Category: Reviews

New Designs: Filson Original Sportsman Bag

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In the last few months, Filson has been quite busy releasing a bunch of great new luggage pieces. There are three trends that I have noticed:

1. Use of Tin Cloth

The company is starting to incorporate their iconic Tin Cloth into many of their classic designs (like the Tin Cloth Original Briefcase #70016 for example).

2. Two-Tone Variations and Accents

They are also adding a lot of bold new two-tone color variations (and accent colors/patterns) to existing designs. This is apparent in the addition of Navy as a new base color (Spring 2013), as well as in the use of plaid, wool and orange accent pieces.

3. Retro Minimalist Designs

Filson is bringing back some classic/minimalist designs (the Game Bag Messenger #70077 for example) to fill gaps in their existing product line to accommodate many different types of end user.

One new bag that has really caught my eye is the Filson Original Sportsman Bag (#70073). Interestingly enough, it reflects all three of the trends that I have just discussed.

This bag is a streamlined, minimalist version of the iconic Filson Sportsman Bag #266. It utilizes the same basic structure as the full-zipper Sportsman, but it replaces the large, more bulbous exterior side pockets with trimmer (flap-style) pockets. This entire outer layer of pockets is constructed from a contrasting color Tin-Cloth to give the bag additional weather resistance and, in my opinion, provides a fantastic two-tone look. Finally, the main compartment flap is trimmed in bright orange for a pop of color.

Another important change is that the bridle leather strap has been replaced by a great looking nylon webbing, which I am a huge fan of for a couple reasons. First, the strap is lighter than the traditional bridle leather. Second, it is wider so it distributes weight more evenly across the shoulder (and there is no need to break in those finicky stiff leather shoulder pads). Finally, the strap is impervious to the elements and really matches the character of the weather-resistant tin cloth.

My one complaint about the other Sportsman (Filson 266) was that when fully loaded, the exterior pocket worn closest to the body caused the bag’s center of gravity to sit far away from you and made it a bit more awkward to carry. This new “Original” Sportsman appears to have remedied this problem.

Filson Introduces Navy Rugged Twill

Filson has recently announced that some of their most classic (and iconic) styles will begin shipping in a fourth color…Rugged Navy Twill. The underlying fabric is the same 22oz 100% cotton oil-finish twill that we all love and the bags will be trimmed in dark brown bridle leather.

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The following styles are currently listed on the Filson site:

(NOTE: some are backordered through mid-May)

  • 222 Duffle Bag (Medium)
  • 256 Original Briefcase
  • 258 Padded Computer Bag
  • 246 Travel Bag (Medium)

The obvious omission from this list is the 257 Briefcase Computer Bag. I am curious why all of the other briefcases (256 and 258) will be offered in Navy, but the 257 will not. Perhaps, this is a subtle clue regarding the relative demand for the 257. If the new color is a success, I am confident that Filson will roll it out to other styles as production increases.

In the past, if you wanted any Filson bag in navy blue, you had to pay a premium and settle for a slightly thinner (and less durable) fabric by ordering a special edition. The demand for this color appears to have been so great that Filson has decided to add it to their standard lineup…and I am very excited about it.

Stay tuned for a review and more pictures when my Navy Rugged Twill test piece arrives next month…

Review: Filson Sportsman’s Bag 266

The Filson Sportsman’s Bag 266 is a well-thought-out design that makes a great choice for travelers and sportsman alike. It is loaded with Filson’s classic style, but more importantly, it really delivers on function.

Filson Sportsman's Bag Canvas Case
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QUICK STATS

Price: $295 USD
Dimensions: 18″ W x 11″ H x 12″ D
Layout: (1) main compartment with (2) snap dividers; (2) large exterior compartments with zipper closures and organizational pockets/sleeves; (2) large end pockets; and (2) full-length stow pockets.

UNIQUE FEATURES

1. DIVIDERS

This bag includes two twill dividers (with three snaps on each side) that can be configured in a number of different ways. I typically only use one divider in the main compartment to seperate shoes from clothes or dirty clothes from clean. I like being able to quickly change the layout of the bag to suit my travel needs.

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2. POCKETS AND SLEEVES

Inside one of the exterior zippered compartments is a set of four pockets with stitched bottoms. In the other compartment, you will find four sleeves with open bottoms. This sleeve construction was also used in the Filson 257 computer briefcase, but has recently been changed (due to customer demand) to closed-bottom pockets. I am not sure whether Filson intends to also change the layout of the Sportsman’s Bag, but my particular bag has the sleeve/pocket configuration, which certainly provides more options.

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3. GENEROUS END POCKETS

Located on each end of the Sportsman’s Bag, there are two generously sized pockets that will transport 1-liter water bottles with ease.

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BEST USES

The intended use for this bag, is as a case to haul hunting/camping/fishing gear and it is at this task that it excels. There are as many ways to seperate and store your gear as there are potential users for this bag. Zippers, pockets and sleeves are literally everywhere and it makes finding exactly what you need fast and efficient.

