Ortlieb bikepacking

Ortlieb Bikepacking Range 2021 – Pack Everything and Ride Everywhere

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Will the 2021 Ortlieb Bikepacking range make sleeping in a bush or bivvy just that little bit more luxurious? With this much carry space, there’s room to pack for comfort.

Being a bikepacker in the grim north east of England, keeping gear dry is an absolute priority. If I ended up in a soggy sleeping bag, my relationship with the offending bag that had carried it would end VERY abruptly.

Bags also need to be tough, as I’m partial to the odd clumsy crash in the rocks of Scotland or the Lake District.

Ortlieb gear has a reputation for being waterproof and tough, so my expectations were high. Besides these critical aspects, ease of fitting and stability when riding are also high on my ‘essential qualities’ check list.

Ortlieb Bikepacking
Loaded up, picking lines

2021 Ortlieb Bikepacking Range

  • From: Lyon
  • Top tube frame bag – £105
  • Seatpack (11 litre) – £125
  • Front Roll – £115
  • Accessory Pack – £55
  • Fork packs – £50 per side
Spot the reflective features

There have been a number of additions and improvements to the 2021 range. Most notably the inclusion of Fork Packs (which can be fitted to suspension forks). Buckles have been updated to apparently non-slip types, (let’s see) and the compression friendly air release valve found on the seatpack has also been added to the handlebar roll bag. I personally love the 2020 colourway of black and orange which has a real purposeful no nonsense look.

Ortlieb Bikepacking Range – On The Trail

Top tube frame bag

  • Price: £105
  • Dimensions: Length: 50cm Depth: 13cm Width: 6cm
  • Material: Laminated waterproof rip stop nylon
  • Weight: 170g.
  • Capacity: 4 litres.
  • Fixing type and options: Three individual hook and loop fasteners for mounting to the top tube with five position options. Two hook and loop fasteners for the securing the bag to the seat tube and head tube or down tube.
Turns out it doubles up as a pillow!

The top tube bag is one single compartment, which I personally like. This offers the highest degree of flexibility for what can be carried in the bag. For those wishing to carry a tent, the bag is a good storage option for the poles, though the front roll could also be used for this. Top tube bags are the ideal place for the dense heavier items: tools, battery packs, and food and any ‘slack’ can easily be padded out with smaller clothing items. Fitting the bag is simple and literally takes two minutes.

Despite initial reservations, I was particularly impressed with the zip on the frame bag. My concern was the force needed to close and open it; it needs a good hard tug to snap shut. However, it became apparent why; the rubberised chunky zip teeth mesh to form an impenetrable waterproof seal. Waterproof? Nay, airtight! Literally! I got as much air in as possible, used it as a pillow, and it stayed up! Proper science! No water is getting past that zip. The zip puller also has a neat holder to stop it rattling around. Once accustomed to the zip, it became reassuringly positive.

For those of us that are looking for a space to store a USB battery for charging a GPS on the move, or running a light battery cable, the bag provides a convenient option, but of course water and slurry can run down the cable and in to the bag when there is a cable running in to it. Due to the unique zip action, prior to the final tug needed to shut the bag, there is a fairly substantial gap (approximately 10mm x 7mm) at the end of the zip. Be wary of this in heavy rain.

Fits neatly on a road (or gravel) bike. May fit on your full MTB, may not.

Prospective purchasers note: the bag did not fit well on my carbon full suss bikes, as the top tube underside is quite short with a voluminous head, top, and down tube juncture. Whilst Ortleib states the bag will work with full suss bikes, just check the measurements to confirm it will fit yours. (This is not a criticism; just something to be aware of). You can check the fit from the comfort of your home by visiting the Ortleib website and downloading and printing the handy bag template.

Otleib states that the bag can fit top-tube diameters up to 49mm and my experience confirmed this. The top tube strap fittings can also be reconfigured to fit skinny steel tubes as well as chunky carbon ones: the non-opening side of the bag has a Velcro strip deep down its side allowing the straps to attach flush to the bag.

This style of bag allows you to use water bottles on the bike, a real plus. However, if you have a compact or smaller frame, you might want to consider side loading water bottle cages as my water bottles pushed into the bag from below when taking them out of the cage. This is more of an issue when the bag is packed ‘solid’ or when using a larger capacity bottle.

In use, the bag was stable, and I forgot it was there. As a bag for a gravel bike, (or road bike) it’s excellent and has become a bit of a favourite for commuting.

