It seems a tad unfair to be reviewing Waterfield’s Daily Outback Tote in the height of summer. Mid-July on the East Coast is particularly unforgiving toward large, leather items. When the entire city seems to be melting, the last thing you want on your sweaty arm are two handles of thick, sumptuous hide.
But while the Outback may not be best when paired with seersucker, it would look incredible holding a thermos and a stadium blanket come fall. And an extra wool sweater. And an iPad. A few books, a picnic, and a pair of gloves, even. Oh, didn’t you know? The Outback can hold everything. It’s a contemporary interpretation of Mary Poppins’s carpet bag.
The construction of this bag is exquisite. Its vintage canvas is thick, stands up well, and can handle the occasional summer storm. As I continued to use the bag, the leather detailing, handles, and seat aged with perfection; the bag is actually more handsome now than when I first used it. (Waterfield bags have historically aged well, as seen in our review of their Indy satchel.) The gold nylon lining is a vibrant contrast to the “roving the urban wilds” exterior, inviting you to fill your bag with shiny tech; not least your iPad, for which there is a designated pocket. If need be, you can zip it up, roll the top, and strap the bag to the rack on the back of a bike. It sits well, doesn’t lump much, and holds tight.
To give you a perspective as to how much the Outback can hold, I filled it to the top, unzipped, with nineteen books. See for yourself. If you’re taking the Outback to a book sale, you’ll never have to worry about buying more than you can carry. You could feasibly fit an entire mini-vacation’s worth of activity in this bag, and look great while doing so.
I really could deem this section “The Less Good.” There isn’t a lot of bad to this bag. It couldn’t help the record-breaking heat wave on the East Coast last week. That said, unless you’re tossing it in the car for a trip away, or going “sailing”, as the Waterfield site suggests (I’m incredulous about the salt water component), then the Outback is more of a three-season bag. Once the temperature gets over 75 degrees, the term “hot mess” becomes far more literal and agitating. You will sweat with this bag if you take it out in summer. You may end up tanning the leather twice. The truth is any amount of leather and heavy canvas in the summer is going to feel excruciating. Save the Outback for winter, spring, or fall; this goes double for the Outback’s larger brother, the Weekender, which must be totally enormous.
If you have cause to zip up the bag, and zip it up quickly, you may find yourself frustrated with the one detail of the Outback that I did: this has one hell of an irritating zipper pull. While slightly over half an inch, the pull is coated in a slippery material that slid right out of my fingers every time I attempted to use it. This is a small detail, but one that can lead to a lot of flustered pulling (and cursing) every time you need to close the bag.
Niggling details and humidity aside, the Outback is a superb bag. It manages to look understated and unfettered; an oversized statement bag in disguise. This bag doesn’t make you look high-maintenance: it makes you look rugged, sexy, and cool. Now, if only summer would get itself over with, so I can use it again.
You can buy the Outback tote straight from the Waterfield site. It comes in two sizes: the Daily, reviewed above (13.75″ to 19″ x 14″ x 5.5″, $149), and the Weekender (18.5″ to 24″ x 13.5″ x 6″, $159). Made in San Francisco of fine materials, with a choice of leather trim.