The unboxing of the Barbary was a serious treat. So much so that I included an "unboxing" section. Inside the cardboard box, the messenger comes in its own protective Bedouin custom cotton printed drawstring bag. Not some low-quality bag. It's so nice it could probably be sold on its own. I'm quickly starting to realize they take their products very seriously.
Even the hang tags are impeccable. The detailed quality of the printing (and beautiful artwork), light-brown super-heavyweight cardstock, rich red cotton hang cord...and the hand pressed Bedouin red wax seal. Oozes quality. One card has the description of the brand and products, the other card has the care instructions for the British Millerain waxed canvas. The second card notes that there is a tin of British Millerain wax dressing inside the package, which I didn't spot during the unboxing. I look around my desk to see if it had fallen, as well as inside the empty cardboard box, and it appears as if it were left out. I reread the card; it states, "there is a tin inside your bag". Sure enough, there it is, stored neatly inside one of the interior pockets. This is easily the best branding and packaging I've seen for any bag or pack, without question. These are the details that I pay attention to, and Bedouin has executed every single one of them perfectly. Serious credit is due.
This could quite possibly be the best-looking bag that I own (I own lots). This bag always gets a comment. Always. More so than any other carry product I own. The DEFY BAGS Recon Messenger starts a lot of conversations, but the Barbary takes it to a new level. The comments are always positive, with questions regarding the waxed cotton, the leather, and/or the buckles. Again, not something I really planned on. I talk about carry all day, so I don’t mind the topic of conversation and meeting a stranger. There is plenty to talk about with this particular bag. Look at the photos, let them speak for themselves. Leave a comment below to share your thoughts on how you think it looks. I think it looks amazing. (Below: photo to illustrate a better idea of scale of the Barbary / I’m 6'0").
Branding is minimal, at best. You won’t see any giant colorful names across the front messenger panel. Just a simple fabric label with “BEDOUIN” in a nice typeface, located on the shoulder strap. Other than that, there is one other highly-detailed Zeke-Wade-designed fabric label located in the main compartment, which looks great.
"This could quite possibly be the best-looking bag that I own (I own lots). This bag always gets a comment. Always. More so than any other carry product I own."
Additionally, since this bag is made of natural materials, it's going to age and patina with much greater character than any similar bags constructed from synthetics. You’ll see some photos below of Silas’s personal Barbary, after 3+ years of hard use, cycling through the rough streets of London, international trips, a two-year-long adventure around India by motorbike, and more (left side image shows a brand new Barbary compared to Silas’s Barbary). He admits to being extremely tough on everything he owns, and to never once washing it, waxing the cotton, or conditioning the leather. Looks great. Silas says, “The buckles scratch up and age pretty good, the leather is the raw Veg leather, and is very well broken in… This bag is so comfortable now.”
This is a handmade functional piece of artwork. The lining, printed by a master print maker in South London. The artwork for the lining, created by a talented artist in London. All the finest and most expensive fabrics and hardware (all sourced from England, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria). These all come together, stitch by stitch, by the skillful hands of master craftspeople, Paul and his wife Cynthia. Paul and Cynthia own their own handmade bag/luggage crafting workshop located in Lincolnshire, England.
It is a great material and craft story how these different parts travel in from all over Europe, meet in this old school workshop, and then become handsewn together to make a product as nice as the Barbary. Stitch for stitch, everything is perfect. I have an eye for quality control, and there isn’t one mistake on this entire product. Trust me, I’ve looked and tried to find one. This is craft. This is quality. This is handmade. This is why this product costs £390 (around $600 US).
Yep, that’s a bit of money, but I actually think the price is fair, considering what goes into each product. Each of these materials and bits of hardware has a very high price on it. Plus, the high hourly rate of multiple skilled UK artisan craftsmen, renowned for their attention to detail…that is what you’re paying for. That is the type of brand and process I like to support with my money. Plus, they offer a lifetime guarantee “on materials and workmanship from normal wear and tear”, which is a nice bit of insurance. All of their products, the Barbary especially, as well as the Bedouin brand itself, scream quality.
"This is a handmade functional piece of artwork. The lining, printed by a master print maker in South London. The artwork for the lining, created by a talented artist in London. All the finest and most expensive fabrics and hardware (all sourced from England, Italy, Switzerland, and Austria)."
If you've been paying attention to my personal Road Test reviews, you'll recall I make quite a fuss about always choosing black color options for my personal collection. Not this time (even though the black on black on black looked so incredibly fine). This time, I opted for the unique and handsome Olive color option. I'll admit, I did almost sway back to the black color option right before it was final decision time, but I'm extremely satisfied with my color choice for this particular product.
The Barbary is also available in Black+Natural, Tan+Natural, and Navy+Natural.
For the Barbary I’m testing, the olive color is deep and rich within the 100% cotton British Millerain waxed cotton canvas (10 ounce Rhinowax…the thickest they make at 500 g/m2), sourced from Lancashire, England. This stuff is super durable and extremely water resistant.
