Oxford Aqua Evo Adventure Seat Pack
The Oxford Aqua Evo Adventure Seat Pack is a solidly built and well thought out bit of gear. Waterproof and compressible, I have found it a good companion for those day rides, but it is also just the ticket to accompany you on weekend or multi-day bikepacking/touring ventures, although some would prefer even greater capacity. Short seat-post exposure on older machines may be problematic, but on more modern machines there’s been no issue.
Pros: waterproof, well-built, compressible.
Cons: requires decent seat-post length, some internal stiffeners have exposed edges.
Unsurprisingly the Aqua Evo Adventure Seat Pack is constructed from the same materials as the Aqua Evo Adventure Handlebar Pack, that is to say 400D ripstop TPU with welded seams. Both ooze strength and reliability. Reinforced patches hold the buckles for the two long hook ‘n’ loop straps that wrap around the seat post; a reinforced strip pads the pack against the seat post, too. Two more webbing adjustable length straps buckle over the saddle rails. A buckled roll-closure completes the fastening and help to compress the pack.
Externally, there’s some useful webbing and six light loops (choose which one depending on how tightly the closure is rolled). Reflective logos to side and rear also add helpful, if hardly spectacular, presence.
Internally, the side stiffeners are enclosed in the fabric. The stiffener that curves around the top and bottom is held in place in sleeves at either end. Take a little care when packing to avoid pushing against the edges.
Constructed to IPX6 standard – with welded seams - means that this is pretty much as waterproof as you can get. Heavy rain should pose no problem – provided you’ve got the closure nice and tight. As ever, we’d advise against total immersion – coming a cropper on a river crossing, for example. Underwater exploration is neither the purpose of the pack or the expectation you should have.
Seat packs require a decent exposure of seat post and the Aqua Evo is no exception. This was no problem on more modern compact geometries, but the old-style tourers struggled to accommodate it and required some undesirably compromises. Around 8cm of seat post have been required needed to accommodate both straps and the end of the pack. However, a lightly loaded pack has been stable when held in place by just one strap.
As a consequence of the above, most testing was done using my son’s go-anywhere Pinnacle. Initially, it took me a little time to get things ship-shape, specifically centring the end of the pad on the seat-post. Once accomplished stability was very good. There was no hint of things suffering ‘unscheduled disassembly’ even over rough forest tracks. When heavily, possibly too heavily loaded, there was some swing when pushing hard or cornering rapidly. Some of that is to be expected, and it was far from off-putting.
It should fit any seat post diameter or shape.
A ten litres bag is not the biggest, but bikepackers like to travel light. Equally, some prefer to keep weight and bulk down at the back, to avoid larger, loaded seat-packs taking on a life of their own.
I’ve squeezed in a one-man tent with poles strapped to the frame (an old MacPac which is no longer available – things have got smaller since then). Equally bivvi-bag and lightweight inflatable sleeping mat have gone in ok. Generally, my preference is for waterproof, spare jersey, gloves, hat etc. to be easily available in a seat pack. It took these easily, including the Showers Pass Ecolyte Jacket and their Elite Cap. Add in some snacks and that was enough for me. A short pump found its way in there, too, and there was space still for some small items. In other words, ten litres is sufficient, unless you have a lot to carry on longer or more extreme journeys, in which case Ortlieb’s 16 litre or Rivelo’s Glens 15 litre give real expedition capacity.
On day-trips or for hostelling/warmshowers.org weekends, ten litres are perfect in combination with a large bar bag, and offers greater stability than my favourite Carradice Nelson Longflap Saddle Bag over rough-stuff.
Care is easy. Just wipe it with a damp cloth, or, after especially dirty rides without mudguards give it a dose of the sudsy bike wash as you – and we know we should – give things a post-ride once-over.
Durability is harder to judge. Four months of use haven’t added a scuff or a scar and all fastenings and stitching are as good as new. Given sensible care, I see no reason why this should not last many a year. Not overloading will help, too.
Movement of suspension seat posts has not been impeded. On the same front, after four months of use there are no obvious signs of wear on the reinforced nose of the pack, although this will always be a risk that is not associated with seat packs mounted on, for example, SQR brackets.
Bigger waterproof packs – if that what you want – will cost a bit more The Ortlieb 16 litre comes in at £100. A closer comparison would be Ortlieb’s 11 litre model, which is a tenner more expensive than the Aqua Evo. Topeak’s Backloader also has a ten-litre capacity and is a tenner cheaper, however, it requires a separate waterproof cover.
I’ve used the Carradice Carradura Seat Pack for a number of years: cheaper, but not waterproof without a separate cover. The Passport Bikepacking Seat Pack is water-resistant rather than proof, small and around the same price as the Aqua Evo.
Michael described the Carradice Carradry SQR Bag as “bombproof.” Fully waterproof, adaptable, and with a ten-litre kilo weight limit, it is considerably more expensive but will swallow much more than the Aqua Evo - or many other seat packs. Whilst it requires its own SQR bracket, this also makes it easier to remove. However, sway is more likely when fully loaded.
The Oxford Aqua Evo Adventure is a real challenger in the field of mid-sized seat packs. It is solidly made, fully waterproof, and highly functional. It is also very realistically priced. Great for day-trips and shorter tours with lightweight gear or when lots extra gear is not required (summer trips, for example). Well-worth a look.