Ortlieb Seat-Pack Review: Test & Release (part 2)
Marking the release of their brand new bikepacking products, in the second installment of our Ortlieb doubleheader we trail test the recently unveiled Seat-Pack. Read on to discover the unique characteristics that may interest bike tourers, full suspension mountain bikers, and cyclists with Hulk-like thighs…
In case you missed part one of this launch review, click here to read the brief history on Ortlieb and the background behind their all-new bikepacking bags. Otherwise, carry on for a thorough look at the Seat-Pack.
Similar and different.
Consistent with the design of the Handlebar-Pack and Accessory-Pack, Ortlieb created the Seat-Pack with their signature honeycomb textured charcoal and matte black polyurethane-coated fabrics. Adding to the overall aesthetic congruity, it also features the same octagonal reflectors, bright orange webbing accents, and a couple parts made from unpolished aluminum. Like the matching handlebar bag, the pack also has an external latticework shock-cord for stashing a jacket, wet clothes, trash, or anything else you may want to carry, without necessarily mingle with the contents inside the bag. Unlike the Handlebar-Pack, the Seat-Pack has a modular construction. The design of the internal structure and strap mounting systems calls for bolt fasteners to secure them. These in turn pass through the outer fabric, in such a way that the seatbag’s waterproofing isn’t compromised. Furthermore, the modular attachment systems could make it easier to repair, should a buckle get crushed or damaged.
Just by looking at the Seat-Pack, it’s clear there’s something significant going on under the hood. There are four torx bolts that make up the seatpost strap system. As you can see in the photo below and to the left, each bolt screws into an interior rounded hex-nut after passing through the outer fabric shell and the interior aluminum angle bracket that secures the side stiffener panel. This forms part of its unique skeleton, one constructed from two aluminum brackets and a die-cut piece of plastic sheeting (HDPE, I believe), which forms the side panels and two upper struts. The rear upper strut is again secured by a pass-through bolt that doubles as the fastener for the rugged, coated seat-rail straps. This entire system is designed to maintain the shape of the front of the bag, prevents sag, and keep the pack stable. Which it does: the interior armature, combined with the two-strap seatpost system, making this one of the most laterally stable bags I’ve used.
The seatpost straps are really well made. And the aluminum racetrack loops, heavy duty sticky backed material, and quality velcro create a solid and virtually immovable connection to the seatpost. Unfortunately it comes with some drawbacks. The vertical real estate required by the double seatpost straps could be limiting. The fit wasn’t a problem on the Salsa Pony Rustler or Surly Krampus, but when I attached the Seat-Pack to the Niner RLT Steel, I noticed a potential issue. Bikes with a road oriented geometry tend to utilize a top-tube that’s relatively horizontal. This effectively increases the seat-tube height and eliminates the amount of exposed seatpost.
On this installation, as you can see in the photo above and to the right, the bottom strap had to wrap just overlapping the top of the seatpost collar. As a someone who rides a Large sized frame, it’s not a real issue for me. But be aware that it could make the Seat-Pack a no-go for shorter riders on gravel or road bikes. When I shared my observation with Ortlieb, they replied that none of their testers have had a problem with the seatpost straps’ fit thus far. Similar to other seatpacks, another issue I found with the large two strap system is that it can’t really be used with a dropper seatpost unless the post remains in the extended position.
Otherwise, the dual strap design is remarkably solid and worth the limitations, in my opinion. I might add that when loaded to the gills, toward the upper end of capacity, this stability becomes more compromised; the conical shape gives the bag a bit more side-to-side instability (‘tail-wag’) than other bags I’ve tried.
Built for tourers, full-suspension bikes, and Bruce Banner.
When loaded, the Seat-Pack looks slightly different than other bags on the market. Some have a watermelon-like silhouette, while Ortlieb’s sports more of a conical shape, which provides a few benefits. For bikepackers who have experienced thigh rub while using other seat bags, chances are the more narrow design of the Seat-Pack will eliminate that problem. Of course, there’s no guarantee for those of you with legs the size of the Incredible Hulk.
