Gravel Explorer Slim Review
Another project on Kickstarter to optimize your travel experience. Does the toiletry bag live up to the hype?
Introduction To The Gravel Explorer Slim
Gravel is somewhat of a newcomer to the travel world, in May 2019 at least. Not brand new, mind you. But they aren't yet one of the established players out there. That does not however mean that they are not innovative or coming with value. What are they known for? One of those many popular Kickstarter campaigns for some travel kit that will change your life. And again, the people spoke. This thing funded quick, and way over goal. Not to short change them, they've got what looks to be a pretty cool travel blanket as well. But that's a review for another time.
But can a toiletry bag really be innovative? Well, no. And yes. I'll explain later, I hope.
Toiletry bags are one of those things that you never really talk about, but think about how important they are. You have it on every trip. Always. No matter which bag you take, this thing always comes with you. At least, mostly (shout out to those Ziplock baggers out there). So why wouldn't you put a lot of thought into which one you have? I know I do. I'm constantly looking to optimize my packing a little bit, without going over board and psycho on the ounce counting and shaving (no offense to those that do, but it's not for me). But I like packing better. And generally lighter.
What do I look for? I like organization. Quality materials. And I like it to be able to fit well inside my bag. Does the Gravel Explorer Slim toiletry bag live up to the hype? Let's find out.
This is my review of the Gravel Explorer Slim Toiletry Bag. This kit was purchased with my own money and researched on my own time, I've had no interaction with the company. The opinions in this review are my own and it is not sponsored in any way.
Gravel Explorer Slim Overview
Who doesn't want to be organized with their toiletry bag? Anyone? Ok I'm sure there are plenty that just can't be bothered to worry about it. Or, they like that old leather dopp kit kind of thing. Which honestly, is cool too. That patina! Those things are classic.
But this bag is not that. The Explorer slim bag is more on the tech side of things than a traditional dopp kit. It's not a pouch, it's a rectangle. It's not rolling, though it does unfold. I'd say it's minimalist in design, but made with high quality materials (it's made from what I think is a TPU material; similar feel to the Wandrd or Nomatic bag coatings).
It's a clam shell design, and folds all the way open as such. When in use, you can either just rest it on a surface like I do, or use the included G hook (that stows away) to hang it up. Dealer's choice there, which is always nice.
It has 6 pockets total, and 7 if you count the hook pocket, which you certainly could use for other things, too. Two pockets are water resistant (proof for all intents and purposes) - one for your toothbrush and one for your liquids (or travel wash bar in my case since I don't carry liquids any more).
Both the outside, and the mesh inside, are made of durable materials. This isn't just nylon mesh that you could easily tear. It's rubber (or similar) coated to make it strong. The only way you're going to tear or cut that is if you set out to do so.
The bag retails on their site for $49.00 USD but regularly sees price cuts below $40.00.
Here you can see it next to a more traditional, pouch-style kit, my Cotopaxi dopp kit. It's about the same size in length, but is much slimmer. Hence the name.
Additional Explorer Slim Features
It's worth noting a little bit more about the features, as the pockets are quite cool on this thing. Most are purpose built, which I appreciate. There is a "hidden" pocket, which is inside one of the bigger mesh pockets. You could put all manner of private things in there that you would not want to be right out in the open. Use your imagination here, I'm sure you can think of a few things, male or female. The toothbrush pocket is clever - it's a long, toothbrush shaped (shocker) pocket that runs the length of the bag on one side - it keeps a wet brush from making other things in your bag wet. Nice.
Another pocket is a bigger, square shaped pocket that is also water proof (I think they say resistant, but in most cases I think you're safe) and designed for your liquids, to prevent spillage inside the bag. This is also a great idea, I use it for my soap and hair product tins, since I don't use liquids any more. But, if the soap is wet, even though in my Matador FlatPak case, I get double the protection. If I needed liquid for some reason, I'd feel safe putting it in here.
Lastly, the outside pocket is nice and big, and has a felt lining. So, you could put any number of things in here you don't want to scratch. Travel mirror? Your phone in a pinch? Etc.
Here's what it looks like open, with my usual stuff, and packed. I also added a pack of Compeed's and some Q-tips to the final version. I pack pretty light here, but still have all most would need.
A lot here. The build quality is great. It's got a very durable feel to it, and the mesh inside is rubber coated so that's not going to inadvertently tear either. High marks here for the Explorer Slim.
The various water proofing is great, too. The zippers are all seam taped so they look like they'll be aquaguard-esque, they can keep water out. There are also multiple pockets that are designed to keep water in - protecting the rest of this kit and your wider suitcase. I enjoy this part because it means no more white-residue in your bag from toothbrush leakage, or soap from liquids leakage, gel leaking, etc. Keep those bad boys separate.
