Briefcase Showdown: Filson 256 vs 257
One of the most hotly debated topics in the world of Filson, especially to newcomers, is the decision between the Filson Original Briefcase 256 and the Filson Computer Briefcase 257. They share a design aesthetic and differ by only two inches in width, but there is a bigger difference here than initially meets the eye. So let’s get started…
Both briefcases share the same basic design. They both have a zipped main compartment with a storm flap that snaps closed and they both have two full-length exterior pockets, two carry-handles and a shoulder strap. Here is how they differ…
The 257 comes from the factory with a two-snap hand grip attached to the carry handles. This serves two purposes. First, it distributes heavier loads across your hand to make carrying the bag very comfortable. Second, it keeps the handles neatly together when you place the bag down or are carrying it with the shoulder strap.
The 256 does not include the hand grip, but Filson will install it for you for $20, so if it is important to you, there is a work-around. I am in the minority, but I definitely prefer the 256 without the hand grip. I find that the two bare handles are very comfortable with my typical load and I like the casual character of the floppy handles as they break in. In addition, it makes access to the main compartment easier if you are constantly in and out of your bag.
SHOULDER STRAP ATTACHMENT POINTS
The 256 has the shoulder strap attachment point stitched directly to the canvas. Whereas, the 257 uses a large leather baseplate to connect the attachment point to the bag. This will spread the load over a larger surface area and should allow the bag to handle very heavy loads slightly better.
ABILITY TO STAND UP
The 257 has a wider base and will stand up on its own. The 256 will need to be leaned against a desk or a chair because of its narrow base.
WEIGHT AND OVERALL SIZE
In person, the 257 definitely feels bigger and bulkier than the 256. It only weighs about three ounces more, but overall it feels like you are carrying around considerably more bag. Whether this is a good or bad thing is entirely subjective. If you are a student and carry lots of textbooks or have a more sizeable laptop with a charger brick and want to carry a water bottle, a jacket, etc., then the bulkier 257 may be just what the doctor ordered.
It is hard to truly understand how different the two bags feel without handling them in person, but you can get a sense of the size difference in this picture.
The inside of the 256 is fairly basic. The bag has a spacious main compartment sandwiched between two full length interior pockets, one of which has six smaller pockets (of various sizes) sewn onto it for pens, business cards, calculators, cell phones, etc.
The full length interior pockets are perfectly suited for a small laptop (13″ MacBook Air), a legal pad holder or an iPad. If you want to use a 15″ laptop with this bag, you will need to put it in the main compartment.
The 257 is a little more complex inside. The following schematic (from the Filson web site) is the best representation of the interior. It starts with the basic 256 layout and adds a large, full-length laptop divider (which is not secured to the bottom of the bag) and three additional large sleeve pockets sewn to the inside of the interior pocket.
I find both layouts to have certain advantages. The 256 is simpler and cleaner and provides all the essential storage that I need for most days. While the 257 includes more pockets and dividers, they do intrude into the interior space a bit if you don’t need so much partitioning.
Because I use a 13″ MacBook Air, which easily fits in the interior side pocket, I often wish that the 257 did not have the extra computer divider so I could make better use of the main compartment. If you use a 15″ MacBook, you may need to put it in the main compartment anyway so the laptop divider may be rendered superfluous.
For many years, the three sleeve pockets on the inside of the 257 did not have a sewn bottom, meaning that they are designed to secure larger cargo, but cannot be used as conventional pockets to hold smaller items. I actually love the sleeve design because I am able to fit two 16 oz Nalgene water bottles and use the remaining sleeve for my laptop accessories.
In the last few months, I have read reports that Filson has changed the design (in response to customer demand) and is now sewing across the bottom to create closed pockets. This change is definitely something to be aware of so that you can be sure to get the layout that suits you best. My 257 was purchased locally one month ago with the open sleeves and it is my preferred layout.
WHAT WILL THESE CASES HOLD?
You may be surprised how much the 256 Original Briefcase actually holds (I certainly was). Here is a visual representation of how I use the bags on a daily basis. Here it is full and ready for the day..
Here is a top view of the bag’s contents…
Here is an inventory of the contents and a picture of everything unpacked…
- iPad 2 (with Saddleback case)
- 13″ MacBook Air with neoprene sleeve
- Leather legal pad holder
- (2) Large hardcover books
- 3-Ring Binder (1.5″)
- Assorted pens and pencils
- Magazines and catalogs
If you need to carry heavy textbooks (or more than a couple hardcover books), then the 257 may be a better choice. I would definitely recommend the 257 for college/graduate students.
WHICH ONE SHOULD I CHOOSE?
Bottom Line: both briefcases are excellent, but unless you have a specific and compelling reason for the extra size/bulk, choose the 256.
CHOOSE the Filson Original Briefcase 256 if you…
- are looking for a well proportioned bag with just the right amount of storage;
- use a 13″ laptop and do not need to carry a lot of chargers or peripherals;
- are having trouble deciding…the 256 is a better choice for most people.
CHOOSE the Filson Computer Bag 257 if you…
- are a student or professor who carries multiple large, heavy text books;
- work in an occupation that requires you to transport large binders or significant amounts of paperwork (a lawyer for example);
- are a frequent business traveler who would like to fit a change of clothes and some toiletries along with your business items;
- you work in the field and need to carry tools, lunch, water, or specialized equipment in addition to a computer and some paperwork.
If you have any other questions that I can help you answer, please leave them in the comments. Also, I would love to hear about your 256/257 experiences. Thanks for reading:)
Charles, this was a very thorough and informative review (as I have come to expect from you). The schematic of the 257 was particularly helpful. I have been needing a bag with a lot of space for the past several years being a college student but I will finish this December so I am sure I will not need as much space as I think I do. Of course, it is hard to believe this since I have grown so accustomed to having the extra space. As it stands I think I will go ahead and order both in different colours and keep the one I like best. Again, thank you for all your help and I look forward to seeing your future post (which will likely be my future envies).
Thanks, Timothy! I appreciate the feedback. I don’t think it is possible to make a bad choice. Buying both (one in each color) is a great solution because you can put the bags through you daily routine and see which one comes out on top. Keep me posted:)
I realize I ordered the 256 in Otter Green and the 257 in Tan. I think I’ve been checking this blog too much that I subconsciously chose the same colours that I saw in the picture. I’m actually worried that I will like both bags too much to sell either of them!
I think you made a great decision! That is the perfect pair. I also think it is very likely that you will find it hard to let one go. I decided to just resign myself to the fact that I need both. Let me know when they arrive:)
I think what’s really tempting me to keep them is I got them for ~30% off through someone who had extras. I’ll definitely let you know when they arrive.
By the way, do you still own the 256 in Otter Green and 257 in Tan? I noticed in those pictures you have a 256 in Tan and also noticed you sold a 256 in Otter Green a little while ago.
30% off is a great deal. I currently own three Filson briefcases. I have the 256 in both Tan and Otter Green and my 257 is in Tan. The OG 256 that I sold last month was an extra one that I came across locally on a close out sale.
Hi Charles, you’re the man!
I also have these two bags and keep 256 for my daily work. It’s really a useful analysis. I will keep to follow you as I’m a Filson fan also.
Thank you for the kind words. I think having both bags is definitely the best option:) Welcome aboard and thanks for the follow.
Any thoughts on the 258 Padded Computer Bag?
Thanks for the question, Mark. I do not own a 258, but I did have a chance to play with one this weekend at the local Filson dealer. It is a very, very substantial bag. It actually makes the 257 Computer Briefcase look like a thin attaché in comparison. Unless you have seen the bag in person, it is hard to truly get a sense of how large it actually is. It has a very large front compartment and resembles the Sportsman’s case a first glance. As long as you are using a sleeve on your laptop, I would steer you towards the 257 over the 258.
