Review: Restrap bikepacking bags

With the explosion of bikepacking, the market has become inundated with small bag makers, each with their own take on a relatively simple concept: holding stuff. It seems that each city has its own local bag maker and each maker has its own cult following.

Restrap is a small British bag and accessory company out of Yorkshire. Founder Nathan Hughes began making pedal straps out of upcycled seat belts in 2010 and from there expanded to making a variety of bags for commuting and urban riding. A few years later, the Restrap team began dabbling in off-road touring and naturally began making bags for that purpose as well.

The Restrap #CarryEverything bikepacking line launched in 2015 and includes a saddle bag holster, handlebar holster and frame bags of varying sizes.

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Saddle Bag Holster – $132

The Restrap Saddle Bag Holster comes in two different sizes – one that holds up to 8 liters and one that holds 14. I tested the larger of the two, and had just enough clearance between my rear tire and the bottom of the bag. Dimensions can be found on the Restrap website, so be sure to check there and make sure you’ll have enough clearance before ordering a large.

The Saddle Bag Holster works like any other seat bag, attaching to the saddle rails and seatpost. All three attachment straps are made from a rubberized material that helps prevent slippage and holds the holster securely in place.

The holster itself is constructed from 1000D Cordura and is quite stiff, which keeps your load from bouncing around once tightened snugly against the saddle. The two pieces of the holster are held together on the seatpost end by paracord webbing that can be loosened or tightened depending on the size of the dry bag you put in it, and also can act as an extra storage spot provided you have enough tire clearance underneath the bag.

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On the rear end of the holster, a piece of nylon webbing and a magnetic buckle keep your dry bag secure and cinch down to make your luggage as compact as possible. The buckle is extremely easy to use, even with heavy gloves on, and tightens and releases in seconds.

Overall, the Saddle Bag Holster worked extremely well. While I cannot compare it to other holster-style seat bags on the market because this is the first one I’ve tried, I liked it better than soft bags such as the Revelate Viscacha or Pika for two reasons: It stays put better on the rough stuff, and I appreciated the ability to remove the dry bag but keep the holster on the bike.

My testing period wasn’t quite long enough to truly attest to its durability over time, but the Restrap Saddle Bag Holster is holding up well so far and definitely feels very sturdy. And it’s one of the classier-looking bags out there to boot.

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Bar Bag Holster – $73 without dry bag, $86 with dry bag

Also a stiff chassis for holding a dry bag up to 14 liters in volume, the Bar Bag Holster is made of the same durable Cordura as the Saddle Bag Holster and includes similar easy-to-use magnetic buckles.

It affixes to the bars via two nylon straps and buckles. Two rows of daisy chain on the backside of the holster allow for additional attachment to the bike if necessary, but BYOStrap, as one’s not included. I do like that the daisy chain allows for customization, as not all setups will need a third contact point, and when they do, there can be a lot of variation in fit and configuration.

The holster also includes a magnetic attachment system for an add-on food pouch, which Restrap sells separately for $27.

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The holster itself and mechanism for holding dry bags and other luggage worked without any issues. The straps that hold the holster together and the dry bag in place didn’t come loose at all, and I liked that they have a strip of Velcro that wraps up the excess to avoid dangling.

However, the double straps that attach to the bars did begin to loosen from time to time on rougher terrain. Restrap recommends doubling the straps back, but I did this and they still found a way to work free a little more than I would have liked. I ended up alleviating the issue by just tying the ends off, which was a fine solution.

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Frame Bag – $86 (size large)

Restrap’s frame bags come in three different sizes and three corresponding price points. A chart on the website will help you figure out which bag to choose, and I would advise that you use it. The size large bag was quite long and just barely fit on the large frames we tried it on (and was even too big for some others).

The frame bag is made with the same Cordura material as the holsters and includes a waterproof zipper in either side. The inside features a mesh divider pocket to help keep stuff organized, which I found to be helpful for finding small items when I needed them.

The bag affixes to the frame via similar rubberized straps as the ones on the saddle holster, which worked great for keeping the bag in place but were a bit rough on the frame paint. However, an update to the frame bags for Eurobike this year replaces the one heavy rubberized strap on the downtube with two smaller, thinner straps – still rubberized, but seem a bit more flexible and easier on your precious bike.

