Review: My Cambridge Satchel, 7 Months Later

I’ve had my ruby red 15″ Cambridge Batchel (it’s not a satchel because it has a handle on the top) for almost seven months and I thought it might be worthwhile to offer up a review of the bag now that I’ve broken it in a bit and dragged it through a handful of European cities.

Design

I love the design of this bag. It’s simple and incredibly functional. It’s the perfect size to carry everything I need for a day out exploring or if I’m heading to a meeting. My 13″ Macbook Air fits perfectly, along with the charger, my wallet, notebook, make-up bag, umbrella, phone and sunglasses. And my crazy but necessary assortment of lip-balms and creams.

Obviously if I had to bring more paperwork, or, well, anything else, I would need more space. And it does get a bit heavy to carry around with all of the above. If you’re someone who needs to carry around more than that for long periods of time, this bag might not be the one for you. For instance, it is not the ideal carry-on. It really was designed as a book bag for students.

Wear and Tear

The Cambridge Satchel Company uses really nice leather for their bags. It’s durable and strong, and can withstand day-to-day abuse, I mean, use. While I was hoping that the bag would break in a bit faster (it’s still really rigid), I’m happy with how it’s held up. The edges are starting to get a bit frayed and have darkened, but that doesn’t take away from the look. I think it’s going to take a long time before this bag looks weathered.

Handle/Strap

I use the shoulder strap most of the time because I’m a hands-free kind of gal. I do find that the strap is a bit too long, even buckled to the shortest setting. Nothing I can’t MacGyver. The other issue I have with the strap is that the extra slack just hangs loosely. If only CSC had thought to put a little loop on the other end of the buckle to keep it from flapping in the wind!

Since my bag is the Batchel version, I have the luxury of carrying it by the top handle as well, which is great if I’m in a crowded area, or wanting to make it look more like a briefcase. I would highly recommend spending the extra £11 for this feature.

And I should mention that the enclosures on this bag are not easy to fasten/unfasten. I usually have one or both undone because I’m a bit lazy, which makes me a pick-pocket’s dream.

Colour

My biggest beef with this bag is that the colour transfers. This is a cautionary tale for those of you looking to get one of the coloured leather bags – I now have red splotches on everything from my ear buds to my notebooks, and even on the back of my laptop. Just last week I realized that the colour had come off on my favourite beige trench coat. Not cool CSC! I imagine that all the other colours would do exactly the same thing, aside from the natural brown.

Obviously this is something I should have anticipated, but  CSC should include a little note about the potential for colour transfer with the bags.  My coat is at the cleaners; fingers crossed the dye comes out.

Overall

Despite some of the above criticisms, I do love this bag. It has served me well over the past few months in Europe, and I’m sure will continue to be my go-to bag for travelling. That said, I do wish I had it in more colours. The red is lovely, but sometimes it would be nice to have it in yellow, or one of the metallic Comme des Garçons versions.

If only money grew on trees, mes amies!

My bag came from Cambridge Satchel Company directly, and yes, I had to wait two months for it to arrive. If you’re in Toronto you can buy them at Holt Renfrew, Philistine, and A2zane. In France, there’s only one store that sells ‘em and it’s right here in Lyon – Fluxus. If you want to request a specific colour or style, get in touch with Anne Laure and she can place a custom order for you.

More on Fluxus coming up!

Top photo via Davida Aronovitch

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Comments

  1. argone says:

    Intéressant de voir ton avis après quelques mois d’utilisation ! merci !

  2. Al says:

    I’m so depressed now that you mentioned the colour transfers. I’m in love with the red batchel and contemplating to get a purple one too. But if the colour do transfer, then I’m not so sure if it’s worth it because I wear white most of the time. Did any other user complain on the same thing? Do advise :)

    P/s: Btw, AMAZING review! So comprehensive (Y)

    • Thanks! I’m thrilled it was helpful to you. I went looking for other reviews about the colour transfer issues, but didn’t find a useful one. Hence, why I wrote this. But don’t be depressed – it’s still a great bag. I would definitely advise against mixing it with light coloured clothing, but not against buying one. Bon chance!

