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Best Dive Bags Reviewed by ScubaLab

Head-to-head testing of full-size and carry-on scuba dive bags
By Roger Roy | Authored On July 31, 2014
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Best Dive Bags Reviewed by ScubaLab

Whether you’re packing a little or a lot, you need dive bags that protect your gear and will stand up to the worst that airport baggage handlers can dish out. ScubaLab evaluated 14 new full-size and carry-on roller bags to see how much stuff we could squeeze in, and to rate the convenience and ruggedness of their designs.

Here's the full list of gear the ScubaLab testers fit into the 14 dive bags we tested for our readers.

Full-Sized Roller Bags (gear weight @ 38 pounds)

  • Large (26-inch-long) open-heel fins
  • Jack travel BC w/ integrated weights
  • Reg with octo and console computer
  • 5 mm full wetsuit, size mens’ large
  • Mask with case
  • Snorkel
  • 3 mm boots
  • Primary light
  • Backup light
  • Folding dive knife
  • SMB with finger reel
  • Mesh Dive Bag
  • DSLR camera with underwater housing and carry case
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 2 pair cargo shorts
  • Sweatshirt
  • Large beach towel
  • Swim suit
  • 4 T-shirts
  • 1 pair sandals
  • Toiletries case
  • Baseball hat
  • Log book
  • Scuba Diving magazine

Roller Carry-Ons (gear weight @ 19 pounds)

  • DSLR in underwater housing
  • 2 T-shirts
  • Laptop
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 pair cargo shorts
  • 1 pair sandals
  • Rash guard
  • Sweatshirt
  • Mask
  • Snorkel
  • Mesh dive bag
  • Backup dive light
  • Small toiletries case
  • Scuba Diving magazine

Looking for more ScubaLab testing? Check out more of our gear reviews:

SCUBALAB 2014: Dive Bag Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Regulator Review
SCUBALAB 2014: BC Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Dive Lights Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Wetsuit Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Fins Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Mask Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Regulator Review


Whether you’re packing a little or a lot, you need dive bags that protect your gear and will stand up to the worst that airport baggage handlers can dish out. ScubaLab evaluated 14 new full-size and carry-on roller bags to see how much stuff we could squeeze in, and to rate the convenience and ruggedness of their designs.

They need to be big enough to carry everything you need for a dive trip - and tough enough to protect it. See below to the see the complete list of gear we packed.

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Pack and Dive: Test results are in for 14 new dive bags

Zach Stovall

Cressi Cargo 145L

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Cressi Cargo 145L
$249.95 // 10.5 pounds // 8,848 cubic inches
One-year limited warranty
cressisubusa.com

Zach Stovall

Some travel bags are as big when they’re empty in your closet as when they’re full of gear. the Cargo — nominally the largest bag we tested — offers a solution to the storage dilemma with a folding internal frame and hinged bottom that let the bag lie nearly flat when stored but stand up securely when you need it to. the bag has good internal and external compression straps, a wide protective flap on the zipper, a useful and easy-access external compartment, and a comfortable telescoping handle. It’s ruggedly made, with a tough plastic tray shaping the back, and good protection in key areas, including long rub rails on the back. the main flap opens fully for easy loading. a full 30 inches long in the main compartment, this bag easily swallowed our test gear. the double lift straps on the front are well placed, as are the top and bottom handles — although they could use a little padding. the Cargo pulls easily, but the wheels are designed for smooth ground, and there are no backpack straps. a well-designed, well-made jumbo bag with a budget-friendly price tag, the Cressi Cargo is ScubaLab's Best Buy.

