|Home - Volume 1 (2006) - Issue 2 (Fall '06) - Bag Review: Waller & Son Mariner Bag|
Waller & Son Mariner Bag
Reviewed by John Caradimas (John, )
A Fanny Pack, more or less?
Your host has the luck of living in one of the most beautiful countries on this planet, Greece, where the sun shines most of the year and the sea is warm enough to swim from May to October (not this year, but most years). A shirt and a pair of jeans is the normal attire for even more months. My physique is such that I can conceal a full size M1911 even under a t-shirt (one size larger than my normal size), but there are situations where I can't wear jeans and a pistol belt. Like for example, when my wife drags me to the beach. And since she starts swimming around March or April (please note that I said she starts swimming, I do not go in the water until July), you understand that I can't be on the beach wearing jeans. So, all these years, I had an old fanny pack that I was using in these occasions.
My old fanny pack was made of Cordura, a material strong enough to withstand the hardship of being thrown on the sand, in the trunk of my Cherokee, stepped over by the twins or what have you. However, my old fanny pack has deteriorated from the years of hard use, and also the cordura on the back of the pack had a tendency to allow my perspiration to enter the rear compartment of the pack and (believe it or not) rust the pistol in it. This year, I decided that I should have a new fanny pack if I didn't want to have my pistol reblued at the end of the summer (as I've done some other years). So I called our good friends at Waller & Son and asked if they had a fanny pack. Rick Mastin, the owner of the company, told me that indeed they had one, which had the additional advantage of floating if it ever gets in the water, even if there is a pistol in it. Now, I never plan to allow my M1911s go swimming, but you never know; the added insurance of a floating pack was reassuring. I asked if I could have one and, pretty soon, the package with the Waller Mariner arrived in my mail box.
As you can see, the Mariner is not a very large bag. At 7" H x 11" W x 2.5" D (17,8 cm H x 28 cm W x 6.35 cm D) the Mariner is compact enough to be unobtrusive. According to Rick, it was designed for the U.S. Coast Guard, and can be ordered in any the following colors: Black, Dark Grey, Arctic Blue, Safety Yellow, International Orange, and also Black w/Tan logo. The bag can also be ordered with or without a reflective strip, as seen in the picture below, but if you do not want the reflective strip, then the only available color is black.
From Waller's site:
.... it will float indefinitely with 5 pounds of weight, repels water and has a broad reflective safety band across the top front to increase visibility in low light. Comfortably worn around the waist and secured with a parachute style, quick release buckle, it leaves your hands free. Dual, padded, zippered compartments secure your ID and valuables so you can always have them conveniently with you. The WALLERŪ MarinerŪ Bag will protect you and your valuables.
So, I opened up the package that Rick sent me, eager to examine this bag. On first examination, the Mariner is very well made. It's padded all around with a foam-like material which is very dense; whatever you are carrying in the bag is very well protected. The padding material is almost 2 cm thick at the rear of the bag as well as in the divider between the two compartments, and about 1 cm in the front of the bag. That means that your gun is well cushioned from the external world. You can actually drop the bag on rocks, and you do not have to worry that your pistol will get dinged. The rear of the bag is covered with a denser fabric, which should take care of my perspiration problem, while the front appears to be made of high-quality cordura. The belt strap is adjustable for your waist.
The Mariner, as I said, has two compartments, the rear where you usually carry your gun (even a full-size Government M1911) and the front one, where you can store your other items: cell phone, cigarettes, wallet etc.
Both compartments are closed with high-quality zippers. (More on those zippers later.) The gun compartment is equipped with a pocket to accept the gun, and another pocket for a spare magazine or a folder knife. The gun pocket has a velcro-equipped closing strap, which allows you to secure the pistol in the pocket. This can be a good thing and a bad thing.
