Alpkit enjoys something of an enviable reputation in the world of online retail.
Based near Nottingham, its business model is simple. By selling direct online, it can cut out the middleman and pass on cost savings to its customers. As a relatively small company, the website has a definite personal touch with a healthy attitude to customer service reflected in small details, such as the person who packs your goods penning a short note on your order form. Of course, all of this is irrelevant if the kit isn’t up to scratch.
The Gourdon 20 is one of Alpkit’s most popular products and frequently sells out, as regular visitors to the website will know. Available in four colours, from Henry Ford black through to enduro-esque fluo-yellow, it is in essence a 20-litre dry bag with rucksack straps. Comprising a single compartment with roll-top closure and taped seams, the bag immediately scored points for me over traditional hydration packs.
As anyone who has ever suffered from soggy sandwich-itis and sodden spare clothes on a rain-soaked ride will attest, having a bag that you can rely on to keep your kit dry on even the wettest of rides is a very good thing. Separate rain covers are fine but in my experience, they tend to flap about in the wind and only delay the inevitable ingress of water.
To give the bag stiffness, there is a removable closed-cell foam back panel into which a drinks bladder can be inserted. A 2l Camelbak bladder fits just fine. The lack of internal divider pockets may put off some but isn’t an issue in the real world. I opted to use a couple of Alpkit’s Airlok dry bags instead, which do a sterling job of organising tools, food and clothes.
On the outside, there are a couple of mesh pockets on the side which easily accommodate a large water bottle or anything else which you wish to stuff in it while there is an elasticated cord across the back of the bag which can be used for securing a waterproof jacket on those in between days when you are constantly having to adjust your clothing.
In use, the bag sits comfortably on the back with its lack of weight being a real bonus on longer rides. When crammed to capacity, the thin back panel means a bit of careful organising is required to stop a rogue mini tool sticking into your kidneys but this is probably true of most bags. The rucksack straps are easy to adjust, with the sternum strap and waist belt providing good stability. Given the option, I would have liked a slighter thicker waist belt when carrying heavy loads but it’s never been a show stopper.
The bag has been employed for everything from trips to the nursery and school with my daughter, the daily commute, and short/fast off road blasts for a couple of hours, through to overnight and self-supported, hut-to-hut trips.
Versatility is the key, as the elasticated cord on the outside can be cinched down to stop the contents from moving about when you don’t feel compelled to bring an array of bikepacking kit for a quick spin.
One area where the bag scores particularly highly is when shouldering the bike for hike-a-bike sessions. The height of the bag is such that the top tube of my bike rests comfortably on the top of the bag, meaning that carrying my bike isn’t so much of a chore. A bit of care needs to be taken to ensure that the elasticated cord doesn’t catch on the bike and snap though. I’ve managed to do that a couple of times but that comes down to user error and isn’t the fault of the bag.
I’ve owned several Gourdon 20s over the years and have managed to gradually wear them out over time through a combination of cack-handedness and arguably pushing them beyond their intended design parameters. Carrying a bike on your pack is a surefire way to puncture a hole in it. The fabric itself is surprisingly durable given the lack of overall weight of the bag but an untrimmed zip tie or similar will eventually get through.
Fortunately, Alpkit supplies an iron-on patch repair kit with each bag, meaning that a hole can be quickly and easily repaired. I don’t expect that Alpkit envisaged its pack being used to shoulder bikes so it would be unreasonable to complain about this.
Through extended use, I’ve also managed to rub a small hole in the base at the back of the bag where it rests on my lower back. Again, this is more a reflection of just how much use the bag has been subjected to and it is not unique to it. All bags will succumb to this. The Gourdon has taken a lot longer than most.
The Gourdon 20 is probably the favourite bit of kit I have for biking. To have a genuinely waterproof and durable bag that fits well, is light, is large enough for multi day rides and costs only £22.50 is scarcely credible. It’s a simple concept done very, very well. Buy one. Or two. You won’t regret it.
|Tested:||by CJ for four and a half years|