In a world of constantly revised and updated ride packs where every week there seems to be some must-have innovation that renders your current pack sooooo last year, darling, it’s refreshing when a manufacturer offers a product that has stood the test of time and required only minor revisions. The COR 13 from Ortlieb is one such pack. Despite being several years old, you’d be hard pushed to distinguish the current generation from the original version. So is this a case of good design from the start or a lack of development? I decided to find out by testing one over the course of the last two months.
Ortilieb COR 13 Backpack
Given their rich heritage in producing waterproof bags, it should come as no surprise that the COR 13 is indeed waterproof. Unlike other bags, it eschews a roll top design in favour of a zip. And what a zip. Forget whatever experience you may have had of so called waterproof zips on Gore Tex jackets which ceased to be waterproof almost as soon as you used them. Ortlieb have drawn upon tried and trusted dry suit technology and employed a super burly, T handle zip design. The bag itself consists of a single 13 litre compartment with built in key fob, bladder pocket and zipped valuables pocket (which is ideal for tools and a tube). All the seams are externally taped.
The back panel comprises a series of padded vertical channels that allow for some air flow but which crucially do not absorb moisture. Turn the pack around and there is a robust helmet / gear cover (available in four colours) which is secured by five burly metal clips. The webbing can be tensioned individually to get a secure grip on the contents. The outside panel features a reflective logo and piping which lights up like a Christmas tree when light is shone directly upon it. Rounding things off are a surprisingly useful bungee cord and a non-waterproof inner pocket.
The shoulder straps are lightly padded but supremely comfortable with an easy to adjust sternum strap and narrow waist strap. To keep things waterproof, there is even a port to push your bladder hose through which features an in built plug to keep the water out should you decide not to use a bladder.
On The Trail
When I first received the bag, I was immediately impressed by the feeling of durability and the quality of construction. It is not a cheap bag but it is easy to see where your money has gone. However, I was less keen on the stitched seam on the back panel. My initial thoughts were that this would dig in but even when wearing only a T shirt, this proved not to be the case. To be fair, it is easily a match in comfort terms for any other ride pack I have used.
Adopting a frameless design, the padded back panel still gives a good level of stiffness to the bag so that it keeps its shape. As someone who abandoned another well know brand’s bags due to every bag I used flopping annoyingly to one side, the COR 13 stays locked in place with precious little movement. It might not seem like a big deal but having a bag that doesn’t move about on long descents is an essential in my book. The COR 13 delivers on this with aplomb.
Cor blimey! The zip is a very robust affair compared to what I am used to – imagine a 4 finger chunky Kit Kat compared to a regular sized Kit Kat (mmmmm – Kit Kaaaaaaaaat!) and you’ll get the idea. So stiff is it that it requires a T Handle to operate. Out of the box, I had to give the zip some welly to get it to move. However, A little silicon lube worked wonders to keep it clean and things moving smoothly. A well placed grab handle means that you don’t have to clutch at material when trying to close the zip.
I had expected the T handle to bounce noisily against the bag on bumpy trails and for the zip to clog up in muddy conditions – again my expectations were confounded. Our German engineering cousins clearly know their onions. However, be careful not to catch the fabric of a jacket or similar in the zip – I can vouch that it is the Devil’s work to extricate such things from the unyielding jaws of death.
Size wise, 13 litres hits a sweet spot making it practical for both a blast in the woods and big days out. On a recent Lakes adventure that was heavy on the hike a bike, the bag proved to be a worthy travel companion. It easily coped with having a bike foisted upon it for extended periods while I was never left wanting for more space.
The removable flap does an excellent job of accommodating my POC Tectal Race helmet while the bungee cord is capable of attaching a windproof or waterproof for rapid access and storage on those in between days.
Perhaps the best feature is that after a long day of muddy trails and sopping wet trails, a quick blast with the hose has it looking like new again while the contents stay resolutely bone dry.
So what would I improve? To be fair, very little. From a design perspective, the COR 13 hits a sweet spot in terms of comfort, features and practicality. It never ceases to amaze me how many UK based riders are happy to wear ride packs that soak through at even a hint of rain leaving sandwiches soggy, tools rusty and spare clothes sodden. Perhaps the much promised “Getting our sovereignty back” means that we are made of sterner stuff and laugh off such inconveniences?
Price wise, £130 is an awful lot of money for a bag. Heck, it is more than four times the cost of my default ride bag, an Alpkit Gourdon 20. For some, that will be simply too bitter a pill to swallow but as we now live in an era of cassettes that cost more than a decent mountain bike, comparatively speaking, a bag that is waterproof and sufficiently robust that it should last for several years of hard use makes it more of an attractive proposition. Ortlieb also carry spares for all their products for ten years. How is that for Teutonic efficiency and customer service?
Overall, the COR 13 is a brilliant piece of kit that lives up to the high price tag. Sorry Mr or Mrs Ortlieb but you won’t be getting this bag back any time soon!
|Tested:||by David "Sanny" Gould for 2 months|