I have to admit that I am very particular with regard to certain things, likely how my OCD manifests itself, so looking for the perfect gear bag has been a challenge. My perfect bag has to fit my oboe case measuring 17 inches long, small accessories including an instrument stand, reed case, music, swabs, light, metronome, mic, and other personal items like glasses and wallet. I have tried many, many bags. Some have carried my oboe case quite nicely, along with some accessories, but not my music. Some have carried my music and accessories ably, but not my instrument. Some are too small, others are too big. And among pure oboe case manufacturers, there really isn’t one that makes a case that fits everything. And yes, I did say beforehand that I tried a trumpet bag! So its been a search.
I’ve tried the Namba Gear Big Namba Studio Backpack, the Manhattan Portage Black Label Trinity Messenger, the Fusion Bags Premium Trumpet Gig Bag, and L.L. Bean’s Custom Boat & Tote bag, to name a few. Most were problems of size; typically too small. Notice that none of these bags identify as an oboe or woodwind bag. And, I really wanted a backpacky style, that would make for an easier carry. Enter the GruvGear Club Bag.
On first glance, you might think that the Club Bag is on the small side. GruvGear, and Orange County, California-based company, describes it as “a jetsetter’s ultimate carry-on… first-class storage for all your tech and travel essentials.” It was designed “to be the ideal travel bag also padded for gear.” But it’s really so much more than that. See the exterior and internal specifications below:
As you can see from the second image, the Club Bag comes configured with removable horizontal divider “shelves” that compartmentalize the bag into three compartments, the top “glove box” compartment, and two others. These compartments perfectly fit GruvGear’s Bento Boxes, mini cases to further organize your stuff. All of my gear including my oboe is readily accessible and in its own space, meaning you don’t have to unearth anything from being buried underneath other gear. The breathable air-mesh shoulder straps are padded and fully adjustable, and quite comfortable; I like to carry the bag on one shoulder and have done so for entire days comfortably. Another feature which GruvGear created is their exclusive “ScanFly™ tethered laptop system” that is compatible with their optional laptop sleeves up to 15″ in size – all you do at the TSA checkpoint is simply fold out your laptop for scan, no having to remove it from your bag. You’ll notice in my gear photo below that I make use of them for things like my metronome and cables.
The Club Bag is a very attractive bag, made in China and of 1680D heavy nylon, and was originally released in 2013. I chose the Elite Pewter color; GruvGear currently offers three color combinations, and I really would’ve liked the Limited Edition Red, but could not find it anywhere in stock. I also removed the shelves and made the interior totally open so that my oboe case would fit, which it does snugly. Here is my bag and most of the stuff I pile into it – excluding other personal items like wallet, cellphone, keys, glasses:
An so after many months of trial and error, my choice for carrying my $4000 oboe and all of its accessories is the GruvGear Club
Bag. It’s durable, it’s not too heavy, it’s stylish (I might get a different color one day… lol), and, at $149, it’s not overly expensive, a bargain really. Compare that price to $200 for the Namba Gear or $250 for the Fusion bag. I highly recommend the GruvGear Club Bag for its versatility, protection, storage capacity and organization. Get a GruvGear – I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Please also note that I was not reimbursed in any way for this review.
(Updated 2/19 to reflect manufacture/material)