Seatpack

  • Price: £125
  • Dimensions: Length: 40cm (when packed to approximately 11 litres). Depth: 26cm. Width: 15cm
  • Material: Laminated waterproof rip stop nylon
  • Weight: 345g.
  • Capacity: 16.5 litres or 11 litres (tested).
  • Fixing types: Hook and loop fasteners. Adjustable straps and non-slip buckles.
Ortlieb bikepacking

Capacity for this model can range between 7 and 11 litres and can be easily adjusted using multiple rolls to the roll closure along with the click buckles and adjustable straps. The end of the remaining orange strap has a Velcro band that can then be used to hold the strap down and prevent any annoying flapping about. The bag holds open nicely for packing, with a large mouth, and an internal stiffening structure at the seatpost end of the seatpack. This type of reinforcement at the end of the bag, combined with good packing technique, is the best way to achieve seatpack stability in my experience. However, to further mitigate against the seatpack drooping in its back section, (an issue I did not personally encounter) you can purchase a seatpack support strap for £8. This strap passes through the bag’s Daisy Chain fixtures and wraps around the front of the seatpost. Nobody likes a droopy bag now do they?

The saddle rail straps are reassuringly tough with the rubberised straps that pass through the seat rails solidly bolted into the top of the seatpack. The male fitting of the strap from the bag body is a clip buckle with an anti-slip click fastener that snaps shut positively. The straps never slipped during the test period. I do feel these straps could also benefit from the additional Velcro retainers found on the roll closure straps, rather the old ‘tuck them back in on themselves’ method.

Ortlieb bikepacking

The pack straps to the seatpost using a hook and loop fastener and can fit seatposts up to 34.9mm. On skinnier tubes the fastener tab would sit flush against the bag. Ortlieb states that the strap can be mounted to carbon seatposts but I would always run a wrap of tape around anything where a strap attaches, having lost more than enough paint / carbon off bikes in the past during ‘inclement’ bikepacking rides and races.

I tend to carry the majority of my sleep system in my seatpack. Getting a well packed seatpack is massively helped by the air release valve: simply pull the valve open, roll the bag closed, push the valve shut and you get a lovely compressed pack. I could easily fit a three season sleeping bag, inflatable mat and pillow, warm base layer, and spare shorts in the seatpack. Whilst I only rode in ‘moderate’ rain for the test period, all my kit remained dry and I have confidence in Ortlieb’s waterproof heritage and claims.

The seatpack has the standard bungee cord for holding a jacket (Or a GPS Tracker. Or a pint of milk). The rear of the bag has Daisy Chain fittings for rear lights if that’s your preference, though mine is to attach lights to the bike itself. All the bikepacking bags have reflective logos and large reflective patches on that are positioned and work really well on the road.

Handlebar Pack

  • Price: £115
  • Dimensions: Length: 45cm. Depth: 16cm. Width: 16cm
  • Material: Laminated waterproof rip stop nylon
  • Weight: 375g.
  • Capacity: 9 litres or 15 litres (tested).
  • Fixing types: Roll and buckle closures. Velcro straps. Non slip buckles. Metal hook straps.
Ortlieb bikepacking

The 15 litre handlebar pack again opens and closes with the standard, volume adjustable roll and buckle closure and can be rolled down to 10 litres if needed. It is a straightforward single compartment with no outside volume pockets and relies on cinching and rolling to achieve a stable shape. Like the seatpack, the front roll also has a bungee for attaching jackets, French baguette, or other bikepacking essentials.

Ortlieb bikepacking

The front roll bar attachment straps can be cinched very tight with a two-step fastening; first using the large Velcro straps (the bag can be padded off the bars with the supplied thick and tough foam blocks) then with the buckled straps. It was very clear even before riding that this belt and braces design was not going anywhere! An additional strap holds the pack against the head tube and again, the pack can be held out from the bike using a foam block. Even with the cable spaghetti of my full suss, I got a good secure fit.

If you are packing to capacity, it pays to pack evenly throughout the length of the bag: with the straps pulled tight, each end of the bag can drop and whether it was simply psychological, I had to repack on occasion or pack with this in mind. However, a thermoplastic stiffener runs along the back of the bag which helps to prevent movement.

Like the seatpack, the handlebar pack now has an air release valve. To be honest, I used this less than I did with the seatpack but it could be useful if packing a larger volume winter sleeping bag or winter clothes.

Careful packing and the bag cleared my tyre when the 100mm fork was compressed, though with a short head tube on my full suss, I did need to add a couple of stem spacers as clearance was tight. I only encountered the odd incident of bag strike.

Between this 15 litre pack, and the other bags I tested, I carried a lot of kit. But if you needed even more capacity consider the 3.5 litre Accessory Pack below which can easily be connected into the handlebar pack straps using the metal hooks of the handlebar pack and straps in the back of the Accessory Pack. A clever design that I really liked.

