Ortlieb Gravel Pack Review
Cons: Smaller capacity, lack of organization pockets, expensive
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Ortlieb Gravel Pack has a unique lightweight design that is intended to cut the weight and bulk of typical touring panniers for fast and light adventures, without compromising on waterproof construction and a top-notch mounting system. Made for offroad bikepacking or lightweight tours, this model sees the performance tradeoffs one might expect from a smaller and lighter pack. By saving weight, this pack doesn't have the same overall storage volume, organization sleeves or pockets, or thick, durable material of other touring panniers. While some riders might look past this model, its size, weight, and waterproofing will likely make it just right for certain riders.
The Gravel Pack has our favorite and most secure mounting system out of any model we've tested so far. On top, it has two clasping mounting hooks that are adjustable side-to-side (fore-to-aft on the bike rack), and come with additional spacers to make sure they fit the bar diameter of your specific rack. Down on the bottom, two latches can be adjusted in both angle and direction, to hold tightly to the bottom rungs of your bike rack. This is one of the highest-performing systems we've tested, that is very secure, easy to adjust, and quick to mount and dismount.
The only potential drawback of this system is that since it has four adjustable attachment points, it could take ever so slightly longer to get it properly mounted and adjusted than a pannier with a simpler, less secure system. We think this is a negligible price to pay for easy adjustment and ultimate holding ability, as we had no issues using this system.
This model scores a bit lower in the storage ratings, as it's one of the smallest dual-bag panniers in our review, coming in at 1,500 cubic inches (25 liters) for the pair. While this is definitely on the smaller side of any bag in our review, it should be noted that the design purpose of this product is to be a lightweight add-on for fast and light races or outings, where only the essentials are packed along. It certainly seems to accomplish this task, as it is also one of the lightest models in our review.
The Gravel Pack also lacks any internal or external sleeves or pockets, having only the main storage compartment. This could be a drawback for many riders but is again intended to save weight with its minimalist design. While the storage volume and options for this pack are limited compared to others, it's low size and bulk could be just right for a rider looking to save weight and pack minimally.
The Gravel Pack is made from laminated ripstop nylon, which is one of the lightest materials of any pack in our lineup. The straps, buckles, and mounting hardware are all of very high quality but are also slightly lighter and thinner than what is found on some other bulkier touring panniers. While we had no issues with durability during our testing period, this pack just doesn't have the heft that some other models have with their thick, coated material and heavier-duty straps. While we don't expect this to be an issue during recreational use, we could see the durability of the thinner and lighter materials being compromised in more severe conditions or rugged terrain.
This model scores well in the weatherproofing rating metric with its waterproof laminated ripstop nylon, roll-top closure, and additional side buckle closures. This pack simply keeps the water out. While we had no issues during our testing period, the lighter and thinner material could be susceptible to long term wear after prolonged exposure to heat, cold, mud, and similar extreme elements, compared to the thicker material found on other heavier-duty touring panniers.
Ease of Use
The Gravel Pack scores well in the ease of use category, but its high-quality design has a couple of small nuances that make it slightly more tedious to use than the most simply designed competitors. The four attachment points that make the mounting system so effective could extra seconds to get adjusted just right compared to the simplest slide-on panniers, and the three closure buckles that help ensure your contents arrive dry take slightly longer to open and close than other designs with only one buckle. It's worth repeating that these nuances are what make this pack so high-performing. Other models that are easier to use or mount and dismount make performance sacrifices for that simplicity.
It's also worth repeating that this pack has a very minimalist design. If you're looking for organizational pockets or sleeves or extra handles or straps, you won't find that here. If you're looking for a smaller, lightweight, high-performing model for fast movement, this is the one for you.
The Gravel Pack's retail price finds it among the more expensive products in our lineup. Because of the unique minimalist design of this pack, it probably doesn't represent a great value for most riders. Riders looking for larger volume, heavier duty touring panniers, urban or backpack style panniers, or more refined commuting panniers will find better value products in those specific categories. Riders looking specifically for a lightweight, low profile design for racing or fast touring will find this a tremendous value, as it fills this niche perfectly.
The Ortlieb Gravel Pack has a solid waterproof design and one of the best mounting systems we've seen, all in a lightweight and low profile package ideal for fast and light touring or racing. While other products have bigger storage volumes, heavier duty materials, and more refined storage options, riders looking for a simple and light design with top-notch construction should definitely check out this model!
— Nick Bruckbauer