Owning a full set of dive gear is an expensive investment, so spending a little bit extra on decent carrying kit makes sense. Mark ‘Crowley’ Russell takes a look at some of the best scuba diving equipment bags on the market today
Over the years, advances in material technology have led to the robust, lightweight luggage designs we find on the market today, complete with handles, wheels and extra pockets. For long-distance international travel, a sturdy scuba gear bag can have advantages over a standard suitcase. Some have waterproof compartments to separate not-quite-dry dive gear from the rest of your luggage, and some have pockets specifically tailored for fins and other equipment. Wheels and retractable handles are great for travelling through airports but can be a bit of a hindrance when it comes to sand, rocks and wooden jetties. Depending on where you’re travelling, a bag with extra handles and shoulder straps may be more practical.
Bear in mind, however, that such travel bags are often quite heavy even when empty. Short-haul economy flights with 20kg limits may well mean that you either have to travel very light or find yourself incurring extra baggage charges.
Duffel bags are a good option for both local and international travel, as long as you don’t mind carrying your gear by hand or fighting with airport trolleys. Some may have internal waterproof compartments and some do not, but one that comes with an additional shoulder strap or backpack-style harness can be very handy if your dive travel involves more than chucking all your kit in the boot of your car. Mesh bags are great for hauling gear around once you’ve reached your destination – from hotel room to dive centre – and while many centres have their own bags or boxes, some do not, so a lightweight mesh bag which allows wet kit to be transported while drying is a useful addition to the main flight bag or duffel.
Hand-held bags including regulator bags and roll-top dry bags are exceptionally useful. Keeping your regulators secure and packaged in your hand luggage, with that extra bit of protection, helps to alleviate worries about one of your most expensive and essential bits of kit being damaged. Roll-top dry bags are essential on any dive trip that involves small boats. They have saved many smartphones, cameras, key fobs and surface interval snacks from certain soggy doom.
Tips for packing
Wrap as much as you can inside your wetsuit and BCD and use your fins for protection at the sides. Neoprene is like a posh version of Bubble Wrap and will provide protective padding for regulators, masks and computers. Use the box which came with your mask, that’s what it’s there for! Where possible, carry your regulators and dive computer in your hand luggage when flying. If you’ve ever watched some airport baggage handlers lobbing your precious cargo from the aeroplane to the tarmac below, it’s reassuring to keep them with you.
KIT BAGS – LONG HAUL
Kit bags designed for long-haul flights where ‘getting there’ isn’t even half the fun. Sturdy frames and tough wheels come with a weight penalty, however, so may not be the best option for avoiding excess baggage fees.
Akona Roller Duffel £129
Combining the best of both worlds, Akona’s Roller Duffel offers good internal dimensions, with a steel frame, wheels, telescopic handle and shoulder strap packaged into a PVC-laminated 600 denier fabric.
Capacity: 100 litre
Cressi Moby 5 £211
Cressi’s latest roller bag, the Moby 5, is made from a new 300/400 denier lightweight material, with a main compartment that opens up on three sides, two large bellows pockets and a small top pocket at the front and two side pockets for fins. The handle is fully retractable and the large-diameter wheels can be removed and replaced in case of breakage.
Capacity: 115 litre
Mares Cruise Backpack Pro £177
Mares’ top of the line Cruise Backpack Pro has been – according to Mares – ‘Air Travel Optimised’, weighing 15 per cent less than its predecessor, with integrated front pockets to minimise its profile, a sturdy telescopic handle and wheels, plus padded shoulder straps for ease of transportation; all built around a respectable 127-litre interior and weighing in at 5kg.
Capacity: 128 litre
Northern Diver Voyager All Terrain £70
A large and rugged wheeled bag constructed from 1000 denier washable PVC fabric, which sacrifices a retractable handle for a decrease in both weight and price. The interior is split into two zippered compartments, the wheels are protected by corner guards and plastic runners on the base prevent damage caused by dragging. Carrying handles are present at both ends and also at the top of the bag, and a removable tow strap is included for those marathon hikes through the airport.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 81x40x42
Capacity: 136 litre
Scubapro Porter Bag £172
Scubapro’s Porter Bag comes with reinforced skate-style roller wheels plus a backpack harness, and hence can be rolled or carried wherever you wish to go. There is no retractable handle, but the top handle is extendable for ease of use. The large main compartment, two front pockets and two inside pockets provide plenty of packing options. At 2.55kg the Porter is one of the lightest airline-type bags on the market, and it folds down to almost half its size for storage.
