Help me find a backpack for my massage kit.
February 12, 2014 3:25 PM   Subscribe

The duffel bag I use for my massage kit is falling apart and I have trouble finding a sturdier replacement. Can you help me find one? Pics inside.

When visiting clients at home I bring my own futon and some basics such as pillows, blanket, comfy clothing. I mostly move around the city by bike. The duffel I currently have is simply not up to the task: it's falling apart, too small and not waterproof.

The bag is a tube sized 110 x 40cm which I can carry on my back, although it isn't very comfortable. It holds the futon just fine, but I have to tie it up to fit in with the rest. This is a pic of the bag and contents.

I'm looking for something like this duffel from Northface but longer to accommodate the futon. Had a chance to check that one out in a hiking store and it's pretty much what I'd want, except for size. Other types of bag large enough are available, but are more like luggage and not designed to be worn as a backpack.

Not sure what to look for or where. Suggestions welcome!
posted by pressure for pleasure to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total)
Army Surplus?

posted by HuronBob at 3:57 PM on February 12, 2014

Just to clarify - the bag itself needs to be at least 110cm x 40cm?
posted by barnone at 3:57 PM on February 12, 2014

I recently got a High Sierra AT568 and it is awesome. It's a solidly constructed, well-organized duffel that is also a rolling suitcase and also a backpack. I can't recommend it enough.

It has an expansion zipper, and compression straps to cinch it down. In backpack mode it's remarkably comfortable (not as good a real backpack of similar size of course, but much better than just putting your arms through the straps of a regular duffel) and as a rolling suitcase it also works excellently. I haven't had it for long but as I mentioned before the construction seems excellent; it's heavy-duty nylon with good zippers, sturdy stitching, metal wheels, and reinforcements/rivets where needed. It's even remarkably light! I really can't find any fault with it.

My version may be a little bit small for you but they make a bigger one that might suit you. The big one has a capacity of 131 liters and dimensions of 81 x 32 x 32 centimeters in collapsed mode.

If that's still too small and you don't care about backpack straps, they make a very similar rolling duffel that's a size larger and appears to be essentially the same idea except minus the backpack straps and, well, bigger. It's also a good deal cheaper, which is always a bonus.
posted by Scientist at 5:56 PM on February 12, 2014

The thing that immediately comes to mind is a hockey bag. Big, sturdy, and comes in wheeled and backpack styles.
posted by padraigin at 6:06 PM on February 12, 2014

Try Timbuk2. There are lots of great styles, and I can vouch for how well they're made - the messenger bag I have lasted longer than my marriage.
posted by guster4lovers at 8:23 PM on February 12, 2014

I would be looking at dry bags. This one is close, at 42",but not quite. If you look at the photo of the model on that page you can see why it's hard to find packs this size - it hangs down far enough to impede walking. Dry bags can be tough to load and awkward to pack (granted I used mine to carry a heavy wood djembe drum) but man is your stuff dry. Also would be better to lash to rack on bike due to compression straps. Generally dry bags are rugged and survive falls well.

Duffel bags are really much easier to pack and you will appreciate this after a while. Rummaging around at the bottom of a 115L+ pack is no fun. Here is a 43" duffel that will (just) clear your futon.

You can go to canoe, kayak, or boat suppliers in your area to inquire about a slightly larger size.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:10 AM on February 13, 2014

Thanks for the suggestions so far!

@HuronBob: some of the Army duffels look great! I'll browse around for their larger sizes. Perhaps I could ask a friend to add a few extra inches to this one for example.

@barnone: the main thing is the futon, which is 100x40cm rolled up. If all else fails I could -theoretically- carry my other things in a seperate bag, but this would be a pain when biking and walking.

@padraigin and @crazycanuck: oh! I hadn't thought of those sports. Great! The 42" dry bag might actually be big enough.
posted by pressure for pleasure at 7:54 AM on February 13, 2014

Have you ever considered investigating panniers or racks that might hold it properly? You could put it in one of the long dry bags, then have it strapped diagonally on the back of your bike? Or is that just a crazy idea?

Or what about a small trailer? It depends on how much of a pain the backpack is, but there are other ways of transporting such bulky items.
posted by barnone at 8:16 AM on February 14, 2014

Here's a canvas bag with a shoulder strap and balance straps - designed for massage futon mattresses. Maybe they'd be able to make one with shoulder straps in addition?
posted by barnone at 8:20 AM on February 14, 2014

And here's a 50x30" canvas duffle. You could have someone sew on reinforced backpack straps.

Final thought: snowboard travel cases are very long and some have room for multiple boards. There are also wakeboard bags. Most just have one shoulder strap but I bet there are models with backpack straps!
posted by barnone at 8:30 AM on February 14, 2014

Just for reference on cycling with a long bag. I used to cycle roughly 5km with a 30" high backpack (the aforementioned djembe, although a lighter model than the one I transported in the drybag). A 30" backpack on a bicycle is extremely unstable. The pack shifts, the load comes up above your head, frankly I despised cycling with the thing on. I would not want to raise this to 42" - at that point the load is towering over your head while you ride, god help you if you get caught in a stiff cross breeze or have to do any emergency moves.

Now I have a new bike that has a rack. Putting loads on the back rack is much better. One time I had to transport home a 37" Casio keyboard. I strapped that thing horizontally across the back of the bike rack and I could have rode for ages (though I was happy the trip was downhill, not uphill). The major hazard in that case is trying to squeeze through openings that are too narrow/cars not looking for the wider width. You can put loads on a minor diagonal on the rack, but it can't come too far forward otherwise you will have trouble steering/pedaling.

Panniers are too small for this job. For reference, here is a tall-ish pannier filled with a pug dog. In this case, the pannier is 44.5 cm high. A pug dog is much smaller than a futon. The dimensions of the pannier realistically are bounded by the hooks on the top and bottom to allow to clip onto a rack for a bicycle, so they do not usually come in tall sizes. You can lash loads horizontally across the top of the pannier.

Having tall loads strapped vertically where a pannier would go on the rack has a number of problems, including instability and the risk of the load sliding down. I would not lash a tall load there, given the problems I have had securing and transporting even a small but somewhat tall load (such as a folded kite) to the rack vertically.

I suggest dry bag as the panniers I have (which are heavy waterproof nylon, not even PVC) have taken a beating falling off at speed and the contents have stayed fine. I travel with a laptop computer from time to time (in a pack with some other items such as clothing and wrapped lunch) and the pannier has fallen from the bike at 15 km/hr+ without damage to the laptop and without scrapes to the bag. Leather bags were scuffed almost instantly. I would be concerned about canvas ripping. The dry bags are designed to be banged around. Lashing a dry bag horizontally with bungee cords to a rack is a comfortable and convenient way to carry a large but relatively light load on roads with limited hill climbing.

I think a trailer is overkill - a large weight gain on the bike and a much less comfortable ride.
posted by crazycanuck at 10:33 AM on February 14, 2014

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