Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review: Waterproof with a Zip

Whether or not bikepacking bags are truly “waterproof” is a contentious topic, especially with bag makers claiming their bags are waterproof when they’re clearly not. The Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack is a half-frame bag with welded seams and a unique waterproof zipper that may well be the only truly waterproof bag with a zipper. Find Neil’s Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack review here…

Ortlieb has been manufacturing bike bags for over four decades, and if you’re interested in learning more about their operation, Lucas and Josh visited the brand’s HQ and put together an excellent article on their operation in Germany (find it linked at the bottom of this post). Ortlieb has been making true waterproof bags since the very beginning, and the Toptube Frame-Pack is no exception. Ortlieb uses radio-frequency (RF) welding, which essentially replaces stitching with high-frequency electric fields to bond fabrics together. Stitching, even with taped seams, can’t withstand soaking or submersion, but welded fabrics can. Paired with a TiZip zipper, Ortlieb has designed what I believe is the only waterproof zippered frame pack.

Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review, Ortlieb Half Frame Bag

Although Porcelain Rocket is responsible for the world’s first fully waterproof frame bag, the 52Hz, now made by Rockgeist, it uses a roll-top design that is harder to access and pack up again. Ortlieb’s TiZip, the same type of zipper found on some packrafts, takes some effort to open and close and requires a full closure to ensure a complete waterproof seal, but it’s still is quicker to use compared to a roll-top frame bag.

Specs and Details

The Toptube Frame-Pack is Ortlieb’s half-frame pack. It is made out of a PU-laminated Ripstop Nylon and comes in 3L and 4L sizes and two color options: black and a newer sand color that Ortlieb released earlier this year. It might not seem that important, but I really appreciate another color option other than black. Black is boring. Ortlieb sent me the 4L version, which measures 19.7 x 5.1 x 2.4” (50 x 13 x 6cm) and weighs 190 grams.

  • Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review, Ortlieb Half Frame Bag
  • Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review, Ortlieb Half Frame Bag
  • Ortlieb Frame-Pack Toptube Bag Review
  • Ortlieb Frame-Pack Toptube Bag Review
  • Ortlieb Frame-Pack Toptube Bag Review

Despite this not being a custom frame bag, it actually fits really well. I’ve been running it on the 54cm Kona Ouroboros I recently reviewed, and the fit is nearly perfect, so I imagine it would fit well on lots of other bikes. As a bonus, Ortlieb provides a printable template on their website for both sizes if you need to double-check the fit. Generally speaking, I appreciate half-frame bags for both day rides and bikepacking trips because they allow the use of standard bottle cages while still offering some on-the-go storage.

Installation and Use

For such a simple bag, it’s a little confusing to install. The straps are not all that intuitive, but for good reason. Ortlieb uses hook-and-loop straps with a grippy layer along the top tube that provide a wiggle-free attachment. While they still recommend using frame protector tape, the grippy backing on the straps does a good job at reducing frame wear compared to most stock frame bag straps—so much so that I even removed the tape I had used while testing the Camelbak frame pack before this one. That Camelbak bag moved and shifted quite a bit. With these unique straps and overall bag structure, Ortlieb accomplished a very secure fit, especially with weight inside. If you have knee rub issues, you can also tighten those top straps to reduce the width, but I never encountered that with this bag. The rest of the bag is attached by two One-Wrap straps that work with the daisy chains along the back, front, and bottom.

Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review, Ortlieb Half Frame Bag

The bag has one main compartment but no non-drive side compartment, which is something I like on my frame bags for my phone, tools, and some chain lube. Keeping with their waterproof design (and trying to keep the cost down), I can understand their decision not to add another TiZip on the non-drive side. Inside the bag is a generously sized compartment with no added features. I never really use the pump/pole straps or anything installed inside frame bags, so this is a non-issue for me and just leaves more room for creative packing.

I was able to fit a variety of items in the bags, such as layers, a repair kit, stove kit, my kitchen/dopp kit, pump, tube, and 1.5 liters of water. I also replaced the water for a sleeping pad and down pants at one point during my testing period. Unfortunately, fragile items aren’t safe next to the TiZip. I learned this the hard way when my sleeping pad unknowingly got sucked in the zipper, and it put a large hole in it. So, keeping fragile items made with lightweight fabrics out of the frame bag might be a good idea. The upside is that you are getting a solid zipper that won’t fail you anytime soon.

Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review, Ortlieb Half Frame Bag
  • Ortlieb Frame-Pack Toptube Bag Review
  • Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review, Ortlieb Half Frame Bag
  • Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review, Ortlieb Half Frame Bag

As far as durability goes, Ortlieb has a solid reputation. The clean aesthetics and attention to detail are evident from first glance. While this isn’t a long-term review, the bag is holding up well and shows no signs of wear so far. It feels very sturdy and comes in a fabric that is tough and waterproof. I didn’t use the bag in much rain, but it saw a few puddles and mud. That said, I did several tests of its waterproofness by putting my hose directly on the zipper, and it kept water out. I proceeded to submerge the bag in the kitchen sink, and it again kept all of the water out. I’m impressed!

  • Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review, Ortlieb Half Frame Bag
  • Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review, Ortlieb Half Frame Bag


  • Fully waterproof frame bag with zipper
  • Grippy hook and loop straps create secure and stable fit
  • Two color options
  • Attention to detail and simplicity give it a great look
  • Lots of usable space inside
  • Durable materials and construction


  • No non-drive-side pocket
  • Expensive
  • TiZip zipper can damage delicate items
  • With only two size options, might not fit every bike
Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack Review, Ortlieb Half Frame Bag
  • Model: Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack 4L
  • Actual Weight: 190 grams (6.7oz)
  • Place of Manufacture: Germany
  • Price: $170
  • Manufacturer’s Details: Ortlieb

Wrap Up

If you’re looking for a simple, durable, waterproof partial frame bag with attention to detail and plenty of usable space for your day rides or bikepacking trips, the Ortlieb Toptube Frame-Pack is just the ticket. Just be careful with that zipper. It’s priced at $170 USD for the 4L and $150 for the 3L, so it is a little on the pricey side, but if you appreciate the fully waterproof construction and ethically manufactured products, this is a great option. Plus, it includes a five-year manufacturer defect warranty and a one-year warranty on products they repair. Looking for more storage? Ortlieb also offers this same bag in a full-size version for only $160.

Further Reading

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