Dimensions: 80x45x35cm (52x41x17cm when folded)
Seac Equipage 1000 £169
Seac has a new luggage range for 2020 with the Equipage 1000 at the top of the line, a 140-litre wheeled bag with telescopic handle and backpack-style shoulder straps, weighing just 3kg. The outer shell is made from 1200 denier polyester with a rigid rear panel, while the interior has a large primary compartment with two large pockets for holding a wetsuit and boots.
Capacity: 140 litre
Stahlsac 34” Steel Wheeled Bag £245.95
The Steel 34 from adventure travel specialist Stahlsac is one of the largest available, with a massive internal volume of 148 litres. The bag features a wet/dry compartment with a waterproof bottom and a breathable top for drying out damp gear, multiple quick-access zippers and an ‘add-a-bag’ strap to attach backpacks or carry-ons. The frame is low-profile for easy storage and an optional battery power-pack can also be fitted.
Capacity: 148 litre
Tusa BA-0202 Travel Roller Bag (Large) £189
The BA-0202 is the largest of Tusa’s travel roller bags, which also comes in a medium-size and a small, carry-on size priced at £169 and £139 respectively. Two carry-handles complement the rigid retractable handle, the bag has two internal zippered pockets and a third mesh pocket, with double-zippered large and small pockets on the outside.
Capacity: 108 litre
KIT BAGS – GENERAL PURPOSE
So many bags to choose from – a large, solid duffel or a super-light mesh bag for dunking, draining and drying on the go, or maybe pack the latter inside the former
Akona Collapsing Mesh Duffel £59
The Nylon reinforced mesh duffel collapses and zips into the end of the attached, padded 420 denier Nylon regulator bag, allowing for transportation of a full set of dive gear or just regulators and computers in the handy, easy to carry around container.
Dimensions: 30x36x74cm (extended), 30x36x10cm (collapsed)
Capacity: 80 litre
Cressi Gorgona £52
A lightweight polyester mesh travel bag which zips into a small holder for transport and packing; long enough to carry freediving fins, and large enough to carry a full set of dive gear.
Capacity: 107 litre
Hollis Duffel £89.95
Hollis is well known for its no-nonsense gear, which includes the Hollis Duffel. Made from a durable tarpaulin material, it features a single, main compartment and one internal zippered pocket. It has carry handles on each end of the bag, two straps with padded handles and backpack shoulder straps.
Capacity: 95 litre
Mares Cruise Backpack Mesh Elite £49
A lightweight mesh backpack with an integrated handle, adjustable shoulder straps and a large internal capacity which can be folded into the external front pocket. The base is reinforced and fitted with a drainage hole, and an internal dry pocket provides storage for valuables.
Dimensions: 39 x 39 x 74cm
Capacity: 114 litre
Northern Diver 80 Litre Mesh Holdall £22
The padded air mesh walls of Northern Diver’s collapsible mesh holdall are designed to protect valuable dive gear while allowing it to dry at the same time, with a tarpaulin sleeve pocket providing a dry space for valuables and also to prevent soaking your dry clothes as you carry the bag. Nylon D-rings are included for an optional shoulder strap, along with the standard padded handles.
Capacity: 80 litre
Weight: approx 1kg
Oceanic Mesh Duffel £34.95
Constructed from 600 denier polyester with a durable PVC backing for the side panels, Oceanic’s mesh duffel is designed to transport gear between dive sites, before dunking it in the rinse tank and hanging the whole lot up to dry. An adjustable shoulder strap is included with the regular carrying straps.
Capacity: 82.6 litre
Scubapro Mesh Sack £33
A lightweight nylon mesh backpack suitable for a set of tropical dive gear or snorkelling equipment, with a drawstring closure, front exterior compartment for small items, and padded shoulder straps. Folds into a compact shape for storage or packing with a larger bag.
