Actually, a little bit more about bags…

I once wrote, not that long ago, that I wouldn’t write anything else about bags on this blog…  Well, that was a mistake. I’ve been forced out of ‘retirement’ by my recent purchase of a new bag for my Bowen monobloc lighting.  My old bag had come with the lights, and was functional up to a point, if exceptionally ugly (so ugly I don’t even have a picture of it). It was also really hard work to lug around on assignment, as it was long and bulky, and kept banging into things if I put it on my trolley. So when the zip broke, it seemed a perfect opportunity to see what had changed in the world of light-bags in the last eight years (great bits of kits these Bowens monoblocs – I don’t use them every day, but they are robust and simple, and seem to just keep on working. Unlike the zip).

I looked at Lightware bags – I’ve got one for my much-used and loved Lumedyne lighting, which is ideal (and they’re strong – the dude at the Flash Centre in London sold the bag to me by loading it with [rental] kit and flinging it 6 feet in the air, merrily proclaiming that nothing was broken. It wasn’t, but I didn’t buy what was in that particular bag. Or indeed anything from that particular guy…). The big problem? Well, there were two. One is, they’re really expensive. Really. And the other is that there didn’t seem to be a size that fitted all the stuff I wanted to put in (two heads, wiring, softbox or two). Believe me, I had scale models cut out of  paper, fitted together onto maps of the bags. This wasn’t looking good for my ‘I’m not a geek’ credentials…

So I looked at what Bowens themselves made, and discovered this: the Bowens ‘Gimlet’ bag, which is actually made by Crumpler, a company I’ve always wanted to like, but haven’t ever really managed to (I’m sure the company are lovely, its more that their products try really hard, and don’t really quite deliver for me, at least in terms of usability).  There didn’t seem to be any reviews of the bag, it was on a special offer (much less than the price mentioned on the link here), and it had wheels… So I clicked go.

And ever since I’ve been trying to make sense of it.  The thing is, it’s monstrously huge.

Gimlet bag :: swallows a person whole

Really big, too big to properly fit into the boot of my car (VW Jetta – ‘a boot so big you could fit two bodies in there’ (c) the sales guy at the dealer… a day for odd sales people…).  And it does have wheels, so one of the problems of mobility is gone, but replaced by really weird handles (quite hard to find anything to pick it up by…), and the fact that it won’t stand up on it’s own. But it has got wheels.

And some very peculiar rubber growths on the bottom (I think two at one end might have had exactly the same effect…).

And it’s yellow inside, the famous Kata trick, to help you not lose stuff (this is a Good Thing).

Getting it up and down my office steps (I work underground) is hard to do, getting it through the house is pretty tricky, and into the back of the car, back-wrenching. But it has got wheels.

And the most oddest thing of all, is that it really doesn’t hold a whole lot of stuff.  I can get my lights in, with all the bits I want, but the extra pouches on the side contain space not for poles, but a tightly squeezed softbox. So the poles are in another set up entirely. Which means I’ve got some very odd-shaped things to lug around the spaces I work in, if I’m using mains lights.

Inverse Tardis law applies...

When I bought this bag, there didn’t seem to be any reviews online – there’s a couple now, and this one. The thing is, I’m not sure what my final conclusion is…  I actually quite like the bag. It wants to work so much – really tries hard (and it has got wheels). And it looks pretty good too. But its somehow managed the inverse Dr Who trick of being both too big and too small at the same time. And at full price, it isn’t the cheapest thing out there.  I realised at some point along the way that I could use my big Billingham 445 to fit one head and all the cables in, but actually, if I ever use my monoblocs, I need them both – I’m doing a lot with the wonderful Jody, who features in the pictures here, with some young people she works with, and when we do the photographic sessions (in halls and odd corners of community centres across South Yorkshire), I need to pump in a lot of light, usually from both sides, so messing around with splitting the kit wasn’t really worth it.

So, I guess, 2 or 3 stars out of five.  If only it could be slightly bigger, and yet, somehow, slightly smaller too…

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Please note: I’m just a photographer, so I offer this review as personal observation of someone actually using the thing. You might really like the bag, and give it 5/5 – and that’d be great. Let me know! But these pictures – they’re mine (in the nicest possible sense), and they’re of a friend, who’s given me (but not you) permission to use her pics on this review, so I’d really rather you didn’t (use them) – they’re protected by UK copyright law. So feel free to send other people here, but please, don’t nick my pics. Thanks!

And what it all looks like once it's up and running...