A fanny pack is, by its nature, a slow way to carry a pistol. Drawing the gun from it is certainly slower than from a holster. Having to unfasten the velcro strap adds to the complexity of drawing. On the other hand, this strap secures the pistol in the pocket, and hence on the back of the bag, so the pistol does not move around in its compartment. It also allows you to carry the pack with the zipper opened, without worrying if your pistol will fall out. My previous fanny pack had no pistol pocket in it and, of course, it didn't had a strap. I never failed to find the pistol in there, and my drawing from it was much faster than with this pack.
Of course, since the pistol pocket is made of thin fabric, you can decide not to use it and just store your gun inside the rear compartment. The pocket will just lie flat against the rear of the bag, without interfering. That's how I carried my pistol when I was using the Mariner this summer. The smaller pocket in the rear compartment is useful for carrying a spare magazine, or a folder or a flashlight, whatever you like to carry in addition to your pistol.
There is nothing much to say about the front compartment, except that it occupies the full width of the bag and is well padded so whatever you carry in it is well protected both from the outside world (in the front) and from your gun at the rear. I have broken one cellular phone, when my old, unpadded fanny pack landed on it the wrong way. You do not have to worry about things like that with the Mariner.
OK, so how I liked this fanny pack? This is a tough question. The safety offered by the Mariner's construction is significant, but I am not sure I needed all that padding material in the bag. It does protect whatever is inside, but on the other hand it greatly reduces the available space inside the bag. The compact external dimensions are very nice, offering a small, unobtrusive bag, but the internal space is at a premium. With a pistol at the rear section, I could fit my cellphone, one pack of cigarettes and my keys only in the front. My wallet didn't fit, so I had to carry the money in the rear compartment, together with the gun. So space is limited. It could greatly benefit, by reducing the thick padding.
There were two more details that bothered me. The first is important: The zipper used for the rear compartment is a one way zipper. It does not have two tabs, which you pull together from the two sides of the bag. Instead, there is one tab, that starts from the left top corner of the bag and goes all the way to the right bottom corner. Unzipping this in a hurry is an exercise in futility, since you have to find the zipper's tab, which is in the lower right corner of the bag, as you wear it, and pull it up and then across your waist to open the bag.
I would expect a two-tab zipper would greatly increase the speed of accessing your weapon, since it would allow you to rip the front of the bag forward with one swift movement, instead of fiddling with zippers etc. The zipper would open itself, as you tear the front of the bag away from your body. If Waller hasn't undated the way their zipper operates, I would urge them to do it as soon as possible. Their bag would become much faster to draw from, in that way. Also, two pieces of parachute cord, attached to the zipper tabs, and another one sewn on the front part of the bag (to allow you to grab it and pull it, just like in this picture) would make the opening operation so much faster.
Finally, I would also change the way the belt strap is designed. The way it is now, the belt buckle is positioned at the rear of your body when the pack is in front of your belly. It's not very convenient to close or to open the buckle in that position. I would position the buckle closer to the bag's right side, so that the user can close the belt easier and release it with one hand.
The Mariner is a very task-specific fanny pack. If you want a pack that offers maximum protection for your gun and a few other things you carry in it, then the Mariner is the ideal bag for you. Not only it will fully protect its contents, but it will also float if it accidentally falls in the water (be advised that the bag is not waterproof, in other words, if it falls in the water, your gun will get all wet, so make sure you fish the bag out quickly and give your gun a good cleaning and oiling). So what more can you ask from a fanny pack? Most people would sacrifice a little of the protection offered by this bag in exchange for some more space. Waller could easily have a winner in the fanny pack business if they significantly reduce the padding material and alter the zipper's configuration. If the padding at the rear of the bag and at the area separating the two compartments is reduced to half, the volume of the front compartment can be doubled. The Mariner is a well made bag, unobtrusive and capable of nicely disguising a firearm. A different model with less padding and more internal space would be a great bag. Perhaps a new model is due Rick? A Mariner II?
You may discuss about this product, ask questions or in general discuss about this review, in this thread in our Forums Site:
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