 

Oceanic Roller Duffel

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Oceanic Roller Duffel
$239.95 // 8 pounds // 7,936 cubic inches
Lifetime warranty for defects in materials or workmanship
oceanicworldwide.com

Zach Stovall

Of all the things we liked about this bag, at the top of the list is the way it somehow seems smaller when you’re handling it than it does when you’re packing it. the huge, open main compartment easily took all the gear we stuffed in. But once we zipped it up and wheeled it around, it seemed more com- pact because of its shape — narrower and thicker than most bags, and with nothing sticking out. the wheels are sized for smooth ground but are whisper quiet and set wide for sta- bility. It’s stoutly built, with a hard plastic pan on the back that wraps about 2 inches up the sides, but it’s light for its size and has a sophisticated look that doesn’t scream “dive bum” the way some bags do. It has very good handles at the top, bottom and on the front, although the front grip had us leery at first because it puts all the bag’s weight on the zipper flap — manhandling the bag by the front handle with a nearly 50-pound load allayed our fears. One thing missing, especially in a bag this big, was interior compression straps to keep things from shifting. Otherwise, this is a well-made, lightweight and attractive bag that can handle a lot of gear.

 

Mares Cruise Backpack Pro

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Mares Cruise Backpack Pro
$270 // 10.7 pounds // 8,000 cubic inches
Two-year limited warranty
mares.com

Zach Stovall

On paper, this isn’t the biggest bag we tested, yet because of its soft-sided design, we were able to stuff more into it than any other bag. The two fin pockets (with drains) on the sides are big enough that we were able to get a pair of large fins in each with room to spare. The U-shaped zipper opens the entire flap for easy packing. It has two good internal compression straps and four external straps to squeeze things down (though the outside straps could use a little more adjustment). The exterior compartments on the flap are large and easy to access. The all-terrain wheels and zip-away telescoping handle are great, and the bag is padded and reinforced in all the right spots. The backpack straps work well, though you won’t want to set off down the Appalachian Trail. Here’s what you need to watch — stuffed really full (which required scrounging around for extra gear to throw in), this bag flirts with exceeding airline size limits. Get carried away, and the folks at the check-in counter are sure to have their hands out. Otherwise this is a well-designed bag that fits everything a diver needs.

 

Armor API-3R

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Armor API-3R
$350 // 9 pounds // 7,100 cubic inches
Lifetime repair warranty if purchased from dealer
armorbags.com

Zach Stovall

This is a rugged bag in a familiar dive configuration. It’s made from heavy ballistic fabric, with stainless hardware, beefy off-road wheels and lots of reinforcement. The side pockets have drains and are 27 inches long — enough for a pair of fins each, or a 5 mm wetsuit. This bag doesn’t have a telescoping handle. It pulls easily with the top strap, but you can’t push it far. On the other hand, there’s no handle hardware taking up space, and we were able to fit in our full test-gear load as easily as in larger bags with handles. The flap has a long U-shaped zipper for easy packing. We liked the way the top handle strap attaches to the top of the flap; when you lift the bag, the strap helps keep the flap closed. The zip-away backpack straps are nicely shaped, making this a surprisingly easy bag to tote on your back, even with a nearly 50-pound load (although the bottom straps are a bit of a pain to tuck away). The bag is a little tippy, and there are no internal compression straps or side handles. But overall this bag delivers the kind of rugged- ness and clarity of design we’re looking for in a go-anywhere dive bag. It’s our Testers’ Choice in this category.

 

Tusa RB-10

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Tusa RB-10
$199 // 9.5 pounds // 6,084 cubic inches
One-year warranty
tusa.com

Zach Stovall

Tusa’s new roller isn’t quite as jumbo as some of the others we tested, but its open, uncluttered design fit our full test load of gear with room to spare. the flap unzips fully for excellent access to the main compartment, which has two small zippered side pockets and a full-size mesh pocket on the inside of the flap. the two internal compression straps are elastic and held the load OK, although not as firmly as adjustable straps would. the flat zippered pocket on the outside of the flap is large and accessible enough to be useful, and the external compression straps do a good job of keeping things secure. the bottom handle is a little thin, but the top and side handles have big rubber grips that are comfortable. the bag’s not lightweight for its size, but it’s well padded and reinforced in all the right spots, and it stands up rock solid. the telescoping handle is very good, as are the wheels, and the bag pulls easily with a full load — although the wheels are sized for smooth ground. the liner also zips completely out for cleaning or repair. the RB-10’s neat profile keeps the bag nicely compact, making this is a good choice for a diver who doesn’t need a large bag.

