Rogue Panda has been busy overhauling and updating their entire bag lineup as of late. Spencer got his hands on the updated Bismarck and Happy Jack stem bags as well as their total redesign of the Ripsey seat bag. The Ripsey is a big step forward for bikepacking-style seat bags especially when used on a dropper post and the Happy Jack and Bismarck also have some nice touches that warrant a second look.
Bismarck Bottle Bucket and Happy Jack Snack Snack
I want to get the two stem bags out of the way first because we have much more to discuss pertaining to the Ripsey. Rogue Panda’s two stem bags now only mount along the handlebar side of the bag and to your fork crown. This is in response to the trend of shorter stems seen on many adventure/touring bikes these days, making it difficult (if not impossible) to find space to mount a bag to the stem. The daisy chains on the bar side of the bag are now sized perfectly for nano voile straps. This feels much more secure as threading the narrow straps through ¾” or 1” daisy chains leaves some wiggle room. I, for one, am glad to see a full embrace of voile straps for mounting over nylon webbing or one wrap velcro.
The Bismarck Bottle Bucket is Rogue Panda’s unique stem bag that incorporates a standard bottle cage that you’d find on your downtube into the bag. When I first saw these years ago I didn’t get it all but, after spending a few months with one, I now embrace this combo wholeheartedly. The idea is that you can grab your water bottle with one hand, drink, and replace the bottle (all with just one hand) without having to loosen a securing strap—it’s so good. Since the bag is sized for a standard bottle it also allows for a much slimmer profile than the Happy Jack. The rigid bottle cage does limit your steering range of motion but I never found it to be a serious problem with the Bismarck. It sports similar stretchy mesh pockets on the outside that are great storage for snacks and other small items that don’t need to clutter your bags.
The Happy Jack Snack Sack has the more traditional profile of stem bag, though it is sized more generously. At maximum capacity, the bag will fit a 1L Nalgene bottle. With the fashion of shorter stems comes less room in your cockpit for a stem bag to exist. In that limited space, I found it hard to manage a rigid 1L Nalgene in conjunction with a 50mm stem. I think if you are running an 80mm stem (or longer) you could consider using a Nalgene in this bag, but I have a better recommendation. Hydrapak has been a favorite brand of mine since I started using their bladders years ago. Hydrapak’s Flux 1L bottle fits nicely in the Happy Jack and, unlike the Nalgene, is soft and flexible. I found the riding experience to be much more enjoyable with the Hydrapak instead of a Nalgene since it inhibited my steering significantly less. Since I live in the desert and need to pack as much water as possible, I want to get the most out of my storage while still being able to steer. Alternatively, you could just stuff it full of gummy worms or whatever else that isn’t water and avoid the issue entirely.
I want to take a minute to highlight one of the benefits of Rogue Panda’s domestic sewing. During my review, I realized there was a sewing defect in one of the stem bags that caused it to tear near a mesh seam. Within a week, the team at Rogue Panda was able to set up a machine specifically for sewing mesh and replace the affected bags. For the rare instances when a production error slips through the cracks, Rogue Panda is able to quickly adapt and make the necessary repair—impressive customer service!
Once I received my updated bags I had zero issues with them. I love the quick-draw use of the Bismarck for single-track riding—and even gravel or road—when I want an extra bottle handy. I love the capacity of the Happy Jack for longer trips where more storage, water (gummy worms), or other items are needed. I really appreciate the adoption and design around nano voile straps. Both of these bags are a solid option for carrying whatever you may need on your rides.
- Secure mounting against the bar with nano voile straps
- Designed to work with modern shorter stems
- Access is easy, especially the Bismarck
- Lots of voile straps can get crowded on your bars
- Rigid bottles are hard to manage with shorter stems
Ripsey Seat Bag
The Ripsey Seat Bag is truly the innovative product of this review. Rogue Panda has designed a proprietary injection molded harness that takes eliminating seat bag sway and load security to a new level. The Ripsey is designed to allow for maximum tire clearance and stability, whether paired with a dropper post or static post. The harness is a melody of collaborating pieces from the Wolf Tooth Valais to the Austere MFG cam straps. This chorus comes together to form one of the best-performing seat bags I’ve ever used.
