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Altura Vortex Seatpack



Large waterproof seatpack for bikepacking, commuting and winter riding, slightly let down by design quirks

At every product is thoroughly tested for as long as it takes to get a proper insight into how well it works. Our reviewers are experienced cyclists that we trust to be objective. While we strive to ensure that opinions expressed are backed up by facts, reviews are by their nature an informed opinion, not a definitive verdict. We don't intentionally try to break anything (except locks) but we do try to look for weak points in any design. The overall score is not just an average of the other scores: it reflects both a product's function and value – with value determined by how a product compares with items of similar spec, quality, and price.

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If you need to carry lots of stuff under your saddle for bikepacking or commuting, the Altura Vortex Seatpack is light, waterproof and very good value for money. You need to be careful how you set it up to get the best out of it though.

The Vortex is made from waterproof seam-welded polyurethane/nylon fabric. A broad Velcro closure holds it snugly against your seat post and webbing straps attach it to your saddle rails. It tapers to fit against your seat tube and a roll-up closure seals out the elements.

Altura claims a capacity of approximately 12 litres and there are lash points on the top if you want to attach more stuff to the outside; they'd be a good spot for something you want to get at quickly, like a jacket. There are also slots on the underside so you can strap stuff there too, and there's a loop for a rear light since you're unlikely to have any space left on the seat tube for one.

Altura Vortex Seatpack - top.jpg

It's impressively waterproof. After several minutes' direct assault with the hose the contents were still bone dry. To give it a serious test (and measure the capacity while I was at it) I filled it with water. There was a trickle from one seam. In theory rain could get in there, but in practice the pressure from inside a bag full of water will be far more than exerted by rain from the outside. I'd still be tempted to use a drybag for anything I really needed to stay dry. Belt, braces.

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Altura claims a capacity of approximately twelve litres, but I was only able to persuade it to take about seven litres of water. It's harder to fill a bag like this with water than with, say, clothes so you'd likely get another litre or two of stuff in there, but twelve litres is optimistic.

Altura Vortex Seatpack - strap.jpg

Still, eight or nine litres is a fairly big saddlebag. There's room for a change of lightweight clothes and a pair of Cons, so it fits the bill as a commuting bag if your workplace is fairly informal. Hedge fund managers and members of the Queen's Guards will have to look elsewhere.

I do like a big saddle bag. A few years ago I was riding the Hot Chillee London to Paris with an Altura Night Vision seat pack on my bike. I didn't need it for a fully-supported ride, but I used it for carrying a jacket and first aid kit on club rides and hadn't thought to take it off for the London to Paris. As I climbed one of the many short hills on the last leg of the ride I realised another rider had caught me up. A soft Irish accent asked me: 'Is that saddle bag big enough?'

Altura Vortex Seatpack - saddle rail strap.jpg

I looked round to discover I was being gently dissed by 1987 Giro, Tour de France, and world championship winner Stephen Roche. It was a proper 'I am not worthy' moment. I bet Roche never rides with a big geeky saddlebag.

I've used that same seatpack for commuting, and for lightweight weekend touring before mass-market bikepacking luggage was a thing, but it's not perfect. For a start it's heavy, and while I'm not exactly svelte myself, I don't see any need to be lugging around unnecessary on-bike weight. And as David Else noted when he reviewed the Night Vision pack, it does tend to swing around when you get out of the saddle.

Altura Vortex Seatpack - back.jpg

The Vortex doesn't sway, as long as you pack it properly. In fact I didn't notice it was there on my test rides. It simply sat under the saddle, stuffed with an old and not-at-all-lightweight Gore-Tex jacket, a gilet, armwarmers, spare tubes, a tool roll and snacks. I was ready for anything short of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un lobbing nukes at each other.

However, it's a bit awkward to load because it's quite narrow at the front where it butts against your seatpost. If you don't fill this area well, the Vortex is quite floppy. You want to get something very 'crammable' in first to fill out that section, and that something has to be an item you're not going to need on the road.

It also ends up a bit floppy if you just run the straps over your saddle rails. I gave them all an extra turn round the rails and that stabilised the bag well.

Altura Vortex Seatpack - clip.jpg

None of this is immediately obvious. I went looking for ways to stabilise the Vortex after initially putting it on my bike and thinking 'this is going to be a bit floppy'. User comments on various websites suggest adding an extra bungee cord to keep it steady.

Once it's in place it's easy enough to pop the buckles and get at the contents, though if you take too much out, you're in Floppy County again. That floppiness is noticeable if you waggle the bag when you're not riding, but when you're actually on the bike you can't really tell.

