Top positive review
A Comparative Review of Several Excellent Slim Wallets
November 16, 2018
Like many of you I have searched for that ultimate thin wallet that looks attractive while being durable and easy to use. Of course, there is no perfect answer for everyone and some things come down to personal preference and trade-offs. In my search for my perfect minimalist thin wallet I considered the following wallets and ordered each of them to compare against each other and to evaluate in person rather than just web sites of photos. I already owned a Bellroy Hide & Seek, which has been an excellent wallet and after about a year and a half of ownership it has held up well but was a bit thicker than I wanted so I wondered if there was anything better in the market. To make the comparison as apples-to-apples as possible I decided to use the exact same content in each wallet tested. The content is as follows:
1. Two raised letter debit cards
2. Two metal smooth credit cards
3. A CA driver’s License
4. A Government CAC ID card
5. A laminated medical Insurance Card
6. A Tesla Model 3 Entry/ignition Card
7. A folded blank check
8. A single business card
9. 4 US Currency Notes (20s + 100)
The wallets tested:
1. Distil Union Wally Bifold with RFID Shielding $59.99
2. Serman Brands 1.S Travel Wallet slim bifold with RFID Shielding $24.99
3. Ridge Carbon Fiber $115.00
4. Yinuode Carbon Fiber Ridge look alike with RFID Shielding $18.65
5. Bellroy Hide & Seek with RFID Protection $89.00
I ordered two other wallets to test but I haven’t received them yet so I can’t include in this review, but I may edit it later to add them. They are the Apex Wallet 2 by MSTRMND and the Identity Card Wallet by Identity. These latter two are more like the Ridge in size and construction.
A few things I learned or discovered along the way. First, there is a limit to how thin a wallet can get. The two limiting factors are the thickness of the materials used to make the wallet and the number of cards and amount of currency desired to be carried. Every card is going to add approximately 1.27mm to the thickness for a raised imprint CC so if you want to carry 10 cards you are starting at around 12.7MM plus. Raised letter steel cards are 0.96mm and flat ID card are 0.76mm. The next factor is how the cards are laid into the available footprint or dimensions. Obviously, if the wallet were made such that cards were laid out flat like on a sheet of 8.5” x 11” paper it could be thinner and hold a lot of cards. Generally speaking most of us don’t want a wallet to exceed 115mm x 90mm in area and we would prefer something as small as 86mm x 54mm though that is the minimum possible given the size of our credit/debit/id cards. The Ridge and its cousin the Yinuode meet this smallest dimension criteria being about the size of the cards stacked with a plate on top and bottom and an elastic to hold it together with the cards sandwiched in-between. Because the cards are stacked on top of each other the resulting thickness is nearly as thick (within about 1-2mm) without being easy to use. Yes, I know there are tricks and techniques to make it easier; however no impartial person could say it was easier than any of the other wallets reviewed.
In comparing the Ridge against its knockoff, my observation and opinion is that the Ridge was clearly of higher quality and better finished but whether it was worth $100 more is questionable. I did correspond with Ridge and asked that question. I was impressed that they replied quickly and argues two points, one their higher quality and two that the knockoffs have stolen their design and they intend to ask Amazon to remove them from their site. In any case, I returned both as I found neither suitable for my use.
All of the following is my opinion and only based on my observations and handling and not scientific by any means. I am not an expert on leathers, threads or materials and with the exception of the Bellroy I don’t have enough time with the others to judge durability of these materials. I have no vested interest in any of these products and I paid for each of them and I have not received any compensation or free review products.
Size comparison: The Bellroy (4.5” x 3.3”), followed by the Wally (4.2”x2.9”) followed by the Serman Brands 1.S (4”x3”). While each publish a thickness, in person measurements did not always confirm manufacturers claims. They don’t always specify how or where their measurements were made. I took two measurements on each with precision calipers. My first measurement was as close to the center and thinnest area and the second was to the thickest area which was usually the spline except in the case of the Bellroy. I took measurements empty and with the contents described above. Interestingly, I would estimate the thickness of the leather to go from thinnest being the Bellroy to thickest being the Wally. These differences are small and it was most difficult to judge with Wally because of the way it is made.
Quality: It is clear to me is that if the quality of the leather is high, as it clearly is in the Bellroy, it will hold up well and if the quality if poor, even thicker leather will fail. All three of these wallets appear to use high quality leather. The Bellroy and the Serman Brands use a silk like cloth lining that is very thin to keep the bulk down and allow easier removal of a card. The Wally appears to use a felt like material for the same reason. The stitching is straight and even in all three and appears to be with good quality thread with ends properly finished.