The 257 holds an incredible amount of stuff, but with much less bulk/weight than the 258. I did not get the impression that the 258 would offer enough additional protection (over the 257) to justify the added weight/cost. So, unless you have a very compelling need for the additional room, I would definitely recommend the 257.
Thanks for your review of the 258. I actually picked up an otter green one during the recent Brooks Brother 40% off sale. Couldn’t pass up the deal- only $195 for the 258. It may be too big for daily use as you say. But I think I’d get decent use out of it for a carry-on/travel piece.
The Brooks Brothers sale was fabulous and I was actually tempted to pick up the 258 as well. The bag will look amazing in Otter Green and to use as a Carry-on or Travel case for business, you will not be disappointed. It is a substantial bag, with great storage and darn near bulletproof. Congratulations on getting such a great deal and be sure to send me a pic or two when it arrives:)
Hi Charles, I chance upon your blog while trying to decide on my first Filson bag and found your reviews very useful. Right now, i have narrowed down to the 256 and 232 n is having a hard time deciding which one suits me best. I will be using this bag mainly for school and my usual capacity will be 1 textbook, a couple of notes and occasionally a small laptop 10″ or 13″. Does dressing plays a part? I will be in jeans with polo tee most of the time. Sometimes in shirt but nothing too formal.
Hi Daniel, thanks for your question. In your situation, I would definitely recommend the 256 (as long as you are limiting the textbook capacity to one). As a student, the briefcase styles (256/257) tend to work much better because of the internal organization, especially for carrying items like a laptop, pens, a notebook and a textbook. The 232 is a great bag, but it has no internal dividers so I would be worried about the laptop getting damaged. In addition, it is debatable whether the 232 will even hold a 13″ MacBook Air. I tried to squeeze one in and had a lot of problems…it was certainly not something I would want to use to transport my computer. The 232 is better for carrying lunch, reading material, a sweatshirt/jacket, a water bottle, etc. For your purposes, go with the 256 (or the 257 if you need a bit more room). I hope this helps and thank you for reading the blog.
Thanks Charles. I am leaning towards the 256 now after your points made on the compartment. I was previously hesitating on the 256 as it might look too formal but after looking at a number of pics on how it is match up with some causal clothing, I think it look casual as well. N I am definitely getting the Tan. 🙂
Hi Charles, I’ve just received my Twill & Tweed 256 from shipment today. But i am a little confused here, on filson website, the 256 model was described to have the size of 16″ W x 12 1/2″ H x 4″ D, but one that I got only have a 3″ D. Wonder if I have got an “odd ball” or is it really only got a 3″ D in 256? Pls kindly advise.
Hello, Kino. I do not personally own a Twill & Tweed 256 Briefcase, but I do own two standard 256s (one in Tan and one in Otter Green). I just measured them for you and I am getting 3.5″ for both. I am sure there is a bit of variation due to the hand-sewn nature of these bags, but I find them to be fairly consistent. The special edition could be slightly smaller if the tweed is a thinner cloth by its nature. You could consider returning it for the standard version, but don’t expect it to be larger than 3.5″. I hope this helps and thank you for reading.
Hi Charles, Thank you so much for your help with the measurement and advise. Think I’ll try to make an exchange to see if I can get one with measurement close to 3.5″D, but probably stay with the Twill and Tweed model, cos I really like the look of it. Your website is wonderful!
Thank you for the kind words! You are very welcome…let me know how it turns out and good luck with the exchange.
Hello, Kino. Since you’re the only owner of Twill & Tweed version of 256 that I know, I would like to ask you a favor. Could you please weigh the bag for me (using kitchen scales maybe)? I just want to know is there any significant difference between the regular 256 and Twill & Tweed one. Charles helped me out with the weight of the regular one, so I wonder if you could help me out as well with our bag. Thank you!
I’m a wildlife biologist and am trying to decide between the 256 and 257 for accommodating my binoculars and a small water bottle for those days when I’m in the field in the morning but in the office in the afternoon. On such days I’ll often a file folder or two of maps and other paperwork, a few accessories, and perhaps a hat and gloves. Looks like the 256 *might* be big enough to serve my needs for those hybrid field/office days, or should I consider the 257?
Thanks for your question, Matt. In your situation, as a person that splits his time between the office and the field, it sounds like the 257 would be a perfect fit, especially with the water bottle, equipment and hat/gloves. I would be worried that the 256 is simply not wide enough to accommodate all of your things. Go with the 257…you will not be disappointed:)
Thanks for the detail review / information. I really enjoy reading your blog. I am a new Filson fan and just purchased my first 257 in brown last year. As much as I like my new bag, I have to admit I am not too crazy about the “brand new” look. Although I understand that patina only comes with time, patience is not one of my strengths. Therefore, I just purchased an used 257 from eBay (NB: Yes, that is cheating). Interesting thing is, I noticed the zipper of the used 257 does not have the same marking as my new one. It has “YKK” on the used but “Filson” on the new 257. I am curious to know if you have any insight about that.
Lastly, I would like to add one comment to your 256 vs 257 comparison if you don’t mind. Personally, I think the size of the owner / holder is also important in choosing between 256 & 257. I am over 6ft tall and 256 just looks somewhat odd on me in the mirror. That’s why I end up buying the 257.
Please keep up the good work. I look forward to learn more about Filson from your blog. Take care.
Thank you for the kind words, Frank and thank you for your comments.
About two years ago, Filson changed the markings on the zippers. They have always used (and continue to use) YKK zippers, which are the best in the industry. However, recently they decided to use the zipper pull as a tiny billboard and put the “Filson” branding on them. The zipper is exactly the same, but all new bags have the “Filson” zippers. I actually prefer the YKK branding because it is a little more subtle and classic looking, but the both get the job done equally well, so no worries.
I also agree with you (and it is an excellent point that you raise) that the size/build of the user is definitely a consideration when choosing between the 256 and 257. My wife borrows my 256 sometimes, but when she tried on my 257 it looked like she was heading to the airport for a weekend trip:)
Thanks again for reading, and check back soon for more reviews, etc.
Hi Charles, thanks for your reply. I have another question I hope you can help me with.
Do you have any idea where I can purchase the Black label version of Filson 257? I have been searching all over the net without any success. Thank you.
I do not have any leads on a Black Label 257; however I have provided a couple links below to other special editions that are currently in production. BTW, do you live in the US? I may have a Tan 257 that is in like new condition available for sale. Let me know if you are interested and I will provide you with the details.
As always, thanks for visiting the blog!
Hi Charles, thanks for the offer. I am interested in your 257. Unfortunately, I am from Canada. Feel free to email me if you would like to discuss further. I can provide additional reference. Thanks again.
I am sorry that I did not get back to you sooner. It turns out the extra 257 that was due to arrive never showed up, so I no longer have an extra one for sale. I will keep your info on file and let you know if I get another one in. Thanks!
I’m an office worker and am after a bag that can be used for meetings (to hold a laptop, notepad, and presentations), as well as for business travel. Not sure if this is asking too much, but I also want it to double as a gym bag and hold clothes and a toiletries kit (but not shoes). The 256 looks more stylish and less bulky, but would it be enough? Also I live in Australia so probably can’t afford to buy both (would love to tho!) because of the shipping cost.
The 256 would probably be a very tight squeeze as a gym bag, especially if you need to carry shoes and toiletries. Because you are looking for a very versatile bag that will fill multiple roles, I think you should err on the side of choosing a slightly bigger bag. In your case, I would definitely choose the 257. Thanks for reading!
