If you need to carry up to 14 litres of luggage but don't want to use a rack, the Restrap Saddle Bag Holster is an excellent choice. Unconstrained by frame design or bottle cage placement, it will work for just about any bike.
Assuming black is the new black (again), the Holster is bang on the minimalist, pseudo-military-utility trend in adventure kit. Made from 1000D Cordura wrapped over a plastic hardshell to maintain its shape, swathed in nylon webbing and held together not by stitching but instead tough cord through metal eyelets, the Holster looks like it will take a real beating year after year. At well over half a kilo it's definitely no lightweight, but what price durability and peace of mind?
Born in Yorkshire and the result of many hours of testing and tweaking, the Saddle Bag Holster clearly has adventure in its DNA. If you travel a lot in adverse weather, you'll know what a drybag is. Whether it's by kayak, canoe, backpack or bike, drybags guarantee your clothes and sleeping bag arrive at the campsite dry. They also help compartmentalise and organise your kit, with different colour bags for different kit if you like. The Restrap Holster comes with a black 14 litre single-ended drybag, shaped to fit the holster perfectly, but any drybag of similar size should be usable; the design of the holster means you can widen or narrow the opening, and the primary securing strap over the top is infinitely adjustable to cinch everything tight.
The Holster attaches to your bike at two points – around the seatpost and under the saddle. The seatpost fastening is a double layer – first a 'normal' Velcro overlap, the second a much wider vinyl strap looping through a buckle and pulling very tight, again secured with Velcro. Under the saddle, two buckles thread through your seat rails, then attach to two straps that pull the drybag up into the saddle using buckles that attach with cunning magnets and clips. These go on with a snap and release by sliding upwards or downwards at 90 degrees to the pull of the strap. Connecting and releasing while wearing thick gloves is not a problem, and throughout the test period I suffered no unexpected unclipping. The buckles pull tight and straps tuck away into small clips to keep everything tidy.
The drybag is held in place by a long strap looping through the roll at the top of the bag, then down to the top of the Holster, again with cunning use of magnets and levers to hold the bag securely under any amount of strain, while being easily quick-released.
All this might sound difficult, but the reality is the Holster fits to and removes from a bike in seconds. This is of importance for cyclists who might not want to leave hundreds of pounds worth of luggage and contents attached to a bike that's locked outside a shop, in a workplace garage or at the station, for example. You can easily unclip either just the drybag or the whole ensemble and walk away.
Other features include an area of drawcord underneath for securing items you don't mind getting muddy, and a small loop at the top of the Holster for a rear light to attach to.
The Restrap team test every component with a load of 50kg – which is clearly a ludicrous weight for something designed to strap to a 10kg bike. A sensible working load for a 14 litre bag is more like 4-6kg, and that's what I took all over the Hampshire downs and then rural Perthshire, over smooth bridleways and rocky mountain paths, either on a carbon road/cross bike or a full-suspension mountain bike. With 6kg onboard there was no noticeable swaying of the bike, the Holster staying firmly put. Of course if you rock violently enough anything will move, and the secret to enjoying a fully loaded bike ride is a smooth pedalling style and keeping your upper-body aerobics to a minimum.
One variation I found was that the profile of your saddle's rear does impact stability – a saddle with a deeper scoop in the back edge between the rails will naturally hold the Holster more securely than a flat or even convex saddle edge, so if you did find it wasn't holding things quite securely enough, a change of saddle might do the trick.
In use it was very simple to manage luggage. Pausing to pull out or stow a jacket or gloves was the work of seconds, often not needing to fully remove the drybag to get enough access. The angle of the holster means your stuff isn't going to end up all over the trail either. The quality of the buckes and straps meant that after repeated loading/unloading, the fit was just as good as the first time, with no re-tightening required.
At £100 it's not cheap, and you can of course spend less. For example, the Topeak BackLoader 10L seat pack that Emma reviewed is £65 (Restrap's 8L version is £94.99), but it wasn't without issues – and she suggests you'd need to buy a drybag as the built-in luggage space isn't 100% waterproof – adding more cost and reducing useable volume.
Apidura's mid-size Saddle Pack, which Liam reviewed last year, garnered four stars – but as with the Backloader it's an all-in-one solution. This condemns you to an eternity of early-morning-cold-fingered faff as you try to re-attach the bag in exactly the same no-sway perfect setup you spent ages perfecting. Also, it's much nicer to pack everything away under shelter then fit the packed drybag to the holster, than having to stand at your bike in the rain doing the business.
Restrap's 'holster' approach means you can leave the mounting points untouched, day after week after month, if desired. Paired with its waterproof drybag (easily substituted for another brand or capacity), it's an ecosystem approach that future-proofs your adventuring.
It's hard to think what else to say about the Holster – it just works, fits to any bike, quickly, and keeps your stuff held securely so as not to detract from the quality of the ride you're on. Made in the UK and designed to outlive you, it's an investment in adventure that will keep paying off for many years to come.
Minimalist yet with every feature you actually need, it's a reassuringly expensive instant classic that's hard to fault
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Restrap Saddle Bag Holster and Dry Bag
Size tested: 14 Litres
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?
It's for people who want to ride far, over all manner of terrain, but with mimimum faff of setup or management.
Part of the #carryeverything range, our rackless saddle bag connects securely to your seatpost for bike packing, touring or commuting. With no mounts or screws, the bag attaches in seconds to any bike.
The holster fits up to a 14 litre dry bag and is secured with a patented magnetic buckle that's easy to adjust, even whilst wearing gloves.
The bag is hardcase for easy loading and is fastened with reflective military paracord and reinforced eyelets. Made from 1000D military-grade cordura and with nylon webbing for extra strength, this product is made to last.
(14 litre version with dry bag included)
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Colour: Black/ black
Size: Large Saddle bag 14 litre dry bag
Made: 100% handmade in Yorkshire, England
Two things will survive nuclear war: cockroaches, and this kit.
Minimal movement, even with a full load. Saddle choice has some impact on this.
Still looks like new.
With durability comes some heft – it's not ultralight.
£100 is a lot of money, but if you spent a bit less for something inherently inferior, you'd be cursing. Every hour of riding thereafter.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Can't fault it. Really.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The ease of fitment. Bag on, bag off, in seconds.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing. Not a thing.
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
At £100 the Saddle Bag Holster isn't a cheap bit of kit, but the performance, quality and durability shine through. It looks and feels bomproof, and the only thing stopping it from getting five stars is that you certainly pay for what you get.
About the tester
I usually ride: Merida Ride 5000 Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, club rides, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Dutch bike pootling