If you’ve followed us for a while, you’ll know I’m a fan of the humble roll bag. While many riders prefer the rigidity and security of hard luggage and a top box, the flexibility and versatility of a roll bag are of much more use when touring.
I’m not saying one way is better than the other; it’s just what works for me.
As I come towards the end of my current trip (a 10-week tour to Corsica and the Picos de Europa via France, Italy, and Switzerland), the SW-Motech Pro Rackpack has firmly become my bag of choice for carrying my kit – particularly my camera, lenses, tripod, drone, laptop, tablet, and all the rest of my tech stuff.
While soft roll bags are great for utilising otherwise unreachable spaces, they don’t really work for rigid camera cases because too much space goes to waste. And when you’re touring, space isn’t a luxury you can afford to squander.
This is where the SW-Motech Pro Rackpack came to my rescue.
Note: SW-Motech did not pay us to write this review. They did, however, provide us with the product. Despite this, they have had no influence on the formation of our opinions or the content of this article.
What is it?
The 32-42L expandable Pro Rackpack is a part of SW-Motech’s Pro lineup. The range includes numerous travel bags, tank bags, and various mounting options. You can view the SW-Motech PRO Range here.
The Pro Rackpack is an expandable, semi-rigid tail pack that can be used with or without a mounting plate (more on that later.) As far as tail packs go, it’s relatively simple – but its simplicity is done incredibly well.
It’s made from high-quality materials, uses a patented lashing system for attachment, and includes small details that make touring much easier.
Overall, it’s a quality product that is well thought out and simple yet elegant.
SW-Motech PRO Rackpack Tail Bag: Tech Specs
- Universal fit for almost all motorcycles
- Large mesh compartment with zipper on the inside of the lid
- Additional storage thanks to two outer pockets with covered zippers.
- Inner mesh compartments with zippers on both outer pockets
- Volume expansions on both outer sides
- Underside made of anti-slip material
- Robust lashing eyes for secure fastening of the bag at 4 points and for lashing accessory bags
- Made of durable and highly UV-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon with splashproof inner lining
- Reflective details for better visibility
- Zipper management: Elastic loops prevent the zipper pulls from fluttering
- MOLLE attachment made of stable Hypalon material on the upper side for attaching accessory bags.
- Simple and quick attachment of the bag to the motorcycle with loop straps with a patented lashing hook.
- Weather protection thanks to the supplied waterproof inner bag
- Sturdy carrying handle
- 1 x PRO Rackpack tail bag
- 1 x Waterproof inner bag
- 4 x Loop straps with lashing hook
- 1 x Shoulder strap
- Material: 1680D ballistic nylon
- Colour: black / anthracite
- Size: 33,0 x 56,0 x 26,0 cm / 13.0 x 22.0 x 10.2 in
- Total Weight: appr. 2,4 kg/appr. 5.3 lb
- Total Volume: 32,0-42,0 l
Mounting the SW-Motech PRO Rackpack Tail Bag
At first glance, I thought the Pro Rackpack could only be mounted on a plate – which put me off. But thankfully, this isn’t the case.
If you want the ultimate in sturdyness and space, it can be mounted with a plate as an alternative to a top box. You can use an existing top box plate or purchase one of SW-Motech’s purpose-designed racks from the Pro lineup. These include the Street Rack and the Adventure Rack.
If you don’t want to mount the Rackpack on a plate, secure it to the pillion seat or a sissy bar as an alternative to a standard roll bag or tail pack. This was perfect for my needs as I ride a relatively small bike (a Kawasaki Ninja 1000SX) and didn’t want the extra length to destabilise my bike.
Mounted on the pillion seat and secured to the grab rails, the Pro Rackpack sits closer to the centre of the bike, minimising the ‘sway’ you sometimes get when you load up the rear.
Patented Lashing Hooks
As a touring rider, I have a love/hate relationship with straps. On the one hand, they work and do the job well. But on the other hand, they’re time-consuming, irritating, and a pain to get on/off in the rain.
The lashing hooks on the Pro Rackpack provide a new way of doing things and remove the headaches that come with regular straps.
Secure the bottom of the straps to your chosen mounting point using the loops, attach the hooks to the bag, and tighten. Removing the straps is the same in reverse – the entire process can be done in seconds.
At the bottom of the straps, you’ll find velcro fasters that allow you to tidy away any remaining material length.
It’s a simple way of doing things – but it’s done flawlessly. It makes you wonder why nobody came up with it sooner!
Securing the SW-Motech PRO Rackpack Tail Bag
One of the things I like about the Pro Rackpack is the versatility it provides. As mentioned above, you can mount it to a plate or secure it to the pillion seat. And you have the patented lashing hooks to secure it.
But once you’ve decided where to mount it, the versatility continues. Because whilst mounting the Rackpack using the dedicated straps and loops is the obvious choice, that isn’t the only way to do it.
