Swift Hinterland Zeitgeist Saddle Bag… Long Term Review
The Swift Hinterland Zeitgeist Saddle Bag is not the typical go-to bag when people think of bikepacking, but the Xpac twist on a traditional saddlebag has proven to be a wonderful alternative to modern bikepacking seat packs. Spencer Harding got one of the first pre-production models and has tested it to no end. Here’s the full review…
Words and photos by Spencer Harding
This bag has a bit of a backstory. I originally met Martina after tall-biking the Oregon Outback. I decided to swing by their old shop as I was passing through Seattle. After meeting the two wonderful humans behind Swift — I had also met Jason on the train down to the start of the ride — I just wanted to support their company! The catch was that while I now ride big heavy steel bikes, I’m still a recovering ultralight hiking nerd. And if you look at Swift’s lineup there aren’t many lightweight options. At this point they had released the ‘Hinterland’ version of the Panniers as well as the Ozette, but not the Zeitgeist. For those unaware, the Hinterland line uses ultralight Xpac as the main fabric, whereas most of their other bags are made from heavier materials such as cotton duck cloth. My friend Kurt and I decided to try and jointly convince Martina to make two custom Xpac saddlebags for us, she was stoked to oblige.
When we got the bags, just before our DFL the Divide trip in 2015, I just wanted to sing about how darn rad this bag is. However, Martina didn’t want too much commotion online since she didn’t want to make a bunch of them, yet. Since then, the Zeitgeist has been my go-to saddlebag on every bike tour I’ve taken. It survived partying on the DFL The Divide Trip, holding lots of water on the Baja Divide, and a few punishing weeks along the Trans Ecuador Mountain Bike Route. So anywho, now they’ve released a production model so let’s chat about what makes this thing so amazing.
Versus a Seat Pack
If you have tried a “bumblebee butt” bikepacking seat pack then you are familiar with the trials and tribulations of effectively packing that little space at the bottom of the bag to make it all fit and not sway. With the Zeitgeist, or any traditional saddlebag, packing is pretty much never an issue. The bag holds its horizontal structure mostly through a wooden dowel (or a Blackburn HV pump if you are silly like me) so it retains its shape regardless of how packed it is. The 11 liter capacity is generous enough, plus the side pockets hold even more (fits a flask perfectly, and then some). In addition, being able to lash gear to the outside of the flap via a daisy chain and D-rings adds another level of storage. I typically carry my stove/cook set, extra puffy layers, and whatever food doesn’t fit in my framebag. The side pockets help to keep small items like water treatment and nail polish easily at hand when needed.
So at this point you are probably looking at the mounting position and thinking “How much does it sway?! Don’t your legs rub the bag?!” The answer to both of those questions is yes, with caveats. Firstly, the bag does sway slightly. I have found that ditching the 3rd included leather strap in favor of lacing a piece of paracord through the entire daisy chain to the seatpost creates a very secure mount that minimizes sway. Secondly, the bag does rub your legs a little, but you don’t notice it after 5 minutes of pedaling. The bag without a rack or other bag support tucks up close to the back of your thigh and the bag naturally moves with each pedal stroke. Maybe this will bother some more than others. I have ridden with this bag for a lot of miles in really short shorts and have not minded it one bit. I would gladly trade these issues for relief from ever having to jam a stuff sack holster again.
Size and Weight Comparisons
Fitting the Hinterland Zeitgeist’s ‘bikepacking’ ethos, its packing volume also closely compares with many popular bikepacking style seat packs. Take the Revelate Terrapin for example. The Terrapin’s dry bag fits approximately 8-14 liters. In order to not overpack it, its sweet spot is probably at or slightly under 11 liters — the packing space available in the Zeitgeist.
Compared to other classic saddlebags, the Hinterland Zeitgeist is slightly smaller and more streamlined, which is also fitting for minimal bikepacking and perhaps better for ride quality. For example, the classic Carradice Camper Longflap allows a whopping 24 liters of packing space. Of course that’s fully packed with the long flap extended. And the popular Ultra Swift Fabio’s Chest (a collaboration between Ultraromance and Swift Industries) is cavernous in comparison, with 44 liters!
