PACKING THE BARE ESSENTIALS for a trip to the other side of the world, I was dismayed to find that I had exceeded my checked-baggage allowance to the tune of about £1000. Something had to be done.
I removed all non-essentials, such as clothes, but still had 4kg to shed. So I swapped the traditional yet light diving bag I had intended to take for a Fourth Element Manta fLight.
There’s nothing really sophisticated about this product. When describing it later to the BA Lost Baggage clerk at Heathrow, the nearest thing in his photographs of possible examples was what they call a laundry sack.
The Manta is 100 litres of space surrounded by some lightweight but hard-wearing and waterproof synthetic material, with waterproof welded seams. It is accessed via twin zips, each equipped with tags.
Attached to the bag’s four corners are four large pinch-clips to which the straps can be attached. You’ll need to do that if you find yourself without a trolley available, because there are no heavy wheels or extending handle.
Wearing it on my back was no imposition when carrying it from a taxi to the airport terminal in the steamy tropical heat of Palau, but I removed the straps before entrusting it to airport baggage-handlers. Otherwise, there’s a single handle well-attached at either end.
The point is that, although capacious, the bag weighs only 895g empty, yet I could easily fill it with 22kg of diving kit.
There is also an optional Remora bag to fit inside it. Made from matching material, this has two zipped sections that can fold one against the other, and would have been ideal for my clothes had I been able to take any.
In the end I was able to take a couple of T-shirts, some underwear and a few pairs of swimming trunks.
I left out the Remora bag, although this normally functions as a cushion for the rest of the kit within the main bag.
I was a bit concerned that it might not be up to the job, and phoned Jim Standing of Fourth Element to ask his opinion. He told me that the prototype had been thrown around quite a bit in the warehouse while fully loaded and had survived, so I took his word for it.
I checked it in with BMI for a flight to Vienna and onward connections across the world via Taipei to Micronesia with China Airlines. It arrived in perfect condition.
Once empty and boat-based, I was able to scrunch it up so that it occupied no space whatsoever in my cabin. It was a perfect modern version of a sailor’s traditional canvas kit-bag.
The return journey went fine until BA lost the bag between Frankfurt and London, which is where the BA Lost Baggage clerk joins the story. These things happen, and I arranged for it to be delivered to the DIVER offices once relocated. There should have been a happy ending but next day, while attempting to park outside the office, I witnessed a nitwit employed by the courier company used by BA’s missing baggage department dragging the Manta fLight down Teddington High Street.
The bag had survived a 10,000-mile journey, only to meet its nemesis in a man who couldn’t be bothered to carry it the few metres along the street from his vehicle.
The bottom was ripped through by the abrasion. Fourth Element confirmed that the same thing had happened when it tested the prototype by dragging it around its car park.
I suggested that the words “DO NOT DRAG” should be emblazoned across it in several languages. Then again, the sort of person who delivered it probably couldn’t read in any language. Good old BA.
It’s lucky its Chief Executive Willy Walsh lives only a few doors from my house. I’m putting a copy of this through his letterbox. I’m sure he’ll enjoy reading it!

COMPARABLE BAGS TO CONSIDER:
Sailor’s Canvas Kit Bag

SPECS
PRICE £100
WEIGHT 895g
CAPACITY 100 litres
EXTRAS Remora bag, £45
CONTACT www.fourthelement.com
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