- Buyer's Guide
Vermilyea Pelle: Luxurious Handmade Leather Goods from the Heart of Washington
Sometimes, in the carry community, we get caught up in the latest and greatest. We get excited about the newest material, the hardcore hardware, and the lightweight packability of an item. There’s nothing wrong with any of those, but they aren’t the be all and end all of the carry world. Quite the opposite in fact. Brands like Vermilyea Pelle (vur-MIL-yuh pel-le) are all about slowing down, taking time, and nurturing a bag into existence right here in the USA.
There aren’t runs of five hundred or a thousand bags here, just a handful of each style, lovingly crafted and brought into existence from a small workshop nestled away in Wenatchee, Washington. Inspired by his grandfather’s horse tack room, Dustin Spencer has been on a journey to create thoughtful, luxurious, and heirloom worthy pieces. You only have to spend a few minutes speaking with Dustin to understand what this means to him, and it is clear in his final product.
Leather is in the name (Pelle is Italian for leather) and it is at the heart of Dustin’s creations. He has four types of products: Canvas/leather mix, Lux (with leather bound pockets), Hybrid (with leather pockets), and full leather bags. These are made to last, and it is clear from the moment you open the box that you are in for something special. From the leather stamped hang tags, to the luxurious smell and vibrant colors, these are special pieces.
I’ve had the pleasure of using a few of these wonderful bags over the last six months, and they have become family members, bags that I rely on and want to bring with me. Let’s dive into the world of Vermilyea Pelle.
If you’ve read any of my reviews before, you’ll know that I have a deep love affair with heritage materials and duffel/weekender bags. For whatever reason, they always resonate with me and I think that they’re damn good to look at. With this VP version, the aesthetics are off the charts, I don’t think that I’ve ever been complimented so much on a bag as I have when carrying this one.
A delightful marriage of heavy duty 37oz Heavy Wax Duck Tan Canvas from England, supple Sedgewick leather detailing and strap work, and heritage Pendleton wool, this bag has to be seen in person to be believed. Brass YKK #10 zippers adorn the closure and get smoother over time, as does the brass as it begins to take on a patina from your adventures. The same applies to the already antiqued brass hardware such as the snaps and shoulder strap attachment, and the hand hammered riveting. I’m going into such detail on the hardware here because it is what makes this such a luxurious item. If you follow VP on Instagram, Dustin often shares videos of the hand hammering, the stitching of the straps and all the work that goes into creating these bags. Bench made is never truer than with a bag like this from Vermilyea Pelle, this bag has been cared for long before it reaches the consumers hands. In a world of fast fashion and consumer demand, I’ve found that refreshing. I can picture Dustin sat at his bench, rain falling on autumn day, morphing the leather, wool, and brass into this harmonious combination that now sits before me. Maybe I’m a romantic, but I think that’s something special and worth celebrating. In my old life of prop making, I used to work with leather on occasion, and I always enjoyed it, even though it wasn’t my forte. To see this level of detail and accuracy is truly admirable.
As for the weekender itself, it’s that wonderful goldilocks size, not too big, not too small, just right. I’ve traveled all over the US with this bag over the last six months and it has been an excellent companion on quick weekend trips, and longer six day jaunts. The 20x10x12” dimensions give it an approximate value of 37-40L and I’ve found that to be true. It stomachs a lot of gear. I’ve packed boots, a wash bag, and days worth of clothes with room to spare on some trips, while I’ve been able to fill it to the brim on colder trips, and the canvas has a nice amount of give for when I need to fit in that extra jacket. The wide opening makes for easy access and quick packing/unpacking. The all leather base is already picking up that worn in style that only leather can and is a reminder of the adventures that this bag has been on.
It is a simple but elegant design, with two outer snap pockets that run the length of the bag and are the natural home for a magazine or kindle when traveling, while the interior is a cavernous opening with a small key loop at the top. Personally for weekenders I like this set up, I often travel with packing cubes and this format works for me as I can slip them in and out as I need. The adjustable leather strap is comfortable on the shoulder or across the body, and it is also removable if you’d like to run with the bag in hand by your side. The riveted grip won’t get lost and is comfortable for toting your bag around! The attention to detail, the wool and leather mix, along with the ease of use means that this bag will be traveling with me for years to come!