The Hinterland Zeitgeist is also far lighter than most (if not all) other saddlebags, owed to its two-layer XPac VX21 construction. At 447 grams (with dowel and three leather straps), the Zeitgeist is less than half the weight of the Camper Longflap (953g), and substantially lighter than the Fabio’s Chest (1150g). Not that weight is always a concern, but that is nearly a pound difference. Of course, the capacity is far greater with the others.
Compared to bikepacking seat packs, the Hinterland is a little heavier than some and on par with others. For example, the Terrapin system weighs about 368 grams, the Wanderlust Shenandoah 326 grams, Bedrock’s Coconino with Rail Wing 417 grams, and the Porcelain Rocket Mr Fusion system 454 grams.
There are a few limitations to consider as well. If you are running a smaller frame with big ole’ tires, you may not have enough clearance to run this bag without it hitting your rear tire. I would guesstimate you need 7-8″ of clearance from your saddle to tire to run this bag loaded up without a support. It is likely that with a rack supporting the bag, you could make it work with even less room. On that note, occasionally the bag will bow out a bit between the two compression straps which may cause it to rub your tire if you are short on space. If this is an issue consider the Carradice Bagman support or an Erlen Rack from Ocean Air Cycles.
The second limiting factor is the need for saddle loops found on Brooks Style saddles. If you don’t have a Brooks, Velo Orange makes some tabs you can screw into most saddles. You can find them on the Swift website as well.
In the few years and many miles I have had the Zeitgeist Hinterland Saddlebag, the only failures have been the cinch cord fabric ripped from over tightening it (repaired swiftly by Swift) and the fabric on the non drive side wearing down near the dowel end. This second issue stemmed from carelessness when laying my bike down wherever. I fixed it with some floss and seam sealer and it has been fine ever since.
Technically, XPAC is very weatherproof. That being said, there is a lot of unsealed seams on the bag and holes where the bag mounts to the saddle. While this makes for a less than waterproof bag, I found that a simple plastic trash bag used as a liner easily solved this issue. In light to medium rain I wouldn’t even bother since the amount of water that could get through such permeable parts of the bag is minimal, but in sustained to heavy downpour an auxiliary means of waterproofing will be needed.
While I did not have an actual production model of the bag, mine seems quite similar to the production model (photographed in the gallery directly below). My only feedback was the ripped seam that was fixed and the fact that I preferred to use paracord instead of a leather strap to mount the bag more securely to the seatpost. If I were to change anything it would be to remove the reflective strips, and that is purely an aesthetic preference. As someone who is constantly tinkering and modifying bags, I have been wholly satisfied with the Zeitgeist.
- Measurements (W X H X D): 16 X 8 X 6.5″ (40.6 X 20.3 X 16.5 cm)
- Capacity: 11 L per bag
- Weight 9with dowel and three straps): 447 grams (15.7 oz)
- Place of Manufacture: WA, USA
- Price: $199
- Manufacturer’s Details: Link
- No need for extreme stuffing
- Pockets for organization
- Traditional aesthetics
- Not waterproof
- Somewhat limited by saddle choice
- Difficult to remove/install quickly
With the addition of the Zeitgeist to the Hinterland Collection Swift now offers a XPAC version of their saddlebag that is extremely capable and simple to pack… all while upping the ante for aesthetics. This bag is made in Seattle by a team of some of the most wonderful humans in the cycling business. There is admittedly a couple small tradeoffs, namely waterproofness and a little added weight compared to some seat packs. But for me the simplicity of packing makes it worthwhile.
As for durability, this is one of the first Hinterland Zeitgeist Saddlebags made and it has stood up to extensive usage in a myriad of conditions and climates with minimal wear. If you are considering an alternative to the woes of packing a usual bikepacking seat pack give the Swift Hinterland Zeitgeist some consideration.
About Spencer Harding
Spencer was southern California raised and is currently nesting in a small backyard trailer in Oakland. Ever since someone informed him it was possible strap camping gear to a mountain bike he never looked back on his backpacking days. When not out on bikepacking trips Spencer works as a tour guide for Bicycle Adventures or is out photographing microwave towers and rental RVs for his personal photo projects. Follow him on Instagram @spencerjharding.