I love being outdoors and am a huge advocate of nature journaling and field sketching, so I carry sketching and watercolor supplies with me nearly everywhere. Recently I ran across the Etchr art satchel and field case combo and was highly intrigued, so I decided to field test Etchr and try out the combo for a review.
I've carried and used the Etchr combo for more than a month. During that time, I tested both products on two extended road trips and numerous plein air sessions. The satchel is currently sitting beside me, holding most of my watercolor and sketching supplies, as we plan and pack for an upcoming move.
Below, I share my experiences and my review of both the Etchr art satchel and Etchr field case along with how well each worked for me.
P.S. There's also an Etchr discount code AND an art supply giveaway. Happy World Watercolor Month! :)
The Looks of Etchr
Etchr Lab is the official name of the company, and this is one attractive company! The company name, the appearance of Etchr products, and even the product models are über cool. (Obviously that's not one of Etchr's models above. Just little ol' me.)
I usually avoid stereotypes, but if the hipster shoe fits your foot, you may love Etchr bags. When outfitted with a black Moleskin along with an iPad Pro and placed on a weathered woodgrain coffeehouse table, Etchr bags could be placed within the pages an overpriced Indie magazine.
Not that Etchr is pretentious. In fact, Etchr seems exactly the opposite. These are bags designed for heavy duty use, mainly by starving artists and creatives. (Probably for rich artists also, but I've never met one of those.)
But yeah, Etchr looks good. The bags have a restrained elegance that keeps their superpowers just under the surface. I didn’t even noticed a lot of the details until I had used the combo for a while—the double layer of elastic on many of the organizers, the attachable webbing up the shoulder strap, and so many more thoughtful design details that are too numerous to list.
Etchr is high function wrapped in understated elegance. Find out more about Etchr Lab and the backstory at Etchr's website.
The Price of Etchr
Depending upon what you can afford and/or usually spend, Etchr bags may or may not seem expensive. For example, if you carry a Prada purse, Etchr will seem downright cheap. If you carry a thrift store JanSport pack, Etchr’s prices may seem outrageous.
At first, I found it hard to bite off the price of the combo plus international shipping for an unknown product. (If you live in a well populated area, I highly recommend seeking out an Etchr owner and asking them if you can buy them a latte while you take a look at their bag.)
When the shipment arrived from Hong Kong (just so you know), I was relieved to discover that Etchr’s products are well made. Because of this, I believe Etchr can be worth the cost if the setup and load will work for you.
First Impressions of the Etchr Satchel & Field Case
After the bags arrived and my Etchr ogling subsided (that took a little while), I immediately noticed the weight. Stripped clean, the Art Satchel weighs just under 4 pounds or 2 kilograms. With all of the accessories and straps added, it tops 5 pounds. If the Field Case (10 ounces solo or 13 ounces with the strap) is attached to the satchel, the combo hits close to 6 pounds. And this is before adding in any supplies.
I’m a light to mid-weight backpacker, more closely associated with hiker trash than urbanite messenger. If I’m going to carry weight, I want the weight to come from useful tools instead of my pack.
Etchr is aware that the satchel is weighty, more so than their original prototype, so they're testing ways to reduce the overall weight without compromising the bag's usage and durability. In the meantime, Etchr has introduced the Slate and Slate Mini for those who want a lighter or more compact EDC.
When filled with my watercolor supplies, the field case is about 1.5 pounds with no strap. If I add the strap, stick in a pencil, two fountain pens, an eraser, and a few scraps of watercolor paper as shown above, the field kit is maxed out with its carrying capacity and weighs in at 2 lbs.
Definitely lighter than the satchel for a plein air painting session but weighty for its size and very minimalistic. I still need a water solution (I don't care for water brushes) and I'd prefer larger paper or a sketchbook, and maybe a ruler or other supplies. So there's that.
I have shoulder and back issues so I greatly prefer backpacks to messenger or shoulder bags, but the Etchr bags aren't really designed as backpacks. The satchel is blocky and the side access makes it nearly impossible to pack items correctly for backpack carry. The straps lack curvature that is common to most mid-weight packs and there's no ventilation. There’s a small amount of padded mesh on the back panel, but it’s not enough to be an aid in warmer temps.
Regardless of the weight and the satchel not working for me as a backpack, I loved Etchr's organization system so much that I decided to load it all up and take both bags for a test drive.
