I found these great vintage Swiss military bread bags at an Army-Navy surplus store the other day. Amazingly well-made. I was immediately drawn to them aesthetically, and seeing how I’ve been building up a vintage Italian road bike as of late, I thought they’d be perfect candidates for panniers. The steel and honey leather accents would match my Brooks saddle and leather handlebar tape. They were also a far superior alternative to what I’d found online. With the exception of the thin shoulder strap (which I probably wouldn’t use anyhow) everything about them just works.
But would they stand up against abuse? I wouldn’t be carrying too much of a load on my bike as they aren’t really roomy enough to carry too much. Still, I’m betting these things could last through a war, and though Switzerland has a long history of neutrality, I’m sure they would survive one.
I put it to a test of my own. I first inspected the construction, looking for tell-tale signs that would let me know how sturdy the bag would be. The bag is made of tightly-woven heavy duty canvas, heavy duty saddle leather, heavy duty steel rivets, and a heavy duty clamshell lid of green vinyl. (Did I mention heavy duty?)
Most bags with a significant amount of weight tend to give out at the seams, but these are built to last. The stress points (namely, the places where the seams would tear due to stress, especially the lip of the bag) have been reinforced several times, even double-and triple-stitched. These bags are inexpensive, and although a weight weenie wouldn’t even think about adding them to their bike, someone who wanted a well-built bag should take a second look. I thought they’d make great gifts for a few of my friends who ride bikes and bought several.
The bag was made in 1971 by Walter Wyss, a company in Horgen, Switzerland. Sattler is the name for an old, traditional profession. Sattler’s make fabric and leather products for equestrianism, carriages and cars. After a three year of apprenticeship, you can still become Sattler today.