Field Bag Round-Up

As I type, our sewing contractors are working on our first run of Archival Clothing Field Bags. Just like last time, we’ll preface the introduction of a new product with a round-up of existing bags.

We’ve always loved Brady Bags, and this small trout bag has served Lesli faithfully for years. We like the heavy laminated duck, the fine quality webbing, and the convenient pocketing. The side-mounted shoulder strap also ensures a comfortable, close carry.

We really are Filson devotees, but we’ve found their Field Bag series to be challenging. This example has been used heavily by the Archival family for 15 years. Though it’s built like a truck from top notch materials, we’ve found a few drawbacks. Abundant use of heavy twill, bridle leather and brass mean that the bag is heavy and bulky, even when unpacked. We prefer webbing shoulder straps to leather, as web is softer and more comfortable (and negates the need for a separate strap pad). Attaching the straps on the back panel means that the bag tends to flop downwards rather than hug the user’s back. And a panel of extra fabric around the bag’s opening keeps rain out, but also makes it harder to load and unload your gear.

One of our favorite bags, this Hunting World Safari Today is comfortable and convenient (there are two pockets on the inside). Of course, it’s no longer available, and it doesn’t fit laptops or much more than a half-day’s worth of gear.

Though we love the hand-knotted fishing net on this old Chapman game bag, we had to admit that its utility is limited in daily use, as fingers get caught and small objects vanish instantly. We’ll keep this one around for hunting squirrels, but we left the net off of our own Field Bag.

So surrounded by examples, both material and visual, we set off to design a workhorse shoulder bag that would equally serve an urban professional or a dedicated fisherman. Our requirements:

– Unquestionably durable construction
– A strap configuration that provides for a comfortable carry
– Useful pocketing while keeping the layout as minimal as possible
– Plenty of room for laptops
– Protection from the elements
– No features or finish that compromise function or unduly raise price (i.e. abundant leather trim)
– As with all of our products, domestic materials and manufacture to the best of our ability.

Results to be announced soon!

17 thoughts on “Field Bag Round-Up”

  1. I have the current edition Barbour dry fly bag. It’s made in China! The netting was knotted then dyed, so slowly the knots are stretching out leaving white spots where the dye didn’t penetrate. The leather straps are 2 pieces of leather laminating a piece of fabric, the fabric is fraying leaving long strands of fiber that need to be snipped about once a month.
    The plus side? The removable liner is great when I want to use the bag for something else beside fish. Oh and the netting is great for carrying extra croquet balls.

  2. I believe you’ve handled/owned Duluth packs. Their field satchel is worth a look I think. I’ve had a school backpack since ’84, that has been repaired twice and a #2 for camping. They do great, reinforcing (rather than cosmetic) repairs free of charge.
    They’ll also make any bag without the moose patch if that’s a bother.

  3. @HOM – Dreadful! We have heard reports of newer made in China Barbour bags being of reduced quality. For British bags, we refer you to Chapman or Brady.

    @JD – The Duluth field satchel is a fine bag. Ours will be at a much higher level of finish and material quality (and, of course, a higher price point!). Good to have choices.

  4. Off topic but related: Today my squadron went on a ruck march. I had 30lbs in my Archival Rucksack. There were 170 or so of us in this 6+ mile ruck commemorating MGen Alison; he led the troops in Burma in the 40s. I cannot tell you how many people commented on my Archival Ruck asking me where I got this vintage bag – a few wondered if it dated from Alison’s days . Some looked closely and noticed the fine attention to detail. I can also say that the 30lbs were evenly distributed and did not once bother me; others had much larger (modern) rucks but struggled at times. Yours was a stand out that could not go by unnoticed even if it tried. Only to say many of my military compatriots were impressed and wished they had such am impressive ruck. Thank you archival!

  5. I’ve given up completely on Hardy of England. I own at least a dozen fly reels and several rods including The Phantom and The Marvel, but since moving production to the far east, I’ve had it. Very disappointed in Filson as well, though they still make some items in the states.

  6. my laptop and i can’t wait for THE bag, i had a great fishing one from a traditional french manufacture that i bought in 1975 at La Samaritaine, it just died two years ago and i haven’t been able to find a proper replacement since

  7. I really appreciate your research on field bags and, in an earlier post, rucksacks (I now have your rucksack & love it – use it every day for my work commute).

    Any chance you might do something similar for the carry-on/travel bag segment? I’ve been looking for the ‘perfect’ travel bag/pack for quite a while and narrowed the search to these possibilities – Filson medium duffel (222), pullman (243), & large travel bag (248); Red Oxx ‘Sky Train’ (Made in Billings, Montana) http://www.redoxx.com/Airline-Carry-On-Luggage/Sky-Train/91019/100/Product#reviewList ; and MEI Voyageur (supposedly made somewhere in the USA) http://www.meivoyageur.com/

    My own criteria includes:
    1. Largest size that can be carried on to a plane (roughly 21″ x 14″ x 10″ or 45 linear inches total)
    2. Not too heavy (which is the ding against all the Filson’s mentioned above)
    3. Can be carried over the shoulder or, ideally, also like a backpack
    4. Functional & well-designed
    5. Suitable as your sole bag for a weekend getaway or a 4 week trip to Europe (other than a camera/sundry/rucksack-type bag)
    6. Looks great!

    I’d love to know AC’s thoughts on the matter.

  8. I am filming a romantic comedy in Colorado in September that has a strong fly fishing thread throughout. I really need a very cool field bag for my lead character. please call me at 310 694-3769 to discuss.


  9. Calvin have a look at Brady’s Safari bag.


    I wasn’t aware they’d started making them again, but for anyone looking for a carry on bag that can be used during the day, stuffed full and has a strap broad enough not to cheese wire your shoulder this is it.
    I’ve dragged mine all over the world and to carry my son around the house in when he was a baby (he thought it was fun (so did I)).

    Still Made in Halesowen, England too.

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