I have a fear this will read like a paid advertisement. Fact is, though, I bought all my Kriega gear with my own money – save my US30 bag, which Kriega sent to me after I sent them an effusive email about how much I love the company’s products and promising to use the bags on my road trip to Prague. What I didn’t tell Kriega, of course, is that I would have bought that bag anyway. The stuff is that good.
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In total, I have six items of Kriega luggage: the previously reviewed R 20 backpack, a handy Kriega harness pocket, and multiple sizes of the US series of drybag – a US10, two US20s, and the aforementioned US30.
As best I can tell (some bags lack “made in” tags), all of the gear is made in Vietnam (No. 140 on the Democracy Index). That’s my only whinge about the product. Kriega is a British company and the grumpy old man in me would like to see its products made closer to home, but, hey, we live in a global economy and it’s likely capitalism will ultimately accomplish what French and American soldiers never could.
The gear ain’t cheap – with the smallest size, a US5, setting you back £55 and the US30 costing £119 – but I genuinely think it’s worth the money. Additionally, the gear is so durable that it’s perfectly acceptable to buy secondhand off eBay, as I did for some of my bags.
My focus in this article is on the simple and functional US series of drybags. The company’s other major luggage line (that isn’t backpacks) is the more rugged, more expensive, but less versatile OS series. The “soft pannier” OS system features bags that hold their shape and can be attached to a bike’s pannier rack via a backboard-like mount. It seems like a kick-ass system, and if I were considering a genuine round-the-world excursion I’d probably consider the OS bags, but I find the US series of bags to be more broadly useful for my purposes.
The US bag is essentially just a roll-top dry bag. No internal pockets or compartments – just liters of space in which to stuff things. You’ve probably guessed that the number in the name of a bag corresponds to the liters of space available; eg, a US20 offers 20 liters of storage. Externally, there are pockets on each side of the bag. Neither are waterproof, as the bag’s waterproofing element is provided by a removable/washable liner.
In and of itself, the US bag may not sound all that impressive. I mean, a US20 costs £99, whereas an equally waterproof 22-liter Ortlieb dry bag costs less than £15. But the Ortlieb definitely won’t hold up as well in a crash and it doesn’t come with the Kriega’s easy and reliable strap system.
The system involves two types of strap: four frame straps and four hook straps. The frame straps, as the name implies, are secured to something secure – frame rails under the seat, an accessories rail (as I did with the Harley-Davidson Street Bob), or, if you have a Triumph Tiger Explorer/1200, on the designed-for-Kriega-straps anchor points beneath the passenger hand rails. No tools are needed, unless you’re meticulous – in which case you’ll need a pair of scissors to trim and tidy excess strappage. One of the selling points of the US bags (as well as most soft luggage) is the fact you don’t have to mount ugly hardware, like pannier rails; though, it is probably best to think of the frame straps as a semi-permanent addition, simply for ease. At the end of each frame strap is a loop to which the hook strap… uhm… hooks.
On the other end of the hook strap is the “male” end of a side-release buckle (aka, parachute buckle, aka snap-fit buckle, aka trident buckle), which connects to the “female” ends on the actual bag. One of the benefits of the Kriega system is that you can often forego the frame strap and simply use the hook straps if your bike has passenger rails.
READ MORE: Check Out All of TMO’s Gear Reviews
This is one of the reasons I’ve fallen in love with Kriega bags, in fact. As someone who is lucky enough to test ride bikes I’m often covering distances on a moto that isn’t my own – a moto that I don’t want to make permanent or even semi-permanent changes to. The Kriega way of life allows me to do travel with those bikes.
The hook straps – along with loops on the bags themselves – also allow you to connect the bags to each other. This means you can come up with as-much-as-you-need combination systems, like I did on my trip to Prague (US30+US20+US20+US10=80 liters of storage). The systems don’t require additional frame straps or the like – you simply secure one bag, then attach all others to that anchor item.
The straps are durable enough that I have ridden for long distances in excess of 100mph without needing to readjust the luggage. To that end, the system is durable enough that I throw fastened-together bags onto the airport scales to serve as a single item of luggage.
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I’ve been using Kriega US bags for a number of years now and have had them with me when riding through conditions that were the undoing of any number of supposedly waterproof jackets, pants, boots, and gloves, but I’ve never had an issue with these bags.
There are a number of benefits to soft luggage. One of which is that it’s considerably lighter. This is good both on and off the bike. Off the bike, even cleverly detachable cases with handles – like those available for the Ducati Multistrada 950 – can be awkward to carry into your typical European hotel. And they are complete pain in the ass to try to hump through the narrow hallways of an overnight ferry (Right now there’s a reader in Topeka or the like thinking, “European hotels? Overnight ferries? What the hell?” but hey, man, this is my reality).
Using soft bags is more versatile – a modular system like the Kriega US series allows you to only carry the luggage you need, rather than using a 40-liter aluminum pannier to carry around a bottle of water and baseball cap. And they’re cheaper. Kriega’s about the top of the line when it comes to soft luggage but it still costs a whole hell of a lot less than even the most affordable hard case set-up.
What’s Not So Great
You can guess some of the drawbacks to Kriega gear – drawbacks that present themselves in any soft luggage situation. Firstly, the stuff in your bags isn’t as well-protected from theft. How much you fear the rest of the world will play a part in how likely you think such a thing actually is, though.
I don’t really worry. With the modular nature of Kriega stuff, I put my valuable things (eg, laptop) in one bag that I throw over my shoulder and take with me if I’m going to be away from the bike for any long period of time. If I’m stopped for lunch, say. I don’t worry about the other bags; all a thief would get in that situation would be dirty laundry.
If you are a person who commutes and leaves his/her helmet/gear in hard cases during the day, though, Kriega bags obviously aren’t for you. Same goes for the person who’s carrying a passenger. Or, at least, that’s the case with the US series of bags, which generally take up the passenger seat.
The biggest drawback to Kriega stuff is that if you are particularly meticulous person, like me, it can take a while to get everything juuuuuuust right before setting off for the day. On the trip to Prague it generally took me 30 minutes to set everything exactly as I liked it, tucking the excess straps of the bags just so. I didn’t mind since there’s no need to readjust straps through the day. Also, I didn’t need to do this; most other travelers could have had the bags on in under five minutes (after all, it was just a sequence of clicking together 16 buckles and pulling taut 16 straps). But I am not most other travelers. I need things exactly as I want them or they’ll bug me all day.
So, if you’ve got the same sort of mental disease, you’ll need to build in the extra time necessary to make things look nice. Whereas hard luggage would allow you to stuff things in and forget them until you arrived at your destination.
I have both Kriega bags and clunky aluminum panniers at my disposal as luggage options. I use the panniers when I travel to an airport and it’s convenient to leave my gear “in” the bike. At all other times, however, I rely on the Kriega US bags.
They’re my go-to choice for all the reasons listed above as well as the fact that – by the nature of their being on the seat behind me instead of hanging out on the side of the bike like the panniers – they make filtering easier and result in better gas mileage thanks to less wind resistance.
As I said above, the gear is expensive but you can avoid some of the cost by seeking out good second-hand examples. Even if you have to pay full price it’s worth the money. Reliable, convenient, and durable as hell, I sometimes feel I’m doing the bags a disservice by not pointing my bike toward the sunrise and launching into a round-the-world adventure.