I must confess - I'm a complete Stahlsac homer.
When I started diving I bought a mesh backpack from my LDS. I hated every moment with that stupid thing. Worthless for the SoCal diving I do today: Dry Suit, DS Undies, heavy Jet fins, weighted plate, can light, dry box, scooter Extra's box, blah, blah... I have a lot of stuff and its all heavy (especially when wet.)
I stepped into one of the cheaper dive bags - one with an amphibian on it. The limp thing wouldn't stand when full, and it simply wouldn't hold all my stuff. I overloaded it and it wimpered, pulled apart and died.
I avoided a Stahlsac for years - mostly because of the price. Its a premium line. Its not over-priced my any means, IMO - but it is at the top of the scale. I just didn't think for a long time that I needed a premium dive bag. I killed one more dive bag and I remember going to my Fundies class with a Target duffle bag. OY!
At my Fundies class, Michael rolled in with a salt-stained, very well worn Stahlsac Catalina roller bag for the weekend class. It was like a clown car - stuff just kept coming out of that bag. I knew I'd own one. Not long after Fundies (that would be 2003!!) I bought a Catalina bag.
I have never, EVER regretted spending a little more for my Stahlsac. I soon bought a Catalina for Jaye. Claudette, after beating Froggy to death bought one. Several other friends have bought them. They are simply the best dive bags ever, and I never do a boat dive without bringing it. They're just built to take it.
So I was pretty excited to roll over to the Stahlsac booth. Our own HeadHunter had given me strict orders to go offer a personal HI from him to Jim Stahl, plus I wanted to see what was new. When I got there, I met with Stacy Cole and she walked me through the line.
The newest member of the Stahlsac family is the (get this) Jamaican Smuggler bag. I love the names they give their bags!
This bag arrived at Stahlsac the day of the show, so I was unable to secure complete specs on the bag (cubic inches, etc.) What I can tell you is the bag only weighs 8 pounds! It has a hard back (remember the old clam-shell back dive bags?!?!) but in typical Stahlsac fashion, they've lifted the best features of the style and added in their trademark quality touches.
This new bag also features the proven Stahlsac Roller-blade type wheels. My old-design Catalina bag from 2003 has those type of wheels (the newer ones don't - they have rugged treaded plastic wheels) and I really like the roller-blade wheels. They're very smooth, and much quieter when rolling down a a ribbed aluminum dock ramp in the middle of the night than the hard plastic wheels they use now (the sleeping divers prefer the roller blade wheels, trust me...!)
The Jamaican Smuggler is an excellent local bag or mid-sized travel bag. I couldn't get all of my cold water gear into it - backplate, wing, regs, fins, drysuit, DS undies, drybox... all of the stuff I get into the ridiculously huge 7350 Cu Inch Catalina bag - but if I was traveling to a warm water place, I would surely be able to get my stuff into this bag.
The bag stands on its own, even when completely filled (yea!) thanks to its skid plates and bottom plate / wheel placement. The sides of the bag are also reinforced which helps it maintain shape when full - and with a pair of cinch / compression straps on it, you can keep the load tight into the hard back - so its more comfortable to roll - I hate it when the bag doesn't lay back onto its wheels / handles and wants to jump out of your hand. I'm confident this bag is quite easy to handle when filled.
Of course there is a handle at the bottom of the bag, like on all their stuff. It makes the bag easy to load into my truck - but more importantly it makes it easy to pull OUT of the truck. Plus it serves as another tie-down point for the dive boats. I'd use a huge carabiner in this bottom handle to secure the bag to the rail!
The best, and I mean the very best part about this bag is the fact it can be collapsed for compact storage. I LOVE THAT! So once I get to my destination, or when storing it at home between trips, the bag just disappears.
Other good news from Stahlsac - they're changing Zippers on their big bags. My old Catalina bag - the one with the rollerblade wheels has THE BEST zippers of anything I own. They just work. Sand, salt, neglect - I can always get them open and shut. On Jaye's newer style Catalina bag Stahlsac changed to a metal pull and changed out the zipper style, and its not the same. It will sometimes jam, if I don't keep it lubed between dives it builds up white crusties and some of the zippers become nearly impossible to open.
Stacy showed me a zipper sample that had been in Salt Water for months, and it featured the "Jaye's bag pull" and the "new pull" (which looks a lot like the super zipper on my bag.) It is great news they're going to lose these metal pulls and go back to a zipper that works in all conditions.
I love these guys. This new bag is a super addition to the line (you can see all of their stuff at www.stahlsac.com) Stacy said it'll retail for around $180. If you're looking for the last dive bag you'll ever buy, you need to look at Stahlsac. I have hundreds and hundreds of trips and tens-of-thousands of miles on mine, and it remains the ONLY piece of dive gear (apart from my HP100 and Atomic B1 Reg) that is still in active use from 2003. If this write up helped you, or you go check out their stuff and like what you see, send Jim (email@example.com) an eMail tell him Ken from DiveMatrix sent you over.