Long Term Review: Carradice Camper Longflap Saddlebag

I’ve owned a Carradice Camper Longflap saddle bag for almost 18 months now, so I thought it was about time to share my experiences of this capacious, rugged and unashamedly traditional item of bicycle luggage.

Carradice is one of Britain’s longest established cycling-related companies, based in a small factory at Nelson, in the heart of Lancashire. A small production team churn out traditional canvas bike luggage which is shipped around the world to discerning bicyclists. Carradice produces other, modern offerings in Cordura and PVC, but it’s the classic range of canvas bags that is Carrdice’s stock-in-trade.

The Carradice Camper is a saddlebag in the traditional sense – a capacious bag that sits laterally across the bike, attached to the saddle loops of a traditional saddle (e.g. a Brooks) and to the seatpost (Carradice also markets a number of alternative ways of attaching its bags to bikes without saddle-loop equipped seats – The SQR system and the Bagman). The traditional saddlebag differs from current trend for panniers, slung low on a front or rear carrier, or a rack top bag. Take a look at archive pictures of tourists and day riders and you’ll see wall to wall saddlebags from makers like Carradice, Karrimor and Brooks.

The Camper Longflap is the largest of Carradice’s traditional saddlebags, with a huge internal capacity of 24 litres – to put this into context, the same capacity as a single large rear pannier. At the other end of the range is the Carradice Barley, a shrunken version for lightly loaded day rides, with a 9 litre capacity. In between, there’s a huge range of different capacities available, all fashioned from thick waxed ‘cotton duck’ canvas, with leather straps, proper metal buckles and a wooden internal dowel to stiffen the top of the bag. The Camper (and indeed many of Carradice’s saddlebags) are available in two colourways – black canvas with off-white straps or olive green canvas with honey brown leather straps. Either choice looks great – especially on a classic looking bike.

To give you an idea of what will fit in the Camper Longflap here’s a list of things that I regularly taken with me with room to spare:

  • Full toolkit
  • 2 spare tubes
  • Pump
  • Rain Jacket
  • 14 inch laptop
  • Laptop Power Supply
  • Sandwich box
  • U Lock
  • Magazine
  • Spare clothing

The two outer compartments make short work of the tools and spares, leaving the main compartment free for office stuff, clothing, stuff you like to keep clean. But that’s not the end of the Camper’s TARDIS-like trickery…

Hey, why the Longflap?

The Camper Longflap (and its smaller cousin, the Nelson Longflap) share a simple and cunning feature that has the ability to vastly increase its load-lugging ability. Undo two press stud fasteners on the waterproof, double thickness lid and a further section of lid plus two longer leather straps reveal themselves. This allows you to stow larger, wider loads like tents, sleeping mats, folding stools, tripods, bushels of hay etc, between the main body of the bag and the lid. This feature means that, rather like an ant, the bag can effectively carry loads much larger than itself.

Some may find that a large bag like this may need some support from below, preferring it to rest some of its weight on a rack. However, I find that having the bag suspended from the seatpost effectively eliminates its contents from road shock, meaning that I have successfully carried a laptop computer to and from work for the past eighteen months without so much as a hiccup.

Some riders switching from a pannier setup may notice that the bike’s centre of gravity feels raised, especially when riding out of the saddle. However, stay in the saddle and the load is very close to the rider and its weight seems to disappear. A positive side-effect of the bag’s placement behind the rider is that it doesn’t catch the wind, is out of the worst of the rain (provided you’re using mudguards) and is also out of the way of undergrowth when riding narrow, bramble lined trails.

18 months on, my Camper has become an integral part of my daily commuting setup. It’s just beginning to take on that vintage feel – a bit of road dirt, a slightly sun faded look and some leather strap beausage – I suspect it might start to look truly vintage at the same time as I’m due a hip replacement – suffice to say that these bags are indestructible; they get better with age and are easily repairable with a needle and cotton. You can also re-proof them with a tin of special stuff from Carradice (or some Nikwax).

