I love gear bags. A great bag is the ultimate marriage of function and form.
When my trusty Cageside mesh bag (a perfect fit for me, since I could use it for scuba diving as well) finally gave up the ghost this fall, I was in denial. I kept lugging it around until I almost lost several pieces of gear through the ever-growing holes. That bag was tough: I’d carried it around the world, exposed it to saltwater, and generally beat it up until it finally couldn’t take any more.
The timing turned out to be perfect. Because I needed a new bag right before the Pans, my mom got me the Datsusara Gear Bag Core, one of two new releases from the company, for my birthday.
If you feel like exploring all there is to know about the Core, check out Datsusara’s 5 minute video tour. If not, let me give you the capsule summary: this bag is fantastic. It’s huge, but light, well-organized, and versatile — it’s not just a great grappling bag, it’s luggage you can take on vacation, jiu-jitsu or not.
Let me take a step back. For just going to class, maybe the bag you select isn’t super-important. You can always just tie your gi up in a belt and sling it over your shoulder. But when you train a lot, and when you travel to train, it makes life a lot easier to not worry about how you’re going to fit that extra gi, where your mouthguard is, or where you set your nail clippers.
The Core solves a lot of problems, all in one. Let me list them in order.
1. This bag will fit all of your stuff in it. This thing is so huge that I’m curious about the demographic that buys the larger version, the Pro. I mean, I’m a little guy, but look at my attempt to re-create some of the stuff I took to the Pans in this photo.
Look at all of that! It includes three complete gis and vale tudo shorts for wearing under said gis; belt; three complete no-gi uniforms, including full spats; bathroom scale; Sambazon smoothie and protein bar (no fresh fruit in the house today, sorry); water bottle; ibuprofen; notebook and pen; mouthguard; Leatherman tool with nail clippers; headphones, media player and e-reader for those boring times between matches.
That’s plenty to meet your needs when you travel for a big tournament, go on vacation and want to have plenty of gear, or do a training camp where you have three sessions a day. Right? Well, the Core doesn’t just fit all of that stuff, it fits all of that stuff easily.
All of the major gear fits in the main pouch without any effort whatsoever. I’m talking about no rolling, no stuffing — you just set your mountain of gear in there and it fits easily. also notice that there are two large side pockets that I didn’t have to touch for this: for vacation trips, that’s where your boring real-world clothes can go.
The bottom is wide enough to accommodate even larger scales, so you can bring your own weight-check apparatus when you travel to compete. Believe me, this is a major help, and even if you’re habitually on-weight, your teammates will thank you.
2. The pockets make it easy to organize your stuff. If you’re like me, you don’t like having to dig through everything to find out where the rattle of your ibuprofen bottle is coming from. Don’t worry: there are tons of pockets with intuitive size and spacing, so there won’t be problems designating where your mouthguard, nail clippers, media player and other stuff goes.
Even if (like me) you’re Obsesso The Clown in terms of tourney prep, this bag will cater to your crazy. There’s probably a pocket for that stupid good luck charm you have that doesn’t work. There certainly is for your notebook, pain reliever, snacks, mouthguard, clippers, and whatnot. Especially the whatnot.
3. You don’t have to worry about getting your gross wet gear mixed up with your fresh gear. This is huge, and is actually the best part of the bag for me. I’m chronically prepared to train, so I like keeping extra gear everywhere. But it sucks to step out of an excellent session and have some sweaty gear that either must sit open in your car, smelling up the joint, or go back in your bag, contaminating your fresh gi.
The Core comes with an internal Dry Bag where you can stash your stanky stuff. Also, this is cool: it has a gi bag-style design, so it’s easy to wear as a mini-backpack. At the Pans I used the main Core to house all of the gear I’d need for the weekend and the Dry Bag as my day pack, where I put my wallet, keys, ID, mouthguard and whatever else I thought I’d need in the bullpen.
A tiny quibble is that the Dry Bag is really only big enough to fit one gi and related garments, so if you’re training a couple of times a day without going home, you might have to pack it in or leave some nastiness out of the bag. But in that case — or if you’re a huge human who wears an overcoat or something when you roll — you can always designate one of the side pockets for spillover.
4. It’s the little details. I haven’t said anything about the fact that the bag is made of hemp, which is durable and has anti-microbial properties. It’s not that I don’t think that’s important — I pre-ordered The Green Gi, after all — but the other stuff actually impressed me enough that the fabric is relatively low on my list of things I like about the Core.
Another nice touch: a lot of larger bags skimp on the shoulder strap, which makes the bag no fun to carry. Not so here. I lugged this thing all over New York City, and it was very comfortable every step of the way.Convinced yet? Great! … I probably should have mentioned that the first run is sold out. But Datsusara says “there is another larger batch coming later this month and should be shipping by the first week of November.”
Note: I’ve never worked for Datsusara in any capacity, freelance or otherwise, and this is actually the first of their products I’ve used. I just dig the bag.
THE BOTTOM LINE
PRODUCT: Datsusara Gear Bag Core
ON A SCALE OF 1-10: 9.5 (I’d give it a 10 if the Dry Bag was a little bigger).