It seems lately that ultimate is constantly trying to extend its reach into unknown territory. The days of GAIA jerseys adorning teams have been replaced with kits emblazoned with non-ultimate specific brands such as Puma and Patagonia. But a Kickstarter product released on Tuesday turns that notion on its head.
For years, ultimate players have seemingly fallen into two categories when it comes to keeping their stuff in one place. The first group shows seemingly little regard to the product designed to hold all of the precious ultimate things like discs, stain-covered cleats, and darks-and-lights, employing everything from Goodwill found gym bags, to kitchen found trash bags. The other group finds their home in the other extreme, constantly on the lookout for the “perfect” bag for the ultimate sideline. Once again non-ultimate specific companies like Patagonia – with the well-known “Black Hole” bag – find their ways onto the sidelines next to teammates’ Goodwill goods, and even 5 gallon buckets.
Finally, enough is enough. Colorado-based ultimate player David Chan has designed an eco-friendly, ultimate specific bag to make both extremes of the sideline stuff sack debate happy. Mirroring his bubbling and bright personality, Chan has created what could become the standard sideline bag that everyone absolutely adores. It’s the first bag designed by an ultimate player, with solely ultimate players in mind, and it’s rightly called: The Heckler.
Although the Kickstarter campaign officially launched on Tuesday, June 3rd, the leaked Heckler Ultimate bag info had already found its way to the top of the front page of r/ultimate (Are you on it yet!?) by the night before. As luck would have it, Chan and I crossed paths in Denver, and he graciously dropped the Heckler bag by for me to put through the rigors. After two blazing hot 4-hour days on the Inception tryout sideline, here are the results:
Recycling old billboard material is a stroke of genius. The bag is lightweight while remaining tough. The specific Heckler Ultimate bag reviewed came with the black side facing out, but even in the hot, dry Colorado sun, the water bottle placed in the elastic retainer inside the mesh pocket stayed cool. Speaking of the mesh side pocket, the use of military grade mesh allows for proper cleat ventilation. I’ve always been “that guy on the team with the smelliest cleats,” over the two day tryout, however, I was upgraded to merely “that guy” thanks to this feature. An inner zipped pocket within the main compartment, and an additional side pocket complete with billboard material (no mesh) allows for plenty of stash spots for the little things. The “Wildcard” feature, which flips the bags essentially inside-out during manufacturing, ensures that each ultimate bag is as unique as the back its resting on.
The outer elastic disc holder is sturdy and can easily hold >3 discs (I managed 4), with 3 being the manufacturers maximum. With disc placement directly behind the player in the provided straps, there’s no more room for “Oh, we’re a…soccer team…” when traveling. Ultimate proud. The mesh side pocket, unfortunately, barely fits my cleat size of 10.5. I can’t foresee any size larger than that fitting in the designated pocket. Seemingly not much can be done about this, as the side pockets can only be as large as the bag itself. A larger bag to accommodate larger cleats would mean a larger bill at checkout, not ideal for the savvy ultimate spender.
The optional backpack straps ($20) are very comfortable and are modeled similar to many disc golf backpacks. If anyone knows how to wear a bag full of heavy discs with comfort, it’s disc golfers. The straps also come off the back at a 45 degree angle, which is recommended as best by orthopedists.
The bag is compact, yet roomy, with plenty of room for 2 lights, 2 darks, a hoodie, an extra pair of compression shorts, and a size 10.5 Nike cleats box, all in the main compartment. The YKK zippers are big and bulky, but easy to zip up, which typically correlates to lasting a long time. They also come in an array of neon colors, which ultimate players seem to gravitate towards. This feature is spot on. The small, hidden zipper on the back side of the bag makes tweeting and texting between points easy, without the worry of your phone overheating in the mid-summer sun. It cannot, however, make him or her text you back any faster, and won’t increase your Twitter followers. The compartment the hidden zipper leads to is built-in to the non-mesh side pocket, but is protected with a layer of billboard material so the condensation from a secondary water bottle stashed on this side won’t put you in the hole for a new phone. It also fits about 100 sport GUs in addition to keys, a phone and a wallet. This immediately brings up a spot of contention, however. I hate having my keys loose in a side pocket. The Heckler bag needs a key clip carabiner. Inside the inner zipped pocket in the main compartment would be ideal.
Moving on, I’ll preface this by saying I did not remove the discs from the outer elastic strap in this instance, so cannot say for certain if the discs were removed properly from the top, or improperly from the side of the elastic. All of that being said, after only 2 days on the sidelines, the sewn seams had already begun to come out of the elastic straps, leaving small holes where they were originally sewn in to the main compartment. These stitches need to be reinforced going forward.
Last and certainly most importantly, it’s produced and manufactured by a member of our ultimate community. It also comes with a lifetime guarantee, ensuring this bag will be around long after your ultimate career is done. By that time you’ll probably be wanting to use it as a diaper bag, and that’s totally fine, no judgement.
The largest drawback, according to both r/ultimate and this reviewer, is the price point. While during the first weeks of the Kickstarter campaign, the bag will be offered for a 15% discount ($85), even that is not enough of a price gap to pull players away from their already established brands such as Patagonia (Black Hole 45L: $99). In fact, once the 15% discount has expired, the $99 price point does nothing to deter players from going with the well known brands. Add a $20 surcharge for the backpack straps on top of it and suddenly the Heckler has gone from affordable, to overpriced beyond its competitors.
So, there you have it. The no-nonsense…ok, slightest of nonsense…review of the hottest, newest product designed specifically for ultimate players, by an ultimate player. If you wish to help out a fellow member of the community, be sure to click this link to get to the Heckler Ultimate Kickstarter page. If you still need a bit of convincing, check out the video below, the first 15 seconds are hilariously on point, and the rest is very informative.