Arkel Seatpacker 15

Arkel Seatpacker 15 Lonnng Term Review

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With modern era bikepacking in mind, Canadian bike touring luggage legends Arkel have entered the market with their Arkel Seatpacker 15 bag.

  • Brand: Arkel
  • Product: Seatpacker 15
  • From: £190
  • Price: ghyllside.co.uk
  • Tested: by David ‘Sanny’ Gould for over two years
Arkel Seatpacker 15

Three things I loved

  • External frame means that there is virtually zero tail wag. Zero. Nadda. Zilch. Hurrah!
  • Dropper post compatibility means that there is no need to mess about with pipe insulation, tape and fruity language
  • Genuinely impressive quality of construction and finish

Three things I’d change

  • Quality at this level doesn’t come cheap
  • Bombproof construction comes at the trade-off of a small increase in weight
  • Er. Cheaper is always welcome!
Any colour you want so long as it is black!

In the ever-expanding world of bikepacking kit brands, you could be forgiven for becoming bewildered by the embarrassment of riches on offer.

What ostensibly started as the brainchild of one man, Eric Parsons of Epic Designs (now known as Revelate Designs), has grown into something of a phenomenon. While there is still a place for traditional panniers and racks, soft pack designs that attach to the frame at various points have revolutionised off-road touring.

Instead of your gear being stored at the rear and low down on a rack with the associated handling and narrow singletrack challenges which that presents, seat, frame and handlebar bags allow the load to be more evenly spread while saving a bit of weight.

For me, bikepacking luggage has helped re-introduce me to the joys of off-road touring. Technical trails become an opportunity to be enjoyed again rather than endured. Anyone who has toured with a BOB trailer or panniers will attest that to this.

However, existing designs aren’t perfect. In particular, load up a seat pack and when the going gets tough, don’t be surprised when your pack sways from side to side. Out of the saddle, efforts can feel distinctly odd to the extent that you may feel that you are wrestling with your bike. Add in a dropper post to the equation and you’re going to struggle to find a compatible bag.

In bike touring circles, Arkel enjoys a well-earned reputation for design and quality. Cheap their products aren’t but you’ll genuinely struggle to find a seasoned long-distance tourer who doesn’t rate their products. Just how does the Seatpacker measure up?

Design and features

At first glance, the Arkel Seatpacker 15 looks much like any other seat pack on the market. Tapering from back to front, there is a large, roll-top closure with a continuous stiffening insert clamshell design on both the top and bottom of the bag. This ensures that the bag retains its shape even when it isn’t packed into the gunnels.

The top section does not extend the full length of the bag but Arkel has a smart trick up their sleeve that removes the need for that (more on this later). This is supplemented by side stiffeners which in effect create a reasonably stiff but still flexible nose for the bag.

]Instead of a single shell fabric, the Seatpacker features an inner lining that is fully taped for waterproofness. The lining is light grey which means finding stuff in the depths of the bag isn’t an exercise in exploring the black hole of Calcutta.

Neat design and excellent finishing.

At the seat post end, the outer fabric is toughened Cordura for increased wear resistance. On the side, there are two volume adjusting straps that feature an end housing to help reduce strap flap and a pair of reflective Arkel logos.

On the top section of the bag, there is a zipped pocket that is just about perfect for those essentials you want quick access to – mobile phone, credit card, an emergency packet of jelly babies, heck, even loo paper when you are suddenly overwhelmed by the need to do a fresh air poo!

A diet of dehydrated food, dried apricots, gels and energy bars might give you the energy you need for a wilderness adventure but as sure as eggs are eggs, the trade-off in terms of emergency gastric evacuations can be eye-watering!

Handy wee pocket.

Swing low, sweet chariot

Poo trauma remedy aside, the pocket is designed to act as a sleeve housing for Arkel’s neat solution for the problem of wobbly seat packs. Anyone who has spent any time using a bikepacking seat pack will be familiar with the side to side sway of the bag, particularly over rough terrain or when getting out of the saddle.

To solve this, Arkel have designed a lightweight aluminium mount that attaches to the bottom of your saddle by an easy to use quick release cam lever and an open ended thermoplastic, pivoting clamp that attaches to the seat post. A hook and loop Velcro fastening then wraps around the seat post to keep things nice and tight.

The quick-release clamp slides along the rails which means that swapping between bikes and finding the optimum angle for attaching the seat pack a breeze. The mount comes in two sizes; both supplied which means that you can accommodate even the widest of saddles.

Quick releases….remember those eh?

What all of this means in practice is that Arkel have solved the problem of wobbly seat packs while at the same time created an attachment system that is dropper post compatible. Happy days. Ever since I started bikepacking, I’ve hankered after a gear carrying solution that works with a dropper post. Arkel reckon they have got you covered.

It might not seem like a big deal but the more technical and rocky the terrain I rode previously, the more I became frustrated by the lack of a dropper.

Rounding off the design is a strip of light reflective fabric and webbing from which a light can be hung for gloomy days and riding at night. It’s not flash but it is a welcome design touch.

Oi! Who’s nicked my bag?

What’s it like to use?

Ok. Let’s acknowledge the small elephant in the room. All this design and tech comes at a bit of a weight penalty. Compared to Revelate’s similarly sized Terrapin seat pack, the Arkel weighs in at 691 grams, a full 106 grams heavier.

But does this matter?

If you are a dyed in the wool weight weenie that hacksaws down their toothbrush, uses one side of toilet paper then the other and think that a meth’s burner shouldn’t be bigger than a 2 pence piece, the Arkel Seatpacker 15 may not be at the top of your list. However, for those of us who live in the real world and don’t suffer from O.C.D, the additional weight makes precisely the square root of bugger all difference. I cannot say that at any point did I notice any impact of the extra weight.

