Every single day, I receive emails, media previews, and demo offers for the latest and greatest gear. New technology in a power station. The lightest puffy yet. Really, really, sustainably made shoes. It’s a lot to sift through. And not everything catches my eye as being truly innovative. But then there comes a piece of gear like Red Paddle’s “ATB Transformer Board Bag.”
While it satisfies a pretty niche group of people, this inflatable SUP-carrying system is truly innovative. It solves a common problem. And it has a ton of potential to change how people carry their SUPs.
Full disclosure: Yes, the U.K.-based paddle brand is simply updating its ATB (all-terrain board bag) with this new feature. But this is a noteworthy update. Why? Red Paddle has figured out a way to turn a clunky, wheeled, oversize paddleboard bag into a “bagless carry system.” The ATB Transformer bag is designed to be just the “skeleton.” You leave the bag behind, and instead, take just the board, the straps, and the pump.
Here’s how it works.
Gear Up With the ATB Transformer Bag
Red Paddle Co.’s ATB Transformer bag is unique in that it looks like a backpack, carries like a backpack, and even has the components of a backpack … just without the pack part.
The Transformer has a hip belt, shoulder straps, sternum straps, four different horizontal and vertical ratcheting straps, as well as adjustable straps. The weight can be easily adjusted so that it sits properly on users depending on their height. We recommend using the square strip of fabric as a platform for the bottom of the bag to support the weight above your hips (this will depend on the size and length of your SUP).
So if you don’t want a giant, bulky roller-wheeled bag, you aren’t committed to one. Instead, remove the cinching side straps and buckles, and disconnect the backpack container from the rest of the strap system. Voila! The ATB Transformer bag is now … bagless.
I like to think of this option as the minimum “trail weight” possible. It makes a ton of sense, and I’m glad it now exists for paddlers who prefer to go light. The only downside? No pockets. So you’ll need to contain the fins, pump, and any accessories within the SUP when you roll it up for transport. (Pro tip: Roll it up tightly like a burrito.)
Typical, industry-standard bag features like large plastic wheels, heavy fabric, internal and external pockets, and large zippers are all shed from this design. Because really, what good is having a 20- or 24-pound SUP, compared to a 30-pound SUP, if they are all going into the same big, usually heavy, bag?
Red Paddle is changing that with the Transformer. It gives paddlers the option to only carry the base gear, if that’s all they need.
Pros and Cons
Yes, there are limitations. Consider extra gear, for example. If you’re going out for a full day of paddling, you’ll likely have a dry bag with five to 10 essentials. It’s harder with this “skeleton” system with no pockets to bring along extra gear, and things like drinking water. You’ll have to use your hands for anything extra.
Second, consider the weather. I’d be wary to use this method often in high sun, as UV light can damage paddleboards over time. The same goes with the inverse: If it’s raining, you may want to opt for a carry bag with a waterproof interior and pockets to keep gear dry.
Finally, I tried this bag with a 10’6 and 12′ paddleboard; for boards larger than that, such as 12- to 14-foot touring boards, we can’t comment on comfort or fit. Check with Red Paddle Co. to see which boards it recommends for this Transformer bag’s intended use.
Every Red paddleboard manufactured beginning in the summer of 2022 comes with this updated board bag. And if you already own a different paddleboard and bag, don’t worry. The ATB Transformer bag is now also sold separately for $299 MSRP.
The near-zero weight design of the ATB Transformer is a genius way to carry a SUP and small paddle essentials. Now paddlers can easily move from one locale to another without any baggage.