Though I have heard plenty of first-hand stories from many who use this material on their bags and outerwear, and the fact that fishermen have being relying on its waterproof / water-resistant properties for over a century, I haven’t personally had the opportunity to experience the battle of H2O and Rhinowax…because it simply never rains in Austin.
"All of their products, the Barbary especially, as well as the Bedouin brand itself, scream quality."
From all accounts, it should repel rain like no other, but I haven’t seen it, and I look forward to that day that I will put it to the test (I will post an update here in the comments). However, there is a reason they’ve been making this material in the same way since the 1880’s…it works really well. Below, you can see some of the British Millerain waxed cotton canvas cut into patterns (left side), ready to meet the beast of a sewing machine (right side). The feel of this thick waxed cotton canvas is buttery, almost leathery. While we’re talking about leather, let's talk about leather.
The leather panel is thick top-grain European vegetable-tanned leather, which is going to age beautifully. Their leather is sourced from a few different places… "the Grey leather is from Italy, the Tan Veg leather is what Louis Vuitton (doesn’t use), (but an extremely high grade), the black leather is either Italian or English (we refuse to use leather that is not from Europe for quality and animal welfare, and is a by-product of the food industry). All the leather is Veg Tanned (this is the old method using tree bark and acorns etc.) NOT using such nasty chemicals as most leather (Chromium)". Additionally, they’re using matching leather edge binding throughout the bag. The reason most brands don’t use leather for edge binding is because it is extremely difficult and takes a talented craftsman many years to learn properly.
My favorite. As I said about them before…military-grade AustriAlpin Cobra buckles, imported from Austria. This bag uses three in total; two in the 28mm size used at the front flap and the other is 50mm wide for the shoulder strap closure/adjustment. They can each support up to around 2,000 lbs and they have an amazing resilient clear coat finish to show off the raw forged metal (all three still appear as new, after several thousand airline, bicycle, and car miles).
Made from steel, brass, and aluminum, these buckles will probably outlast you and probably a couple more generations after you. The experience of opening them feels like you’re reloading an AR15 rifle each time you open up the bag. I like the feeling that I’m reloading an AR15 when I’m grabbing some chewing gum from my bag.
Side note: in our previous Buckle Analysis writeup I ignorantly leaned toward the Raptor buckles, but now after having serious first-hand experience and doing much more research on the issue, the Cobra buckles have proven to be a far superior product. Test after test and user experience proves it. Cobra buckles are without question the best buckles on the planet, 100%, no doubt. Anything else is a far 2nd.
The light blue and olive green Velcro is a great touch for the shoulder strap. It does its job well, and creates some refined visual contrast. There is additional Velcro used in conjunction with the AustriAlpin Cobra buckles to keep the main messenger flap closed. The legit seatbelt webbing has an extremely high tensile strength and also creates the same aesthetic effect as the Velcro on the shoulder strap. The single Riri metal grid zipper adds additional value to an already great combination of materials and hardware. If there is any other brand of zipper that I personally prefer over YKK, it would be Riri (they’re from Switzerland, a country known for quality technical products). The zipper has a different feel, performs equally to or better than YKK, and it's more difficult and more expensive to source. In this case, it’s also nice that there is just one zipper. There is a nice matching leather puller on the metal zipper slider, making it easy to grab hold of and give a good tug on.
I saved the lining for the last material to discuss. This stuff is eye-popping and beautifully done. All going back to their metaphor of the Bedouin tent; weatherproof on the outside, comforting and pleasing on the inside, with just enough places to store your stuff.
The lining is natural mild-weight 100% cotton drill lining sourced from Manchester, England. It is all hand-printed, using only water-based ink, by a print master on a 25m/75ft long (!!!) print table at his shop located in a railway arch in South London. All the illustrations used for the lining (as well as the website, hang tags, and more) are created by a super talented artist named Zeke Wade, who is heavily inspired by Islamic geometric patterns (among other inspirational sources as well, I’m sure).
"I saved the lining for the last material to discuss. This stuff is eye-popping and beautifully done."
Every time you open the bag, it's a stunning visual treat. The print that came with the olive color option Barbary is the “Crank” option, in white and black, a mix of bicycle cranks, cogs, wrenches, chains, feathers, chainrings, vines, and flowers, with a geometric background to pull it all together. I’m into it.
I don’t know of any other carry brand HAND-printing artwork on their own lining. Especially lining, of all things. Usually this is where companies try to save money to increase profit, by using the cheapest possible nylon or polyester lining directly off of the shelf of a Taiwanese supplier who made too much for a previous client. Not here. I would bet that the lining of the Barbary (taking into account the cotton drill fabric cost, the artist’s costs, and printmaker’s labor costs) is more expensive per yard than the exterior fabrics of most high performance bags. It's the details that count.