- Buyer's Guide
Fuller Foundry Briefcase Review
There’s something about the Fuller Foundry aesthetic that immediately caught my eye. The first time they truly came on my radar was when they popped up on Huckberry. I was intrigued by the design of the Duffel (whose review is following hot on the heels of this). So when the opportunity to review not one but two bags presented itself, I had to strike. And boy am I glad I did. The best way I can describe it is this: the Briefcase is one of the most comfortable, spacious and organized I’ve ever used. Period. It does have a few quirks to prove that it’s not perfect but man is it an impressive piece of gear.
Who It Suits
Anyone who wants to lug around a ton of stuff with them for work, a trip, or play, but prefers the aesthetic of an over-the-shoulder carry.
Who It Doesn’t
The commuter who prefers a bike to public transit or the minimalist who prefers to be lean and mean.
The first thing that stands out about the bag is the design. There are three independent compartments to the bag. With the outer pouch pocket, I found myself placing those slightly bulkier items that didn’t fit in the “hidden” sleeves that I’d want easy access to, like my point-and-shoot, Field Notes or Kindle. The pouch contains one of my favorite features of the bag: the magnetic closures (that’ll be a theme) and Fidlock attachment. It’s one of the few times where you both feel and hear a sound so pleasant and so sweet that you want to be a 5-year-old and keep playing with it. The clack of the Fidlock Stripe and snap of the magnet means you’re ready to move on to the next section.
The main compartment, like the master bedroom on an MTV Cribs episode, is where all the magic happens. The clamshell design makes it easy to open as if it’s a top loader or fully open to unload, pack or whatever floats your boat. Inside there’s a dedicated laptop sleeve or spot for your newspaper/magazine/files that is within quick and easy access. It’s closed by, you guessed it, a magnet.
There are two full-length mesh zippered pockets that are perfect for external battery packs or anything you’d not want to get mingled into the central compartment. On the other side of this area are two elastic mesh pockets which are perfect for lens caps, filters and the like. Much to my surprise, there is a camera padding accessory that fits on the left half of the compartment, turning this briefcase into a camera bag in a moment’s notice. I didn’t use this accessory in full transparency but I have no doubt it’s convenient and easy to use like everything else Fuller Foundry does.
Both the left and right side have access pockets to get into this main compartment. Each has an elastic pocket for quick and easy access to SD cards or for me, a smaller external battery that I can snag without having to take the bag off.
The back side is yet another area that is the smaller sibling to the main compartment. Inside this clamshell comes down to reveal another laptop sleeve and more pockets for organization! The outer part has a passthrough for luggage which turned out to be a life saver while traveling as you’d expect.
There is also another hidden pocket for quick access to your passport or gum. The handles are on either side of the main compartment, firmly padded and soft to the touch. They don’t have any lining so there are no marks left on your hand should you decide to go strapless.
This bag is a steal at just under $300 given its space, size and quality of the materials. The rubber-like material on the bottom of the bag is Hypalon which is renowned for its durability. The YKK zippers are water resistant and word to the wise, will break in over time. But the first few goes they are tough. And honestly that’s a good thing. There’s no way the zippers will randomly just open which has happened before on other bags. The bag itself is made of Cordura with a water-resistant coating on the side to help protect your gear. I can vouch for the weather resistance of the bag. During many December rainstorms, this bag took it like a champ and not a drop of water ever permeated the outer lining.
Not So Good
Let’s start with a couple of things that stand out the moment you start rifling through the bag. For one, of the three available colors, Whisky (as modeled by yours truly) is one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It’s a weird mix of yellow and brown that doesn’t exude the tasty beverage. Second, there are logos everywhere. A detail is one thing but the logo being on the pull tabs, zipper pulls, outer locking mechanism and inside every compartment is simply overkill. There are literally as many logos on this bag as I have fingers. Like whoa.
The one spot where me and the bag truly felt off-key was with regard to the shoulder strap (on both bags to be honest). It’s one of the most comfortable straps I’ve had the pleasure to use on any of the bags I’ve reviewed. The seatbelt webbing is soft and the padding is plush. The exterior of the shoulder strap has a daisy chain system which is well designed and easy to use. So you’re probably wondering, what exactly is my problem with it?
With the buckles. The Fidlock snap buckle system that holds the strap to the bag has proven a worthy foe. I’ve reached for the bag pulling the strap only to have one unbuckle. I’ve gotten off the subway and for no apparent reason it unsnapped. Whenever I commuted by bike to the office, I was a little nervous every time I’d hear a “click” as if the strap had temporarily disengaged and then got back in place as I went over any type of bump. I am happy to report that I never had any issues while biking but the fear was real and present. I call it ‘strapaphobia’. The question is how much of this is user error and how much of it is design? The shoulder system is ingenious and I love that any strap works on any Foundry product. But man, I’m still getting a hang of it!
Last but not least, I wanted to bring up a potential con for the minimalists out there. The weight of the bag. When I weighed it empty, it came in at 3.7 lbs. Once loaded up, it weighed 14 lbs. The strength of this big bag is its endless supply of space and organization. As I like to say, “your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.”
Others to Consider
With its quick access, flexible organization and expandable volume, Peak Design’s Everyday Messenger might be a good fit for your needs. Depending on your personal tastes and carry setup, you might also find an alternative in our roundup of the best briefcases for men.
This bag is one that I’m excited to make a staple of my daily carry. It has so much space with what you’d regularly carry and need in a pinch that I see myself using this as the lone bag on soccer days packed with work, cleats, shin guards, etc. This bag has that certain X-factor that makes you fall in love with it the more you use it. Sure it has its quirks, nothing is perfect. My hope is that I can figure out the strap system and never look back.
Most of all, this gets me really excited to see what the folks at Fuller Foundry have up their sleeve. Their unique perspective is a breath of fresh air in the carry space. Plus as a brand they are donating 2% of their profits to giving back. I say bring on more gear!