The Sportsman’s bag also makes a great carry-on for certain travelers. In general, I stick to my recommendation that the Filson Medium Travel Bag 246 is the best all-around carry-on, but if you would prefer to trade some space in the main compartment for better organization, than the Sportsman’s bag would be a great alternative. Keep in mind that the exterior dimensions of the two cases are very similar when full, so it is personal preference which style you choose.

HANDLE CARE IS A MUST

There is one drawback to the Sportsman’s Bag that I want you to be aware of. The zippers are very rugged and can be quite sharp when the bag is left open. If you are not careful, the zippers from the side compartments can chew up the bridle leather handles a bit.

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The easiest solution is to flip the front handle down and roll the lid if you plan to leave the bag open in order to prevent this type of wear/damage to the handle material.

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AT FULL CAPACITY

I find this case to be very comfortable to carry over the shoulder, with one caveat…try not to stuff the compartment closest to your body to maximum capacity. I tend to put softer items in this compartment to prevent the case from standing off my hip too much. I also keep computer chargers, my cell phone and any other non-clothing items in pocket furthest from my body. At full capacity, I still find the Medium Travel Bag 246 to carry a little better.

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SUMMARY

The Sportsman’s Bag is one of the most unique pieces that Filson makes, because it can be configured to suit many intended uses with the internal divider system and its plethora of pockets and sleeves. If you want a great carry-on for short weekend trips, but need more integrated organization than the Filson Travel Bag 246, the Sportsman’s case makes a great option.

Bottom Line: the Filson 266 keeps your stuff well-organized and ready for action. I highly recommend adding it to your collection.

December 2012 Update

Hello everyone! I apologize for not posting as often as usual in the past week. I have been doing some traveling and enjoying time with family during the holiday season. I just wanted to let you know what to expect in the coming weeks.

1. Review: Filson Sportsman’s Bag 266

The Filson Sportsman’s bag 266 is a very unique bag and I have never seen so many zippers (or pockets) in one place. Where does this bag excel? Where does it fall short? Is it the right bag for you? Stay tuned…

2. Filson 257 an Alternate Use?

We all know that the Filson 257 is a great briefcase option for students or for those days when the 256 Original Briefcase just doesn’t cut it. But I have been using it in a different way and I think you may be surprised how versatile this bag truly is.

3. First Look: Filson Small Duffle Bag 220

I will also be posting a First Look mini-review for the Filson Small Duffle Bag 220. This bag seems like it would make the perfect weekender. Find out what I think after putting it through its paces and find out which models may be better for your particular needs.

So that is where we are headed by the end of the year. I will also continue posting more iconic Filson images and offering my advice. Which reminds me, answering your questions (and responding to comments) is one of my favorite parts of FilsonFan, so please keep them coming.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy new year!

Charles

Filson Tote Bag 260

Today’s iconic Filson image comes from Midwestyle. The guys over there have posted a fantastic review of the 260 Tote Bag ($110) that I want to share with my readers.

My wife owns this bag in classic Tan and uses it every single day. From hauling yoga gear, to transporting binders and documents to court, this bag can literally do it all. In addition, at only $110, it is one of the most affordable Filson pieces, so it is a great way to introduce newcomers to the brand.

CC Filson Tote Bag Canvas Bag

Filson Tote Bag 261 from Midwestyle.com

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…

EXTERIOR DESIGN

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…

HAND GRIP

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.

INTERIOR ORGANIZATION

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:)

Two New Filson Briefcase Options

Filson has launched two new variations of their famous Original Briefcase for the holiday season…

Filson Tin Cloth Original Briefcase

The first new style is called the Tin Cloth Original Briefcase (#70016). The bag retails for $295 and shares the same basic layout and size as the classic 256, with a few important differences. First, in addition to classic tan, it is now available in black; so if you have ever dreamed of the day you could buy a black Filson briefcase, the wait is finally over. Second, the bag is constructed entirely of Filson’s legendary 12.5 oz oil finish tin cloth. This will make the bag even more weather resistant than the cotton twill and will give it a darker more broken in appearance, even when fresh out of the box. I would also expect these bags to take on a deep patina very quickly.

One other thing to note is that the trademark bridle leather shoulder strap has been replaced by one constructed of nylon webbing. Perhaps it was an aesthetic choice made to visually differentiate these bags from the 256. On the other hand, it may have been a functional choice that distributes weight more effectively than the often stiff and slick bridle leather shoulder pad; however, it is definitely something I need to see in person before I pass judgement.

Filson Twill and Tweed Original Briefcase

The second new style is called the Twill and Tweed Original Briefcase (#70066). This bag also retails for $295 and shares its dimensions with the 256. However, this variant uses a beautiful, rugged Twill & Harris tweed wool for the internal sides and under the storm flap. It also appears to feature a retro-designed label located inside the front pocket. My favorite color is the Otter Green with plaid trim as shown here…

 

Variety is a good thing, and these new variants simply solidify Filson’s Original Briefcase as a true classic that isn’t afraid to evolve and have a little fun in the process. I will definitely be adding the black Tin Cloth briefcase to my Christmas list and counting down the days. Post a comment to let me know what you guys (and gals) think about these cool new styles.