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review

Alpkit Koala Bikepacking Seat Bag

8
£74.99

VERDICT:

8
10
Stable and sturdy pack that is big enough to hold a useful amount of kit
Limited sway
Easy to access compartment
Camlock buckles are easy to use and keep tension
Long straps interfere if not tucked away
No external top storage strap/elastic option
Not fully waterproof
Weight: 
186g
Contact: 

The Alpkit Koala is one of the original bags created by the British company, and it's still made in the UK. It's reasonably light, easy to attach, and doesn't sway much once fitted, though it's not the biggest.

The version on test is the smaller and lighter of the two Koalas. At 7 litres it might not be the best for big adventures (the larger size is 13 litres, not currently available), but I found it was still large enough to pack plenty into, especially as part of a multi-bag setup. It's reasonably light, too, being just 186g – slightly lighter than the claimed weight of 190g.

> Buy this online here

Installation is quick and simple, just a case of attaching it to your saddle rails with a strap and the seatpost with a single clamp. It will fit most bikes, although some may benefit from using Alpkit's Exo-Rail system; the Koala is only compatible with dropper style seatposts when used with the Exo-Rail.

2020 Alpkit Koala 7L bikepacking seat bag - seatpost strap

It's easy to adjust the Koala to fit different sizes and types of bikes. The 'first fit' will take a little while, as each strap is adjusted to suit, but subsequent fits are far quicker. I test-fitted it to different styles of bike, from an aero road bike with a deep aerodynamic seatpost to mountain bikes and gravel bikes, and had no issues.

The position of the saddle rail buckle is adjustable via the webbing ladder, so plenty of fit options for bikes with less or more saddle rail behind the clamp, and to suit saddle setback preference.

2020 Alpkit Koala 7L bikepacking seat bag - top strap

The single seatpost strap is made from a different material to the other straps, being more rubber-like. It's easy to thread through the clamp, and the material seems to grip the seatpost well: it didn't move in use and is long enough to fit virtually all bikes. The clamp stayed closed and held the tension well, even on rougher terrain and on multi-day trips.

Bag build and packing

The bag is made from VX21, a four-layer, 210 denier fabric with a durable water repellent (DWR) finish; it's a popular choice, widely used on similar styles of bags. Given the bag's position, it's highly likely to get wet from the rear wheel so weatherproofing is vital, and throughout use the contents stayed completely dry. It's not claimed to be fully waterproof, so I'd still suggest you pack anything electronic, or anything that could be damaged by water, within a dry-bag.

The Koala uses a roll-top closure with two buckles, one for holding it closed and the other to tension the contents. This is very useful when packing items such as a light sleeping bag or down jacket – items that can be compressed to reduce overall space. While it may not be a design intention, the compression strap is also a possible location for a rear light, depending on the light's fitting.

2020 Alpkit Koala 7L bikepacking seat bag - rear strap

How you pack a saddle bag has a bearing on its performance on the bike, although the smaller size of the Koala means it isn't quite as critical as with some. Packing heavier items close to the seatpost can help prevent sway, and this is especially important for riders who like to climb or ride out of the saddle.

In general, larger packs require more careful packing, although the attachment points are also important, and on the Koala they are functional and work well. If you're carrying heavy stuff then the Exo-Rail system might offer extra stability but it'll set you back another £21.99.

All the buckles on the bag use a camlock – a neat way to hold the tension on the straps. Some of the straps are a bit long, though, and the excess needs to be tucked away to stop them flapping or knocking against the tyre.

Initially I did the straps up tight, then tightened them again after a short period of riding after the bag had settled in. Personally, I prefer to climb out of the saddle, which on some bags of this type can induce some considerable sway, especially larger or heavier packs, but with the Koala sway is minimal.

To access the contents, the bag can stay in place on the bike, with no need to adjust the main buckles. Should you need to remove or add extra items mid-ride, such as a clothing layer or food, it's easy to adjust the compression strap either way, tighter or looser.

One thing the Koala is missing is some form of external attachment point; many bags, including some within the Alpkit range, have either a top-mounted webbed section or bungee cords. This provides useful extra storage that's easy to access, and I have to say it's something I did miss on some outings.

Value

At £74.99, the Koala is not a cheap option, but it is made in the UK and tailored to typically British riding. It's a tenner more than both Merida's much larger option, which Shaun found swayed annoyingly, and Topeak's 10L Backloader, but it's cheaper than the also-7L Restrap Race Saddle Bag and the non-Race version, both £99.99, though Restrap does take a different approach, using a 'holster' and separate dry bag.

