The Tournament Bag: A Journey
Way back in 2010, we noticed ultimate players trekking to tournaments toting substandard bags. We thought we could come up with a better option. Since that realization, we've put in five years of work to make the perfect bag for ultimate players.
Here's how we did it.
chapter one: the need
Even a few years ago, ultimate players were mostly lugging big, simple duffels to tournaments. These large canvas sacks fit a lot of stuff, but they didn't help a player compartmentalize her gear.
For most players, that meant that when they finished their last game on Sunday and walked over to their gear bag, they would see a whirling vortex of their crap, blended higgledy-piggledy in a cavernous pouch. You might even call it a black hole. (zing!)
In 2010, Rohre, one of the five founding siblings of Five Ultimate, took it upon herself to create the perfect bag for a weekend tournament. She envisioned a bag that could contain every piece of gear ultimate players need at a tournament, AND give each piece of gear a proper place within the bag.
Chapter two: the player bag
Rohre's first attempt at solving ultimate players' bag problem was launched in 2010. Dubbed the Player Bag, and priced at a slim $60, it was miles ahead of the simple duffels ultimate players were using at the time.
The Player Bag boasted a myriad of compartments made specifically for ultimate players. It included a pouch on the end for discs, and external pockets for water bottles or energy bars. Backpack straps made transport much easier than the average duffel. But the truly revolutionary detail was the pouch that kept stinky cleats away from the rest of the gear.
Unfortunately, Rohre's vision for the perfect bag for ultimate players exceeded our own ability to produce a high quality product at the time. The Player Bag was rife with small technical problems, and Rohre made the decision to discontinue production of the bag in 2012, leaving a hole for ultimate players.
chapter three: bringing in outside help
Lucky for us, Rohre didn't give up after nixing the Player Bag.
Instead she decided to double down and invest more into creating a better bag. She took a step back to rethink all the decisions about the bag's features, the quality of the material, and even the manufacturing process itself.
For this complete redesign, Rohre enlisted Nina Helmke, a German ultimate player and product designer. Nina had already been working on prototypes to solve the problem of easily transporting all of her tournament gear. Living in Asia at the time, Nina was mostly using public transportation to get to tournaments and needed a convenient way to carry all her gear for the weekend.
Rohre and Nina embarked on a quest together to design a bag for ultimate players, and they weren't going to settle for anything less than perfection.
chapter four: what's important?
To start the redesign, Nina and Rohre took a step back to identify what the bag needed to do for ultimate players.
They wanted it to be big enough to hold everything that a player would need for a tournament, yet the fully-loaded bag needed to be small enough to be considered an airplane carry-on in order to avoid fees for checked bags.
As a Seattle native, Rohre knew a premium gear bag had to keep players' gear completely dry, even on the rainiest day. She was also adamant that they retain her original vision of a bag with compartments that could keep smelliness separate from cleanliness.
Finally, the women also took a look at the shortcomings of the Player Bag. The external water bottle holder wasn't working, because there was no angle where it remained balanced both when upright on a player's back and when chillin', sprawled out on the ground.
Those issues, among others, would need to be corrected for the Tournament Bag.
chapter five: getting it just right
Design and development took nearly a year. Sourcing the premium fabrics at a facility that could produce the bag at the necessary quality took another six months. Then it was time for product testing.
Tester feedback led to many small revisions, such as the addition of an inner liner for the bag. The outside fabric, while durable in the rain, wasn't super comfortable on hands when people went digging through the bag looking for their other sock.
The design team added a Nalgene-sized pocket inside of the bag in lieu of finding a balanced and streamlined way to attach a water bottle holder to the outside of the bag. Testers came back raving about the rainfly once they had discovered it, so the team knew that that was gold. They added some extra communication about the existence of the rainfly, and it was good to go.
All in all, these adjustments and small revisions took about six months. And after that two-year process, the Tournament Bag was deemed ready for a full product launch.
chapter six: the perfect bag for ultimate players
In November 2014, we launched the final product of Rohre's blood, sweat, and tears. The Tournament Bag has retained the general shape and some of the attributes of the Player Bag of yore, but at its heart, it's a completely different animal.
The top of the bag is water resistant and the bottom is completely waterproof. If the weather takes a turn, you can even pull out the rainfly to protect the entire bag from moisture. No more stuffing your gear into trash bags once the weather goes south.
The Tournament Bag holds its shape better than its predecessor, and it has backpack straps and a duffel handle. Both straps are reinforced with extra webbing to support the weight of all your gear.
There are compartments galore to stow your gear, including zippered pockets on both the exterior and interior of the bag, so that you can keep your stuff organized, arranged, and safe from the elements. The disc pouch remains, and many people also use it as an external pocket to store those stanky cleats.
The Tournament Bag has quickly become a go-to in the ultimate community. Check out what people are saying about it:
"For those of you who take the hotel room to the fields, this is the bag for you. I feel like Five has pulled to the corner of the endzone with this thing. It really could be their new flagship product, besides their jerseys of course." -Gil McIntire of SkydMagazine (see his whole product review here!)
"It's the bag I use for everything ultimate-related. It's great for weekday practices as it's not too big to lug around on the bus, but it's still big enough to accommodate everything I need for a weekend, from a sleeping pad to extra cleats." - Rohre Titcomb
"Honestly the perfect bag for ultimate players. The rain hood is the most clutch thing to include on a bag. I can't imagine how I ever survived without this bag. It's awesome." - Joseph Kane
"Awesome tournament bag! Has all the necessary features to handle every piece of ultimate swag you could possibly own. Also great to take on planes when traveling longer distances. Great job Five!" - David Jacobson