Hi Charles Page,
I am currently a high school senior looking for a nice bag that I can take to college and beyond. In my backpack I hold a 2″ binder (which I probably don’t really need to be as big), an iPad and Bluetooth tablet keyboard (roughly size of iPad), the occasional Art sketch book (just under 2cm) and just a pen pouch and 2 glasses case with a calculator in the smaller pocket. I can imagine this would be a job for the 256, which I am leaning towards more. However, I definitely plan on going to college but don’t know what to expect in terms of additional books. Before going to college, I plan on getting a Mac Book and ditching the large binder (and won’t have the iPad as it belongs to the school; seniors each get one for the year) and won’t have the sketch book. My main concern is getting the 256 and going to college and having more books than expected that the 256 might not be able to hold. Getting the 257 would definitely be the safer route but I prefer the 256 for it’s slimmer profile and look. I would like to get this and the Mac Book before college so I’m already acquainted with the feel and use of them both. Thanks a lot for reading!
[I am glad I came across this page; it was extremely helpful to see the 256 and 257 compared side by side with books and items for spatial reference.]
Now I’m leaning toward the 257 the more I research…
Hi, Gerald! Thank you for your comment and thanks for visiting the site. The general rule is that the 256 is for business and the 257 is for school (or special use). If you are going to carry anything more than a laptop and one textbook, I fear that the 256 would be too small for you. The 257 is a larger bag, but it would give you far more flexibility as a student. You can even throw a lunch in there or some gym clothes and it becomes a go-anywhere, do-anything solution. With the 256, your options are more limited, especially for a long day on campus. As a student, I would choose the 257. Good luck with your decision and keep me posted on how it turns out:)
I was thinking the same thing about the size constraint. Will most likely go with the 257 Otter Green. Thanks for the advice! Can’t wait to order it 🙂
Update: The binder itself is actually close 3″ but the ring is 2″
I’ve carried the same tan 257 to work everyday for 10 years and despite substantial softening of the canvas and fraying on the outside edges it is still a tank. The trim is in good shape and the YKK zippers are like new.
The biggest issue I have with the 257 design is that the shoulder strap attachment point is about at the bag’s center of gravity and the bag wants to pivot to a horizontal position, depending on how it is loaded. This makes it uncomfortable to carry for long distances with the strap over the shoulder and I almost always carry it with the handgrip.
The shoulder strap is a bit long for me — I’m 5’10” — which I solved by tying a knot in it, reducing the length by about 2″ and making it rest more comfortably at my waist when I do use the strap.
Thanks for visiting the site! I agree with your analysis. The 256 does tend to have a more neutral weight balance when it is empty. For my particular 257, it has a tendency to hang horizontal when it is empty, but when I load it up, it carries much like the 256. As far as the shoulder strap is concerned, you could have it shortened by a leather-pro or you could call Filson and see if they will sell you a strap for the Medium Field Bag #232. The strap that ships on that model is shorter from the factory and it may work out better for you when paired with your 257.
I do know that Filson will sell the straps separately, so it would definitely be worth a phone call. I hope this helps.
Keep enjoying that 257!
Great reviews, first time reader! I am a 23 year old working primarily in nyc as a Sales Manager, constantly taking public transportation, and needing to carry papers, a laptop, files, etc. I am sold on the briefcase computer bag (257 I believe?)
I am leaning more towards green instead of tan, only because I like the look of the darker color. I read your article about comparing all the Filson colors, and being that this will be my first Filson bag, I may go for the green.
Thanks for your comment and thanks for visiting the site. It sounds like you have it all figured out:) As long as you have a firm grasp on the size difference between the 257 and the 256, and you have determined that you need the extra room that the 257 provides, then I think that Otter Green would be a great color choice for your first Filson bag. On public transportation, it tends to stay much cleaner looking over time. Go for the Otter Green, you won’t regret it.
Thank you so much for such an informative post! I’m a female medical student and am considering the 256 in 257. Lately I’ve seen some pretty femmed out ladies rocking these briefcases, so I’m delighted to see that they look great on both men and women. I may purchase a used zippered tote bag for days when I need to lug around multiple (very heavy) textbooks and bulkier items, thus I’m looking at the briefcases as more of an “everyday carry” that I could also take to the hospital with me. So, on a day-to-day basis, I would not be carrying my laptop with me, but I would be carrying a notebook or two, one or two small books, a scarf and gloves, a water bottle, maybe a coffee container (Lord knows I need that!!), a small packed lunch, and a few medical instruments (e.g. stethoscope, tuning forks). As I’m writing this out I’m starting to wonder if the 257 may be the best fit, nonetheless I’m concerned that it may be too big and heavy for everyday use. I’d greatly appreciate your sage advice! I’m a bit stuck between the “256 for business” and “257 for school” adages since my uses for the bag fall in both domains. Thank you and take care.
Also, I’d be curious to know your thoughts on my using the tote when I need to lug bigger items to the hospital (e.g. lunch, a textbook or two), while using the 256 or 257 for everyday purposes. I have the funds to purchase both so long as one of the bags is used, though I have a slight preference for just getting one briefcase. Thanks again for your input!
Hi there, Deva! Thanks for visiting the site. That is a hard decision with a lot o factors, but hopefully I will be able to shed some light on the situation for you:)
First, the Zippered Tote is one of my absolute favorite bags that Filson makes. It is very robust and I used it to haul textbooks all the time. My wife (an attorney) also uses it quite frequently to haul client files to court. It is such a versatile (and affordable bag) and can even be used as a carry-on for quick trips.
The old adage of “257 for School” and “256 for Work” is typically very sound advice; however, I actually like your solution of 256 + Zipper Tote the best in your particular situation. My wife is fairly tall (5’9″) and when she attempts to carry the 257, it always looks more like luggage than like a briefcase; however, the 256 looks great on her. Depending on your stature, the 257 may look very, very large on your frame and on those days where it is not that full, the bag itself weighs quite a bit more than the 256.
I am always a fan of modular systems because of their inherent flexibility. If you can afford both, the 256 + Zipper Tote is the perfect answer. You have the svelte and proportional 256 to carry everyday with your lunch, a few notebooks, books, etc. and on those days where you need to bring everything but the kitchen sink, you can load up that Zipper Tote with all of the extras. That keeps your system light and adaptable and gives you the most options to configure it each day. You could even buy one in Classic Tan and the other in Otter Green (as the colors look great together). If you decide to go this route, I recommend the Zipper Tote in Otter…it is amazing.
I hope this helps…keep in touch and let me know how it turns out!
Thank you so much for your insights! You’ve convinced me now that the zippered tote + 256 are the way to go. And as it happens I am quite tall and slender, so I appreciate the comments about the 256 being better proportioned for lankier figures. I will follow your suggestions to a tee and get the tote in otter green and the brief in tan. I’m so excited. Thanks again so much for your advice and have a wonderful weekend!
Congratulations…I am so glad I could help! Enjoy your new bags and good luck in medical school:)
PS: if you get a chance, I would love to hear your real-world thoughts about the bags after you have had a chance to carry them for a few weeks. I would also love to see some pics of them in out and about. Have a great week!
I have a question regarding the weight of the bags. Could you please provide it for both of them if you have something suitable for it like kitchen scales. I am currently looking for a bag and these two seams perfect; however, I found out that in some reviews they say the bags are heavy. Since I’m carrying a laptop and whatnot with me, I don’t want much extra weight by the bag itself. Thank you!
Thanks for visiting the site! I don’t consider the 256 or 257 particularly heavy, but the 257 does way quite a bit more than the 256, largely due to the extra interior dividers and pockets. The 256 weighs 2 pounds 13 ounces, whereas the 257 weighs 3 pounds 8 ounces. I would choose the 256 unless you have a compelling reason for the extra size and weight. I hope this helps:)
Thank you for your answer. Interestingly enough, when I asked Filson Customer Support about the weight of Twill & Tweed version of 256 (which should be a little bit lighter as the cloth is lighter), they said the weight is 3 pounds 12 ounces, and added that it is the same for the regular 256. I guess they didn’t really weigh the bags… So, I’d like to thank you again for your help because if I hadn’t ask you about the weight, I wouldn’t buy 256 because of its weight.