When I dropped by Rogue Panda HQ to talk about the bags, Nick was nice enough to show me some of the prototypes that led to the Ripsey. After trying a few fully sewn ideas, an engineer friend flatly told him he was doing it all wrong. That led to a garage-made carbon fiber prototype. While testing that, another chance encounter with a second engineer who specialized in injection molding told him he was once again doing it wrong. This led to a few 3D-printed test plates and finally, to the current Ripsey shown here today. The current model is molded from a combination of nylon and rubber optimized for strength and flexibility. If you are curious about the strength of the plate the folks at Rogue Panda made quite a video to test it. Spoiler alert: it’s really really tough to break, maybe not impossible but very difficult.
The bag mounts to a plate that mounts between your saddle rails and a Wolf Tooth Valias that mounts around your dropper post (if using). I had an issue (that I’m quite sure was my user error in tightening these bolts) which resulted in an ejection on a ride. It’s a personal pet peeve but I replaced the provided bolts (3mm headed M4 bolt) with a 4mm headed M4 bolt which I was able to tighten more easily. After that, I had no issues with the bag going off the rails. The harness plate attaches via Valais to your dropper stanchion and then via a side lock buckle which is sewn to a plate mounted between your saddle rails. The plate is further connected by two Austere cam straps on the sides, which do most of the heavy lifting in the equation. These are an elegant and functional version of cam straps you may have used on river trips but much lighter for biking purposes. All these pieces tighten together to hold the included 8L dry bag as securely as possible while shielding it from your tires. Oh yeah, the dry bag is fully seam sealed for waterproofness.
Rogue Panda says you will need between 3-4” of clearance from your tire to use the Ripsey as a saddle bag. This held true and the bag retains its slim profile and does not budge upon impacts. I put it to the test by bottoming out my 200mm dropper on my Ibis Ripley AF with the bag attached. I then proceeded to jump, drop, and generally try and run my tire into the harness plate. While the plate did get hit by my tire a few times, I never noticed the impact or rubbing. If you have ever rubbed your tire on a saddle bag you know what a dreaded sound it makes. If you think you will impact your harness plate often there is an optional skid plate that can be attached. Once strapped in, the bag disappeared from my mind and worries and I just sent it.
I was able to nearly max out the 8-liter capacity of the bag without it significantly affecting the performance of my dropper or the harness. I’d say I put at least four pounds (Park Tool is sending me a scale so I can measure this shit y’all) max back there, which is below what Rogue Panda recommends at six pounds. The dry bag easily fit my sleeping bag, puffy, sleep socks, and another layer. I know it’s not some 14-liter massive seat bag, but you can’t have it all. The Ripsey truly finds a sweet spot combining capacity and capability so you can still haul a reasonable amount of gear on a full suspension bike with a dropper post.
I do have some nitpicks I’d like to dig into about the Ripsey. I’ve already talked about the included bolts that I felt were inadequate. I added a small loop on the side lock buckle strap to aid in tensioning. I felt that the stuff sack could have been tapered to a wider opening for to make packing bulkier items, a sleeping bag, a bit easier. The harness plate grommets seem like they may become a wear point for the fabric of the bag. The Xpac fabrics are all hard-wearing but I’d be worried about the waterproofing since the bag is seam-sealed. I’d be a bit scared to clamp the mounting plate on carbon-railed saddles, but I’m sure with proper torque it could be done safely. The mounting plate is also hard to stow if you aren’t always using the bag on your bike, though I was able to mostly manage and strap it up it with a 6” nano voile strap.
After all that I’m still quite smitten with the Ripsey. It perfectly completes my coyote-colored bag setup on my Ibis. The harness plate is plenty strong for any bike touring application I could imagine. I didn’t hold back on any lines while testing it and short of my improper installation nothing knocked it off its game. The Ripsey is the best dropper post saddle bag I can see on the market today.
- Industry-leading tire clearance
- No sway or sag
- Great capacity to capability ratio
- Seam-sealed dry bag
- Nearly indestructible harness plate
- Installation and removal take some time between trips
- Harness may wear on the dry bag over time
- Dry bag opening is a bit narrow for packing large items
Rogue Panda has been in this touring and bikepacking bag game for a while, and they have been a true innovator in this small, but growing, circle. They continue that trend with detail focused updates to the Bismarck and Happy Jack bags and a huge leap forward with the Ripsey. I’ve watched them stand by their products and ensure you have the best bags possible.
Check out more at Rogue Panda.