I may not be toting around the Denver Broncos with all of the logistics of transporting an NFL team around week after week, but triathletes have a lot of crap to carry around to workouts and races. They probably travel MORE than an NFL team when you consider daily workouts traveling from home to the gym, from work to the gym, from the gym to work, from the gym to home and wherever else a workout may take us. I also don’t get a personal locker at our workout facilities to house our crud while not at the gym. Those NFL players are so pampered… but I digress. Lets not also forget transporting swim, bike and run gear to destination races.
TYR, Nike, Reebok, Louis Garneau, Zoot, Orca, Xterra, 2XU and more then I can list here make very sufficient options for triathletes to get all of their gear from point A to point B, but not all bags are created equal. When you need to carry gear for swimming, biking, running, strength training, yoga, pilates or whatever else you incorporate into your training and racing regimen, you need space, you need functionality and you need convenience. What’s the point of all of the zippers and pockets if you can’t get to your stuff quickly, the bag catches on everything when you walk around with it and it won’t fit all of your stuff?
It’s a triathlete’s personal quest to find that all-in-one bag that will last more than one season to make their life (or obsession depending on your viewpoint). One bag is too small. One bag tore at the seams after jamming it full and throwing and jamming into gym lockers. This duffel bag works, but I can’t carry it and my 3 year old from the car to the gym when it’s raining or snowing. This backpack works, but everything is top loaded and I have to dig around to find my gear… you get the picture.
When GYST approached us about trying out their bags, I welcomed them with open arms. Any chance to check out a gear bag, yes please. I was frothing at the mouth to try out their BP1-14 transition backpack geared towards triathletes, but were taken back when they suggested I try out their DB1-14 duffel bag. A duffel bag? Really? We have needs as triathletes and duffel bags just have not worked and are not effective gear transport for the triathlon family with kids and crud to carry in addition to bags of gear. But, I succombed to the GYST charm and tried out the DB1-14. Check out what I thought and how this duffel bag can be adapted to a triathlete life.
Packaging / Shelf Appeal / Marketing
You probably won’t find a GYST DB1-14 duffel on the shelf at any fitness or sporting goods stores. The only place to buy a GYSt bag was from their site or shops in California. So, you won’t see the Marc Pro all packages up to look good sitting on a store shelf outside of California.
That being said, when you get your GYST in the mail, it’s very well packaged and doesn’t look like someone packed it in their living room with home printed instruction manuals. It comes across as professionally packaged, organized and well marketed. The tags and instructional materials are all glossy print with high end graphics and printing quality.
When taking into consideration the social media aspect of marketing, GYST is covering a couple bases. They have an active Facebook and Youtube account. Their website is informative, but comes across a little more utilitarian meeting the basics of transferring information about their product. You can find the product lines, descriptions and other information you would need, but at times there is some backtracking to find the appropriate link you are looking for.
When you check out the site, you can find a few items of note about the construction of the GYST DB1-14. After all, if the bag won’t stand up to abuse and isn’t durable, what’s the point?
Water repellent fabric
PU coated fabric expose to the ground with abrasion resistant Hypalon patch over magnets
Reinforced rip-stop polyester PU coated bottom
In theory, your bag won’t get your stuff wet (assuming it’s zipped up), the magnets used to secure some of the mats won’t tear out and the base of the duffel is tough and can take whatever you want to sit it on.
When I packed up out GYST for the first use, I loaded up every pocket and opening. It fit all I had and needed to be compressed to get the zipper to close all of the way. I probably put maybe a shirt or pair of socks too many in there, but this is a test, right?
When going through the process of opening every pocket, unbuckling every strap and re-closing for transport, I got my hands on every part of this bag. The mats, straps, zippers, magnets, bundy straps and cloth is firm and durable. It’s not flimsy polyester with a clear waterproofing coating that peels off after the first week. Our DB1-14 duffel is tough. The ONLY issue I wished was changed was the zipper grips. Right now they are light gage laces that are looped. I can see these breaking at some point, rendering the zipper useless unless you want to try and grip it with your fingernails. Maybe they will surprise us and be the last thing to go, but I would like a better tag or grip for the zippers.
Fashion / Appearance
When someone says “duffel bag”, most people groan with the vision of the ubiquitous uni-color bag with a main zipper, side pocket and that large strap that eats into your shoulder if you load it up too much. Let that bag get too large and you see the strap connections degrade over time and you’re using those side handles to carry it around. Oy.
The DB1-14 is far from your father’s duffel. The mats used for standing and changing double as wrapping the bag in colorful and contemporary designs. The orange is used sparingly and doesn’t overpower the senses while adding to the tough appearance of the GYST bag.
It looks sturdy. When you open it up, you just feel like you could kick it off a 10 story building and it would land botton up and be ready to jump into your SUV for the swim at the gym. No scratches, no scuffs.
But, if orange doesn’t fit your style, you don’t have a choice from GYST. They are starting up new lines, and with all products, the more variations you want to make, the more the cost will go up. Offering one outfit helps keeps cost down and until the demand makes a hefty profit, orange it is.
