No Signal my monitor informed me. I had worked the better part of three weeks testing, researching, and writing about the Etchr Art Satchel Combo when my computer hard drive crashed. I switched to another computer, but my writing flow was affected. Rather than setting me back however, the computer failure helped me see what I had been missing during the first part of the review process for the Etchr Art Satchel.
I had been testing to determine how the Etchr satchel could be everything to everyone. I felt like I had barely scratched the surface of the possibilities with the Etchr after dozens of different setups. But just like I missed my stripped-back writing computer in a quiet corner, I missed the simplicity of the curated supplies I normally used. I had too many possibilities crammed into my Etchr satchel. I stripped the satchel bare and started over. The goal was to give myself the comfortable minimalism that had kept me sketching day in and day out during the last four years.
When I finished, the drawing board looked empty and not very “artist-y”. I wanted to put on a few more choices, just in case. I resisted the urge and instead placed the pared back items in positions on the felt board in the same position I placed them on my art desk when I drew at home. I folded and clipped the bag into my favorite sling mode setup, and suddenly the system made perfect sense for me. The Etchr Art Satchel is not about carrying everything, it’s about the ability to comfortably carry anything, any place you want to go.
Do you have a secret obsession with seeing other artists’ supplies, tools, and workflow? I know I do! In today’s review, I’ll show you a handful of the thousands of possibilities with the Etchr Art Satchel. Unlike other art bags, the Etchr Art Satchel includes a self-contained, hands-free workspace that can be used anywhere from your bed to a backcountry hiking trail.
I first heard about the Etchr Art Satchel and Field Case combo last fall on a favorite Youtube channel, and headed to the Etchr Lab website to investigate. Measuring a sleek 16” wide x 13” high X 4” deep, the charcoal gray poly and Toughtek Etchr Art Satchel emanates a quiet sophistication that passes for a laptop bag in urban settings or technical gear in a wilder environment. Backpack straps easily convert to a comfortable shoulder strap, or the low-profile handles can be used for simple hand carry.
The Etchr Art Satchel can be used in several different modes to best suit the artist and the environment. Standing, sitting, or even walking around(!) is no problem with the Etchr satchel in sling mode on the shoulder strap. Want to sit at a table? Use it in Study Mode. Planning a long plein air session? Mount the satchel on a camera tripod and use it as an easel. The Etchr is equally adept at handling digital and traditional media. A small army of tabs and pockets allows the bag to be customized by each individual artist. The system seemed a tad overwhelming, but I knew I wanted to have a go. While I waited for my satchel, I watched videos by artists that had tested the prototype and read reviews from other Etchr Art Satchel owners.
My Etchr Art Satchel combo arrived in just a few days from Singapore. Approximately 4.3 seconds after the “Dark Like My Soul” colored satchel cleared the box, my college-bound son was trying to sweet talk me out of it. Etchr’s style game is clearly on point. Empty, the Etchr Art Satchel Combo weighs around 6 pounds. I tried carrying it as a backpack, switched the strap in seconds to a crossbody bag, and finally carried it like a briefbag. All three carry styles are equally comfortable, an impressive engineering feat. In the weeks since, I most often sling one backpack strap over my shoulder like a lazy schoolgirl or carry it vertically from the top handle.
I’ve decided on a comfortable minimalism, but maybe you’re an artist who enjoys having choices at your fingertips. Over the weeks I prepared for the review, I set the Etchr Art Satchel up dozens of different ways. The drawing board and velcro tool storage is just plain fun. Figuring out how to best fit your gear into the bag is at times exasperating, but there’s no right or wrong way. If something you try doesn’t work, you go at it from a different angle. Once you click with your setup, it’s a custom design that you’re incredibly proud of (and should share with the #Etchr tag on social media!)
Etchr Art Satchel – Study Mode
The Etchr working side had three basic modes I want to learn: study, sling, and easel. I decided to start with Study mode because I normally paint at a table.
The first thing I needed to sort out was which portion was my work surface, and which was my tool storage. I prefer a horizontal work surface for watercolor, and decided to make the side with the storage pocket a vertical tool wall. The challenge for Study Mode is figuring out a stable fitting with the hook straps. Once I placed the hooks through the lower loops on the vertical tool wall and the front loops on the horizontal work surface, the system worked beautifully for me. I can set or close down study mode up in under a minute.