Review of the Etchr Satchel & Field Case
I have really enjoyed using both the Etchr satchel and field case. I think the best way to review these products is to list the top three things that I love about Etchr along with the top three things that I don't. Of course, every artist is different and may have different experiences with Etchr but in no particular order, here's my list.
Lotsa Love #1: Functional design details.
Swivel hooks on the shoulder straps, removable attachments that make reorganization a snap, velcro tabs to hold extra strapping, the MOLLE webbing that's hidden in useful places... this is the stuff that bag aficionados like me totally geek out on. Little details like these showcase the brilliancy of the Etchr design team.
Lotsa Love #2: Study mode.
This is my favorite way (and it eventually became my only way) to use the Etchr satchel. In study mode, the satchel worked as a portable tool chest and kept all of my supplies easily accessible. Yet throughout dozens of hours of travel and plenty of baggage shifts and drops (I'm kinda clumsy), my supplies stayed safely and securely in place.
Lotsa Love #3: Loads of accessories.
Many times I left the heavy satchel behind and just used the accessories by themselves or along with the field case. I'm a bag hacker by nature, but Etchr makes products that beg to be hacked. There’s just too much goodie here—straps, velcro, detachable parts—to leave it alone. And I'm pretty sure tactical accessories like this one and this one will attach to the inside of the satchel. Yep, totally addicted to hacking this bag!
Not a Lotsa Love #1: The carry.
I've pretty much covered the weight issue and the fact that the satchel doesn't work for me as a backpack. Maybe I should have ordered the slimmer and lighter Slate or Slate Mini, but the satchel has additional storage that is useful so that's something to consider.
Not a Lotsa Love #2: Sling mode.
I know many artists love Etchr bags in sling mode, but the surface is just too close to my body and too small for the way I work. Sling mode also blocks access to most of my tools which is frustrating. Plus, it's hard to paint with a bulky 10-pound desk sticking out from my torso!
Not a Lotsa Love #3: Deep pockets.
Etchr bags only have a few pockets so deep and narrow that they're nearly useless, but there are enough for me notice. An extra stitch to make those pockets more shallow (or divide the mesh one, pictured right, into two) would have kept me from constantly fishing for tiny tools. I gave up and quit using those pockets for anything that would require me to be a contortionist.
Etchr Satchel & Field Case Overview
There's no doubt that a lot of thought and planning were put into the design of the Etchr satchel and field case. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the satchel's organization is unlimited, but it’s a heavy bag that struggles with bulky items like binoculars and water bottles. Even the field case is heavy for its size.
For me, the satchel and field case combo worked best for longer outings or car travels when walking was minimal and I wanted or needed a lot of supplies. Used as a portable toolkit, the combo was absolutely flawless. It kept everything secure, protected, and also made me appear way cooler than I actually am. When traveling, I enjoyed having the detachable field case to carry separately, when desired.
Besides the weight, it’s hard to find too much wrong with either the Etchr art satchel or the field case. Both are well made machines, but they’re not cheap machines so it’s worthwhile to consider how your well made machine likes to operate before placing an order.
SJ Exclusive: Etchr Lab Discount Code!
Etchr has graciously shared a generous 10-percent discount code with SJ readers that's good for your entire purchase from now through July 31, 2018. Enjoy & happy sketching! :)
Enter code SMJTAKE10 at checkout.
Celebrating World Watercolor Month: Giveaway #2 [CLOSED]
I want to thank Etchr for their unwavering commitment and their dedication to supporting artists and other creatives. I hope you'll be able to use the discount code to discover an Etchr setup that works for you.
As we celebrate World Watercolor Month, I'm giving away some wonderful tools to put inside your Etchr bag. Enter for a chance to win the art supplies in the photo including a Hahnemühle Watercolour Book and Travel Booklet, my Da Vinci 8-color watercolor palette in a handy travel tin, a SJ hat to keep you cool while sketching, a Cheap Joe's sable travel brush, and a fun SJ sticker.
How to enter:
This giveaway is open to legal residents of the U.S. age 18+ with a valid U.S. shipping address. Enter only once from July 6-9, 2018, using the Rafflecopter entry below. Just follow the prompts for each entry. (Complete giveaway rules & policies are located here.)
How to know if you've won:
A winner will be randomly chosen and notified via entry email within 24 hours after the giveaway ends. Winner must respond within 48 hours or another winner will be chosen.