9 Apr 2014
A superbly constructed genuine hemp product, the Battlepack Mini hides a veritable Tardis-like amount of storage. This bag was not only able to store a mutlitude of everyday training items, it was also very comfortable and portable enough to wear on long journeys thanks to its convenient overall size and padded zones. The only drawback is the non-waterproof material and lack of included raincover (it has to be bought as an extra).
I bought mine from Grapplers Delight for £69.99
It is also available from the main Datsusara website for $79.99
I work with a lot of fightwear brands as a freelance designer. I have never worked with Datsusara. All views expressed in this report are my own.
So what's the big deal with hemp? According to its supporters, hemp is more ecologically friendly compared to cotton as it uses less water and pesticides to grow. The actual fibres are very strong when woven into textiles giving it a long lasting durability plus the open nature of the weave allows air to circulate freely. As a texture, it feels very similar to the coarseness of linen. (The inner label tag states that the bag is made from 85% hemp and 15% synthetics.)
A lot of hemp supporters also state that the fibre is antimicrobial. I'm personally not entirely too convinced by that line. It is certainly true that in natural state, a lot of plants produce essential oils and volatile compounds that inhibit microbial growth (for example here is a paper looking at the oils of hemp) it's worth noting that hemp fibres as used in the textile industry undergo chemical treatment which would inevitably strip it of much of those oils. Still, some scientific papers have been conducted on hemp which hint at some ability to ward off yeast and bacterial colonies to some degree. See this paper as an example study.
I actually own the much larger Pro Gear Bag which I have been using for whenever I need to carry a ton of clothing eg on holiday. I love the Pro Gear Bag, it is absolutely massive and can store an entire grown adult! Having experience with this big bag gave me the confidence to know that buying any of the Datsusara bags would be money worth spending.
The Battlepack mini is not that small, but not that big. It feels coarse to the touch - much like regular canvas - but the first thing one notices is the amazing array of pockets, toggles, zippers, velcro, meshing, handles, fasteners etc etc...it is absolutely loaded with functionality. It also comes with something Datsusara call a 'nasty bag'. With a name like that, it's immediately obvious what its purpose is for (to place stinky, sweaty, smelly used training gear into.)
If you really want some stats, the Battlepack Mini measures 18"H x 11"W x 6"D (45x28x15cm) and has a capacity of 1,188 cu. in. (19.4L). I have no idea what capacity translates to but if you quickly scroll down this report you can see that it is big enough to hold one folded gi, rashguard, belt, several books, water bottle, wallet and a bunch of other smaller stuff. I also have managed to squeeze two folded gis into the main compartment.
Overall, first impressions would suggest it is money very much well spent when you consider purely the functionality and the sheer high quality of the construction and materials.
Compartments and compartments!
Let's talk about storage. I used to use an old Jansport mini backpack to carry my gi around when out and about. It was actually a bit bigger than the Battlepack Mini and initially I was worried it would not compare favourably for carrying load. I was wrong. The Battlepack Mini can carry as much if not more..and the genius with this little thing is the boggling number of compartments available.
Overall I counted ELEVEN individual pockets, compartments and openings where you can put something into the bag. This figure includes the main compartment but does not include the nasty bag (which I guess is a compartment in its own right).
Let's go through the key points that I noticed about the bag, in photo format...
So above is the main compartment and upon opening it (via two chunky zippers) you can see there is a cavernous main storage zone plus four smaller inner pockets. Three of these inner pockets are made from mesh and sealable via zippers. The slight larger inner pocket is fastened using a velcro strap. I imagine these smaller pockets would be handy to store tape, gumshield, coins etc etc.
When it is filled up, you can see how the inner compartment is ample enough space to store almost everything required for a regular training session at the BJJ gym:-
When fully loaded, the whole bag is pretty heavy but the contoured strapping, fasteners and padded back region help ease the burden by a considerable degree.
Outside of the main compartment are a number of additional storage compartments:-
In the photo above, you can see where I have labelled the front and back compartments. The back compartment is very slim and would probably suit the storage of documents or a tablet computer. I neglected to label a smaller pocket that sits right at the very top of the bag. This is small enough really only to hold a small wallet or a gumshield box.
The front most compartment is large enough to store a notebook, pens and wallet. Another mesh compartment adds to the usefulness of this area.
In the photo below, one slightly curious observation is the pull off rubber logo tag.
But I saw on the Datsusara Facebook group how some people used this to customise their bag. I am not sure how they got it done but it does add a splash of colour!
It is clear from the photos and attempt to fill it up that the Battlepack Mini can carry a heck of a lot of stuff. It ended up being quite heavy with all the gear so it was important for me that it was still practical to carry on my shoulders when out and about.
My fears were unfounded. After several weeks of using it several times a week to ferry my gear onto London public transport from my office to the gym and back home, I was happy that the strapping and fastening system was comfortable to make using a fully loaded up Battlepack less of a chore compared to simpler systems. To sweeten the deal, I think the padded back support zones help a lot.
The main shoulder straps are thick and reasonably padded. It wasn't super soft like my old Jansport gel-strap system. but it is wide and carries the weight superbly. I liked all the adjustments one could make to lengthen or shorten the strap tightness, plus an additional horizontal fastener helps secure the back extra tight.
In the photo above the padded back zones are clearly visible. You can also see how the main shoulder straps are curved. In the photo below, I am wearing the back with contents fully loaded. It's heavy but the strapping system does its job comfortably enough.
The Battlepack Mini is an amazing bag, truly an outstanding item. Sure you can buy a much less pricey backpack to carry your training gear around. But from my point of view, it is clear to see where the money has been spent - very high quality construction, materials and design. This is a bag where a lot of thought and attention to detail has been taken in order to make something very practical. Us grapplers do not usually need to bring many big things - a gi and a belt is pretty much all one needs, but most of us do carry a ton of smaller items that also require transporting - you know, stuff like gumshields, groin guards, rashguards, notebooks, phone, wallet, tape, water bottle, snack bar etc etc etc...the Datsusara Battlepack Mini was clearly designed for people like me.
But the one big snag is waterproofness. I have used the bag when it was raining and my umbrella didn't quite cover it. Water soaks into the bag fairly easily. Datsusara do sell rain covers but they did not sell them at Grapplers Delight when I bought this item so I don't have a raincover. Personally I feel strongly that a rain cover should be included as standard with the bag.
Despite this small gripe, I really enjoyed using the bag and will continue to use it as my my travelling luggage of choice for carrying fightgear.
22nd April 2014
Someone asked if the laptop section was big enough to carry a Mac Book Pro (15" model) and the photo confirms that it does so comfortably:-