If you have been following along, you may have picked up on my frustration for most seat bags. It might be my experience and the products I have used so far, but absolutely none of them have cut the mustard for me. Many saddlebags use the common pattern of nylon straps through saddle rails, which inevitably loosen over time and contribute to the wonderful condition known as tailwag. Beyond tailwag, this pattern also forces riders to completely remove the bag from the saddle to load and unload effectively.
These challenges—common to most of the saddlebags I've met on my travels—leave me a little confuddled, and are ultimately the reason I have moved over to a t-rack and mini pannier system.
When I started talking to Arkel (pronounced Ark-elle), one of Canada's oldest pannier and bike bag makers, I was intrigued by their Rollpacker seat bag. The Rollpacker is more than a bag: it is an integrated bag and rack system. The website even mentions that the Rollpacker eliminates tailwag and many other common challenges of normal seat bags. (A pretty big statement.) However, considering Arkel has been in the business for over 34 years, I was excited to see if it would hold up to its bold declaration.
I'll admit, I was very skeptical going into this one.
Construction & Installation
The Rollpacker is a side entry, fully-waterproof pack that attaches to an alloy rack. The rack has a flexible mount that hugs your seat post and is reinforced with a velcro strap. Under the saddle, a quick release mechanism slides between the saddle rails and clamps the rack into place. It has a top entry pocket for quick access. The bag itself weighs in at 454 g / 1 lb, with the rack weighing in at 363 g / .8 lb. I opted for the 15 litre version that boasts a max load weight 15.4 lb / 7 kg.
Installing the Rollpacker was an absolute snap. I simply slid the seat post mount on, tightened the velcro strap, and attached the quick release to the saddle rails. It took less than a minute, but if you need help Arkel has a great video here to help you along. There are two ways to install the Rollpacker: riders can mount the pack on top of the rack or below it. (Whether you chose above or below may depend on the size of your bike.) My Surly Krampus is a size large, but I chose to put the bag on top of the rack anyway.
I was (happily) surprised that the Rollpacker fit with my PNW dropper post and my Aenomaly Constructs SwitchGrade. Although I can't use my dropper post with the rollpacker on the bike, at least I didn't need to swap it out for a solid seat post. Woot.
Before I even got outside, I could see that the Rollpacker was very well thought out. It has a solidity to it that you don't really see in many seatbags, and I kept finding detail after detail that surprised me. The straps are strong, the rack is solid, small loops for carabiners, everything is well sewn and manufactured.
More importantly, it's a clever design. Even as a rack, the idea of attaching to the seatpost and with a quick release on the saddle rails is amazing. The rack could even be used on its own without the bag for pretty much anything you might need within the weight limits.
My skepticism was waning.
The first noticeable benefit of the Rollpacker is zero tailwag. I need to be clear about this… the bag has absolutely no tailwag. And because there are no straps through the rails, there is really nothing that can loosen from lateral motion. Even when up and out of the saddle while climbing, the bag stays put, exactly where you want it.
On the flipside, the Rollpacker does have a bit of up and down motion to it. Since the weight of the bag is out a little further, the alloy rack does have a small amount of flex resulting in a subtle bounce. Depending on the type of riding you do, this may not be an issue. The only time I really felt the bounce was when I was running through singletrack and ripping through the roots and rocks. I can't confirm this at the moment, but I think mounting the pack under the rack would dissipate this bounce.
With the pack mounted on top, the whole kit sits higher than a regular saddlebag, and I could feel it softly hugging my butt. I thought this would annoy me, but it actually ended up feeling like a seat rest and was kinda nice. It made me feel a bit more attached to my bike. Especially when rolling downhill, fully bagged, I was able to stabilize the bike more with my butt on the bag. Buttstabilty.
By this point, I was starting to think the Rollpacker is straight-up rad.
On & Off & In & Out
Where the Rollpacker really shines is in its accessibility. As I mentioned above, one of my biggest pet peeves with normal seat bags is that you basically need to completely remove it to get access to all the items in the bag. Getting the Rollpacker bag off the rack is a super simple action that takes two seconds. The bag is held in place by two straps with durable clasps. Simply undo the clasps and slide the bag off the rack. And getting it back on is just as easy.
I have never been a huge fan of side entry roll bags, which I call sausage sacks. I have some sort of trauma from my 15L handlebar Ortlieb that can never seem to balance properly. However, when strapped to a rack, the sausage format seems to work wonderfully. When my bike was lying on the ground, getting in and out of the sides was incredibly natrual and easy.
And the best for last: the top pocket. Any bag that has a quick access pocket like this is a winner. In my opinion, more bag companies need to do this no matter where the bag is located on the bike.
I'll just say it, the Rollpacker system is killer. I am having a hard time finding any faults with it. There are so many great choices and details with the Rollpacker that could have only come from a mature bag maker. The 34 years of Arkel experience shows in every aspect of the bag. If I had to find a fault, it would be that it doesn't work with my dropper post. But that's a stretch, as Arkel in no way asserts that it would.
The Rollpacker system would be a great choice for all types of bikepackers and tourers, but especially ideal for you shredpackers...the bikepackers that are out there hitting the singletrack between long roads of gravel, in the mountains.
At $330 CAD, the Rollpacker system isn't the cheapest on the market, but with a lifetime warranty and being as good as it is, the price almost seems like a deal compared to some larger known brands.
I started this review skeptical. If anything, before it arrived, I had already convinced myself I didn't like it. I am humbled by the Rollpacker and learnt something about myself in the process. Arkel asked me to send the bag back after I was done trying it out, and I was genuinely sad to see it go. Get it here.
P.S. A few weeks ago, Arkel changed ownership and it sounds like a lot of changes are happening at the company. The team assures me that this means more new and exciting products from Arkel. If the Rollpacker is a signal for where Arkel is headed in the future, we should all keep our eyes on them.
|Super solid and high quality manufacturing|
|Attention to detail and a lot of value for the price|
|Doesn't work with a dropper post|
|Subtle up and down bounce in the singletrack|