Definitive RiDE buyer's guide to tail packs

Published: 03 October 2015

Once you’ve discovered the joy of the tail pack, it’s hard to go back to other luggage. An unobtrusive bag that sits securely on the pillion seat is hard to beat, especially if it’s waterproof. Even if you need to take a passenger, you can still use one if your bike has a luggage rack.

f course, not all tail packs are the same. They come in a huge range of sizes. Some need waterproof covers to remain dry. Some are sealed by zips, others use roll-top designs. Some are pretty much fixed to the bike once fitted, others have quick-release systems so you can take them with you when you stop. How do you find the right one for you? That’s where this test comes in. 

We’re looking at tail packs that are designed to be secured to the bike – not bags that can be fitted to a rear seat with bungees. Actual motorcycle-specific tail packs designed with straps to secure them on the bike (though some do also use bungees to fine-tune the fit). They come in a huge range of sizes, but here we’re looking at bags with capacities between 20L and 40L.

 

Our testing criteria
 

Showerproofing 

Some tail packs come with a waterproof cover – but would they leak if you had to ride for five minutes before fitting it? Surely the “waterproof” packs won’t have any problems? The hosepipe of truth reveals all…

Stability 

The point of a tail pack is that it sits securely on the back of the bike. So, does it? Or does it move about under hard acceleration and braking? Is it intrusive when mounted on the pillion seat?


Loading 

Capacity is one thing; useful capacity is another… How easy is it to close the lid on a pair of boots, three days’ clothes and a wash bag in a mid-sized bag? How easy is it to find what you want in a large bag?


Ease of fitting 

Some tail packs use mounting systems fitted to the bike, which the bag then clips to. Others fit to the bike using permanently attached straps. How easy is the system to set up and use? 

Givi EA107

www.givi.co.uk

Price £64.32 Claimed capacity 35L Expandable No
Rain cover Yes Waterproof inner No External pockets 2
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle Yes 

The Givi strapping system is simple to use but does get a bit fiddly when hands are cold, the visor’s misting up and all you want is to get indoors quickly. Very secure on the bike though. Capacity is good and it’s a practical bag taking plenty of kit in useful pockets for a weekend away. A good example of this type of bag at a reasonable price. It’s adequately showerproof and in turn fully waterproof with its ample-sized rain cover fitted. 

Scores

Ease of fitting: 4

Stability: 5

Loading: 5

Waterproofing: 4

Total: 18

BMW Small Softbag

www.bmw-motorrad.co.uk 

Price £127  Claimed capacity 36L  Expandable Yes
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner No  External pockets 3
Shoulder strap Yes   Carry handle Yes

It’s an expensive tail pack, but the performance and features reflect that. Various-length straps included are a bonus for fitment to different bikes and it was straightforward to fit to our Suzuki V-Strom, as its clever locating flap scoops over the end of the rack. Zip top, flip-top makes loading easy, with plenty of capacity plus decent pockets. Very practical for its size. Main compartment has a clip-and-roll internal lining that is fully waterproof.

Scores

Ease of fitting: 5

Stability: 5

Loading: 5

Waterproofing: 5

Total: 20

 

Kriega US30

www.kriega.com

Price £95  Claimed capacity 30L  Expandable No
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner Yes  External pockets 1
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle No

Plenty of capacity and easy enough to load – but you’re loading into a big, floppy bag. Good size for a few days away but it’s a bag to stuff things in rather than place them carefully – so don’t pack your best shirt without also packing an iron. The Kreiga strapping system works well on pillion seat or rack and pulls bag down very tight and low, so it’s very secure and stable. The external pocket leaked but internally it was bone dry. 

Scores

Ease of fitting: 4

Stability: 5

Loading: 4

Waterproofing: 5

Total: 18

 


Givi XS316

www.givi.co.uk

Price £85.50  Claimed capacity 35L  Expandable No
Rain cover Yes  Waterproof inner No  External pockets 3
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle Yes

The XS316 was too big to fit the rack on our test bike and had to be fitted to the seat – so no pillion rides – but was solid once on, with no stability issues. As with other Givi bags, very long straps left plenty loose once it was fitted, for an untidy end result. Very easy to load, with a good range of pockets. Only showerproof, so needed the built-in rain cover, which doesn’t quite manage to cover the whole bag when fully packed. No water got in, though. 

Scores

Ease of fitting: 4

Stability: 5

Loading: 5

Waterproofing: 4

Total: 18

Oxford Aqua 30

www.oxprod.com

Price £49.99  Claimed capacity 30L  Expandable No
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner No  External pockets 1
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle Yes

Very easy to use and well-priced ‘aquapack’-style bag sat well on our Suzuki V-Strom, but the bag could get too wide on a narrower tail unit. The large Velcro security strap was not helpful on the V-Strom rack and seemed redundant, as the strong strapping system with loops kept the bag stable on the rack – albeit with too much loose strap left over. It’s fully waterproof and carries clothes for a few nights in rural pubs, not crease-free dinner parties. 

