Grip Equipment has been one of the fastest growing disc golf companies over the past year. Remarkably, they have had this rapid growth with one product. Commonly known as the “Grip Bag” this disc golf bag has taken the sport by storm. You’ll find disc golfers of all levels using the Grip Bag on the course. World champions, weekend warriors, and casual players have been reaching for Grip Equipment Disc Golf Bags at a rapid pace.
In early May, Grip Equipment published a blog post titled “The End of an Era” that announced the end of production on the bag that disc golfers have come to love. While the company wasn’t going anywhere, it was clear a new era was on the horizon for Grip Equipment.
Over the last month, we’ve been in communication with Dan Hall, Vice President of Operations for Grip Equipment. We’ve been able to get the details on what the “new era” has in store for Grip Equipment. The new era includes the release of the “A-Series” bag, new partnerships and more. Hall gave us all the details:
All Things Disc Golf: You recently posted an update to your site saying that this is the end of an era. It looks as if production on the current Grip bag is stopping. Is this the case? While it certainly wasn’t an easy decision, what caused you guys to go this route?
Dan Hall: The Classic L-series tour bag was the first thing Grip Equipment produced. I don’t think it would be boasting to say that bag changed the game. Go out to your local course, and if you don’t see a Grip bag, you’ll see a bag based on the grip bag. Or go on the web. That single product made our website the second most popular disc golf manufacturer site in the US. Innovadiscs.com is number one, grip-eq.com is number two, and discraft.com is number three. So yes, it was hard to say goodbye to the L-series, but I think it was the right choice. Now that it’s out of production, those L-series bags will increase in value, which helps us give back to the people who were with us at the beginning.
All Things Disc Golf: Does this mean new a new product or products are coming from Grip Equipment?
Dan Hall: Yes! The release of our A-series tour bag is 5.20.2013. Glide Disc Golf in Madison, Disc Golf World in Kansas City and Disc Nation in Austin are each having an in-store event introducing the new bag, and it’s going up on our website at noon CDT. We’ve been working on the A-series for two years, patents will be pending on Monday, and we’re really excited to finally release it to the public. At GripEQ, development never stops. It’s why we’re here. Our weekly staff meetings always start with New Product Development reports from the design team, and, after inventory, of course, research and development is the biggest line item in our budget.
All Things Disc Golf: What is the price point for the A-series?
Dan Hall: $252.
All Things Disc Golf: Why so expensive?
Dan Hall: If you’re looking for a cheap bag, there are plenty of alternatives out there. Our goal has always been to make the best disc golf bag in the world.
All Things Disc Golf: Is the storage capacity the same?
Dan Hall: The L-series is rated at 20+. The A-series is rated at 21+. The additional disc comes from the wider front flap pocket. Some of the L-series bags could hold a driver in that pocket if you really worked at it, but that put a lot of stress on the pocket seams. For the A-series, we changed the shape of the flap and a few things about it’s relationship to the edges of the bag. This may seem like a simple change, but it takes more thought than you might imagine. Weight distribution is crucial to the bags performance on your back, especially over hilly terrain. We wanted to keep the same horizontal footprint while increasing both the disc carrying and clothing storage capacity AND improving the durability of that pocket’s seam. By changing the shape of the flap and its relationship to the edge of the bag, that pocket now comfortably holds a putter or two drivers. It also makes it easier to access the main compartment.
The number + rating system may seem a little vague until you realize that a lot depends on what kind of discs you use. Honestly, I’d max it out at 22, but you can push beyond that number if you are willing to sacrifice some access. For example, you can fit two putters in the flap pocket, but they’re not going to be easy to grab. The same goes for the quiver putter pocket—two putters fit comfortably, but you can bump it up to 4 if you leave the quiver down.
All Things Disc Golf: Are the any changes to the quiver pocket?
Dan Hall: So glad you asked. While it accomplishes the same function (raises up your putters so you can easily reach them without taking off your bag), the quiver pocket mechanism is entirely new (click the image to the right for more detail). It’s simpler, more durable, and raises your putters a little higher. That, along with some strap position changes, bring your putters between 1/2″ to 2″ closer to your fingers. The variation depends on the curvature of your spine. If you have severe lordosis, the difference between the L-series and A-series will be closer to 1/2″. Most players will experience something closer to 2″.
All Things Disc Golf: Recently, you were looking for testers to help out. Are you still looking for possible candidates? When will people hear if they made the testing group?
Dan Hall: Yes, back in the beginning of May we put out a call for product tester applications. We whittled down 637 applications to 60 finalists. All 60 finalists were emailed late Wednesday night/early Thursday morning, and we should be ready to make the next cut at the end of this week. It’s already been a very helpful endeavor. Our application involved suggesting improvements to the Grip bag; I’m pleased to say that many of the suggestions were already incorporated into the A-series.
For example, one of the most common complaints about the L-series is that, when fully loaded, it’s not as stable as we’d like on uneven ground. You can get around this by setting the bag down so that the rotation axis in question is parallel to the slope, but we don’t want you to have to think about that when you’re using a Grip. So this is what we did: with the L-series, the angle between the base and the back is 90 degrees, for the A-series (and this is why it’s called the A-series), we increased the length of the back and decreased the angle between the back and the base. This decreases the proportion of mass on the… well, it’s easier to show with pictures.
