Made In The USA: Waterfield Bags

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Shortly after I unloaded both barrels of righteous patriotic fury on Manhattan Portage, I got a note from an employee there pointing me towards their Made In USA Collection. So the company continues to have a minor percentage of their line assembled in this country. That’s good news and I hope that their Made-In-The-USA line is the beginning of something for MP, not a vestigial tail of ethical manufacturing.

But why get anything from them when you can get a bag that is built like a Sherman tank and is absolutely guaranteed to be made here?


Five years ago, my TUMI backpack, which was a gift from my father back in 1998 or thereabouts, was stolen out of my Town Car. I was just short of suicidal at the time. I’d kept the bag in perfect condition for over a decade; it had my initials stamped onto it; it was USA-made and made without shortcuts in an era where TUMI did that sort of thing. There was no question of replacing it with the modern generation of Chinese junk from TUMI. I had to find something else.

The photo at the top of this article is my personal Waterfield Bags taxi-color messenger bag, delivered to me in November of 2010. I’ve taken it to nearly every state in the Union and it’s gone with me to places as diverse as Singapore and Barcelona. I’ve dropped it off a motorcycle at speed, used it as a wheel chock for a race car, stuffed it until I had to pull the main zipper with both hands to close it, and frequently loaded it with fifty pounds or more of books and/or tools. I’ve used it probably four out of five days since November of 2010.

There’s only one problem with this bag: I don’t think it will wear out in my lifetime. So I have no real reason to buy another one, other than a desire to have another color for variety’s sake. So if you’re looking for a bag, I’d encourage you to take a look at Waterfield. They are not cheap, not by a long shot, but I think the price is fair for what might be the last bag you ever buy.

27 Replies to “Made In The USA: Waterfield Bags”

  1. AvatarPat

    I actually have had one of these bags for 14 years, and it still looks like it is new. Can not be killed/built like a brick shithouse. Unfortunately, those early ones had “airline belt” buckles, which seemed like a good aesthetic choice at the time, but now… not so much.

    Tom Binh bags are also “hecho in estados unidos” and similarly shithouse-y.

    Reply
  2. AvatarDave L

    Keep these coming! I enjoy spending money on American made products and your recommendations have been spot on starting with Couch Straps.
    Thanks-

    Reply
  3. AvatarWill

    Other purveyors of US-made messenger bags:

    – Aerostich http://www.aerostich.com/bags/shoulder-bags-backpacks-and-hip-packs
    – Bailey Works http://www.baileyworks.com/
    – De Martini http://www.demartinibags.com/index.aspx
    – Drifter http://drifterbag.com/
    – Dsptch http://www.dsptch.com/
    – Ignoble http://www.ignoblebags.com/index.html
    – MER http://merbags.com/
    – Ogden Made http://www.ogdenmade.com/
    – Tough Traveler http://www.toughtraveler.com/lug/asst.asp

    Also, Chrome still claims to make 70% of their bags in the US: http://www.chromeindustries.com/us/en/featured/american-made
    Better than none, I guess.

    Reply
    • AvatarMrThayer

      I’ve used my US-made Chrome Metropolis almost every day for the last 11 years and it has proven to be indestructible. I’ve lowsided a motorcycle with it on my back several times and only one of those times did it wear through the cordura. Now it has a handy drainage hole.

      I’m happy to see they’re still made here and remain pretty much unchanged in design.

      Reply
      • Jack BaruthJack Baruth Post author

        So how did your neck feel after low-siding with a messenger bag? That’s the one concern I have about wearing mine.

        Reply
        • AvatarMrThayer

          Earlier on in my ownership of the bag I happened to crash my bicycle at a pretty decent speed. I got tossed into the air and landed on a log shored up by a pile of rocks and the bag ended up pulled over my head and pulling my arms up. Since I also broke my collarbone, this was less than ideal. If the same thing happened on a motorcycle I’d probably be a lot more unhappy.
          BTW, the lesson I learned wasn’t “Don’t wear a messenger bag” but more “Don’t ride a fixed-gear bike with no brakes and no helmet, you fucking dumbass”.

          Reply
          • Avatar-Nate

            Mr.Thayer :

            ATG , ATT , always .

            I wear it and usually wear a messenger bag when I’m riding my Moto .

