Apidura Saddle Pack Dry Review: Brits know rain.
Mike Howarth tests the new Apidura Saddle Pack Dry in some of the wettest and muddiest conditions in the UK.
Words and photos by Mike Howarth
Us Brits know a thing or two about rain, in fact we pride ourselves on it. After queuing, discussing the weather is our second favourite pastime and one of the main conversation starters for any self respecting Brit. I mean what else would we talk about whilst we are queuing?
Bikepacking gear designed and manufactured in sunnier, drier climes is often lost upon its British brethren, as we find ourselves questioning the latest uber material, how it will cope immersed in rain and mud all day and ultimately whether our sandwiches and pork pies will stay dry.
You see, whilst our summers can be glorious, they are a frustratingly short lived affair. Blink and you’ll miss those bone dry and dusty trails we lust after in the magazines. The cycle once again begins as damp trails eventually turn into bog fests with the onset of winter.
Unsurprisingly then that Carradice, an English bag manufacturer would go some way to creating some of the earliest waterproof bike luggage and indeed saddlebags.
In many ways the Carradice Long Flap Camper could be thought of as the forerunner to the seat packs we associate with bikepacking today. Whilst Carradice may still manufacture their goods in England, the majority of British manufacturing has long since left our shores. The materials and manufacturing processes have since evolved to meet the demands of the modern day rider.
Since those halcyon days of British manufacture, North American brands like Revelate Designs and Porcelain Rocket have been pivotal in the evolution of bikepacking specific luggage.
So it’s with great interest we look at British based Apidura’s answer to that perennial British problem; rain. Can they produce something as equally classic as their forefathers?
Apidura Saddle Pack Dry: Appearance & Detail
Apidura’s magicians have conjured up a specially designed fabric claimed to be 100% waterproof, whilst maintaining a durable material which is both abrasion and tear resistant. In addition, high abrasion prone areas are reinforced with an ultra-durable TPU hypalon to provide additional protection against friction and puncture.
On closer inspection the main body of the bag is constructed from two pieces of Apidura’s wonder material dry welded together. It’s neat stuff, with no visible external seams or joints.
The Saddle Pack’s structure is provided by HPDE giving its overall shape with ultra durable hypalon material used across all the main contact points helping to alleviate those dreaded rub marks on your pride and joy.
As with Apidura’s existing seat pack, you can expect to find a bungee cord tie down on the top of the pack for extra stowage, along with attachment points for lights and reflective material providing enhanced visibility during the nighttime hours.
Mounting the Saddle Pack Dry on the bike is achieved using a familiar mounting system, a burly velcro strap around the seatpost provides plenty of bite helping to stablise the pack against any lateral movement along with a two way clip attachment over the saddle rail.
We received one of the pre-production prototypes for test in mid February and spent months testing the Saddle Pack Dry through April showers and into the height of an English summer. Don’t be fooled by the use of the word ‘summer’, that still means plenty of rain and with it opportunity to test out of the bags waterproof credentials.
The small sized pack (9L) proved to be a perfect companion for several S24O trips, providing enough room to store a synthetic jacket, waterproofs and a selection of clothing for the changeable UK conditions through early spring. Equally a lightweight quilt and sleeping mat could easily be accommodated.
My first trip out with the Saddle Pack saw me bivy on top of Mam Tor an exposed ridgeline in the England’s Peak District. Once settled under my tarp, the heavens opened, almost biblical in fashion, the rain poured and poured overnight. The morning’s first steps instantly soaked my trainers on the water logged ground but I was pleased to find that Apidura’s 100% waterproof credentials certainly holds true as I pulled out dry clothing from the pack.
Over the course of the test, Apidura’s wonder material performed faultlessly, beading water off each and every passing shower. Like a Kinder Surprise, the Saddle Pack revealed dry gear each time I unrolled it. Despite being propped against walls, and even dragged across several walls and fences the material proved to be very durable with few signs of any noticeable wear and tear almost 5 months on.
Often, with other models, I’ve found that it takes a couple of attempts to load a seat bag tightly. The first attempt ensures the contents settle out and compress down. Then a final attempt sees that any trapped air is expelled. Apidura’s use of an air release valve solves this problem neatly, meaning that the saddle pack can be compressed consistently each time.
The bag’s tapered profile and solid structure provided means it’s straightforward to pack the Saddle Pack minimising those awkward bulges thanks to the bags tough material. In use I found the bag favoured more solid items packed toward the bottom of the bag with softer more bulky items toward the top where the compression straps were able to compress the contents.
The Saddle Pack’s chunky velcro strap ensures that it is cinched tight against the seatpost, and the two way saddle rail compression straps mean there was little noticeable tail wag whilst in use. Thanks to the bag’s diminutive stature, getting over the back of the saddle on steeper and techier descents was never a problem.
The use of the super sturdy Woojin buckles is a nice touch but I found they did not shed mud very well and the buckles were sometimes slightly vague to engage. Ejecting the bag into the rear wheel after a quick stop to pull out a rain jacket, it was easily solved with a squirt of the water bottle to clean up the buckle.
Unpacking my bike after my final ride before writing this review I noticed an issue with the material around my preproduction test prototype version of the saddle pack; the two way saddle attachment had began to shear away from the bag around the attachment point stitching. However, Apidura sent me a production version and they clearly addressed this issue. By increasing the weave density of the black body fabric and adding an interior reinforcement underneath the saddle attachment point, they beefed up this connection point to stand up to the type of abuse that the UK’s Peak District can dish out.
- Size Tested 9L
- Capacity 9L/14L
- Weight 325g/350g
- Price £118/£126
- Place of manufacture China
- Contact Apidura.com
- Durable material
- Paired back design
- Simple attachment system
- Excellent clearance even on smaller sized bikes
- Non removable harness
- Small size (9L model) may be too minimal for anything more than quick overnight blasts
- Compression straps could have done with slightly more adjustment for smaller loads
Over the past several months, Apidura’s Saddlepack Dry has become my go to seat pack for short trips like S240s and short weekend blasts thanks to its diminutive stature.
I’m certain it will be appeal to those looking for a stripped back offering, focussing on low weight, waterproofness and simple operation. In fact it makes the perfect race saddlepack which is where Apidura’s race pedigree shines through once again making it one of the lightest fully waterproof seat packs available.
Equally Apidura’s larger volume seat pack is svelte weighing in at just 25g more than the model reviewed however it faces stiffer competition amongst excellent offerings from Porcelain Rocket and Revelate Designs.
For those on longer trips who are perhaps a little less weight conscious the long term usability of a removable dry bag and holster system may be slightly more attractive.
About The Contributor
Mike Howarth cut his teeth mountain biking in the Pennines, a range of hills in the north of England. Since those first trips on his doorstep, his travels by bike have taken him across the world in search of mountains, singletrack and endless dirt roads. Follow Mike’s travels at his blog and Instagram @mikehowarth.