulls that Vermilyea Pelle includes on their zippers. They come with edges burnished, are well waxed, and likely come from the same quality supplier as the laces I use on my Viberg boots.
Absence of Vermilyea Pelle branding on the bag
All my VP bags came with a thick VP logo leather tag (removable) attached to a bag handle with rawhide laces. I’ve never been more impressed with a company’s tag! From the 3 tags I joyfully have now, the average width of a tag is 3.7mm (+/-0.4mm), basically the width of two US quarter coins! The leather of the tag looks like some kind of vegetable tanned leather.
Shoulder strap pad is a single, long piece of leather
VP’s shoulder pad length is about 12 inches while Filson’s shoulder pad length is about 8.5 inches.
The shoulder pad doesn’t need any breaking in from day one. It starts off soft (likely because it’s Chromexcel leather) and the underside surface has more grip than Filson’s. With Filson’s shoulder pad, I have to take sandpaper to the underside to create some grip or else it slips off my shoulder.
No end pockets
On the Filson Briefcases, the end pockets are available for use. The 256 end pockets are very small and practically unusable. The 257 and 258 briefcases have much larger end pockets, enough to fit in a large water bottle such as my 1L HydroFlask after being stretched. All of Filson’s briefcase end pockets start out stiff but do stretch a bit over time. If you have a new bag, I recommend wedging random objects in those pockets to stretch them out.
Because the Filson briefcases have end pockets, this also means that the leather which attaches the shoulder straps/D rings are actually connected to the pocket fabric instead of the fabric directly on the bag. While this difference seems minor, there was one occasion with my Filson x Apolis Philantropist Briefcase where the tailor had an easier time repairing it. The D ring leather piece was detaching from the frayed canvas. The tailor was able to place piece of leather behind it (in the pocket) and stitch them altogether using the same stitching holes.
I actually don’t think this is a con. Given the smaller dimensions of the VP briefcase, a “fair” matchup is comparing it to the Filson 256. As I mentioned earlier, the end pockets on the 256 are absolutely unusable anyways.
The design of the VP forgoing the end pockets actually increases the bag’s durability. Similar to how the Snap caps were placed in the document pockets, the leather piece that holds the D rings attaching the shoulder strap are held by a rivet. The rivet goes through the thick leather all the way into the interior where it again is complemented by a leather piece to prevent the waxed canvas from ripping/tearing through. When the shoulder strap is used, this leather piece helps distributes the stress (the bag’s weight) over a larger area.
Handle attachment obstructs easy access to document pockets
The VP briefcase handles attach to the document pockets which makes the pocket access obstructive because the handles have to be folded away from the bag.
On the other hand, this design allows the bag to display the beauty of the leather used on the bag (more leather is required). From what I can see, two very long leather pieces were used for the handles. The simplest way I can describe the design is two upside down “U” leather pieces as the handles, one on each side of the bag. The handles attach at the bottom of the bag by huge huge copper rivets (so 4 copper rivets total at the bottom).
Key clip on the bag’s interior is short/small
The length of the key clip is about 0.5 inches and located on the interior side of the bag (later models changed this).
Maximum shoulder strap length is short
The total length of the strap at its last hole is about 51 inches. I use the last hole even though I tend to like my shoulder straps short to keep the bag closer to my body. I’m sure if you request/contact Dustin regarding a longer strap, he’ll be able to accommodate that for you!
From what I see on the most recent briefcase models, Dustin has moved the key clip to attach at a seam above one of the three interior pockets and also lengthened it (great change!). Also, a small leather logo patch placed on one of the interior dividers.
I’ll first talk about the Filson “guaranteed for life” warranty. With Filson products including bags, garments, etc, they will either repair or replace the item free of charge. In some rare cases, such as those occurring not due to normal wear/tear, there may be a small charge. Such examples I can think of is if you spilled battery acid on your briefcase, your child decided to take a pair of scissors to your bag, or if your used your shoulder strap as a chew toy.
