Review: Kaufmann Mercantile’s Canvas Saddlebag

We had a chance to spend a few weeks with a review sample of Kaufmann Mercantile‘s new waxed-canvas saddlebag…the folks there only gave us a short time to test it out before it had to go back to them, but I got a good feel for the bag and wanted to share some thoughts and photos with you.


Here’s some of the basic bag information straight from Kaufmann Mercantile’s website:

–Waxed canvas
–American tanned leather
–Brass buckles and rivets

–Water resistant
–Bridle leather strap for lashing larger objects on the outside of the pack
–2 leather and brass buckle straps (secure and easy to remove from bike)
–Inside pocket
–Inside flaps with grommets
–Adjustable closure

–Height: 8.5 inches
–Top width: 10.5 inches
–Bottom width: 3.5 inches

Handmade in Duluth, Minnesota

The bag is made for Kaufmann Mercantile by Frost River Softgoods.

The bag is nearly ten inches at the mouth, and tapers gently down to the foot. The overall length of the bag is about nine inches. It fit nicely between saddle and rack as shown in the pictures below. The leather straps are supple and are adequately supplied with holes to get everything snug (additional holes are easily punched with a leather awl if needed). Solid brass hardware in the rivets and buckles means this thing is going to last for years. And hey, it looks classy as hell!


This is a water-resistant bag…the waxed canvas shrugs off light rain and snow, but won’t stop the contents from getting wet in a downpour (mostly because of the seams and the loose opening at the top of the bag). It’s weatherproof enough for year-round use, though, and sensitive items such as electronics should always travel in plastic bags even if your own bag is rated as “waterproof”.

Inside the bag, there’s a sleeve at the base to store pointy tools or small items that need additional protection from the rest of the contents. Otherwise, it’s just a gaping maw, waiting to swallow your spare tubes, your lunch, your phone and your rainjacket.
And, unlike most “minimalist” saddlebags, this one takes all that load without any wrestling or Tetris-like stacking. If you do happen to run out of room inside the bag, there is a stiff leather band riveted to the top of the bag. Simply lash items onto the top and be on your way. You ARE carrying spare toestraps, aren’t you? They’re handy for any impromptu gear wrangling you may face on your journeys.



Once loaded and hitched down tight, the bag does not sway…I rode with this bag stuffed with items in a brutal 30 MPH headwind and fierce crosswinds, and the bag never budged despite my “out of the saddle” efforts.

The overall quality of the bag is fantastic…the seams are tight, the materials are top-notch and the overall look is, as I mentioned earlier, classy. It’s a pricey bag at $95.00, but this is an “heirloom” type item, expected to last years and years. And there IS a market for such bags, what with Carradice and Ostrich, Berthoud and Brooks. These kinds of bags are for folks who want something handmade, who care about the materials used and the places where they’re made. It’s tough, sometimes, to have to pay a premium to get a handmade-in-the-U.S. item, but I think this one is worth it. Still, it’s a bit steep for us frugal commuters.


This is the only bike-specific item Kaufmann Mercantile carries, but there are other items in their online store that may appeal to you. Really, there’s a LOT of cool handmade tools and other useful gadgets there, so you should swing on over for a visit.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.

Wonder what all those planes are doing in the background? I am lucky to live right up the street from the National Museum of the United States Air Force, and their outdoor static aircraft display area makes a fun backdrop. You’ll probably see a lot more of this in future articles…I love that museum and the grounds are spectacular.


  1. Elizabeth February 19, 2012 9:18 pm 

    Looks nice…. very classy! :-)

  2. Mike Myers February 19, 2012 10:05 pm 

    Couple of questions,Jack. Does the bag come in black, and would you rate the quality on par with the other makers?

  3. BSR February 20, 2012 12:02 am 

    Looks VERY similar to a VO bag I have had for a few years. Almost everything but the Frost River leather patch is the same.

  4. Raiyn February 20, 2012 12:59 am 

    Hmmm ordinarily I’d have a rant about buying this bag directly from the manufacturer (Frost River being from the area of my childhood home and all) but the free shipping from Kaufmann’s is a damn compelling reason.

  5. Ghost Rider February 20, 2012 5:41 am 

    @Mike — it only comes in the color shown, and unfortunately I have not spent time with the other makers I mentioned…I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that I am a “rule 29” subscriber for the bulk of my riding (, and for commuting all my spare gear goes in the backpack/messenger bag. If I had to guess, I’d say the quality is quite on par with the other brands, though. This bag is really well-made.

    @BSR — I don’t remember a VO bag like this, but I do know that Minnehaha makes a very similar one. In black, even.

    @Raiyn — funny you mention that. When I first heard about this bag, I feared it would be a “Best Made” axe situation (a company buying a product, putting a stripe of paint and a huge markup on it and reselling it). Luckily, that’s not the case, and free shipping is always a hard-to-resist perk!

  6. RL Policar! February 20, 2012 10:00 am 

    Love the pics!

  7. RideSouth February 20, 2012 1:07 pm 

    If I spent close to $100 on a saddlebag … I’d be risking a divorce!

  8. Doug February 20, 2012 2:28 pm 

    I dunno. That’s an awful lot of $ for a saddlebag, even one that looks classy. Since I occasionally commute in a downpour, the lack of serious water-resistance is also a major drawback. If they sold it with a nylon cover that could assist with the water issues, I might be intrigued.

  9. Ghost Rider February 20, 2012 3:46 pm 

    @Doug…I hear you, but think about this: people drop a couple hundred bucks on a fancy leather saddle that even after treatment is only “water-resistant”…and those saddles don’t come with nylon covers. This bag is able to shrug off all but Biblical downpours (which I know you face from time to time 😉 ). The waxed canvas can be treated with new wax, but it still has a few seams to worry about.

  10. Raiyn February 20, 2012 11:09 pm 

    Ahh, but Ride South you’d be supporting American jobs in Northern Minnesota, and given the sucktacular winter they’ve had (no snow by comparison to normal) they’re lacking the tourist coin they usually get.

  11. Ghost Rider February 21, 2012 4:21 am 

    @Raiyn — yeah, the Croissant is similar, and one I was familiar with, but it isn’t the “ringer” I had envisioned. I like the Frost River one better…if nothing else, the color appeals to me more.

  12. Mike Myers February 21, 2012 7:29 am 

    Does VO have their bag made in the US? If so, then it’s a no-brainer which to buy, since the VO bag is 55 dollars versus nearly a hundred.

    @Doug—-I have Carradice panniers and a Carradice saddlebag. Rain, as Jack stated, isn’t a huge concern. Cotton duck is pretty water resistant.

  13. bigbenaugust February 21, 2012 4:51 pm 

    You live next door to the USAF Museum?! I’m jealous.

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