The last time you bought luggage, you probably gave it a great deal of thought, weighing features like wheels, warranties, materials, and price. And while the right luggage can make your airport experience more pleasant, your toiletry bag might have a bigger impact on your trip as a whole.
If your toothpaste explodes in your suitcase and leaks out onto your clothes? That's a bad way to start a trip. If your hotel bathroom is lacking in counter space, and your toiletry bag doesn't have a hook? Hope you like keeping your toothbrush on the toilet. Don't have a toiletry bag at all? Get ready to empty half of your suitcase in the TSA security line.
There are plenty of good toiletry bags out there, but I've yet to find one as well made and as thoughtfully designed as the Gravel Explorer Toiletry Bag.
Available in two sizes (though the smaller of the two is currently sold out), the first thing you'll notice about the bag is its rugged shell. It's sturdy, and thick enough to provide some structure and protect your toiletries from getting crushed, but still flexible enough to fit into the gaps of your suitcase without taking up too much room. And since the entire outer shell is waterproof, if you spill something on the outside, or if something explodes on the inside, it's all but impermeable.
Inside, the amount of thought and care that went into the Explorer's organization is instantly apparent. On the Slim version, one pocket is perfectly sized for a stick of deodorant, another can fit any non-electric toothbrush to keep it away from your other germ-covered toiletries, and a deep, water resistant pocket can hold travel bottles of contact solution and toothpaste, keeping any potential spills contained within.
On the back of the bag, you'll find a small pocket hiding a hook that you can use to hang the bag from a towel hook, which comes in handy in bathrooms that are lacking in counter space. Doing this also effectively turns the toothbrush pocket into a hanging toothbrush holder, if you don't like to keep yours sitting on the sink. There's also a second, larger rear pocket that I use to hold a charger for my electric razor, so it doesn't have to take up space in my personal item like the rest of my charging gear.
The larger Gravel Explorer Plus ups the ante by including an additional, water resistant transparent bag in the back pocket. It's large enough to hold four 3 oz. toiletry bottles, it's TSA approved for a quick trip through security, and it even has a hook of its own to hang in the shower, if you don't have a good space to set your soaps and shaving gear.
No matter what toiletry bag you own though, it pays to stock it with duplicates of all of your must-have products. Stash extra pairs of contact lenses in there. Buy a second toothbrush to keep in the bag. Spring on an extra stick of travel-only deodorant. Toiletry bags, the Gravel Explorer included, work best when you can simply grab them out of your closet and throw them in your suitcase, without having to figure out what you need to pack from your bathroom every time.