Review: Blackburn Outpost Bikepacking Bags

Soft bikepacking bags have grown in popularity with the bikepacking and touring crowd as a rugged, singletrack-friendly alternative to traditional rack-and-pannier setups. Originally designed in custom and small-batch operations by companies including Revelate Designs, Porcelain Rocket and Oveja Negra, bikepacking bags are now mass-produced by larger players including Specialized, Ortleib and Blackburn. A longtime player in the rack and panniers business, Blackburn recently expanded their Outpost product line to include a reasonably-priced and fully-featured entry point for bikepackers. The Outpost bags look great at first glance, but how do they stack up to competition on the trail?

The Test

We had the opportunity to trail-test a set of fancy, limited-edition ‘Stealthy Camo’ Blackburn Outpost bags on a quick late-season overnight bikepacking trip into the Colorado front range. The Outpost bags were strapped to a gravel grinder which saw a mix of ~70% pavement, ~20% dirt, and ~10% hardpack over the course of our 40mi round trip. We didn’t hold back and treated the bags to some rowdy, rutted dirt road and a smidge of singletrack.

Blackburn Outpost Frame BagBlackburn Outpost Frame Bag - Expanded - The Dropper Post

Out of the box, the frame bag’s sharp looks and nifty zip-out expandable main compartment stole our hearts, making the Outpost Frame Bag our favorite Blackburn accessory in the lineup. One great feature was the inclusion of external mesh pockets, which proved to be perfect for holding snack wrappers, phones, and other odds and ends without having to unzip the bag. Inside the bag, adequate cushioning and an adjustable internal divider to keep gear organized made the bag feel more premium than its price might suggest. Only the front and rear lock-straps felt cheap, made from flimsy nylon and lacking management for excess length. Blackburn designed the straps to be easily replaceable, so this decision seems like a reasonable concession for a bag at this price point.

On-trail, the framebag performed without a hitch. We didn’t get rain to test the “waterproofedness”, but the bag handled rough singletrack with zero hesitation, while providing easy-access to contents during our trip. Sealed zippers kept the dust away from gear, and the hardy waterproof material inspired confidence that this bag is built to last. I would have no concerns using this bag in rotation with my standard Revelate gear.

Blackburn Outpost Seat Pack and Dry Bag, Camo

Blackburn Outpost Frame Bag - Seat Pack and Dry Bag - The Dropper PostBlackburn Outpost Seat Pack and Dry Bag Open - The Dropper PostThe Outpost Seat Pack and Dry Bag was thoughtfully designed with easily-removable waterproof storage paired with a harness that attaches to the seatpost. The included drybag is high quality, tapering at the front end to minimize thigh-rub. There was enough room in the bag for my inflatable sleeping pad, tent footprint, tent body and a few small clothing items. The seatpost harness construction felt flimsier than expected in-hand, which was a departure from our experience with the frame bag.

The harness design led to a good, but not great experience on the trail. Even with straps fully-cinched, I couldn’t eliminate the “tail wag” in twisty sections. Newer designs have been released with lightweight scaffolding to prevent this sway, but not necessarily at this price point. The practicality of rolling into camp and detaching only the drybag to get access to my gear is fantastic. I actually preferred using the Outpost Seat Pack compared to my Revelate Designs Pika for this reason, even though I prefer the construction on the Revelate bag.

Blackburn Outpost Handlebar Roll and Dry Bag, CamoBlackburn Outpost Handlebar Roll - The Dropper PostBlackburn Outpost Handlebar Roll Attachment System - The Dropper Post

I really wanted to love the Outpost Handlebar Roll. A solid, no-frills roll with paired with a perfectly-shaped (and included) drybag made for a compelling offering. One especially smart addition, Velcro-backing on the roll, was a great solve to prevent gear from slipping out the sides under heavy cornering. But this otherwise smart system is made somewhat less attractive by the overly-complicated plastic mounting system, complete with a cinch strap, locking turn-switch, failsafe wire (?). I wasn’t sure how tight the bar mount should be, so I tightened until the mount stopped moving under moderate pressure and stopped. As a mechanic, I’m still scarred by occasions where I’ve over-tightened plastic components only to watch them deform and crack under pressure. I’ll note here that you actually tighten into metal backing (not plastic), but it’s still set into an otherwise plastic clamp system.

Once we hit the trail, I had to re-tighten the mount several times to keep the harness from rotating toward the ground. Otherwise, the system worked without issue. This easily could be my fault for under-tightening, but the thought of a broken harness in the backcountry was a bit nerve-racking. Perhaps I’m overly cautious, but there are two easy solutions: include a torque-spec on the mount itself, or construct the mount from lightweight aluminum. Or both.

Conclusion

Even with its flaws, the Blackburn Outpost collection is an attractive, well-priced option for bikepackers looking to get a full set of trail-ready bags

  • Solid construction, great materials, and a few very intelligent design decisions led to a great overall on-trail experience testing this gear
  • The Outpost Frame Bag was our favorite of the three, and performed flawlessly on our trip
  • The Outpost Handlebar Roll mounting system needs some work, but it seems serviceable and performed decently on-trail
  • A more robust seat bag harness would be nice for the Outpost Seat Bag, but given the price point it feels sufficient
  • The “Stealthy Camo” coloring looked stunning on-bike with all the Blackburn accessories attached, especially against a muted, matte frame color

It’s exciting to see established companies like Blackburn enter the bikepacking fray. Though scaled operations and mass-production may tighten the margins for boutique manufacturers, more competition is typically a good thing and will hopefully lead to more innovation in the coming years.

Disclosure: Products were provided for testing and review. We did not receive any monetary compensation in exchange for the content of this review and strive to provide an honest and objective review of the product’s strengths and weaknesses to our readers.

 

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  1. Pingback: The Best Gifts for Bikepacking | The Dropper Post: Bikepacking Adventures & Gear

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