Gear Review: Whiskey Leatherworks Blackfoot Duffle
Updated: Jan 13
If ever a product were made for a person, the Blackfoot Duffle was made for my buddy, Jon Osborn. An avid upland hunter, fly angler, pipe smoker, eloquent writer and lover of all things waxed canvas and leather, I was eager to get his take on this classic duffle.
Jon took to the field with his trusted English Setter, Winston to run this bag through it's paces and give us his thoughts. As expected, Ozzy delivers the goods. Enjoy
Overview: Certain subtleties get overlooked because they blend seamlessly with their surroundings. Think morel mushrooms and midge-sipping trout. Other familiarities, on the other hand, go unnoticed simply because they’re so commonplace. Take bags, for instance. They’re everywhere – in supermarkets, malls, and liquor stores. It’s easy to take them for granted but imagine juggling a peck of apples or a few dozen nails without one.
More on that in a moment, but first, a shallow swan dive into the murky waters of ancient history. “Otzi,” as the so-called “Tyrolean Iceman” is known, was a nomadic hunter-gatherer who roamed the Austrian Alps over 5000 years ago. When his mummified remains were discovered in the 1990s, archeologists unearthed a flint knife and the remnants of a leather satchel. That early bag held essential survival items such as a bone awl, hide scraper, and fire-starting kit, offering proof that even a primitive mind like Otzi’s understood the importance of a good bag.
Bags remain crucial for modern sportsmen, as well. Take bird hunters, for instance: Running an energetic pointing dog demands a mountain of gear: GPS trackers, e-collars, and battery chargers; tick pullers, mat breakers, skunk spray, and spare slip leads. And that’s barely scratching the surface. Either way, without the right bag, all this specialized (and expensive) equipment could easily become lost or damaged.
Lost, that is, without the proper bag…
Enter the “Blackfoot Duffle,” from Whiskey Leatherworks. Measuring a handy 10” x 20”, it’s the perfect size for the various odds and ends inherent to bird hunting, fly fishing, or whatever adventure awaits. “A place for everything, and everything in its place,” as Ben Franklin would have said.
What I like: Pretty much everything – from the style, function, and workmanship, to the overall size, color options (field tan, navy, charcoal), and the patina the fabric develops over time.
A quality product deserves a good backstory, and Blackfoot Duffle is no exception. The idea materialized as WLW co-owner Dan Earnest was floating down Montana’s famed Blackfoot river. That’s right, Norman MacClean’s home water; a region where a river runs through every facet of life; an ideal setting for creative epiphany.
His creative inspiration eventually evolved into a roomy, zippered sack with a trio of interior pockets and a pair of accessible exterior pouches; the perfect pack for an afternoon among the aspens, an evening on the water, or one of those nights around a bonfire that lingers long into sunrise.
Protection: The Blackfoot Duffle isn’t waterproof. But as the mantra goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. If waterproof is the goal, other materials, like natural gum-rubber, are better. But if durable water repellency with a side of rich patina is the focus, opt for waxed canvas. Every time.
Style: Even the ubiquitous grocery sack could serve as an impromptu gear bag in a pinch, but just because it could doesn’t mean it should. Think about it. Just as a fly reel’s main purpose is storing line, a vintage Orvis or Hardy seems so much more satisfying than any mass-produced reels. Likewise with the Blackfoot Duffle. Other bags could serve similar duty, but few carry the same moxie.
Durability: The term, “durable” is synonymous with certain materials. The Blackfoot Duffle incorporates bridle leather from the Wickett and Craig tannery, and waxed canvas from Fairfield Textiles. These materials were made to be run through the wringer – and come out looking even better on the other side.
Stitched to last and incorporating hand-pounded brass rivets and brass D-rings, the Blackfoot might be described as “bombproof,” but in the unlikely event something fails, Whiskey Leatherworks backs up the Blackfoot with a lifetime warranty.
What I Don’t Like:
Price: Cost is a relative concept, and while a decent fly rod priced at $350 sounds reasonable, a duffle bag for the same price somehow seems expensive. Fact is, hand-crafted goods from quality companies who treat their employees well, simply cost more. That’s just the truth. You can either accept it or keep telling yourself you’re getting a great deal by buying cheap, imported goods made in sweatshops.
Perfect For: An empty bag is possibility in purest form. The only questions are, what to stuff inside, and where to go with it all? That said, waxed canvas virtually cries to be used for hunting or fishing, which pretty much eliminates the Blackfoot as a Crossfitter’s gym bag or as a soccer mom’s shopping sack. And just because I use it for all my setter’s gear doesn’t mean it couldn’t serve as a fly angler’s gear duffle or an impromptu overnight bag.
Stars: 5 out of 5.