A good saddlebag is an important piece of bikepacking kit for almost any adventure, especially if you plan to be out more than a night or two. I tested the Ortlieb Seat-Pack ($165 at REI) on a recent three-day trip and found the pack to be stable, easy to install and use, and most importantly, waterproof.
My bikepacking bike is a hardtail with a long-travel dropper post so I opted for the 11L, which is the smaller of the two Saddle-Pack sizes Ortlieb offers. As you can tell from the top photo, the bag attaches to the saddle rails and the seat post. Fortunately, the seat post strap isn’t too low, which leaves a good bit of dropper post travel and tire clearance for those with a full-suspension bike. On my hardtail with a 200mm dropper post, I was still able to use about two-thirds of its travel with the bag installed.
While we’re on the subject of dropper posts, let’s talk bag weight. My Ortlieb Saddle-Pack weighs 370g empty, and I figure all the clothes I stuffed inside added another 1.5 kilograms. The saddle rail straps — the ones that hold most of the weight — seem more than adequate to hold a couple of kilos or even more. My dropper post, however, was not happy about having to lift that extra weight, needing an extra nudge whenever it was time to come back up.
Both of the attaching straps are fixed to the bag using screws so, in theory, a broken strap can be replaced (Ortlieb offers replacement parts on their website). The straps have a rubber-like material on the insides, and I didn’t notice any scratching on my seat post stanchion or saddle rails after 340 miles of riding in sandy conditions. My friend Borja owns this bag too, and he says the velcro on his seatpost strap delaminated during a recent trip, preventing it from securing the base of the pack to his post. Fortunately, I haven’t seen any signs of delamination on my seat post strap, though his experience had me a little worried.
Cinching the straps keeps the pack quite stable, especially in the vertical direction. There is a bit of side-to-side sway which I couldn’t fully eliminate, though it wasn’t enough to be annoying. The horizontal straps — the orange ones that pull the bag toward the saddle and keep it closed — have nice strap managers to keep the excess from flapping in the wind.
I found 11L of storage offers enough space to carry a few days’ worth of clothing. The bottom of the Seat-Pack — basically the part closest to the seat post — is semi-rigid which allows the bag to keep its shape. On the bike, it’s very easy to access the bag’s contents without having to remove it from the bike, which is a major convenience. The roll-top closure features a stout, semi-rigid band that makes for nice, crisp folds. Most importantly, it ensures the bag is waterproof, dry-bag-style. Not only did I find my gear remained dry from rear-tire spray, but even steady rain rolled right off and never found a way inside. The bag material is thick and any seams are well taped and smooth.
An air release valve makes the bag compressible to fit more gear, and to reduce bulk for a nice sleek look. Locked and ready to rock, there are large reflective elements facing rear traffic that made me feel very safe riding dark roads at night. The bag also has mounting points for a rear blinkie light. I clipped one on, only to lose it at some point along the way. I completely blame the light, and not the mount point, which held fast.
Finally, one of my favorite features — aside from the ability to run a dropper — is the external shock cord on top of the bag. This works great for strapping an extra layer onboard — or an extra sub sandwich for later. However bulkier items do tend to creep over the back edge of the saddle, getting in the way when it’s time to fully sit back in the seat.
Overall I really like the Ortlieb Seat-Pack for its ability to keep plenty of gear dry while interfering with my dropper post as little as possible.
- Works well with a dropper post
- Stable and easy to install
- Good amount of soft-goods storage for a few days of bikepacking
Pros and cons of the Ortlieb Seat-Pack
- External storage straps are a little too close to the seat
- I’m nervous about the seat post strap staying intact based on my friend’s experience