Between Melbourne and Hanover
Rik Symes has been part of the Camping Schrader family since 2005. Originally a rock-climber, white-water paddler and keen bush-walker, Rik’s favourite sport lately is road cycling, cycle touring and mountain biking. As an Australian who divides his time between Melbourne and Hanover, he never gets tired of riding his bike to other countries-difficult to do from Australia! Favourite recent adventures include riding Bavaria-Austria-Slovenia-Italy-Czech Republic and Mardorf to The Netherlands and return for a weekend.
A comparison between Ortlieb and Vaude.
First of all, why would someone choose bikepacking bags instead of traditional panniers? A very good question; the answer would seem to depend upon how cynical one is and how prepared to “travel light”. For one thing, the capacity of bikepacking bags is considerably less than that of panniers. Consider this- a full set of front and rear Ortlieb Roller Classics and Ultimate 6 bar bag comes in at 72 litres capacity, with no interference to your bike’s ability to carry two bidons and are relatively easily removed for security/convenience. Consider then, Ortlieb’s bikepacking setup of seatpost bag, handlebar pack and frame bag coming in a just over half of that capacity, with 37.5 litres, along with comparatively difficult mounting/removal process and annexation of your bottle cage area. A cynic might even suggest that “bikepacking” (pronounced with disdain) could be just another cashgrab/rebranding exercise cleverly designed to part enthusiastic bike riding types with their hard earned cash after!
they've become convinced they couldn't possibly go touring on a gravel road on a bicycle unless the bike and luggage have been specifically designed for that particular surface. A cynic might. I happen to know from personal experience that's it's possible to ride the Mawson Trail in South Australia on a converted op-shop 28mm tyre shod road bike with, believe it or not, panniers!
A simple look at these figures would seem to prompt the question: Why bikepacking bags then?
Here are the practical answers:
They're narrow-for overgrown singletrack and easier on the inevitable hike-a- biking sessions
The weight is centred-for more familiar, agile, off road use
They can be fitted to almost all bikes- not just traditional touring bikes with numerous rack fittings.
And perhaps most importantly:
They make you pack lighter- given the much reduced volume of bike packing bags, you're forced to reconsider whether you really need that spare saddle, track pump or full sized lamb skin throw. Some of my earliest bike tours were with a partner who carried all of these things. Four panniers, handlebar and frame bags AND a Bob trailer meant he was throwing in things to “use up” that extra space. That was fine until we started up the climb up Mt Hotham.
Anyway, back to Vaude vs Ortlieb. To be clear, I'm comparing Ortlieb’s handlebar bag (15 litres), frame bag (6 litres), seatpost bag (16.5 litres) with Vaude’s bar bag (19 litres!) frame bag (8 litres) and seatpost bag (12 litres)Having used both brands on a number of 3 day European mini adventures, here are my impressions. At a glance, Vaude has a slight volume advantage; 39 litres, compared to Ortlieb’s 37.5 litres with the former having more volume up on the ‘bars and less on the seatpost, compared to the latter. Price is also fairly similar, with the three Vaude bags coming in at €265 vs Ortlieb’s three slightly higher at €300. Not much difference there.
Both are waterproof but only Vaude gives you a choice of colour-black or bright green. In the real world I found the Vaude much simpler to use, with the fasteners, clips and buckles being more of the readily available kind, vs Ortlieb’s proprietary alloy sliding/locking setup.
The biggest difference for my money would be the way each system attaches to the bike. Vaude has gone with a “dry bag and holster” setup whereby the holsters, or cradles if you like, stay attached to the post and bar so you can remove the dry bag(s) for security/convenience. SEVERAL TIMES A DAY. If you want.
The Ortlieb setup is effectively a dry bag with all of the hardware attached. Once fitted to handlebar or seatpost, in other words, they're there until you feel the need to remove them, at which point you'll need to unfasten the attachment points, only to refit next morning. Not a hugely time consuming process but an extra task you could probably do without considering your travel buddy has long since stuffed his lambskin throw easily into his roomy panniers and is standing by, ready to roll.
In short I've opted to go with the Vaude setup. If camping, I use the handlebar bag to easily carry tent/mattress/sleeping bag rolled up in one sausage. If staying in accomodation, I favour the more traditional handlebar bag, of the Ortlieb Ultimate Pro 7 litre variety. Paired with a couple of home made stem bags, this takes care of a pretty vast assortment of snacks, clothing, phone, camera, portable charger, iPod, Bluetooth speaker, maps, wallet, multi tool, sunscreen, tube, toothpaste etc.
For extended trips or where cooking and sleeping gear are required, panniers make more sense. For last minute, seat of the pants, bare bones, overnighters and/or credit card touring, bikepacking gear suits well.
See you soon