I have chosen to attach my Camper Longflap to the bike using Carradice’s excellent SQR system, which attaches to the seatpost (reducing stress on the saddle and the seat clamp) and enables one to remove and reattach the bag in seconds, rather than faffing with straps. (I’ll post a separate review of this excellent device).

To sum up – 18 months in, with any other item of luggage, I’d probably be looking at a tired, ready to replace item. However the Camper and I are just at the beginning of a very long life together.

More information: www.carradice.co.uk

Original post: https://theeverydaycyclist.wordpress.com/2009/03/09/carradice-camper-longlap-saddlebag/

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “Long Term Review: Carradice Camper Longflap Saddlebag

  1. Chris Thompson

    This bag looks great. I’ll consider it when I get my Raleigh One Way.

    Question: Can the bag be quickly removed? Also, are there any provisions for carrying it like a messenger bag? I’m just thinking that it would be handy to be able to take the bag with you if you have to park it for a long period of time.

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      Hi Chris – the bag can be quickly removed if teamed with the SQR system (available separately) – without it, it’s bit of a fiddle to undo the straps. Mounted correctly, the buckles are located on the inside of the bag, you see. It’s not so much of a faff taking it off, but putting it back on fully loaded (usually when it’s raining) can be a bind. The SQR system makes it a two-second job and also allows you to position the bag vertically. I’ll do a full review of the SQR in due course, so stay tuned.

    2. theeverydaycyclist

      Forgot to say before – there’s no built in provision for carrying like a messenger bag, but I’ve been thinking of adding two swivel clips at each end of the wooden dowel, allowing me to attach a clip-on aftermarket shoulder strap – this would make it even more versatile. I don’t know why Carradice haven’t though of this themselves, especially as the SQR system is so convenient.

    3. Steve Tselekidis

      I have a Carradice bag and also Orlieb panniers. I just use the strap off the Ortlieb pannier to attach onto the Carradice steel loops on the sides. And its as good as gold. Any strap that is long enough to fit over your shoulder and that can click or lock onto the Carradice metal loops at the sides will work fine. This bag is absolutely great !

  2. Stephen

    How big a laptop do you think you could fit in one of these?
    I use one of their bike bureaus which is great, but often feel lopsided and can’t attach to my lighter bike which I like to ride in summer. I also use the bike bureau when I commute by car because it does work as a brief case and I don’t need to completely unpack it.

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      I carry a 13 1/2 inch laptop in mine and I’d hazard a guess that a 15 incher would fit quiet comfortably. The key thing is because its not supported from underneath it’s well isolated from road shock – it’s suspended, hammock-like, from the rear of the saddle.

  3. Gustav

    How if you permenently attach two small carabiners in the leather straps , in that way you can quickly fix the bag to the saddle and also remove it fast. I have now ordered a camper Longflap and am waiting impatiently. I will try the idea with the carabiners.
    I will try to use my camper for longer trips, maybe a week or so. That will be a challange regarding what to bring and what to leave at home. Hello minimalism.

    Thanks for the review.

    /Gustav from sweden

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      Hey Gustav. That’s a very clever and very simple idea. I may try that myself. I’m using the SQR quick release right now, with a rear rack to give the fully loaded bag a little support. The rack also keeps the bag at a better angle.

  4. Alcyon

    Carradice made commuting possible for me! The bike I had ten years ago had fittings for…nothing. I was informed that the saddle bag was the answer, and I haven’t been without one since.

    I did try the SQR when it was first introduced. Unfortunately a weld on the wire carrier broke on the way to work (I swear the bag wasn’t overloaded). Fortunately, I work in a railway yard. I presented the broken bits to a fellow who welds a quarter ton of this to a few tons of that all day; he made a pretty decent job of it. I have moved on to the Nitto saddlebag clamp that Rivendell offers. Leagues better in every way.

    One thing I have noticed, some are content to have the bag resting on the seatstays. I originally thought that was correct, I found that the saddlebag made a nifty paint remover! I assume that old stove enamel was a far tougher item than wispy Italian paint.

