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Ortlieb bikepacking bag review

21 Sep 2016

The new rackless bags from Ortlieb bring the touring specialist right on trend, but are they a bikepacker's dream?

Ortlieb has come rather late to the bikepacking market considering its touring heritage. I’ve used Ortlieb panniers extensively in the past though and been thoroughly impressed, so I when the bikepacking collection appeared I was keen to see if it had been worth the wait. Thankfully, it was.

The Ortlieb bikepacking range consists of four items: a handlebar bag (£85), an accessory pouch (£45), a seatpack (£110) and a frame bag (although that’s not available until 2017). The standout feature of the Ortlieb bags is that they’re completely waterproof, unlike many competitor items that are only water resistant albeit at a lower cost. The bags are one piece too, not holsters, so you don’t have to keep your possessions in drybags, although we’d still recommend it so you don’t have to go digging through everything every time you open a bag.


Fitting the Ortlieb bags is quite a faff the first couple of times and, although you do get quicker over time, it’s not as slick an operation as some. The handlebar bag in particular has lots of straps, buckles and bits of padding. It’s also quite wide at the centre, so it can be a tight squeeze inside dropped handlebars and if you’re not careful the rolled ends can interfere with the shifters. This does somewhat limit the items you can put in there as getting in and out in a hurry is impossible. I found it was perfect for sleeping kit as you only need to get it out once a day (hopefully) and never really in much of a rush. If you have a bike with flat handlebars, this would be less of an issue.

The accessory pack hooks onto the front of the bar bag and is very easy to get on and off. Opening it is even easier (and can even be achieved on the move if you’re brave) as it’s just one strap with a small buckle. The size of the accessory pack is near perfect – I comfortably fitted my phone, a wallet, some food, and a small camera with second lens plus spare batteries without too much drama.

Fitting the seatbag is much easier than the bar bag, although there is still a knack to it. Getting the straps on is easy enough, but to get it to hold up well requires careful packing as the items inside, once compacted, act as a skeleton. To assist in this there is a small air bleed valve on the outside that is so ingenious in its use I do question why everyone doesn’t have one. There are other neat touches too such as thin bungees that are perfect for stuffing a jacket under and a plethora of light attachment points.

Into the wild 

Niner RLT 9 Steel review

I’ve used the Ortlieb bags on a few trips, but by far the most testing was a trip into the wilds of Scotland. You can read more about the whole trip here: Cape Wrath tour and the bike I used here: Niner RLT 9 review.

The Ortlieb bags were excellent throughout the trip. Along the way we took on some incredibly rough tracks and some pretty miserable weather – the bags taking it all in their stride. The only mishap befell the accessory pouch, which briefly slipped onto the front tyre causing a hole. I was a little surprised how quickly the hole formed and think Ortlieb could put some extra reinforcement there given the ease with which it can happen. All together, a truly excellent bit of kit that's well worth the premium pricetag.