The Shift bag by Upper Park: a sweet mix of form and function

I am a sucker for novelty, and compared to all the other disc golf bags on the market the Shift bag by Upper Park Disc Golf is certainly novel. When the company asked me if I’d like to check one out and write a review my answer was an emphatic yes as I’ve admired them from afar for years and relished the opportunity to experience such a unique take on the disc golf bag.

The disc slots and pockets of the Shift hold 2-3 discs each, allowing for quick access and strategic organization- if you’re the organized type.

Let’s start with this bag’s primary differentiator. The design element of having numerous disc slots that can each hold one, two, and even three discs securely has always seems very cool to me.

I dislike the quandary with the main storage section of most bags; if it isn’t full or nearly so, the discs fall onto their side like books without bookends to keep them upright. This often leaves a less than desirable choice. Carry more discs than I want or need that day, deal with having to dig around a cavernous area to find the disc I need (discs in half-full bags inevitably settle into a semi-vertical stack), or having a separate, smaller bag just for those days when I want to carry far less discs than normal. The latter option has been my move for years, but sometimes that other bag isn’t handy.

I loaded discs into my new Shift with what I thought was a good plan. Putters in the top slot, mids and utility discs in the internal slot below that, and drivers in the four elasticized side pockets (2 pockets/sleeves on each side).

Everything was up front and visible, but over the course of the round I realized that my organization strategy wasn’t detailed enough. With the outside sleeves allocated for drivers in general, I found myself having to scan all of them to find a disc when I wanted it. Were the Shift my go-to bag, I would assign a specific slot to each disc and be sure to return it to that specific slot.

The other feature that sets the Shift apart from other bags is its similarity to a daypack for a serious all-day hike. Let’s say you are playing a course that is long, with lots of trekking and climbing between holes. By the back nine you’ll be glad your bag is a Shift. It feels significantly lighter than other bags, and the ergonomics are amazing.

It has a latch to connect the shoulder straps in front, which some other bags have as well, but it also features a nicely padded belt-like strap at the bottom. Connect both of these, and you can barely feel any drag on your shoulders at all. But wait, there’s more! Both sides of the belt strap have small zippered pockets which would really come in handy if you used this bag to caddy for someone else since you can access them without taking the bag off your shoulders. The extra straps work great for what they are designed to do, but in a typical round, I can’t see myself connecting and undoing them between throws.

But here’s the thing: I don’t own a serious daypack. The next time the need for one arises, I will simply empty this bag of everything but a disc or two (my hike will likely include at least a couple spots that scream for a majestic throw) and Shift it into hiking mode. I assume the name has something to do with this double use, but Upper Park’s marketing doesn’t mention it. I’d consider playing this up, were I them. A disc golf bag that doubles as a daypack brings with it many selling points.

You can check out the Shift page on Upper Park’s website to see the full list of features and benefits. The material and construction seems top quality, and the company is clearly dedicated to a superior customer service experience.

I only identified two drawbacks, and one of them has more to do with me than Upper Park or the Shift’s design. I use a Rovic cart most of the time and had already set the cart up for my round when I remembered that I had planned to use my new Shift. Something about the two designs didn’t mesh, making it hard to get it all connected and secure and equally difficult to unhook. But unless you plan to use this bag with a cart (which is not it’s targeted use) this is a non-issue.

The only little annoyance was the bag’s stability when I set it down before each throw. Most backpack disc golf bags store the bulk of your discs at the bottom, giving them the advantage of a weighted base regardless of other aspects of design. Since the Shift spreads the weight out evenly, it tips over much more easily on less than flat holes. If you’ve played my home course, DeLaveaga, you know flat is not the norm. This is a clear tradeoff for the superior lightness and comfort, and under the right circumstances I’d happily make the trade. In fact, my Shift will see regular use when I’m giving on-course lessons. I can load it up and keep it on my back for long periods at a time and not feel back fatigue after a couple hours.

My Shift on “Top of the World” at DeLaveaga, riding a cart like one of those bulkier, lazier bags.

Is the Shift the right bag for you? Consider my quick rundown below.

Reasons to get a Shift
  • You want to lighten your load
  • You typically play with 15 or less discs but still want a “top line” bag
  • You like standing apart from the masses and love the cool factor
  • You like being organized- very organized
  • You often play extreme disc golf
  • You love the idea of a disc golf bag that can double as a serious daypack
Reasons to just the admire the Shift from afar
  • You’re looking for the most disc capacity on a tight budget
  • You play with 20+ discs
  • You don’t need the extra comfort straps
  • You plan to attach your bag to a cart a good deal of the time
  • You don’t like being extra-organized
  • Your home course is the opposite of flat

Before wrapping up, I’ll add caveats to a couple of the limitations I mentioned. If you love the idea of ultra-accessible disc storage slots, and/or admire Upper Park’s refined aesthetic but simply must have more disc capacity than the Shift is designed to provide, consider the Rebel. It may be the perfect combination what you want and what you need. Also, if you’re like me, you justify buying disc golf goodies with the knowledge that the sport is in most cases free to play. Even if it isn’t a perfect fit as your One Bag, The Shift is a great extra bag with singular versatility. I listed several reasons, and you might come up with a couple of your own.