Scores

Ease of fitting: 

Stability:  4

Loading:  4

Waterproofing:  5

Total:  17 

 


Givi WP406

www.givi.co.uk

Price £50.22  Claimed capacity 20L  Expandable No
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner No  External pockets 0
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle No

Small-capacity, unobtrusive and simple bag, which has very practical merits. It’s only 20L so you’re packing for the day or overnight at most. Slower to load than the flip-tip type bags, but only by seconds. Givi strapping system is very secure once fitted, though slow to undo with cold fingers as there’s too much slack left over in the straps once things are tight (which looks messy and takes extra tying time). It’s fully waterproof.

Scores

Ease of fitting: 4

Stability: 5

Loading: 3

Waterproofing: 5

Total: 17

 


Kriega US20

www.kriega.com

Price £75  Claimed capacity 20L  Expandable No
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner Yes  External pockets 1
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle No

Small and well-formed, but the Kriega US20’s capacity is limited as it’s only (as the name suggests) 20L. By design a slower bag to get items in and out of compared with other types of pack, and it’s one for stuffing clothes in not folding neatly. The strapping system is very sturdy, with no stability issues, while being quick to releash. The pocket was only showerproof, but the main compartment proved to be
fully waterproof. 

Scores

Ease of fitting: 4

Stability:

Loading: 3

Waterproofing: 5

Total: 17

 


Held Iconic Evo

www.held-uk.co.uk

Price £55.99  Claimed capacity 21L  Expandable Yes
Rain cover Yes  Waterproof inner No  External pockets 0
Shoulder strap No  Carry handle Yes

One of the flimsier feeling bags here, but performed perfectly well. Loading capacity was fine for an overnight trip but, maybe not three nights’ kit. Stability on the bike was good but definitely better with weighty items packed lower down, not high: too much weight, too high and things got a bit unstable. Good, sturdy strapping system. Waterproof, but only with the rain cover over the top. As with some others, without the cover it leaked slightly through zips. 

Scores

Ease of fitting: 5

Stability: 4

Loading: 4

Waterproofing: 4

Total: 17

 


Kriega US40 combo

www.kriega.com

Price £185  Claimed capacity 40L  Expandable No
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner Yes  External pockets 3
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle No

Grab the US20 plus two US10s and, hey presto, you have 40 litres of capacity. As with the other Kriega bags it’s more of a “stuff it all in and don’t worry about creases” kinda bag. Weighty items are best packed in the centre, not the outer US10s or it gets a bit wobbly unless you pull the straps to death and crush the contents. External pockets did leak but main cavities remained fully waterproof. Pricey, but with a pleasing feel of quality.

Scores

Ease of fitting: 4

Stability: 4

Loading: 4

Waterproofing: 5

Total: 17

 


Held Vivione

www.held-uk.co.uk

Price £74.99  Claimed capacity 20L  Expandable Yes
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner Yes  External pockets 0
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle Yes

The name isn’t winning us over and while this compact bag does have a reasonable capacity, it was hard to use it fully and still secure it properly to our test bike. Extending the width fully meant the strapping points were wide on the bike, making it hard to secure it to the rack without compromising stability. It’s a similar story on the pillion seat. Don’t expand it to full capacity and it sits fine. Fully waterproof inside with the built-in internal bag. 

Scores

Ease of fitting: 3

Stability: 4

Loading: 4

Waterproofing: 5

Total: 16

 


Held Lungo

www.held-uk.co.uk

Price £119.99  Claimed capacity 35L  Expandable No
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner No  External pockets 2
Shoulder strap No  Carry handle Yes

A relative USP for the Lungo is the ability to unclip and become a wheeled travel case, which makes it practical, with ample capacity that’s very easy to use. The downside is its length: it takes up more room, so no pillions here and it could be a problem on some sportsbikes with tiny tail units. Strapping was secure but with lots of leftover straps to be tied up somehow. Not waterproof at all and leaked through zips and seams in our shower test. 

Scores

Ease of fitting: 4

Stability: 5

Loading: 5

Waterproofing: 2

Total: 16

 


Oxford X25

www.oxprod.com

Price £49.99  Claimed capacity 25L  Expandable No
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner No  External pockets 2
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle Yes

Handy 25L bag is shaped to accommodates a helmet. Easy to use and it’s going nowhere if you strap it well – but load it too high and it can wobble. So it’s pillion seat (or use just the bungees to secure it). But on the pilion seat it sits close to the rider’s back too. Velcro security strap didn’t fit our test bike’s rack well at all. Barely showerproof, water happily pools at the bottom of the main compartment: so use the included dry bag to save kit. 

