I got my Ortlieb Track from Wayne at The Touring Store. First up, here is a plug for the exceptional experience of buying things from Wayne. He is a fantastic person to deal with and if you look thro his pages, you’d occasionally find some items on sale and the prices are great. I enjoyed buying stuff from him and when I had a need to replace the Track 31, I went back to him again and picked an Ortlieb Elevation. Anyway, this is about the Ortlieb Track 31 Backpack and how it fared for me. The newer version had some pretty neat additions to the pack I have.
I used the Ortlieb Track 31 primarily as my Rack top bag on my Bike tour. It followed me faithfully on two tours, 6 months in SE Asia and nearly 1.5 Years in Americas. It had been exposed constantly to rain, sun, dust, exhaust and tough elements pretty much everyday. When planning my packing, I decided to carry the Backpack instead of a duffel hoping it would come in handy for overnight hikes I might do along the way. The backpack was short and narrow enough to fit nicely between my rear panniers and stayed nice and snug on top of the Tubus Cargo rack. I mount it lengthwise on the rack and that made it easy for me to reach into my panniers while everything was tied down. I kept the pack in place with a pair of nylon belts (which I use as a hip belt when I am off the bike!). I’d run one of the belts thro the side straps and that kept the pack from sliding. Simple, elegant and reliable. Love it.
On the Rack Top mode, for bike Touring, I stuffed my bag with my camping equipment – Sleeping bag, Sleeping pad, 2 person Tent & Tent poles (first) / Hammock (later) and Rain fly. Filled with these, I still had space to spare in the pack. On the outer pocket, I had my bike pump, extra ropes, tent pegs and some other knick knacks.
As a rack top bag, this bag is absolutely Perfect. The design of the straps cannot be simpler, The roll top and tie down design is inspirational, both for the top and the front pouch. I’ve always found that everyone else fumbles and are not sure how the bag opens up at all! Great to protect from casual theft! Over time though, due to the design of the Tubus Cargo Rack, the back Mesh got damaged a bit. But the mesh material is super strong and did not affect the functionality at all.
On the backpack mode, I’d carry things as I needed for the hike and would stuff a water bottle on one of the side pockets.
The bag itself is pretty light for a backpack with frame and is pretty comfortable as a backpack for short hikes. I found overall length of the pack to be on the shorter side and the hip belt ran a couple of inches higher than my hip bones. So tightening the hip-belt would mean I’d be squeezing my stomach. The pack does not have any Load straps to take the weight off the shoulder. The combination meant that I’d be carrying all the load on my shoulders all the time. For short hikes and as a day pack, walking about town etc., it was not an issue. However, for longer hikes and overnighters with camping equipment, my shoulders would get really sore. My 2c is that if you are tall and getting this bag primarily for hiking, try before you buy.
Due to exposure and constantly being tied down, some of the joints in the fabric started to give way. The seals opened up and that meant no more waterproofing and things could fall out. Bummer. But honestly, it happened after a couple of years on the road. I tried a variety of options to glue it, but the only one that would work reliably on the material was superglue (I am sure there are better options, but I cannot find any while on the road). Superglue is pretty bad in my opinion. It seems to eat into the material a bit and also the glued joints were stiff. I’d prefer that Ortlieb provide some advice on a glue that would work.
On the inside of the bag, the stress points (where the bag rolls down) started to fray a bit. The waterproof lining started to wear out. I suppose a silicone spray might prolong the longevity of waterproofing, but I think I had taken enough life out of the product and decided to upgrade instead.
Overall, I’d consider this bag perfect as a rack top bag for Bicycle touring and occasional hiking. It’s super durable and can’t imagine another bag would have stayed this reliable this long and still stay waterproof and provide multiple uses.
- Overall Impression: Highly Recommended.
- Real World Features: 100% Waterproof, Roll top is great for almost all situations expect dunking fully in water (may be ok too). The waterproof lining on the inside of the fabric starts to deteriorate after years of exposure.
- Durability: Highly durable. After years on the road and exposure to elements, the joints come undone. Superglue fixes it well (though I do not like the stiffness that superglue results in.
- Weight: Bag is lightweight (by my standards) and the design with frame makes it comfortable to carry load.
- Comfort: I am 1.85 m tall and a short torso for the height. While wearing the bag snug, the hip belt rides up too high. Absence of load straps is a big bummer for caring load for long distances. The mesh at the back is great for ventilation, but with load, the frame might poke the back when bending forward.
- Size: The pack is great for day hikes. For over nighters with camping equipment, it is a bit cramped (of course it’s subjective)
- Other Features: The organiser inside is neat, though I don’t use it much. Side pockets are good for water bottles. Love the Large pocket in front. I carried everything I’d need for easy access in it. Lots of loops and attachment points all around the bag.