Outer Shell 137 Basket Bag Review
Outer Shell’s 137 Basket Bag is built to fit the sturdy cage of a Wald 137 wire basket. Although not designed specifically for toting a camera, various accessories make this a very appealing option for bikepacking shutterbugs, as well as anyone looking for a bag that’s both practical for camping trips and around town…
I’m often asked how I carry my camera, either a full frame Canon 5D mk3 DSLR or a Fuji XT-2 mirrorless, generally accompanied by a few lenses and a couple of spare batteries. Over the years, I’ve experimented with a whole slew of options, from backpacks to handlebar holsters to front pouches, depending on the kind of terrain I’m expecting, be it dirt roads or techy singletrack, and how much gear I want to carry.
Although Outer Shell’s 137 Basket Bag isn’t designed specifically for large cameras, an optional insert kit makes it an especially appealing way to carry your prized DSLR or mirrorless, and a couple of extra lenses. And that’s how I’ve been using it. In fact, designer Kyle Ng is a photographer himself so it’s perhaps less surprising that he offers a range of camera-friendly accessories, from additional closed foam walls and adjustable dividers ($25), a shoulder strap ($10), and even a specialist strap for a camera ($58).
As a rule, baskets place weight further forward, which tends to make them less suited to the likes of technical bikepacking routes like the Colorado Trail or the AZT. However, being ultra practical and surprisingly sturdy, they’re nigh on perfect for dirt road touring, gravel riding, and just cruising around town. Mine is attached with weather resistant zip ties to a light and minimal Rivendell Mark’s Rack (335g), which offers 4 point mounting and is surprisingly stiff for its weight. Bear in mind too that the 137 Basket Bag sits relatively high, so you won’t be able to see your front wheel. This isn’t necessarily an issue, but something to be aware of.
These considerations aside, the 137 Basket Bag is super stable, with two easily adjusted straps that run through two lengths of daisy chains to anchor it in place. If tackling especially rambunctious, rocky terrain, I’d advise using the side straps too; although they’re designed to compress the bag to make it less boxy for carrying on your shoulder, they also serve to offer extra support when cinched down through the framework of the basket. Either way, the bag is quick to remove and with an optional shoulder strap, convert into a really nice camera or general tote bag.
The bag isn’t just limited to baskets though. In the interests of saving some weight, I also experimented with fitting it on a Rawland Demiporteur rack – see images directly below. The size is absolutely perfect but as expected, this lighter configuration is better suited to mellow dirt roads, as it sits a little less securely than within the confines of a basket.
As for the bag itself, it features a number of useful storage spaces, including a zippered compartment to the front and rear, side sleeves, and a clear plastic top. Accessed from the inside, the latter has proved resistant to UV degradation so far and is especially handy for a map, a notebook, a cycling cap, a pair of sunglasses etc… The front pocket works especially well if you’re running a dynamo hub and charging batteries – it teamed perfectly with my Sinewave Beacon I have mounted on the front of my rack. The bag also features a catch-all drawstring skirt, which ensures nothing can work its way out and helps protect from the elements.
As for camera-friendly additions, the optional and movable dividers velcro into place, much like a traditional camera bag; they work well to compartmentalise the Basket Bag’s roomy innards even if you’re not carrying a camera. Also included in the extra $25 are closed cell wall panels that replace the thinner semi-rigid plastic inserts ones that come included, offering extra support and more ‘boxiness’. The underside of the bag is padded too, but I actually found sitting my camera on my merino sleeping layers and other soft clothes helped provided an additional cushion and made a good use of space. After all, the bag is big: there’s plenty of room for a full frame body with lens attached, as well as a couple of additional lenses, and plenty of odds and ends. Mirrorless users are spoilt for space with room for a camera and much more. And when you just want to use it as a normal bag, the closed foam walls can be quickly removed to maximise capacity and create more malleability.
As for access, it’s simply a case of unlatching two plastic hooks that clip onto the wire frame of the basket – or directly onto a platform rack – and lifting the lid. This makes grabbing your camera especially easy. In practice, I didn’t cinch the drawstring each time, unless I wanted to be extra vigilant with keeping out dirt and dust. When you’re off the bike, the hooks latch onto two small tabs to keep the bag firmly shut.
Build quality is particularly good and there’s a sense of human craftsmanship that’s often lost in mass-produced bags. There’s also a whole range of appealing colours to choose from for those who want to customise their ride, as well as a couple of materials – mine is the Graphite X-Pac version, which incurs a $20 upcharge, and is considered to be more waterproof than Cordura.
Speaking of which, I haven’t had a chance to try it in a serious downpour. Although the drawstring closure should keep the majority of the elements at bay – certainly, it’s proved amply dustproof – given the open lid rather than rolltop design, I’d still recommend throwing valuables in a waterproof rollbag if you’re expecting prolonged, monsoon-like conditions.
- Measurements: 13x8x8″(+ 5″ drawcord section), 33x20x20cm (+ 13cm drawcord section)
- Capacity: 13.6-18.6 liters
- Weight: 695g (950g with inserts)
- Place of Manufacture: CA, USA
- Price: from $170
- Manufacturer’s Details: Outershell
- Good amount of space for even a full frame camera, handy compartmentalisation for lenses
- Even roomier if you’re not using it for a camera, thanks to the removable closed foam sidewalls
- Very secure
- Easy to remove and use as a shoulder bag
- Excellent build quality
- Looks great, with lots of colour options
- The bag, Wald 137 basket, and minimal rack make for a relatively heavy combo
- Front loading with a basket is less singletrack-friendly than rollbags that fit flush to the handlebars
- You can’t see your front wheel
If you’re a bikepacker who takes your photography seriously, Outer Shell’s 137 Basket Bag provides a very secure space to stow your gear, with a clever bungee system that makes accessing it quickly and easily. Even if you’re not a shutterbug, this is still a very worthy bag to consider, considering its capacious interior and variety of compartments. Remove the additional closed cell walls and it gets even bigger, and you’ll save yourself some weight too. The whole bag is also really nicely made, comes in a great palette of colour options, and teems with attention to detail.
I especially like how quickly it can be removed when you’re away from your bike, making it an excellent option for local camping trips, riding around town, and long distance tours where security is a concern. My only caveat is that such a basket-style setup falls squarely into the dirt road and gravel category of bikepacking, rather than routes that involve a large percentage of technical singletrack.