Dimensions (HxD): 66x39cm
Capacity: 90 litre
Seac Equipage 250 £45
A new 600 denier polyester holdall-style bag from Seac, with an adjustable shoulder strap, fin pocket with buckles, front pocket for smaller items, and an adjustable shoulder strap included.
Capacity: 110 litre
Stahlsac 40” Mesh Duffel £35.95
Stahlsac’s 40” (102cm) heavy-duty mesh bag will accommodate even the longest of freediving fins, along with a full set of scuba gear. 22”, 26” and 36” (56cm, 66cm and 91cm) models are also available; all come with a zippered accessory pocket for storing smaller items.
Dimensions (40”): 102x48x48cm
Tusa BA-0103 Mesh Backpack £62
Built with a heavy-duty, rubberized mesh with a generous main compartment, a large outer pocket and one internal zippered pocket for storing valuables. The extended main zipper allows for easy access to all areas of the bag, which is fitted with padded shoulder straps for transport.
Dimensions (LxWxH): 36x41x75cm
KIT BAGS – HAND-HELD BAGS
For protecting valuable computers and regulators, or keeping smartphones, car keys and sandwiches dry, compact waterproof bags are dive essentials.
Akona Pro Reg Bag £36.99
A fully padded regulator bag with interior Velcro straps to hold hoses in place, with reinforced D-rings on the exterior for attaching the included shoulder strap.
Mares Cruise Dry T-Light £12 (5l), £15 (10l), £20 (25l)
Ultra-lightweight reinforced polyester dry bags weighing in at next to nothing – the 5-litre version weighs just 50g – the T-Light series is fully waterproof with heat-sealed stitching and a quick closure system. A 75-litre, backpack-style version is available for £44.
Dimensions/Weight: 15x48cm/0.05kg (5 litre), 20x35cm/0.06kg (10 litre), 24×57.5cm/0.11kg (25 litre)
Northern Diver Dry Seal Roll Top Bag £28 (10l), £35 (20l), £42 (50l), £58 (120l)
Northern Diver has revamped its dry bag range with a new watertight ‘Dry Seal’ for the opening, and an air purge valve to help compress the insides for easier sealing. Available in red or black in 10, 20, 50 and 120 litres, the 420 denier constructed bags are fitted with quick-release buckles and a detachable shoulder strap.
Dimensions/weight: 48×18 x18cm/0.5kg (10 litre), 60x23x23cm/0.6kg (20 litre), 76x28x28cm/0.8kg (50 litre), 103x37x37cm/1.2kg (120 litre)
Oceanic Regulator Bag £29.95
A simple padded regulator bag constructed from 1620 denier Ballistic Nylon with YKK self- healing zips and interior Velcro loops to secure hoses.
Scubapro Regulator & Computer Bag £27.50
Reinforced regulator bag with accompanying computer bag constructed from 420D Nylon and 450D Rip-stop with a soft, padded 150D polyester interior and internal Velcro straps for securing regulator or console hoses.
Dimensions: 34x26x10cm (regulator), 10x7x14cm (computer)
Capacity: 9 litre (regulator), 1 litre (computer)
Weight: 0.42kg (regulator), 01.10kg (computer)
Stahlsac Storm Dry Sack £29.95 (12l) £34.95 (30l) £47.95 (60l)
Stahlsac’s Storm Dry Sacks are available in 12-litre (pictured), 30-litre and 60-litre versions, depending on whether you need to carry just a phone, wallet and set of keys or a whole change of clothing. The standard roll-top design is constructed with a semi-opaque side panel, making it easier to find what you’re looking for; all models come with a detachable shoulder strap.
Dimensions (DxH): 25x48cm (12 litre), 28x70cm (30 litre), 30x94cm (60 litre)
Tusa Drybag 1 £29
A tough, nylon-reinforced, PVC-constructed bag in the classic open-top, roll-down and quick-snap-to-close design, but with a rectangular-shaped base opposed to the circular design of some other brands, and available in one size only.
Dimensions (HxWxD): 54x25x16cm
Capacity: 21.6 litre