  3. Maryam says:

    Thank you, this is a great review..
    I was wondering if you had to pay for customs duty when you ordered it from the CSC website. If you did, around how much is it?
    Do you think this is handy for school? I usually take a single notebook, my 13″ macbook and a wallet.

    • Hi Maryam, My husband was the one who ordered it for me and he doesn’t remember having to pay customs fees, but it’s possible that he did. If he had, it probably would have been in the ballpark of $20-$30 CAD. And yes, this is a good bag for school, so long as you don’t have too many books. It does get heavy, but if you can handle that and you don’t wear light colours, you should be just fine.

      I say go for it!

      • Maryam says:

        Thank you so much!! I ordered the bag and it arrived already!! I LOVE it!!! its beautiful and I got so many compliments on it!!

  4. Hmmm says:

    Check out “The leather satchel” company, a company that started in the 1960s and got copied by Julie from Cambridge Satchel.

  5. I hate that the color wore off. Total turn off for me :(

  6. Beth says:

    Hi, I have a 13″ macbook pro and I was going to get the 14″ inch classic satchel from CSC. Did you find that your laptop just fit into the 15″?

    • That might be a tight fit. As I mentioned the colour transfers, so you will want to put a case or something around your laptop. I use a padded envelope (they’re perfect!) and it fits nicely into my 15″ Batchel. Hope that helps!

  7. Barbara says:

    Hey! Just wondering- I have a 13″ Macbook pro and I use a sleeve as well. Will that fit easily into this 15″ Batchel?

  8. Aleks says:

    Hi Jenna!
    thanks for the review! I have been dreaming about the red batchel for quite some time and now found out there are other companies on the market that make the original satchels: Leather Satchel Company and Bohemia design from UK have them also (and about $50 cheaper). Have you heard anything about the other 2 companies to compare against The Cambridge Satchel?
    And now the staining scares me the most. I loooove the red one (and that would be the only color I would get) but put together with my yellow coat sounds like a disaster bound to happen…
    Well, considering how much shipping is to the US (and possible customs fees), I will have to look more into this purchase.
    If you know or find anything on the other companies, I would appreciate your input.
    Thanks!

  9. m says:

    I have a 13″ macbook air. Do you think my macbook air will fit a 13″ cambridge satchel?

    • I think that’s more a question for CSC. My 13″ fits nicely in the 15″ Batchel, but I have a feeling it would be a tight fit for the 13″. And keep in mind that the colour transfers, you definitely wouldn’t have room for it in with a sleeve. But hopefully CSC can give you a response on that one!

    • amyvsings says:

      I have a 13″ macbook and it doesn’t fit in my 13″ satchel. It is just a tiny bit too big. I think the 13″ measurement on the satchels is the outside measurement and you loose about half an inch on the inside. If I were you I would go with the 15″. You’ll love this bag!!!

  10. anonymous says:

    do you think an 11′ macbook air would fit in the 13 cambridge satchel bag? i’d really appreciate if you answered this. thanks!

    • I think that’s more a question for CSC. My 13″ fits nicely in the 15″ Batchel with a bit of room on the sides, so I don’t see why the 11″ wouldn’t fit in the 13″! But hopefully CSC can give you a better response on that one. Good luck!

    • amyvsings says:

      I have the 13″ satchel and YES, I am confident that an 11″ laptop would fit easily. :-)

  11. anonymous says:

    thanks for replying, and yes the proportions are similar and hopefully it fits snugly (does that even make sense?) i’ll ask CSC. thank you so much though!

  12. Em says:

    Hi! Great review – thanks :-) it inspired me to order a batchel from ASOS – it should be with me tomorrow!

    I was just wondering, regarding the colour transfer issue, did you use any kind of leather protector spray / cream when you first got your bag? As someone who has never had a leather bag I don’t really know what I’m talking about, but I wonder if the protector spray could help to prevent the colour transfer? Any ideas?

