In an era when the modern traveller seems to be under increasing pressure to keep luggage weight and bulk to a minimum, particularly when using air travel, one of the first considerations when purchasing a new holdall is finding a balance between features, durability and of course weight. The Ortlieb Rack Pack series offers a selection of four varying capacity roll-top bags, in sizes from 24 to 89 litres. Made in Germany, the Rack Pack bags owe their design to Ortlieb’s 30-year history pioneering laminate technologies and manufacturing waterproof luggage for numerous sectors of the outdoor market. Much of what Ortlieb has become synonymous with can be seen within the Rack Pack’s design, from the wholly laminated structure and waterproof outer to the roll-top closure, the Rack Pack is most obviously Ortleib.
In use the bag functions well and is both lightweight and, if the need arises, very pack-able. The simple design offers a single compartment with no external or internal pockets, and whilst this may put some people off you can see the logic behind the thinking – less seams to laminate and less materials required, ergo lighter and less to go wrong. What the bags lack in pockets they make up for in carry and compression straps of which there are quite a few. The Rack Pack opens length ways via a cavernous entrance, making packing the bag an easy and speedy undertaking. Once packed the opening is rolled down – as much or as little as your space needs dictate – and each end can be fastened in place via plastic snap lock buckle. To prevent your kit moving around in transit there are also two horizontal compression straps to cinch in any excess material and keep everything firmly in place. A single, easily adjustable over-the-shoulder carry strap is supplied, which also has a floating and removable padded load bearing section. The strap is on pivoting hooks, meaning it is unlikely to twist. It can also be removed quickly if necessary, i.e. when using the bag as hold luggage. I originally set my sights on a Rack Pack as the simplicity and lightweight nature of the bag appealed, although I did have some initial reservations over whether having the main load-bearing straps laminated to the bag, rather than stitched, would be durable enough. Having now used my Rack Pack (49L version) on a number of climbing trips, I’m pleased to report that the bag has withstood all the abuse a modern airport and numerous flight connections can deliver, with the straps remaining in place and the outer fabric repelling all potential hole-causing nasties I’ve thus far encountered. I generally use my 49L Rack Pack as a carry-on bag, due to the fact its dimensions are roughly the maximum allowed by most airlines, and unlike a lot of other carry-on luggage it’s extremely flexible with a low profile, thus, contents permitting, it can be squashed into even the most well filled overhead storage bins.
If you’re after something riddled with internal and external pockets, a complex carrying systems and an indestructible construction then this is probably not the bag for you. If on the other hand, you are looking for a good blend of minimalism, lightweight/packable construction and reasonable durability, then the Rack Pack series is well worthy of consideration, particularly when you take into account the competitive price range across the different capacities.