- Buyer's Guide
Motorbikes aren’t really my thing; don’t get me wrong, I dig the eardrum-thumping roar of their engines, and the danger and mystique that surrounds them, but I nearly killed myself whilst paddock bashing on a two-wheeled demon and I’ve avoided them ever since. So when the opportunity arose to test a Kriega I knew I was scratched from the equation, and to do the pack justice we needed a champion well versed in the dark arts of motorcycles – in stepped Rick Lee.
Rick’s the project manager at Bellroy, an ex-Navy officer, outdoorsman and more importantly a biker. He’s one of Bellroy’s go-to guys for testing new product – he knows good design – and he was keen to get a Kriega flung around his shoulders, especially after I spilled the fact that they’d just joined Carryology’s Hall of Fame.
If you missed it, Kriega was immortalised in carry history thanks to their awesome active harness. Their innovative shoulder strap design, unlike the common bushwalking harness, follows the ribcage and hugs the pack to your body, without then locking it to your hips. You can still bend and twist, and the pack will remain stable with your upper body, allowing the user, in this case Rick, to stay flexible and free.
The R20 (rucksack 20L) is Kriega’s smallest and most affordable option, retailing at US$139.00. It’s hydration compatible and listed as suiting both road and off-road riders. It’s also, by way of added Kriega pouches, modular, being that you can ‘piggy back’ or mount a range of smaller bags to its front.
See below for the rundown on its modular capabilities all packed into a sleek little video (around 2min 30secs mark).
Who it suits
Obviously, anyone who prefers two wheels over what bikers lovingly refer to as coffins (cars). It’s light, water-resistant and will suit the no-frills user, being that it only offers up two main pockets and one mesh-lined organisation pocket on the inside. The silhouette is black and slick and it won’t stand out from your cool black leathered look – it’ll be your shadow and hold your essentials when you need it.
Who it doesn’t suit
The R20 is small at 20L; if you’re the kinda biker who lugs around a heap of stuff then this isn’t for you. I’d suggest an upgrade to Kriega’s larger packs such as the R30 and R35. Also if you dig the finer things, such as nicer materials, then this won’t satisfy. The Kriega is light and black and a little flimsy when you roll it between your fingers, but it knows what it is and makes no apologies.
How’d Rick test it?
The Rickster used it everyday for a month commuting to work via motorcycle, rain or shine. Over everything from a motorbike coat to a t-shirt. “It was comfy throughout, staying snug and in place”.
Surprisingly, he also lugged it for a 6-hour hike through Werribee Gorge, worn by him and a girl friend, who remarked mid-hike, “Wow, this is really comfortable.”
Followed by 2 days of climbing at Mt. Arapiles (one of the top 5 traditional climbing areas in the world) where it did about 300 meters of trad climbing and kept his “jar bag full of snacks and water safe and in place the whole time”. It was as good as a backpack can be in the tight situations, its slim profile helping out when he needed to wedge his whole body into a large crack – it seems that Kriega’s harness has the potential to go beyond the bike. *Take note Team Kriega.
Of course, I asked (like a tyrant) that Rick take notes, and he did so courteously. He agreed that the Kriega’s harness was the star, but after testing the bag for some time, it struck him: “Okay, they’ve nailed the harness, it’s truly fantastic, but now it’s time to focus more on the bag!”
After reading Rick’s notes, I think he may have a point…
It’s very light and the fit is very comfortable. For longer rides or day hikes it’s quite a good bag to have on your back for long stretches. The air mesh on the back panel keeps plenty of air moving, making it comfortable.
The harness definitely gives your arms freedom to move around. While you shouldn’t be swinging your arms while driving down the road this freedom did prove useful on hikes and while climbing. The buckle that connects the two shoulder straps together is rather genius in its simplicity. Giving you one big button to press and release it with, instead of having to pinch with normal chest buckles. However, they went with a standard pinch release button on the waist belt part of the bag…go figure.
Access to the main compartment is ample when fully unzipped. This is due to the good design of having the zipper go far around on each side, allowing you to open the bag widely. And there’s an internal pocket that works well for things like small tech cords, keys and wallets.
The compression straps on the side help to keep the pack slim on your back, but don’t expect to be able to easily fit a coat or sleeping pad along the side of the bag; the straps aren’t long enough for that.
The adjustment straps for the shoulder straps are okay, but not great. On the plus side they do have clever clips to keep the loose ends tidy, preventing them from flapping about like Flappy Bird when you’re cruising down the highway.
The pack is definitely water resistant, there were times when I rode home in semi-torrential rain and my stuff stayed dry and crisp.
Rick’s Not So Good
I’m not a big fan of the all-in-one front compartment with a side small zipper. There aren’t any dividers, pen pockets, or zipper pouches. The side zipper is nice for aesthetics but is an awkward way to get into a relatively large front pocket. Your stuff either comes tumbling out (when that pocket is full) or your hand disappears into it as if it was a kid’s candy grab bag, you’re never quite sure what you’ll find in there.
One of the compression strap buckles gets in the way of quickly zipping this pocket closed. The buckle could be moved or sewed in such a way to prevent this from happening.
If it’s a true motorbike bag, it’d be nice if it had a place to attach a motorbike helmet. This would free your hands when you stop by the market on your way home. And the material in general feels a bit thin and cheap. I’m sure it’s lightweight but it feels like it needs some niceness about it.
I’m not sure what the dots are for on the front straps, my guess would be that they’re there to help line up the straps when you’re making adjustments. They are a bit distracting and at first glance they make it look like you’ve gone a bit crazy with the white-out marker.
The “laptop sleeve” in the main compartment is not padded nor suspended, so if you’re not careful you’ll bang your goods on the ground when setting it down. It does have a compression strap built into it, which can hold your hydration pack or keep the laptop snug against your back, which is nice.
Others to consider
Lots of moto crew dig the moulded form, it really looks the part. So if you’re looking to splash a little more on a pack with a protective shell have a look into the OGIO Mach 5 and the AXIO Hardpacks.
If not, the Mission Workshop Rambler expands better than most and will look sweet with leathers and racing down the highway at way-too-fast clicks an hour.
The Kriega R20 is a solid offering and works well for casual rides or commutes to work. The harness is nailed and we know that. What’s lacking is some attention to detail; we’d love to see Kriega lift their game with materials, hardware and functionality. Granted, with some added-on accessory bags/pouches mounted to it the functionality improves, but when tested as is, it leaves the user wanting for a little more.
In closing, the one great discovery that came from this test is the fact that the Kriega works well outside of the motorbike realm. The comfort and freedom that their design allows can be applied to so many other pursuits such as climbing or mountaineering or anything that involves a human getting active, and we’d love to see Kriega expand their horizons and move beyond the bike.