For example, there were times on my trip when I opted to use Voile straps through the attachment loops on the lower corners of the bag rather than the hooks and straps.
Sometimes, I decided to attach the straps using the loops on the upper section of the bag – usually when it was top-heavy.
And there were numerous times when I used a combination of all three.
Simply put, multiple mounting options allow you to secure the bag optimally in any given circumstance – which is perfect for touring.
From experience, I know that no matter how much I plan (or practice) my packing pre-tour, it will always go wrong on the actual day of packing.
There are always additional, last-minute additions. And invariably, these late additions test the capacity of the storage space available.
The beauty of the Pro Rackpack is the expandable side pockets, which increase the capacity available from 32L to 42L. And whilst that doesn’t sound a lot, it actually makes a huge difference.
On the parts of my tour where I had to carry everything from one hotel to the next, I expanded the bag to fit everything in. And on the trips out (when I was returning to the same accommodation), I used the bag in its condensed form.
In essence, the bag played two roles depending on my day. It was a genuine game-changer.
To take this a step further, the MOLLE attachment on the top of the bag made way for additional attachment points on longer trips and when I wanted to keep my overnight bag handy when catching the ferry.
SW-Motech PRO Rackpack Tail Bag: Pockets and Spaces
As mentioned at the top of this post, the Pro Rackpack is simple – and I mean that as a compliment. SW-Motech hasn’t made this bag needlessly complicated – and it’s all the better because of it.
There is the main compartment of the bag (32L) that holds the majority of your stuff. As mentioned, this can be expanded by unzipping the pockets on each side – providing you with an additional 10L of space.
The inner sections of the side pockets house a zipped mesh compartment to hold smaller items, as does the inner part of the bag ‘lid’.
In the past, I’ve had luggage with tonnes of hidden pockets and secret hidey holes. And while this sounds like a good idea in principle, things get lost in the chaos of touring because you can’t remember where you’ve put them.
The simplicity of this bag means you know exactly where everything is.
Straps and Handles
When transporting the bag, SW-Motech has given us quality and efficiency – ongoing traits within this range.
The two high-quality carry handles on top of the bag have been kept purposefully narrow – just wide enough to get your fingers under and allow a firm grip when carrying.
A sturdy (and removable) shoulder strap connects to the same hooks you would use to secure the bag on your bike.
Is the SW-Motech PRO Rackpack Tail Bag Waterproof?
The one thing that bothered me about this bag (especially considering its sole purpose was to carry around £7,000 worth of camera gear!) was its waterproofing.
The outer part of the bag is not advertised as waterproof. It does, however, come with a waterproof inner bag.
On the inside of the main compartment, there are some strategically placed velcro strips. These correspond with velcro strips on the inner bag, ensuring a perfect fit in the space.
The top of the inner bag then has a drawstring to enclose your luggage before you zip up the bag’s main compartment.
Would this be enough to protect my gear from the rain? As it turns out, yes!
Earlier in my trip, I had to endure a few particularly soggy days around Mont Blanc. Holding my breath, I opened the bag to see the damage – but alas, the gear in the Rackpack had stayed perfectly dry.
Even the items in the side pockets (which are not protected by the liner) stayed dry – which is a testament to the build quality of this bag.
Those who know me will know that I don’t excuse products for not being waterproof! But I’m pleased to say the Rackpack did a superb job keeping everything dry during two days of heavy rain.
One of my biggest issues with hard luggage is that it could be more versatile. A top box (or a pannier) is a one-trick pony – it can only be used as a top box, and that’s all it will ever be.
But a roll bag can be used for multiple purposes – and that’s why I love them for touring.
On this trip, for example, the Rackpack was used as my main source of luggage. But once I got to Corsica and the Picos, it carried my shopping from the supermarket, protected my camera gear to and from shoots, and even doubled up as a make-shift barbell for home workouts.
It’s been used as a gym bag in the past, and it’ll be used as carry-on luggage next time I travel without the bike.
I value products that are multipurpose and can be used both on and off the bike in a variety of situations.
SW-Motech PRO Rackpack Tail Bag: Conclusion
The lasting impressions of this bag are hugely positive – particularly around the quality and attention to detail.
The finish is excellent, and this shows in bad weather – when it matters!
It’s small enough to be compact on the bike yet expandable when you need it to be.
It’s flexible enough to accommodate your kit but rigid enough not to flop around when it’s light. And the endless ways of securing it mean you can get it right every time you pack for a ride.
Additionally, it’s just as useful off the bike as on it.
Over the years, I’ve amassed a tonne of touring kit. But out of all that gear, there are only three pieces that I refuse to leave the house without.
Now, there are four.
The SW-Motech Pro Rackpack has been a worthy ally throughout my 10-week trip. It has never let me down. And for that reason alone, it will be with me on all my future tours.
For more posts like this one, check out our Luggage section or view these selected posts: