In BPM’s Alpkit Field Testing Pt2, we’ll review more bikepacking accessories and camping gear from this UK based brand. Stay tuned!
“Go Nice Places, Do Good Things.” Now that’s a fantastic corporate motto! A faithful devotee to Alastair Humphrey’s micro-adventure gospel, I was already somewhat familiar with Alpkit before testing their gear. “Born out of the passion for outdoor activity and not accepting the costs involved in getting quality equipment in our sacks” Nick, Chunk, Jim and Kenny founded the UK based brand in 2004. The company enjoys a loyal following overseas so I was super stoked to demo some product here in the US. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I excitedly tore into the large box of kit that arrived from across the pond. For the next three months, I’d test and evaluate this panoply of multi-colored goodness on a variety of mountain, river and trail adventures. Alpkit is “committed to developing honest, great value, well thought through outdoor equipment.” I was anxious to discover if the brand’s bike luggage, bikepacking accessories and camping gear achieved that goal. It was time to shred some Alpkit across the intermountain-west! Alpkit Bike Luggage Alpkit is renown for producing extraordinary adventure equipment and has incorporated some really cool design features into its bike luggage. Borrowing inspiration from daisy chained products manufactured for climbing and rafting, Alpkit now sews a bar-tacked, webbing ladder on all of its kits. The adoption of this simple, yet innovative design solution provides bikepackers endless attachment points and custom mounting options via a selection of velcro straps included with each bag. Furthermore, all of Alpkit’s bike luggage is now constructed with “bombproof” XV21 proprietary fabric. True to the company’s claims, this lightweight, durable, highly water resistant material performs well in all climates and conditions. The Stem Cell With a plethora of manufacturers producing handlebar pouches, it can be difficult to decide what accessory sack to strap on to your steed. For most adventurers, size matters and the larger storage capacity of the Alpkit Stem Cell is impressive. Dual Stem Cells have graced my bars all season, allowing me to easily transport a 33oz water bottle in one and store tools/snacks/an extra tube and supplies in the other. The Stem Cell’s mesh outer pocket is large enough to secure common items you’ll want to access on the fly (tire levers/ electrolyte tabs) and provides you a convenient place to stash your trash. Stem Cells are well crafted, featuring a padded, hi-vis interior and Alpkit’s VX21 fabric. A simple elastic drawcord fitted with a plastic pull pendant allows riders to easily draw the bag closed. In the future, I’d love to see Alpkit outfit all of their bike luggage zippers and pull cord pendants with glow in the dark fobs. Regardless of this refinement, Stem Cells are a solid choice for your adventure kit. The Fuel Pod This no bullshit storage bag is key for keeping on-the-fly essentials close at hand. I’ve run the Fuel Pod solo on long day rides and in combination with a Timbuk2 Goody Box for multi-day adventures. I also store extra tools in the pouch when it’s not on my bike. Highly durable and incredibly versatile, the Fuel Pod is just the right size for packing a day’s worth of sunscreen, chamois butter and shot blocks. The low profile cut of this bag allows for a variety of mounting options astride your bike’s top tube. And like all of Alpkit’s bike luggage, the stout fabric and workhorse YKK zipper allows for considerable cramming. The Possum I tend to develop strong feelings about the gear I evaluate. After testing something, I typically love it or hate it. Predictably, I formed clear opinions about each Alpkit item I demoed this season. So it’s odd I’m left feeling “meh” about my time with the Possum. Think of the Possum as the company’s version of the classic, Revelate Tangle. Alpkit offers three sizes of Possums and I went with a medium bag to try on my medium sized Salsa frames. Like all of Alpkit’s Bike Luggage, attaching the bag to the bike utilizing the webbing ladder sewn around the Possum was incredibly simple. There’s endless attachment strategies you can employ when the entire bag is surrounded by a daisy chain. Anchor points aside, I found the fit of the bag to be mediocre and actually had to depress the nose of the Possum to get it to fit into the space at the front of my triangle. Balancing length vs. capacity here. The bag does offer decent storage space, accessed via two pockets running the length of the Possum. The smaller zippered space enables riders to pack along essential tools and emergency gear while the larger pocket has room for a water bottle and some snacks. From Alpkit.com, “Both ourselves and our riders have found the Possum to be our most versatile piece of bike luggage.” Agreed, you can mount it in a myriad of ways but it’s clear that the general cut of this bag will not be a terrific fit on certain frames. Best to try before you buy here. The Koala Alpkit’s Koala Seat Pack utilizes a harness design and roll top closure system we most often see employed by manufacturers. But there’s a major difference with this saddlebag. Alpkit has again borrowed technology from the rafting world, incorporating plastic Duraflex buckles and straps to affix the Koala to your bike’s seat post. I admit to having little confidence in the durability and perceived holding power of this attachment system. Yet no amount of tightening or tensioning has caused the buckles or straps to break on my seat bag. Despite my initial skepticism, the plastic attachment points have held the Koala tight to my post all season long. When it comes to hauling a load however, this bag has a Jekyll and Hyde personality. Alpkit claims “you can squash the bag down to around 8 liters in size or you can max it out to around 13 liters.” Users will quickly discover that those five liters matter big time. When it’s rigged up small, this well-fitting, lightweight saddlebag effortlessly hugs your bike and seldom needs re-tightening. The Koala is unquestionably one of the better designed and more affordable options available to bikepackers and ultra racers seeking a smaller capacity seat bag. But the Koala struggles when your adventure calls for more gear capacity. When fully stuffed, it is difficult to keep this saddlebag from twisting and loosening. The more tech and chunder you encounter, the squirrelier the pack becomes. Adding additional accessory straps does little to alleviate the clunky feeling of this pouch when all 13 liters are fully deployed. Overall, if you’re looking for a smaller seat bag affording you longer days on the trail sans pack, then the Koala is a fantastic solution. It’s also been a favorite of mine for ultra racing. It’s been bomber when I’ve used it in combination with the Tapered Airlock inner liner. But when loaded to full capacity, the bag’s finicky fit and sloppy seat sway is problematic.