The Definitive Guide to Surfboard Travel Bags
If you are planning on travelling with your surfboard, then it’s a good thing to start planning on how you will be transporting your board.
Yes, you can just strap it to the roof of your car, but is that the best way to do it? Does a surfboard warrant a bit more protection and isolation from the outside world? What if you’re not traveling by car?
While there is no need to be a stickler about it, it’s also wrong to treat your boards with reckless abandon. You want to take care of your prized instrument that’s also an investment! That way, when push comes to shove, your board will not give out on you.
If you travel often and have many boards, taking care of them can prove to be a challenge. That’s why getting a surfboard bag is such a great idea. However, finding the perfect surfboard travel bag can also be somewhat of a challenge, that is if you don’t know where to look. That’s where we come in with our detailed guide on the best surfboard travel bags along with everything there is to know about them. Let’s get this show on the road.
Do You Absolutely Need a Surfboard Bag?
If you are planning on traveling with your board, then the answer is: absolutely yes. The wear and tear that the environment alone can cause to a board is reason enough to wrap your board in an accommodating container. Even getting a simple surfboard bag can make all the difference in the world and keep your board safe from dings, yellowing, and nicks. With that out of the way, let’s do away with another common question.
What Size Surfboard Bag Should I Get?
Because surfboards vary dramatically in size and dimension, finding a suitable bag isn’t the easiest task in the world. You can really go one of two ways. You can either have a bag custom-made and fitted for your board or go for a brand that has a wide offering of bags.
In either situation, you want the bag to be a snug fit and not have your board swinging from side to side inside of it. You should be able to put the board inside and enclose it without any hassle as well.
The shape of the board goes in tow with the dimensions. If you get the dimensions right but don’t account for the shape size of things, you are likely to end up purchasing the wrong bag. In a perfect world, you would take your board and have it fitted or try out different bags for it. But, as we all well know that in today’s world most purchases are made online.
Ultimately, in order to help you find the correct answer, let’s go over all the surfboard bag types.
Types of Surfboard Bags
Let’s take a look at some of the most popular and coveted bag designs on the market so that you get an understanding of what’s out there and what to look for. We’ll also suggest some specific products that we’ll give you the full rundown on a bit later in the article.
Shortboard bags are meant for boards that usually are less than 20 inches in width and don’t have oval noses. If this fits your bill, then you can go for a shortboard bag. As opposed to the rest of the bags, the shortboard ones are also the most mobile and flexible in terms of transport.
The Bulldog surf bag is the perfect example of a great shortboard bag that will go the extra mile. However, if your board has somewhat of an irregular shape, then you should skip this one altogether.
Hybrid Board Bags
Enter the hybrid board bag. The hybrid bag is ideal for boards that are still short in length but have more width to them. Although this type of board is not super popular, it’s good to know that there are bags out there that can accommodate each and every board. If you’re planning on going real short, then the Dakine Daylight surf bag might be the one for you.
Fish Board Bags
If fish boards are your forte, then you can turn to fishboard bags. Fishboards are usually surfboards that will suit bags wider than 24 inches. Even if you own a slightly different shape of a funboard, the fishboard bag can still do, provided that your board isn’t too wide or narrow.
A general rule is that width is more important than length when it comes to surf bags. Ocean + Earth has some great products for every price tier.
If you are rocking an old-school longboard, you definitely want to take a look at longboard bags that will be able to accommodate boards between 8 and 10 feet.
Yes, this is quite a lot of difference in length, but we will get into it in a second. Just know that you shouldn’t even be wasting time in the miscellaneous section and stick to longboard cases and bags. A true classic, The Surfica is a great all-rounder at a good price.
Foamie Board Bags
Now, you might not think that the materials that a board is made of can have a direct impact on the bag that you should be getting, but it’s different when it comes to foam bags.
Because foam boards are light and made out of foam, they are very prone to outside damage. This means that you’ll need some extra protection when going on the road. To that end, get an extra-padded board bag such as The Rhino.
