Think about the last time you got on an airplane or checked into a hotel. Most check-in bags are canvas, with zippers, pockets, and storage compartments everywhere.
They’re likely in blue or black, but you might find one in red every now and then. Of course, you likely didn’t notice, because the best ones tend to fly under the radar.
But, for the initiated man of style, the leather duffle bag is where it’s at. Refined, with a hint of ruggedness. Kodiak Leather Co. was kind enough to send one over for review, and I’ve been testing it for almost a year.
In that time, it’s taken three road trips, one weekend getaway, and held anything from dress shoes to baby clothes. So, what worked? What didn’t? And, is it worth a purchase?
Let’s dive in.
About Kodiak Leather Co.
Based out of Lehi, UT, Kodiak Leather Co. launched on Kickstarter back in 2017. They had the goal, like many direct-to-consumer companies, of providing a superior product to the big guys while ‘cutting out the middleman’ and interfacing more intimately with the customer.
They were quite successful on the platform, with their first bag- a 45L weekender- raising $130,000. The line has expanded to include different-sized duffles, messenger bags, briefcases, satchels, wallets, folios, journals, and pretty much anything else you can wrap in leather. While the signature duffle is pretty unisex, they do offer a variety of goods for both men and women.
The Kodiak Denali Duffle Bag
We’ll be covering the bag that made the brand, the 45L “Denali” weekend bag in the antique brown colorway. It’s advertised as the Goldilocks bag for planes and automobiles- it offers just enough room for what you need, but still conforms to the size regulations. From here on, we’ll cover styling, functionality, quality, and then render a verdict.
It’s a nicely shaped bag, By that, I mean it’s well- proportioned. To the casual eye, it’s neither too long and thin nor too short and squat. And that’s a good thing.
Unlike some leather bags from luxury designers (looking at you, Louis…), this one isn’t covered with brand logos. That’s also a good thing. The Kodiak bear logo is subtle and sits just along the base of the bag and on the leather tag as well. It’s there, but far from prominently placed.
The antique brown colorway is going to be polarizing for some, though. The company notes the application of natural materials and dyes creates a weathered, broken-in look many enthusiasts crave in their bags. However, such a patina is often achieved after years (and sometimes decades) of careful carelessness with a bag- throwing in cars, overhead storage cabinets, or even a gym locker.
At least in this colorway it feels like the intimacy has been stripped away a little. The natural fading, bumps, scratches, and wrinkles that make the character of a bag don’t have the opportunity to develop in the way they could. It’s like the bag’s story has already been half-written for me.
I would have preferred a pure, natural bag without any distressing. But, I can see the appeal; kind of like a soft-wash tee or broken-in denim.
Kodiak offers the Denali in a darker walnut and a black colorway, and those are the options I’d suggest if you prefer a little less distressing up front.
Function and Storage
I’ve noticed leather goods, and bags in particular, kind of sit in two camps. They’re either super minimal—a big hole with a zipper on it-or covered in more zippers, patches, and pockets than a pair of early 2000’s skate pants.
The Kodiak Denali bag straddles this line quite nicely, and I’m really pleased with it.
The exterior of the bag has five exterior pockets. Two on the body, one at each end, and one at the bottom. The smaller pockets on the body are cut into the body of the bag, which helps to keep the silhouette clean and prevent anything from catching. They’re small, but would be useful for storing items like a wallet, phone, or passport.
The larger exterior pocket has a multitude of uses. The zipper is rounded, and the pocket extends over a foot inside the bag. You could easily store shoes, boots, or anything from a Dopp kit to a rolled-up light jacket in there.
The medium sized exterior pocket is kind of an awkward size. It’s too small for a thick book, but probably big enough for a small tablet to hang out in if you want easy access while on the plane. Either way, I commend Kodiak for using the space they had instead of just leaving it bare.
The bottom zipper offers even more storage space for a 15” laptop, as it runs along the entire length of the bag.
A couple of other nifty features on the exterior are the variety of handles. Oh the side with the rounded zipper, there’s a handle to easily pull out of a car trunk. The two looping handles at the top aren’t large enough to swing over your shoulder; but that’s why they have a shoulder strap. The most ingenious part is the thick strap designed to go over the handle of your rolling bag. I’ve definitely used it!
