Gadling Gear Review: Westwater Roll Top Duffel By Fishpond

Choosing the right bag for an active, adventurous escape can be a real challenge. On the one hand, you need something with plenty of room to haul all of your gear but then again you don’t want something too large and bulky either. It should also provide a good measure of protection for whatever you’re carrying inside while also shrugging off the wear and tear that comes along with travel itself. That pretty much sums up my experience with the Westwater Roll Top Duffel from Fishpond, a bag that delivers a lot of value to demanding travelers and outdoor enthusiast alike.

Fishpond isn’t exactly a company that is well known for making travel gear. In fact, their core market is in the fishing business where they’ve spent more than a decade building a brand that is well respected for its quality and innovation. Recently, Fishpond has turned its attention to the adventure travel market, however, bringing new additions to their product line that are sure to be of interest to those who like to travel light. The Roll Top Duffel is one of those products and it manages to deftly break new ground while still finding a way to honor the company’s heritage.The Roll Top is a modestly sized duffel bag that is capable of filling a lot of different roles for travelers. It features 55L of interior storage, which is enough for a weeks worth of gear depending on the type of trip you’re taking and how smartly you pack. In fact, that is actually 5L of storage more than my favorite backpack, which accompanies me on all but the most gear intensive trips. The Roll Top also has a small exterior pocket that is nice for keeping small items close at hand, but other than that, there aren’t a lot of other storage options available. This lack of organizational compartments may be a turn off to those who are use to a plethora of pockets and storage compartments on their luggage, but the customer that this bag is designed for will appreciate its simplicity.

Made from thick, durable fabrics, this is the kind of duffel you can use on a weekend escape to that B&B in the country or on a longer excursion to a far-flung corner of the globe. The bag easily resists damage and is simple to keep clean, making it appear new even after it’s been around the block (or the world!) a couple of times. It is clear that Fishpond put a lot of thought into the Roll Top’s design, employing TPU welded fabrics that will ensure a very long life.

The quality doesn’t stop with the fabrics, however, as just about every other aspect of the Roll Top is impressive as well. Everything from the zipper on the exterior pocket to the two padded nylon handles give the impression that the company spared no expense in building this bag. A sturdy and adjustable shoulder strap and two compression straps, complete with heavy-duty clasps, do nothing to dispel this image either.

The one feature that completely sets this duffel bag apart from the crowd is that when properly sealed it is absolutely waterproof. The roll-top from which it derives its name, opens incredibly wide, providing unprecedented access to the interior compartment. This makes it a breeze to pack and once you’ve put everything you need inside, the bag seals up as tight as a drum. Using a design that is common on dry bags that are typically used in sports such as kayaking or scuba diving, the top of this bag rolls in on itself, creating a surprisingly tight seal. Once the compression straps are locked in and pulled tight, it is virtually impossible for moisture to find its way into the interior of the bag. This means no matter what you put inside this duffel, you can bet it’ll be well protected from the elements.

This level of waterproofing makes the Roll Top a fantastic option for sailing adventures, camping outings and of course extended fishing trips. But even if you’re not heading to a destination where your primary activities center on water, this is a duffel bag that is versatile enough for use in just about any environment. Whether they’re rushing through a crowded airport or making their way to a remote mountain cabin, the Roll Top’s ability to easily carry a large load will no doubt make it a favorite amongst travelers everywhere.

As someone who likes to travel as light as absolutely possible, a duffel bag is my preferred piece of luggage whenever I’m not using a backpack. Often they can be used as a carry-on, which helps save a few bucks at the airport, although a fully packed Roll Top will push the boundaries of what is allowed by the airlines. I also like being able to toss the bag over a shoulder, allowing me to keep my hands free for other items. This duffel does all of that while also providing a level of waterproofing that is very impressive indeed. You may not need that level of protection from moisture, but it sure is good to know that you have it just in case.

Fishpond has priced the Roll Top duffel at $159.95, which seems like an excellent deal considering the overall level of quality that this bag delivers. If you’re in the market for a new duffel bag to accompany you on your next adventure, it is tough to beat this one in terms of durability and protection.

Video: Surfing In Russia

Russia might be the last place you’d ever think to go surfing but surfers are nothing if not adventurous. In pursuit of the perfect wave, they are liable to go just about anywhere on the planet – from the frigid Arctic waters of Scandinavia to Pakistan’s perilous Makran Coast. So when they show up on the remote volcanic coasts of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, is anyone really that surprised?

These guys from SURFER Magazine are particularly dedicated to their favorite sport, crashing through isolated Siberian forest in a military-grade off-road truck to find unexplored shores. On the way they find enough hot springs, friendly locals, pristine rivers and wild forest to satisfy anybody’s adventure travel cravings, even if sweet shallow barrels don’t get you stoked.

Tanzania Government To Fishermen: ‘Stop Catching Dolphins, It Upsets The Tourists’

The government of Tanzania is urging fishermen to stop hunting dolphins, a report in the Daily News says.

The report says dolphin hunting has become common practice in the Dar es Salaam and Tanga regions. It’s often done by “dynamite fishing,” in which explosives are chucked into the water to kill all marine life in a large area. Dolphin meat is used to bait sharks, which is what the fishermen are really after. Shark fins are a delicacy that sell for high prices.

Tourists have even spotted fishermen catching dolphins in Tanga Coelacanth Marine Park. Tourism is big business in Tanzania thanks to its diverse wildlife and being home to the Mt. Kilimanjaro part of the Serengeti. Seeing Flipper being blown up, hauled into a boat, cut to pieces and used as shark bait would definitely ruin an ecotourist’s vacation.