Scores

Ease of fitting: 4

Stability: 3

Loading: 5

Waterproofing: 3

Total: 15

 


Givi XS313

www.givi.co.uk

Price £54.57  Claimed capacity 20L  Expandable Yes
Rain cover Yes  Waterproof inner No  External pockets 2
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle Yes

Practical tail pack which makes no claims for greatness in the capacity stakes – and as such failed our loading criteria by not even accommodating our tester’s pair of shoes. More of a day bag then. Very stable once fitted, but as with the other Givi bags left too much excess strap hainging over and was fiddly for fumbling, cold fingers. Stood up to showers OK but needed the built-in rain cover in prolonged rain to be 100 per cent waterproof. 

Scores

Ease of fitting:  2

Stability: 

Loading:  5

Waterproofing:  4

Total:  15

 


Oxford X30

www.oxprod.com

Price £99.99  Claimed capacity 30L  Expandable Yes
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner Yes  External pockets 2
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle Yes

Inbuilt strapping system is tried and tested but feels dated in the company of others on this test. Bungees flex, so it tended to wobble when fully loaded. The broad Velcro security strap didn’t fit under our test bike’s rack and was awkward to fit on the seat when the bag was full (and ruled out a passenger). Good capacity and base unzips to make it a rucksack. Zips leak and main cavity is barely showerproof: use the dry bag.

Scores

Ease of fitting: 4

Stability: 3

Loading: 5

Waterproofing: 3

Total: 15

 


Oxford X40

www.oxprod.com

Price £109.99  Claimed capacity 40L  Expandable Yes
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner Yes  External pockets 3
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle Yes

With decent capacity the X40 is always going to be a practical bag, also unzipping to become a rucksack. However, its securing bungee system stretches and wobbles when the bag is fully loaded. Especially as the broad Velcro security strap is too much for our V-Strom’s rack It’s hard to strap the fully loaded bag to the seat and it’s intrusive. It comes with a dry bag to keep protect kit, as the bag itself is barely showerproof and water pools inside. 

Scores

Ease of fitting: 4

Stability:

Loading: 5

Waterproofing: 3

Total: 15

 


Bagster Spider

www.tranam.co.uk

Price £89.99  Claimed capacity 23L  Expandable Yes
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner No  External pockets 1
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle Yes

Good storage and easy to load, given the limitations of a 23L bag. Straps on securely but is complicated: the underseat, elasticated system didn’t really fit on our test bike, despite its claims to be universal and our best efforts. It’s fiddly to hold in place when refitting the seat too. When on the pillion seat, the bag then touched the rider’s back. Only waterproof with the rain cover fitted, which was too big and needed extra bungees to stop it sailing away.

Scores

Ease of fitting:  2

Stability:  4

Loading:  5

Waterproofing:  4

Total:  15

 


Oxford First Time Tail Pack

www.oxprod.com

Price £49.99  Claimed capacity 36L  Expandable Yes
Rain cover No  Waterproof inner No  External pockets 3
Shoulder strap Yes  Carry handle Yes

Old-school flip-top tail pack that has its merits: practical, easy to load and holds plenty. A good first time tail pack indeed. Partly because you’ll learn the skill of packing with bin liners: it’s modestly showerproof with fold-over flap covering the main zip but it has no rain cover and in persistent rain it needed one. It also fixes with bungees, so isn’t rock solid when fully loaded, with a slightly awkward Velcro security strap meaning it’s best fitted to the pillion seat. 

Scores

Ease of fitting:  4

Stability:  3

Loading:  5

Waterproofing:  2

Total:  14

 

Verdict

The results show the standard of tail packs in this test is generally good, with only a few having waterproofing issues in a major way. Only one had no waterproof ability at all. Those that said they were waterproof, with or without an optional rain cover or internal dry bag, all passed the tests.

As always, you need to consider which pack best suits your needs. Do you travel light? Do you delicately pack things, or just chuck everything in and ride? There will be a tail pack here to suit your needs.

It’s important to point out the differences between the established tail pack design – those with the flip-top lids closed by a zip, usually with fairly hard sides – and the softer types with roll-top closures sealed with a couple of clips. The classic tail pack design is more practical to load and use on the bike – the BMW Small Softbag is a good example and makes sense if you’re making it a permenant fixture on the bike. The aquapacks are more flexible and chuckable, as you’d imagine, and the Kriega bags and Oxford’s Aqua 30 performed well here. Both systems have their merits. Some fixing systems are better than others at unclipping, allowing you to park and walk away quickly. Clips were better than straps with buckles or bungees and Velcro straps.

Always look at your bike: how wide is its tail unit, pillion seat or luggage rack? A narrow bike won’t be so good with wide bags. Bags with bungee-cord strapping systems need places for the bungees to be hooked – not all bikes have options.