Zefal's Iron Pack XL-DS is a large, semi-rigid, expandable wedge bag with a 2 litre internal capacity, a seatpost-hugging profile and some nice detailing. It makes easy transition between road and trail duties thanks to heavily cushioned internal compartments and an easy-wipe 820 denier outer shell.
Quick release resin brackets have widely superseded Velcro on account of their neat, rigid nature, but these can have compatibility hassles with suspension seatposts, such as my notoriously tricky Cane Creek Thud Buster.
Entry to the main compartment is via a chunky, rubberised tag, which is easily opened and closed in gloved hands. Which is more than can be said of the woven LED tab... This provides a super-reliable mounting point – no risk of expensive lights being ejected at the first hint of a bump – but prising them on and off proved unexpectedly difficult until the strap assumed a loop two weeks in.
Inside the pack there's a cavernous main compartment with two additional stash points. A zippered mesh pocket lines the interior wall and seems best reserved for keys, cash or similar small valuables. A much larger cargo net with elastic cuff is integral to the inner flap and gobbles three composite tyre levers, patch kit, cable ties and two sets of spare AA or AAA cells.
Zefal suggests the dense EVA foam padding is perfect for carrying sensitive technology. Mini CSC and big super-zoom compact cameras will certainly fit and seem very well insulated against low-level vibration, so the Iron Pack is a good choice if you wanted these separate from panniers but didn't fancy the encumbrance of a bar bag. I still wouldn't risk this off-road, so I padded them with additional foam strips or wedged them between micro-jackets, overshoes and the like.
Otherwise, it will swallow pretty much everything you'd want on a day ride; I've managed two 700x28-35mm inner tubes, a CO2 cartridge and two pocket workshop multi tools (one with Allen keys, the other an adjustable wrench for track nuts/other fasteners) and a micro pump.
This sort of cargo is notorious for annoying percussion over washboard surfaces, but with the bag's Velcro straps pulled tight, there's been no hint of annoying sway or chatter, even when thundering along several miles of bridlepath on my cyclo-cross and mountain bikes.
Talking of mucky stuff, the subtle black shell complements pretty much any genre of machine and is highly water resistant – more than most of us will ever need in the everyday sense. Spatter and road grime are easily dismissed with a damp cloth, although the glossy types with sonically welded seams remain the best options if you're partial to river crossings or riding in the foulest weathers without mudguards.
Rugged and well-designed wedge pack at a very good price
road.cc test report
Make and model: Zefal Iron Pack XL-DS
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Zefal says: "Semi-rigid saddle bag, the Iron Pack XL-DS is a 2 liters large capacity bag with EVA shells to ensure the protection of your belongings. Its wide opening guarantees an easier access and an elastic band inside maintains the content. Available in Velcro® Straps mounting system".
It's a well-designed large capacity wedge pack for road and mountain bikes.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Material: Extra tough 840 D 2 EVA hard shells / reflective logo
Dimensions: XL - 190 x 95 x 110 m
Mounting: DS: double Velcro® straps
Capacity: 2 L / 66 oz
Zip: Water repellent zip
Reinforcement fixing: Velcro® on the seat post
Easily transferred between bikes, minimal sway thanks to reinforced Velcro straps. Sensibly proportioned zipper tags too.
Good given the spec and detailing.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, the Zefal Iron Pack XL has exceeded my expectations at this price point and seems a very good option for general riding. However, while highly weather resistant in the everyday sense, PU models with welded seams are better choices for those braving the worst weathers sans guards, or partial to river crossings.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Rugged materials, generous capacity and standards of refinement.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
LEDs are initially difficult to mount/remove from the woven strap but this is a very minor point.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
It's good in every respect, and very good value.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)