PRICING NOTE: Huckberry has some of these in stock and they’re included in the currently running 15% off sale. Which is extra nice, being that Filson themselves are out of stock at present. Sale at Huckberry ends tomorrow, Thursday 11/16/23.
About the Author: Adam Terry is a thirtysomething salesman in the construction industry. He enjoys whiskey, watches, boots/shoes, and working on his
dad bod father figure.
Filson has been around since the late nineteenth century and is best known for being one of the better expedition outfitters. They supplied clothing, tools, and camp goods to a variety of explorers, hunters, anglers, and those who braved the wild (and usually freezing cold) conditions out west to earn a healthy paycheck doing what most cannot or will not do. I’m not much of a hunter or angler, and I’ve never worked in the firefighting or logging industries, but I do fancy well-made goods and have purchased quite a few things from Filson over the past decade or more. Some of my favorites include their Mackinaw Wool Cruiser jackets and merino wool tees.
Today we’re taking a look at Filson’s Dryden Ballistic Nylon Briefcase that originally hit the market around 2019. While I own several of their classic Rugged Twill bags and have been using a Dryden backpack for the past three years, I’ve never handled their Dryden briefcase in person. So, today we’re going to give it the Dappered review treatment to see how it stacks up.
The definition of a “smart casual” rugged-briefcase.
Lightly structured, fabric body, leather accents.
The Adam Review Scale of Excellence (A.R.S.E.)
- 5 – Outstanding! Very nice and well worth the price of admission. Highly recommended.
- 4 – Very satisfactory. Above average, may have very minor issues but still worth it.
- 3 – Satisfactory. Average at best. May have notable issues, may be OK for some.
- 2 – Unsatisfactory. Below average due to defects, flaws, or other imperfections.
- 1 – Poor. Significant issues, not worth purchasing at any price. Avoid!
- Brand: Filson
- Style: Messenger/Laptop Briefcase
- Size: 14L
- Materials: 1000D Cordura Ballistic Nylon
- Details: Nylon lining, bridle leather carry handles and zipper pulls
- Extras: Nylon and bridle leather shoulder strap with metal carabiner clips
- Country of Origin: Vietnam
- Price: $195
Not made in the USA like their Original Briefcase,
but the zippers, pulls, and overall build quality is still “Filson-solid.”
My Filson briefcase was ordered through Huckberry’s site on a Wednesday afternoon. It shipped out the following business day via UPS Next Day Air Saver and was delivered on Friday afternoon. I consider myself pretty lucky that I live within a day of Huckberry’s Ohio-based warehouse, but I was surprised to see them ship my package Next Day Saver.
FYI: Huckberry’s return policy is among the best in the online retailer industry these days. They offer free domestic shipping on all orders over $98 and free international shipping on orders over $198. Returns are free on most items within 30 days and during the holidays, they extend the return window through January 31st of the following year to ensure you love your gifts.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Huckberry is simply easy to do business with. A+ experience.
Pockets and places for all of the things.
This briefcase arrived in a simple brown cardboard box from Huckberry. Inside, there was the typical Huckberry post card with their business policies and a little Huckberry tree sticker. The bag itself was wrapped in a blue plastic wrap and the bridle leather handles were individually wrapped in clear plastic to help cut down on damage during transit. While this unboxing experience didn’t blow my socks off, this isn’t necessarily a luxury product and you can’t dock points from Huckberry for effectively delivering the briefcase how Filson would package it.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Simple, effective. Won’t knock your socks off, but it’s a nylon briefcase.
Fresh out of the box (and plastic bag), the Dryden briefcase looks and feels great. Filson calls this color Otter Green. While I’ve never met a green otter, I think this shade is definitely in the outdoorsy, earthy color palette and should pair well with other warm, neutral colors like navy blues, khaki tans, coffee browns, and “that one Patagonia jacket” greys. Style wise, I think this bag’s overall design and silhouette is ruggedly refined and very handsome. In a world full of dull black and grey tech-focused travel bags, this briefcase is a breath of fresh, mountain air. It’s going to look right at home in a wide variety of casual, semi-casual, and smart casual outfits ranging from a button-down shirt and chinos to a flannel shirt and jeans for casual Fridays. While I wouldn’t personally carry this bag with a business suit, you could make it work if you’re a fan of casual suiting cut from more rugged fabrics like tweed, corduroy, or flannel.
19th century brand (founded 1897) handling 21st century technology.
Laptop sleeve fits laptops up to 15”
Design wise, this is a slimmer briefcase or messenger-style bag and looks to be a solid choice to hold all of your everyday carry essentials. One thing I found immediately apparent was its weight. If you’re used to carrying a hard sided leather briefcase or a heavy tech/nylon fabric bag, you will notice that this Dryden bag is much lighter in the hand. It does not feel cheaply made or inadequate, but it’s significantly lighter than my Filson Original Briefcase (#256) in their heavy duty Rugged Twill. While it might not feel like it, Filson chose to use a thicker, more densely woven line of Cordura’s ballistic nylon fabric that weighs in at a mighty 1000D. My motorcycle crash jacket from Klim is also made from 1000D Cordura, so you can bet your biscuits that this fabric is easily tough enough for a briefcase that will rarely experience anything harsher than your monotonous daily trip to and from campus or the office.
The case itself is lighter in weight, yet it uses 1000D ballistic nylon.
It’s tough, water repellent, and UV resistant.