Dolphins have been a protected species in Tanzania since 2009. It’s not clear how well this is known among fishermen, however. Even if fishermen do know they’re flaunting the law, the need to be breadwinners for their families may outweigh any concerns about conservation or the health of an industry of which they are not a part.

[Photo courtesy Flickr user hobbs_luton. There is no indication that these particular Tanzanian fishermen are engaged in dolphin hunting]

The Kimchi-ite: Jeju Island, An Escape From The Metropolis

In many corners of the world, winter offers nothing but a biting cold that demands we stay indoors until the flowers start to bloom. But with spring stretching its legs, it’s time we start to do the same. The best way to mentally prepare for spring and summer is to reminisce about trips from the past and to plan a new travel adventure built around shorts and sandals.

Here in Korea, Jeju Island is one of the first places that come to mind when seeking warm weather travel. A popular honeymoon destination, Jeju Island is a small, volcanic isle just south of the Korean peninsula, famed within Korea for its beaches, seafood, unique mountains and tangerines. It’ll be hard to miss the tangerines; they are sold everywhere on the island and are in anything that you’d consider edible.

A sparsely populated, laid-back island, Jeju is the perfect escape from the Seoul megapolis.

Its craggy, volcanic coast is not lined with unlimited sandy beaches like some tropical islands; however, the beaches that it does have are what I consider to be perfect, with large areas of warm, shallow, postcard-worthy, blue water.

Hyeopjae Beach, a gorgeous beach that many Koreans can’t believe is in their own country.

My favorite beach is Hyeopjae (pronounced Hyup-jay). It is far from a well-kept secret but thankfully not quite the “must-do” like Haeundae Beach back on the mainland. The view of the island mountain just across the water is a sight to behold. When I would show my Korean friends back in Seoul photos from the beach, they had a hard time believing that this was in their own country.

Seongsan, a beautifully unique rock of a mountain, known for its sunrise views.

Seongsan Ilchulbong
is a bizarre looking dormant volcano that juts out of a flat landscape, seemingly placed there by accident. It’s a great place to catch the sunrise, lending to its other name, “Sunrise Peak.”

Formed by the now dormant volcano, Hallasan, Jeju is a smattering of volcanic rock.

The most well known of all points of interest, however, is Hallsan, South Korea’s tallest mountain and one of the islands three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It’s an odd looking mountain that in some ways is actually the entire island itself. Hallasan is an extremely popular hiking spot offering some very accessible trails for beginning hikers.

Fishing is a part of everyday life on Jeju and raw fish is a common part of most meals.

Going hand in hand with fishing, boats can be seen at all times when near the water.

The beautiful Manjanggul Lava-tube is great for a summer day, with temperatures inside dropping to the 50s.

Manjanggul Lava-tube is one of the largest in the world and with Hallasan now dormant as a volcano, it serves as an impressive cave system. Upon first descending down into the tube system, the temperature instantly drops down more than 20 degrees, a welcome bit of natural air conditioning. Beautiful rock formations, rare animal species and awe-inspiring preservation contribute to it, too, being listed as a World Heritage Site.

The sunsets on Jeju, one of the quietest, most laid-back places in Korea.

Jeju Island is the perfect weekend getaway from the city’s mess of towers and people. It is just a short one-hour flight away from Seoul and during the right time, tickets can be in the $200 range. It’s a great place to hop on a bus and get off when something out the window looks interesting. The island doesn’t have a wealth of things to do or see, but sometimes that is the point.

To see more posts on the life, culture, food and excitement of South Korea from “The Kimchi-ite” click here!

[All photos by Jonathan Kramer]

Whatever Happened To The Lake Conway Monster?

Could a reservoir in Arkansas be the favorite watering hole of a southern Bigfoot? Maybe it once was, but it doesn’t seem to be anymore.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, I loved tramping through the woods, and so of course I loved hearing about monsters lurking in the woods. I vaguely remember a rash of sightings of a big, hairy monster in the woods of Arkansas. It had several names, the most popular being the Fouke Monster, which was sighted by numerous individuals and was the subject of some atrocious films that freaked out 10-year-old me.

There were also sightings at Lake Conway just north of Little Rock. It’s 6,700 acres in size, making it the largest man-made game and fish commission lake in the country, and a popular fishing spot. Most of the sightings come from fishermen in remote parts of the lake.

According to one anonymous testimony (the sort of thing that constitutes evidence for cryptozoologists hunting these critters) it was about 7 feet tall and completely covered with dark hair. It stood at the edge of the lake watching a fishing boat for several minutes and showed no fear or comprehension when a gun was pointed at it.

Sightings of the Conway Lake monster date back to the 1940s, according to this article in the Saline Courier, which cites no sources. They continued until the 1970s before trailing off to nothing.

Several witnesses noted that it had a terrible odor. This led some cryptozoologists to suggest it’s a skunk ape, a mysterious beast shown here in a photo courtesy David Barkasy and Loren Coleman. This shot was allegedly taken in Florida. Skunk apes are found throughout the South although, of course, none have ever been caught. Sadly, no photos of the Lake Conway monster have ever been reported.

So what was the Lake Conway monster? Skunk ape? Bigfoot? A hairy refugee from a nudist chili festival? Did it go extinct like some people said Nessie has? Perhaps it moved away as Little Rock has expanded and more and more fishermen use Lake Conway. It seems a shame, though. The folks around Lake Champlain have kept their monster alive and kicking. So come on, Arkansans, go find the Lake Conway monster, or at least take a blurry nighttime photo of an orangutan!