The ultimate gym bag = Datsusara Gear Bag Core
The Datsusara Gear Bag Core (GBC-03) (the updated version of the original Light Gear Bag) is my my gear bag for sparring and Krav Maga. The bag is made of hemp, an antimicrobial fiber from high-growing varieties of the cannabis plant, which makes it ideal for transporting & temporarily storing sport gears that are soaked in sweat.
Overall, this bag is very sturdy, lots of storage space, has tons of compartments for organization, and won’t stink because of its antimicrobial nature.
What I look for in a gear bag:
- Right size – I want it to be big enough to fit all my gears (and hopefully with room to spare), but not so big that I will have a hard time walking around with it. This is the reason I went for the Core and instead of the Pro version.
- Organization = Instead of just a big compartment (generic duffel bag), I was looking for a bag that could separate my gloves, handwraps, clothing, etc.
- Antimicrobial = I don’t always immediately go home after working out, so I wanted the bag to be made of antimicrobial material. That way, when it is left in my car with sweaty gear under a hot afternoon sun, it won’t develop an un-removable smell.
- Construction = I don’t want to buy a bag that breaks after half a year. So I look for strong fabric, reinforced stitching, and sturdy hardware.
- *optional* I like to support small companies when I could. Obviously I use gears that are from bigger brands as well (e.g., Hayabusa, Fairtex), but small companies definitely have my business if they are introducing innovative products to the market at a good price.
1-2. Size & Organization
When I was looking for a gear bag for Krav Maga and sparring, my biggest concern was whether it can fit a pair of shin guards in the main compartment. I have a pair of Top King shin guards (size M), and they fit perfectly into the main compartment of the Datsusara Gear Bag Core, along with everything else.
Everything else I need for sparring or Krav Maga fits in there (see pic below).
The head gear, shin guards, focus mitts, towel, and change of clothes all fit in the main compartment. I put my 16 oz gloves in the left side compartment, and my showering stuff in right side compartment. The rest of the items (e.g., sport tape, hand wraps, mouth guard, personal items) are organized into all the smaller pockets.
With all these gear in the bag, there is still plenty of room to spare and I can easily fit a set of Gi and a pair of shoes in as well. The multiple pockets really help in organizing. I don’t ever have to try to “fish” for my mouth guard or the missing-handwrap inside a gigantic bag.
Datsusara bags are made from hemp, which is naturally antimicrobial. In short, it is resistant to growth of bacteria and fungi. There are some other companies that are trying to do similar things, but instead of using fibers that are naturally antimicrobial, they usually opt to treat the fabric with undisclosed technology. The ‘undisclosed’ part is what pushed me towards getting a hemp bag. There are plenty of research on the antimicrobial property of Cannabis plants.
*As stated in the beginning of the post, I’ve only had the bag for about a month. Therefore, I am only commenting on the construction based on observations (e.g., fabric choice and stitching, zipper quality, design).
- Fabric – Hemp is a strong material. Although not the lightest, but it is not like I’m trekking with this.
- Stitching – I wish more of the stitching would be double-up (e.g., the handle is stitched to bag with an x pattern, and only the top part is reinforced (see pic below). However, there are reinforced stitching on locations where I think is indeed the weak points, which makes for a more long lasting bag (e.g., water bottle holder).
- Shoulder strap attachments – I’d have really liked the plastic hardware attaching the shoulder strap to the bag to be metal. From reviews that I’ve read, it doesn’t seem like they are breaking off easily. However, if the design of this bag ever gets updated, that is one feature that would really give me the peace of mind.
- Zippers – YKK zippers, which is pretty much industry standard for good quality zippers. I might replace the pull to a different color than black in order to make it more visible.
- Shoulder strap – It is a little cushy and not slippery.
- The bag has two pieces of velcro (soft side) where you can attach a velcro patch or name tag. The bag comes with a pvc Datsusara patch (on the front zippered pocket), and for now, I’m just keeping it on the bag. I’ve seen one other person with a Datsusara bag, and he has the bigger brother of this series of bag, the Gear Bag Pro (GBP-06). So I might add my own patch to distinguish it from his, just in case.
- There are 4 total outer mesh pockets designed for water bottles. I use one of them to air out my handwraps so it won’t mix with my clean handwraps. It may seem excessive, but actually there are plenty of ways to use these mesh outer pockets.
The overall construction of the bag is good. There are a few things that would make the bag ‘perfect’ (e.g., metal hardware), but I’m happy with it at its current state as well.
5. Supporting a smaller company
To me, Datsusara falls under the category of a small company that tries to provide innovative products at a good price. It focuses on hemp-made products (gear bags, BJJ gis) for fighting-sports (BJJ, MMA). Of course, anyone can use their bags really, and they have smaller versions for a typical gym-trip or cross-fit. Yet, it is obvious that the owner/designers had fighting-sports in mind when they were designing the Pro & Core gear bags. They revised their designs based on user feedback (e.g., their earlier generation of gear bags tend to have weaker mesh pockets and some production issues, but these new ones have amended those problems), which is something I love to see in a company’s R&D process.
Datsusara has a 3-year warranty on their bags. I’ve read many reviews before purchasing the bag, and one thing that came up a lot is how responsive the owner of the company is. Although some of the bags from earlier runs had some longevity issues, from what I’ve read, the customer service of the company was able to resolve those issues.
For the price of $115USD, the Datsusara Gear Bag Core is not a cheap bag by any means. However, it has all the features that I was looking for, which was a tough find, especially the antimicrobial part. There are plenty of gear bags that could satisfy size and organization criteria at a lower price point, but uses generic material that might be problematic for my lifestyle (i.e., if I go home immediately every time after a workout, I would care less about the antimicrobial feature).
I have enjoyed using the bag so far, and hope to continue using it for the years to come. One thing that might move me away from this bag is if I ever move to a public-transport-centric city. If so, I will definitely opt for a backpack, or at least a duffel bag with backpack straps. But who knows, maybe by the time I move again, an updated version with backpack capability will be introduced by Datsusara 😀