Lets face it, stashing a few basic supplies and heading out for a weekend of two-wheeled adventure is nothing new, it just happens to have been re-branded as bike packing, which has really caught on like.
Finally I managed to find a set online, and so bit the bullet and invested a not too shabby sum for a Blackburn Outpost Seat Pack & Handle Bar Roll. Although Blackburn are old and respected charge hands when it comes to quality touring bags and kit, they are newcomers to the bike packing market, which is dominated by smaller niche companies, often with mountain or rock climbing backgrounds.
So, here’s what I got, and here’s what I found.
Blackburn Outpost Seat Pack
Weighing in at a slight 515 Grams with its 10.5 Litre dedicated dry bag included this pack is a sturdy yet lightweight piece of kit, and the quality of manufacturing just oozes from it’s seems.
You only need to hold at it to know that like all Blackburn kit – this is made to last, positively industrial strength.
The main pack attaches to your seatpost with two Velcro fastening straps, and under the saddle with a detachable draw strap, and then with two more harness like pull straps at the rear. Most of these straps also compress the pack around the main wedge shaped dry bag, which is where you cram most of your gear before slipping it inside and then strapping it in.
I was able to stash all of my gear for a lengthy road trip in this one pack, and it weighed in at around 4kg all in, not bad at all.
However it does really stick out at the rear when crammed full, so I took out a few bulky items (which I would only need if it was cold and wet) and the whole thing became much easier on the eye, and on the ride.
There are loopholes on the back of pack too, where you can strap on shoes, sleeping mats, and even small animals if you so wish.
You do need to refine your packing, as it is a pain to have to open the bag during a ride, but if you keep essential spares and a rain jacket at the top then it’s no big deal.
The fastening system is quite solid, but is definitely built for mountain bikes, or those with very long seat posts. I’m six feet tall, and have a fair amount of post showing; but the back two saddle straps fell slightly short, so I ended up securing the bag by looping through a good old toe strap. This did away with the sideways swaying.
Overall I was impressed by the quality of the pack, but at its price point you would expect that to be so. In reasonable weather conditions (with shoes attached) I could comfortably manage a tour with this pack alone, which did come as a pleasant surprise – a definite step up from a regular saddlebag, and a sideways move from a backpack.
Outpost HB Roll
Maybe it’s the cowboy in me; but there was something about a handlebar roll that really appealed. Baked beans, coffee, the open fire; nah – I’ll stick to en-suite hotels.
Most front rolls I’ve seen strap directly to the bars, which is not a great option for road bikes. The Outpost comes with a regular handlebar bag style mount, meaning that you attach the roll via a simple quick release, allowing you to ride on the tops.
The roll is simply that; a very sturdy (604 Grams, perhaps more than needed for road riding) straightforward roll, which fastens around a double-ended 10 Litre dry bag.
It’s sized to fit neatly between a regular pair of 42/44cm road bars (all diameters) and to leave room for riding on the hoods; but try telling the dry bag that!
I can see that this would be great on wider MTB bars; as you could pack in a lot of bulky gear without obstruction. As it was, I used a small bungee to keep it from bursting at the scenes, easy, effective and simple, but not ideal.
Once on, and secured by the carrying strap, it’s rock solid, and does balance the weight pretty well. The strap hoops are useful too, but for road use it really would benefit from a couple of Velcro patches on the top and a detachable map/document/phone pouch.
I did manage to slide it between the cables with older Shimano shifters too; a little cumbersome but no big issue.
Overall, definitely useful, but for road use, and given the price tag I would be more inclined to opt for a regular bar bag, where I can stash stuff for fast and easy access. That said, I also feel uncomfortable not seeing my front wheel, so would try to keep it all behind be if possible.
I’m on the road for much of my time, and always have a backpack full of cameras, computers and hard drives – and very little baggage allowance is ever left over for clothing and other such things, so it’s easy for me to go light.
The great thing about bike packing is that it shows you just how little you really do need; even I was surprised. Apart from the tech kit this is not much more that I would take on my regular travels, and it all fits tightly onto the bike, and could be shaven by 30% if I was unlikely to encounter really cold mountain weather.
To wear on the road
Bike shoes (I would use MTB shoes mostly – more versatile).
Shorts, jersey, helmet, gilet & socks (sometimes). Plastic bag for cash, iPhone and map (the phone can replace this – but I do like paper).
In the bag – this works just as well for a month as it does a weekend. You can buy anything you really miss along the way
Spare cycling shorts and baggy jersey (to wear off the bike too).
Socks and 3 pairs of fast drying underwear.
Knee warmers, gloves and a buff (only if cold is possible).
Warm jersey (only if I’m quite sure to get cold)
Tee shirt and short-sleeved shirt.
Long trousers and shorts – all very lightweight for fast drying.
Light fleece pullover.
Essential medicines, toothbrush, contact lens fluid, spare lenses and glasses.
iPhone and battery pack with spare cables.
Small waist belt with passports, docs, USB key drive, sim cards, credit cards and cash inside.
Lightweight trail shoes or thongs are strapped to the seat pack. A small mini tool, tubes and stick on patches are also stashed in a pouch.