A selection of the best by local artisans
1 DARK HORSE LEATHER BACKPACK
This slimline bag is equally suited to carrying a laptop for meetings in the city or for short adventures in the outdoors. It has thick padding (ideal for protecting electronics), two exterior zip pockets and two compartments on the inside. The leather is refined and feels smooth, while the underside of the straps is made from seat-belt material for added strength and durability. It’s clear the designers take pride in the details (the zips are custom made) and have created a bag that strikes a good balance between style and functionality. It comes in charcoal grey, black, tan, chocolate brown and toffee.
2 THE ROWDY RUCKSACK
R1 900, rowdybags.com
This rucksack makes you feel ready for a Tom Sawyer-style adventure: chuck in a few apples, some fishing tackle, a harmonica and off you go. The main compartment has a small, inside pouch and is closed by a drawstring and flap with a single strap. There’s also a zip pocket on the back for valuables. My clumsy fingers found the front pouch with its two straps a little tedious to get into, but you would probably get used to it. I liked the raw look of this worn brown version (pictured), with its natural imperfections, but it also comes in matte black, rich wax brown, blonde and sahara.
3 MALLY THE BAMBINO
R2 495, mally.co.za Designed with parents in mind (no surprise it’s water-resistant), this backpack can also be used as a laptop or camera bag. For those who love a well-organised tote, the number of compartments are the main attraction. There are five inside pouches, two zip pockets, two outer bottle holders, a dummy and car-key clip, plus an easily accessible big pouch on the outside. Conceptualised in the Klein-Karoo, the bags are produced in Cape Town by in-house leather crafters, and gives employment to underprivileged women. The backpack comes in brown (pictured), toffee or black.
4 FOM THE BOBBY
A handcrafted backpack with some lovely touches: the brass buckles have hidden magnetised clips that save the hassle of fastening the straps; the padded base
provides extra protection; and the branded lining and brass rivets give it a classy look. There are two side pockets, an inside zip pocket, a large zip pocket on the back (ideal for a tablet) and a pouch on the front – also with a magnetised clip
that looks like a strap. A nice feature is that you can personalise the bag, on the top flap just below the FOM logo. The Bobby comes in three shades of brown: toffee, timber-land and pecan (pictured), and in a smaller ‘Baby Bobby’ version.
5 ANTELO WILLIAM SPORTS DUFFEL
R2 750, antelo.co.za
An elegant duffel bag that keeps its shape nicely and smells like my mom’s shoe cupboard (a good thing!). There’s a zip pocket on the side for small items and another one on the inside. You can carry it using either the sturdy handles or the adjustable sling strap. The bag is made from full analine bovine leather, which is a type of dyed leather that retains the hide’s natural surface. That’s how it has the green hue (called ‘olive’) and also the look of leather. Other colour options are tan, brown and Moroccan chocolate.
6 THANDANA MEDIUM TRAVELLER BAG
R2 988, thandana.co.za
This beautiful bag, made in Zululand, has slightly different dimensions to the other duffels I looked at – it’s not as long but has more height. The padded inner lining is made with the San-inspired Thandana logo fabric and has one zip pocket. The straps are connected by gunmetal loops, which seem like they could last forever. All of Thandana’s products are eco-friendly and treated with a wax-based, water-resistant coating that eliminates the use of plastic. The bag comes in hazelnut (pictured), tobacco, black and grey.
7 CHAPEL LEATHER DUFFEL
R2 999, chapelgoods.co.za
This is the bag you’d use if you were a stylish squash player from the 80s. It has one large compartment with a hanging pouch on the inside, as well as two zip pockets on either end of the bag. There’s no lining so the inside is the inner suede of the leather, which gives it a rugged look. I think that’s what Chapel was going for because the company says it was ‘designed for the city, inspired by the bush’. The guarantee includes repairing or replacing anything that breaks at no cost. It’s only available in this shade of brown.
8 FSP THE HARRY OVERNIGHTER
R2 950, fspcollection.com
As the name suggests, this smaller duffel is better suited to a one-night stay than a long weekend. It’s a simple design, with a zip pocket on the inside and sturdy handles. The shoulder strap is my favourite feature as it can be adjusted like a belt, and looks like one too. FSP (Fashion Sensitive Planet), one of a handful of leather companies based in Woodstock, Cape Town, sources hides with the least number of natural defects to ensure the leather is of the highest quality and has a clean look. It only comes in the colour shown.
Wine and cheese aren’t the only things that get better with age. So do leather bags. Gear Editor MATTHEW STERNE found eight locally crafted ones for under R3 000, that all meet airline carry-on specs