Revelate Vole Review: 11th Time’s a Charm.
Revelate Designs just released the Vole, an all new dropper post seat bag complete with an interesting strap design and a skid plate. Over the last few months we had the chance to beat the crap out of a prototype, and recently got a look at the production bag. Here’s the full review, video included…
With over a year of R&D and 11 prototypes in its wake, Revelate’s dropper seatpost specific seat bag, the Vole, has finally hit the streets, or trails, as it were. The Vole shares a lot of great features with their recently released Terrapin 8L seat bag, likely a sign of things to come for other Revelate bags. These include independent saddle rail straps, new buckles, and a plastic skid plate, to name a few. But, the Vole is designed with more aggressive riding in mind and tailored specifically for technical mountain biking. We had a chance to test a prototype, as well as get a look at the production model. Find the full review below with a product intro video by Joey Schusler down towards the spec chart.
To preface, you’ll find photos of two bags in this review. The dark camo/black one above is the first-run production model. The second one, shown below with alpine white side panels, is a late-stage prototype that we’ve had for a few months. Aside from colors, the two are very similar. However, Eric and the Revelate team ended up making a couple minor modifications based on feedback and testing. This included lengthening the bag by a couple inches and changing out some materials. The production model uses Revelate’s signature coated X-Pac black fabric in the back. The white camo/gray and black camo/gray are in fact the two color combos available for purchase, barring a few minor aesthetic details—for example, the white one gets red trim instead of blue.
There are couple other disclaimers to note. The first-run production model shown here has two slight variations from the Vole that will be available early May. The final version has strap keepers on the main cam straps and the two loop clasps face the opposite direction (with the opening facing the front of the bag). This was a last minute quality control fix based on ease of operation. Please note that much of the testing was done by TJ Kearns, a friend, photographer, and fellow bikepacker. Ryan Sigsbey also has a couple photos below. With that said, a few of the pros and cons are based on discussions with TJ. Based on TJ’s riding ability, I can assure you that no punches were pulled while attempting to destroy this bag on Pisgah’s toughest downhills. OK, now, on with the review…
Straps and Attachment
As noted, the Revelate Vole shares a few features with the new Terrapin 8L, introduced just a few weeks ago. The most notable is the new style of saddle rail straps. Instead of using a center-mounted webbing point that loops over the rails, Revelate implemented independent, side-mounted, urethane-coated loops that individually thread through each rail from the inside out. Each loop is then connected to one of the main straps with a plastic hitch and tightened with an auto-locking active cam buckle. This pulls the bag tight against the saddle, and, from a performance perspective, is a huge improvement over the single-mount rail strap on previous bags.
The other two main straps are the 1” seatpost strap that’s intended for use with the Wolf Tooth Valais, which is included with the Vole. The Valais is a plastic clip that clamps around the dropper seat post stanchion to protect it from abrasion and provide a bail out device should a post fail on a remote backcountry trip, and, according to Revelate, also gives the nose of the Vole a platform to rest against and helps keep the bag stable. That said, TJ used the Vole sans Valais. It’s worth noting that he didn’t experience any noticeable abrasion, owing to the rubberized fabric layer on the inside of the seatpost strap. The other strap is the main body strap that’s connected to the underside of the bag. It threads through the plastic skid plate and loops around the back of the bag, where its metal hitch attaches to another coated loop on the bag’s top. The rear of the bag is a simple roll closure that fastens via plastic pinch clips.
Attaching the Revelate Vole to the bike is fairly straightforward, albeit a little fiddly. Two hands, small fingers, or the help of a screwdriver might minimize the frustration of getting the “indie” saddle rail straps through the rails. However, once it’s on, you can forget about it. And, I imagine the full production version goes on a little easier since the clasps open forward.
Upon first inspection, I was a little worried about the durability of the plastic hitch (above-left), but I was confident Revelate did their homework, and testing, so it wasn’t something I was too concerned about. And after TJ put it through the Pisgah paces, I’m not at all concerned. That said, it does seem like the most vulnerable piece on the bag, though if it were to break it could easily be replaced since that entire piece of webbing is separate.
The Revelate Vole is constructed mainly with coated X-Pac and and has several panels in Rhinotek, a plasticized fabric, toward the front of the bag, and one piece of Hypalon where webbing connects under the skid plate. There are four pieces of plastic built into the Vole—two sewn in lightweight side panels, a heavier-duty triangular plate sewn in to top panel, and the burly skid plate on the bottom. The skid plate is bar-tack stitched to the Rhinotek bottom panel and secured via straps through three slots.
The obvious function of the skid plate is to keep the bag protected from the rear tire when suspension is engaged. The Vole only requires 6″ (15.25cm) of clearance from the saddle rails to the tire, but when using it with suspension, or if the dropper is inching the bag super close to the tire, the plate comes into play. But, as seen with the Terrapin 8L, the skid plate works in conjunction with the new strap design to make the most stable and sway-resistant bag I’ve seen from Revelate. The bag exhibits very little, if any, side-to-side movement when packed correctly and tightened down.
