The outdoor waterproof bag brand, hPa offer a wide range of products for various uses: fishing, cargo bikes, cameras, cold storage messenger bags…and now bikepacking.
We have had had their bikepacking bags on test and put them through some tough riding conditions.
Out of the box and initial impressions
What is immediately obvious is that this brand is about minimal packaging. There’s no luxury packaging in the genre of Apple or instruction manuals in 12 different languages. Simply a box, the 2 bags and nothing else. Exactly what was ordered and this approach goes a long way to reducing waste.
If the spirit of bikepacking is about minimalism, then these bags fit that requirement perfectly. hPa have aimed these bags towards road riding adventures up to 72 hours. Weighing less than 400g for the pair, expectations would be reduced durability, a feature however that we have tested thoroughly!
Both bags are of a simple design. 320D nylon coated polyurethane with loops at regular intervals, which resembles the well known MOLLE tactical system. The setup is light, but curiously, there is a lack of add-ons, reflective strips or netting. We’ll see how this minimalist approach works in practice.
Fitting the bags
A feature of their minimal weight, these bags have nothing to stiffen them or any kind of frame, so in order to maintain any kind of shape, the bags ideally need to be well filled.
Fitting the front bag is simple: Pass the straps through the loops which are then looped around the handlebar. Simple and quick fitting.
For the saddlebag, on paper, it is the same principle.
However, with its 4 series of loops around the bag, the choice of positions is huge! It takes a bit of trial and error and some head scratching to figure out the best combination!
The best surprise is just how much can gear can be stuffed inside the bags. I could fit everything I needed in the 2 bags (sleeping gear, change of clothing, tarp). Just the tools and whisky had to be carried in a small frame bag.
Without an additional small bag for items I needed quick access to, I fitted a top tube bag for the camera, mobile, money and some food.
Many of you asked what I brought on my Torino-Nice. Here you are! This is actually more than I took in the end (one kit instead of two) What would you add? Or what's too much in your opinion? And what do you think is the most important? ? #torinonicerally #1stTNR #bikepacking #bikelife #whatsinyourbag
Using the bags
Attachment: Once you have worked out the optimal way to attach the saddlebag, it isn’t overly stable, but not in a way that will be a nuisance on a ride.
The front bag, as with other designs that don’t have blocks to create distance from the handlebar, presses up against the brake and gear cables. Although this doesn’t affect their use, it may cause premature wear of the cables and the paint on the headtube. It is worth using tape to protect the frame or simply accept this fate!
For cyclists of a shorter stature, due to the versatility of the saddlebag, it can be fitted to smaller bikes without coming into contact with the rear wheel over rougher terrain. But it does, however, take a bit of ingenuity to get it set up!
Tip: For carrying a sandwich or drying yesterday’s laundry, I looped some elastic cord through the loops on the front bag. A simple addition that works well. It is also possible to attach some reflective strips if needed.
A bad stumble or just wear and tear : the life expectancy of bikepacking bags is being challenged.
Still, let’s not throw them away as soon as they are damaged !
In the field
Fix a hole :
Gorilla tape. A piece inside, a piece outside to be sure, and off we go !
Tip not to have to carry the whole roll : wrap some around a pen.
Fix a strap :
Some zipties or paracord are always useful !
For Cordura as well as X-Pac, a solution is to glue a patch inside and another outside.
The back of Cordura is coated with smooth polyurethane, thus will stick better.
Unfortunately, polyurethane glues aren’t exactly eco-friendly…
A grandma’s trick
Stitch a patch over the hole, rub the seams with wax and heat it with a hairdryer.
It is sturdy and weatherproof. You will just need to re-wax it once in a while.
Do not forget
Eventually, different manufacturers offer different warranties. A selling point to consider !
A small detail which was the envy of fellow bikepackers, is the double closure system, firstly with scratch, then the usual roll closure to keep everything watertight. The scratch is a neat feature, especially when settling in the the night, inbetween essential toileting, setting up the sleeping arrangements, organising food etc when you don’t want to be rolling the bags closed each time, the scratch system is quick and easy, preventing gear from falling out.
If there’s a negative point to be found, it’s that once the bags aren’t full , they lose their shape, requiring some fiddly, on-the-go, re-adjustment of the fitting straps. A simple solution would be to have a slither of plastic along the base, cut out a piece of an old ring binder.
- Material: Nylon coated with PU
- Closure: velcro and roll top
- Designed in: France
- Manufactured in: China
- Guaranty: 1 year
- Price: €64.95 for the pair
- Capacity : 8 litres
- Weighted weight : 190 grams
- Capacity : 10 litres
- Weighted weight: 193 grams
- Weight, less than 400g for the pair
- Scratch closure
- Unbeattable price
- Fitting the bags is fiddly
- Bags lose any shape when not completely full
- A bit fragile for off-road use
As Keith Bontrager once said, “Strong, light, cheap – choose 2”. The bags’ combined weight is certainly impressive at less than 400g and with their low cost, it’s hard to find better!
Despite being designed for road use, we did take them out on gravel and MTB adventures as well just to see how they would hold up and -even if they didn’t quite come through them completely unscathed- they stood up well to the demands of off-road riding.
These hPa Ultralight bags are perfect if you are looking to get into bikepacking without a huge initial outlay, after lightweight gear and if you ride on less demanding terrain.
Find hpa bikepacking ultralight bags on their webstore