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Dry Bags – $13.50 – $17.50

A dry bag is included when you purchase a saddle holster and is an optional addition with the purchase of the bar holster. You can also buy Restrap’s dry bags separately, which is a nice option in case one needs to be replaced.

Restrap offers dry bags in two sizes – 8 and 14 liters – both of which are fully waterproof and are sized perfectly to fit in the saddle and bar holsters. They feature a roll-and-buckle closure on one side, while the other is flat so that it fits better in the saddle holster. The 14 liter bag also comes with an option for a roll on both sides for easier access to the contents when used in conjunction with the bar holster.

While both holsters that I tested had the ability to hold 14 liters, I ended up with one 14 liter double roll and one 8 liter dry bag. After some experimentation, I settled on using the larger of the two on the saddle, which easily held my sleeping bag and extra layers despite losing a small amount of room due to the double-sided closure. The 8 liter bag filled with miscellaneous items fit into the bar holster along with a separate roll containing my sleeping pad and tarp.

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Conclusion

I have nothing but two thumbs up for the saddle holster, which held a decent-sized load securely and was extremely user friendly. While the bar bag holster and frame bag didn’t blow me away, they are still solid pieces of bike luggage that combine functionality, durability and aesthetics (for those who care about such things) into one package that is a choice worth considering for anyone who spends a good bit of time traveling or camping out by bike.

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Review: Ortlieb bags

By Adam Newman

Handlebar Pack -$130

In the name of simplicity and secure attachment, Ortlieb chose to design its handlebar bag to hang below the handlebars, where it stays put and doesn’t slip or bounce, rather than trying to cantilever it out in front. The laminated, ripstop nylon waterproof body has a roll-up closure at each end and Ortlieb lists its volume at 15 liters. I found it plenty large enough for a lightweight solo tent and sleeping bag. There are a myriad of ways to attach things on the outside too, beyond just the accessories pouch. The compression straps can hold extras like your tent poles or a second stuff sack, and there are some bungee cords on the exterior for a jacket. The attachment system is very secure, with a few foam spacers to make room for your brakes, shifters and cables. A super heavy-duty strap secures it in place and a secondary buckle strap cinches it up tight. The build quality is worth a shout-out, as I never once feared tearing a seam with repeated stretching, pulling, crashing, stuffing and smashing.

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Accessories Pack -$75

If you go with the Ortlieb handlebar pack, you should really pick up the Accessories pack too. It attaches with the compression straps from the Handlebar pack and is big enough for several days worth of food. Having my snacks right on the handlebars made them easy to access, and when I needed to hang a bear bag at night I simply detached it and strung it up tire combo in here. It can also be attached to the handlebars on its own as a daypack, or worn around your waist or shoulder with the included waist strap.

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Seat Pack -$160

Here Ortlieb chose to refine a common design rather than reinvent the wheel. The volume is adjustable from 8 liters to 16 liters, and it attaches to the seat rails with two quick release buckles and to the seatpost with heavy-duty Velcro straps. At the base of the bag, extending about a third of the way from the seatpost, is an internal cowling that gives it shape and keeps it from bulging. A really cool feature is the addition of a purge valve, which lets you squeeze all the air out of it after it’s been rolled. Getting the seatpack to work well comes down to proper packing. I found that one big item like a sleeping bag worked better than a collection of small items like clothing. Also you need to make sure the contents are stuffed firmly into the bottom of the pack, because otherwise you’re guaranteed to suffer from Droopy Butt Syndrome. After a few days of struggling with it sagging I took better care with packing and the results improved. I also started putting my tent poles in there for more support. One curious design quirk is that even with the bag nearly full I was maxing out the adjustment straps that secure the roll- top, seen here just above the Ortlieb logo. They’re also impossible to tighten while buckled, which makes adjusting them a chore.

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Conclusion

Ortlieb has always built some insanely bomber gear, and after working these bags hard I have no doubt they’ll last a while. I would definitely recommend the handlebar pack and accessories pack for their simplicity and carrying capacity. The seat pack, on the other hand, faces much stiffer competition (intentional pun) from designs with rigid frames. It requires careful packing and its massive size is a blessing and a curse. It’s a solid choice but not a home run.

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This review was originally published in Bicycle Times 43. Subscribe to our email newsletter to get fresh web content and reposted print content like this delivered to your inbox every Tuesday! 

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