Scramble is a brand that needs no introduction. They’ve been setting the standard for quality goods in jiu-jitsu for many years. Their broad range of products focuses on jiu-jitsu-themed streetwear with a unique and unmistakeable aesthetic all their own. They also have an impressive line of kimonos and training gear to boot.
Today we are looking at a product category that has been open to interpretation across the industry in terms of how functional it can be for jiu-jitsu: the gear bag.
As soon as I first got my hands on Scramble’s Kimono Backpack, the first thing that struck me was the build and construction; solid workmanship and an overall feel of quality. From a style perspective, the ‘space grey’ polyester material is reminiscent of Apple’s new iPhones and MacBooks. The clasps are sturdy and the zippers have rubberized corded loop pulls. You can see that a lot of thought went into designing the details of this bag.
I also noted upon first getting acquainted with the bag that it has quite a flat profile, which on some level made me doubt its internal capacity, however it’s intended to be a minimalistic gi bag that’s meant to fit the essentials you need for a training session. From this perspective, it’s great as an everyday training bag, and maybe not as suitable as a tournament travel bag.
What I loved:
Stylish - It’s no secret that the team behind scramble has style. They’ve managed to develop an interesting visual using diagonal design elements (more on this later), while still maintaining a clean, understated and presentable look and feel. Most of all, I liked how the bag keeps a good contour to your body, and doesn’t protrude too much, even when filled to capacity with your gear. I’ve been inclined to use it not just for training, but also for other activities that called for a lighter carry.
Lightweight - At only 1.6lbs or 0.75 kg, the bag is does its job in helping you get your gear to and from training, without adding much to your load.
Sturdy - Although this is not a huge bag, you can feel from the stitching, straps and hardware that it can handle quite a bit of weight relative to its size. It’ll undoubtedly take all the wear and tear you can give it. The straps, zippers, pulls, top handle, buckles and cushioning in the back and laptop sleeve areas are all top notch and leave no doubts about durability. I’ve used more bags throughout my jiu-jitsu career than I care to mention, and I’ve seen my share of cheaply-constructed ones – flimsy buckles, catchy zippers, subpar cushioning and clunky design – so when you come across a well-built piece like this one from Scramble, the build quality is obvious from day one.
Creative – It may or may not be obvious at first glance, but the unique ‘kimono jacket’ construction of the flap on the front part of the bag seems to be a subtle nod or reference to the left lapel of a gi. The diagonal zipper compartment that runs almost perpendicular being a loose representation of the right lapel. Some may see this detail as a useful and practical feature, while others may see it merely as a design element. Either way, it’s both clever and unique. What I thought most practical about the lapel flap is the hidden zip pocket that resides on the inside, much like an internal breast pocket of a suit. Here you can store valuables and not have to worry about it being accessible to (or even seen by) anyone behind you on a train or riding up an escalator. You can even access this hidden pocket while still wearing the bag, just by reaching back and unbuckling the flap, and swinging it around your right side, where you can reach it from under your arm. Pretty cool feature.
Work – It’s always nice to have the option to carry your work with you, especially when training is often something that people do before work or at lunch time before heading straight back. The padded laptop sleeve will hold computers up to 15”, and keep them snug and protected. Can’t argue with the practicality of this feature, and its almost unnoticeable zipper access, which hides subtly along the edge of the back cushion.
No product is perfect of course, and as always, there are some possible improvements to be pointed out:
Flap hardware - My only issue with the kimono flap feature is that the buckle, although easy to deploy, is a bit difficult to buckle again. So if you’ve quickly accessed the hidden pocket in the flap from under your right arm while the bag is still on your back, you ultimately need to take the bag off to close the flap and reconnect the buckle. Not sure there’s a better solution, as even a Velcro closure or a covered magnet would pose the same issue.
Capacity - As I mentioned, this bag is suitable as an everyday training bag, with enough internal capacity to carry the essentials for a training session. That said, if the bag had an expansion zipper feature, giving an option for additional capacity only when needed, while remaining flat and presentable when you only need your essentials, this would be easily qualify as an all-around bag that would cover even travel and tournament duties.
Ventilation – I’m always careful not to leave my wet kimono in any bag for too long after a training session, for fear of things getting nasty. Some training bags reduce this risk by offering some sort of ventilation, which certainly helps, but in this case once the zippers are closed, ventilation becomes a challenge. This only becomes a big deal if you don’t have the opportunity to head straight home post-training to air out and wash your gear. If you do a morning or lunch time class and go straight to work, then your gi, rashie, spats, and whatever else is inside will likely sit in an marinade of your (and your training partners’) sweat for several hours. Luckily, the bag is built from 100% polyester, so it’s pretty easily washed and the smells won’t stick. Bottom line, a ventilation feature would certainly help on a gear bag like this.
The Scramble Kimono Backpack is a great item that I thoroughly enjoy using. It looks great, is well-built and does what it sets out to do. I like it for exactly what it is; a practical and presentable training gear bag best suited for carrying the essentials for your jiu-jitsu session. If you want your gear to fit comfortably inside, I’d suggest folding it nicely before stuffing it in, in order to maintain that flat, sleek profile that I like so much about the bag. For those of you who like to dump and crumple your gear into your training bag, or need to carry more, you might consider a different option. But for $77, it’s hard to argue with the value of the Scramble Kimono Backpack, even if you already have a bigger gear bag at home.
Find more info on Scramble's Kimono Backpack HERE.