Category: Reviews

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.

Preview: Filson Briefcase Showdown 256 vs 257

I just wanted to wish everyone in the US a Happy Thanksgiving and to give a quick blog update…I finally had the chance to put the finishing touches on my briefcase showdown review and I will be posting it this weekend.

This review will hopefully help to answer the most frequently asked question in the Filson universe…which briefcase should I buy?

Filson Original Briefcase 256 vs Filson Briefcase Computer Bag 257

The answer may be more clear cut than you think so stay tuned:)

Review: Filson Field Bag 232

Last week, I reviewed the Filson Carry-On (240) and I concluded that the Filson Medium Field Bag (232) would be a much better choice for those seeking to add this classic style to their collection. So, here is a quick review of the 232.

Filson reviews of Filson bags by CC Filson

QUICK STATS

  • Price: $225 USD
  • Dimensions: 14″ W x 11″ H x 5″ D
  • Layout: (1) main compartment with storm flap; (1) full-length back pocket; (2) exterior end-pockets (utility pockets); (2) front bellows pockets with snap closures and a double bottom.

The medium Field Bag is only one inch smaller in overall length, but shares many of its design cues with the small carry-on. In person, this bag appears a bit more compact and better proportioned than the 240.

By choosing not to use a zipper on the main compartment, Filson was able to include two exterior end-pockets that are perfect for quick access to a water bottle or cell phone. This bag also uses a double-walled bottom, making it much more durable.

Filson reviews of Filson bags by CC Filson

You can see that the Field Bag has a wide, flat bottom, which allows it to stand on its own and also to hang closer to the wearer’s side, making it very comfortable to carry.

Filson reviews of Filson bags by CC Filson

The oval-shaped opening to the main compartment creates small side channels that keep the contents well-contained and also provide excellent protection from rain. The only drawback to this design is that small laptops (like a 13″ MacBook Air) will not fit into the bag. As I have suggested in my other reviews, if you frequently carry large binders or a laptop, the Filson Original Briefcase (256) or the Filson Briefcase Computer Bag (257) would probably make a better choice.

Filson reviews of Filson bags by CC Filson

The medium Field Bag (232) is a perfect daily-use bag for books, a jacket, gym clothes, a lunch and a water bottle. It would make a great carry-on bag for travel and can also be easily configured to transport camera and video equipment. The Field Bag wears very comfortably and is one of the best examples of classic Filson design.

Bottom Line: this bag is a must-have in any Filson collection.

Review: Filson Carry-On 240

Today, I will be reviewing the Filson 240 Small Carry-On. This bag is very similar (in both design and function) to the Filson 232 Medium Field Bag, so I will be highlighting the differences between the two in order to help you decide which is the best choice.

Filson-Luggage-1

QUICK STATS

  • Price: $265 USD
  • Dimensions: 15″ W x 11 1/2″ H x 5″ D
  • Layout: (1) main compartment, including storm flap with double leather buckle closure; (2) front bellows pockets with snap closures; (1) back exterior pocket and (1) small carrying handle.

The Filson 240 is a basic messenger-style bag that can be worn over the shoulder or carried cross-body. It features a spacious, main zippered compartment with no built-in organization. It also has two expandable “billows” pockets on the front of the bag (under the storm flap) that snap closed.

Filson-Luggage-2

The leather trim on edge of the storm flap is one of my favorite design elements and it gives the bag a classic, timeless appearance. It is secured with two leather straps and two brass buckles. Another nice detail is the embossed Filson logo on the ends of the leather straps, which adds a feel of quality to the overall design.

Filson-Luggage-3

Real World Testing

The Filson 240 is certainly a versatile bag, but it does have some potential drawbacks that would cause me to consider a couple other Filson models before purchasing this one.

1. Difficult to Access

I really like the overall look of the Filson 240 and the zipper/flap/buckle combination provides excellent security for its contents, especially in crowded environments. However, it also makes the bag very cumbersome if you need to frequently access your stuff. The three primary storage compartments each require the user to open two different fasteners to access them (Buckle/Snap or Buckle/Zipper).

2. Strap Attachment Points

On most messenger bags, the attachment points for the shoulder strap are located on the side of the bag, towards the top. On the Filson 240, the attachment points are located on the back of the bag approximately a quarter of the way down from the top.

Filson-Luggage-4

Why does this matter? This design causes the bag to lean away from you when it is slung over the shoulder. When I carried the bag, I found that I was always fighting to pull it toward me in order to make it more comfortable. The attachment points also create an awkward carry-angle when using the small leather handle. This bag is most comfortable when it is carried cross-body.

3. Short Back Pocket

The small pocket located on the back of the 240 is much shorter than the exterior pockets found on other Filson bags. This is a function of the low attachment points for the shoulder strap. I did not feel comfortable with my iPad in the back pocket because it never quite felt secure. This pocket was not very useful due to its size and placement.

The Filson 232 is a better choice for most buyers

I was left with a lukewarm feeling about the Filson 240 after my real-world testing, but there is a silver lining. If you really like the classic style of the Filson 240, there is a much better option…the Filson 232 Medium Field Bag.

The overall style of the Field Bag is nearly identical to the Small Carry-On, featuring the large storm flap, leather trim and the front bellows pockets. However, the Filson 232 eliminates the zipper over the main compartment.

By using only the buckles, the 232 is much easier to access and by removing the zipper, Filson was able to add two functional end-pockets and a double-bottom to create a much more functional and durable bag. As an added bonus, the 232 retails for only $225, which will save you nearly $40 off the MSRP of the 240.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the perfect bag is always a function of your intended use…

In the Field: if you are working in the field and are looking for an open-concept bag to carry small equipment, notebooks and gear, then the Filson 232 Field Bag would be a fantastic choice (and would work much better than the 240).

For Travel (as a Carry-On): for short trips, when being used as a carry-on, I find the Filson 261 Zippered Tote, which features more interior volume, a double bottom and four functional exterior pockets, to be a much better choice than the 240.

For a Student or Office Worker: as a day bag for a student or city dweller to carry books, a laptop, lunch and perhaps a small jacket, the Filson 257 Briefcase Computer Bag is a much better choice than the 240.

In conclusion, the Filson 240 Carry-On is a handsome, well-made bag, but it is a bag that is functionally stuck in the middle between a multitude of other choices that are all better suited to task.