This bag smells amazing. It’s true! The Dark Snuff Regency Calf leather is a sensory experience in every way. It looks amazing, it smells delightful, and it feels hearty. This is the perfect everyday bag if you’re a streamlined traveler. I have used this as an “about town” bag, and it carries all that I need to work remotely when on the road or just for a change of scenery. Featuring the same heavy duty brass YKK #10 zipper as the weekender, this bag is a delightful throwback to days gone by, and you can imagine this sitting by the side of a river in the 1900’s, just as it performs well today over 100 years later.
This all leather field bag is good for someone like me, who is often prone to taking more stuff than necessary when I “pop out”. Maybe it’s the gear tester in me, or maybe it’s just that I have too many things, but the Field Bag forces you to be very intentional about what you take with you. This fits my 14” MacBook Pro or iPad Pro 12.9” in the sleeve, but as you first use it, be careful of that brass zipper! It’ll take a little time for the leather to soften and be out of the way. There are two interior pockets that are hearty enough to take a smaller pouch or organiser, and they are a great spot for your EDC too and one has the key loop hanging just above, so you keep all of your essentials in one spot. It’s rather narrow at 3.5”, but I haven’t found that to be an issue, as when you’re carrying a smaller bag like this, I like to keep things svelte. I’ve carried a laptop, a CAP2 organiser, a water bottle, and a smaller APS-C camera in here with no issues whatsoever.
The lid is home to two stud closures which are a joy to use and adjustable in length if you need to squeeze a jacket or something similar under the lid. Both the front and back of the Field Bag have slip pockets for magazines, books, or anything else similarly flat. You could use these for a tablet, but on the rear side it will be exposed to the elements. The attention to detail is apparent here as the rear pocket sits flush to the binding of the bag, so that you don’t have that “rub” against your back when carrying. A seemingly small detail that makes a huge difference in use. There are two D-rings which attach the adjustable shoulder strap, which conveniently fits into the rear pocket if you’re wanting to carry it by the grab handle.
My Field Bag is ageing wonderfully, the sumptuous leather is starting to get its own use creases, and becomes more supple each time that you use it. I can’t praise this bag highly enough, and there is a genuine excitement when it comes time to use it.
The third bag that I (and my wife!) have been using is the Hybrid Canvas & Leather Briefcase. If the field bag is a bit too small for you, or your laptop, this is the next logical option. Infact, it’s a little more geared to office/tech carry in general. Sporting a luxurious mix of heavy Olive Canvas and Rosewood Phoenix Leather, the briefcase is a striking and timeless design. It has a combination of useful features that make it a worthy office companion, with a larger laptop sleep that houses a 15” machine, three EDC organisation pockets (two wide, one slim) and a slightly deeper 4.5” width.
I found the briefcase to hold its shape very well, the partnership of canvas and leather providing a good balance between suppleness and structure, and it is one of the reasons my wife enjoyed using it for her work bag. Easy to grab the laptop on the move, without the bag flopping over too much. It stands on its own comfortably and is easy to dip in and out of with the extra width. Just as the weekend does, two external slips pockets are closed by an antiqued brass snap, while the handle also has a riveted grip to keep it comfortable in hand. The adjustable shoulder strap is attached to the bag by two d-rings, themselves on leather placketts on the side of the bag. The hybrid styling is a good halfway house for those who don’t want to commit fully one way or the other, and is equally eye catching and magnificent!
This feels like a love letter. It feels like one, because it is one. I am smitten with Vermillyea Pelle’s bags for a multitude of reasons, some of them are almost inexplicable, but most of them aren’t. These are handmade heirlooms, built from a lifelong passion, for you to enjoy and use. When you spend five minutes with one of these bags in your hand, and you pore over every small detail, it’s impossible not to be impressed with the quality, the attention to detail, and the materials. I love that Dustin’s website is rarely the same products, rather a progression of experimentation with different combinations of colours, materials, and styles. It’s refreshing and invigorating to see someone so adept at their craft being patient and intentional about what they create. I have a large bag collection, too large if I’m being completely honest. When people ask me what my favourite bags are, I often scuttle upstairs and gleefully bring these down to show them what a master craftsmen’s work looks like. Invariably, a smile creeps across their faces.
That isn’t sycophancy, rather a reflection of what I believe excellent carry can be. It can be more than a combination of materials, it can make you feel something worthwhile. For me, these Vermilyea Pelle bags make me happy. They make me happy thinking about Dustin making them, they make me happy using them, and they make me happy that they will live on in someone’s hands long after me. I’m not sure you can truly say that about many bags and I’ve no doubt that given the chance, they’ll do the same for you.