Etchr Art Satchel – Sling Mode
My next task was figuring out the Sling mode that will allow me to work standing, sitting, or even walking around.
Sling mode is the reason most people buy this bag, and I’m no exception. I stripped the Etchr workboard bare again, and set up the drawing board for use without a tool wall. My tools moved into the Field Case, which I wore crossbody for easy access while I used sling mode.
I experimented using the quick adjust buckles on the satchel strap to find the work surface height and angle that worked best for me. I was pleasantly surprised to find the drawing board at a perfect angle for watercolor when I set the Etchr Art Satchel up in Sling mode on a tabletop.
In sling mode the contents of the messenger bag are sandwiched, and difficult to access. On one occasion I lined the interior of the messenger bag with a reusable nylon grocery tote and removed the tote during sketching, but normally the accessibility and additional bulk wasn’t an issue for me. I could once again set up and close down in under a minute.
Etchr Art Satchel – Easel Mode
Exploring easel mode opened up a whole new sketching world for me.
Etchr includes recommendations for tripods and QR mounts on their website that can handle the weight and stress of a loaded Etchr Art Satchel. Even with my trickety release mechanism and grandpa Star D tripod, I was able to use and enjoy easel mode. It takes me 3-4 minutes to set up or tear down the satchel in easel mode, but I was surprised to find I liked painting at an easel much more than a desk.
Etchr Art Satchel – The Messenger Bag
If you watch any of the prototype reviews, artists are packing the messenger bag out with lots of extra studio supplies. I use mine for personal items instead.
The roll top on the main bag not only keeps the contents dry during backpack carry, it also keeps them secure while transitioning between modes. Anything in the main bag is accessible without unpacking: simply unzip one or both sides of the drop front of the bag. The front weatherproof flap also has a zippered quick-access pocket I use for my phone, keys, and ID/bank cards. The lining throughout the bag is a ripstop poly that has the same luxurious feel as stretchy yoga pants.
The MOLLE System
The MOLLE strap system on the front and sides of the bag are one of the main selling points. Not only can you carry your tripod, but dozens of aftermarket bags and the Etchr Field Case will slide into the straps on the bag, too. The Llama mode worked as advertised, both horizontally and vertically. While I was impressed, the bag got uncomfortably heavy and bulky for me at this point. I might use Llama mode for a short walk or with a luggage trolley, but it probably won’t be something I use regularly for more than the Etchr Field Case.
The Etchr Field Case
The Etchr Art Satchel Combo comes with a 9.5” x 5.5” Field Case modular unit.
The Field Case is made with the same materials and attention to design as the Etchr Art Satchel. The hand-sized case can be stowed inside the messenger bag, hooked onto the MOLLE loops, or carried separately cross-body on the included strap. I particularly enjoyed the ability to hook the straps onto opposite top and bottom loops which minimized swinging vertically and provided a mini sling mode for a pocket sketchbook when adjusted horizontally. I was surprised how many tools I could pack into this clamshell-style pencil case, and pleased there was room to carry my personal items (phone, keys, id, and bankcard.) All-in-all, the Etchr Field Case makes an exceptional artist EDC.
After learning the quirks of the various modes, I’ve fallen in love with my Etchr Art Satchel. All the past awkwardness of trying to paint away from my desk is gone. My tools don’t have to be unpacked or repacked on location, and they’re all secure from start to finish. I use the satchel around my home, too. Etchr Lab fulfills their company purpose for me with the Etchr Art Satchel: I am creating more art, more often, in more locations.
A special thank you to Etchr Lab for providing the Etchr Art Satchel Combo for review and for providing customer support as I explored and wrote about their product. My Etchr journey has just begun! Follow me on Instagram to see how I continue to integrate my Etchr Art Satchel into my art routines and click here to read my other reviews on Doodlewash!
I’m a science and math educator who has been creating since childhood. I picked up watercolor four years ago and have been on a grand exploration discovering its playful and enigmatic personality. Follow my adventure on Instagram!