Initial examination of the Carbon Hala Playa from Hala Gear
I have done a lot of backpacking in my time and worn a countless number of packs. Large ones, small ones and everything in between. They each have their use. A specific purpose for a certain activity. It didn’t take long to recognize that Hala Gear’s newly designed bags are a cut above the competition. Why? They are specifically designed to carry an inflatable standup paddleboard.
A good board bag for your inflatable SUP is important. It is also something that most manufacturers skimp on. I know one brand that doesn’t even provide a bag with their inflatable SUPs. The Hala Gear bag is a perfect fit for everything you need without straining the zippers when you seal it up. In fact, I quickly learned on my initial outing with the Hala Playa that there is even ample room for a few extra items such as a hydration pack and PFD. Nice!
Durable design and well placed features
To start off, the bag has two rugged (think 4×4 tough) wheels and a comfortable, perfectly positioned handle to pull the bag. There are also multiple grab handles. The grab handles enable you to easily carry and pick up the bag in different scenarios. Loading and unloading the bag from your vehicle? There is a handle for that. You’d like to carry it horizontally like a suitcase? There is a handle for that too. This bag was clearly designed by someone who knew what should go into a board bag to truly make it a functional piece of gear.
The Hala Gear bag has five compression straps you can actually use. If you have ever seen a bag from another brand you know what I’m talking about. There are two straps on each side and one on the top. Each strap is built with a small elastic loop to tidy up the excess material.
There is a large, rugged looking two-piece zipper running around a large front panel emblazoned with the words, “Hala Stand Up Paddle” in blue and red lettering. In a nice touch, Hala Gear placed an oversized red tab on each zipper. The oversized tabs make the zippers super easy to use. They also contribute a nice bit of colorful flair to the bag. The long zipper track fully opens the bag so you can access the entire inside.
Easy to load and unpack
Many brands require you to roll up your inflatable SUP and stuff it through a small opening at the top of the bag. Such a bag is nothing more than a stuff sack. Not the case at Hala. Not only does the zipper on the Hala Gear board bag allow you to unzip the full front panel, it also tapers to the back of the bag. The taper allows the bottom of the bag to articulate. The effect is similar to the bottom jaw of an alligator which can open extra wide to capture and swallow prey. As a result, the Hala Gear bag fully opens in a manner unlike any other bag I’ve seen. Once the bag is fully unzipped it is incredibly easy to pack and unpack the board.
Moving around to the back panel is an option to deploy a set of backpack straps. The straps are tucked away out of sight behind a large panel. The panel is secured with velcro and is easily peeled back and tucked out-of-the-way inside a zippered pocket. Like the zippers on the bag’s main compartment, the zippered pocket utilizes an oversized red tab. The backpack straps are comfortable and inline with the other features on the Hala Gear bag, very easy and intuitive to use.
The board on its own weighs 27 lbs, so you’re looking at around 30 lbs with the bag. That is light enough for most people to load and unload from a vehicle without difficulty. I used the backpack straps to carry the bag down an approximately ¼ mile dirt trail to a rocky cove on my first session with the Playa and found the comfort level to be well suited for such a trip.
Inside the bag is a large clear pocket. The pocket is perfect for holding the Hala Playa’s three fins a few other small items. I stuck my GoPro and a tube of lip moisturizer in there during my first outing. There is a large strap with a quick release buckle to secure the board and pump inside the bag. The board itself also comes with its own strap with a D-ring buckle. This strap is useful to hold the board together so it doesn’t flop apart when packing/unpacking it from the bag.
Hala Gear clearly put as much R&D into designing the bag as they did the board it carries. The bag is a premium quality product and makes a great first impression of the experience that is yet to come. Many small details like the oversized zipper tabs, elastic loops on the compression straps, and well placed grab handles make their bag very user-friendly. It is a product you can be proud to own.