Choosing a Footbag: The Panel Question 1, 2, 4, 8, 14, 32, 42, 64, 92, 122… more?
When selecting a freestyle footbag, there are several important factors to consider. Among these are intended use, size, material, fill, panels, kickability, stallability, and stitching type. Many of these factors are covered in our “Footbag Comparison Table“. This article will focus specifically on panels.
The first footbag ever invented was the original Hacky Sack: A stiff, fully packed, 2-panel footbag. The fact that the bag was only two panels was among the factors that made it particularly challenging to control. This is because it’s difficult to approximate a perfect sphere with using only two panels. The less spherical a bag is, the more likely the chance of having a kick that is untrue. Thus came the evolution of the 2-panel Hacky Sacks into a myriad of different materials and numbers of panels.
Today, I’ve seen anywhere from 1 to 300+ custom paneled bags. At this point, however, another key factor comes into play, particularly for the freestyle aspect of the game. I think this point is best revealed by relatiing my own personal experience…
I’ll never forget the day I ordered my first 92-panel freestyle footbag… I spent top dollar on the bag expecting to get the best freestyle footbag I’d ever received. When the day came that I finally got it in the mail I was somewhat disappointed: I’d gotten exactly what I’d ordered, but it’s performance wasn’t at all what I was hoping for. First off, the bag was very, very large: Back in the day – this was probably about 12-15 years ago – larger bags were in, but this thing was huge. Overall the bag was fine for kicks – it had a decent amount of fill and was made of facile – but when it came to doing freestyle tricks, the bag just didn’t perform: It had a tendency to roll right off the foot.
The moral of the story is that multi-paneled bags are just fine when you are only considering kickablity. This is why most footbag net players use 32-, 42-, or 62-panel bags. However, when it comes to freestyle and stalling tricks, we don’t recommend anything over 32 panels. 32-panel bags seem to be at about the limit for the best level of roundness without compromising softness for stallability. As you go over this 32-panel limit, there tends to be so much material on the inside of the footbag (where the stitching to hold all these panels together is) that the bags lose the flexibility required for top notch freestyle performance. Lesser paneled bags will stall at least as well as 32′s but may tend to be slightly more difficult to control for kicking and setting, as they are not quite as round.
So yes, to a certain extent, more is better. But just like just about everything else, you can overdo it with too much. Happy shredding.