IF YOU THOUGHT baggage-handlers conveyed your bags to the cargo-hold as if they were carrying their own first-born child, think again.
I used to work with an ex-baggage-handler for one of the big airlines at Heathrow, and the stories he would tell me were horrifying.
Your precious luggage gets thrown around and kicked with abandon, then buried under a mountain of other bags before being hurled from conveyor to conveyor, where the bags are rubbed and chafed along the route. They are then forced into small cargo bins before being hoisted into the aircraft’s hold.
When you arrive at your destination they go through the same ordeal again, then twice more on your way home. If you want a bag to survive this brutality, it has to be robust.
Enter the Stahlsac Heavy Duty range. My baggage allowance on a recent Caribbean trip meant that I could take two bags, so I opted for both the wheeled Caicos Cargo Pack to take my dive-kit and the smaller HD Duffel to take some clothes and toiletries.


The Design
Both bags are constructed to very high standards, using a rugged tarpaulin fabric. The tarpaulin is water-resistant, so when those guys at the airport sneak off back to their card game while your luggage is left on the tarmac in the rain, the contents won’t get soaked.
All the joints are double-stitched with thick yellow nylon thread, creating an eye-catching contrast that’s instantly recognisable as the bags come trundling around the final conveyor at baggage reclaim.
The HD Caicos is a twin-wheeled bag with a robust hard plastic bottom frame incorporating a lifting handle.
A retractable pulling handle is positioned at the top and locks in the extended position until released using a push-button. Carrying handles are also provided at the top and side.
A lightweight alloy frame fitted internally to the rear of the bag adds rigidity and strength. A rucksack-style harness is tucked inside a zipped pocket at the rear, and when deployed you could comfortably yomp to your destination.
Two long external zipped pockets either side of the bag are the right size for fins, and at the front a further two zipped pockets are fitted, padded to protect your gear from those atrocious handlers.
Inside the 120-litre main compartment some compression straps keep everything in place, and there is a zipped mesh pocket on the inside of the top flap to store paperwork.
The smaller HD Duffel uses the same heavy-duty tarpaulin with extra webbing reinforcement cross-stitched at the stress points. The bottom of the bag is also reinforced.
Access to the interior is via a fully zipped opening which has an overlap to protect the premium YKK zipper. Two carrying handles are built in, and an adjustable, removable padded shoulder-strap completes the package.

In Use
The big Caicos bag ate my dive gear.
I also had room for batteries, chargers, spare masks, a second set of regs (to test) and a lightweight waterproof cagoule.
The top and bottom handles made lifting the packed bag in and out of a car boot easy, and the backpack harness worked like a dream. Pulling the Caicos along on the smooth tiled surfaces at the airports, it felt balanced and light.
I managed to get everything I needed for a week’s dive trip coupled with four nights in a city packed into the Duffel, along with a first aid kit and toiletries, and had room to spare. The shoulder-strap made moving the bag a doddle.

Conclusion
These bags are built to a very high standard and should withstand the baggage-handler’s torture chamber. After my trip they looked none the worse for their ordeal.
I also took comfort in the fact that the discreet yellow livery was not screaming: ”Look at me, I’m full of expensive dive kit!”
The Caicos was great to use but I hate the fact that nearly a quarter of my precious weight allowance was taken up by the 5kg bag itself.
The Duffel is ideal as a second bag, but don’t expect it to take a full set of dive-kit.
Come on, Stahlsac, build a bag that’s as tough as these two, will take all my kit and weighs somewhere in-between!

SPECS
PRICES HD Caicos £212, HD Duffel £54
WEIGHTS Caicos 5kg, Duffel 1kg
DIMENSIONS Caicos 74 x 36 x 48cm, Duffel 60 x 30 x 30cm
CAPACITIES Caicos 120 litre, Duffel 54 litre
CONTACT www.stahlsac.com
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