Revelate Terrapin Review: The Amphibious Seat Bag
In the fall of 2013, Revelate Designs released the Terrapin, the first seat pack to combine a removable waterproof drybag with a holster-like mount. The latest version improves on this original design in several ways. Having had a chance to beat one up on a big trip in southern Spain, here’s what we found…
For those unfamiliar with the Terrapin, the idea is simple. Like most seat bags, the Terrapin secures to the seat post via a velcro strap, and the seat rails with two strap clips. But it also differs from the typical seat bag design in the fact that it’s a harness system which secures a dry bag that can be quickly removed from the bike for ‘in the tent’ packing or unpacking. The Terrapin has a unique compression system and stiff HDPE reinforced panels to decrease lateral sway and contain a potentially hefty load. The two side straps utilize an upward pull to tighten the left and right panels in conjunction with the bottom, yielding an intricate compression that secures and shapes the load within the harness.
The Structure and How It’s Packed
At first glance, the Terrapin V2 appears to be almost identical to the original, one of our favorite seat packs on the market. However, on closer inspection, there are several improvements to note about the system itself.
First, when connected, the overall angle of the pack is slightly steeper. This isn’t visibly evident, even when it’s loaded, but the idea is to prevent buckling where the bottom pan of the harness meets the curve at the seatpost. I typically pack as little as possible in the seat pack, so this hasn’t been an issue. However, when the dry bag is overloaded, and heavier items are packed last, toward the rear of the dry bag, there is some noticeable sagging in both the V1 and V2 systems which results in a bit of buckle. To prevent this, and to maintain a better center of gravity as a result, heavier items should be packed first, at the bottom of the bag. Also, it is ideal to pack bulkier items first, creating a tapered shape at the back.
Speaking of packing, it’s worth briefly referencing Porcelain Rocket’s Mr. Fusion (V2), the other waterproof, holster-system seat pack on the market, which we’ll be reviewing shortly. Broadly speaking, Mr Fusion has the upper hand in stabilizing a heavy or poorly packed load, thanks to a design that incorporates a steel tube support that fixes to the seatpost. But the size, adaptability and build quality of the Terrapin are hard to beat.
In fact, packing the Terrapin is key to how it performs. Considering the importance of keeping spare clothes dry, I found the Terrapin’s fully sealed and radio frequency welded dry bag the perfect place to stow them – especially given the easy bike-to-tent transfer of its holster system. Personally, I find that rolling up clothing and placing in a lateral position in the bag not only helps preserve space, but it also stiffens the load to work better. Others prefer to store their sleeping bag and pad in the seat pack; this is also a logical solution as they are typically the most lightweight pieces of gear in a bikepacking kit, and as important to keep dry.
What Else Changed
Another major modification is the two strap rear buckle system, which changed from a single strap on the first iteration of the Terrapin. Two straps make a substantial difference in the stability of the bag. The new strap system tightens by pulling in an upward motion which inherently moves the rear of dry bag up and reinforces the position of the load, eliminating the sag factor. In addition, there is a nice stabilizer truss strap which keeps the two main straps in place, and doubles as a good spot to clip a blinky light. Each buckle also has a locking mechanism to keep it securely in place.
The biggest visible change in the holster system is the addition of a top mounting deck at the rear of the holster. The deck has two daisy chains of webbing designed to take Revelate Washboard straps, the Revelate Sprocket accessory bag, or a small dry bag, trash bag, or anything else you can strap on, including a Spot Tracker.
Other additions include tweaks to the mounting panels, abrasion guards under the main mounting buckles, and an alloy loop in the front seatpost attachment. But, one of my personal favorite additions hasn’t yet been released (no pun intended)… the air release valve in the dry bag. This is priceless. Instead of having to roll up the bag, squeeze air out and still have an air bubble, the twist operated valve allows you to roll the bag and get the air out, then close the valve to have a vacuum sealed load!
It’s also worth highlighting a few things that Revelate kept in the design, which make the original Terrapin so good. Like all other Revelate gear, the contact points, fabrics, and hardware are nearly bombproof. It’s still made of the same burly materials, including VX21, Rhinotec, and a 200-denier waterproof TPU laminated nylon. The seat rail attachment strap is plastic coated for maximum durability. The velcro seatpost strap is reinforced and includes a pull tab and nonslip contact coating. In addition, the contact fabric at the seatpost is also made of extra-durable non-slip fabric.
One aspect worth noting though, is that Terrapin is a relatively large seat pack. At 14L, with a fairly voluminous girth and taller stature, it may not be for everyone. Shorter riders using plus tires or 29” wheels may find limited space without risking tire rub, although in extreme cases, this may exclude the use of a seat pack altogether. For example, with long legs (a 33” inseam), my seatpost is usually adjusted near the maximum extension; this leaves plenty of room for the Terrapin, no matter the wheel and tire size combination. But for Gin, who is 5’8” with a long torso, the space between the seat and rear tire is limited. We found that smaller seat bags, such as the Revelate Viscacha or the Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion, are a safer bet when used on a 29+ rig. If in doubt, it’s worth trying a Terrapin out before committing to one.
- Weight (with drybag): 17.5 oz / 496g
- Volume: 14L with 3 rolls of the closure
- Place of Manufacture: Oregon, USA (harness), Asia (dry bag)
- Price (with non air release dry bag): $125
- Contact: RevelateDesigns.com
Overall, every tweak on the Terrapin V2 has been made for a good reason – it’s a definite improvement over the original. As mentioned, it’s also a spacious seat bag, perfect for those who appreciate the extra packing room and have adequate space between the seat and rear tire. In addition, the new air release valve is a genius addition; and though it’s not currently available, look for it to be in stock toward the end of January.
What’s more, the Terrapin is built to Revelate’s usual standards; you’ll be hard pressed to find a seat pack with a more, thought out, rugged, and well built construction. Even if you haven’t tried one before, we’re sure that you’ll soon become a devotee of the removable dry bag system, as nothing beats it for ease of operation and convenience.
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