> Buyer's Guide: 17 of the best bikepacking bags

Apidura's 9L Expedition Saddle Pack costs more again: £118.

Overall, as long as you take care with the roll top closure to ensure the contents stay safe and dry, the Koala is a neat, non-swaying option for minimal loads. And if you want to carry more, the 13-litre option should be available again soon.

Verdict

Stable and sturdy pack that is big enough to hold a useful amount of kit

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Alpkit Koala Bikepacking Seat Bag

Size tested: 7L

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 a rear bikepacking pack with 7 litre carrying capacity, most suitable for either shorter trips or for riders who have a very compact setup.

Fixes to the seatpost and saddle, or to the Alpkit Exo-rail with an extra adapter (not included).

Alpkit says, 'Whether you're traversing rolling hills of the Peak District, exploring the Lake District mountains, or bouncing from bothy to bothy in the Scottish Highlands... the adventurous and ever-dependable Koala is a trustworthy companion.

'Koala bikepacking seat pack attaches beneath your saddle to provide you with secure and light storage with an impressive capacity.

'Koala is at its most stable when attached to the Exo-Rail, which reduces sway and increases stability. Attachment is quick, simple and secure with a slide-on, slide-off sleeve and stabilising saddle rail strap. If you don't have an Exo-Rail, you can partner up the saddle rail strap with velcro straps and the handy webbing ladder to attach it without.

'Koala has a pared back design to make it incredibly spacious for its size and weight. Available in 13 litre capacity, it's spot on for packing your bulky, light, and compressible kit when off bikepacking (think sleeping bags and clothing). Koala also comes in 7 litre capacity, which is also dropper seat post compatible.

'Roll-top closure and compression straps keep your cargo compact and portable and ensure stability when the bag is less full.

'Although being made from waterproof fabric and being highly weather resistant, this product is not fully waterproof due to its stitched construction. If you are carrying valuables or electronic equipment, make sure to put it in a dry bag.'

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

Made with VX21 fabric, which is very common for bags of this style. Good use of a sticky fabric for the seatpost clamp and the buckles for all straps that require tension have a clamp, keeping the strap in place.

Alpkit lists:

VX21

A 4-layer, 210 denier laminated nylon fabric with a DWR finish: VX21 (or X-Pac to its friends) is a high tech, ultralight sandwich of materials that is highly abrasion and tear resistant, low-stretch, and waterproof. Weight:7 L: 190 g; 13 L: 255 g

Measurements

Capacity: 7 L / 13 L Dimensions: 7 L: 37 x 17 x 13 cm; 13 L: 41 x 21 x 17 cm

Construction

Buckles: 20 mm SJ with Camlok, 25 mm Xlite with Camlok Stitched Seams Roll-top closure

Fitting Guidelines

Koala attaches to the Exo-Rail with a slide-on, slide-off sleeve and saddle rail strap. You can attach Koala directly to you saddle without the Exo-Rail using the handy webbing ladder and velcro strap, but it will not be dropper seat post compatible without the Exo-Rail.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
8/10

All stitching is neat and seems strong. Fabric used is suitable for its intended purpose.

Rate the product for performance:
 
8/10

Very stable, easy to fit and easy to adjust.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

No issues at all during testing and no signs of wear.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
9/10

Almost exactly on the claimed weight, which is respectable for this style of bag and size compared to other brands and bags available.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
8/10

The tapered shaping is good to prevent it rubbing the legs when pedalling.

Rate the product for value:
 
6/10

There are cheaper bags of a similar type and size available, but for the quality I'd say value is acceptable, and it's a fair bit less than some.

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

Tested over several bikepacking trips and it performed well, meeting all requirements and expectations.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The locking buckle straps were great, meaning any tension put on the straps remained in place. This was also easy to do and to adjust in general.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The straps seemed overly long and several had to be tucked in to avoid them flapping and making a noise, or touching the tyre.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

It isn't the cheapest option, though it is made within the UK and tailored to typically British riding.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, it proved good and the space available was ideal for the amount I like to carry.

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

It's very good, with no major issues, although there are many similar bags of this style with a few extra features or at lower prices.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 35  Height: 168  Weight: 62

I usually ride:   My best bike is: Cannondale SystemSix

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

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, sportives, mtb,

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