 

Stahlsac HD Caicos Cargo and Caicos Cargo

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Stahlsac HD Caicos Cargo and Caicos Cargo
$349.95 HD ($329.95 for Caicos Cargo) // 11.2 pounds HD ****(9.3 pounds for Caicos Cargo) // 8,099 cubic inches
Lifetime warranty for defects in materials and workmanship
stahlsac.com

Zach Stovall

The two versions of the Caicos Cargo are identical except for the tarpaulin material used in the HD (the regular comes in three colors). the HD fabric is nonabsorbent, waterproof and tough, making this a good bag to have your stuff in when you’re watching the rain pour down on the luggage trollies. Both versions have lots of reinforcements at wear spots, including corners and around the wheels. While the exterior side pockets weren’t the largest in our test and are angled at the bottom, they easily handled fins or wetsuits. the main compartment has good compression straps, a nice mesh organizer and two large, zippered mesh pockets, and there are two big pockets on the front. the zip-away backpack straps are comfortable enough to tote short distances, but the wheels tend to rub your hips, and you won’t want to hike far. the all-terrain wheels and telescoping handle are top-notch, and even stuffed to the gills, this bag wheeled like a dream.

 

Stahlsac Curacao Clipper

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Stahlsac Curacao Clipper
$279.95 // 8.8 pounds // 5,864 cubic inches
Lifetime warranty for defects in materials and workmanship
stahlsac.com

Zach Stovall

With a redesign that comes in a new range of colors, stahlsac’s Curacao Clipper is a little more modest in size than some of the others here, but you can still stuff a lot of gear into it. It has a rigid plastic back and bottom much like the larger Caicos bag, but without the side pockets and backpack straps. the trade- off is lighter weight and a profile that’s a good bit narrower. the main compartment has compression straps inside and is a little more than 30 inches top to bottom — easily accommodating a pair of large fins — and the sides are well padded for good protection. the flap unzips fully for access and has two zip compartments on the front; one is very roomy. you have to unbuckle the wide outer compression straps to access the big outside compartment, but the arrangement lets you stuff a lot into the bag without worrying about it bursting open. the bag stands securely, pulls easily on its large wheels, and has very good top and bottom handles (though none on the side). Where the backpack straps reside on the Caicos, the Clipper has a zippered pocket 14-by-19 inches, which is handy for anything flat or soft.

 

Akona Expedition

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Akona Expedition
$290 // 11 pounds // 7,410 cubic inches
Two-year limited warranty
akona.com

Zach Stovall

The Expedition looks more like a big, conventional suitcase than most of the bags we tested, but akona has designed it with divers in mind — there are plenty of dive-specific features, like the vented mesh compartment on the front flap. the entire front of the bag unzips and flips open, making this perhaps the most convenient bag to pack in our test. the internal straps did a good job of keeping things from shifting around, even with a partial load — handy, because the Expedition is so big that it’s not easy to fill. Outside there’s a zippered access to the pocket on the flap, and a long mesh pocket on the side. the handles at the top, bottom, and side are comfortable and well placed. the bag has lots of reinforcements at the corners and around the wheels, a wide fabric flap that protects the zipper, and a zippered cover for the telescoping handle. a very stable bag, the Expedition stands solidly and it wheels easily, although it’s wide enough to require some care getting through tight spots. If you find it impossible to travel light, the Expedition is a well-made, easy-packing bag that can carry a really big load of gear.

