Ortlieb announced a second model in their Frame-Pack Toptube line up last year with an added rolltop closure (RC) option. Curious about the differences between these two options, ADVNTR contributor and ultra racer Marcus Nicolson put both the original zippered model and the new edition to the test.
We’ve tested a number of Ortlieb bikepacking bags here at ADVNTR over the years, including a 3 year review of their handlebar and seatpost bags, which have thoroughly impressed and put Ortlieb firmly into the realm of category leaders. Would the frame top tube bags be able to follow this stellar verdict?
Over the past few months I’ve been testing out the two Ortlieb frame-packs. These have been ridden through some snowy and stormy conditions in the winter time, skateboarding commuter trips around Glasgow, and on a 100 mile fixed gear gravel adventure.
Ortlieb has been producing bikepacking bags since 2016. The company has a strong reputation for producing reliable, robust, waterproof bags in the bikepacking genre. I’ve used an Ortlieb handlebar bag since 2018 and it’s stood the test of time with ease. It has always kept my sleep system (stored up front) fully dry – no soggy sleeping bag moments to report! Therefore, I had high expectations ahead of reviewing the new frame bags – and to cut it short – these didn’t disappoint!
The two Ortlieb frame-packs are almost identical in every way with one very notable difference; one has a traditional zip closure system while the other ups the ante with a roll-top design.
Fit and attachment
The bags quickly fasten via three Velcro attachments on the top tube, plus a single attachment on the seat tube and down tube. It’s worth checking the measurements of the bag on the site before purchasing for your specific bike. These fit perfectly in my standard design 55cm and 56cm bike frames, but if you are riding a much smaller bike you will want to double check this beforehand.
Both bags were remarkably secure on the bike, no wobbles or loosening to report, even when tackling some rough terrain. The zip and roll-top fastening bags did not at any point come loose or fail when set up correctly. I also felt that the understated, non-flashy design of the bags meant that they were less likely to be nabbed when jumping into the shop for something. That said – I wouldn’t want to leave them outside in Glasgow city centre overnight!
Materials and features
The frame bags have a simple, functional design and robust quality to them. The colour scheme of black matt and signature Ortlieb orange detail works really well and will likely compliment whatever bike you throw it on!
On the standard frame-pack, the chunky, bright orange colour of the zip closure keeps things very simple when getting quick access to your bag on the go. There is also a nifty little slot to keep the zip fully fastened during riding.
I could comfortably stash a small film camera, D-lock, puncture repair kit, hand pump, snack supplies and a thermal layer in the bag (and a mandatory face mask), still with room to spare.
The proprietary fabric of the bags, sealed by high frequency welding, is highly durable and remarkably easy to clean. Riding around the west of Scotland in February meant that I had plenty of opportunities to get these muddy and it was always a simple matter of wiping-off with a wet rag to get them back to their original state. The dark colourway also means that they don’t mind getting a bit mud-covered on occasion either!
The simplicity of the bags’ design means that your expectations need to be tapered down to match. In other words, don’t expect too many features! There are no separator pockets in these bags so you might need to search around a bit to find those house keys down at the bottom! I tend to keep my items in smaller zipped bags, which keeps everything a bit more organised. On custom frame bags you may also expect a left-hand pocket for thin items – such as credit cards and house keys – another feature you won’t find here.
Roll closure (RC) option
While I do admire Ortlieb’s courage to try something new in the bikepacking frame bag market with their roll-top design, I have to admit that overall I didn’t get on as well with this version of the bag. It was often easy to over-pack or misjudge the packing of the roll-top bag which would result in unwanted leg-rubbing when riding. The zip version appeared to have a much firmer structure to it which would prevent this kind of thing from happening.
More generally, the roll-top is more tricky to access quickly when out riding, and I found it necessary to stop to remove items or grab a snack bar rather than do that while pedalling with the zipped bag. Therefore, I found it more suitable for commuting duties or rides where I didn’t need to constantly access the frame bag. Having said this, I can see why some riders might prefer to opt for a roll-top closure if they’ve had previous negative experience with a zip closure.
The Ortlieb Frame-Pack verdict
Overall, if I were to pick just one of these frame packs it would be the original zip closure version without a doubt. These are not cheap bags (£100 for the roll-top, £105 for the zip) but the quality of the design means that they are a solid investment for anyone considering long-term riding and bikepacking use. I’d rate the zipped closure bag 9/10 and the roll-top 7/10.
The packs also come with a 5-year warranty which gives great peace of mind, should anything go wrong. My experience with Ortlieb bags has been very positive and I would definitely recommend these frame bags as a solid addition to any gravel rider’s bag collection, as long as they’ll fit the bike size.
Although not on review for this feature, another bag which I regularly use on daily rides is the Ortlieb Accessory Pack. This is a 3.5L front pouch which sits unobtrusively on the handlebars. It can also be used in tandem with the handlebar pack to give a lot of extra storage for longer bikepacking trips too. I like to use one of these along with a frame pack on regular rides to increase storage capacity and carry some extra clothing, for example. This frame bag plus a small handlebar bag might be a good combo for you too.
Photography thanks to Chris Martin
Ortlieb Frame-Pack Toptube & RC£100/£105, €100/€110, $150/$160
- Robust, secure and totally waterproof
- Spacious main compartment
- Easy to fit and clean
- No separate storage compartments
- Roll-top design is a bit fiddly to use and slower to access than zip version
- No fit options for smaller frames
Last modified: 21st May 2021