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Best Bag to take on an Amusement Park Vacation

I spent the last week at Disney World in Orlando, FL and… since I’m me… the trip afforded the opportunity to pause and reflect on what would be the best bag to take on an amusement park vacation.  First off, some background.  I’ve had plenty of park experience from which to pull from.  This was my third trip to Disney World.  I’ve also been to Disneyland in California four times.  I’ve also visited several Six Flag Parks, Universal (Hollywood and Orlando), Seaworld (Orlando and San Diego), Hershey Park, Knott’s Berry Farm, Silver Dollar City, Busch Gardens Williamsburg, and a few others.  Some as a child but most as an adult with and without kids.

 

Disney World in Orlando Florida

Disney World in Orlando Florida

 

There are a number of things to consider when deciding what to take to any of these parks.

 

THE PARK

 

First and foremost, check the park’s policies on their website.  Most have limitations on what you can carry in.  For instance, Six Flags does not allow any food or drink.  Some allow “loose articles” on their attractions and some don’t.  Disney allows bags on their rides at all of their parks and in some cases provide small storage bins to stow them.  On other end of the spectrum, Six Flags requires that loose articles be left with non-riders or in provided storage lockers.  They charge a fee and it adds up throughout the day.  Universal enforces a mandatory locker system at its big thrill rides but the lockers (approx. 9.5” wide x 11.5” high x 17” deep) are free for the amount of time that it takes to get through the standby line plus a 15-minute cushion.  The park also has all-day lockers that charge a one-time fee with unlimited access.

I don’t carry a bag at any of the Six Flag parks because of their limits on what you can carry in and to save from having to deal with the locker situation.  I wear cargo shorts and use the pockets for what I want to carry.  I just make sure the pockets have zippers or buttons so they are secure.  When I had small children, I chose a backpack as my diaper bag and used it to store other items to limit the number of lockers I needed to pay for.

 

CARRY NEEDS

 

Are you carrying stuff for just yourself or others?  Are you planning on buying souvenirs while you’re in the park?  At Disney, due to the weather, I carried four rain jackets and we used them everyday while we were there.  Outside of a water bottle that I could refill, hats, and a small first aid kit, not much else was needed.  We took advantage of Disney’s package delivery service and had all of our souvenirs delivered to our room – for free since we were staying at a Disney resort.

 

SIZE

 

How large are you and the bag you carry?  At 6’4 255 lbs, my body took up most of the available room in each ride so I had to keep my bag small.  I opted to carry the Vertx EDC Ready Pack.

 

 

At 19″ H x 11″ W x 8.5″ D and 25 Liters, the Ready Pack is on the larger size of what I’d normally take but I needed the extra room to carry everyone’s jacket.  That said, on several rides at Disney, I was barely able to fit the bag in the car with me.  For instance, at Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, or even the new Seven Drawfs Mine Train – I had to place the bag in my lap and loop the straps through my arms to keep it from flying out of the car.

 

Improvising a secure strap carry for the Vertx Bag on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Improvising a secure strap carry for the Vertx Bag on the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

 

Smaller individuals would have less trouble.

 

CARRY COMFORT

 

Would you take Backpacks are the best choice to limit fatigue.  I’ve carried shoulder packs on days when I didn’t need the added capacity, but nothing beats a two-strapped bag when it comes to carry comfort over a 12-hour visit to an amusement park.  You always do more walking than you think.  I did 8-miles on our Magic Kingdom day this trip.  Be pragmatic when it comes to bag choice. Your back and shoulders will thank you later.

 

TACTICAL OR NON-TACTICAL

 

For EDC hobbyists, this has always been a topic of discussion.  I can tell you that in 2016, it’s almost a non-factor.  I paid particular attention to what others were carrying at Disney and I saw a large number of tactical/military packs.  Everything under the sun from generic MOLLE gear….

 

 

To more serious stuff like this Mystery Ranch 3DAP….

 

 

To covert carry gear like this Grey Ghost Stealth Operator.

 

 

Nobody cared.  Carry what you want.  You may get some extra attention upon entry at security.  I got pulled aside and wanded in two of the four parks.  But otherwise, it’s no big deal. 

 

WRAP-UP

 

I hope this helped you formulate a strategy when it comes to your own bag choice.  Taking park restrictions out of the mix, I usually opt for the smallest backpack I can manage with a design that dedicates most of the space to the main compartment so I can carry things like jackets, hoodies, and souvenirs when needed.  It has to be a pack that I can carry all day without being worn down.  It should have a valuables pocket for my sunglasses or smart phone. Also some pockets to organize and secure small items so they don’t get lost as I’m quickly getting in and out of the bag.

If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t have taken the Vertx Ready Pack on this most recent Disney trip.  I couldn’t have gone with anything smaller but the pocket setup wasn’t quite right.  I also lost my Nalgene on the Dinosaur attraction at Animal Kingdom when the bungee cord system failed to secure it and it went flying out of the jeep (my kids claimed a Dino ate it).

What would have been alternatives?  A Mystery Ranch ASAP?  Or a Triple Aught Design Litespeed?  Those might have worked.  But to be honest, despite my inclination towards military/tactical inspired packs, a nice hiking oriented day pack with a removable hip belt in a lightweight material would have fit the bill quite nicely.  Remind me I said that next time I go on one of these trips.   

