When you go touring you soon realise that quality kit is a real asset. You put your bike, your apparel and your accessories through many hours and miles of continuous service, and you need them to perform well every moment. On my 2011 France and Spain tour a better saddle bag was one thing that I found myself longing for; something with a higher capacity, and more importantly waterproofing... soggy tools are never a good idea.
I started doing a bit of research into high quality touring kit and came across Arkel; a Canadian based brand who are renowned for their products the "other side of the pond". Interested to see the quality of their kit first hand I decided that their saddle bag was a great place to start.
Whoever designed the Arkel Waterproof Saddle Bag had an incredible ability to think outside the box; this really is one of the most innovative and practical products that I have come across...
Using technology that has been around for years in waterproof bags, the Arkel saddle bag uses a small roll-top closure bag to stash your tools and belonging in, then carries it in a compressible strap-fitted outer (see large photo below).
The mini waterproof bag, much like its far larger predecessors is 100% waterproof; there is nothing that is going to get through this. In addition though, it is also incredibly practical; depending on what you store in your saddle bag, the small waterproof sack provides a versatile and convenient grab-bag. For example, if you are nipping into the shop and need to take your cash and phone with you, problem solved! It's a good size as well; for example it's big enough to fit two tubes in, a Crank Brothers M19, tyre levers, puncture repair kit and have room to spare.
The mini waterproof bag fits neatly into the protective outer casing, which mounts to the saddle and seatpost with strong Velcro straps. The outer doubles up not just as a protective holder, but also a compression device, which compacts the saddle bag down to minimise space depending on how full you have filled it; you simply tighten up the straps and reduce the bulk, neat!
The design has many other great features as well, that overcome problems often found with traditional saddlebags. Firstly, because the outer carrier remains attached to the saddle, there is less chance of wearing out straps and clips with continuous removal of the bag. Secondly, because roll top bags have no zipper, there is no risk of you overfilling the pack and then ripping the zip apart as you try to do it up in anger after a puncture episode.
It's not just the innovative, classy design that has impressed me with the Arkel pack though; the build quality is outstanding, with strong webbing straps and stitching, and great details like the reflective light loop. This is clearly a saddle bag that has been designed with many many miles of service in mind, it is really built to last.
Finding bits of cycling kit that buck the norm is always exciting, and this saddlebag is certainly one of those. The introduction to the Arkel brand has made me keen to see more of their products and eager to go touring again. There's no doubt this kit is built for practicality and miles of great cycling.