Voile Rack Straps Review
In 2019, Voile released an upgrade of its popular rubber straps designed specifically for securing gear to a rack. In this review, Tara recounts her experience with Voile straps on a trip across the United States and gives the rack-specific model a test. Let's go.
Take a glance at enough bikepacking rigs and you will likely come across Voile straps. They can be seen securing anything in place from dry bags on rear racks to bottles of wine on a frame (yes, I have seen it). It is safe to say that Voile straps are some of the most popular bikepacking products on the market. Certain products such as the King Cage Many Things Cage, for example, are designed specifically to be used with Voile Straps. While somewhat new to the bikepacking scene, these straps have been on the market for three decades. Based out of Salt Lake City, Utah, they were originally created for binding skis together. Now, Voile straps have flooded the bikepacking market as one of the more sought after pieces of gear. The newer Rack Strap was designed specifically for bikepacking front and rear racks. In contrast, the original strap used a simpler, less specialized design. My first experience using the original Voile straps was on a multi-month bikepacking trip in 2019 across the USA.
Learning From My Mistakes
When I started bike touring in 2011, with my traditional four pannier setup, I had never heard of Voile straps. Using some sort of tie down method was essential for securing the load on my back rack which at the time was a 31L Ortlieb Rack Pack. Cheap bungee chords were my go-to. Available at almost any hardware store, they were affordable and readily available. After years of being on the road, these bungees did the job, but I noticed that they easily stretched out over time, creating a not-so-secure setup. I ended up switching to nylon Coghlans Arno straps. These performed well for some time, until I really began to embrace riding on rougher terrain - more bikepacking style trips. In 2019, I was riding a particularly rough section of the Western Wildlands route through Northern Utah using these straps to secure a water bladder on my rear rack. When I reached the next town, I suddenly noticed, to my horror, that my dry sack carrying my 10L water bladder had fallen off of the back. One of my straps was missing and the other was dragging on the ground. I was frustrated with my own negligence. If I was on a remote desert stretch, I could have been in some real trouble. A few days later, In Park City, Utah I purchased a new bladder along with some 32” Voile straps of the original design. Across the rough and remote deserts of Utah and Arizona, they performed flawlessly.
They held everything securely in place, with no stretching whatsoever. I knew I would never use bungees or cheap nylon compression straps ever again.
A Renewed Piece of Mind
Voile Rack straps are made from a very tough polyurethane. They are semi-elastic and come with equally tough nylon rack mounts on each end.
The mounts snap into place on the rack, with one of them having a buckle attachment for the strap. You simply pull tightly on the strap and insert the buckle into one of the many holes. The excess strap is held in place with a simple keeper that can slide up and down the strap. The material has a UV-resistant additive, providing that extra protection against those long hours to months in the intense sun. The original Voile strap was a simpler design without the added rack mounts. When the Rack Strap was later introduced, in my opinion, the company made a great product even greater. Before I was even asked to do a review of the product, I already had previous experience using them on a 2022 trip on the So-Cal Desert Ramble and New Mexico Off-road Runner bikepacking routes.
The Rack Straps come with a choice of either 10mm or 13mm hooks attached, depending on your rack tubing size. Both options are available in 20”, 25” or 32” lengths in orange or black. I used the 25” version on my 2022 bikepacking trip. I had two straps to secure an Earth Pak 10L dry bag and a Hydrapak expedition 8L water bladder. I found the 25” inch length to be sufficient with a completely full bladder and excess food for a three day stretch without resupply. For longer or more remote stretches, when more rack storage is needed, consider the 32” length. So, what sets the Rack Straps apart from the original design? Convenience. Simply, convenience.
A Worthy Upgrade?
The hooks snap easily onto the rack tubing, creating a secure, anti-slip fitting. With the original strap, you would have to reach under the rack to figure out an optimal position to prevent the straps from sliding around. With the new mounting system, the straps stay in one place and accessing extra water on a desert stretch has never been easier. Simply loosen the top, slide out the gear, then reposition, re-torque and go. No more fiddling around underneath the rack. No bikepacker will complain about a faster, more convenient setup, even if we aren't in a huge rush to begin with. Aside from the new mounting hooks, not much has changed from the original design. They use the same ultra tough polyurethane material and nylon buckles that are non-marring, non-conductive and non- reflective. This time, I didn't need to worry about being absent minded and losing a water bladder somewhere in a California desert wash.
No bikepacker will complain about a faster, more convenient setup, even if we aren't in a huge rush to begin with.
During my six weeks of riding on rough tracks in California and New Mexico, the Rack Straps stood up to the task. I only had to reposition one of the hooks once, on a very long and rough descent from Big Bear into San Bernardino. My rear rack was damaged during a flight, resulting in some bent tubing. One of the hooks was mounted to the warped section and had started to come off. I repositioned it and didn't have any issues after that. Even though Voile Rack Straps are very trustworthy on even the roughest descents, I still occasionally check my gear out of habit and for peace of mind. After using cheaper and in my opinion, inferior methods to secure my bikepacking loads I simply can't go back after using Voile Rack Straps.
For both the 10mm and 13mm versions, the Rack Straps retail at $17.00 USD for the 20” version and $17.50, $18.00 for the 25” and 32” versions. This is a steep increase from $7.50 for the original 25” strap without the added rack clips. So, are the rack straps worth it for an extra $10 USD over the original? For me, yes, but I don't believe that all bike packers will necessarily agree.
As previously stated, the only real difference between the two is convenience - they are slightly more user friendly. I used the original straps for over 1000 rough desert miles on the Western Wildlands route with no issues whatsoever. They held my water bladder and 3+ days of food just as securely in place as the Rack Straps. So, a $10 upgrade per strap may seem excessive for something that performs just as well, but is slightly easier (and faster) to use. For me, these little wins make a difference over months and thousands of miles. But for some, the upgrade may just seem like an unnecessary expense.
A Favorite Piece of Kit
The Voile Rack straps have become an integral part of my bikepacking kit and I have no plans to use anything else to secure my loads. I still carry some extras of the original design in varying lengths. In the event of a bottle cage breaking or even pannier attachment failure, they are always handy to have for an emergency fix. In my mind, they are really a “do-it-all” strap. After several multi-month trips, my straps are still in perfect condition and I still expect them to last for years to come. I have always traveled with a rear rack and as long as I have one, I will use Voile Rack Straps.
Get them here.
|Resistant to UV, cold and heat|
|10 and 13mm mounts are compatible with most bikepacking racks|
|More expensive than original straps, with convenience as the only major upgrade|