Gravel Bag System
The Gravel Bag system is actually three separate bags that are all fully functional by themselves, but can also be used together depending on where your journeys take you. It recently launched on Kickstarter, with various bundles and a la carte options available at a considerable preorder discount. And while you might not be traveling right now, the bags aren’t expected to ship until the end of the year, when they could make a great gift, or help you hit the road again once the COVID-19 crisis wanes around the world.
The 42L Carry-On
This is the home base of the system, and rest assured, it’s a big bag. With 42L of capacity, it’s actually on the larger end of carry-on suitcases, but is full of all the pockets and features you’d want in a backpack. An integrated (and generously padded) laptop pocket folds away from the bag completely flat, meaning you’ll be able to keep your laptop in your bag when going through security. Several side access pockets let you reach the contents of the bag without fully opening it. Various cinch straps and dividers let you stuff more clothes into the bag. And yes, there’s a collapsible water bottle holder on the side.
The 11L Day Pack
The system also includes an optional 11L Day Pack, which is more like a traditional backpack in size and scope. It folds almost entirely flat to fit inside a special pocket on the larger bag when not in use, and is perfectly sized for a 13” laptop, some basic day-to-day necessities, or whatever else you might need to carry around after you reach your destination. It’s not a large backpack, and its lightly padded straps don’t lend themselves to intense hikes or overstuffed loads, but on its own merits, it’s a perfectly nice day bag.
The real appeal of it, however, comes when you combine it with the larger, 42L bag. If you’re packing for a long trip, you can use the 11L bag as a personal item to put under your seat, and strap it to the back of the 42L bag for a hands-free airport experience. If you need a more balanced load, it can also anchor the 11L bag to the larger bag’s shoulder straps, and rest it across your chest. You’ll look somewhat like a pack rat walking through the airport with two bags strapped to your back, but you’ll have your hands free while still holding enough gear for a long getaway.
The Sling Belt
The most innovative part of the Gravel system is undoubtedly the Sling Belt. It’s essentially two fanny packs attached to a single belt, but it can also be used as a crossbody sling, or even as a waist strap for the 42L bag, giving you extra support when carrying a heavy load, while also allowing for quick access to the gear you stashed inside the Sling Belt pockets.
Gravel recommends packing airplane necessities like medicines, entertainment devices, and snacks in the Sling Belt, and detaching it from the 42L Carry-On once you board the plane. Attaching and detaching takes only seconds thanks to the oversized buckles, and you can even wrap it around a closed tray table to act as an in-flight caddy to hold your stuff.
Each of the two Sling Belt pockets are spacious enough for small water bottles, passports, compact cameras, and small souvenirs, and you could easily use the belt as a crossbody day pack during your travels, if you didn’t need as much space as the 11L Day Pack would provide.
Get The System...Or One Bag
All three bags are built from the same durable, water-resistant polyester, and feature the water-resistant zippers that we loved so much from Gravel’s dopp kits. Each can be ordered a la carte during the kickstarter campaign at a discount, but you’ll save more when you get a bundle with two or all three.