It is great to see that Altura have thrown their hat into the bikepacking luggage ring, bringing a much needed element of affordability to the mix. We have been very impressed so far with the Vortex 2 kit we have tried, namely the Seat Pack, Front Roll and Top Tube pack - a very capable kit for just shy of £165.
On first inspection we could see the fabric was tough and waterproof - and nothing has made its way in yet - with all wear points intelligently reinforced with toughened material patches. The Seat Pack fitted securely in seconds with a quick velcro round the post and two stiffened straps looping through the saddle rails and hooking on to the pack. A quick snug up and we were done - a pleasantly painless routine to face in the mornings. The same went for the Front Roll - velcro straps round the bars and head tube - and the Top Tube packs. Great so far, and they swallowed the kit nicely - a claimed 12 litres for the seatpack, 5 litre roll and small top tube pack for at-hand essentials.
With so many bike iterations to cover it is very difficult for a designer to come up with a one-size-fits-all design that will be at home on all bikes. We found the Front Roll was a great fit on our gravel bike, but could have used a spacing system for our mountain bike setup, as it impinged slightly on the cabling. The same went for the stiff backing of the Front Roll - it worked well with the drop bar setup, and all the straps fitted well, but on more complex cabling and shaped head tubes we could have done with longer straps and found the backing a little too stiff. Access at either end was useful as it lessened the chances we would need to empty the pack to get to something at the far end.
The seatpack, with well placed stiffening elements down either side at the saddle end was a pleasure to pack and use too - the stiffening meant everything was held in place nicely and didn't want to bulge where your legs would be moving. Great stuff, and easily snugged up with the straps. A bungee grid on the top would be useful for wet gear you didn't want to contaminate the inside with.
A good friend and well respected endurance bikepacker, Rich Rothwell, has been riding and help develop the Vortex range since its inception, and we know just how hard he is on his kit. He took on the nightmarish Highland 500 with the original Vortex kit, and the Colorado Trail with the kit we had, the Vortex 2. He had little but praise for them too, feeding back directly to Altura with any suggestions. And after 500 miles and 70 thousand feet of climbing we figure he probably pushed them (and himself) pretty hard. Hats off to Altura for involving such a legendary, grass roots rider as Rich.
The Vortex 2 is without doubt one of the best mainstream stabs at a bikepacking kit yet, well tested by experts and honed from the original Vortex range. A great kit for beginners and crusty vets alike, and all at a very reasonable price.