Hello Charles, thanks so much for this informative post! I was torn between the 256 and 257 for a while, but after seeing this post– I pulled the trigger on an Otter Green 256 from Hilton’s Tent City. I believe I will be very happy with my decision. I personally use a Fjallraven Kanken for school since I prefer backpacks to messenger bags (less strain on the shoulder/back as I tend to lean to one side). I wanted to purchase some sort of briefcase for when I head to DC in the summer for school and an internship, and Filson is just too classic to pass up!
I did want to ask though— I am a female of 5’4″ and my only concerns about the 256 is that it may look somewhat large on my frame and the strap may be too long as well. Do you know if Filson will punch extra holes into the strap or is that easily done on your own?
Oh, I also wanted to ask about the small side pockets on the 256! Is it possible to store the shoulder strap in it for later use or an umbrella?
Thanks for visiting the site, Joanna! I think you will be very happy with your choice. The 256 is the perfect bag to carry on a daily basis and it will look great on a 5’4″ frame. The strap has quite a few adjustment holes from the factory, so you will be just fine, but if you do need to punch more holes, any leather shop or cobbler can do it for you or (better yet) you can buy a nice, inexpensive leather punch from Amazon.com and do it yourself.
The end pockets on the 256 are quite small. I usually just throw the strap inside the bag if I am not using it because the shoulder pad is a little wide to squeeze in the side pocket. You may be able to force a very small, flat travel umbrella in there, but I tend to treat those two pockets as if they aren’t there. When the bag is full they also tend to tighten up.
I hope this helps and enjoy your new 256!!!
This helps a lot! Thanks so much for the quick response, Charles. I’ll definitely be keeping tabs on this blog for future reference.
Great stuff here. Am a “young professional” working w local start up companies. Have everything from coffee shop meetings in jeans to slacks and blazer meetings in an office setting.
I have decided on a 256 – but having trouble landing on a color. I am torn between olive green or the brown. My concern is that the olive green may be too informal/military looking for an office type setting, but equally concerned that the brown may be trying to look too conservative and may clash somewhat with the brown leather straps.
I realize this is a completely subjective question-but any help/opinion your could lend would be helpful. Thanks
Thanks for your comment, Sam!
Between Otter Green and Brown, I would choose the Otter Green (hands down) because I personally like the aesthetic that the contrast of the handles provides. I do not find the Otter Green to look “military” in appearance (especially when it is new); however, as it ages and fades a bit, I certainly understand your concern.
The other consideration is the formality of your workplace. If you work in finance or law, then perhaps the brown would be a better fit for you because it tends to blend in a bit more. If you work in a more laid back office environment, then I would go with Otter Green simply because it is my favorite Filson color and I like the overall look a bit better.
Either way you decide to go, you will end of with a great bag and because Filson bags tend to hold their value quite well on the secondary market, going with your gut and testing one out carries very little risk.
I hope this helps! Have a great weekend.
Really appreciate you taking the time to review at this level of detail! Planning on asking for the 257 as a birthday gift, will actually be using it as a diaper bag since I have 2 kids under the age of 16 months. Goodness knows this will be able to survive 2 kids and come out looking better than ever once it’ll no longer be filled with diapers and sippy cups. Love the blog!
Thank you for the kind words, LuLu. I am glad to hear that you have found value in the reviews!
The 257 will be a great choice for that intended purpose, and the good news is that after the kids get older, you will have a great carry-on bag or briefcase to use in the future. Another bag to seriously consider (for use as a diaper bag and carry-on) would be the 261 Zipper Tote. It is completely open concept inside and has a square form factor. The exterior has four full length open slip pockets (one on each side) and would be perfect for your intended use. The 257 has the great interior dividers, but one thing to keep in mind is that the exterior end-pockets are far less useful than on the 261 and the bag is quite a bit heavier to start with. I tend toward minimalism and like to save weight whenever possible. In addition, the 261 is quite a bit cheaper, which is always good:)
Good luck with you new bag and check back for more reviews to be posted soon!
Thank-you for this great site. It is so interesting to see how others use their gear. After reading some of the posts, I would like to mention that it is quite possible to do a little of your own “custom” work. Like you, I wasn’t thrilled with the dividers in my 258.
I often use it as my only luggage. I cut the divider out. I used a seam ripper and tweezers and carefully cut the threads and lifted it out. It took some time, but now my bag does what I want it to. Another reader ask about punching new hole for a shorter strap. Of course. I’m a short man and couldn’t get the strap short enough. The cleanest and most accurate way is to drill the new hole. This is our own personal gear, why not make it work the best way for our own individual needs? It may be sacrilegious, but I’ve also washed my bag. My bags get a LOT of heavy use and not always under the best circumstances. I can’t carry a filthy, stinking bag into some of the places I go. Washing is not recommended, but it can be done. One other tip. When I wax my bag, I put a small amount of wax on both sides of the zipper. You can’t believe the difference it makes. I do the same thing on my coats and even put just a small dab in the brass buttons. It makes the springer grabbers inside the buttons work much smoother. Again, great site, keep up the good work.
Thank you for the kind words and thank you for writing such a well-thought out and informative comment. Those are all great ideas and I love hearing how Filson owners personalize their bags to best suit their needs.
If you get a chance, send some pics over of your well used bags and perhaps I could feature the pics on the site.
Have a great night and thanks for reading the blog.
I live in Sweden but I will come to the states in 2weeks. I’m thinking of buying a filson 257 online and get it shipped to my hotel
(in Rochester New York). Which online store you think I should choose? I’m worried of not getting the package on time though.
Ps. Do you think the 257 is the best choice for gym and daily work? Ds
Love your blog and the bags.
Hi Mattias! Thank you for visiting the blog and thank you for the kind words.
I think that the 257 is a great choice for an all-around bag that you can use at the gym and for briefcase/carry-on duty. If you are looking to have it delivered to your hotel during your trip, I would probably go right to the source and call Filson directly. They have excellent customer service and if you explain your situation I am sure that they can coordinate the delivery with your trip.
If you want to go a different route and order from a dealer, then my recommendation would be Joe’s Sporting Goods. They also have top-notch customer service and will get you taken care of. There web site is http://www.joessportinggoods.com.
Keep me posted and let me know how it turns out:)
I hope this helps and enjoy your trip!
Hi there, I’m an interior design student looking for an inexpensive briefcase and came across the Filson 256.
I will most likely be carrying around my drafting tools (pens/pencils/markers, ruler, rolls of drafting paper, etc.), maybe a laptop and notebook as well. Would the filson 256 be a good choice? And, would it be appropriate with a suit? Any other inexpensive alternatives you may suggest? Thank you
Thanks for visiting the site, Simon!
As you know, I am a big fan of the 256, but for a student (like yourself) that is majoring in a discipline that involves specialized tools and equipment, the 257 may be a better choice in your situation. Depending on the volume of design stuff you will be carrying with you on a daily basis and especially if you will have your laptop with you most of the time, the 257 would provide more flexibility and the extra weight/size would be worthwhile tradeoff for the benefit of increased carrying capacity.
As far as whether Filson bags are appropriate to wear with a suit, that is a more matter of individual style and a function of the type of work environment that you will be in. I find Filson briefcases to be perfectly appropriate with any style of clothing and I know quite a few lawyers that use them to haul files to court/client meetings, etc. What color are you considering?
