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The Z Adventure R17 saddle bag from Zefal swallows a huge amount of kit thanks to its adjustable size and high weight limit, and it's waterproof too. It doesn't quite have the versatility of a holster/dry bag setup, but for the price you really can't complain.
Over the past few months my collection of bikepacking bags has grown to cover everything from daytrips to full-blown excursions, and it's the latter the Zefal is good for thanks to its 17-litre capacity.
For starters, it can carry a lot of kit. I've been constantly playing around with where I'm going to store what, but for now, the Zefal is playing home to a one-man tent, poles and pegs, a sleeping bag, a sleeping mat and an inflatable pillow.
That comes to 2,703g – well below the 5kg limit of the R17 – but pretty much fills it space-wise. There are a few nooks and crannies where I can stash squashable things like a waterproof jacket or my first aid kit in a Sticky Pod.
There is also bungee cord threaded on top for stuffing on a few extra things. Like a jacket, for example, should you want to grab it quickly. If you want to carry less stuff, you can roll the bag down to eight litres capacity.
Fitment to the bike is easy. A couple of straps go over the saddle rails and a large seat post strap keep things secure. You need a good 175mm of seat post showing for a comfortable fit, though.
Once attached and fully loaded there is a bit of sway due to its length, but it's no worse than I've found with similar bags. In fact, I'd say considering its size it doesn't move as much as you'd think, unless you're really honking it over on a steep climb.
Many large bags, like the Restrap Saddle Bag and the Brooks Scape I'm currently testing (review soon) use a holster system to carry a separate dry bag. This has the advantage that you can take the bag off your bike and into your tent. Once refilled, you just stuff it into the holster, tighten the straps and off you go.
Obviously, with the Zefal you can't do that. It's not an issue if you're carrying your camping kit, like me, as you're just going to pull it out and set up camp.
If you stash the tent in your frame bag and sleeping stuff in a bar bag, leaving the Zefal for your cooking stuff, clothes and so on, then this could be more of a faff. Each to their own though.
As it stands, I really like the Zefal R17. It works for the way I do things. If you do take it off the bike, it is easy to refit when loaded. Just wedge your knee between the rear tyre and the bag to support it, and reattach the straps.
Like many dry bags, the closure is created by rolling it down and then securing the buckles. For waterproofness it's good form to roll the bag over at least a couple of times, and if you do this the Zefal is impressive at keeping the elements out.
I'd still use a dry bag inside just in case, but I've ridden in heavy rain – and given the R17 a pummelling with a hose – with no water getting through.
You also get a couple of neat little additions, like the reflective logos on the side and top, plus as you roll the bag up you find various mounting points for a rear light. Handy, as on the majority of bikes it's going to reduce your ability to run one on the seatpost.
Priced at £69.99 (but closer to £50 online), the R17 is a lot of bag for the money. It's also really good quality. I haven't found any weaknesses in its construction, and it has seen some really rough conditions.
The Brooks Scape I mentioned earlier is smaller and can only handle 3kg. It'll set you back £115. I talked about the Restrap Saddle Bag too, and I'm a big fan of their packs – I own five of them. Restrap's handmade quality is excellent, but you are paying for it.
The Restrap 14l saddle bag is £109.99, while the closest in price to the Zefal is the Saddle Pack at £54.99. That only holds 4.5 litres though.
Alpkit is always a good choice for bikepacking bags. I have the 13L Koala which is currently £74.99 and very good quality; the 17L Big Papa is £94.99. And finally, Apidura's 17L Expedition Saddle Pack is quite a firm favourite with bikepackers, and sits at £132.99.
I'm a really big fan of the R17. It keeps your kit safe and dry, the way it fits means it's very secure for such a large bag, and it's good value for money too.
Cavernous bikepacking bag that fits securely and keeps your kit dry, all for a decent price
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Zefal Z Adventure R17
Size tested: 17L
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, "The Z Adventure R17 is a saddle bag designed to carry a large volume of items without the need for a rear rack. Equipped with several durable self-adhesive straps and anti-tear material on its base, this bag attaches to the saddle rails and seat post for optimal weight distribution on the bicycle. With a volume that can be adjusted from 8 to 17 litres, this bag is designed for cyclists travelling over long distances."
I was impressed with the overall performance, and it's easy to set up on the bike.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Material: TPU 420D (+ Polyester 640D + Hypalon)
Dimensions: 620 x 240 x 200 mm / 24.4 x 9.4 x 7.9 "
Colors: Black - Red
Capacity: 17 L / 1037 c.i
Maximum load: 5 kg
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's simple to set up and will carry a lot of your kit leaving your other bags free for all the other stuff you need.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Swallows loads of kit, and at a good price.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
There is noticeable sway on steep climbs.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It is well priced against many of the dry bag/holster types mentioned in the review. The 15l Topeak Backloader is similar, though, and costs a tenner less.
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 overall score
The Zefal is a well made bag that fits easily and securely to the majority of seatposts and saddles. There is a bit of sway on the climbs, but it's no worse than many other bags of this size (or slightly smaller) that I've used. It's well priced, too. It's very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: This month's test bike My best bike is: B'Twin Ultra CF draped in the latest bling test components
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: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed,
With 20 years of road cycling and over 150,000 miles in his legs it's safe to say Stu is happiest when on the bike whatever the weather. Since writing his first review for road.cc back in 2009 he has also had a career in engineering including 3D-CAD design and product development, so has a real passion for all of the latest technology coming through in the industry but is also a sucker for a classic steel frame, skinny tyres, rim brakes and a damn good paintjob.
His fascination with gravel bikes is getting out of control too!