Not just for bikepacking but handy for pub stops too.

What I did notice, however, was the singular lack of tail wag. If you are new to bikepacking, the first time you get out of the saddle or if you are charging hard over rough ground, you definitely notice the side to side sway of a traditional seat pack. It can be a little disconcerting. The greater the load, the more noticeable it can become. It’s something that you do get used to but with the Arkel Seatpacker 15, there is virtually no wag or at least none that I could detect when riding along on even the roughest of trails. Once in placed and cinched down, the Arkel Seatpacker 15 has a reassuring feeling of solidity.

Easy to adjust with gloved hands.

Dropping in!

When it comes to using a dropper, I did find that the tapered end of the bag was in contact with the shaft of the seat post. In practice what this meant was that when I dropped the post, the bag could get a little hung up on the collar of the dropper post. A bit of added buhoochie weight [arse? –Ed] was sufficient to overcome the friction of the bag against the collar.

As such, although the Arkel Seatpacker 15 is dropper compatible, it is not quite the perfect solution I had hoped. However, the fact that I can run a dropper post with it is a major step forward in comparison to other bags I have used in the past. I contacted Arkel who advised me that they are looking at refining the design going forward. I don’t want this to come across as a major issue – it isn’t. A design that is 95% of the way there is unquestionably superior to one that is 100% not.

Doubles as a very effective mudguard.


As with most seat pack designs, the exception in my experience being the Revelate Terrapin which is based on a holster and dry bag design, the Seatpacker works best when it is fully loaded. Partially loading it can result in the back end being a tiny bit floppy and droopy if you aren’t careful. However, it is still well ahead of most of the competition as the strapping positioning is such that it is easy to get a taught structure when not rammed to the nines. If you don’t plan to utilise the full 15 litres of capacity, you may be better opting for the smaller nine-litre version which shares all of the same features in a more Lilliputian package.

Obsessive attention to detail

All straps are easy to use with none coming loose on even the roughest rides. Everything just stays in place. In terms of quality of construction, having used the bag for well over a year, I can now appreciate why Arkel is held in high regard. There is nary a loose thread nor poor stitch to be found anywhere. The inside looks as good as new and the outside cleans up well after repeated coatings of mud and grit. Where the frame meets the bag, I applied a couple of strips of Gorilla Tape for the duration of the test. This looked like a potential wear area so I sought to tackle it before any wear could take place.

Made in Canada eh!


Arkel makes much of their waterproof construction. In torrential rain lasting a couple of hours, not even a drop got through. The inside and all of the contents were dry to the touch. Deploying may soon to be patented Sannysoakmaster 3000 [Would that be your garden hose? – Ed], I blasted the bag for a good twenty minutes. Well seen that I don’t live anywhere remotely near a hosepipe ban! Aside from making the bag come up looking like new, again it remained completely waterproof. Suffice to say I was impressed.

Simple but effective design.

The ability to take the bag on and off the bike in a matter of seconds (on a par with my go-to Revelate Terrapin) is a real bonus when you are caught out in the rain. Every second can count as you rush to get your bag into the inviting open fire warmth of a bothy or into your tent. Reattaching it is almost as rapid with no need to faff about with fiddly under-seat straps as your hands slowly freeze as gloves make the job an exercise in frustration and creative cursing.

Does my bum look big in this?

The ultimate question is… should you buy one? After two years of use, I know that I would. Two thumbs up.

Even the sign is happy!

Overall

The Arkel Seatpacker 15 is definitely not a cheap option. It’s not hard to imagine someone new to bikepacking baulking at the price. The weight also counts against it if you are weight-saving obsessive who would probably measure the weight of their poos if they thought they could get away with it. However, if you are looking for a quality bit of luggage that is extremely well made, waterproof, durable, eliminates tail wag and does a pretty darn good job of working with a dropper post, you may just have found your seat pack of choice. It’s not quite perfect but it’s not a kick in the pants off it.

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Review Info

Brand: Arkel
Product: Seatpacker 15
From: ghyllside.co.uk
Price: £190
Tested: by Sanny for 2 years+
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Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)
  • Arkel Seatpacker 15 Lonnng Term Review
  • ampthill
    Full Member

    This is meant as a question by some who might but some bike packing bags. Not trying to start an argument.

    I can see the benefit of buying this sort of bag in that it could be fitted to a full suspension bike. But I’m not sure if I’d use full suspension bike. If you using a rigid bike it must be a cheaper, lighter and far easier from a structural point of view to put a bag on top of a rack

    jimdubleyou
    Full Member

    If you using a rigid bike it must be a cheaper, lighter and far easier from a structural point of view to put a bag on top of a rack

    Yup, not all bikes are able to take a rack but I find them easier to use. Slight weight penalty if that matters to you.

    Chaos
    Full Member

    I see you can get the metal frame/hanger thing on its own which could be good for working with existing bags. Still pricey though.

    Aluminum Hanger for Seatpacker 9 or 15

    surfthemaze
    Full Member

    I’ve got one and it’s ace. Sliding it on & off is extra quick and the frame is solid as anything. I had a small problem when I wanted to drop my seat and ended up with the pack rubbing the tyre = almost hole. Solution was to chop up a section of plant pot into an nice oval shape and evostick it to the pack. Now perfect.

    midlifecrashes
    Full Member

    Caaradice will sell you a support frame for your saddle loofah.

    Bikepacking Seatpack Support Rack

    They’ve started making a few backpacking style bags too.

    Bikepacking Seatpack

    chevychase
    Free Member

    Looks to me that the bag is rubbing on the dropper post there?

    Long days out in the saddle – that’ll wear the anodizing away??

Viewing 6 posts - 1 through 6 (of 6 total)

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