I hope this helps…keep in touch:)
Thanks for the quick reply, the color I’m looking at is otter green
Hi Charles, I really like your comparison and it really helped me decide which one to buy. I recently bought a Filson 257 bag and I have noticed a strange issue. After I received my bag that I ordered online, I did a complete inspection and I noticed that there are visible cracks/rips close to two ends of both slots in the strap pad for strap to go through. I thought this is a defective product so I returned it and get a new one from the same vendor and surprisingly the same issue happen again. To me, the crack on the strap pad will sooner or later reach the stitch along the margin and probably the strip pad will fail to support the strap. Have you ever had this issue before? Please let me know how you think this issue and the quality of Filson product. Thanks!
Thanks for your comment, Jacky and thank you for visiting the blog…
I just checked the shoulder straps on a few of my bags and I do not see any cracking on that area of the strap pad; however, some of the slots are definitely cut rougher than others and they tend to be fairly inconsistent. I have also noticed that Filson’s bridle leather in general can vary quite a bit from one bag to another. Perhaps the vendor had these bags sitting around in inventory for a while in a dry climate? Have you tried using Obenaufs or another leather conditioner to soften it up a bit and protect it from future damage?
The silver lining on this cloud is that the cracking is occurring on the strap pad, not on the strap itself, which makes the piece very easy to replace under Filson’s lifetime warranty. I would call Filson directly and ask for a replacement pad. Or, I would consider returning your bag, and perhaps ordering one from a different vendor (or directly from Filson) in the hopes of getting one from a different batch that does not exhibit this issue. If you ever do have problems in the future, take solace in the fact that they will be resolved for you under warranty.
I hope this helps…please keep me posted.
Thanks for your prompt reply, Charles. I don’t have Obenaufs so I used mint oil (for my red wing boots) to soften the strap pad before I tested it and unfortunately it still cracked from the slots of the strap pad. I think your guess is probably right because these two bags are the last two bags from the vendor. If this is a right guess, I should have used leather conditioner to take care of all the leather on to my bag. May I know which Obenaufs product you recommend to purchase? If it is too pricy, do you have another option? I will call Filson and ask for a replacement pad immediately. Thanks again, Charles.
I am glad I could help:)
The Obenauf’s that I recommend is the standard Obenauf’s Leather Oil (8oz) for around $14 from Amazon; I have also had great results with Chamberlain’s Leather Milk #1, which can be purchased at SaddlebackLeather for around $18.
I make it a habit to treat the leather on all of my new bags as soon as they arrive so that they are better protected; it also has a tendency to help them break in more evenly.
Thanks for such a detailed review! After I pointed out your blog, she bought me a Filson 257 for my 30th birthday. I just had a quick question, is there any product that you use to protect your filson bags? I read somewhere that you should apply some filson wax to the bottom of the bag to protect it. What are your thoughts?
BTW I meant my wife bought me a Filson 257, if you were wondering.
Hello, Jeffrey…thanks for visiting the blog and for the kind words.
Congratulations on the new bag…the 257 is a fantastic choice! I have found that the factory finish on the 22oz twill is very robust, so personally I do not treat my new bags with anything. Over time, if you notice the water resistance needs to be refreshed, you can treat the bags with Filson wax at that time. Keep in mind that it will tend to darken the areas that it is applied to and it will also change the feel of the fabric.
I would just use your new bag and let it patina naturally before you worry about treating it with anything. Coincidentally, I will be posting a 3-part series very soon with lots of pictures that a reader submitted. He has treated all of his bags with multiple coats of Filson wax over time. You will be able to see how the bags look and see if it appeals to you…so stay tuned:)
I’m really torn between the 256 and 257. I’ve been using a jack spade messenger bag for ages and would like a bag I can carry rather than use over the shoulder.
I want it to hold my ipad, a water bottle, my lunch, phone, keys, sometimes a book, sometimes my light jacket or a jumper (though it isnt essential that it does). The 256 may or may not be too small but the 257 may or may not be too big. Argh…agonising! I’m also 5″6-5″7 (male) so the 257 may look too big on me?
Wish I could see them in person in Melbourne!
Hi Jimm…thanks for visiting the site. That is a tough question. If you are accustomed to a traditional messenger-style bag, the 256 may seem a bit smaller than what you have been using (because it is more of a traditional briefcase). If you intend on carrying a jacket, water bottle, lunch, etc. the 257 sounds like it would be a better fit for your stuff; however, based on your height, I would probably lean toward the 256. My wife is 5’10” and the 257 always carried a bit too large for her.
Either way, you can’t go wrong, but keep in mind that the 257 is definitely a heavier and more substantial bag. Based on the items you plan on carrying, I would also have a look at the 232 Field Bag as a good alternative to a traditional messenger bag.
I hope this helps!
Thanks for the wonderful review and comparison.
I am torn between the 256 and 257. I usually have my 15″ MacBook pro + all the cables and charger, iPad, spectacle case, an umbrella (yes, it rains very often here). When I travel, I will have additional things like compact camera, iPad charger, small medical box. I am current ly using a rather big crumpler backpack.
I find the 256 could be a bit too narrow and small, but concerned that the 257 could be too big. I am abt the same height as your wife at 5ft 9in.
What would you you recommend?
Luckily, color wise I am set on the Tan color as I am a big fan of Tan and bridle leather straps. Thanks.
Thanks for visiting FilsonFan!
“I find the 256 could be a bit too narrow and small, but concerned that the 257 could be too big.”
I think you have hit the nail on the head with your analysis. If the 256 will be too small for the things you routinely carry (and in your case I think it might be) then you have no choice but to step up to the 257; though, you will have some unused space, it is certainly better than the alternative.
Enjoy your new tan 257!
Thank you so much for your advice and confirmation of the 257.
Hi Charles. I am currently an engineering student trying to decide on a bag. As of right now, I do not carry much around with me at a time (a laptop, tablet, calculator, folder, and 2 textbooks at the most), although I do not know if that will change in my last couple years. Which bag would you recommend for me?
Also, I would like to fit a mechanical keyboard (about 15″ x 2″ x 8.25″) and a graphics tablet, although this isn’t required.
I am a 5’9″ male if the size of either bag would look odd for me.
Thanks for visiting the site!
As you are a student, my default choice would always be the 257, especially because you will be carrying two textbooks and your computer. However, after reading that you also plan to carry a graphics tablet and a mechanical keyboard, then the choice becomes even easier…the 257 is the bag for you.
The 256 would be too narrow to fit all the things that you need to carry and I would always rather err on the side of having a little extra room, rather than being forced to leave stuff behind.
I hope this helps and enjoy your new 257!
I’m torn between the 256 and the 257 as are most of the comments on this post. I have a 13in MacBook Pro plus cables/charger that I need to carry with me daily. I also have my lunch (I rotate between the Black & Blum lunch containers depending on what I’m having), random papers or a file folder, my Kindle, pens, etc. I may also need to carry an additional laptop, a 13in MacBook Air and if I’m wearing my wellies for the commute, a pair of heels for the office. I’m leaning towards the 257, but as a 5’10” female I worry that it will be both too heavy and too bulky. I’m also wondering what your thought is of carrying either bag crossbody like a messenger bag. I live close enough to walk to work and would like my hands free for coffee or an umbrella. I’m currently carrying a beat up messenger style laptop bag that really needs to be replaced with something nicer. I appreciate your thoughts!
Hello, Megan! Thanks for your comment. Hopefully, I can be of some assistance.
In your situation I would definitely lean toward the 257 because, based on your needs, I don’t think that the 256 would be up to the task. I am not sure that the 256 would even handle the heels for the office if you already had one laptop and some files in there. That still doesn’t leave room for the additional computer or your lunch. The 256 is quite thin and when you start trying to add irregularly shaped items, it fills up quick.
