Revelate Mag-Tank: Fit for Vikings
Inspired by Vikings — one source says — the new Revelate Mag-Tank forgoes a zipper and provides bag access via a smartly contoured top flap held in place by a brilliant magnetic buckle. See how it performed over 1000+ miles of rough and tumble terrain. Also, find a comparison with the venerable Gas Tank.
Back in the mid-2000s Revelate released the Gas Tank, a handy top-tube mounted bag that resembles the teardrop shaped fuel tanks on ’70s and ’80s motorcycles. When I asked Dusty at Revelate to provide a little background on the product, he assured me that the original design was, “… inspired by pelvic packs used by vikings… when attempting to mount their horses these packs became a little awkward, so they eventually figured a way to mount them on the neck of their steeds.” Dusty’s not always a reliable historian, so I dug a little deeper and asked founder Eric Parsons. It turns out the original Gas Tank was in fact derived from the classic ‘Bento Box’ used by road racers and triathletes to store easy access nutrition without affecting the ride position. The name of the game was one-handed operation.
Back then Revelate’s Gas Tanks were hand cut, sewn, and stitched in Eric’s garage. The original design featured a double horizontal zipper with the pull tabs linked together. This worked great as far as one-handed operation was concerned, but it allowed for a bit of a gap that could let moisture in during heavy rain. In 2011 or 2012 the design changed to the current perimeter zipper version which still provides one handed operation — although a bit tough once it gets gummed up with dust — but helps stop water from pouring in when fully closed. FYI, the Gas Tank will still be manufactured with no future plans of removing it from the Revelate line-up.
Over a year ago Eric started toying with a new variation on the top-tube bag using a magnetic closure system. Speed and ease was the primary focus. I had the pleasure of testing a prototype on our long and bumpy romp through Kyrgyzstan back in August — two photos below — and just a couple months ago Eric sent the final version which I’ve used on a lot of trail rides as well as the 350 mile Palmetto Trail.
Both the prototype and the production version possess a similar shape, build, and size to the current Gas Tank top-tube bag. The Mag-Tank is slightly shorter in length and has a beveled upper front allowing the double layer VX21 Xpac flap to close over the opening of the bag, thus preventing water ingress. Both prototype and the production model also have the same magnetic closure system that holds the flap in place and allows one-handed access — a two piece hook and latch buckle with mechanical engagement that secures via internal magnets. When I strapped the initial prototype on for the first time in Kyrgyzstan, I had my doubts. I foresaw small items, such as a lighter or pocket knife, spilling out of the lid edges. I envisioned precious snacks getting left by the wayside because the magnetic latch disengaged when bouncing down some rock-strewn track. However, I’ve since tested it on 1,000 kilometers of rough terrain in Kyrgyzstan, countless portages over rivers and boulders, and with the current production model, a trip on the Palmetto Trail and many miles of rugged trail riding in Pisgah National Forest. Without one lost item or unintentional opening, I feel I’ve pretty much guaranteed that this thing will keep contents secure and in the bag.
The buckle system is brilliant. Basically when anywhere near each other, the two halves of the buckle magnetically align and engage via a small channel that places a hook on the inner half over a small inset ridge on the outer. A small tab keeps it in place and the latch can only be disengaged by pulling the elastic drawcord down and out simultaneously. In addition, it is incredibly easy to operate… with just a thumb. Take a peek at the video and closeups below to get a feel for it. It works and works well, enough said.
The body of the Revelate Mag-Tank is constructed out of polyurethane coated VX42 XPac. The interior features a 420 denier yellow and red lining that sandwiches closed cell foam padding on the bottom and front, and HDPE on the sides to keep it stiff. The lower inner half of the magnetic buckle is held on with a bar-stitched hypalon loop and the upper outer half is affixed to an elastic loop drawcord, bar stitched to the lid. The Mag-Tank has two straps, a beefy top-tube strap with a rubberized no-slip reinforced fabric — just like that of the Gas Tank — and a moveable one wrap strap on a bar stitched two position daisy chain on the front.
Gas Tank vs Mag-Tank
At $59 the Mag-Tank is priced only $4 more than the Gas Tank, so unless you are counting quarters price isn’t really a deciding factor between the two. Aside from the closure system, their main difference is space. Revelate claims the Mag-Tank is about 65 cubic inches while the Gas Tank is 70-80. To illustrate this I stuffed both with Larabars. The Revelate Mag-Tank fit about 14 bars, whereas the Gas Tank fits about 16 or 17. Also, the opening of the Gas Tank allows unfettered access to the complete body of the bag, but the Mag-Tank is angled inward at the opening which leaves a smaller aperture. This is not an issue for me, but if you’re interested in storing longer items, or a lot of small items where fumbling around might be a bone of contention, you might consider the Gas Tank. Also, if you value stuffing things to no end, the full-perimeter zip helps and the Gas Tank holds a little more. But if quick access is your thing, the magnetic buckle and flap system on the Mag-Tank is pretty much the best in class. This offers a true one-handed operation while the Gas Tank is a little more fumbly, and once the zipper gums up with dust, it usually requires two hands. While comparing the two options, it’s also worth noting another minor difference. While the strap system is relatively similar, the Gas Tank has a three position daisy-chain on the front while the Mag-Tank — due to it’s angled top — has only two.
- The Magnetic buckle is genius and works with just a simple outward and downward pull; alternatively it self closes when the flap is flipped back over.
- The combination of angled lines, two Xpac finishes, hypalon corners, and red barstitches make it a really attractive bag.
- The Mag-Tank is a good size for most bike packing exploits.
- A very tight and sturdy design.
- The opening isn’t as large as the Gas Tank, so accessing items that get buried requires a little more effort.
- If you push the top buckle half all the way to the top of the drawcord, it’s a little finicky to latch. More of a pro-tip than a con, really.
- It might be a little small for folks who likes whopping top-tube bags.
- It only comes in black.
- Volume: 1.07 liters (65 cu in)
- Size: 8.5″L X 5″H X 2.5″W (at stem)/21.6 X 12.7 X 6.35cm
- Weight: 128g (4.5oz)
- Place of Manufacture: Alaska, USA
- Price: $59.00
- Contact: RevelateDesigns.com
All in all I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the Revelate Mag-Tank. As mentioned, the closure system is perfect in both quick operation and security. It also sports a streamlined and sharp design, and for me it’s the perfect size. Recently I’ve been using it mostly on my local trail rides to carry a set of keys, my wallet, an iPhone 6 and a snack or two. For those unfamiliar, Pisgah is a pretty rough and tumble trail system. Roots, rocks, and steep technical bits are a common occurrence. Given that I trust my iPhone and keys in the Mag-Tank on these trails says a lot. Revelate nailed it with this one and considering their track record for bags that never quit, I suspect I’ll be using this Mag-Tank for years to come.