As much as I love the pioneering aspect of Historical Fencing some aspects of it have, at times, also been a bit frustrating as we have had little actual gear designed specifically for what we do, apart from... weapons, at least until rather late in the modern history of HEMA. However there still exists one quite elusive piece of gear for historical fencers and that is something good to carry the weapons in, i.e. a weapons bag.
Consequently, I have myself used bags designed for completely different uses, like soft and hard gun cases, fishing rod bags, ski & snowboard bags, golf bags etc, etc. All with their own particular advantages and disadvantages.
Model: Liechtenauer sword bag
A few years ago Academia Artis Dimicatoriae in Slovenia introduced a neat sword bag but that project has since then been terminated. We also have the sword bag by Cavalier Attitude which I will be reviewing separately later). And now, finally, we have a quite good and very decently priced sword bag made in Austria, available at www.swordbag.at
For me, ideally, a sword bag should be versatile, meaning I should be able to carry different types of weapons and also a basic protective kit like mask and gloves, or not, if I wish to. Personally, I travel to training by public transport and I carry most of my HEMA gear in a separate bag, but occassionally I just wish to pack light into a single bag. Some bags do not quite work this way and become unnecessarily cumbersome if you don't also carry the protective gear in them, not offering any means to slim them down.
What is it like?
This bag, I am happy to report, doesn't suffer from these issues. It can carry anything up to a man-sized sword or staff without problem, even several swords. Quality and finish, which I will return to later, is seemingly very good and it allows me to carry it in in many different ways, both slimmed down and when carrying mask, buckler etc.
It has enough straps and D-loop attachments to make it quite comfortable to carry with one strap, bag-style, or two straps, back-pack style, depending on your preference. The carabiner clips can rotate, and that alongside of the padded straps makes everything quite comfortable to wear.
For further ease of handling there is also a regular soft centre handle sewn onto the bag. However, it is not intended for carrying, just handling when loading it e.g. in and out of a car, and thus placed in an unbalanced position near the tube.
Securing the gear
The bag is soft and has no frame, which means it doesn't protect against things pressing against it. Likewise, the bag has no padding but I don't really see any need for it either, as in regular transport there just isn't any need for neither of these, and when flying I just put it all into a larger padded bag anyways.
The wide end is "open" and normally folded down as cover, but this also means very long weapons can stick out. One side is closed with good 120cm velcro instead of a zipper and thus far it has held up well enough without any visible wear. Inside the bag, there are two velcroed straps used to secure the weapons inside the bag at the wider part.
All of this can be tightened up, when folding down the wider end, using the steel carabiner clip and the D-loop attached to the corners of the back end or even using the carabiners of the carrying straps, since all these cleverly enough use the same type of clips and loops.
The material used of course protects from rain quite well, provided that you have closed the bag properly.
Quality and durability
All parts of this bag appears to be either of good and strong quality and/or used to make sure that the bag survives carrying things that can damage most bags. For example, the bag is made out of rip stop fabric using a 50% blend of PVC and polyester which means that small tears won't grow or spread easily. It is the same type of material used in many modern yacht sails, hot air balloons and parachutes.
All sides of this fabric are strengthened with a durable, sewn hem. (As a small tip: If the bag should be pierced somehow, then it is easily repaired using rip stop repair tape. Just apply it both inside and outside and you should be all set.)
The narrower end contains a 8x50cm rigid plastic tube in order to protect the bag from being pierced by your pointy toys. The velcro is sewed, not glued on, which is very nice to see.
The carabiner clips, D-loops and "roll-down locks" used in several places are, as opposed to what is shown on the site, not of impact proof plastics, but all steel. So apparently although the bag has been improved upon in different ways, the site isn't quite updated to reflect that.
Room for improvement?
Is there nothing negative about this bag then? Not really, no. Esthetics is a personal thing and to me functional is also often pleasing design-wise. And this bag goes perfectly with my other gear bag made out of similar material and design. The only real remark I could make would be that I would prefer to not have the maker's URL printed onto the bag, but I can understand the motivation. Still, it detracts from the overall impression of the bag.
Possibly, a pocket on the inside or outside for storing smaller tools etc would have been nice. Likewise more straps to separate and secure individual weapons with would be good, but these would also mean a higher price.
The bag comes at a very moderate price of only 55€ which makes it a no-brainer when compared to the non-HEMA alternatives and for weekly training transport. It is my favourite thus far, no doubt.