When deciding on a bag, the aesthetics of size and bulk is really a secondary concern to the primary issue of whether the bag carries the things you need it to carry. At 5’10” there is no doubt that you can pull off the 257 wonderfully and it will easily hold everything you need.
The thought of ever carrying two laptops (even small ones like the MBA) makes the 256 a non-starter for me in your situation. Go for the 257…I think it will be perfect. Have you decided on a color yet? Keep me posted.
Thanks for the feedback! I just ordered the 257 in Otter Green!
First off, this was an exceptional review! Very informative! I’m seeking advice on color choice. I’m a junior in college, and I’m wanting to buy the 257 for the space. I’m a Criminal Justice/German major so I regularly carry quite a few textbooks, as well as a 13in Macbook Pro with charger and cables. I can’t decide on which color would be best. I’m very fond of the tan, but I’m concerned that it may show wear too much. I’ve found a person locally that has the otter green for a decent discount, but I’m concerned that the green may be too casual. I would like to choose the best color option for the long term, as I plan to use it after college and for years to come! Any help would be greatly appreciated!
Hello, Chase! Thank you for visiting the site and thank you for the kind words. It sounds like you are definitely choosing the right bag going with the 257. When selecting a color between Otter Green and Tan, I don’t really have a favorite and I tend to vacillate back and forth between colors quite often.
I do not think that the green looks more casual than the tan, but it does look more monochromatic. The decision really comes down to patina…do you want the bag to darken as it ages (tan) or fade slightly (green)? If it is your first Filson bag, I may lean toward the classic Tan because the color is so iconic, but if you can get a good deal on the Otter Green, it is amazing too. Either way, you can’t go wrong.
I hope this helps…keep me posted.
Thank you so much for the help! I still haven’t quite decided yet, as I do not want to impulse buy and end up buying another one in a few months. I’m really leaning towards the tan. I like the color of the Otter green now, but I’m not sure how I would like it once it gets lighter. I’m currently looking around online for them. Can you recommend any reputable online dealers that have fair prices on these?
Again, thank you so much for your input. It helped me make a decision. I decided on a tan 257 which should be here late next week. I look forward to using it for years to come.
Hey Chase…sorry it took me so long to respond to your last question. I am glad to hear that you decided on (and ordered) the classic tan 257. Filson has put very strict regulations on authorized dealers that has basically eliminated much of the discounting that could be found around the holidays a few years ago. I have had great experiences with both Crane’s and Joe’s Sporting Goods. Keep me posted when your new bag arrives and enjoy that new 257!!!
I’m in Seattle and have been looking for the perfect laptop bag. After shopping around, looking at expensive leather bags, etc., I’m leaning toward the tan 256. Everyone says the bag is a “tank” and “bulletproof” but how well does it hold up in the rain? I commute on the bus a few days a week and would like to know my MacBook won’t get wet in the rainy Northwest winters. I like that the 256 has a zippered top as well as the flap that goes over it … that’s a feature that’s absent on many bags that caught my eye.
Anyway, is it water resistant enough that’s there’s no need to keep a laptop and other electronics in their own waterproof bags inside the 256?
Thanks for the nice reviews.
Thanks for visiting the site, David! I appreciate the kind words and am glad that you found the reviews helpful. The 256 (with the storm flap) is going to offer reasonably good protection against wet weather, as the bag was designed with harsh conditions in mind. If you apply a wax treatment (factory wax) to the flap you can increase the waterproof characteristics of the bag even more. It should definitely stand up to your commute quite well. However, it is important to keep in mind that we are still dealing with the inherent limitations of cloth and zippers, so I wouldn’t dunk it in a tub or leave it sitting for long periods of time in standing water. Other than the most extreme situations, I think you will be quite happy. Filson makes a very rugged product specifically designed for extreme weather.
I hope this helps!
Excellent, thanks. Ordered the 256. I’ll play it by ear on the wax. Assume it’s the Filson Oil Finish Wax that’s used for garments, correct? Thanks again.
Enjoyed reading your review and all these comments on the great Filson bag debate! Your reviews are thorough and have the best information out of anywhere. Sorry to add yet another 256 vs 257 request, but I am still very much undecided. I have had the chance to view a navy in 256 in store and very much like the look of it. I am entering the business world as a “bean counter”…. and am looking for something to show my outdoorsy personality in the office and have most definitely decided on purchasing a Filson. I will be in a suit most days so I have limited my colour choices to that of brown or navy, however my biggest debate is over bag size. I know that some days I will have a to bring a laptop home from work, most likely a Thinkpad, not my small macbook air unfortunately, but am not sure how often this will be. I prefer to bring my own lunch to work ( a couple of tupperwares and a piece of fruit) and will have a large water bottle, and possibly coffee mug as well in my bag. I will also carry my moleskine pocket planner and possibly a portfolio of papers. What would be your intuition on the bag choice? For the days with no laptop I’m sure the 256 would suffice and look very nice and streamlined in the professional setting, but for the days I must carry it around to clients and such I fear the 256 may not be enough. Do you think the 257 would be too bulky and unprofessional on lighter carrying days? Thanks for any input!
Thanks for your comment!
With regards to the color, I would lean toward the Navy over the Brown because visually, it just looks a little bit better to my eye. Have you considered the Otter Green? It is my favorite Filson color and also very dark and understated. Either way, you cannot make a bad decision.
Between the 256 and the 257, I would probably recommend the 257 based on your anticipated load. It is quite a bit larger (and can be bulky on lighter days, but if you are planning to frequently use the bag to carry your lunch, the 256 would not quite be wide enough. If the 256 will suit your needs, it is usually the bag I would recommend; however, in your case, I just don’t think that it is big enough to be the best fit for your needs.
I hope this helps:)
How do you get blue jean dye off Filson tin cloth.
Hi Patrick…thanks for your comment. Unfortunately (as far as I know) the answer to your question is, “you don’t/can’t remove them.” Many people refer to the color transfer from rubbing against jeans as “patina” and they feel that these marks and discoloration adds a certain vintage aesthetic to the bag. I am not aware of any good way to remove those marks, so I think the best strategy is to learn to embrace them and allow the bag to age gracefully as it breaks in. I hope this helps.
Man, you do good stuff. I love to see the Filson Report show up in my inbox.
I want to send an email to you but don’t wish for it to appear on your site. Address?
Best to you, James
Date: Tue, 18 Mar 2014 22:22:56 +0000 To: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for the response. I didn’t think there was anything I could do but I do have a nice case of patina starting. Pstrick
Does Filson Original Briefcase 256 have more space compared to Property of Rafe Work Bag?
You can check in at http://propertyofwebstore.myshopify.com/collections/work-bags/products/rafe-work-bag
I’m currently using Rafe Work Bag, and I actually like it very much, it fits most of my daily carry:
* 11″ tablet/laptop convertible
* a lunchbox
* a bottle of water
* a couple of apples
* wallet, pen, passport, gloves
However, when I want to add an umbrella or my gym outfit (not to mention gym sneakers), I cannot do this.
I have tried several duffel bags over previous years, and they left me unsatisfied (they are bulky, they are always half-empty, and you cannot realistically carry a laptop or tablet), so I switched to briefcases.
Thanks for you question! I agree with you that duffel bags are less than ideal for work.
I do not have any experience with the Rafe bag, but based on your load out, I would definitely suggest going with the 257 briefcase. It would be the perfect size to allow you to add your lunch, gym clothes, shoes, umbrella and water to your daily work gear. The smaller 256 is simply not going to be large enough to fit your needs.
I hope this helps…stay tuned for more reviews in the near future!