Ortlieb bikepacking

Accessory Pack

  • Price: £55
  • Dimensions: Length: 30cm. Depth: 5cm. Width: 17cm
  • Material: Laminated waterproof rip stop nylon
  • Weight: 204g.
  • Capacity: 3.5 litres.
  • Fixing types: Roll and alloy hook closure. Velcro straps.
Ortlieb bikepacking

This is a very versatile bag. It can be used in several ways:

  • As an over the shoulder bag
  • It can attach to a waist strap
  • Be used as a small capacity handlebar pack on it own
  • Link into the straps of the larger handlebar packs (either size) to add capacity
Ortlieb bikepacking

I used the bag in the last two ways. On my big nights out, the accessory pack was linked in to the straps of the handlebar pack using the metal hooks of the larger bag and the soft straps of the accessory pack: think of it like a link in a chain. It initially took some adjustment of the larger bag’s straps to get the accessory pack sitting at the front of the main bag so that my front light’s beams were not interrupted. However, once in place, the two bags worked like one and were very stable.
Getting in and out of the bag is a simple roll top and strap with a metal hook buckle. Simple and quite classy looking. I also used the pack on its own, on my road bike, where it sat perfectly in narrow drop bars.

Fork Packs

  • Price: £50 per side
  • Dimensions: Height: 22cm. Depth: 9cm. Width: 16.5cm
  • Material: Laminated waterproof rip stop nylon / thermoplastic adapters
  • Weight: 275g (including mount adapters).
  • Capacity: 3.2 litres.
  • Fixing types: Roll and buckle closure. Quick Lock S bracket (with adapter system for suspension forks).
Ortlieb bikepacking

The 3.2L (per bag) fork packs can be used on eyelet equipped gravel bikes or, in my case, suspension forks, using the supplied metal bands, brackets, and Quick Lock mounts.

Initially I was apprehensive, and it was a bit fiddly to set up the brackets: after shrink wrapping a non-slip sleeve on to the supplied metal bands, you shape the bands round your suspension fork, then feed each end through a small clip. After you’ve bent the excess metal back, you then Allen key bolt the Quick Lock S bracket on to the clip. It moved about a bit prior to the bracket being tightened on, but due to some physics and stuff, (that I couldn’t quite get my head around) once the bracket is bolted down it is absolutely rock solid. You then simply drop the bag on to the bracket and the quick release lever clicks easily in to place. Removal is simple: push the quick release lever back and lift the bag up. Easy to pack, the bags employ a roll top and buckle system.

In use the packs were super stable and even took some good hits in ruts without shifting. Regardless of the added unsprung mass, I really warmed to the bags and often found myself using them for stop / start items like clothing and food.

Whilst you might choose to remove the Quick Lock S brackets when not bikepacking, you will probably choose to leave the metal bands on your fork legs (as removal / replacement is a bit fiddly and I wouldn’t want to be bending them back and forth too many times). This leaves you with pretty unsightly bands and clips on your fork legs. To keep them out of snagging harms way, I pressed them down against the fork using Guerilla tape.

If you have more than one suspension bike, I would definitely look to sourcing a second pair of fork attachments to quickly swap the bags between bikes. These do not appear as spares on the Ortlieb website, but I feel this would be a good idea.

Ortlieb bikepacking

Ortlieb Bikepacking Range 2021 Overall

I loaded my bike as much as possible for my test rides and made my conclusions based on nights out and fully laden day rides. I pedalled hard across washboard tree roots. I sketched down rocky steep gullies in the dark and hit some TERRIBLE lines (for science of course). I reached high speeds on worn out farm tracks. I rode the relentlessly rough roads of Northumberland and used some pieces for commuting (think: I should be on a gravel bike for this). All in a fruitless attempt to unship the bags. Apart from the effect of the contents settling, the straps and buckles needed no adjustment. Whilst I did not ride for long periods in particularly heavy rain, there was no water ingress and I have no doubt they would stand up to sustained wet conditions.

Ortlieb bikepacking

All the fixtures and features of the bags felt well thought out and highly durable. In the time of testing, no weaknesses were evident in the fabric at key stress points.

If you are a no nonsense rider, prepared to invest in function and durability, definitely consider the Ortlieb bikepacking range. Yes, there are cheaper options out there, but without sounding cliched; you get what you pay for. It should last you years.

Review Info

Brand: Ortlieb
Product: Bikepacking Kit 2021
From: Lyon.co.uk
Price: From £50
Tested: by Rich Rothwell for

Mountain biker who likes long rides, bike packing, and a cosy bivvy. Regular riding in Northumberland, the Lakes, Scotland, Yorkshire but travels further afield when the opportunity arises. Full qualified Ride Leader, Mechanic, and Coach. Living the Dream or Living in a Dream?

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