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The Topeak Backloader 10L is a reasonably priced bikepacking seatpack that carries its own waterproof stuffsack inside. Although you can get a waterproof bag of similar size that weighs slightly less, for its price and ease of use the Topeak Backloader is a brilliant choice.
Bikepacking seatpacks can be tricky beasts. Although the back of the saddle can be a great place to carry luggage, the devil is in the detail when it comes to a good seatpack. Some of the things that can go wrong include a saddlebag that sags in the middle until it rubs on the tyre, a bag that lets its contents get wet in the rain, or a bag that is difficult to mount onto the bike when loaded.
I used a different brand of saddlepack on the Transcontinental Race last year, and this latter problem drove me crazy. If I stayed in a hotel, I either had to unpack the whole saddlebag in whatever spot my bike was being stored for the night (perhaps a hotel lobby) and carry everything upstairs in my arms, or unclip the bag from the bike – the option I generally chose to avoid dropping kit everywhere.
Unclipping the bag from the bike might sound simple, but getting the bag back onto the bike the next day was invariably awful. Trying blindly to fasten its straps beneath the saddle with one hand, while supporting the weight of the loaded bag with the other hand, almost had me in tears of frustration some days and literally could take several minutes of increasingly sweary effort.
So I was very interested to see that the Topeak bag takes a different approach. The outer black bag – the one visible to an observer as you ride – is intended to stay fastened to the bike throughout your journey. When you get to your destination, you simply open the roll-top closure at the end and pull out the separate drybag that lives inside. There's no fiddling with awkward under-saddle straps at all, and no trailing armfuls of kit through Hungarian hotel lobbies in the wee hours.
This design has totally won me over, and I don't think I'd ever again want to use a saddlebag that has to be removed from the bike or unloaded in situ. The convenience of this separate stuffsack design is hard to beat out on the road.
So let's look at the two bags that make up this system. The outer is made of a sturdy nylon material that feels tough and durable. After my test rides it still looks like new. The inner stuffsack is specially shaped to fit neatly inside the outer case, and so is slightly narrower at the bottom and wider at the top. Both bags have roll-top closures, although only the inner bag is completely waterproof. The inner bag also has a venting system, so you can roll it down tight and squeeze all the air out at the same time, leaving the smallest possible package to slip into the outer.
When road.cc last looked at one of these bags, Emma noted that the inner drybag didn't completely fill the outer bag, and recommended buying one or two small additional drybags to make the most of the outer bag's capacity. Having used this bag on a few trips, I think I'd interpret things very slightly differently.
Yes, there's a bit of space around the inner bag even when it's full, and you could certainly make use of this by dropping other items into the outer. But for me, the generous space of the outer was a boon, because it meant I could fill the inner bag knowing that when I carried it downstairs to my bike, it would always slip easily and instantly into the outer bag without fiddling or having to adjust the contents. Sure, there's a small amount of extra space in the outer, but that just disappeared when I tightened down the compression straps.
So how much does the inner bag hold when it is filled?
This is only a 10 litre bag, and doesn't look huge at first glance. But I found it held a surprising amount with careful packing. Heading off for an overnight camp, I managed to get a summer sleeping bag, bivvy bag, thermal gilet, leg warmers, waterproof jacket, inflatable sleeping mat, and a few other small odds and ends into the inner bag without bother. Yes, one or two of these were very compact lightweight models – the sleeping mat in particular was the spectacular Klymit Inertia X Lite Short mat, and you're perhaps not going to get quite as many items into the bag if you've got bulky kit – but the point is it holds more than you might think given its 10 litre capacity.
And if 10 litres still feels too small (or too large), Topeak also does this bag in 6 or 15 litre variants.
Everything else worked just great. The outer bag has a useful cord system for strapping extra items on top and a holder for clip-on lights on the back. When riding, the mounting straps of the outer bag held everything in a nice stable fashion, and I experienced no sagging; the saddlebag also swayed a lot less than some others do when standing up on the pedals for a climb. No wagging tails here!
If I've convinced you of the merits of a separate inner drybag with a holder mounted to the bike, there are certainly other options out there that take the same approach, including the various Porcelain Rocket Mr Fusion models that seem popular in the States and the Restrap Holster from here in the UK. But these are considerably more expensive than the Topeak Backloader, and of comparable weight if not heavier.
If you want waterproof with even less weight, you're probably looking at the 11-litre Ortlieb bag which has a claimed weight of just 325g. But then you're losing the convenient two-piece design that won me over here.
As such, if you like the idea of the two-part inner-outer system for a completely waterproof luggage carrier, I can't think of a better option right now than this Topeak Backloader, given its balance of function and price.
Affordable, well made and really easy to use out in the field
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Topeak BackLoader 10L
Size tested: 10L capacity / 60x20x18cm
Tell us what the product is for
Topeak says, "BackLoader is a large capacity seat bag specially designed for bikepackers providing a streamlined way to carry gear without the need for a rear rack. Constructed of lightweight, highly water resistant and durable materials, it mounts and removes quickly. The upgraded saddle mount system, in conjunction with compression straps, reduces the pendulum effect associated with large rear payloads, providing a comfortable ride for those long miles. An easy access waterproof inner bag is included to keep contents completely dry."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
10 litre capacity (610 cubic inches)
Attaches with two clips on the saddle rails and hook-and-loop fastener around the seatpost
60 (max) x 20 x 18 cm / 23.6' x 7.9' x 7.1'
Waterproof inner bag
Safety light clip
Air release button
The outer feels really solid and durable. The inner is made of the same sort of material used on most drybags, and as such could be prone to wear if you don't look after it. Given this drybag is specially shaped to fit the outer bag, and has an air-release valve, you're going to want to look after it.
The bag was wonderfully convenient in use. I could pack the inner, evacuate any extra air and seal it, knowing that it would slip easily into the outer bag already mounted on my bike. This was so much easier in practice than using a one-piece bag which either needs you to somehow support its weight while you attach it to the bike or to load it onto the bike empty before loading it up – which can be inconvenient if, say, your bike is parked outdoors.
The outer gives me no concerns at all; the inner will need more looking after as it's made of the usual relatively thin drybag material.
This is over 100g heavier than a good single-bag waterproof system like, say, the Ortlieb 11-litre seat pack. But, having used both, I'd personally take the hit on weight for the more convenient two-bag design.
It's £65 at rrp, which isn't cheap, but it compares very well against others, and can be had for under 50 quid if you shop around.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
This was a delight to use when bikepacking and camping. The ease of loading and unloading, the stability of the bag in use, and the knowledge that it was fully waterproof, were great.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The two-bag system, which made loading and unloading much easier than a single bag that either needs to be removed, or loaded and unloaded at the bike.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
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
You can get a good saddlepack that weighs a bit less, but given its ease of use, construction and price, it's an excellent pack that's hard to beat.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Synapse My best bike is: Whyte Wessex One
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: road racing, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking, Audax and long-distance riding
A research psychologist by day, Ian spends quite a lot of time on bikes, particularly commuting between Bristol and Bath or doing audax rides. For years he was an ultradistance runner, but this came to an end when he realised getting back onto a bicycle offered the chance to race over much more preposterous distances. In recent years he has ridden in the Transcontinental Race, the TransWales and the North Cape 4000. He has even finished first in some of these.