- Buyer's Guide
Remote Equipment Bravo 18 Review
I’ve spent the last few months testing Remote Equipment’s new Bravo 18 bag. Although if we’re being honest, the word bag in the previous sentence should really be denoted as “bag.” Because the Bravo 18 felt spiritually connected to the SDR Traveller D3, in that it morphed and changed as you needed it to. If I could describe this bag in one word, it would be either adaptable or simple. It’s a weird bag, but in the best possible way.
Who It Suits
The commuter who doesn’t overpack, runs errands at lunch and is constantly on the go. This bag is optimized and designed for you.
Who It Doesn’t
If you prioritize comfort (i.e. padding of any sort) or defined organization (i.e. laptop sleeve), back away slowly.
Part of the charm of this bag is what you see is what you get. And yet there is so much subtlety and thought that’s gone into the design and function that it’s actually a bit overwhelming the moment you get it. It’s a bigger bag than you might think, coming in at 18L. One thing I hadn’t expected to love was that because there is no structure to the Bravo 18, and the materials are relatively lightweight (the entire bag weighs a paltry 1.2 pounds), you could literally roll it up and shove it into a side pocket of the car or inside another bag when you’re at the market.
Let’s start with modality. This bag has five different ways in which you can carry it. Here’s what that looks like:
- Sling – My preferred and default method which allowed me quick access to the pack (more on that in a minute) and felt the most comfortable for me when biking to/from the office.
- Tote – My second favorite carry style. In literally a matter of seconds you can go from being a backpack or messenger to a tote bag that doesn’t drag. I can’t stress this enough given my average height (5’8″) and how long the bag is (18″), you’d think those two things wouldn’t add up. Well, you’d be wrong.
- Backpack – The bag comes with two shoulder straps by default and despite being just nylon webbing, is still comfortable fully loaded.
- Messenger – Instead of going diagonal across the fix points like in Sling mode, here you go lateral down a side of the bag. It’s subtle and the result is the same.
- Over the Shoulder – Last but not least. By simply adjusting the tote straps all the way, suddenly you can go from tote-ing to carrying in seconds. With the added benefit of quick access too via the top cinch or side access pocket.
At this point, it’s important to understand the ease in which you can go from one modality to another. The shoulder straps are 2″ nylon seatbelt webbing with a simple Velcro construction at each end that simultaneously handles the stress of carrying a bag weighed down but also allows you to adjust the mode within seconds. In a construction similar to Mission Workshop, the hook lies wedged between the loop on either side. So with just two steps, you have the strap hooked or unhooked as you see fit.
In case it wasn’t obvious yet, the words you’ll hear throughout this review are simple, easy, adaptable. Because that is the bag in a nutshell. Take Sling mode. One of the reasons I prefer it is that it enables easy (and quick) access into the bag. Literally. I carry it off my left shoulder which means that when I rotate the bag from back to front, the pocket immediately at my disposal is the one that opens into the bag, providing a second access point. There is a downside here. It means that the other front pocket opens down to the ground and if you’re not careful, gravity can play some mean tricks on you.
As with all Remote Equipment bags, the build and construction is near bombproof. The X51 (Black) or X50 (Multicam) X-PAC™ fabric has a 400D Cordura® nylon face treated with DWR for weather resistance. I’ve beat the hell out of this bag and you wouldn’t know. In that vein, it reminds me of Tom Bihn’s Brain Bag which is a true ageless wonder.
The hardware is all ITW-Nexus with YKK® AquaGuard® and RC Coil zippers. While I wouldn’t want to be caught in a rainstorm with this (mainly due to the cinch opening), it is plenty capable of holding its own.
The Bravo 18 has just the right amount of pockets for what it does. The strength of this bag is that it doesn’t over-complicate things. There’s an internal organizer hanging from the top which came in handy for pens, stickers for the side project and the occasional external battery. You open up the cinch and it’s right there. Couldn’t be easier. The front pocket does pack a punch in what it’s able to stow and the inner white lining helps make it easier to spot what you’re looking for. The loops at the end of the zipper are perfectly placed to assist in closing the zippers without having to fight the bag. Which becomes a lifesaver when the light’s about to turn and you gotta start pedaling.
Not So Good
This bag isn’t perfect. Like Don Quixote, I’m not sure the perfect bag does exist. That’s the best part. To see the trade-offs and design decisions that led to this carry experience. My biggest gripe as any avid reader of past reviews will know is I have a pet peeve about straps. Dangling straps drive me crazy and this cinch strap is no exception. There were times while riding where suddenly I could feel it swing with each pedal stroke. We were frenemies at best, with it escaping the loop on the closure I had placed it on like El Chapo behind bars.
I preface the next part by saying this could easily be operator error but I struggled with the ITW hardware. I never could figure out how to get the buckle to work without forcing the loop through which worked just fine. The angle matters as to when it will release and let you slide the webbing through and I couldn’t ever quite get that right. That said, it didn’t bother me because if I took the webbing strap and pulled, the bag would get tighter to body which is my preferred carry style.
Given its shapeless nature, it’s important to understand that while there is plenty of space for all your necessities, you will feel each and every contour. The bag fills according to what’s inside of it. As a result, there were times where I would be at a light trying to adjust what corner was hitting my back in a weird way. It made me cognizant real quick as to how I packed the bag.
It’s funny. I never in a million years would have looked at the Bravo 18 and thought that is the bag for me. And yet the damn thing grew on me each and every day. I never thought I’d rock a tote and yet here I am. The styling is minimal, with the materials doing all the talking. I love that. There is no superfluous detail on this bag, just the way it should be. While I don’t love the cinch top for winter climates, it’ll take something special to get this bag out of the daily rotation.