Surfboard Bag Styles
The style of a bag is just as important as the type. Some might argue that the style is even more important, and for a good reason. Let’s take a look at the most prominent surfboard bag styles.
A surfboard sock is a stretch cover that goes over your board, much like a sock goes over a foot. These bags are soft bags and are usually woven. They don’t come at much more than a couple of millimeters of protection.
The biggest reason to get yourself a sock bag is the fact that they are the lightest and most mobile and convenient bags around.
The downside, however, is that they don’t offer extensive protection from the outside world and provide zero protection on impact.
You should opt for a sock bag if you are worried about your board being in direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time and keeping dust away from its surface.
Most soft sock bags come etched with polyester at the nose part of the board and are quite suitable for short trips when you have that extra padding elsewhere.
Day Board Bags
Day board bags are the bread and butter for most surfers because they are lightweight and go well with car roof transports.
They have an advantage over sock bags in that they can be placed both on the inside and outside of a vehicle, and this makes them a lot easier to deal with.
The material of choice for day bags is usually polyester, which provides a lot of durability and prevents the surfboard wax from melting.
Day bags are equipped with straps and grab handles, which makes them easy to handle and makes them a true champion of the surf market. Just make sure that you are getting a quality one when you are pulling the trigger, and you should be good to go. The FCS Surfboard Cover should be right up your alley.
Standard Surfboard Travel Bags
Standard surfboard bags look exactly like day bags from the outside. They are usually made out of polyester and have all the bells and whistles to them in terms of straps, handles, and pockets. However, they’re a lot thicker than day bags and provide extra protection.
Having a thicker layer protecting your board is ideal for longer trips where the board is more prone to damage. The downside of standard bags, though, is that they do take up a lot of space when the board is unsheathed. The industry has gone to great lengths to make this a thing of the past, as with the board bag in question, for instance—more on it below.
The Best Surfboard Bags
Let’s take a look at some of the best surfboard travel bags on the market. All of these are top-notch in their categories, and once you know what you're after, you can more than justify the cost.
We’re going to take a gradual approach and start with the more affordable designs, slowly moving towards the upscale models.
Dakine Mission Series Surfboard Bag
If you’ve been having trouble with keeping your wax from melting off of your board because of the tropical sun, look no further than the Dakine Mission Shortboard travel bag. The brand is a well-known commodity in the surf world for its high quality and durability. The best part? It won’t cost you an arm and a leg to purchase one. The bag is great for protecting your board from heat, dust, and the occasional ding during your travels.
The Mission is a heavy-duty bag—don’t let the price fool you. It’s equipped with a 10 mm padding that will get between your board and any hard surface on the regular. The materials that it’s made of are reflective and feature TPU venting.
You can always count on the YKK coil zippers, designed to handle extra weight without any problems whatsoever.
As with any bag, there is no one-size-fits-all model. One of the most popular choices is the hybrid 7’0 board bag. However, the bags can go up to 10’2 should you require it.
If you are looking to save a couple of bucks and still not compromise on the quality of the product, The Mission is the perfect bag for you.
Pro-Lite Rhino Shortboard Travel Bag
The Pro-Lite Rhino Shortboard travel bag is one of the most popular bags on the market, without a shadow of a doubt.
If you cannot afford more than one bag and want a product that has stood the test of time—one that you can count on—the Rhino Travel Bag might be the way to go.
Pro-Lite is a company that has a good reputation in the surfing community for a good reason. Their products are the most accessible pro gear that do the job on a day-to-day basis.
The bag itself is not bulky and features a slim construction. That being said, you aren’t sacrificing cushioning—the Pro-Lite Rhino Shortboard travel bag features 10 mm of padding that is reinforced at the nose. This is not something that you can expect to find on a bag in this price range.
Shortboard surfers might find the bag a bit big for their boards, but they can be creative and fill out the extra space with some clothing in order to add even more cushioning and keep rocking the Pro-Lite Rhino.
