When it launched in 2018, Remote Equipment‘s first product, the Alpha 31 backpack quickly became a favourite in my collection. It was tough, comfortable and versatile, showing excellent promise from the new brand based in California’s East Bay. I could not wait to see what they had coming next. When we spoke to them earlier this year, Remote Eq. had teased a few ‘prototype’ images in the run-up to their new release, but few concrete details. When the product launched, then, a few folks were surprised at the form it took. To look at, the bag sits somewhere between a climber’s haul bag, and a market-shopper’s tote. Remote Equipment called their new Bravo 18 a “multi-carry solution made to be a workhorse that adapts to each user’s need”, but at first glance it appeared to be a remarkably unsophisticated design, in stark contrast to the feature-rich Alpha pack. The July launch saw a limited batch of only 30 ‘prototype program’ Bravo bags, with a full production run coming in the Autumn, after the first batch had sold clear.
|Primary Materials||Dimension Polyant X51 (X50 in Multicam version), TX07 X-PAC|
Specifications provided by Remote Equipment
Quality & Comfort
The most distinctive feature of the Bravo is that it doesn’t need to be a backpack. It comes with two long straps and can be worn as such, but those straps are removable, and can just as easily be carried over one shoulder, across the body, tucked under an arm or simply in the hand with the two shorter handles pulled tight. It’s made to be thrown on and off the body for quick trips, and can be set-up to be as convenient to the user as possible. On my first attempt, reconfiguring the bag from ‘backpack’ to ‘sling’ mode took 2 minutes. On my second try that time came down by half, and requires little-to-no thought.
That extra convenience comes with some trade-off to comfort. My first experience wasn’t the best – the Bravo 18 is unpadded and has nothing to stop uneven shapes poking the wearer’s back. After, I packed it more carefully, and by adjusting the carry I found crossing a single strap across my chest to be absolutely fine for walking around town, carrying my lunch to work or a change of clothes and shoes to the gym. A little fatigue set in after about an hour of constant carry, but even then the straps were broad enough not to cut into the body, and positioned to bear the bag’s weight well enough. After a few weeks of testing, I feel it’s worthwhile, but I won’t be throwing out my ultra-comfortable Mystery Ranch 1DAP to replace it with this.
Where the design may have been unexpected, the construction of the Bravo comes as no surprise. Matching the build of the previous Alpha model, the stiff X51 fabric provides a reassuring tough exterior to the bag, without weighing down the wearer. It’s perfect for stuffing in and out of a car, shopping trolley, or locker, with nothing to snag or prevent compression in a small space. Lacking structure, I could flatten the Bravo into a larger case for travel, and pop it out for a ‘destination bag,’ moving around at the other end.
The removable straps are a glossy seatbelt material, which are strong and smooth against the body. The plastic hardware is quality, ITW-branded, and the bag’s two external zippers are YKK Aquaguard. The added water resistance is always welcome, but is curious given the bag’s open-top design. The top entry has a crisp X-PAC baffle that can be cinched closed with a drawstring, but lacks a lid or other layer to form a proper rain-seal. In testing this collar was quick to work one-handed, and handled light rain fine, but if the Bravo is out in a real downpour, it won’t be enough to keep the contents dry.
Below the drawstring collar, the Bravo 18 has a cavernous open space into which the user can pack just about whatever they want. Across my testing this ranged from fruits and vegetables, to a week’s worth of clothing, a mobile workdesk setup to towels and toys for a day at the beach. Everything dropped in easily, and came out just the same. I put a little thought into placement if I were carrying the bag for a long period, but just as often crammed the bag full and swung it around by the top handles, without concern. There’s also a quick-access zipper on the bag’s front, meaning a bottle or jacket stuffed deep in the Bravo’s main pocket could be grabbed within seconds without fully taking the bag off my back.
The only limits the Bravo faces come when specialist features are required: I wasn’t happy carrying my laptop inside this bag without a protective case. On days I took it outdoors, there was no easy way to separate water from the rest of my kit, or suspend a hydration bladder inside. Small items could easily end up swimming around in this main compartment, and I made extensive use of pouches to keep my stuff tidy while travelling.
There is some organisation: a small inner pocket, featuring a mesh zippered section, is secure but quick to grab at. A second external zipper leads into a sleeve inside the front compartment, that was a neat, quick place to keep my wallet. I found it would fit a flat A4 document fine, but the corners would invariably crumple during transit. It could even be used for a small tablet, but personally I’d feel it was too exposed, pointing away from the body. An early issue with these front-zips was remembering which was which, when swinging the bag for on-body access, especially since only one can really be used when the bag is worn cross-body. I quickly got over that, though, and learned how to sling the Bravo to use its features effectively.
- Super-versatile capacity is ideal for a range of daily loads
- Suspension is quick to use and easy to adjust
- Materials are tough, but remain clean-looking.
- Suspension falls short under heavier loads, longer durations.
- Minimalist design limits application for demanding uses.
- Simple pocketing requires extra pouches to keep load tidy in most uses.
- Open cinch-top design is at odds with the waterproof zippers.
My concern on receiving the Bravo 18 was that it would slip between uses: too simple for demanding tasks, and utterly overbuilt for casual jobs. Once I got to test it, however, the bag’s no-brainer versatility meant it found a way to be useful nearly every day, in one way or another. Its elegant form meant I could take it everywhere, to carry anything, without feeling too inconvenienced by the design at all.
Ultimately, given the compromises the Bravo requires in terms of comfort, organisation, weatherproofing, it won’t replace my lightweight hiking packs, or bombproof laptop carriers. Value is worth considering there: the factory run Bravos will be selling for $199 (down by nearly $100 on the Prototypes sold over the summer). Being made in the USA, with top-spec materials, doesn’t come cheap. Regardless I still have no doubts about the quality of the pack, or the utility of the design. I’m very glad to own it.
The Bravo 18 used for this review was a pre-production model, provided by Remote Equipment. Our reviews are impartial, and the content of this review was not discussed with Remote Equipment prior to publication.