  5. Kenneth

    I have this bag in green for about three years now and it has done me very well.I am getting another on but in black I am going to use it for my front handle bar bag this is going on my Surly Big Dummy that I built it will also have the roll top bag on it too.Carradice makes great bags for sure a lot of people I know say they are to heavy I don’t care and don’t think they are heavy they do last and last I am 55 years old soon to be 56 so these bags will out last me for sure maybe my grand kids will use them after I am long gone.

  6. Michel

    Hello, I am looking for a bag that I can use as a carry-on bag and then attach to a Brompton folding bike. I am curious, how much spare clothing were you able to stuff in along with the rest of the equipment? I am looking for a bag big enough to carry clothes for a long trip, but clothes that were meant to be packed light and simply washed (i.e. a couple of t-shirts, a pair of quick drying shirts, a pair of light pants, shorts, a few socks and a compact towel). It seems that this bag would fit the bill, but I would like input from somebody who owns and uses one as you do.

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      Hi Michel

      I’m sure that the saddlebag would accommodate the gear that you describe. However did you know that Carradice make a Brompton specific range that fits on the standard Brompton frame?

      Take a look at their site.

      Cheers

      Eddie

  7. Jonathan

    Great to read your review of these excellent saddlebags – the worlds finest in my view and the best way to carry medium loads on both tourers and MTB’s. I have a Nelson Longflap that does sterling service on both my hardtail MTB and my Raleigh Royal 531 tourer. I wanted to mention that I have only just discovered that the loop stitched on to the bag just below the Carradice nameplate is actually a rear light mount – having owned my saddlebag for over a decade I have always struggled with rear light position but just hooked a lightweight LED light through it and it’s ideal. I noticed your rear light is tied on with string and I wanted to point out it doesn’t need to be because Carradice have already provided a mounting loop.

    Warm regards,

    Jonathan (UK)

  8. Carradice bags are great! I have two, one is a Nelson Longflap, which while not as big as the Camper (18L vs. 24L) still does a great job of carrying a lot of stuff. Works great on camping trips.

  9. Tom.

    G’day,

    I have been looking at the carradice saddlebags and just came across your review.
    I am trying to find out how much seat post space is required for the sqr system to operate easily and alternatively how much clearance is needed between the seat rails and the rear mudguard to allow use of the bagman system.

    Sadly, I can not find this info on the carradice site.

    Congratulations on a great site.

  10. HR

    Hi, thanks for the review and you’r very nice blog. I recently stumbled upon the Carradice camper longflap and am considering acquiring one. I would use it mainly for short camping trips, but I’m wondering if it would accomodate everything for that. Would it keep, say,

    a sleeping bag
    a self inflatable matress
    a tarp
    small stuff like dinner, a book, tools etc?

    I’m worried it might be just too small for a complete camping outfit.

    By the way, I also saw that Carradice now offers shoulder straps matching the saddle bags: http://www.carradice.co.uk/index.php?page_id=product&under=range&product_id=146

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      I think all the gear you have listed would fit if your sleeping bag is a compact one. The long flap also allows for items outside the bag.

      Thanks for the tipoff about the straps. A great idea.

      Happy cycling and thanks for commenting.

    2. Yeah, as long as the gear is lightweight and compact, you could do it. I’ve gotten a sleeping bag, pad, and other stuff inside my Nelson Longflap (next size down from the Camper), and strapped bivy/tent to the outside.

  11. conor mcelroy

    hi everyday cyclist and thanks for your comprehensive review…I was wondering if you could elaborate on how secure or comfortable you think the longflap saddlebag setup is on riding for long periods of time on rough surfaces.
    I am planning on using a bike packing setup with frame bag and the carradice longflap for a 3 month trip through Patagonia in the near future: lots of gravel corrugated roads and likely a lot of rain….im not too pedantic about waterproofing as Id imagine some plastic bags could be added to valuable gear, more interested in how solid she feels.

    cheers!

    1. theeverydaycyclist

      Hi Conor – I find Carradice Saddlebags really secure – whether fitted directly to the saddle using the loops or using the SQR system, I’ve never had a saddlebag break loose. It’s also a great setup if you’re riding narrow overgrown paths or lanes. Because the load is up behind you, it doesn’t snag on undergrowth like panniers can.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s