 

Akona Maverick

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Akona Maverick
$230 // 9.6 pounds // 6,070 cubic inches
Two-year limited warranty
akona.com

Zach Stovall

For a bag its size, the Maverick seems compact because of its narrow shape. With its telescoping handle and large wheels, it’s a breeze to maneuver in close quarters. It’s ruggedly built, with good reinforcements and lots of heavy, coated fabric to shed water and resist abrasion. the texture and contrasting colors of the fabric give it a distinctive look that makes it easy to spot on the luggage carousel. the bag is pretty simple in design, with a big, open main compartment accessed through a zippered flap that covers about two-thirds of the bag’s front — enough for relatively easy packing (though we missed having interior compression straps). there’s also a small zippered pocket on the flap, as well as a vent. It has very good top and bottom handles, but none on the side, so it’s not easy to one-hand it when loaded. It has a heavy plastic frame around its interior that keeps its shape. On the downside, it’s as big empty as full; on the upside, it gives your gear good protection, and it stands rock solid even when it’s packed completely full. the Maverick offers few frills but delivers a rugged, stable design.

 

Mares Cruise Backpack Roller

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Mares Cruise Backpack Roller
$195 // 6.3 pounds // 8,000 cubic inches
Two-year limited warranty
mares.com

Zach Stovall

This backpack bag is a roller in two senses — it has wheels, but it also rolls up compactly for storage. and for a jumbo bag, it collapses into a surprisingly small package — about 20 inches long and 10 inches high — and it does it easily and quickly, with hook-and-loop straps to keep it neatly bundled. Unbundled, the Cruise Backpack Roller easily handled our full test load, with a single, roomy main compartment and 31-inch exterior fin pockets on the sides. There are also two flat pockets on the front flap, which unzips fully for easy packing and accessibility. Because of the bag’s roll-up design, there’s no telescoping handle, but despite that, it pulls well with the top strap — although pushing it is a different story. It also tends to fall over when standing. The backpack straps, which store behind a zippered panel, aren’t overly padded, but the bag is quite comfortable as a backpack, even at around 50 pounds loaded. Despite its light weight, it has good protection at corners and wear spots. This is a clever design that’s very well executed and could be the perfect solution when storage space is at a premium.

 

Stahlsac Rangi Roller

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Stahlsac Rangi Roller
$219.95 // 7.8 pounds // 2,380 cubic inches
Limited lifetime warranty for workmanship and materials
stahlsac.com

Zach Stovall

Hoist the Rangi Roller, and you’ll notice it’s a little hefty — the heaviest roller carry-on we tested. It’s also packed full of features we like. The rigid sides and back combine with a padded front flap to offer excellent protection for your camera or laptop. Inside the main compartment are well-placed compression straps and two mesh zippered pockets. Outside are three zippered pockets — the largest with an organizer that has a fleece-lined pocket to protect your smartphone screen. The bag fit our test-gear load with room to spare. It pulls easily, and the telescoping handle locks away securely. The padded top and side handles were among the best we tried. The bag has excellent reinforcements at wear points, especially on the bottom and around the wheels, and a heavy flap protects the bottom of the zipper. While there are lots of features divers will appreciate, the bag is also attractive enough for any sort of travel. It’s the most expensive roller carry-on we tested, but it’s built to last, and its thoughtful design makes it a pleasure to use. The Rangi Roller is our Testers’ Choice.

 

Scubapro Cabin Bag

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Scubapro Cabin Bag
$130 // 5 pounds // 2,240 cubic inches
One-year limited warranty
scubapro.com

Zach Stovall

Its black, smooth-finish tarpaulin fabric provides good all-weather protection, and gives the Cabin Bag a cool tactical look. Inside it has elastic compression straps and a mesh zipper panel on the flap, which holds smaller items. It offers decent protection, with padding on the sides and top of the bag, a rigid bottom, and a flexible back panel. There’s a wide flap to cover the zipper on the front panel, which has a small zippered pouch on the outside, which is perfect for storing travel documents. The telescoping handle has a zippered cover, and there are good handles at the top and side, but no bottom handle for lifting it into the overhead compartment. The tarpaulin fabric is tough and abrasion resistant, but the bag didn’t have as much protection at wear points as some of the other bags. Though it was the smallest of the roller carry-ons we tested, we were able to fit our test load of gear into it, and the front panel opens large enough to make it easy to pack. This is a lightweight, easy-rolling bag with a distinctive look and an attractive price.

