Ortlieb is one of the pioneers when it comes to adventure cycling technical soft goods. Founded in 1982, the company started as a solo operation with a sewn rear pannier design. Soon after, family and friends joined to keep up with the demand. Built in Germany with premium coated waterproof materials, high-frequency welding, and competitive pricing, it is one of the brands you can never go wrong with. Ortlieb takes great steps in completely avoiding PVC-based materials and keeping an incredibly low carbon footprint. 100% of their electricity consumption is from renewable sources. And they make sure their entire manufacturing process is geared towards sustainability. I strongly suggest reading the sustainability section on their website, it is truly impressive.
Even though backpacks are not typically used when it comes to bikepacking, the Atrack BP is purposely built for it with a multitude of cycling and adventure-specific features. Bombproof materials, back fit adjustment, numerous compression straps, IP67 waterproof rating, and much more. The pack will also excel for commuting, travel, and even rafting. The bag was tested in everyday bike commuting conditions, local mixed terrain trails, and a one-night bikepacking ride.
Who It Suits
The Ortlieb Atrack BP is for the bikepacker, bike commuter, and adventure traveler who is looking for a very advanced technical bag offering great features and top-notch construction. The pack is perfectly designed to fit your body contour while riding a bicycle in all types of terrain and weather. The pack’s main volume is narrow and expandable on the vertical axis on both the top and bottom. It is also compressible with the integrated webbing/hardware system, keeping the pack from moving and bouncing. The hip belt is very narrow and out of the way to allow your hips to move freely while riding.
The entirety of the back padding system and shoulder straps are individually adjustable thanks to an impressive amount of injection molded parts (glass-filled POM would be my guess), steel rails, and a webbing array. The system enables riders of all torso sizes to find a good fit. I like to think of this pack as a mini duffel with integrated shoulder and hip straps (also removable).
The pack is categorized as 25L (w: 26 cm | 10.2 inches, h: 56 cm | 22.0 inches, d: 25 cm | 9.8 inches), but you can most certainly push those limits. The pack’s limit is essentially your limit and what you are comfortable riding with. You can easily fit a tent (1-person), poles, sleeping bag, spare clothes, food, and some water. In fact, this could be your only bag for a one-night ride. Riders who like simple, duffel-like interiors with few compartments and no lining are in luck. The pack is cavernous inside and only has four small nylon zippered compartments.
The only way to access the pack is through a chunky waterproof TIZIP zipper on the back of the pack. My guess is that this zipper position further helps with the waterproofing since rain and wind will not be able to make it between the back padding and your back. I can also see this being an amazingly effective theft-deterrent system. The pack also has two decently-sized exterior bottle pockets that are welded onto the sides.
Who It Doesn’t
If you are looking for an EDC pack, this would not cut it. Then again, it is not designed as one. The lack of compartmentalization, slow accessibility, and lack of laptop sleeve would make this pack less than ideal for that purpose. That said, if you’re a fan of pouch organization, then this would make a nice blank canvas for your setups.
Just like any other Ortlieb product I have used in the past, the Atrack BP is incredibly well built, flexible in terms of adjustability, and has a high-tech aesthetic for those who love that.
From the lightweight PU laminate ripstop (PS21R) with a hexagonal weave, the coated 1000D nylon (my guess, not specified), and the slippery aeromesh that will not destroy your jerseys as fast, to the numerous adjustable compression straps, custom injection molded parts, and RF welded panels – it is all meticulously designed to do its job. As with all other products in Ortlieb’s bikepacking line, the Atrack BP uses the same colorway and materials. Charcoal gray, matte black, and a splash of bright orange. They do offer a non “BP” variant of the pack that comes in many other bright color options. The slightly crinkly material and the orange highlights are not my favorite. Other than that, it looks straight out of a sci-fi movie with all the molded parts and unique features, and that is something I personally love.
There are three sets of compression straps. Two horizontal adjustable straps on the front/sides, and one on the vertical axis that affects the top or bottom of the pack. The horizontal compression straps are length and height adjustable via ladder locks. They are also removable thanks to laser-cut slots paired with T-hooks. The vertical compression also works with a ladder lock system and some custom hardware. The pack height can be adjusted so the back of your helmet does not get in the way. All side release buckles and ladder locks are manufactured by Duraflex.
Comfort and ergonomics depend heavily on the user’s body type; nobody is the same. At 5’11, 155lbs, this pack fits me perfectly. The shoulder strap and back padding system is all linked to a unique, lightweight steel rail system with webbing straps. The webbing has sizing marks woven into them, allowing the whole padding system to be height adjustable for different users. The pack’s aeromesh padding and stiffener are integrated into the pads but not the main volume. No matter what irregular object you have in the pack, you will not feel it on your back since the main volume is almost completely independent from the padding. This system also allows for some incredibly effective ventilation and evaporation.
The pack is also hydration compatible via a waterproof plug located on the top left side behind the shoulder strap. Once the hole is unplugged to route the hose, the pack is no longer waterproof; it is however water-resistant. The shoulder straps also include a basic slide adjust sternum strap with a side release adjustable buckle.
The inside lacks a liner, but there are four decently sized zippered nylon pouches that are perfect for keeping small items such as spare tubes (go tubeless, for your own sake), multitools, snacks, socks, ESBIT tablets etc. They can be somewhat secured with the built-in interior compression strap.
Not So Good
The Ortlieb Atrack BP is a form follows function type backpack. It lacks organization and ease of access, but this is all intentional. More openings mean more seam welds, more zippers to fail and more places for water and dust to leak in to. Minimal organization forces you to be more conscious of what you bring for the trip and what is essential. It also keeps pricing down and focused on more important features. My only issue with this pack is that the interior nylon pouches often get in the way of accessing the main and only opening. They tend to dangle and just get in the way, even with the included interior compression strap. I wish they were removable.
Alternatives to Consider
Technically speaking, you can ride with whatever backpack you like, but as far as backpacking-specific packs go, honestly, there is nothing like the Ortlieb Atrack BP. I do not think any brand can pack this level of manufacturing, feature set, and pricing without owning their own factory. That said, there are a few other good options out there like the EVOC Explorer Pro 30L, Mission Workshop “The Hauser” 14L, CamelBak H.A.W.G. Pro 20, Osprey SYNCRO line, Oveja Negra Portero, and the Wingnut Adventure pack. These all vary in size and materials, but they are mainly focused on cycling.
The Ortlieb Atrack BP has exactly what it needs to perform its purpose as a bikepacking/adventure travel backpack while being streamlined, lightweight, rugged, and extremely comfortable.
All in all, considering the point of use, $250 price tag, the material choices, and R&D, this pack is a stellar choice for any adventure cyclist or bike commuter who wants a long-lasting technical pack that will carry very comfortably.
This article was written by new contributor, Gino Romano, industrial designer, cyclist, minimalist and master of carry memes. Follow his adventures on Instagram.