Having a really cool bag to carry your stuff in can make all the difference between a good day and a bad day.
I have more than a few cool leather bags, but Cravar is something else. Not a lot of people are aware of them stateside because they don’t have a huge advertising budget, and because they’re 100% owned and handmade in Indonesia. But they’ve carved out their place among enthusiasts because this company makes seriously sexy, masculine leather bags that turn heads without being ostentatious.
Cravar is top of the line. This bag is made of vegetable-tanned leather with no breakable parts and a lifetime guarantee, and it comes at a pretty affordable price.
So we’re going to check out their most popular bag, F.C. 15, in detail. I’ll go over the leather, the construction, the features, and the price.
Cravar, the Brand
Cravar was founded by photographer Yoki Baskara. He studied politics in Bandung, where a lot of my Indonesian boots are made, then went to the Netherlands to study finance. When he was backpacking around Italy, he encountered an old family-owned stationery shop that made leather-bound albums and tote bags. This event inspired him to one day launch his own bag company.
In 2013 he did exactly that with a successful Kickstarter that led to the birth of the Alpha briefcase. The Alpha is more of a classic briefcase without the pockets you see on the front of my F.C. 15, which is so popular that it accounts for 40% of Craver’s sales. Let’s check out the leather on this versatile half-messenger bag, half-satchel, half-briefcase, half-postman bag.
Cravar F.C.15’s Leather
- 2mm thick
- Vegetable tanned in pits
- Made over 2.5 months in Yogyakarta
- Quite smooth
It would have been easier for Yoki to purchase the leather from an established tannery in the US or Italy, but he wanted the finished goods to be as Indonesian as possible.
What does it mean to be as Indonesian as possible? Well, he designed the leather himself with a buddy of his who owns Amerta Leather, a tennery that uses hides locally sourced in Yogyakarta. (Fun fact: it’s the only Indonesian city still ruled by a monarchy.)
Now, Yoki didn’t want any old leather or any old vegetable-tanned leather — Cravar’s leather is pit tanned. As the name implies, the process uses a series of tanning pits: the leather goes from one to the next, going from lower to a higher concentration of the barks and extracts that tan the leather. Chrome tanning takes a day, but this process takes about two-and-a-half months; pit tanning is a really old-fashioned way of making leather and Amerta used processes was inspired by ancient tanneries in the UK and Sweden. Yoki had to persuade Amerta to set up this entire process, so the leather is not only very Indonesian and very old-fashioned, but also very Cravar. It’s made specifically for them.
The result is this beautiful 2mm-thick leather that, unlike the chrome tanned bags I’ve looked at from Saddleback and Kodiak Leather, it doesn’t have a lot of pull up to it — the color doesn’t change throughout the leather, rather it has a sensible, smooth, not crazy rugged appearance. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t tough: veg tanned leather is super tough will age beautifully.
[Related: Chrome Vs Vegetable Tanning]
Cravar F.C.15’s Features
- 15.75″ x 12″ x 4.15″
- 2 load bearing body, stud-secured straps
- 2 front pockets, 1 external sleeve
- Single pieces of leather wherever possible
- Fits onto travel bag
This is a versatile, everyday bag that’s inspired by classic leather messenger field bags. The first thing you probably noticed is the two pockets on the front here, a substantial size for a phone or a book.
Then there are the snazzy body straps that encircle the bag, which provide a load-bearing structure and are secured with studs that are easy to open but never come undone. There are two ways to close your bag. You can use only the brass studs for fast access, and you can slip them under the leather strap for extra security.
Single Pieces of Leather
The load-bearing straps are each one piece of leather, not scraps glued together, as you often see on cheap bags. Indeed, the bag uses one piece of leather wherever possible. For cheap bags like Kodiak, you’ll get a lot of ugly stitching down the middle of them, but Cravar uses single pieces on the back, on the flap, on the front — even the front pockets are actually one long piece of leather, strategically stitched to make two compartments.
Great bags have rivets at the stress points for maximum durability, and this bag has tons of them. You find rivets on the handle, between the pockets, and on the shoulder strap.