Fit / Function
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. If it’s not functional, it’s worthless to a triathlete. Can you jam all of your swim, bike, run and gym gear in there, throw it in your car, stuff it into gym lockers and get your crap out at a moments notice? The resounding answer from our tests runs are YES, you can.
I had hesitations. Number 1, could it fit all of our stuff? Number 2, can I be successful with a duffel bag setup?
At first, when I unpacking the gear from the backpack style TYR Alliance Team Backpack II and laying it out on the floor, I was thankful the smell wasn’t that bad. But, back to the important stuff, I didn’t think it would fit. But, just like Police Academy, “It fits. The damned thing fits, and I thought there were no more spaces.” I got all of our gear in and almost had room to spare. I did find myself getting lost in all of the flaps, mats, pockets and zippers, but after a few uses at the gym, Ihave it under control how to manage the duffel for quick and efficient access. I did have to work the included divider a bit and cram some stuff in there, and max out the zipper, but it fit and I didn’t break the bag, yet.
I hate carrying duffels on the shoulder with straps. After a few feet, the strap starts digging into the shoulder, you have a lopsided load, and if you have to carry kids or anything else, you can kiss the arm with the bag off. Don’t you hate having a load of gear with your winter gear on and not being able to fit through a door and having to swing your duffel through? I do. Well, GYST thought about this and smartly developed a strap that can be snapped together for a duffel strap and separated for shoulder straps to carry like a backpack. Sure, your load will stick out 2 feet behind you, but tie on a red warning flag and carry your kids in your arms and fit through doors with ease. It actually works really well. You carry the bag like a backpack and set it down and access it like a duffel. Honestly, it’s the best of both worlds. It takes a few uses to figure out how to access the pockets you want and the gear you need without fumbling and dropping mats on the ground you didn’t intend to.
The other marketing function of the DB1-14 duffel is the mat system to be able to stand on a clean surface while changing. Lets admit it, tile floors in gym locker rooms are nasty. There’s no telling what foot fungus is lurking in the cracks of the tile. Who doesn’t cringe when you see that one guy walking around barefoot in the locker area and the shower area? For God’s sake man, get some flip flops! Back to the GYST duffel. They have a unique mat system labeled for the order you unfold them to stand on and be able to wrap them back up and not get gunk on you or your clothes. G1 unfolds from the site and the pockets face up and the bag side is now on the floor. The G2 mat unfolds to sit on top of the G1 mat and you find some nifty foot outlines to stand on. While the mats are cushy and convenient, I didn’t try it out at the gym. I played with it inside at home, but just couldn’t bring ourselves to let it touch the nastiness as our gym. GYST assures us that the funk would be safely face-to-face with the bag and not touch anything brushing up on the bag. We’ll take their word for it, and it looks like it would work in theory.
As far as an everyday gear bag for a triathlete working out once, twice or three times a day, I found that while it came with a learning curve up front, it has actually outperformed any gym bag or triathlon related bag I have used. I didn’t get a long time with our GYST bag before this review, but it appears that the bag would last a long time and service any triathlete well.
Here’s where you get what you pay for. No matter where you search, you won’t find it less than $184.00. Yes, 1, 8, 4 and two zeros. That’s at the high end of the duffel style bags, and there were others out there that had the shoulder straps to convert to a backpack. But, none have the mat system to keep you clean while you change. The backpack / rucksack style bags get closer to this price range, but you don’t get the duffel style access to your gear without digging into the bag throwing your gear all over the place.
Yes, there is a hefty price tag for the GYST DB1-14 duffel bag, but you could potentially end your search for a gear bag for years. If you have to buy a new bag every year for 3 years at $60 a pop, after 3 years you would have paid for the GYST.
It’s a sophisticated solution that has the firepower to support the most hardened triathlete running 3-a-day workouts without wearing out. It’s tough. It’s rugged. It’s functional. It’s everything a triathlete would need, aside from maybe having to replace some zipper grips, but that’s splitting hairs.
The GYST DB1-14 stood up to my high standards and earned its place with the big boys of triathlon gear transport. It may be long on the back, but it still passes the airline carry-on test and will fit in overheads with a shoehorn while housing shoes, clothes, swim paddles, swim buoy, change of clothes and cycling shoes.
Writer’s Note - GYST sent me a DB1-14 duffel bag for this review with no charge and in no way influenced this review.
Ryan Falkenrath is devoted family man balancing faith, family, Triathlon Coaching and racing. He is a certified USAT Level 1 Triathlon coach (www.SetThePaceTriathlon.com) and has formally raced endurance events since 2001 from 5k’s to Ironman distance races.
Ryan is racing Ironman Chattanooga in 2014 to raise funds for Ride to Give and Mended Little Hearts. You can follow his adventure on Facebook at Tri for a Hand Up, give to his Fundrazr campaign (), read more of his writing at Endurance Sports Examiner follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan or email him at Ryan.Falkenrath@SetThePaceMedia.com.