In early September, I bought one of the first production Arkel SeatPacker 9 seatbags available. This is Arkel’s first foray into the lightweight bikepacking market. Arkel has a long, storied history in the pannier touring market. So, could they make the crossover? Two weeks later, I was battle-testing the new seatbag on the Caldera 500 bikepacking race in the Eastern Sierras in California.
The Arkel SeatPacker comes in 2 models, the SeatPacker 9 and SeatPacker 15. I opted for the SeatPacker 9 due to its compact size. I also wanted it to fit under my Salsa Bucksaw’s seat with the RockShox Reverb dropper still in play. The unboxing revealed 2 major pieces: The external aluminum frame/bracketry and the bag itself. The bag is a single 9 liter waterproof compartment. It also has many loops to attach your spot or whatever else you need to attach to your bag.
The frame is a combination of plastic and aluminum with a quick release mechanism which securely mounts to your seat rails. It ships with 2 bracket configurations which should fit any possible seat rail scenario. The mounting is infinitely-adjustable with allen bolts that allow you to slide the bracket along the frame to dial in your setup.
The frame offers a solid mounting system against the seat rails which is intended to stop side-to-side sway. This has plagued seatbags since their inception. Once the frame is mounted, you can slide the bag on and off with one Velcro strap holding everything together.
The bag has a pocket which the frame slides into, holding everything securely. I installed the Reverb enduro collar, so I could limit the travel of the dropper, so as not to rip up my brand new bag. I let the air out of the rear shock to determine how much dropper travel I needed to limit at full suspension compression. I ended up with about 3” of dropper travel.
This first picture shows the dropper fully extended.
This picture shows the dropper in compressed position and limited by collar.
The workmanship of the bag, frame and bracketry is top-notch. Even though the bracketry has some plastic extruded parts, they made the correct decision on which parts should be aluminum. You need to take care when tightening the quick release down against the seat rails, since too much force could crush your rails. Also, the quick release is threaded into a solid piece of aluminum which could strip out if you used too much force cranking on it. I think a nutsert in the aluminum could have been a better solution.
The weight of the frame could be a concern for some. I think it’s a good trade-off since I’ve never had a seatbag feel so secure. There is very little, if any, side to side movement. Also, the ability to slide the bag off and on in a matter of seconds when you get to camp is a huge plus.
I embarked on the Caldera 500 bikepacking race on September 24 with the setup above. I had made a few dry runs with the bag, but 500 miles of gnar would really be the test. I mounted the frame the night before and never had to touch it again during the race. As a precaution, I also zip-tied the seatbag frame to the seat rails in case the frame had a catastrophic failure.
I carried mainly my cold weather clothes in the bag during the race, but occasionally attached 2 liters of water to the top of bag, extra food and various other things with ski straps. I also found myself putting a little body weight on the seatbag frame when I had the dropper down for steep descents trying to get my weight back. The route beat the crap out of the bag and it performed flawlessly. It shows no wear on contact points.
The SeatPacker 9 is expensive at 199.99 US dollars. If you want a bag that will work with a dropper and that’s securely mounted, this may be the bag for you. It proved its worth over and over during the race.