New 2018 Ortlieb Seat-Pack M and Handlebar-Pack S
At this year’s Sea Otter Classic, Ortlieb teased a second wave of bikepacking bags. We had a chance to test the Seat-Pack M and Handlebar-Pack S in advance, here’s the scoop…
At the 2016 Sea Otter Classic last year — which seems to have recently supplanted Interbike for new product launches — Ortlieb threw their hat into the niche bikepacking ring and released several bikepacking-specific bags. Prior to the launch, I was able to thrash the bags a bit for a two-part review. At this year’s Sea Otter in Monterey, CA, Ortlieb added a couple new bags to their bikepacking lineup, as well as new iterations of the one-year-old Seat-Pack and Handlebar-Pack. While I didn’t get to try the new top tube bag or half-frame pack, I did have a chance to spend some time with the all new Seat-Pack M and Handlebar-Pack S. To be clear, this is a bit of a sneak peak, as these bags won’t be available for a while. Read on for details…
Ortlieb Seat-Pack M
When Ortlieb dropped their first bikepacking seat pack into the marketplace last year, it was fairly obvious to whom they were marketing. Traditional bike tourists have made Ortlieb waterproof panniers their go-to for decades, so it was a natural progression for the German bag maker to offer a proof of concept for curious converts. After all, why should us bikepackers have all the fun? To help ease folks minds about ditching their rear racks, the original Seat-Pack was huge! 16.5 liters, to be exact. It’s a solid bag with a lot of great features, but I tend to pack my seat pack small and tight, especially on singletrack mountain bike routes. Honestly, beyond the initial testing period, I didn’t use it much as it was clearly built to be packed fairly long, which isn’t my style. Now Ortlieb has taken the same quality innovations and features and rolled them into a seat pack specifically for mountain bikers.
In short, Seat-Pack M is a compact, yet fairly spacious waterproof saddlebag with a roll closure offering 11 liters of volume, although I think it can safely hold a bit more. Like the original design, M features an air valve which allows air to be purged while rolling it closed, making packing a little easier. Similar in size to the Bedrock Coconino or Porcelain Rocket’s Mr. Fusion, the M is ideal for smaller bike frames and full suspension mountain bikes. As you can see in the photos below, the Seat-Pack M — which stands for either Medium or Mountain, I suspect — is shorter than its forebear (shown on bottom-left in comparison shots), with one major improvement. While most of the materials and the general structure are the same, the big design change is in the front strap area. The M has a slight cutaway adding a little bulk to the fore of the bag while minimizing the contact point to the seat post. This allows a single strap to be used, and more interestingly, the M works with a dropper seatpost (when deployed with the Wolftooth Valais system and a longer dropper, such as this PNW Bachelor 150 — more on those soon). This design change also gives the Seat-Pack M a shape that’s not quite as ice-cream cone-esque as its predecessor.
To reiterate from the initial review, Ortlieb Seat-Pack M retained most of the features that I loved in the first Seat-Pack. Of course, they are both completely waterproof by way of the distinctive Ortlieb cast RF welded honeycomb fabric. And similar in nature to the Revelate Terrapin, they both have the air release valve. The M also keeps the same HPDE reinforced internal structure and rugged hardware which includes locking saddle rail straps. The Seat-Pack M also features Ortlieb’s signature 3M Scotchlite reflectors at the rear, as well as a built-in daisy chain for mounting a blinkie light. However, the Seat-Pack M does lose the elastic shock-cord strap on the top. This might sway some long-term bikepackers toward the larger model.
It’s clear that Ortlieb took feedback to heart with the Seat-Pack M. While it doesn’t have a quick removal harness system like that of a couple other waterproof saddlebag systems, it does have a few features that make it very much worth a look. And it’s an Ortlieb, so it’s likely to get a lot of miles and take some abuse too. The biggest disappointment is that the Seat-Pack M won’t be available until calendar year 2018 (4th quarter of 2017 at the earliest, according to Ortlieb). Until then, we’ll keep putting this bag through its paces and update this post accordingly.
- Volume: 11 Liters
- H X W X D: 40cm/15.7″ X 26cm/10.2″ X 15cm/5.9″
- Weight: 325 g (11.5 oz)
- Date available: 1st quarter 2018
- Price: $145
Ortlieb Handlebar-Pack S
According to Ortlieb, the Handlebar-Pack S is a compact waterproof handlebar roll designed with the gravel grinder in mind. At 15.7″ (400mm) wide and 6.7″ (170 mm) in diameter, it’s relatively small. Its short length definitely makes it suitable for use with drop bars, with just three or four rolls, it fits nicely within Salsa’s larger Cowchippers. The pack offers 9 liters of volume and weighs 375 grams (13.2 oz).
The new Handlebar-Pack S is pretty much a shrunk down version of the original. Nothing much has changed in the way of structure or features. And it is pretty small — perhaps the “S” stands for small, or Short. I used it mostly on the new 29+ Deadwood SUS, which features a 100mm Pike in the front. With that in mind, I am fairly certain that the Handlebar-Pack S could be used with a 140mm or even 160mm travel fork without the risk of rubbing, especially on non-plus tire bikes. At 7.9″ in diameter, the original Handlebar-Pack was a tad too large for the 120mm fork on the Pony Rustler with 27.5×3″ tires, I might add. However, when comparing the Handlebar-Pack M to the medium 7″ Revelate Sweetroll — another popular handlebar roll for mountain bikers — the Handlebar-Pack S is very narrow. While the Sweetroll maxes out at a width of 22″, the Handlebar-Pack S is about 15.7″. On longer trips I tend to pack the handlebar roll long, this allows me to stow a small tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and an ultralight down jacket or rain jacket. The Handlebar-Pack S falls a little short for such a duty. On one outing it carried the Nemo Gogo Elite shelter, a really small sleeping bag and couple stray items to fill the gaps, and that was with only two rolls on each side; Ortlieb recommends a minimum of three to maintain its waterproof claim.
All that said, the Handlebar-Pack S performs well in the duties for which it’s marketed. Without the extra length, it rolls up tidy and fits perfectly within the drops on a gravel bike. It’s also worth noting that with a gravel bike or divide rig such as the Salsa Cutthroat, there is usually extra space in the frame pack, so it’s not necessary to overpack the handlebars. I found the original Handlebar-Pack to work quite well in the drops, but I ride a large bike and this may be an issue for smaller riders.
With great features such as the cinch cord webbing, reflective patches, completely waterproof design, and the option for the Accessory-Pack, the 2018 Handlebar-Pack S is another solid bikepacking bag from Ortlieb. With a smaller stature than the original, it’s good to see Ortlieb catering to ultralight sensibilities. While the Handlebar-Pack S is certainly a great option for gravel bikepackers, I hope to see a third iteration for mountain bikers, one with a similar diameter but slightly longer. Unfortunately, like the Seat-Pack M, if you want one you’ll have to wait until the end of this year.
- Volume: 9 Liters
- H X W X D: 16cm/6.3″ X 40-45cm/15.7-17.7″ X 16/6. 3
- Weight: 375 g (13.2 oz)
- Date available: 1st quarter 2018
- Price: $125
Stay tuned for our first look at Ortlieb’s new Gravel Packs tomorrow…