I rode the 550km Tuscany Trail with the Arkel bag and some shorter rides and I was very happy with the bag. I also liked the Ortlieb, but I only tested it on shorter rides. If you live close to ZURICH and would like to test or borrow a bag, you can do this here: borrow bikepacking gear from GET CHANGED!.
If you have little time – skip through the text: GREEN what is great. RED what was not good. BLUE – option questions I need to check.
How easy is it to put the bag on and take it off?
ARKEL has a special hanger system (see picture below). You fix an aluminium hanger at your seatpost and saddle (it takes 10 sec) – and then you put your bag onto this aluminium hanger and fix it to the seatpost with velcro. This allows you to very easily take off your bag when you leave your bike and put it on again. I love it, it is great. But you have an extra item on the bike.
ORTLIEB: You fix the bag with one (11L) or two (16.5L) broad velcros to your seatpost and additionally fix it to the saddle. The velcross is a little difficult to fix (narrow and I was afraid that it wears off quickly), but it is easy to attach.
I preferred the ARKEL system – because it is so easy to take the bag on and off!
How comfortable is the bag on the bike and on tours?
On the Tuscany Trail around 50% of the people had an Ortlieb bag. A general problem with seatpost bags seems to be that they shake a lot (from left-right) the larger they get, particularly on trails, which does not look comfortable for the rider.
ORTLIEB: I experienced not much shaking with the 11L Ortlieb, because it is small. But on the Tuscany Trail I saw a lot of 16.5L Orlieb bags shaking a lot left-right.
Nice is that the bag has an elastic band to which you can attach stuff like a jacket.
ARKEL: One of the really nice things about Arkel’s hanger construction is that there is no left-right shaking. Watch the video below and evaluate for yourself.
Nice is that the bag has a small pocket with a waterproof zip, which matches e.g. a phone.
I totally liked the Arkel system, because the bag does not shake. The small Ortlieb was ok. But the larger Ortlieb bag shakes quite a bit.
Thanks to Michael Luplow for the video – go and check his side (he also reviews Ortlieb bags): Bikepacking-Adventures.
Robustness: How robust is the bag? How long does it last?
ORTLIEB offers 5 years warranty. I was wondering, why it is not longer. Because the most sustainable bag is the one that lasts long. I will ask Ortlieb why they only have 5 years. The material is thin and light, but I had the impression that it is still robust. Well, time will tell…
ARKEL offers a lifetime warranty, what I find great because this is real sustainability: „We offer a lifetime, transferable, no receipt needed guarantee on the workmanship (meaning the product has no inherent defect to it), stitching (meaning NO stitching will ever rip), aluminum hooks, rails, nuts and screws, and inner stiffening backplate. None of these will ever break. And if one should, you can be sure that we’ll repair it!!! If it can’t be repaired to our high standards, we will replace it. Note that we do not guarantee abuse nor the wear and tear of the fabric and zippers.“
I think both bags are robust – but I just love the lifetime warranty Arkel provides.
Waterproof: How waterproof is the bag?
ORTLIEB: I have not tested them in rain, but I have heard that they are waterproof. And from my own experience with Ortlieb panniers I can totally agree.
ARKEL: It wasn’t raining on the Tuscany Tail. But the bag has two layers: An outer layer, made out of Cordura, which is very robust, but only water-repellent: „Our bags start with coated Cordura; a durable, water repellent American-made fabric, nearly impossible to rip or tear, that keeps water out! The same hydrophobic finish used on world-class tents and expedition gear. Water beads up and rolls off, but our coating doesn’t close the tiny spaces between fibers, so condensation won’t build up inside the bag. Great protection during showers, commutes, and regular rain rides.“
Sewn inside the Arkel bag is a waterproof and sealed liner.
Both seem waterproof. I will report later with more experience.
Sustainability of material: How environmentally friendly is the material?
There are more and less sustainable materials. Some materials are toxic to the environment, if they rot or are burned, like PVC. But usually, the most problematic about material is the finishing, which makes the nice water-repellent effect. Greenpeace had a large DETOX campaign about this topic on outdoor gear.
ARKEL: The Cordura material is apparently made in „America“ (which can be almost anywhere – so I will check).
ORTLIEB: Compared to other Orlieb bags, these are PVC-free, which is a good because PVC is toxic and disposal is problematic. Ortlieb production is CO2 neutral (electricity is 100% renewable and the rest is compensated) and most production takes place in Germany (also of material).
I like that Ortlieb produces most bags in Germany.
I need to check with both companies the environmental standards and whether they do not use the chemicals Greenpeace banned from the textile industry in its DETOX campaign.
Working standards in production: Do the workers in production have good conditions?
ORTLIEB produces in Germany, which I find great.
ARKEL produces in Canada with their CRDITED Crew, which is also great.
Sustainability of company: How engaged is the conpany in sustainability?
ORTLIEB weighs around 325g (11L), 456 (16.5L)
ARKEL weights 440g (bag), 280g (rack)
The ORTLIEB system is around 300g lighter.
Arkel charges 229 Euro and Ortlieb charges 198 Euro for the 16.5L bag (although you get it for around 120 Euro).
You can buy the Ortlieb bags in almost every store, while it is very difficult to get the Arkel bags in Western Europe – and I have to say that it is actually not very environmentally friendly to order single bags in Canada, which are then flown to Europe.
The Ortlieb bag is cheaper when you calculate the buying price. However, I prefer to calculate the TOTAL COSTS of OWNERSHIP (TCO), which is an advanced method of calculating costs of products or services. Using a TCO model, the Arkel bag is cheaper, even if you only calculate 20 years of use vs. 5 years. Having said this, my own Ortlieb bags are already 25 years old (but they have a thicker material).
Go and test the bags! Borrow them from us!
I think that we do not need to own everything and that we own too much stuff. Why not borrow a bag, you might only use 5 days a year?
I have good news for you: If you live close to ZURICH, you can borrow the Arkel bag starting with 1 Euro a day from GET CHANGED! via SHARLEY. We will try to offer the same for the Ortlieb bags. By the way: GET CHANGED! members get a 80% reduction.