The tapered design also allows for a little more space between the tire and the bag, a promising benefit for use with full-suspension bikes. For testing purposes, I paired the bag with a Salsa Pony Rustler, which boasts 120mm of rear travel and 27.5+ tires (equivalent to the diameter of a of 29er). With the rear shock topped off with a little extra air pressure to account for the load, I didn’t have issues with the bag bottoming out against the rear tire. Furthermore, this setup was tested out in Pisgah, a North Carolina mountain bike playground full of big roots, rocky steeps, and plenty of drops—a stalwart proving ground for suspension.
Even with a slim front, this is a big seat bag. The Ortlieb Seat-Pack is specced at 8-16 liters, about two liters more than the Revelate Viscacha (both min and max) and three more than the Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion V2. Ortlieb employed a longer roll-top to create this extra space, which actually makes it a bit challenging to pack it down to a small and tight package. Refer to the photo on the bottom right… this is about as small as the seat bag will compress (maybe just a hair smaller).
This means it’s likely not the best choice for the ultra-minimalist packer. Personally, I pack my clothing in the seat pack, and that’s it. For an overnighter, I found myself tossing in an extra long-sleeve shirt and pair of pants just to fill it out enough to buckle. Of course, I’d welcome the extra space on a longer trip. And for those folks who rely on a seat pack for a higher percentage of their overall storage needs, this bag should fit the bill nicely. When I mentioned this to Ortlieb, they responded by explaining that given how each bag requires a significant tooling investment, they decided to start with a larger, more versatile version. Fair enough.
A couple stray elements worth noting include the side strap buckles, rear daisy chain, and reflectors. Ortlieb included two pairs of the octagonal reflector prints in the design, so no matter how much you compress the roll-top, they will likely be exposed at the rear. This is a great safety feature for the occasions when it’s necessary to navigate a stretch of trafficked road in the dark. An additional safety feature is the daisy chain fabric layer (shown below) which makes it easy to clip in a blink light. I already mentioned the rugged seat-rail straps, but it’s worth adding that each of the corresponding side straps have a cam-lock buckle, which keeps the webbing from loosening over bumpy tracks.
Full of air.
The crowning jewel on the Seat Pack is a small one. On the non-drive side of the bag there is a small light gray valve (see photos below). When ‘popped’ out, the rubbery plastic valve allows air to pass in and out of the bag’s interior. When it’s ‘popped’ in, it is tightly sealed. At first I wondered how sturdy it could be, but after using it for a month, I think it’s a really nice piece of hardware. To test the valve, and the general seal of the bag, we rolled it tightly with air in it and let it sit for a while…picture a balloon. A couple of hours later, the Seat Pack was still ‘inflated’. I will be curious to see how the valve is affected by long-term use and exposure to sun and weather; we’ll make sure to update this down the road a bit.
- Reinforced design of the front point area helps eliminate sag.
- The Air release valve in great addition to allow better and tighter packing.
- Ortlieb’s waterproof fabric is pretty much dunk proof and known to be fairly burly.
- Nice details including reflective printed triangles.
- The rugged double strap system and internal reinforcements keep it slim and eliminate sag.
- The modular strap system could be a great way of replacing straps, should they get damaged.
- It’s simply too long for packing smaller loads, which is usually my preference with a seat pack.
- The double seatpost straps may restrict shorter riders that may not have enough exposed seatpost (the same theory same applies to road/CX bikes with a horizontal top-tube that leave little seatpost exposed).
- The conical shape can induce a little ‘tail-wag’ when the bag is overstuffed.
- Weight: 430g (15.2oz)
- Volume: 8-16.5L (488–1007 cu.in.)
- Price: $160
- Place of Manufacture: Germany
- Contact: Ortlieb USA
All in all, the Ortlieb Seat-Pack is a great product worthy of consideration if you are in the market for a larger waterproof seat bag. My one real beef is that it’s tough to pack small, which I am prone to do on shorter trips.
This aside, there’s some very nice touches. The push pull air-release valve is very neat, and makes packing the bag all the more fluid. Its dual strap system and interior armature design does a solid job of stabilizing the load, especially from a sag standpoint – as long as the bag isn’t overpacked. From an aesthetic standpoint, Ortlieb created a really nice looking kit by carrying over the neutral, yet not too dull, charcoal gray and matte black scheme with an added pop of orange to set it off.
And last but not least, like the Handlebar-Pack, it carries on the Ortlieb tradition of being thoughtfully engineered, sturdily built, and completely waterproof.
Disclosure: The Ortlieb Seat-Pack was provided for this review about a month prior to launch.