Grey Ghost Gear is a proudly female-owned tactical equipment producer geared towards a military and tactical audience. Their products range from bags and belts to holsters and armor. Although they focus on technical fabrics, they also dabble in more eclectic textiles like waxed canvas and leather. The also share a metaphorical roof with industry giant, Tactical Tailor. GGG has been on my radar for a while, but I’ve never quite found the motivation to pull the trigger. When a massive sale popped up on their Wanderer Messenger Bag, I quickly jumped on the opportunity to grab one.
The first thing that really pops about this bag is how freakin’ good it looks. I’m always a big fan of foliage and olive drab, but this “olive” is more akin to something you’d find in a good martini or the color of dusty pine trees in the Sierra mountain range. Although I haven’t seen them in person, the grey and black also look pretty great in photos and the subtle leather GGG logo is a nice low-key touch of branding.
Often I find many concealed carry bags lean towards “tacti-cool”, but this is probably one of the most professional-appropriate bags I own, which is pretty much exactly what the designers were going for. It looks great on the bus or in the office, and can fit under the seat in front of you without missing a beat. Personally, I’ve been using it on days where I don’t ride my bike to the office (more on this later), and times when a classy messenger is more appropriate than a backpack.
|Capacity||1062 cu. in||17.4L|
Quality and Comfort
I’m definitely a sucker for waxed canvas on professional bags, especially when I’m not too concerned about weight or overall technical performance. This midweight fabric has just enough coating to withstand 15 to 20 minutes in a light shower and will break in over time with a really nice patina. The manufacturer website boasts “waterproof” external zippers, which might be true, but the design of the seams means that the last centimeter or so of the zip doesn’t close, kind of defeating the purpose. On top of this, when the bag is fully loaded, the sides tend to protrude out from under the top flap, allowing water to enter the main compartment. I haven’t had any major problems with this since I tend to pare down my carry with a messenger, but for those that prefer a loaded bag, this could pose a threat to electronic devices in the main body.
Overall, the construction of the bag is excellent and really speaks to the quality coming out of House Grey Ghost. The stitching is consistent, the seams are strong and reinforced in all the right places, and I feel confident in the overall build of the bag to hold up to anything I can throw at it. My only qualms here are in the hardware. First, the designers decided to use a pretty flimsy plastic buckle that comes over the top of the bag to allow you to compress the main compartment. Not only does this restrict access to larger items when in use, but I feel that the addition of some metal hardware (or dare I say it, fidlocks) could have definitely gone a long way here. Additionally, and arguably more important is the use of magnetic closures for the top flap of the bag. The website states that these magnetic snaps “seem to find their home without even directing them where to go” but I have definitely not found this to be the case. Especially with any sort of bulkier items, it’s pretty much impossible to close the pack. Again, although it looks sharp, I would have preferred external straps to make sure my valuable items don’t get lost or stolen.
My final critique in comfort is the strap. This is definitely a matter of opinion, but I grew up with the slick adjustability of the Chrome Industries straps. While this uses the same seat-belt webbing, it’s much harder to adjust and get that perfect fit. It’s also difficult to change length if you’re going between cross-shoulder or single shoulder carry. Again, a bit of a personal preference, but many messenger bags that are meant for cycling have an additional stabilizer strap attachment, which this bag lacks. Since these two things are pretty specific to my personal likes and dislikes, feel free to take them with a grain of salt.
Overall, the Wanderer is a pretty comfortable bag for light loads thanks to the wide strap and padded back. However, increasing the weight much above 5 to 10 lbs or throwing a bulky item into the body of the bag really throws off the weight distribution and can leave your shoulder aching. Again, this makes the bag much more suited for light or executive use rather than heavy hauling and major adventures. If you’re looking for one-bag travel, maybe look elsewhere.
The main compartment is a divided ⅔ to ⅓ style to separate a small laptop or tablet from the rest of your gear. While the laptop compartment easily fits a Surface Pro and should fit a 15” computer, you’ll probably have to look elsewhere if you’re looking for anything bigger. Other than that, this part of the bag is like 99% of the messengers out there. It’s well-shaped, but nothing particularly stands out about it.
Although I don’t routinely carry a handgun, the concealed carry portion of this bag is very well designed. It’s been given it’s own volume so your weapon doesn’t imprint on your body, but this also means that the loop-lined space can be used to store additional items. I found that my two hook-backed pouches from Provision Handmade Gear fit perfectly, and I’ve actually already ordered an Alpha OneNiner Organizer to play around with as well.
I have to say that I’ve been surprised how much I love these outer pockets. Although I’d call them water resistant rather than waterproof, I trust them enough to tuck my phone, wallet, hospital ID, and sunglasses in them. The tricot fabric means that you don’t have to carry around any special protective case for your sunnies and the location of these little stash pockets is super convenient.
The inner zippered space is a handy little pocket put in just the right place. I usually use it for something like an e-book or noise-cancelling headphones. Nothing specifically revolutionary about it, but just another detail that’s well done.
I really love the way that Grey Ghost re-designed their organizer for this bag. The dual-sided, vertical zips mean that the pouch is usable like a normal messenger bag, with some very stretchy and forgiving spandex pockets to store your pen, knife, laptop chargers, extra magazines, or whatever you can think of. The opposite side has two horizontal spandex pockets that are about an inch too small to hold anything I try to fit in there, but it’s all a good idea nonetheless. The real genius comes when you unzip the sides and the panel opens up to give you easier access to your items when you’re at your desk. This is definitely one of my favorite things about this messenger system.
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, I think bottle pockets can make or break a bag and the Wanderer knocks it out of the park here. The left side pocket is nearly invisible when not in use, but expands perfectly to fit a standard size plastic water bottle or metal equivalent. The right side pocket opens with a vertical zip and hook/loop closure to reveal a spandex pocket that can expand to fit a Nalgene, but doesn’t flap in the wind or catch when you’re not using it. I’m often one to hyperbolize over bag features, but I’ve literally booked an appointment with my tattoo artist to get this feature put on my left buttock. It’s that good.
- Bag looks and feels amazing and the waxed canvas ages like fine wine
- The primary bottle pocket fits a Klean Kanteen easily and disappears on its own when not in use
- The additional, zippable bottle pocket is a revolution and I want this on all my packs from now on
- Zip-down front pocket makes it easy to stash gear in the bottom and access it easily
- Magnetic buttons are a pain and don’t close well when the bag is loaded
- Front mesh pockets are a bit narrow to fit much of anything. An extra inch (2.54cm for our metric friends) would have gone a long way here
- Shoulder strap adjustment mechanism clunky and difficult to use
- I wish there was a grab handle on the back. This omission makes it hard to pick up the pack, and difficult to hang on bathroom hooks or at a desk
Overall, Grey Ghost has put out a pretty solid bag that should appeal to a wide range of office drones, business travelers, or anyone who has drunk the messenger kool-aid. Unfortunately for me, the lack of stabilizing strap and it’s iffy magnet buckles make it hard to fit into my normal carry and commute.
A $200 messenger bag is a bit of a tough market. Chrome, Arc’teryx, Timbuk2, Mission Workshop, and a whole heap of other companies make similar products, often for a competitive (or even lower) price. I managed to nab the Wanderer for $80 shipped which was a killer deal and this bag will definitely stay in my quiver, but it might be a harder sell at $199 MSRP in such a saturated market.
Disclaimer: the Grey Ghost Gear Wanderer was purchased privately and used subsequently for this review. The content of the review was not shared with Grey Ghost Gear prior to publishing and our reviews are never edited to keep brands happy.