Skip to content

The perfect (sword) bag

One day I will be happy, because I will have found the perfect bag to carry everything in. Meanwhile, I remain miserable, making do with a mixture of bags.

The problem really is not that there is not a range of good bags for carrying HEMA gear. The problem is one of context. Sometimes I need to carry gear for two people, and the trip varies between “putting stuff in the car” through to “getting on a plane”, with “lugging stuff through the London Tube” somewhere in the more frequent middle.

I know that every time I’ve mentioned sword – or HEMA – bags on line, the usual response is a chorus of people telling me that I’m doing it wrong. I’m sure that will happen again, and my only available response is to ask the reader to try to walk in my shoes.

I would pick four bags as being parts of perfection. Between these it looks like I can cover off most of my requirements with minimal friction.

To start with are the simple “military” echelon bags. You know the ones – made of heavy canvas, usually black or khaki, cost #10. These comfortably carry an AP jacket, fencing breeches, a mask, a gorget, and some gloves – for one person. They’re a convenient size and shape for all this semi-soft gear, small enough to balance on your lap on the tube, or tuck into a corner with no more than the usual number of exasperated sighs from commuters. What they are lousy for is carrying anything more than a few hundred meters – you can sort of put them on your back, which is really uncomfortable; or carry them by the straps, and limp along at an angle trying not to keep bumping your leg; or sling them over your shoulder and have every second A-type personality in the tube corridors knocking it off.



The Sportube is a mighty fine piece of kit for the most travel, although it’s too big to fit in a Fiat Panda. I can get two rapiers, two wasters, two federschwert, two masks, two jackets, a bunch of gloves, gorgets and all the other bits and pieces all in the Series 3 tube. This is superb for flying, as it just goes in with the rest of the snowboards and skis, and sort of ok for commuting on the tube. The advantage for the commute is that it’s big enough to make other commuters sod off out of the way. The disadvantage for the London commute is that the Tube is all about stairs (god help anyone trying to get around London by public transport), and getting the fully laden SporTube up or down stairs is really a two-person job. It’s not bad for walking a fair distance with, but that does depend on the surface you are walking on – cobble stones are not fun.

The alternative to putting everything in the SporTube is a large NorthFace duffel bag. It’s like an echelon bag crossed with an SUV: it is huge, and is fitted out with straps and handles that make it comfortable to carry quite long distances on your back in back-pack mode. The handles also make it easy to swing up onto your back without knocking over fellow commuters. It’s probably too big to hold on your lap or under your feet in the train, but not so big that you can’t stand in a corner. The optimal load-out for this is two jackets, two gorgets, two masks, a bunch of gloves, two breeches, and maybe some other small bits and pieces. That keeps the weight manageable. The only drawback to these types of bags is that there’s no partial unpack: inevitably you have to get everything out in order to get to the bottom layer once you have two people’s gear in it. Another hassle with these bags is that it’s fiddly to get the top open all the way without loosening the backpack straps all the way off.



The final bag is a new one, the Lichtenauer. This is an odd hybrid, and definitely designed by HEMA folk. It’s a very flexible design, and I can get a bunch of swords, gloves, gorget and mask for one person in it. I can definitely get two rapiers, two federschwert and two wasters in it. It’s designed to be sort of ok on your back, but feels precarious, as though it is going to slip off. That’s illusory though, it is designed when hanging on your back to sit at a bit of an angle so that you can walk. It’s not amazingly comfortable with a mask in it, but it’s ok and definitely not uncomfortable or painful. I would not be keen to use it for flying, but it’s good for the commute. It would also fit well in the Fiat, but realistically I can just shove everything in the car wrapped in a blanket just as efficiently.

So there you have it. Various possible modes. What seems to be working best for two people, on the tube, is to use the SwordBag and the NorthFace bag – swords and gloves in the SwordBag, masks and jackets and stuff in the NorthFace bag. For flying, the SportTube and either two echelon bags, or the NorthFace, depending on how many other clothes I need to take.

I will repeat my caveat, this is a statement about what works for me, for particular contexts.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *