Blue Red Black Checkered Reusable Laundry Bags

Plastic Gunia Bags

This post is about plastic gunia bags, which were recently super-handy for me during a move.

As a child, growing up in the Côte d’Ivoire, I often found myself at the Félix Houphouët-Boigny International Airport.

Most times, it would be to send off or welcome my father to or from a work trip.

At other times, it would be because I, another family member, and/or one of our many visiting friends and relatives were travelling by air.

Whatever the case, it was during these frequent visits to the airport that I first became aware of the item that I would like to tell you about today: plastic gunia bags.

My First Encounter With Plastic Gunia Bags

In the eighties and nineties, at the airport in Abidjan, it was common place to see travelers laying around on the floor, in the nooks and crannies of the airport, surrounded by other travelers and loads of luggage.

It was obvious that these travelers had been or would be at the airport for more than just a couple of hours.

Their luggage was unlike anything I was accustomed to associating with air travel.

Instead of the usual suitcases, these travelers carried huge woven bags, made of plastic.

These bags were usually blue (or black), red, and white in color and striped.

I was not sure what these travelers carried in the bags.

The Bag

Because they were similar to the bags I often saw in markets used by vendors to store their merchandise, I assumed these travelers were merchants.

The bags, I reasoned, must contain their wares.

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Fast forward about a decade.

Seeing Plastic Gunia Bags in a New Light

At this time, a close friend was moving back to Nairobi after spending some years in Kampala.

She was making this transition on her own (as opposed to being sponsored by an organization).

She also happened to be doing it at rather short notice.

In a week’s time, my friend had wrapped up her life in Uganda, sold the majority of her household goods, and appeared at my doorstep with two suitcases and a number of these plastic gunia bags in tow.

This was the first time in a long time that I was seeing these bags again.

Quite frankly, I thought this was an ingenious way for my friend to have packed her belongings during her move.

This is why, a couple of months later, as I embarked on a transition of my own, I asked my friend where she had bought her gunia bags.

Unfortunately, she told me: she had bought the bags in Kampala.

She had no idea where I could find similar bags in Nairobi.

Undeterred, I set out on a mission to find these bags. Since I knew Nairobi fairly well, I was pretty sure I’d be successful.

Finding Plastic Gunia Bags in Nairobi

I didn’t have to search very long.

I quickly Nakumatt Westgate Logofound what I was looking for in two very disparate locations: I found the bags both at Nakumatt Westgate, upstairs in the luggage section, and at Kibera market for 109 Ksh and 120 Ksh, respectively (no comments about my lack of bargaining skills! :-))

The bags came in several colors (which was great for organization).

They also came in all sizes, from very small to extremely large.

From experience, I have since learned that although the larger bags pack greater volumes, these volumes can add up to a weight that causes the bags to tear as they are carried.

Unless you are dealing with things that are very light, I recommend using the medium-sized bags.

That size still allows for the packing of substantial volume, while helping to limit the bag’s total weight.

After selling my furniture and most of my household goods, I packed the rest of my life into a suitcase and six of these medium-sized bags.

The bags, just like those my friend used during her move, served me well during my transition.

In fact, they continue to do so to-date.

Although a few of them gave way under the weight of heavy things such as my great collection of books :-), I use the rest of them, today, to store or transport bulky items such as duvets, pillows, or my mother’s collection of West African mudcloth.

Front View

So Why Am I Telling You All This?

I was ecstatic when I discovered the handiness of these woven plastic bags.

They worked well for me as storage as well as for moving things.

If you are in the need of an efficient, neat, and inexpensive way to store or move items, these bags might be just what you are looking for.

I already told you where I got them in Nairobi and at what price.

I am pretty sure you can find them elsewhere in East Africa too—all you need to do is look.

With that said, it’s time for me to sign off.

I hope this information serves you in some way. If it does, please let me know all about it.

Until the next time,
Biche

Photo Credit: AliExpress.com

16 thoughts on “Plastic Gunia Bags”

Here in London the bags are £1. You are right most market traders use them to carry their stock,lol.

I have noticed that a lot of people here, use them to carry clothes to the laundrette. You are right, they tear pretty easily.

I have seen people using them to check in with at Heathrow, and wonder whether those bags ever make it to their destination.

Tamtam,

Reading your comment has me cracked up in amazement. Before I wrote this post, I was talking to my youngest brother asking him whether he might know what these bags were called. He told me that he was clueless about that but suggested that they might somehow be related to British Airways because apparently when another of our brothers’ bag fell apart at Heathrow airport, the BA staff gave him one of these to pack his stuff in. I didn’t believe it was possible and just dismissed my baby brother’s story. Hehehe…Guess not!

