When I rode from Seattle to Salt Lake City last year I didn’t camp anywhere, so I didn’t need to pack as much stuff. As a result, I took a big waterproof duffel bag, my tank bag and an empty backpack just in case I had more stuff on the way home. This time around I am going to be camping and that means I have to figure out where to pack all the extra gear.
When I opened the package containing the bags, I found that there was some hardware and a large folded sheet of plastic inside. Initially I was not sure what to do with the pieces as there were no instructions included. Fortunately my googling skills resulted in a nice PDF with simple instructions that had no words, just pictures. I contacted Aerostich about the lack of instructions and Andy Goldfine, the company’s General Manager, assured me that they would be including the aforementioned instructions with every order.
So what were the hardware and the plastic sheet for? The plastic sheet forms a U shape along the bottom of the bag and the hardware attaches it to the bag. This causes the bag to retain its shape even when it’s empty.
Once assembled it is quite clear that these bags are made to be tough. The material seems similar to typical camping dry bags but feels thicker and more durable. The bags differ slightly from the ones pictured on aerostich.com but they are clearly just a newer revision of the same bag. In addition to very solid construction, the bags have reflective material added in key areas. These bags are made to be installed on either the left or the right side so there are reflective patches on both the front and the back of the bag. Inside each bag is an organizer pocket area with slots for pens and pencils and other small pockets. I doubt they will be useful at all to me but if you didn’t have 4 other bags on the bike you may find them handy.
According to Ortlieb’s website, the bags are about 1700 cubic inches each. To give you a better idea of what they can hold, I was able to get all of my camping gear (sleeping bag, cooking stuff, 2 person tent, camp pillow, etc.) into both bags. The only items that would not fit were the tent poles and sleeping pad. Both are too long to fit into the bags.
When it comes to fitment on the bike itself, ideally you would want some sort of tubular saddlebag rack that allowed the top latches to grab onto it and then the bottom pieces would hook inside the bottom of the rack. My Bonneville doesn’t have that sort of rack. The top latches are able to lock onto the top portion of the saddlebag supports but I had to get creative with the placement of the bottom pieces. Included in the packaging are some inserts for the top latches in case you have smaller diameter tubes. Ortlieb advertises that they will fit tubes from 11-16mm in diameter but they include a piece for an 8mm tube as well. My racks are ½ inch tubes which is about 13mm. The only inserts were for 8mm and 11mm. In order to get a tight fit, I ended up using the 11mm inserts. It doesn’t feel like it is putting too much tension on the locking mechanism.
For those of you that don’t have a way to attach the quick release bags, Ortlieb makes a nearly identical set of bags that are designed to be thrown over the passenger seat. To be perfectly honest, I probably would be just as happy with those as I am the quick release ones.
Other than getting them to fit on the bike and doing a sort of “test pack,” I have not been able to use them, yet. Once I get in a camping trip or two with them I will be sure to post a more thorough review. These bags are sold individually and can be found in Aerostich’s catalog at www.aerostich.com. They retail for $127 each.