Note also that there are no magnets, no zippers, no buttons, nothing breakable. It’s also an unusually quiet bag. Plenty of competitors, like the bridle ring-laced Saddleback Briefcase, jangle incessantly when they’re in use. With Cravar, metal never touches metal unless it’s with a buckle — even the shoulder straps are attached to the bag with a belt buckle instead of a carabiner. It makes it a little more cumbersome to detach and reattach, but many guys consider that to be a minor issue because they’re so tired of noisy bags.
[Looking for something dressier? See our review of Cravar’s C.O. 15]
The inside is pretty simple: there’s a small pocket on the front wall and one large compartment — no laptop sleeve, unfortunately — and the whole interior is lined with this really sexy burgundy fabric. It’s about as stylish as you can get without venturing into over-the-top territory.
One potentially controversial thing about this bag is that the lining is not canvas. It’s made of a material called Sunbrella, which is acrylic fiber, a type of synthetic material.
But Sunbrella has some advantages: It is lighter than canvas, it’s similarly water-resistant, it doesn’t pill, and it’s very easy to clean. And unlike polyester lining, Sunbrella behaves like canvas. It stays against its backing, and you don’t get air pockets.
[Related: The Best Waxed Canvas Backpacks]
The edges are rolled, which is very labor-intensive, and even when they’re not rolled, like on the pockets, they’re not raw. They’re not untreated and messy. The edges are finished with beeswax, which tidies them up, flattens them out, and keeps them from getting fuzzy over time.
This brings me to the weirdness of the handle. It doesn’t stick out on top of the bag, it juts out to the side. For many guys, the handle being on the back is a downside because when you carry it, the bag dangles sideways and bangs into your leg.
However, the top flap of the bag perfectly seals the main compartment, and a handle on top of the bag would break the round line of the bag and mess with that lovely seal. If you would rather have a handle on top, or if you don’t like the lack of laptop sleeve in the F.C. 15, both issues are solved with the Rana bag, although this F.C. bag is much more popular.
Cravar F.C.15’s Price
$399, including shipping.
You might be thinking that this isn’t jaw droppingly expensive, but if this were made in the US it’d be well over 500 bucks. So while it’s not a fraction of the cost, it is still a very good buy, plus unlike Indonesian boots, you don’t have to wait months and months for the product to be made.
If you want something a little cheaper, by the way, you can get this bag in waxed twill for $255, and the F.C. series comes in smaller sizes too. The F.C. 13 is 13 inches long and costs $359. The F.C. 11 is $329. You can check them all out at the link below.
Cravar F.C. 15 Pros & Cons
- Great value
- Unique design
- Beautiful veg tanned leather
- No breakable parts
- Finished edges
- Lifetime guarantee
- Water resistant closure system
- No laptop sleeve
- Some guys prefer canvas to Sunbrella
- Handle isn’t on top
This is just the most beautiful bag. It’s innovative but traditional, gorgeous but masculine, and has a nice amount of pockets. It doesn’t have any dividers inside like a lot of bags have, so you can just use this bag to carry anything.
The lining is cool. I know it’s not canvas, but it looks sexy as all hell, and it’s as water-resistant as canvas, and it’s easier to clean.
A big, big deal is that this is vegetable-tanned leather. Many purists only get veg-tanned leather because it’s better on the fibers. It’s longer-lasting. Many believe it ages better. The edges are rolled or finished with beeswax, and that’s a priority for aesthetics and longevity for many guys. And the leather was designed by and for Cravar, nobody else.
The hardware’s all 100% brass, which gives it this nice, almost antique look to it, and there are no breakable parts, no metal touching metal, so it’s nice and quiet to boot.
It’s made with nylon 6.6 thread. You don’t want cotton for leather bags; you want nylon-like this, and there’s a lifetime guarantee. The articulated shoulder strap is really comfy. The bag can be attached to your luggage easily. It’s ultra water resistant.
It’s just really well constructed. It’s got the ruggedness of Saddleback and the clean lines of dressier bags. It’s easy to use as an everyday or a formal bag, and it’s just the right amount of daring for both situations.