Where in London would these bags be purchased? At the supermarket?

Believe it or not, they actually do get to their destination! My Mom traveled with one from Mali to Kenya a while back (oh how I laughed when I saw her do this!) and it held up intact even though it was packed to maximum capacity.

Thanks for your feedback,
Biche

You can buy these bags at most of the pound shops in London. Or you can buy them at markets at stalls that sell luggage. All the local pound shops near me sell them.

I use them to throw my laundry in, but they don’t last long. I am really impressed that your mom’s luggage arrived intact. The way porters throw luggage around at airports, these bags are not durable. They are so easy to rip open for thieves too, so again I am baffled. I didn’t think you could lock them to check them in.

Hi Tamtam,

Nope, I don’t think you can lock them for check in. Wow, that’s dangerous! I wonder what people do. I’ll have to ask my mother. 🙂

Thanks for sharing. If ever I am in London and need one of these bags….:-)

Biche

I don’t know what they are called either but since they are made from the same material used to make those bags we pack the big sugars in, in our house we just say big plastic bags…..and sounds even worse in kiswahili coz it we commonly use the term “bag ya gunia”!

I have seen some really pretty ones with cartoons drawn on them on the street.

I have never owned one but since I am going to be moving soon I guess I better go out and purchase some. Thanks for the great article as always.

Hi Mama,

I am glad this post was useful to at least one other person. It makes my writing it well worth it!

Lol. You also refer to it as “bag ya gunia“? Me too, I normally just call it a gunia bag, but then realized as I was writing the post that it’s actually not made out of gunia (sack cloth) but rather plastic and so I settled on the title that I did.

I think I’ve also seen the ones with cartoons on them but only in Asia. Talk about beautifying such a kawaida item.

Good luck on your upcoming move!

Biche

On the topic of bags, let me tell you about my recent obsession. First of all, as a guy, this is not usually something I worry about a lot. But when I saw these I was immediately taken by their beautiful, utilitarian, and rugged nature. The drawback is of course the price tag, but considering that they are guaranteed for 100 years, it may not be a bad investment. (:

http://saddlebackleather.com/

Hi Paolo,

Thanks for sharing this link. That’s a pretty nifty website and the bags look good! As you said, they are not cheap, but for 100 years worth, neither are they overly expensive. Do you own a product of the Saddleback Leather Co. yet or are you simply dreaming of it? 😉

Biche

Biche –

I will be getting a dark coffee brown briefcase from Saddleback…it should be here in ten days. I am excited.

Paolo

Hi Paolo,

How exciting for you! Please let me know what you think of your briefcase once it arrives.

On a different note, as I was browsing through the questions section of the website, I came to the question: Which color should I get? Apparently, people’s choice of color can be related to personality. Just to test their system, do you think your personality matches what they’ve written under the color dark coffee brown? If you find this question too personal, please feel free not to answer. I am just curious to know if their system is reliable.

Biche

Hmm, very interesting. Maybe I should have read that question before I bought mine. 🙂 Actually, I would say it is close, except for the musical part (maybe for lack of opportunity). But the one that fits me more closely is the Tobacco Light Brown synopsis, which is a similar description in wording, though it gives the opposite personality of Sanguine. Oh well, maybe I will redefine what people think when it comes leather. Hahaha!

I will let you know what I think of it when it arrives.

Hi Paolo,

Thanks for going along with my question. So can we safely say that their system doesn’t work entirely? 🙂 Lol.

I look forward to hearing about the briefcase when it arrives.

Cheers,
Biche

I’ve got a dark coffee briefcase (large size holds my 17″ laptop perfectly) from Saddleback – it’s been great for day-to-day work use and travels well. It can be a little large for more casual things, so i’m looking at getting either a messenger bag or laptop bag at some point down the road, too, but as a work briefcase, laptop bag or carry-on it’s fantastic.

I’ve had it about two months, and my home office still smells entirely of leather after it’s been sitting there for five minutes. The thing’s clearly going to be around forever, and well worth the price.

Hi H,

Welcome to ChickAboutTown!

Thanks for sharing about your Saddleback briefcase. Your description of its smell makes me look forward to experiencing one of these for myself.

Thanks for sharing.

Biche

this is probably a bit late for your needs – they are called LAUNDERETTE bags.
I found this page while googling for these very same bags – as i just decided that they will be perfect for me moving!

Hi Frank,

Welcome to ChickAboutTown!

It’s never too late to learn something new. But…are you sure that’s what these bags are called? Doesn’t that name just stem from the fact that they are often used as laundry bags?

How did the bags serve you during your move?

Biche

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