The interior functionality is about what you’d expect for a weekend bag of this size. One side has a long zipper to store things, and the other has a series of smaller pockets for pens, cards, and perhaps a wallet or key ring.
Now, what can you actually fit in here? Turns out it’s way more than enough for a weekend trip. I was able to pack:
- Two pairs of jeans
- Two casual pants
- Three T shirts
- Two button ups
- Two thinner sweaters
- A vest
- My Dopp kits
Of course, your mileage may vary, but it’s certainly more than enough for a weekend jaunt if you pack smart. At 21”L x 12”W x 11”H, the bag’s definitely capable of handling it.
But, what do you get with all that space?
All the space in the world isn’t worth much if it’s made of bits.
So, how does it stack, and how has it held up?
The bag is made from top-grain bovine leather. Top grain sits between the ‘genuine’ bonded leather and the more expensive full-grain stuff. I’m no leather expert, but it appears to have been sanded a little to create a more even effect.
Even so, the leather has held up extremely well. It was quite stiff at first, but after a couple of long road trips and significant time in storage under my bed, it’s starting to soften up nicely.
The leather will scratch, and that’s totally the point. Wet your finger a little and rub it in and the scratch starts to go away. I think it looks a little better on a brown leather bag than a black one would though.
I’ve not bothered to condition the leather, but I’ve not experienced cracking or extreme dryness.
The one bit of cost-cutting I did see on the exterior was on the shoulder strap. Instead of a full leather strap, they’ve sewed spare strips together on a canvas one. You’ll either be okay with this or be royally upset.
Me? I’m cool with it. The shoulder strap is an item not everyone will want to use. And, the canvas is of good thickness- unlike some, which can feel like a cheap seatbelt. I also like the sueded bottom of the pad. Nice touch.
The quality of the interior is about what you’d expect of a bag at this price point. The lining is twill, not leather like you’d expect on a four-figure bag. But, it’s not polyester, rayon, nylon, or another cheap man made material. So, good on the Kodiak Denali bag there.
In my year of testing, I didn’t notice any rips, tears, fading on pilling on the lining. It’s held up quite well.
Hardware is one of those interesting parts about a bag and where you can tell where a company has cut corners. That really didn’t happen here. The hardware is brass. It feels substantial in your hand, and the clips open and close with a satisfying *clink.*
The teeth on the zippers are sharp, and the action is fairly smooth. They claim to be YKK, but I didn’t catch a logo. I’m fair from a zipper snob. As long as it doesn’t get caught, we’re good.
Is Kodiak Leather Worth It?
It’s a competitive world out there, especially in the direct-to-consumer marketplace. Brands want to get their product in your hands, and have to be price competitive.
At $399, Kodiak Leather Co.’s Denali duffle bag sits in a pretty good position. They’re not the ultra-luxe stuff, but they’re far from the sticky, cheap, plasticky stuff.
Do you get full-grain leather with Kodiak? No. Does it feel *as nice* as a full-grain bag might? No. But, you’re also paying less than half of what you might elsewhere. That’s a sacrifice I’m okay with.
And, the bag does make up for it in other ways. The hardware is substantial and can withstand the abuse you’ll give it. The lining is soft and will protect your stuff.
In the end, I’d go for it, but with a few reservations. First, I’d choose either the black or dark walnut colorways. They’re less aggressively styled, and I think will stand the test of time a little better.
And, I’d like to see a full leather shoulder strap instead of a canvas. But, that might tip the price north of 400 bucks, and $415 seems to scare consumers more than $399.
But, you’re getting a solid, well-built bag. That’s all most of us are looking for anyway, right?
A note: This review is not sponsored, and I wasn’t told to say anything positive or negative about Kodiak Leather Co. — however, they sent me a bag to provide an in-depth honest review. Gentleman Within holds all control over editorial content.
What are your thoughts on Kodiak Leather Co.?
Let’s continue the discussion over in the Gentlemen Within Private Facebook Community.
Looking forward to seeing you in there.
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