Product Review: Arkel Rollpacker (A First Look)

When I first started to look into gearing up for bikepacking a couple of years ago, I was immediately drawn to the Canadian company Arkel for a couple of reasons.  First, they’re Canadian (based in Quebec) and they manufacture their products in Canada.  Second, the reviews I read commented on the durability of their products.

After contacting Arkel, I acquired their new seatbag, the SeatPacker 15, which I tested and reviewed.  I liked the product so much, that after winning an Arkel pannier in a silent auction, I traded it in for an early version of their Rollpacker handlebar bag last year.  I tested this early version on my four-day bikepacking trip on the Central Ontario Loop Trail (COLT) in September 2017 and gave some feedback to Arkel, and in 2018, they came out with a re-design of their front rack for the RollPacker and it was released to the public.  Arkel was kind enough to provide me with the new rack, and I was finally able to test it out on a short ride this weekend.

The good thing was that the RollPacker bag itself had not changed from the prototype I used last year.  The new rack was designed to eliminate some of the bounce and sway issues I’d experienced on my COLT ride in 2017.

The Bag:  Arkel offers two sizes of the RollPacker bag.  Never one to pack light, I opted for the 25 litre size (the smaller bag is 15 l).   The waterproof bag is basically a two-sided dry bag and on my four-day trip last fall, I was able to stuff my tent (less the poles), sleeping bag, sleeping pad and a bunch of clothing into it.  There’s also an easily-accessible pouch on the front where I stored snacks, plus phone, batteries and a head lamp.  For my test ride, I stuffed it with a bunch of jackets and a camp chair, with some snacks in the front pouch. 

The Rack: The updated rack is easy to attach to either a flat bar (i.e., mountain bikes, fat bikes) or a drop bar (gravel bikes).  For my test ride this weekend, I attached it to my mountain bike.  

The Arkel website has an instructional video for setting up this system.  There are two options for attaching the rack to your handlebar.  I tried both on mountain bike and I found that the higher set up was more stable (the higher setup allows the bag to attach farther from the front wheel, and it felt more stable).  

Arkel RollPacker 25. Side view.

I didn’t ride any bumpy singletrack, but the bumps I rode over on the gravel trails didn’t cause any bouncing of the bag.  This was an improvement over the prototype that I rode with last fall.  The updated rack felt a lot more stable than the previous version.

RollPacker 25 – Top View.  I didn’t load the bag to its capacity.  Plus there’s room on top of the system to tie down more gear!

As with any handlebar bag, the weight is noticeable when you turn the handlebar, simple because of the weight of the bag and the contents.  However, the bag always felt securely attached to the bag rack and unless you’re turning at high speeds, you won’t feel any instability.

In this photo, the rack was set up to hang lower.  There’s still enough clearance over the front tire, but the bag didn’t feel quite as stable. 

Overall, I really like this bag on a flat handlebar.  I’ll try it on the drop bars of my gravel bike at some point.  The main difference I foresee is that the drop bars won’t allow the 25 l bag to be as full as this set up.  Still, it will be able to carry a lot of gear. 

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