On The Gnar
By TJ Kearns
I’ve been running the Terrapin seat bag for about three years now and it has served me well. Its high volume, waterproof, removable bag is well made and highly useful. But, when setting out bikepacking I’ve always had to swap out my dropper post for a normal post because of the Terrapin’s attachment method. Not only would I be unable to pair it with my dropper, but the large and low strap might have an ill effect on the post’s stanchion. Upon receiving the Vole, I was immediately impressed with the upgrades to the buckling system. In particular, the two straps that hold the bag to the seat rails now employ a clever hook and latch mechanism. In addition, the strap that secures the bag to the post—designed specifically for the Valais—is about an inch wide, allowing nearly all of the drop to be used.
Speaking of drop, I ran this bag on both my Krampus and my Santa Cruz Hightower LT. On the hardtail, I was able to drop the post all the way down with no issues. On the Hightower, I had to leave about two inches of stanchion exposed to ensure that the bag wouldn’t contact the rear tire under full compression. Here in Pisgah, our trails are littered with rocks, drops, roots, and high speed chunder. I experienced a fair amount of tire contact, but none of it was remotely catastrophic, thanks to a plastic skid plate that Revelate added to the bottom of the bag. It does an excellent job at keeping the tire from rubbing a hole in the bag, as well as eliminating the chance for the bag’s fabric to get caked with mud.
Careful attention should be paid when packing the nose of the bag. The stiffer you make the contact point with the post, the less vertical movement of the bag you’ll notice when hitting big bumps or landing of drops and jumps. Apparently, much of this is improved with the use of a Wolf Tooth Valais.
Overall, I really love this bag. It’s a well thought out piece of gear that has found a permanent place in my bag rotation. It has allowed me to ride rougher terrain and access trails I generally wouldn’t touch on my rigid bike. Shredpacking is alive!
Packed correctly is a keyword, as is used correctly. Like TJ mentioned, he spent plenty of time on the gnarly bits of Pisgah with the Vole. However, he decided to forego using the Wolf Tooth Valais. When really putting it to a beating, he noticed there was some vertical play on the big bumps. Not a deal breaker by any means, but noticeable. When we offered the feedback to Revelate, founder Eric Parsons quickly responded with the solution—the Wolf Tooth Valais—as well as a slow motion video that proved it. That said, even with the Valais, we still find the Vole to perform at its best when thoughtfully packed—tightly and relatively light—with heavier items toward the front. I usually pack clothing in my seat pack, and have found rolling clothes and stuffing them lengthwise works best, for all seat packs.
Appropriate packing and usage aside, the Revelate Vole is a superb bag that works extremely well with a dropper post. Its sturdy, sway-resistant, compact design shines on rugged trail bike exploits. Additionally, the Vole might make a great bag on a rigid seat post for smaller riders who are short on space. It’s compact, but not too compact. Compared to the Rockgeist Gondola, another excellent dropper-specific seat bag, the Vole is a bit bigger, which is nice for taller riders like me. But it’s not too big, either. Revelate seems to have nailed the sizing of this bag for its intended use as a technical riding friendly option for ultralight trail adventures. Also worth noting is its angle. By way of the upward strap placement at the nose of the bag, the Vole sits and a low angle compared to many other bags. This provides the ability for the rider to move rearward and get behind the saddle, a must for technical mountain biking.
- Volume 2-7 liters
- Saddle rail to tire clearance 6″ (15.25cm)
- Weight 319 grams (11.25 oz)
- Place of Manufacture Oregon, USA
- Price (includes Valais) $149.00
- Availability Early May, 2018
- Manufacturer’s Details RevelateDesigns.com
- New “inside-out” independent rail straps are bomber and keep the Vole locked in place.
- The skid plate is an ingenious addition, both for preventing bag sway and for protection on full-suspension bikes.
- Excellent materials and attention to detail, typical of Revelate’s bags.
- It’s the perfect size: With 6-7 liters of volume, it’s not too big and not too small.
- Requires carful and relatively lightweight packing when used with a dropper and rear suspension.
- Only available in camo. Not really a con, but if you’re looking for a purple polkadot bag, you’ll need to look elsewhere.
- Requires a Valais. Again, not a major con, but a Valais does take up stanchion, something to consider if you have very limited dropper room.
- not completely waterproof like the Terrapin 8L
Revelate Designs has been in the bikepacking bag making game since the beginning. It’s neither a secret nor a surprise that Eric Parsons and company put a ton of R&D into their products and continually strive to make improvements. This bag is no exception. Overall, the Revelate Designs Vole is a great move forward for the Alaskan bikepacking bag manufacturer. It has that familiar, rugged construction that’s lightweight yet has the right burly materials in all the right places. And the addition of a skid plate, which also acts as a stabilizer, is very smart. In addition, Revelate nailed the mid-volume size of the Vole. It’s compact, but not overly so, and not too big to encumber a more aggressive style of riding.
As mentioned, there are a couple of little nits. It’s not the easiest bag to attach, nor is it waterproof like the Terrapin 8L, but if you’re in the market for a dropper-friendly bag, tailored specifically for technical riding, to strap on your trail bike and get after it, the Vole should certainly be on your list.
Please pass it along...