Lastly the organization is top notch. There are enough big and small pockets to organize however best suits you, and they are big enough to pack all you should need, including a full sized deodorant if you want. The toothbrush pocket is also fantastic. It would fit an electric in here if you took the brush head off and put them side by side, so that's good if you travel with a full electric. Quip would definitely fit in here. I put both my bamboo brush and my toothpaste tabs in here (stop using plastic toothpaste).
Gonna be a short list, but I do have something. I mean, it's a well made and well thought out toiletry bag, there isn't a whole lot to ding it on. But, I will say if you're a neat freak or a bit OCD about your cleaning, this might get on your nerves. Makes no difference to me, but because it's that TPU kind of material, it picks up dust, dirt, and fingerprints a bit. I really don't care - it's a toiletry bag. But it's worth noting if that's something you don't want. A nylon or leather bag typically won't do that.
Gravel Explorer Slim Toiletry Bag vs. The Field
This is a bit harder than in a review on say, a backpack or travel pack. There are usually very specific competitors. For this, I mean your choices are endless for toiletry bags. I WILL say however, I've not seen QUITE that many doing this particular thing, quite as well (the combination of materials, clever org, and features).
So first I'll say, your easy option is a dopp kit. These can be leather, nylon, no color, lots of colors, etc. These are your every day pouch style bags your dad probably used. As mentioned, like the old leather ones. Or, like one I personally own and use a lot, the Cotopaxi Del Dia dopp kit (I like this one for the unique color ways and for the company's mission).
The second type, I would say is the roll up kind of dopp kit. I tend to not like these, because I feel like anything that isn't perfectly flat is going to make the roll-up feature bulky and uneven. Now, some people like this because it forces you to keep your kit light, which I respect. So that might be something you want to consider.
I also had the Sea To Summit light toiletry kit for ages. Almost 10 years, I think. Served me well. I got rid of it because I wanted the Cotopaxi. But this style suits some, too. Fits more than enough, but I did not like the organization in it. Because it's so thin, there was no "fight back" of the material vs. the contents so stuff was very lumpy and not very protected. Some brands of this get really big, really quickly. You don't need that much stuff, and definitely less than you think. Change it up.
Lastly, I'll mention what is probably the closest competitor I've found - the Nomatic toiletry bag 2.0, small. It's built out of similar materials, has a similar idea in it's layout, but does a few things differently. In fact, I've got one in my possession right now to review! I'll be doing that soon, so check back/sign up and I'll have it on the site, and linked here once complete).
Note that the picture here shows it unpacked, next to a Galaxy S9 for reference. Further down, the banner image shows it packed, but not completely over stuffed, and it's just under 3 inches high (I was photographing at an angle so it looks like it was at 3 inches, but it's just below).
The Improvement Requests for the Gravel Explorer Slim Toiletry Bag
The Explorer Slim doesn't have a lot of weaknesses. Some might say it's too small for them - and that's fine. Because you see, there's a bigger brother you can get as well. The bigger bag comes with a TSA clear bag to use, so maybe consider providing a smaller version of that for this bag. Could go right in the front pocket for those people that still have liquids.
The only other thing I'd say to improve upon here is if you can make the coating a little less "grabby" on dust, dirt, and prints, you'll not have to worry about the clean freaks complaining. Otherwise, strong toiletry bag.
Final Thoughts On My Gravel Explorer Slim Review
Gravel, the small travel accessory start up, has themselves a winner in this product. It's very well made, with great water resistant materials inside and out (including the zippers), and has some great organization features like the hidden pocket and what was a first for me, the internal toothbrush-specific waterproof pocket. Clever.
In a world with an outrageous amount of toiletry bag options, who is this for? I'd say it's for someone that appreciates an attempt to push a category forward, someone who appreciates material choice and build quality. As well as someone looking for clever features and to support a small start up. Sometimes, people just want to do that, right?
This crowded world also means that it's REALLY hard to innovate. What really is left that hasn't been done before? They've put a few tricks and material choices here that I think address that, so good on Gravel in this case.
For me, other than the items noted above, I like this bag for it's shape and how it can fit into a travel pack or suitcase that is already using packing cubes. It makes the game of packtris (pack Tetris, wordsmith alert) that much more easy. I personally can highly recommend this bag.
They sell directly from their website so hop on over:
Sign up to be notified of future reviews like this, and head on over to our Travel Gear Reviews page for more reviews on backpacks (like the Wandrd Prvke 21 review or the Patagonia Black Hole MLC review) and travel clothing (like the Western Rise Limitless Shirt review or the Aviator Air Dry Travel Hoodie review) to help you make some solid decisions for all your wandering.