Bellroy Venture Ready Pack 26L Review
The Bellroy Venture Ready Pack 26L is a daily backpack you can confidently take on an outdoor adventure thanks to its rugged and lightweight fabric.
- Lightweight, durable fabric is versatile
- Front folds out for easy packing
- Streamlined shape looks good and is comfortable to carry
- Water bottle pocket eats significantly into the main compartment
- Side pocket a bit too large for everyday carry items
- Internal zippered pocket impedes effective storage of small gear
2.11 lb (1 kg)
19.7 in x 13 in x 7.48 in (50 x 33 x 19 cm)
Nylon, YKK Zippers, Woojin Hardware, Paracord
Laptop Compartment Size
Bellroy isn’t the first brand that comes to mind when we think of outdoor gear. They make durable and good-looking bags, but they’re not exactly built for the rough-and-tumble, adventurous lifestyle of some travelers. Then again, if the designers put their minds to it, we’re sure they can deliver—and deliver they have. Meet the Venture Ready Pack 26L.
It’s part of their Venture Ready line—not to be confused with their other Venture gear like the Venture Backpack 22L or Venture Sling 6L. No, this lineup’s all about outdoor adventure, with its Canva Ripstop fabric leading the charge for lightweight durability. At the same time, Bellroy’s kept what we like about their gear mostly intact: clean aesthetics, a comfortable harness system, and a suite of pockets to guarantee a satisfactory level of gear organization.
The first major shift in Bellroy’s design is the fabric. Gone is the usual soft-looking and colorful Baida Nylon or Puffed Polyester, and, in its place, we get Canva Ripstop. While a majority of the Pack Hacker crew don’t love this fabric’s rough and stiff texture, it’s undoubtedly as durable as Bellroy’s other fabrics. In other words, most of us prefer the brand’s usual pick of materials, at least in terms of look and feel. However, we will concede that this fabric is quite lightweight, and that matters when you’re trying to make a backpack for outdoor adventures.
Aside from the fabric, the Venture Ready Pack 26L looks like any other Bellroy-designed backpack. There’s a small and tastefully applied logo at the front, a few clean lines from a crease or zipper track, and not much else. As cliche as it sounds, it’s quite a minimalist design, and we dig it. Again, the only aspect that betrays the aesthetic here is the grid texture of the Canva Ripstop fabric. That said, it’s a subjective matter, so we’ll leave the final decision up to you.
What’s harder to argue against are the YKK AquaGuard zippers. As the name suggests, these are very water-resistant zippers, and rightfully so, given the intended use for this bag. Admittedly, they look stiff to operate, though that’s quickly dispelled once you put them into action. They glide relatively smoothly and have been reliable throughout testing. The paracord pulls are a nice touch—nothing says outdoorsy quite like paracord. Bonus points: Bellroy went as far as to knot the paracord of the main compartment’s zippers four times, but only twice for the top pocket. It’s an intuitive way to differentiate the zippers when you’re unzipping blindly in the dark, and we commend Bellroy for this small attention to detail (assuming they did this on purpose).
There are also loop tabs on the four corners at the front. We don’t usually see these on Bellroy’s gear, but the outdoor nature of the Venture Ready line makes it a near necessity. You can use these to lash bulky gear across the front or to hang accessories on the individual loops—the choice is yours.
We have mixed feelings about the Venture Ready Pack 26L’s single water bottle pocket. Its fabric has little to no stretch, so bottles aren’t held tightly in place. There is a strap that you can use to secure your bottle handle. However, if your bottle doesn’t have a loop handle, it doesn’t serve a purpose. We like that the strap’s slack is looped into itself to preserve the bag’s clean profile. That said, there’s another side to the water bottle pocket that’s arguably more impactful than all of those, but we’ll save that discussion for the last section.
Some of you may be looking at the Venture Ready Pack 26L and noticing that Bellroy didn’t go overboard with the whole outdoor adventure theme. The same is true for the bag’s harness system. For starters, the top handle is thick and padded, but you won’t find anything too fancy, like a metal stay or removable padding. Instead, it’s a simple handle with padding inside the nylon material. The handle’s wide stance and angled stitching help keep the bag balanced while holding it this way. Other than that, though, it’s nothing complicated.
It’s worth noting that the top handle is recessed below the bag’s height, so it might be tricky to hang it on a long and straight peg. For an upwards-pointing hook, though, it’ll be super easy. Fortunately, most restroom stalls have the latter, but tree branches are more like the former.
Like the handle, the shoulder straps are kept simple. The padding is thick enough for comfort, and both straps curve outward so that they droop backward when you’re wearing them. There’s a sternum strap mounted on a rail system, which is our favorite kind because we can adjust it granularly. The buckle here uses a FIDLOCK magnet. Our take on magnetic buckles varies depending on how intuitive the application is, but this one is at least easy to use. You simply pinch to unbuckle and snap them together to lock.