Innovation: Each wallet offers some innovative features, and this is where preference and how well the particular innovation works for you that will differentiate the feature into a great one or a poor one.
I will start with the Bellroy. It uses thin leather to reduce the empty thickness and even though fully lined, it stays thin. The card storage is of the staggered accordion style and they only use leather in a strip along the top edge of the card holder to keep the card pocket thin. Another innovation is the hidden currency and extra card pocket and not using a money clip allows the spine to stay thin. Nonetheless, this wallet was the thickest because the combined overlapping card edges along with the leather strips added to the thickness and the thin leather allowed a lot of print through to see the card locations so the hidden pocket was not well hidden. The wallet being the largest also tended to take a curved shape when carried in the back pocket as there was a substantial amount of leather that was beyond the card edges and there is no support for those areas.
The Serman S-1 includes several innovative features. First is having two outer single card slots with one having a transparent window. The internal card slots are also interesting in that the cards slide into two slots/pockets at the end of one flap and two or more cards can be slid into a ribbon lift pocket on the other end flap. It uses a money clip to avoid having the extra fabric or leather that would be needed to form a currency pocket. In prior reviews, I have seen the lining and ribbon come lose and I don’t know if the company has addressed this issue, but my observed copy appears to function properly and shows no sign of coming lose. It is missing a feature on this pocket that the Wally has and that is a spring steel closure to keep cards from falling out once the leather gets softer and stretches a bit from use. The outer clear pocket needs to incorporate the bottom edge slot similar to the one on the opposite side to make ID card removal easier. It can be difficult to remove an ID card even with the push opening as the card does not want to slide against the clear vinyl window. The have another model with the clear window on the inside but I could see that being even more difficult to use and remove the ID card. I am impressed with their product and it produced the thinnest and smallest wallet when fully loaded with my items listed. Its thickness ranged from 17.19-21.33mm (thinnest to thickest area). At half the price of the Wally, this one is clearly a bargain.
The Wally’s innovation was to incorporate two pull tab pockets, one on each flap with a spring steel closure to keep cards from falling out as the product ages and the leather softens. The quality of the ribbons and fastening appear to me to be better than the one used in the Serman S-1 and it definitely operates nicer. Functionally, it has some advantages in that I can carry two credit cards in one pocket and two debit cards in the other. Quick easy access to whichever I need. Yes, I know the pockets will hold more but why carry more cards to risk losing if your wallet is ever stolen or lost? Inside there is a single slot on each side and a money clip. Each slot can easily accommodate two ID type cards which is the most I would suggest you put in them even though they will hold more. If you want a fat wallet, stuff more in. Adding an outside quick access pocket would have been nice and a clear window slot that provides for easy ID card removal would also be a bonus. Interestingly, the Serman S-3.0 appears to copy this model with the addition of the clear ID window on one side and two slots on the other but does not appear to have the spring closure. The Wally measured 19.76MM when loaded. Due to its card carry design it is a little more uniform in thickness than the Serman S-1.
It is my understanding that both Serman Brands and Distil Union are American companies with their products made in the USA and that makes it a tough choice to pick a best. For me personally, I am keeping both and I purchased one in dark brown and one in a Carmel color, so I can easily go back and forth between them. I haven’t had time yet to use the Serman S-1 to see how well it works for me in the real world, but I have had time to use the Wally and it does work very nicely. I will try and update this review after I have more experience with both. My biggest concern with the S-1 id the difficulty of removing the ID. I frequently have to remove the ID so if it is too difficult, I will probably be drawn to the other. I don’t think you can go wrong with either of these and based on my limited communications with the companies it appears to me that they are dedicated to providing a good customer experience and stand by their products.
I have now received the Identity wallet $35.00. I have added photos. It is by far the slimmest when fully loaded it measure 9.84mm. However, it only holds 6 cards (you can put maybe 2 more cards in but getting any of the cards out, even if only 2 cards is a challenge. It is made of what appears to be solid carbon fiber and nicely finished. It is an S shaped design with a slot on each side to allow you to push/slide the cards out. However, it takes a lot of pushing to get the cards to slide as they tend to be under so much tension that they don't want to budge. I would have to rate it at 3 stars do to the difficulty of use and limited capacity. It is mighty slim in the pocket though and has a very nice feel to it.