16 Responses so far.

  1. jim says:

    Blaine I was down there last week as well and used my hill people tarahuma (bought after your recommendation!) and it worked great for 2 adults & 2 kids with rain coats, sunscreen and first aid kit for all with a couple of water bottles – worked pretty well! Got extra screening at one park and nothing at the other

  2. Bladeup says:

    I am at the Magic Kingdom and I am carrying a MR Booty bag. It’s small and light enough for traveling with and big enough to carry everything a family of four needs

  3. Tom says:

    I recently did Disney with a Camelback Urban Assault Concealment pack. Carried all the normal EDC stuff along with all the gear needed to keep kids and parents comfortable during long days in very high humidity.
    For what it’s worth, none of the security guards that week noticed the concealed pocket in the lumbar position. They were being frustratingly thorough (ie:slow) as well.
    Passport and cash goes in that spot during any of my excursions now.

    • Blaine B. says:

      Tom, I invested in a Dispatch (again) after catching a great deal on eBay. I agree. Whenever I’ve gone through screening with it, not one security person has found the lumbar pocket. Awesome deep concealment!

  4. Bill Assande says:

    I spent almost 5 years in WDW Security, right as companies like Maxpedition were becoming more popular. I bought my first jumbo gearslinger after talking to a LEO when I found his carry pistol in the CCW pocket. There are times that a more discreet bag comes in handy but there are so many people in the parks no one really cares what kind bag your carrying. Except the Security Bag checkers!

  5. Victoria says:

    The last time I was at an amusement park I rolled with a GoRuck Echo. It was actually the first time I was able to put the pack to use and it performed beautifully. Definitely on the small side so you need to limit your carry but it was slim, unobtrusive, and easy to store when needed.

  6. JP says:

    I’m going in a week and my plan is to use my GR Bullet10 with a Source hydration bladder. We (wife and 2 kids) travel light so I just need to pack rain gear and a few snacks / supplies in it. I figure this is easier to store on rides and much less cumbersome. I wish I bought the 15L bullet for the extra space and I think that would be the ideal bag for theme parks.

  7. smcguirt says:

    We are Disney a good bit. I have a variety of Goruck bags from bullets to GR2s that I use. Mostly the bullets and gr1 but I took a mystery ranch streetfighter last trip that I picked up from a forum while in Orlando and it was perfect, bottle holders on the side nice, low profile, not too tactical, and the MR yoke very comfortable. If your a bag freak like me you probably have a broad selection just pick what works best for your park loadout!

  8. John says:

    Good post. I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and decided to finally comment. I have been carrying the Gamut for a little over a year, and despite trying, I have yet to find a pack that fills all of my needs. Those are, side pockets for my coffee mug and water bottle, and a tactical EDC pack that doesn’t look that way. However, there are a few things about the Gamut that bother me, so after reading all your stuff on the EDC Ready Pack, I decided to pull the trigger today. Vertx is running a 40% off 4th of July sale, so for $95 out the door, I just had to do it. I am sure I will like it.

    • Blaine B. says:

      John, you didn’t mention what bothered you about the Gamut but hopefully the Ready Pack will meet your needs. You’re certainly getting it at a good price. Thanks for subscribing and commenting!

  9. John says:

    Well since you mentioned it…. FIrst I will say that the Gamut is thus far my favorite pack to date, and I’ve had quite a few. Thus is the life of a bag addict. I went from a few Maxped’s, the Falcon II & others, to the Camelback UA XL to the Gamut. One thing I don’t like about the Gamut is how the zippers kind of bind up when you try to zip up the main compartment. This is due to the slight bend in the design of that compartment. I also don’t like the velcro on the front fold down flap. If you load that front compartment up too much, the velcro on the front flap will not stay closed.

    Then there are those side pockets…. I like the idea of the design, but it seems like Vertx just tried to do too much with them. If you put a bottle in the outside pocket, it renders the inside compartment useless, and vice versa if you use the inside pockets. Again, good idea, poor design. Otherwise I love the pack, and it seems like Vertx addressed the issues I have with the Gamut in the EDC Ready Pack. But overall, the pros on the bag far outweigh the cons. Can’t wait to get my hands on the new pack!

  10. Warren Kung says:

    What did you find lacking in the Vertx EDC Ready Pack pocket setup?

    I went to Disneyland with my wife and two toddlers and used my Goruck GR0 to pretty good effect. I maybe could have use a little more room like a GR1, but a little less weight (if only Goruck made the GR0 and GR1 with 500D), and perhaps an additional small pocket on the outside top for my sunglasses. I also have yet to find a good add-on/Molle water bottle pouch that is light, streamlined, expandable and secure (maybe the Milspec Monkey Bottle Corset?).

    • Blaine B. says:

      As I mentioned, the primary draw of the Vertx bag was the external Nalgene pocket but it failed to secure my water bottle on a ride that wasn’t even that violent. Definitely would have been an issue on a coaster or something similar. Otherwise, pocket setup was fine. I think next time I’ll take my Gen 1 Litespeed or a lightweight hiking pack.

      For a MOLLE water bottle pouch, I’d highly recommend the Teeter Pouch by OV Innovations. It’s out of stock now but you can register to get notified on restocks. Should happen sometime in September.

  11. Warren Kung says:

    Thanks Blaine for the Teeter pouch reco! Quick question: would it be secure enough to be your water bottle solution should you run the Gen 1 Litespeed?

    • Blaine B. says:

      It already is Warren. 😉 With the bungee cord pulled tight once the bottle is secured, it’s not going anywhere. My only complaint is that re-insertion of the bottle is not a one handed operation with the Teeter. But other than that, I’m very happy with it.

  12. Warren Kung says:

    I’ve also got a Gen 1 Litespeed, but being made of 1000D it’s actually not that lightweight for its size. So I’m intrigued by your “hiking oriented day pack” option. Do you have any in mind that you could point us towards as possibilities vs the Litespeed or the Vertx EDC Ready pack (tho the EDC still sounds like a good option if you could hack a better retention for it’s bottle pocket)?

Comments and Questions are Welcome!

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