    Thanks again

    x

    • I didn’t use leather spray because there were no instructions from CSC to do so. I’m not sure if that would have made a huge difference with the colour transfer. The only real solution I found was to not wear light colours while using the bag. Not ideal, but it works ;)

  13. Michelle says:

    where can you buy them in a Toronto mall?

  14. amyvsings says:

    You can get them in the U.S. on http://www.modcloth.com they have several to choose from and the shipping is fairly quick. I received mine in a week. Plus you pay in US dollars. I haven’t had the problem of color transfer yet, but I got the black croc 13″ satchel and I wear a lot of black shirts so maybe it just isn’t showing…definitely doesn’t break in quickly, but at least we know it will last and is worth the money! Check it out!

  15. Iv says:

    Hi! I’m totally excited to get one for my birthday! Can you pretty please ask your husband how much he paid for customs duties? Thanks!!!

  16. Asma R. says:

    Thank you for the great review! Im planning to get one in red too. Hopefully!

  17. Caroline says:

    Does anyone know how well a 13″ macbook air fits in a 14″ satchel? With or without a sleeve?

  18. Tiny one says:

    Hi guys, I received my 15″ black satchel today, I ordered it directly from the cambridge satchel company,there was a free shipping promo and I did not pay any custom fee, super happy, I bought it mostly for the style and quality, it looks very sturdy and I believe I can have it forever:)

  19. Anonymous says:

    I have had my yellow batchel for almost a year now!:) I LOVE it I must admit! I have never had any trouble with colour transfer, but maybe that’s because it’s light:) I use mine for school and it has had a bit of a bashing, but still looking good! ( trust me, I have TONNES of books in it!) the leather is VERY good quality, although there are cracks in the paint on the straps. The handle is a very nice edition too, and I wouldn’t have brought the bag without it as it looks nicer IMO:) only one problem…… Yesterday the metal buckle on the strap snapped in half on my way to class:,( I was only doing a semi jog, but when it happened i just thought that the strap had come undone and realised to my horror later on that it was much worse:( I don’t think I have heard of anyone else having this problem, but it was slightly disappointing. Will have to take it to a saddler:( Other wise, this bag is highly recommended!:)

    P.s nice review :)

  20. Anonymous says:

    Oh yeah I meant the buckle on the arm strap:)

  21. Meghan says:

    Great review. May I ask how tall you are?

    I just ordered an oxblood batchel and am worried that the straps will be too long (even on the shortest hole).

    I am 5.7

    Not sure if it was worth spending the extra money to have the company shorten the straps.

  22. Joey says:

    Hi I am about 5 feet and I am wondering would the 15inch be too big for me? Or should I go for the 14inch? Wanting to put my 13inch laptop or some notes in for lectures

  23. Iason says:

    Thank you so much for this awesome review and I am sorry for my rusty english, I am Greek so please show some sympathy!I have to tell you that your review was the last straw for stoping waiting and buy this magnificent bag! Of course and I thought as everyone else that the color transfer wouldn’t happen to me! Ridicules ideaaaaa! I purchased the color block batchel ( chianti, navy, vintage) and for some time I couldn’t carry it around with me because of the strap which was colored chianti! It was destroying almost every clothing that I was wearing so I send an email CSC by asking what I could do to stop this thing! The respond was so fast even during summer ( august 17) that I couldn’t believe it! The polite lady told me to use the color stop spray from colonill! And I also purchased the water stop spray from colonill as well! And……… Music please…….. The color transfer stopped from inside as well! I am carrying it with white t shirts or pants and nothing happens! You can’t tell that the bag
    Was sprayed in any way and I don’t have to be careful when it rains because trust me London and my home city have the exact same weather! You have to be careful with these two sprays though, use them by having 30 cm distance from the bag and let it dry! Make 2 uses for the strap and 1-2 at the inside compartment! And afterwards use the water stop to secure the color stop layers! 2 to 3 uses, and remember to wait 20 minutes between uses! I hope that i helped you, because I know that this bag needs to be shown in any way, and its pity to not be able of carrying it!

  24. Elena Galea says:

    I got a red Cambridge satchel last week and confirm that it stains clothes, and the contents, like computer cases or wallets in light color or fabric.

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