It comes with a high-grade zipper system, an extra accessory pocket, a great handle, and of course, a vent that will keep your board nice and fresh. The bag is the go-to choice for wide and Fish style boards.
You can get it in standard or double versions if you are planning on carrying more than one surfboard on your trip.
Channel Islands Travel Light CX2 Coffin Bag
Coming in at number three, the Channel Islands Travel Light CX2 Coffin Travel Bag is a step up in the bag game because it can literally take on pro surfer demands. Marketed as a true all-around surfboard travel bag, it features a light construction that won’t cause you any shoulder or back problems on long trips.
It has extra padding and protection for the nose of the board, while you are also getting an additional layer of padding at the tail. You will be able to fit two boards inside with no problems whatsoever. Depending on the design of the bag, having three boards in there is not out of the question, either.
The CX2 Coffin Bag is fully compatible with the Channel Islands Carry-On Bag, which means that you can move the bag around a lot easier when on wheels.
Riders have a choice between the CX1, which can hold up to two boards, or opt for a bigger model such as the CX3, where they’ll be able to store up to four boards.
The cushioning is solid and features a 20 mm foam padding between the boards.
FCS Travel 3 All Purpose Cover Surfboard Bag
Moving up the ladder, we have the FCS Travel 3 All Purpose Cover Surfboard bag. This is one of the most purchased bags of all time. FCS Travel products are renowned for their quality control and protection.
The bag is a tank that features 12 mm of foam as well as an added 2 mm of plastic on the nose and tail parts. It can last you a long, long time because it is made out of military-grade nylon that won’t rip and will keep moisture at bay on your travels.
The PK Derlin Zipper system is one of the best zipper systems on the planet—neither sand nor sea salt can crack it.
If the name didn’t already give it away, the FCS Travel 3 bag can store up to 3 shortboards. If you are looking for a lighter build and only need to carry one or two boards, then you should take a look at the Travel 1 and Travel 2. You can expect the same great quality and even more protection with 10 mm and 5 mm extra padding, respectively.
Pro-Lite Finless Coffin Triple Travel Bag
Another outstanding offering from Pro-Lite, the Finless Coffin Triple Travel Bag, will probably survive the apocalypse if push came to shove. If you are a surfer who goes for long trips in rough conditions, then this bag should be pretty high on your list.
Don’t let the weight fool you; this bag is professional in every sense of the word. The Finless Coffin allows you to separate your boards with the inside divider that features a racing seat belt design.
You can always count on the four compression straps that ensure your board is glued to the bag and won’t be slipping anytime soon. The bag also features reinforcement on the more vulnerable areas and angles.
Because it is designed as a coffin, you won’t have any problems packing or unpacking your boards. The Finless Coffin also features two extra pocket compartments that come in handy when you want to add some extra accessories.
Pro-Lite Smuggler Shortboard Travel Bag
The Smuggler is very popular on the market today. A lot of surfers it because it has a secret bottom compartment that is able to stash an extra board. So, riders that are traveling a lot and don’t want to check in two bags can just slip their third board into The Smuggler bag and pay the fees for a normal double board bag.
Don’t let the part about the board’s name fool you—this bag is anything but a gimmick. It’s still made out of quality materials and features quality components all throughout. You’re getting extra protection on the nose and rails, along with a great handle and a non-corrosive zipper system on Pro-Lite bags.
The one thing that you would want to consider is that The Smuggler is a very wide bag at 24” in width.
DB Bunker Surfboard Travel Bag
The DB Bunker Surfboard Travel bag might be one of the more expensive surf bags out there.
DB is aiming for the best bag ever with its Bunker Surfboard Travel Bag. This Royce Rolls of surf bags makes traveling super easy and convenient. The protection is second to none and comes with a great deal of mobility for what it offers.
Riders that are traveling with three or four boards on their trips and have an expensive quiver shouldn’t think twice and pull the trigger on Bunker Surfboard Travel Bag.
