Ultimate Frisbee – Bag Review – Tatonka Barrel

May 8, 2012 at 6:25 pm 2 comments

I recently went through the process of researching and purchasing a bag to use when attending Ultimate Frisbee tournaments. In some ways this process was relatively straightforward as I had seen several good examples already at previous tournaments. I had also talked to a few people about their choices.

That said, I like to check things out myself so I started looking into it with the following considerations in mind:

Requirements

Size

The bag needed to be big enough to fit everything for a 2-3 day tournament, but small enough to get away with using it as carry-on luggage on domestic flights. I also wanted to use the bag as my regular league-bag when I am not attending tournaments so I didn’t want it to be too huge. Keeping in mind that there’s a fair bit of stuff to bring along for a tournament, getting the right size was not straightforward.

Comfort

There’s a good chance that there’s some walking involved when you’re travelling for a weekend. Even walking through the airport can be a bit of a trek. As a result it is necessary to have a bag that is easy to carry for a while without getting too uncomfortable.

Weatherproof

If you’re playing in an Ultimate tournament there is going to be some point where you’re on the field in the middle of the point and it starts raining. Your bag will be on the sideline and, unless it is weatherproof, everything inside it will get soaking wet. This is far from ideal and I didn’t want to have to worry about all my gear when I’m in the middle of a game. As a result, I wanted a weatherproof bag that wouldn’t let the rain in.

Options

I was already fairly certain that I wanted a barrel/duffel-type bag after seeing the bags that others had been using. I did consider a more traditional backpack however I was put off by the general design whereby you have to stack gear from the bottom up, and access things through a smallish opening at the top. I suppose “accessibility” could have been another requirement as I do like being to quickly grab something (such as a sweat band or energy bar) out of my bag between points if required.

In particular I was aware that several manufacturers make weatherproof duffles that also have conversion straps that allow the bag to be carried like a backpack. All of these manufacturers also offerred the duffels in a variety of sizes allowing me to choose one that was small enough to take on a plane as carry-on, but big enough to fit everything required for a tournament.

In particular there are options from  Mountain DesignsThe North Face and Tatonka.

After hunting around online I settled on the Small Tatonka Barrel in yellow for the following reasons:

  • I was able to check these bags out in person at a shop in town so I could confirm the sizes were right.
  • I found a great online price from Bagworld, including free shipping!
  • The yellow would be visible in a group of bags or on a carousel at the airport if I ever checked it in.
  • A few friends had recommended them.
  • They were available for a good price in Australia, instead of having to buy from overseas and pay more for shipping.
  • The bag is specifically approved for carry-on with Qantas.

The Tatonka Barrel in a Small size – it isn’t very full at the moment.

That said, all of the bags were pretty close in terms of price and features. The only other notable aspect is that The North Face offer a much broader range of colours (and the yellow is nicer too dammit).

Result

I have used the bag for a while now, both as my main bag for all my frisbee gear as I play league and also for a 2 day tournament in Melbourne. Overall I am very happy as the bag has met all my requirements above.

My only criticism of the bag is that it could benefit from some more pockets. Inside the bag there is a narrow pocket at each however these can’t be fastened shut. As a result it is hard to successfully store stuff in those pockets without it falling out when you use the bag in “backpack mode”.

The interior compartment at one end. Things can fall out when the bag is vertical.

Aside from those two pockets there is also a zippered pocket in the lid of the bag. Given this is the only secure separate pocket from the main compartment I ended up putting more stuff in here than I would have liked. Anything small ended up in here like keys, phone, sweat bands, a fork, chewing gum, energy bars and other things such as tickets and boarding passes. Overall it was good to have those things separate from the main compartment but there were too many things in there which made using the pocket a bit inconvenient.

The pocket in the flap is full of sweat bands, a beanie and any other random small items.

The bag does also has an exterior pocket that is designed to house the backpack straps when you want to hide them away. Whilst not ideal, I ended up using this pocket for a few things, like sunscreen, just to get them separated from everything else. You can’t shut this pocket when the backpack straps are out, and if they’re in then the pocket is full. As a result you wouldn’t want to have things stored in that pocket when it is raining as you would want the whole bag zipped up tightly.

This is where the straps go when you want to fold them away.

The other consideration when using a bag like this is the fact that it needs to hold together when it is horizontal and vertical. I am a fairly obsessive packer and I like to know where things are in my bag. As a result I don’t want things moving around too much when I am carrying the bag. You pack the bag when it is horizontal but as soon as you lift it onto your back it ends up completely vertical. As a result it is necessary to pack the bigger things to the right-side (assuming you have the bag open with the flap facing away from you) of the bag so they will be at the bottom when it is on your back. This isn’t a problem though, just a consideration.

The bag in backpack mode…

Summary

Overall I’m really happy with the purchase of this bag. It worked extremely well for my tournament and I was able to fit  a lot of gear in there. I am planning another post in the near future which details the things that I bring to a tournament so you will get better idea of the capabilities of the bag then. It didn’t rain during the tournament so I haven’t actually tested the waterproof capabilities of the bag yet, but it certainly looks very rugged and waterproof – we’ll see!

I would recommend this bag to any Ultimate player or anyone who travels for a weekend of sport. You’ll comfortably get all the gear (depending on your sport) you need inside and it is comfortable to carry around. Great bag!

About half full of stuff … just my general league gear minus my shoes.

All the gear that was in there. The green bag has a few spare jerseys in there. Plenty of room for my shoes and a bunch more stuff.

Update!

I have now written a post showing the list of things I typically pack for an Ultimate tournament. This gives you a great idea of how much stuff you can fit into the bag.

Entry filed under: Gear, Ultimate Frisbee. Tags: , , , , , .

Ultimate Frisbee Tournament – 6 week training program Running with a backpack – Take 2!

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Huddy  |  May 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I’ve been wondering a similar sort of thing! good read Jase.

    Reply
  • [...] of them is a review of the bike I purchased recently for commuting duties. Apparently my previous review of the Tatonka Barrel bag has been useful for people judging by the traffic to that post. Share [...]

    Reply

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