 

Cressi Vuelo

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Cressi Vuelo
$169.95 // 6.2 pounds // 2,624 cubic inches
One-year limited warranty
cressisubusa.com

Zach Stovall

Cressi designed this bag specifically for air travel, and the Vuelo is the largest of the carry-on bags we tested. The bag also had the widest wheelbase — a full 13 inches — making it very stable when standing and easy to pull. The main compartment has lots of room and good compression straps, and the flap has a long zipper that makes it easy to access the contents. The two outer side pockets are roomy enough for soft items like a light windbreaker jacket or sweater, but the lining has enough slack, so you can instead use that space to overstuff the main compartment with more gear than our test load. One of the side pockets has an organizer, but it’s not that easy to access because the pocket doesn’t unzip fully. The bag has no side handle, but the top handle is well padded and comfortable, and the bottom handle has a hook-and-loop tab to keep it out of the way when not in use. The Vuelo has good reinforcements at wear spots, on the bottom and around the wheels, and the mix of fabrics used throughout is a good balance between light weight and durability.

 

Akona <7 lbs. Bag

scuba diving gear and travel bags

Akona <7 lbs. Bag
$175 // 6.4 pounds // 2,520 cubic inches
Two-year limited warranty
akona.com

Zach Stovall

Akona’s lightweight carry-on has been redesigned with new features, including a pair of wide exterior compression straps that snug down over the zip-up flap, making for a nice secure load. There is also a pair of good compression straps inside to keep things in place. The two zip-access side pockets are modestly sized — good for a sweater or small jacket — and one has an organizer for keys, spare change, phone and the like. The telescoping handle, which has a soft, rubbery grip, and top carry handle are both very good, but there’s no side or bottom handle to help you get it into the overhead. The ripstop fabric is lightweight but rugged, and the bag has good reinforcements at corners, especially on the bottom section around the wheels, where unprotected bags tend to get scruffy. The wheels are set far apart, which makes the bag stable whether pulling or standing. The wheels themselves are also on the wide side, similar to skateboard wheels. This bag not only pulled very easily, but it also was noticeably quieter than most of the other bags we tested.

 

Here's the full list of gear the ScubaLab testers fit into the 14 dive bags we tested for our readers.

Full-Sized Roller Bags (gear weight @ 38 pounds)

  • Large (26-inch-long) open-heel fins
  • Jack travel BC w/ integrated weights
  • Reg with octo and console computer
  • 5 mm full wetsuit, size mens’ large
  • Mask with case
  • Snorkel
  • 3 mm boots
  • Primary light
  • Backup light
  • Folding dive knife
  • SMB with finger reel
  • Mesh Dive Bag
  • DSLR camera with underwater housing and carry case
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 2 pair cargo shorts
  • Sweatshirt
  • Large beach towel
  • Swim suit
  • 4 T-shirts
  • 1 pair sandals
  • Toiletries case
  • Baseball hat
  • Log book
  • Scuba Diving magazine

Roller Carry-Ons (gear weight @ 19 pounds)

  • DSLR in underwater housing
  • 2 T-shirts
  • Laptop
  • 1 pair jeans
  • 1 pair cargo shorts
  • 1 pair sandals
  • Rash guard
  • Sweatshirt
  • Mask
  • Snorkel
  • Mesh dive bag
  • Backup dive light
  • Small toiletries case
  • Scuba Diving magazine

Looking for more ScubaLab testing? Check out more of our gear reviews:

SCUBALAB 2014: Dive Bag Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Regulator Review
SCUBALAB 2014: BC Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Dive Lights Review
SCUBALAB 2014: Wetsuit Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Fins Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Mask Review
SCUBALAB 2013: Regulator Review

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