The most common reasons why Filson bags are repaired is because the twill canvas is fraying or the leather piece attaching the D rings are cracking or have completely torn through.
I’ve heard stories of hunters absolutely wearing the hell of of their Tin Chaps, getting them ripped and torn against brush or rough terrain, and then sending them back at the end of every season to get them repaired. That’s pretty cool! To me, that’s considered “normal” wear/tear.
This is the summarized information I received from customer service at Filson regarding the warranty process:
You send in your item to be evaluated by Filson’s return team for a possible repair (no guarantees that they can until they receive and evaluate it). The return team would determine whether they would be able to repair the bag. Most repairs are covered under the warranty, and would not incur any costs. Repairs take about 4-6 weeks to be completed, and they would only contact you if more information is needed.
If you decide you want to send it in to be evaluated, include your contact information on the package. You should include your full name, a returns address, daytime telephone number, and/or email address. And please explain the reason for the return and the outcome you desire.
Address your package to:
Attention Returns Department
3851 1st Ave S
Seattle, WA 98134
Vermilyea Pelle Warranty:
Now regarding that warranty from a company that has been around for more than a century, let’s talk about Vermilyea Pelle’s. I’ve searched on VP’s website, social media, and the rest of the web for anything mentioning a warranty but couldn’t find anything.
The only thing that is most similar is the Repairs section in the FAQ of the website – let’s just call that the “warranty”. I’ll contact Dustin later to see what he says directly, but I think I have an idea of their company stands behind.
“Vermilyea Pelle is enthusiastic to keep all our products in good working order and stand behind our craftsmanship. Unfortunately, nothing is indestructible, but we will to do everything we can to keep our products is use. Contact us with a description of the problem and we will email shipping instructions. Charges will occur if it is determined that the repair is not needed due to faulty material. (We do not repair non Vermilyea Pelle product.)”
So the question that’s more important to ask is what’s covered and what’s not. To my understanding, normal wear and tear is NOT covered by the warranty such as the waxed canvas eventually fraying/wearing through because of abrasion, the stitching coming undone, or bottom leather getting deep cuts. (I’m not even sure how you’d even repair this other than replacing the whole bottom anyways).
These issues are easily repaired by taking it to your local tailor or leather repair shop. A tailor can stitch up the fraying prevent it from becoming worse, and a leatherworker can apply a bit of glue in the cut in the leather gash so it’s hardly visible.
What I believe IS covered by the warranty is any hardware failure or overlooked/missed stitching. Such as a snap cap popping off randomly and from either the document pocket or the hand grip or rivets coming undone. Holding the bag in front of me, I think those are the areas that the bag will actually “fail” first.
Vermilyea Pelle has been around producing briefcases for only a few years. A couple years may not provide enough wear to a bag to come to a conclusion about even having a warranty. In fact, Dustin posts his pics of prototype bags on Instagram quite often! Comparing VP to Filson who has been producing luggage since the 1980s wouldn’t be fair. Also Filson started off producing garments before luggage!
I’ve been very fond of Dustin’s work since I heard of his company in 2014 on Styleforum and Instagram. Back in 2015, my girlfriend at the time ordered a briefcase from Vermilyea Pelle for my birthday. I let her know beforehand that I wanted the typical Brown CXL and Ranger Tan Waxed Canvas makeup. She exchanged emails with him a few times, and on my birthday I became a new owner of a VP Briefcase!
Now, onto the product we’ll talk about. I will state that there are only so many designs of bags that are practical. The VP 20″ Weekender Duffle seems to encompass many elements of the retired Filson Traveler’s Bag. I, myself, currently own both the Medium and Large sized Filson Travel Bags, so my review on the VP Duffle bag will be based primarily upon my comparison with those.
