The Packable is a top-performing piece of "auxiliary" luggage and is intended to be used partway through your travels. It can also be used as occasional luggage anytime storage space is at a premium. In these applications, the Granite Gear brings some interesting attributes. It isn't as durable as some, but the shoulder straps are unique. It also includes a sternum strap really sweetens the portability deal. Read on for our full examination.
Granite Gear 36" Packable Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Light, compact, shoulder straps, sternum strap
Cons: Only one small pocket, limited weather resistance, limited durability
Manufacturer: Granite Gear
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Granite Gear Packable Duffel Bag is a hybrid of sorts. It is made to be relatively lightweight and packable when not in use, but it has most of the portability and packability attributes we look for in dedicated luggage. As a "packable" bag, some concessions are going to be made. A bag can't be as portable, durable, and easy to use if it is also optimized for lightweight and compactness. Where does the Granite Gear compromise?
The main difference between it and a dedicated piece of luggage is in the fabric's rigidity. This compromises ease of packing (it doesn't "stand up" on its own while empty), portability (sharp stuff pokes you more readily while backpacking or shoulder carrying, and durability (that same sharp stuff pokes at the fabric itself more readily). As compared to other "packable" duffel bags, the Granite Gear is better in that it has a D-shaped opening, shoulder straps (with a sternum strap), and multiple lash points.
Ease of Transport
When assessing Ease of Transport we consider carry options and carry efficiency and comfort; the Packable duffel bag has essentially all of the carry options. You can carry it briefcase-style, as a backpack (with super bonus chest strap), over one shoulder, and you can drag it. It is the latter option that is the most tenuous. The thinner fabric is prone to much more rapid wear than more robust options. Non-packable duffels have double-layer bottom, for instance. The GG has only one layer of fabric on the bottom.
The shoulder straps aren't padded, but they are wide and rigid enough to support a maxed out checked bag load for the walk to your hostel. Granite Gear includes a long single shoulder strap, but this, frankly, is our least preferred method of carrying a heavily loaded duffel.
Ease of Packing
For its weight and compact stuffed stature, the Granite Gear is very packable. The wide D-shaped opening allows thorough stuffing. We do notice that the flexible fabric doesn't "stand up" and receive your tossed items in initial packing. We also noticed, during extensive "normal" use, that the single auxiliary, integrated pocket is small, lonely, and directly shares volume with the main compartment.
The small, separate bag included with the GG for stowage is perhaps the handiest packing "attribute" they include. This little bag is handy for organizing your travel kit while on the go. If your movements are pretty simple (like, the bag is in your hand and company all the time), this accessory bag can be snapped to the outside of the main duffel for easy access.
Above, we've tossed around the terms "packable" and "lightweight". Elsewhere in the review, these terms are nothing but advantageous. Here, when assessing durability, we find their limitations. The fabric is a fraction of the thickness and stiffness of other options in our review. A single Alaskan expedition would most likely destroy this bag. Hand it over to the airline baggage system, without carefully packing and padding the contents, and you risk finding at your destination that little items have snuck out through brand new holes.
For ground travel and short trips, the Packable Duffel will hold up just fine. This is likely totally ok. A duffel like this is meant to serve as auxiliary luggage for extenuating circumstances. GG themselves don't call this line of duffels primary luggage; they emphasize the packable nature more than the durability.
For the volume, the tested Packable Duffel 36 (the "36" qualifier refers to the length of the base of the bag, in inches. Stated volume, and we have no reason to doubt this, is 145 liters) is very light. At 2.25 pounds, this is pretty dang light for such a large duffel bag. Simpler construction would make it even lighter, with no compromise in durability, while keeping the same weight and removing some of the straps and lash points could bump the Packable Duffel durability up into day-to-day use category.
The fabric of the Packable Duffel is completely waterproof, which we tested extensively. The plentiful seams, though, are not sealed in any way. Similarly, the main zipper isn't waterproof. It is equipped with a generous "storm flap", blocking splashes but not really keeping out extended blasting. The bag isn't even close to submersible. We'd call it, overall, "splash proof". The long bottom seams are right at ground level, so don't put this down in a puddle.
Interestingly, the only accessory pocket on the whole thing has a waterproof zipper. This zipper is likely more weather resistant than any other joint/seam on the whole bag. That's nice, but it won't do all that much to actually keep the contents dry. The waterproof zipper is sewn into the bag with stitching that is entirely vulnerable to water penetration, for instance.
The price of the Packable Duffel is exactly in line with other bags in this category. Its durability and function are also consistent with others. In short, this is a good value.
If this is the bag you need, this is the bag you want. What does that even mean, though? If you need a bag for occasional use as luggage, but need it to pack down when not in use, consider the Granite Gear Packable Duffel, in whatever size you choose. We tested the 36-inch version, but they make it in a smaller version and a wheeled version. As compared to other manufacturer's "packable" duffels, Granite Gear leads the charge in portability, with shoulder straps and a sternum clipper.
— Jediah Porter