This is all a somewhat unavoidable result of the design. The Vortex is commendably light, but the weight has been kept down by a combination of thin fabric and very little internal stiffening. That's why it's floppy, but the fabric is soft enough that it's not noisy when it waggles. I can live with a bit of silent wobbling. Your milage may vary.


Large waterproof seatpack for bikepacking, commuting and winter riding, slightly let down by design quirks test report

Make and model: Altura Vortex Seatpack

Size tested: Dimensions: 44 x 20 x 20cm, Volume: Approx 12 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?

Altura says:

Engineered to fit around the seatpost whilst providing adjustability for different seat configurations this lightweight, and fully waterproof Altura Vortex Seatpack is the ideal way to carry gear on the frame when bike packing or commuting.

Er, Altura also says "This is the smaller seatpack in the range, but has plenty of features." But that appears to have been copied and pasted from the description of the Vortex Compact which is indeed, er, smaller. Of the two Vortex packs (Vortices?) this is the big one.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Altura says:

Altura Shield™ technology delivers water and wind protection

* Lightweight

* Welded seam construction

* Roll top closure

* Hook & loop wrap mounting system

* Hyperlon reinforced areas

* Top lash points

* Kross side release buckles

* Reflective detail

Volume: Approx 12 Litres

Fabric: 210D Nylon RS TPU

Dimensions: 44 x 20 x 20cm

Weight: 0.26kg

Colours Available:


Rate the product for quality of construction:

Seams and strap attachments are all tidily done.

Rate the product for performance:

It does what it's supposed to, but it's a bit of a let-down that you have to faff around wrapping the straps round the saddle rails to steady it, and that you have to cram stuff into the nose to keep it stable.

Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
Rate the product for value:

This is one of the less expensive large bikepacking seatpacks, so it's decent value for money if you can live with its quirks.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

It holds stuff under your seatpost and you can cram in plenty of gear.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Its low weght, looks and generally tidy design.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Needing to stuff somwthing into the pointy end to keep it stable.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes (I mean, insofar as anyone *enjoys* using a seatpack)

Would you consider buying the product? I'd likely go for something less idiosyncratic

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, but with caveats about its quirks

Use this box to explain your score

Upside: The Vortex is light, waterproof and carries a decent amount of stuff, making it suitable as a winter seatpack for carrying a jacket and the like, for commuting or as part of a bikepacking luggage ensemble.

Downside: The skinny nose means you have to pack it carefully and overall it's a bit floppy.

A roomier nose and a bit more stiffening would earn it another star, but it still rates 'above average' for being light and waterproof.

Overall rating: 6/10

About the tester

Age: 48  Height: 5ft 11in  Weight: 85kg

I usually ride: Scapin Style  My best bike is:

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,

John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.

He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.

Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for Along with founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.

John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.

He joined in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.

Add new comment


vichycycl | 3 years ago

Warning: I love the shape and the pocket on the bottom that holds my pump, plus the little loops on top.  The material, however, is so thin it splits at the seam.  I never overloaded it and this took about one year of regular riding.  The clip for the saddle rails also broke which is why I taped it. 

Libtardproud | 5 years ago

  I modified a similar Ortlieb bag by extending the sleeve, and modifying the hang points to eliminate the odd overengineered QR bracket that always strikes me as a likely breaking point. I carried way too much clothing on a ten hour mountain epic and it worked okay, but my wife has a smaller custom bag which has held up much better. I feel the concept has been imitated, but not perfected. The common weaknesses are the dependence on tight packing for shape retention, sagging and bulging that can rub thighs or the rear tire, swaying especially off-road, and the rolling tunnel closure that makes access slow and repacking for every little change-out a tedious necessity.

  A couple brands recognize the limitations, and have added mini-frames which clamp to seatposts with varying effectiveness. Internal stiffening sheets typically help a lot in keeping the shape in line, as well as adding vertical rigidity and minimizing weight deformation and sway. While the bikepacking focus incentivizes maximum capacity over practicality, I am waiting for a more utilitarian mid-size refinement which can hold long day-ride clothing and gear, solidly and easily, while making access other than a five minute chore.

  I watched similar evolutions in the pack industry forty years ago, when many tried in vain to make a practical frameless backpack; finally Lowe produced the practical internal stay pack, and ever since the industry has followed that path instead. Seatbag designers, take note.

Redvee | 6 years ago

If you pack the bag correctly it helps with the sway. I've got an Ortlieb bag and on the last time I used it I packed it wrong and it swayed despite doing the straps up as tight as possible. The forst time I used it I packed it better and had much less sway. Tempted with the antisway thing above though.

GerardR | 6 years ago

I have one of these on order for my own seat pack, intended for the Tour Aotearoa in February 18.  I'll be keen to see how much it reduces the sway.

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