Sept 9, 2014
To do a multi-day adventure bike ride you need to be able to carry some luggage. If you plan on staying in motels, you don’t need as much space as you do if you plan on camping out. In an attempt to get three of my family bikes ready for camping adventures, I took the opportunity to compare three different rack-less luggage options; Wolfman Luggage, Giant Loop, and AltRider Hemisphere. Later I learned of a new, small company, that offers bags similar to the Wolfman bags at a very reasonable price. The company is called OBR ADV Gear. Since my evaluation, Wolfman has also introduced the new Enduro Dry Saddle Bag series that look like very good options. Here is what I found with the three systems I tested:
I have a Wolfman Enduro fender bag on all of my bikes to carry my registration and some tools. I try to keep the bulk down so I can swing my leg over the back of the bike. One thing I like about these bags is that they can easily be removed.
For an adventure ride, I will remove this bag and use something larger. The heart of my Wolfman setup is the E-12 Saddle bag. The saddle bag has two straps that hang over the fender or seat as well as three attachment points; one on each side and one on the rear fender. Each saddle bag holds about 11 liters. There is a compression strap so you can keep your gear from rattling around inside the bag. The bag also has numerous D-rings so you can attach other items like the Wolfman water bottle holster. The E-12 works well as a base for a complete adventure ride or as a stand alone system for a day trip. I used the bag stand alone for our trip on the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands earlier this year.
The E-12 bags are not large enough to hold my sleeping bag or tent, so I bought a small Wolfman Expedition Dry Duffel. I can fit my tent and sleeping bag in this bag without problem and have a fairly low rear bag on the bike. I can also stuff it full with other gear, but then it sticks up pretty high, interfering with my backpack, and it puts a lot of weight on the back of the bike. I have found that this top access dry bag is also very handy on our family river trips.
I finish off my Wolfman setup with the 6L Enduro tank bag. This bag is fairly small so it doesn’t get in your way at all. But it also doesn’t hold a lot.
This setup provides a lot of storage space, but the bulk of it is really high on the bike.
- Enduro tank bag: 6L
- E-12 saddle bags: 22L
- Dry duffel: 33L
- Total: 61L
Note: I also have two Giant Loop exhaust shields (one for each bike) so that we wont’ melt our bags.
Note 2: I also have the smaller Wolfman Daytripper bag, which is great for day rides. And as previously noted, Wolfman now offers a new line called the Enduro Dry series which are slightly larger and waterproof.
Update: I like this luggage arrangement, but the E-12 bags were just too small for my use. OBR ADV Gear offers a similar bag called the Adventure Saddlebag which holds 38L. I haven’t tried one yet, but it looks like a very nice bag.
I also have a Giant Loop setup, with a Fandango tank bag and a Coyote bag. The Coyote bag carries more weight down low, and is large enough to carry my stove, some food, clothing, and my sleeping bag.
I use a 20L Sea-to-Summit dry bag with side loops to carry my tent and camp chair.
The zippers on the Coyote bag are difficult to operate since the bag is curved and it tends to get wrinkles in it. But it offers some water resistance (not water proof) and pretty good abrasion resistance. When I bought the Coyote bag, I think Giant Loop claimed it to be 30L in volume, but it seems much, much bigger than the E-12 at 22L. I noticed that their new spec is 39L, but I don’t know if they made the bag larger or just updated their spec.
On my first adventure ride I quickly learned that the Sea-To-Summit bag was in my way. It interfered with my backpack – especially on a steep descent. I therefore moved the dry bag behind the Coyote bag, which worked much better.
The Fandango tank bag is about the largest tank bag that will fit my dirt bikes without being in my way while either standing or sitting. I have three minor complaints about the tank bag; 1) my maps got wet inside the pocket during a rain storm, 2) the zippers are hard to open when they get dirty, and 3) the front of the bag is really shallow, limiting what objects fit in the bag. I am pretty sure this tank bag was listed as 10L when I bought it, but now the spec says 8L. I think the 8L number is more accurate.
I also picked up a set of Giant Loop Pannier Pockets, giving me 2 more liters on each side of my tank. I put heavy items like my tools and air mattress pump up here to help keep more weight on the front of the bike. I found that I could also mount a 1 liter water bottle with the Wolfman holster to each pannier. The panniers are slightly in my way when seated because I have fairly long legs, but having that extra storage space is really nice.
Overall the Giant Loop system works quite well. You need to put your gear in dry bags since the system is water resistant, but not water proof. The biggest drawback is the difficulty in opening and closing the zippers.
- Fandango tank bag: 8L
- Coyote saddle bag: 30L (or 39L)
- Dry bag: 20L
- Total: 58L (or 67L)
- Note: I did not include the Pannier Pockets in the total since they can be used with any of these systems
My favorite system is the AltRider Hemisphere system. It was designed by the same person that designed the Coyote bag, but it has some really nice improvements.
The tank bag is just slightly larger than the Fandango bag (11L). It appears to be the same length and width, but the front end of the bag is a little taller. It has a nice map pocket that seems to be waterproof, but it is a little difficult to get your map inside the small zipper on the bottom of the cover.
The tank bag has an integrated dry bag to keep all of your items free from dust and water. You don’t have to seal up the dry bag, but I usually do for added security. If you fully stuff the dry bag it is difficult to rummage through the bag and find what you are looking for, but if you don’t completely fill it, the dry bag works out great. I found that I could also put items like gloves or guide books on top of the dry bag, making them easier to access.
The best feature of the tank bag is the metal snap. It makes it really easy to open and close the bag – even with gloves on. At first I was a little skeptical, but it worked great.
The saddle bag has some really nice innovations. The main compartment is fully waterproof and closes like a dry bag by rolling down the seal at least three times. It mounts to the bike with a novel holster. You can even use the holster stand alone for day trips, so you can carry your jacket, tools, food, etc. The back of the holster also has an easily accessible pocket on each side. These pockets worked great for my Keen river shoes. They will also hold tools, a 1.5L fuel bottle or water bottle, etc. You can also use the holster to haul firewood back to camp.
The saddle bag is rated at 40L, but it is easy to overfill if you don’t need it to be fully waterproof. It does get difficult to roll down the opening if you put too much gear in there, but it is much easier to work with than the Coyote zipper.
- Hemisphere tank bag: 11L
- Hemisphere saddle bag: 40L
- Dry bag: 20L
- Total: 71L
There are pros and cons to each of these systems, so figure out what best meets your needs. The E-12 bags are really nice for day trips, but they are kind of small for over-night trips. But if you have really small camping gear, they may work great. The newer Wolfman Enduro Dry Saddlebags look really nice, but they are also very expensive. The OBR ADV Gear bags look like another good option, and at reasonable prices.
The Coyote bag has been around for a long time and is quite popular. But the improvements of the newer AltRider Hemisphere bags make them my overall favorite.