Absolutely love this site and your knowledge is top notch! I’ve become a Filson fanatic over the last year purchasing a medium duffle as well as one of the small travel kits for toiletries when on the road. I have (had) a basic messenger bag that just wasn’t doing the job and knew it was time to get a new bag for work. I’m a GM for a retail company living in NYC and struggled for a couple months choosing between the 256 and 257 (as many seem to have trouble doing). At the end of the day, I didn’t know if I needed the extra room, but went with the 257 in otter green and I could not be happier. I’ve had the bag for a month and there are some days where I don’t necessarily need the extra space, but I’ve found that it is very nice the majority of the time. It also hasn’t been a nuisance on the subway either. Thanks and keep up the great work!
Thanks for the kind words, Eric and thank you for visiting the site!
Congratulations on your 257…Otter Green is my favorite and I am glad to hear it is working out so well for you.
Hello Charles – I’m on the verge of making a Filson purchase. I carry a “13 MacBook Pro, various magazines and an occasional book. I think the 256 might work. I down to which color. I like the beige/khaki but am concerned about it showing dirt. I also like the otter green. Thoughts? Greg M
Thanks for your question, Greg…your daily load out is quite similar to mine. I carry a 13″ MacBook Air, a binder, an iPad Air and a book or two. My daily bag is a 256 and I think that would work perfectly for you. As far as the color is concerned, I have slowly been shifting to many Otter Green pieces. It has a great low key, but still classic look to it and it is great for travel and heavy use because it tends to show much less dirt/staining/wear than its tan counterpart. So, if I were in your shoes, I would choose the Otter Green 256. I hope this helps…let me know what you decide and enjoy your new bag!
Hi Charles, I’ve really enjoyed reading your reviews. They are a great reference and have helped me along in my purchasing of a few Filson pieces. I recently picked up a Filson 257. I really like the look of the bag. But I am a little disappointed in the internal organization. The three pockets can hold things but I kinda wish that divider just wasn’t there. I have the medium field bag which I enjoy bc of the external front pockets. But it can’t hold a laptop very well. So I’m curious what you think of the Filson 72 hour briefcase. There aren’t many reviews of it. It seems like it has the size of a 256 with 2 front pockets to hold pens and other smaller items. Do you plan on doing a review of the 72 Hour Briefcase? Any help would be much appreciated!! Thanks! Cheers!
I do agree with you that I wish the 257 had a better thought out organizational schema; however, I still find it to be very flexible when I need to “fold” the dividers back and use it more as a tote for travel, etc.
I do not have any experience with the 72-hour Briefcase, and I have not yet had the chance to see it in person. It is definitely on my list and I will update this comment as soon as I have a chance to play with it in person. From the description, it looks like it could be a great option for someone that is not thrilled with the 257.
I am sorry I couldn’t be of more help…have a great Memorial Day weekend!
I am torn between the Otter Green 256 and 257. I would use it for work each day. Currently, I only carry a 15″ MacBook Pro Retina+charger, an iPad, and a large Moleskine. Would the 256 be able to hold my MacBook? Any leanings?
I currently own a 13″ MacBook Air, so I am not sure about the fitment of the 15″ MBP, but in the 256 briefcase, I am guessing that if it fits, it would be extremely tight, as the bag seems more suited to the 13″ size. If you were able to squeeze the 15″ in, it would have to be in the main compartment, because it definitely would not fit in the interior side pockets where I put my MBA.
If you had a 13″ MBP, then the 256 would be a great size for rest of your daily essentials, including the computer, a charger and a large Moleskine. Perhaps some other readers can comment on the fitment of the 15″.
Thanks for your comment!
Just want to thank you for this article although I did ended up with both the 256 (navy twill and tweed) & 257 (tan) in the end…
Being 5’9″ in height, I found myself wishing that I could have the 256 in tan and 257 in navy twill and tweed instead as the 257 in Tan looks huge visually on my body frame while my 256 just looks way too slim esp. since it’s in navy.
Any chance if you would know that Filson would be coming out with a 257 in navy twill and tweed or just navy instead? I’m planning to swap out my 257 tan for a 256 tan instead…
On an off note, I also ended up with a Filson OG 261 and luckyxfilson sportsman bag on top of my 256 and 257. All thanks to your great articles 😉 I noticed that it’s been a while since you posted anything new here… Sorry to be nosy but may I know if there’ll be new articles coming in the future?
Looking forward to new contents…
Thanks for reading the site and thank you for the kind words! It sounds like you are building a great Filson collection.
My guess would be that Filson does not plan to release the 257 in navy twill and tweed, because that combination (while beautiful) is a limited release colorway and I would also assume that because the 257 is larger and used to carry bigger/heavier loads most people would prefer the 257 in the slightly more rugged classic twill. I would personally go for the Otter Green in the 257 as it tends to make it look a little bit smaller (darker colors always seem to have that effect).
I also think you will love the 256 in classic tan…it does give the bag a slightly larger appearance, as lighter colors tend to do.
When I first started the site, my original intention was to create a reference archive of reviews, comparisons and articles that I felt were missing online when I first became interested in the brand. Now, that the basics have been covered, I am in the process of writing new reviews and articles for some of the more obscure bags and topics. I also enjoy posting pics of other people’s bags, so feel free to send some in. So, yes, there are definitely more article in the pipeline so please stay tuned and thanks for your support!
Hi! Great review first for all. I am stuck in the 256 vs 257 dilemma as well.
I want to be able to carry a thin jacket, a water bottle (32 oz nalgene), a laptop (13 inch Mac), charger and other small miscellaneous items. Occasionally, i would want to fit in a pair or running shoes and change of clothes as well.
Will the 257 be sufficient? Or are there any other models that you recommend for my needs?
Thank you so much!
Hello Bernard…thanks for your question! I am sorry it took me so long to respond…and time I see that a person wants to carry running shoes or a change of clothing, the decision becomes very easy…the 256 is simply not large enough to accommodate these items so the 257 is the one for you. If you need even more room, you may even want to consider the 258 which can even serve double duty as a small overnight bag. You may want to check out the 261 Zipper Tote, but I fear that it does not have enough internal organization for laptops, etc. It does a great job with books, lunches and clothing though.
My advice…go for the 257 + 261 and you have all situations covered!
too bad the large zipper scratches any computer you put in or take out
I agree with you Adrian! One of the drawbacks of the rugged, outdoor design is those zippers with giant sharp teeth…they wreak havoc on wristwatches as well. Unfortunately, it is one of those areas where you have to put form over function if you want to carry a Filson bag.
Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to all of our comments. Your enthusiasm for Filson products makes me that much more excited for my Filson purchase. Like many others who have read your post, I’m still hopelessly stuck between the 256 and the 257. I carry a backpack and I usually put a lot of stuff in it. But, I really would only need to a bag that can accommodate a 13″ Macbook Pro, a charger, a couple of notebooks, a slim Takeya water bottle, a pair of sunglasses, pens and the occasional portable umbrella. I’m pretty sure that I can fit all of this in the 256 but would moving up to the 257 be the better choice?
You are very welcome and thank you for your question!
I have found that a 13″ MacBook Air will fit comfortably in the interior side pocket, whereas the MacBook Pro will most likely need to be carried in the center compartment of the 256. Depending on the width of the notebooks and the size of the water bottles, it sounds like you would be pushing the capacity of the 256, but it is most likely still workable. I would hate to recommend the 257 if you don’t really need it because it is quite large, so I would go with the 256 (at least initially) and if you buy from a reputable dealer (or direct from Filson) you could always exchange for the 257 if it didn’t work out for you.
I hope this helps!
Thanks for the help Charles! I ended up getting the 257 in Otter Green and it should be arriving sometime this week. I personally like having the extra space so I don’t mind the size.
