How practical are the Dirtsack Frogman Panniers and Tail Bag as a luggage solution on a long journey and are they really 100% waterproof? Alan Quinby has just returned from a 4,600-mile Scandinavian adventure with the answers.
Last winter I’d started thinking about a trip to Nordkapp, ideally going in June or July. Work commitments made that impossible so I’d more or less given up on the idea, until a three-week gap presented itself in August. The only snag was it meant me being away for our silver wedding anniversary. Fortunately MrsQ is a practical lass and one kitten later (hello Fergus) the trip had a green light and with very little planning I was off.
My route took me from Rotterdam through Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and eventually into Norway. I reached Nordkapp in six days and then spent another two weeks working my way south along Norway’s coast. I took in the Lofoten Islands and rode some of the iconic roads including the Trollstigen Pass and the Atlantic Coast Highway. Taking a detour at one point also gave me the chance to enjoy around 60 miles of gravel along the simply stunning Aursjovegen road.
For my luggage I used the Dirtsack Frogman Soft Panniers and matching Frogman Tail Bag, plus an old Krauser top case to give me somewhere to stash my laptop and helmet on the ferries. It was my first trip with soft luggage, but I’ve quickly become a convert.
With hard panniers everything has to go back in order and in exactly the right configuration, whereas the soft luggage makes repacking less of a chore. Packed away and then remember you’ve left your towel hanging somewhere? Not an issue – just unroll the nearest bag, squish it down and re-clip. I soon got the hang of squeezing the bags to remove excess air before rolling them over and clipping – it becomes second nature very quickly.
I experienced a real mixture of weather. Sometimes, particularly in Sweden, I rode through biblical rainstorms that felt like I was surrounded by people with pressure washers, yet all of my luggage (apart from the top box!) stayed bone dry. I have to say I’m very happy with the way the Frogman bags performed.
When I’m camping one thing I can’t compromise on is my sleeping mat. I’m a big chap and I can’t get on with these ultra-light mats, so I use a Sportura self-inflating mat that’s a decent 7.5cm thick. The downside is it’s a big thing to carry, a good 70m wide by 18cm when rolled. The Frogman Tail Bag swallowed this with ease, plus my Vango Tempest 3 man tent and my sleeping bag still with room to spare. I thought about packing a small chair as well, but decided to leave a bit of space for a few extra nibbles from time to time.
I was also unsure how the soft luggage would cope with the weight. I prefer to keep my tools and spares low down, so that meant putting the heavier stuff into the panniers. To keep the pannier bases level the straps to the large clips can be adjusted, but it means that effectively those two large clips are supporting the full weight of the pannier. I needn’t have worried. Over 4,600 miles of sometimes very bumpy roads they never moved a millimetre. In fact nothing moved or needed any adjustment the whole trip.