            When I had my fatal Moto accident , I was sitting still waiting for a red light @ 04:15 ~ the damned taxi never even slowed down as he ran me over from behind .

            I’m quite sure the gear is why I survived and though I’m FU-BAR for life now .

            I still ride (going riding to – night with my Son !!) because you simply cannot let life’s uncertainty scare you away from living it .

            Go forth and have fun ! WEAR THE HELMET & GLOVES at the very least , always and forever .

            -Nate

    • AvatarBoozysmurf

      Feel like I’m bringing the comments back from the dead, but!

      Can vouch for ChromeIndustries – I have a Citizen Messenger, and Barrage Night Backpack, and they’re both practically indestructible. In fact, I’ve commuted by bike (single speed, mostly, not that it matters much) for the best part of ten years in the summer, and on foot in the winter (Ottawa, Canada). Neither of them has faded appreciably, and they actually look embarrassingly new, despite the daily use. The customer service has been excellent – the downside of the barrage is that the main clip on the strap for the rolltop is plastic, not their traditional seatbelt buckle, and it shattered one day. They shipped me one gratis within a week, after I sent them pictures of the broken part. If you pick their products by Made-in-America (the irony of a Canadian saying that is not lost on me) you get a massively durable product.

      The downside, and the reason I’m researching again, is that they’re both basically buckets. Waterproof, and incredibly durable buckets, but buckets, nonetheless. I need more organization in my bags, these days.

      Which led me to RedOXX. Everything I’ve read leads me to believe they’re a similar level of indestructible as has been my experience with Chrome, but originally for the locomotive engineer crowd. I’m probably picking up a RailKing Ruck in the next few months (they’re not cheap, and even less so with shipping to CanadaLand, and the exchange rate sitting around seventy-five cents on the dollar).

      No messenger bags at RedOxx though.

      RedOxx: https://www.redoxx.com

      Reply
      • Avatarnobody

        Check out YNOT, which specializes in bike bags. Their messenger bags may be similarly bucket-esque, but they also offer all sorts of inserts for different purposes (laptop, camera, etc.). I have one of their little Deploy backpacks which I use on my bike or throw into my luggage to use as a daypack when I’m traveling, and I have been very pleased with it.

        Best of all (for you), it lets you show a little more national pride, as I believe all their products are made in Toronto.

        http://www.ynotmade.com

        Reply
  4. Avatarcarrya1911

    I’ve been needing a good bag for a while as I’m sick of the annoyances and failures of my Burton backpack…just bought a Taxi medium cargo laptop bag.

    Reply
  5. AvatarTyguy

    I don’t the prices are too bad. The small messenger bag for carrying a 13″ macbook seems like a great deal at $70. I have a Coach messenger bag from the 90’s, it is very good actually, the current model from Coach (likely made in China) is 450+ a similar Waterfield bag is $350 or so.. As you said my old coach bag has no need to be replaced, should it get stolen from my car, I know where to find it’s replacement.

    Reply
  6. AvatarMrThayer

    Nate:
    I definitely appreciate the ATGATT way. I usually wear full leathers or a full zip-up cordura suit when I ride a motorcycle now, though I haven’t owned one in over a year now. As far as bicycle safety goes, it only took a few more concussions to get me to change my ways with a helmet. Your brain doesn’t bounce back the same way after a few of those.

    Reply
  7. Avatar-Nate

    _OBVIOUSLY_ you don’t have any brains else you’d never ride in anything but a safety cage…..

    =8-) .

    I can no longer ride a bicycle dammit .

    -Nate

    Reply
  8. AvatarVicMik

    So you like your German cars, Japanese guitars, Italian clothes but American home goods and travel gear….because US economy?

    I’d say buy the best of breed or best value no matter where it’s made as long as it doesn’t support oppressive regimes (i.e. Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, etc.).

    All this buy-American sentiment would lead me to believe that selling your 993 to buy a 2016 Corvette would be a reasonable thing to do in the spirit of supporting the american workers and engineers….of course, not! 🙂

    Reply
  9. AvatarNicholas Gomez

    My wife got me a BAD bags Duffel No. 3 BP. Made in Seattle. I’m testing it out for my weekly trips up and down to the northern part of Malaysia, by truck and train mostly and once in a while by air. It’s supposed to be carry-on compliant. Check them out at https://badbags.com/.

    Reply

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