I purchased the VP Weekender Duffle bag in person at Railcar Fine Goods on 11/26/2017 at a price of $282.31 after tax. Because I knew of the canvas and leather beforehand from my VP briefcase, I knew the quality of the bag was to match. It fact, back in 2015, Railcar was the only local stockist that carried VP! The reason I purchased the bag was that it was discounted – I can’t remember off the top of my head what the % discount was on the tag, but to my knowledge, it was the first time I’ve seen a VP included in a sale.
Dimensions: 20″L x 10″ W x 12″
Tumbled Solid brass Hardware (patinas much nicer than Lacquer coated brass)
Hand hammered Solid Copper Rivets
Hand Antiqued USA Made Snaps
18oz Heavy Wax Duck Canvas
5/6oz leather on Bag, Double Thick 5/6oz Leather strap work from Horween Tannery in Chicago
#10 Solid Brass YKK zipper
(+) This is a simple, well-designed bag with quality materials. The copper rivets and stitching on the bag are very well done. I can’t imagine the bag failing at all anytime soon. VP utilizes the best Horween Chromexcel Leather, and Ican see that supported by the leather on the bag being very thick and displaying no signs of loose grain creasing (seen prominently in boots). Compared to Filson’s Bridle Leather, the CXL leather on the straps is nearly twice as thick (5.3mm vs 2.7mm). The main compartment is accessed by two YKK zippers with burnished, waxed leather pulls. The quality of these rawhide leather pulls feel a lot more substantial than Filson’s and I think they are very similar to the laces I use on some of my Vibergs.
The thickness of the waxed Ranger Tan canvas is essentially the same as Filson’s 22oz Rugged Twill, 3.35mm to 3.30mm. However, the canvas is very well waxed for additional abrasion resistance. Filson’s twill comes with an applied treatment (not “waxed”) and still holds up to rain well fresh out of the factory. In my experience of rainy days with both bags, the waxed canvas sheds water much better.
The interior is a large one compartment with a keychain clip on one side. The simplicity of this bag’s design allows you to throw whatever you want into it, or to use your own pouches to seperate goods. I like duffle bags for this reason as I tend to just throw everything in the same compartment and just shuffle through it when I need something!
What’s cool about VP’s bags is that they use copper rivets at all places of stress. I learned a couple years ago that rivets are able to handle stress from any direction where as bar tack stitching handles stresses from the directions perpendicular to them. Take a look at your pair of raw denim – Belt loops are typically attached to the pant with bar tack stitches while your front pockets and coin pocket will have rivets.
Another feature that VP added was a leather bottom exterior. The primary reason for this is to prevent the bottom of the bag getting wet when setting it down on a rainy day. Also the leather bottom will be more durable than cotton/canvas. I don’t baby where I place my bags, and as you can see, I can’t even find any scratches or nicks on the CXL leather bottom yet!
The inner seams are bounded by what feels like another lighter weight waxed canvas for added durability.
(-) The interior keychain clip is really tiny compared to the rest of the bag. I might have preferred it to be on the interior of one of the outside pockets like Filson has for their Tote bags.
The pull tabs at each end of the zipper are too short to be usable. When you open a zippered bag, one hand pulls the zipper while the other holds the tab to allow you to unzip. I get around this by just grabbing a lateral part of the bag with my other hand while zipping and unzipping. No biggie!
The shoulder strap is actually quite short compared to Filson’s. But it’s actually beneficial to carry the bag higher up on your back/side for ergonomic reasons. The minor issue I have with the single piece leather shoulder pad is that the pad’s leather ends tend to fold in. You can basically fix this by not looping the strap through the exterior slits on the pad so that the shoulder pad sits flush on your shoulder.
The VP 20″ Weekender Duffle basically is an upgraded version of Filson’s bags. Compared to the MSRP of Filson’s bags, the price of the VP bag is well worth the $385. The improvements include a leather bottom, copper rivets, “better” materials (both canvas and leather), added snap buttons on the two exterior pockets to prevent the pockets from flaring out. Oh yeah, I only thing that’s missing from this bag is the two “water bottle” pockets at each end. But with the bag loaded, the shoulder straps should essentially prevent any items from fitting at each end. I just toss my water bottle into the main compartment.
