This summer, I took an incredible bike packing trip using a suite of gear from Ortlieb. I chose it to withstand the rainy Olympic Peninsula in June, and have been using it on the bike since then. We already published our coverage of the Ortlieb Handlebar Pack QR, and today we’re finishing up our coverage of my bike packing setup featuring the Ortlieb Frame Pack and Seat Pack. Today we’re covering the Frame Pack, which is one of my favorite ways of hauling gear in an aerodynamic and stable way.
Ortlieb Frame Pack Features:
- Lightweight, robust PU-coated nylon fabric
- Waterproof TIZIP zipper with garage
- Sturdy hook-and-loop fasteners fit frame up to 1.9″ diameter
- Internal hook-and-loop fasteners to reduce bulging
- Reflective ORTLIEB logo
- Volume: 4L (medium) or 6L (large – tested)
- Weight: 7.1oz for small, 8.8oz for large
- MSRP: $160 (large)
The iconic waterproof frame bag
I think frame bags are so cool. They’re tidy, light, and keep your center of gravity low where it’s easy to control. On my round-the-Olympics trip, I used this for tools, a stove, and the book that I insisted on lugging around the Peninsula. Basically, it’s a good spot for heavy things.
Ortlieb gives you lots of options for suspending those heavy items. There are four hook-and-loop fasteners on the Large pack that I tested (or three on the Medium). The bag is shaped to tightly hug your top tube and there is a strip of soft Velcro running the length of the left side of the pack so that you can secure the straps out of your way.
They also include some other straps to fasten the pack to the main tube and seat tube. All that works really well, the fasteners stayed put, and you just need to trim them to the right length for your frame. These ones are soft, too, so they’re unlikely to scratch your frame. Keep in mind, you might want to put down something protective on the top tube where the main straps and their plastic buckles rest.
The pack really is dead simple, but it’s very well-designed. There is a large, toothy waterproof zipper running the length of the right side. I vastly prefer the large-toothed waterproof zipper to some other options out there because it is durable. It will take years of abuse while you try and fit too many extra pairs of socks into the frame pack and squeeze them down with the zipper. By contrast, some designs (like this one from REI) use a ‘toothless’ zipper, which is almost like a large version of the closure on a zip-lock bag. The problem with that design is that it won’t hold up to being over-packed or tugged on like Ortlieb’s TIZIP large-toothed zipper. That’s a major factor for durability.
Inside of the pack we have some velcro straps that are trying to act like bulwarks, creating internal compartments to provide structure to the bag and a modicum of organization. When placed, these really can help with bulging. I almost never used them because I never found that the pack annoyed me when it got a bit over-packed. Unless you’re concerned about aerodynamics, it’s tough to pack this thing to the point where it grazes your shins or calves.
The last thing to say here is waterproofing and dustproofing. In short, it’s great: with the zip closed, I would take this thing through the thickest downpour and feel totally confident. It’s basically impermeable with an IP67 rating, meaning it can take light submersion. I’d wager a guess that it could take a full-on swim and come out fine.
- Robust, simple, bombproof design with excellent materials
- Frame packs are perhaps the single best way to carry gear on a bike due to the low center of gravity
- IP67 waterproofing is a big upgrade, meaning this thing can take a swim
- Mounting design is versatile and reasonable gentle on your bike
- The large, toothy zipper is a very durable design choice from Ortlieb
- You will want to protect your frame where the mounts attach
The Bottom Line: Ortleib Frame Pack
I’m not sure what criticisms I could really make of the Ortlieb Frame Pack, largely because the design is so simple and solid. I didn’t achieve a perfect fit on my particular bike, but I wouldn’t have wanted to size down, either. You do want to be diligent about checking the sizing before you buy, and Ortlieb has a printable template on the product page which I recommend. If anything, my feedback for Ortlieb might be to offer an in-between size in future iterations. Otherwise, this is a bombproof way to carry heavy gear and to do it with utter disregard for the wet.
Buy now: Available from REI.com