We were a bit apprehensive when we first saw that Bellroy used aluminum adjusters for the shoulder straps. In reviewing their Oslo Backpack, we found that these tend to slip over time since their smooth finish doesn’t grip against the strap. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen with the Venture Ready Pack 26L, so Bellroy seems to have caught onto the issue already.
The back panel doesn’t feature mesh material but has a large central air channel to let air pass through. The important aspect to note here is the back panel’s slight contour. Look at it from the side, and you’ll notice how it curves to match how your lower back concaves. This profoundly affects comfort, so let’s discuss how it performs in that regard.
The Venture Ready Pack 26L’s streamlined shape does wonders for its aesthetics. That said, it also makes an impact on how comfortably it carries. The back panel’s contoured shape does a good job of making the bag feel like it’s sitting flush against you. It’s not flat or stiff like a plank of wood and feels more like a good car seat. The bag’s top portion ever-so-slightly protrudes, but it’s nowhere near large enough to affect weight balance, unlike other outdoor backpacks (most notably hiking-focused ones).
The simple shoulder straps manage to distribute the bag’s fully-loaded weight commendably. That said, we recommend using the sternum strap as it does a good job pulling the weight forward and keeping the shoulder straps closer together for an even better fit. Overall, the Venture Ready Pack 26L carries comfortably, and it looks good while you’re doing so.
Inside The Backpack
A zippered pocket is on the right side of the Venture Ready Pack 26L ( the side opposite the water bottle pocket). Bellroy pegs this as a hidden pocket, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s small. It’s cavernous compared to the hidden pockets of other backpacks, so you won’t be limited to putting flat items like your passport or credit cards here.
Instead, we think this pocket is too big for most everyday carry items. Those will get mixed and jumbled up with this amount of space to play with. There is a key leash, but that’s the only means of organization you get here. However, since this is an outdoor backpack, we wholly expect users to use the surplus space for bulkier gear like heavy-duty flashlights and high-capacity power banks. That, or stuff as many granola bars as you want inside—gotta stay topped while adventuring, you know?
Everyday carry items still need a home, and fortunately, they have one inside the top pocket. Unlike the hidden pocket, there’s a clever layout inside to organize your items. A fabric divider runs through the middle of the interior. On the left is a mesh pocket where we store a slim power bank. The right side, meanwhile, has two pen pockets. It’s admittedly fewer pockets than you’d get in backpacks with comprehensive admin panels, but it’s enough if you’re not looking for the complete built-in-tech-organizer experience.
This top pocket has plenty of volume, though it gets some of it by cutting into the main compartment. The good news is we’ve found that having a pocket protrude into the main compartment isn’t too bad since its top area typically goes underutilized. Gear stacks from the bottom up, so unless you’re packing to the brim, you likely have leftover headroom to spare.
The main compartment opens clamshell-style, so the entire front folds out to reveal the interior. It makes the packing process much easier if you’re loading this up for a vacation trip or just a lot of bulky gear in general. That said, you’ll have to consider a few things to make use of all of that space.
As we’ve hinted at earlier, you’ll also have to factor in the water bottle pocket because it cuts significantly into the main compartment when it’s in use. For context, we can squeeze in a packable jacket when we don’t have our 21-ounce Hydro Flask inside the water bottle pocket. Additionally, the stretchy mesh pocket in the top right corner and the top pocket also eat up some space. Those latter two don’t make as big of an impact as the water bottle pocket, but they’re worth keeping in mind nonetheless.
At the back is a laptop sleeve with a letter-sized document slip pocket. Along with the padding, we’re glad to find a substantial false bottom underneath the sleeve to cushion your device if you accidentally set the bag down too hard. It’s a relatively simple design choice, albeit one that brands sometimes don’t implement, so we’re happy to see it here, on an outdoors backpack, no less.
As for the front side of the main compartment, there’s also a handful of organizational options. And by handful, we mean two: a slash pocket at the top and a zippered mesh pocket at the bottom. We use the latter in lieu of a dedicated packing cube for socks and underwear. It has decent expandability thanks to a gusseted design and stretchy mesh. We’re a little less decided on the slash pocket, though.
We initially wanted to use it for small everyday carry items that we didn’t necessarily need frequent access to (if we did, they’d go in the top pocket outside). However, since the diagonal opening runs across the middle, small items can spill out if the pocket’s fully packed. You must lay the front panel flat to ensure nothing falls out. Instead, this pocket is better suited for bigger items like a buff or a pair of gloves, so we recommend using it for those kinds of gear.
- Fabric feels more durable and rugged than other Bellroy products, but it’s still lightweight and structured
- Clean silhouette looking more like an adventure pack
- Not so sure about the interior mesh pocket that’s wide open, but maybe gloves could go well in this pocket
- Proved to be an excellent travel companion on a trip to Florida and NYC from Michigan
- Front pocket organization was great for keeping things separated without being overkill
- Hidden back pocket is a bit on the large side
- Harness system provided a comfy fit
- Enjoyed the streamlined design keeping things looking good enough for NYC