Back in 2004 when friends and I were starting an Ultimate team at the University of Puget Sound, we had a saying that noted the three things that any one player needed to keep the team rolling. The saying, “cleats, water, women,” was clear enough. Cleats because, this being the first year, a lot of our team hadn’t played Ultimate and we needed to remind everyone that cleats were part of the game. Water because we were idiots. And women because we hoped to start a women’s team as well. After spending a good month with the Ultimate Bucket, I am tempted to amend that phrase with “cleats, water, women, bucket.” Then again, out of context that’s a little too human centipede for me. Regardless, never has something so simple become such an essential item in my accessory arsenal.
The concept of using a five gallon bucket to carry around your discs and Ultimate gear is not new. I don’t know who first started the trend, but for the last few years I’ve seen plenty of players and friends use their bucket as a sideline seat. Those “friends” then proceed to laugh at my face when my bag gets soaked while their stuff is completely dry (Nick Dare). The Ultimate Bucket takes that awesome concept and runs with it, adding some great features like a carrying strap, under-lid pocket, and foam seat top.
Ultimate Bucket is the brainchild of four former college (and current club) teammates – Ben Deneka, John Rhodes Martin, Patrick Weems, and Brad Ward. While teammates at Ole Miss, the four developed “an awkward, uneasy tolerance for each other”, which they carried on into club Ultimate, and into business with Ultimate Bucket.
As the story goes, the four were having a dainty brunch in Oxford and started talking entrepreneurship. Patrick brought up manufacturing and selling a version of John’s home-brew Ultimate Bucket, and after more meetings and research, that discussion developed into the Ultimate Bucket.
When I had first heard about the Ultimate Bucket concept, I was really excited about getting my hands on one. But being as this is a new product from a young company, I wasn’t expecting much. The Bucket, however, greatly exceeded my expectations in terms of quality and material.
When I received my UB, I was excited to see the Ultimate Bucket logo hot-stamped in gold. This immediately stood out as a professional touch and something that people notice when carrying it around. The middle school students I coach are always very impressed by the logo.
The bucket itself is exactly what you’d expect. It’s a solid plastic bucket with a top that fastens down. I will note that on cold days the top can be difficult to open, but in general there isn’t much to say. The three items I really notice are the modifications made by the UB crew – the strap, the pocket and the seat.
The strap is completely solid. The material is sturdy, adjusts easily and doesn’t scratch my neck. It’s clear that these guys really did their research in selecting strap material. The pocket too exemplifies R & D (in fact the bucket is made from components from six different suppliers). I can comfortably fit my keys, phone and wallet in the pocket without feeling like the velcro is going to give and my stuff is going to fall out. The foam seating is nice too. It truly is comfortable to sit on and watch a game. Further, the foam works well with the often wet weather Seattle has to offer. My one criticism of the material is that it’s not very sound when it comes to stepping on it. I’ve placed my foot on the bucket to tie my cleats a couple times and noticed that my cleats have ripped the foam a little bit. Though the foam works great for what it is, I just wonder about its longevity. Also, considering the likelihood of using the bucket as a stool, or landing strip for tying cleats, if it would have been worthwhile for UB to include some sort of removable cover for the foam.
Regardless, the craftsmanship and material is very impressive, especially considering they’re currently by hand assembled in one of the founders’ apartment.
As I’ve indicated earlier, I love this thing. The Ultimate Bucket makes worrying about carrying all of my gear to practice or a league game (which my team The Borg is currently dominating) really easy. That’s not to say that a bag isn’t easy too, but knowing that I don’t have to worry about all of my stuff getting soaked or where I put my wallet is very convenient. The UB is sized well so that it fits in a trunk and has room for my cleats, water, discs and beef jerky. The UB has quickly become a staple of what I bring to anything Ultimate related.
“Compared to our bucket, using a gym bag really feels like a pain in the ass now. Unlike a gym bag, a bucket is crush proof; all your stuff will stay safe and relatively undisturbed, which is great when you have four other people throwing stuff in and out of a car trunk along with your bucket. It’s also worth nothing that we’ve used our buckets as beverage coolers, which has a great side benefit: no one will assume that the bucket that you’ve been carrying gear in all day long is now filled with beer.” – Brad Ward
$30 for a bucket may seem steep, if you’re of the mind that you can make something like this yourself. Can you put an Ultimate Bucket together by yourself? Sure you can, that’s how this company got started in the first place.
“The most distant ancestor of the Ultimate Bucket is this hideous contraption that John still owns, an unwieldy blue bucket with a vinyl boat seat loosely attached to the top, and a spare luggage strap attached to the sides with huge wads of duct tape.” – Brad Ward
But are you going to build your own? Probably not. The dudes at UB have done all of the hard research, development and assembly work for you. So while you may save a few bucks ordering and putting together your own parts, I’d rather save the time and buy a pre-made product I know is quality.
The only real drawback in price is shipping. It may come as no surprise that shipping a big bucket full of air can get rather expensive, which is why if you have to have the bucket sent to you, it may be a bit out of price range. Luckily, the UB guys are touring tournaments around the US, making the order and pickup process very easy.
$30 (w/o shipping) Ultimate Bucket
This product is the bomb. From the start, it has exceeded my expectations in its simple but well thought out design and modifications. The Ultimate Bucket succeeds because it allows me to focus on playing the game rather than worrying about my gear. I don’t worry about my clothes getting wet, or where my phone is. The UB makes it easy and I’m constantly surprised how nice of a touch the strap and foam seat add-on are – so smart. If you’re one of the lucky ones to have Ultimate Bucket stop by your tournament, do yourself a favor and buy one. For those who have to order online and have them shipped, be real with yourself for a second. If you’re not going to build yourself a bucket, and don’t already have a bag you’re happy with, then an Ultimate Bucket is absolutely worth the cost of shipping.
“Ultimate is a sport for nomads, and the Bucket provides an awesome all-in-one solution for guys who hate lugging three armloads of stuff from sideline to sideline. Of course, buckets already exist, and Ultimate players already use them. However, most of these buckets have uncomfortable, easily breakable lids that aren’t watertight.” – Brad Ward