Here’s a side view of the A-series. You can see how the profile is more in the shape of an “A” than the shape of an “L”. The “A” shape improves the stability.
All Things Disc Golf: But, I understand you’re only releasing a “limited initial run” today. Does that mean there are still kinks to work out?
Dan Hall: Nope. Everything has been tested and triple-checked. We’re good to go. We limited the size of the initial run so we can get a better idea about the relative demand for the five standard colors.
All Things Disc Golf: Five standard colors?
Dan Hall: Yep. In addition to the all black and black/gray, we have blue/gray, red/gray, and green/gray. Here are some photos:
All Things Disc Golf: For about the last 12-16 months, it seems as if another Grip bag has appeared at our local courses. In your mind, what has made the Grip bag so popular?
Dan Hall: That’s a good question. I think the Grip bag resonates with the disc golf community for a lot of different reasons, but you can boil it all down to one—the experience of using, and owning a Grip bag. That’s how the bag is designed, and that’s how we try to present it to the disc golf community. While the features are important, they’re easy to talk about, market, sell to, etc… the Grip bag was built around the experience, built around the behaviors of disc golfers. Sure, people will like the new higher pencil pocket, the expandable 580 cubic inches of storage for extra layers of clothing, etc, etc, etc, but the thing that makes it work is your experience when you wear it and use it. One of my favorite things to watch is the expression on someone’s face at, say a tournament flymart, when they take all of their stuff out of their old bag, put it in a Grip bag, and then put it on their back.
All Things Disc Golf: One era ended with the end of production on the L-Series bag. The A-Series brings in a new era, but what else does this “new era” include for Grip Equipement?
Dan Hall: These three partnerships represent the ways:
- Disc Golf Planet.tv and Beach Sports Network. Our sport has been featured on national television a number of times. Some of them worked well, some not so well, but none of them stuck. Monday, May 20th, 2013, is the day that changed. Grip Equipment is proud to be one of three major sponsors of this new era of Disc Golf on TV. The premier broadcast is tonight at 11pm on KC Metro Sports in Kansas City (Time Warner Cable, channels 30, 310, 1310). It will be playing at different days and times this week across the country, including DIRECTV and Dish Network, reaching over 50% of US TV households, so check your local listings. In addition, beginning on Monday 5.20.2013, Disc Golf Planet.tv has generously donated a lifetime membership to go along with each Grip Bag we sell. Register your purchase at http://grip-eq.com/guaranteedforlife to qualify for this generous offer.
- Disc Nation. Disc Nation is the industry leader in supply chain technology. Our partnership with them means that, by using their fully automated supply chain service, in addition to the best disc golf bag in the world, we can provide the best order fulfillment service in disc golf.
- Bearded Brothers. Bearded Brothers is a rapidly growing wholesome snack food company from Austin, Texas. They make a product that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with disc golf, but they’re very much involved in the sport, sponsoring players, tournaments, and promoting disc golf as a way towards better health and wellness. This kind of involvement of outside companies represents a key step in the growth of the sport, so lets encourage it! They’ve generously donated energy bars for our in-store launch at Disc Nation, Disc Golf World, and Glide Disc Golf, and this is just the start of our partnership.
All Things Disc Golf: The process on getting the most current run of bags on the market had its rough patches. What have you guys learned as you head down the road?
Dan Hall: When we made the first L-series run, we were a brand new company, and there was a lot for us to learn. The biggest takeaway from our first run of the L-series was not to announce, promise, or predict until we have the bags in the warehouse, ready to ship. We don’t pre-sell anymore. There are a number of other things. For example, we always have someone on the floor to confirm everything is cut and sewn to spec, we have rigorous quality controls at each point of the supply chain, and we NEVER compromise on materials.
But the biggest thing comes back to design. If you want a bag that doesn’t fail, you have to incorporate that into your design process. I’ll give you an example. The logo on the L-series tour bags is embroidered. It’s embroidered with high quality thread using high quality processes, but, lets say while you’re playing a wooded course, you let one fly a little early. The next thing you know, you’re dragging your embroidered grip logo through the brush. Even the best embroidery is going to fail in those circumstances. But screen printing is worse, right? Wrong. Last summer we started working with our suppliers to identify the best screen printing technique for disc golf bags. After many trials, we ended up choosing this new high performance ink bonding technology designed for outdoor use. It’s proprietary, and, sadly, more expensive than embroidery, but it’s also more consistent and more durable.
All Things Disc Golf: While you do have some t-shirts available, the company is built around one product: the bag. Is it tough running a company that only sells one main product? What’s next for GripEQ?
Dan Hall: If I hadn’t been there in the middle of it, I wouldn’t have believed we could get this far on one product! There are more in the pipeline, of course, but the product development cycle takes a lot longer when the goal is to innovate. As Justin (Grip Equipment founder) likes to say, we’re not just putting together derivatives of other peoples work—each new product has to change the game.
There is little doubt that today is an exciting one for Grip Equipment. Here are some quick takeaways for the new A-series bag:
- Price: $252
- Storage: 21+
- Colors: Black, Black/Gray, Blue/Gray, Red/Gray, Green/Gray
- Available: Limited run available today
We will have a full review of the new A-series bag soon. From the new bag and new partnerships, a new and exciting era has started for Grip Equipment. Thanks to Dan Hall for all the details.
So, what do you think of the new bags? Let us know!