Revelate Designs Joey: store your stuff down under

Disclaimer — this bag was given to me by Revelate back in April. I won’t pretend to be impartial: I use their gear because in my experience it is the best gear available. That said, my least favourite thing after tea without milk is ‘reviews’ that regurgitate marketing material followed by a blanket ‘it’s great’ statement. This is not a review, it’s an honest account of my experiences using this bag, and some thoughts on how/when you might get the best use from it. I hope they’re useful!

I’m all for fast and light, ninja minimalism when possible, but sometimes you just have too much stuff, and not all of it can be ditched. The downtube can be a useful spot to store such overflow gear, as it keeps weight low on the bike and doesn’t screw with your steering in the way that a fork-mounted bag does. In the past, we’ve used Salsa Anything Cages on longer trips where we’ve either been carrying too much gear (hindsight is a wonderful thing), or simply needed to carry more gear, usually food, on longer gaps between resupplies. They do the job that they’re designed for well, but the more technical the trails you’re planning to ride, the less you’re going to enjoy having a load of weight sitting either wise of your front wheel.

When I was preparing to race the Arizona Trail 300 in April, I realised that water and food storage was going to be my main conundrum from a packing point of view, as the main triangle on my Tallboy frame is teeny tiny. Dusty from Revelate had mentioned that he had a super stable downtube bag in the works, and that seemed like it could be the solution to my desert storage woes.

A touring setup in Arizona

At first glance it’s a super simple bag, as all good bags should be if you ask me. The X-Pac fabric is reliably tough, but the lack of a rigid frame keeps it light, and just as importantly means that when empty it cinches down to an unnoticeable size. A more in-depth look reveals the details that show how much thought Eric and Dusty put into refining their designs. A silicone strip on the inside of each velcro attachment strap reduces unwanted rotation on the downtube, as does the rubbery fabric on the back of the bag itself. A foam strip along the spine of the bag keeps clonking noises down and reduces any chance of bag/frame damage from packing sharp-edged things where they shouldn’t be. Zips have no place in a muddy area like a downtube, so the simple roll-top makes the bag far more reliable as well as allowing the volume to be reduced from one direction before the two wrap-around straps reduce it from another.

In Arizona I carried all of my food for the 52 hour ride from Parker Canyon to Picketpost, totalling one metric fuck-tonne (around 17,000 calories). It went everywhere: top-tube bag, frame bag, seat bag, my backpack and into the Joey bag. Around 85% of my gear weight was water and food when I set out. Likewise, when we toured the Colorado Trail in July it was full of food, water and sometimes a Jetboil as well. The volume strikes a sweet spot between being big enough to fit a Jetboil pot or a Nalgene, without being wide enough that crank or shoe contact was ever an issue. In both cases I was was riding fast, technical singletrack, and once it’s cinched down the bag doesn’t move an inch. Dusty actually showed me some footage that he took while product testing in Arizona, with a GoPro aimed straight at a Joey prototype to see how much it moved under real-world stress! He obviously used the data well because it’s far more solid than it’s construction would have you think. The oval shape and the fact that the contact surfaces are covered in high-friction silicone and rubber really makes a huge difference compared to the simpler solutions I’ve used in the past. I was a big fan of the fact that it becomes less and less obtrusive the emptier it becomes, so when it’s empty the weight and bulk are almost zero.

So the bottom line is that a downtube bag should be simple, stable and shrinkable (got to keep that alliteration), and the Joey ticks all three boxes while being big enough to fit 6000 calories in it. After early experiences with rigid racks and dry bags, I vowed to avoid excess bags like this at all costs, but lightweight, technical bikepacking has been the ultimate test of whether the Joey has a place in my setup, and I see myself using it a lot from technical multi-day trail rides to weeks-long mammoth adventures.

Any thoughts? Get ’em posted below.

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