The bag is completely made out of recycled fabrics and features Ribcage technology that is unique and patented by DB. It’s adjustable and can extend to accommodate boards up to 6’6. All of the compartments feature separators that make sure your wax doesn’t mesh between the boards.
The Bunker bag features wheels and a tough exterior. DB has added a hook system that makes moving the board from spot A to spot B easier than ever. Now you can just push along your surfboard rig along with your suitcase. The bag features a rolling storage system that makes empty bags very easy to store.
Things to Consider When Buying a Surfboard Travel Bag
If you didn’t like any of our suggested bags, we’ll help you find the one that’s just right for you by letting you know what to look out for. As you’ve seen by now, there are a lot of things that you should take into account when you are in the market for a new surfboard bag. Yes, the type and style of the board bag are the obvious ones, but there is much more at hand.
It goes without saying that the dimensions of the board have to match the bag; otherwise, the whole purchase falls apart.
You want to make good on both length and width, and while an inch or two in more length is not a big deal, you should be very careful with the width of a board.
This goes double for shortboards because they vary drastically in width. If you are in the market for a shortboard bag, you should make an extra effort to make the purchase in person and try out the fit before you buy.
Don’t forget to take your fin setup into account when you are shopping for a new bag. For instance, quad fin setups have a different footprint than single fin setups.
You don’t want to have the tail of your board causing you difficulties when pulling the zipper over it. If you are doing a custom bag build, make sure to mention this to the vendor.
And while we are talking about zippers, make sure that you are purchasing a quality zipper mechanism for your board. While a zipper of poor quality may save you a few bucks, it will also cause you a ton of headaches and frustration down the road.
You don’t want to find yourself wasting time and money on replacing zippers, so make sure that you get it right the first time around.
The next important thing that you should consider when in the market for a surfboard bag is the padding. Paddings can vary from a couple of millimeters to an inch, so it’s up to you to decide how much protection is too much protection.
The safe bet is to get a bag that is a bit thicker than what you are planning to go with because the extra weight won’t be substantial, and the thickness might be the difference between a dinged board and a protected one.
Also, thick bags are a must if you have boards laying on top of each other. In this scenario, there will be friction between the cases on turns and bumps in the road. You want to make sure that this friction does not translate to the boards themselves and stays between the bags.
If you are planning on transporting your board by air, you’ll most certainly need a heavyweight bag. These bags usually have more than half an inch of padding, which prevents dings even when the board is lumped in with other bags of all dimensions.
You don’t want to rely on the gentle touch of the baggage handlers. Just get a heavyweight bag and fly peacefully.
Lightweight Surfboard Bags
The name says it itself. If the weight of the case is the most important thing for you, then look no further than light board bags that are less than a quarter-inch thick. Yes, even a sack bag will do if you aren’t planning on strapping your board to the top of your car or transporting it in the open.
Double Surfboard Bags
Ever thought about transporting more than one board on a plane and still not paying double? Yeah, you will be needing the double surfboard bag in order to pull that one-off.
Double surfboard bags are bags that can accommodate two surfboards at the same time. They are bulkier and certainly a lot heavier to handle, but they do have their uses when space is of the utmost importance.
Quad surfboard bags with wheels are great for air travel when you have connecting flights or just a sizeable quiver. They can take four boards generally and have built-in wheels to help you get around those airport terminals.
The right surfboard bag is essential for a good surf trip. The best surfboard travel bags are bags that have proven themselves time and again and have gotten a reputation for being the best of the best.
Keep in mind that travel bags with up to four surfboards or multiple boards can be a bit heavy to carry around, especially if you have a longboard bag.
Make sure that the shoulder straps are solid before you commit to carrying the bag from one place to another. No one wants to drag a surfboard sock around when the conditions are tough.
Getting a good travel bag is a worthwhile investment that will protect your boats for years to come. Now, you have the knowledge to make an informed decision on which one and what type of board bags you should be shopping for. Happy hunting. We’ll be seeing you on the reef.