You are very welcome! Congratulations on the new 257…be sure to check back in when it arrives and let me know your impressions:)
I am a french student starting my college life next week, and I needed a bag for daily-use, which would carry a 15″ laptop, pens, iPhone, iPad Mini, 1 or 2 books, wallets etc. Having a student budget, it took me a lot of time and reflexion to finally purchase the 256 Otter green for 245€ (shipping are expensive).
I didn’t know which color to choose between brown and otter green.
I like the brown but I think there is a lack of contrast. So I chose the otter green because of you and the beautiful picture you took which is showing contrasts very well. https://filsonfan.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/ff256contentsweb.jpg
Thank you for your incredible work !
Thank you for your comment and for the kind words, Antoine.
I am happy to hear that you found my review so helpful…enjoy that beautiful new Filson 256!
this was a very helpful review. I’m a university student, and I’ve been on the fence for a while now deciding which one of these to choose and it took something like this to help me finally decide to go with the 256. the review is very informative and thorough. thanks a lot!
Firstly, your webpage is extremely informative with loads of useful information. I have recently replaced my Abingdon laptop bag (14″H x 15″W x 4″D) by Jcrew with a navy Filson 257 (16″ W x 12-1/2″ H x 6″ D). I am struggling between the decision of the 256 and 257 bag. At first I thought the extra depth was a necessity, but now I am having second thoughts. The 257 bag is beautiful, but feels too big when carrying it (I am 5′-9″/160 lbs). I am a structural engineer in nyc who uses the bag to walk 30 minutes to and from work carrying a calculator, pens/pencils, lunch, iPad mini, business cards, umbrella, a note pad, and sometimes a pair of shoes. My main worry is that the 256 will not have enough room, but now after comparing the size of my existing bag – to the 256/257 I begin to second guess my decision once again.
When doing a direct comparison of the dimensions, the 256 appears to be the clear cut winner. However – when viewing the bag online- the size of the 256 bag appears to be just too small and the opposite with the 257.
Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.
Hello Steven…thanks for visiting the site. Based on your anticipated packing list, you may be able to squeeze into the 256 except for one item…the shoes. The 256 is quite thin and streamlined; I cannot imagine being able to fit shoes and lunch into it. The 257 definitely carries much larger and is overkill for lighter loads, but for people that carry both lunches and shoes, it is really the only option. Also, keep in mind that Filson bags have excellent resale value and Filson has a great return policy, so if you are still uncertain, it may be worth your time to buy the 256 and “test pack” it at home to see if it would work. I hope this helps,
I bought a Navy medium field bag and classic tan rucksack out of whim last weekend in Bangkok because I like the look of Filson bags, without realising how iconic it is. Then I googled and found this wonderful site! I have already made up my mind on getting a few more pieces, including the 256 and 261 and small duffle. I will likely get the 261 and duffle in otter green. The difficult choice now is color for the 256! I drive to work in an office, so the 256 would be minimally exposed to the elements. I can’t decide between tan – more ‘classically’ Filson and the otter green, which I like too. What is your advice on this, with your experience on both colors on the 256?
Congrats on your new Filson pieces! I have been using my Small Duffle all Spring and it has emerged as one of my favorite travel pieces…I highly recommend it. As far as the 256 is concerned, you can’t really go wrong with either color, but I would lean toward Otter Green…that is the color of my current 256 and I love it…also, have you considered the 72-Hour briefcase in Tin Cloth? I have been working that into the rotation and it is fantastic. Stay tuned for my review/comparison which will be posted soon! Stay in touch…
Many thanks for prompt reply and advice. Can’t wait to break in those bags, which will take a while I think. And can’t wait for next trip to Bangkok in June (I am based in Malaysia where Filson is not available in stores). I am considering online purchase from retailer in USA, but unless there is substantial discount, the cost of shipping will make it much more expensive than buying in Bangkok where the price is almost the same as USA retail price. Apparently it is wildly popular in Bangkok, stock and model types run low and arrive in batches – I found out online from a dealer there yesterday. Will consider the 72-hour briefcase in tin cloth too. But from my short visit to the store there, the briefcases all appear too large for my use, even the 256. But for now I just have to bring a Filson to work, which I am doing with the navy medium field bag 🙂 Fits MBA 11′, lunch box, 500ml water bottle, and a few other small things nicely. The shoulder strap is stiff and hurts even for the short 5min walk from car park to office, but I’m bearing with it till it becomes more wieldy and pliable.
Just returned from Bangkok with OG 256 and Tan 257! Bought 256 one the first day. However since all bags were on 20% discount, next day went back again for the 257. The 256 is 3 inches wide, which is a tad small if you are on the go, 257 is 5 inches wide which is a tad too big. If only there is only a 4 inch width, that would be ultimate. But I would probably buy that too, so will land up with 3 bags instead of 1. Also bought the brown open tote too!
Thanks for your comment, Victor! I agree with you…I always thought the perfect briefcase would land somewhere between the 256 and the 257. Well, I have good news for you…I have found the perfect briefcase to be the newly released Filson 72-Hour Tin Cloth Briefcase. It is basically a slightly larger 256, with two large external pockets that free up space in the main compartment. The material is lighter than twill, but still very rugged and I am finding it to be my daily bag of choice. Stay tuned for a full review of the 72-Hour briefcase, as well as a comparison in the near future!
Hi, so how well do you think a 15′ MBP will fit into the 70256? This is the only thing I’m worry about before pulling the trigger. The 70257 seems like it will be way too big and not necessary for my daily usage.
Hi Ben, thanks for your question. Personally I have a 13″ MBA and I have never tried to fit the 15″ MBP into a 256, but I do seem to remember hearing from others that it does fit. Hopefully another reader will chime in with a more definitive answer. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help…
ah okay, thanks for the quick response : )
Good news! Saw a youtube video with someone fitting a 15′ laptop in the 70256. Now I just can’t decide Navy or Tan lol
Hi, great review, it was very informative! I’m thinking of getting the 257 as I’m a university student and have many books and a laptop to carry. My only question is that since I pack a lunch everyday, will the 257 be wide enough to hold a lunch box with the interior pockets having notebooks in them? I’m worried a lunch box will only fit if there is not much inside the interior pockets.
Thanks in advance 🙂
Hello Amanda, thanks for your question…the 257 is quite large, and (even though i don’t know the size of your lunch box) I am fairly confident you will be able to fit everything in. Placing items in the side interior pockets should not interfere with this. If you find that the 257 is too small upon arrival, there is always the 258…I hope this helps:)
Greatly appreciated this post and everyone’s comments. I bought the Filson 257. I don’t get the opportunity to say this very often, but I made the perfect decision, thank you to everyone and Charles.
Congratulations on your 257! It is a fantastic bag and can even be used for short overnight trips…what color did you choose?
Great Review – i do have currently the 256 (Original Briefcase) in Tan and 257 (Computer Bag) in navy here, because i wants to compare the two colors and of course the different bags.
The navy one is a new color as nobody was talking here about that color a few years ago?
Actually it is pretty hard and i would like to see also the green one 🙂 In my case, i am a business office traveller with car and sometimes plane but i like the 257 and i like navy so i am expecting to take this one. I like to have space in the bag for charger notebook, laptop, maybe umbrella, water and when it comes to a plane, i like to have a book, headphones etc. with me. I saw a youtube video where a guy was putting a safety pin two divide the big bag into two and two have them more closely to the wall… this is a pretty good idea i guess.
Thanks for the review.
actually i am commenting myself – i had both bags and i choosed the bigger one, so the 257 and i really like the navy color. i actually also like the handle which is pretty cool and i like to wear it without shoulder strap, this is not really a good solution as the bag turns horizontaly as also other people described here.
But i general after a few weeks i am really happy with it.
Very cool…thanks for the update!