I’ve had my eyes on this Filson Photographer’s Backpack for a couple years now. The two and only major reviews of this bag I was able to find online was by Anastasia Petukhova and Nathan Ward. Both of their reviews were accompanied with attractive, droolsome pics. A week ago, I was able to find a used Filson Photographer’s Backpack in Otter Green on Craigslist for a great price! I contacted the dude, received a prompt response, and we met the following day at a Starbucks. The bag is no longer available directly from Filson, but is currently readily available from Amazon in both Tan and Otter Green.
In 2012, the Filson Zippered Tote was the first Filson bag I purchased. I knew about the brand because on Reddit shared that the bags are warrantied for life. Looking through the options online, the zippered tote stood out to me because I wanted an everyday bag and not a briefcase at the time. Between the two Filson colors, I went with the tote in Otter Green instead of Tan because the color is more masculine for a guy carrying a tote. The shape of the bag – like a box also helps with that.
I was living in Cupertino, CA at the time and the closest retailer was Doms Outdoor Goods, one of the largest Filson approved stockists in the US, and it was located in Livermore, CA. The other closest stockist was all the way in San Francisco, Unionmade Goods, but they only stocked the tan color according to their website and my experience visiting the store in the past.
I called Doms beforehand to ask if they had a Filson 261 in OT in stock. The associate went to go physically check and he responded there was 1 left on the shelf! I decided to take a trip spontaneously that day to buy it. So after a 1 hour drive to Livermore, I ended up purchasing it for about $130.
A bit of history about the change of ownership that happened recently. Filson started producing luggage only in the ~1980s to early 90s and before that only clothing. The first zippers they used on their luggage were “Talon zippers”. Most of the Filson affectionados today desire bags with Talon zippers because they were really smooth, and the zipper teeth were no joke, very little, if any, of zipper failure. If you have a bag with Talon zippers, it for sure was manufactured in the 90s. Later in the 2000s filson switched over to YKK branded zippers. YKK zippers were also solid, they’re a well known zipper company based in Japan. They continued with these zippers to about 2010. Around that time Filson the company was sold to Bedrock Manufacturing, a company that also owns Fossil and Shinola Detroit. Since the 2010s Filson started using their own branded “Filson” zippers which likely were just YKK zippers. In my experience, they worked just as well.
However, the major changes in quality over the years was most prominent in the bridle leather used and not so much the zippers and twill canvas. If you had a Talon era bag and Filson era bag (today’s) and compared the leather, the Talon bag’s leather was significantly better in quality. The Talon leather aged to a lightened chestnut color, was thicker, and also felt robust in weight. The recent Filson “bridle leather” doesn’t feel like leather, cracks more easily, and the backside is typically unfinished and fuzzy. The current leather feels more like “foam” and not leather. The leather also wrinkles very easily in an unattractive manner and does not lighten with color over time.
All of this information I learned much later after I had owned a few more Filson bags. Filson bags are still ‘buy it for life’ bags because they still have a lifetime guarantee regardless of when/who you purchased it from. When you send the bag in for repair, they will either repair it or replace it with a brand new same bag if they deem it not worth the repairs (time/cost of repairing that bag outceeds the time/cost of producing a new bag). The only situation of a Filson garment/bag that is not under lifetime warranty is items purchased from a Filson outlet. These bags are indicated with a “X” on top of the Filson logo, and Filson will literally not touch these garments/bags, and will send it right back to you.
So back to my Filson 261 Otter Green tote, I’ll now talk about the design. There are 4 large outer pockets with 2 of them on the functioning as water bottle pockets. Each of them are large enough to fit my 32oz Hydro Flask. Other uses include an umbrella, sunglasses case. The two longer pockets are great for papers/documents, quick access things. In one of these pockets there’s a small key clip on the inside. I don’t find it useful because it’s too short.