Fun fact: the D stands for denier, or the measure of the yarn’s density based on the individual threads or filaments used in its construction. So, fabrics with a higher denier are typically made from yarns that are thicker, sturdier, and more durable. For example, a human hair is typically 20D, most silks are typically 1D, and anything less than 1D is considered to be a microfiber. This special synthetic fabric is made from densely woven 6,6 nylon (not the thinner, less expensive polyester) and happens to be water repellent, as well as abrasion and UV resistant.
Back to the briefcase, you will notice that it has two large bridle leather handles – we’ll get to those later because they’re pretty comfortable in the hand. The leather accents help elevate this bag’s style. You will also see that this bag has two square front pockets, one horizontal rear pocket with an integrated luggage trolley strap, and one large central compartment. Starting with the front left pocket, you open it by grasping a large, non-YKK brand metal zipper in a complimentary warm bronze color or the zipper’s bridle leather pull tab. Unzipping this front left pocket exposes a few slots for pens or markers, as well as a large open space to store your wallet, passport, travel snacks to keep you from getting hangry, etc. The front right pocket unzips to unveil one medium size slot that can hold a charger brick, cables, or a travel mouse. Again, this pocket is large enough to hold a few more electronics or a few 12 oz soda cans.
3¾” thick. Not cumbersome. Lots of options inside for organizing.
Unzipping the central compartment gets you an all access pass to the laptop storage zone at the back, the cavernous storage space in the middle, one open top stash slot, and one zippered mesh slot. The padded rear laptop compartment is large enough to fit a 16” laptop and the velcro strap helps keep it secure during your commute. The central storage space is fairly large considering how thin the briefcase is overall. This space can easily handle your plethora of chargers, a pair of three-ring binders, several spiral notebooks or legal pads, a pair of over-the-ear headphones, and possibly even a water bottle or compact umbrella. Finally, you have the one open top slot that’s wide enough to fit a small Moleskine-type notebook and the zippered mesh slot that’s large enough to store your wireless earbuds or your lunch money.
Integrated luggage trolly strap for those who travel for work.
Around back, the rear zippered compartment is perfectly sized for travel documents such as physical airplane tickets, passports, sticky notes, or any item that’s thin and relatively short. The trolley strap here easily slides over the top of your rolling suitcase handle while traveling. This bag does come with a 2” wide, adjustable nylon webbed shoulder strap with bridle leather accents, but aside from the warm bronze metal carabiner clips, it’s a fairly basic strap. If I were to use this bag long term, I’d invest in Filson’s bridle leather shoulder strap for ~$125ish USD.
Score: 5/5 Stars – This bag is cut from high quality Cordura nylon and has ample space.
In terms of fit and sizing, this briefcase easily fits a 16” Macbook Pro and a 15” Microsoft Surface Laptop in its padded laptop compartment. For sizing, the central compartment is roughly 16 inches wide, 12 inches tall, and a little over three inches thick/deep. Plenty of room.
Built to handle light AND heavy loads. Doesn’t pull or sag when loaded up.
For reference, I usually carry a classic Filson Original Briefcase in their heavy duty Rugged Twill or the Filson Dryden backpack depending on what they day’s loadout demands. I believe that the Original Briefcase is more rugged and better constructed, but it’s significantly heavier than this Dryden bag. Unloaded, my Original Briefcase in Rugged Twill weighs in at over three pounds, but the Dryden Briefcase in Cordura nylon weighs in at a svelte and tidy two pounds.
Comfort is always subjective, but I find that the bridle leather handles feel great in the hand. They’re stitched to the bag in such a way that the leather twists to lay flat in your hand, which is an improvement over cheaper canvas or polyester tote bags. When you add in a laptop and all of your usual accoutrement, the bag feels like it’s built to handle the extra weight; it doesn’t pull, sag, or look like you’re trying to carry three one-gallon milk jugs in one plastic grocery bag.
Score: 5/5 Stars – Fits a wide range of laptops well and it’s light and comfortable in hand.
At the end of the day, I believe the Filson Dryden Ballistic Nylon Briefcase to be worth its price tag. For under $200 delivered to your door, this briefcase carries a lot of style and versatility in a rugged, yet refined package. It easily carries your Average Joe’s daily essentials and has enough useful slots and pockets to make organization incredibly easy. As a bonus, it’s travel friendly – the trolley strap allows the bag to slide down over your rolling luggage handle, freeing your hands up for security checkpoints or browsing around the Duty Free liquor aisle shelves.
Bridle leather handles feel great in the hand.
They’re stitched to the bag in such a way that the leather twists to lay flat in your hand
This bag is certainly a departure from the overly engineered and heavy duty Rugged Twill or Tin Cloth bags that Filson is best known for, but that’s not to say that this Dryden Briefcase is a pile of junk. Instead, think of the Dryden Briefcase as the chukka boots of your daily carry gear, where the Original Briefcase is more akin to your favorite pair of heavy duty workwear/heritage boots. Depending on the day’s adventure, one option might be better utilized than the other.
One other note: I know that a lot of former Filson customers have shied away from the brand these past few years due to rising costs, domestic factory closures, company buyouts, and a larger percentage of production shifting overseas. The Pacific Northwest outfitter brand that we know and love is gone; what you see today is essentially a new venture that’s trying to find its lugged sole footing in an ever changing retail landscape. While I can’t say for certain what the future holds for the brand, I do believe that they still produce well-made goods and so long as Filson stands behind them with a rock solid warranty, I’ll keep supporting them when I can.
Avg. Score: 5/5 – Highly recommended. This is a great briefcase/bag for the Average Joe.