The Blackburn Outpost HB Roll & Dry Bag is a solid option for those dipping their toes into bikepacking who are after a flexible system at a reasonable price. Whilst not the lightest or the most appropriate for rough terrain, the mounting system is very simple and quick to use in practice. The bag can easily be transferred between bikes, working equally well with both flat and drop bars.
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Blackburn Outpost HB Roll & Dry Bag Design
Bikepacking handlebar bags typically come in two flavours: those that attach directly to the handlebars, and 2-part systems, which employ a “harness” to connect a dry bag to the bars. The Blackburn HB Roll takes things a step further with a 3 part system: a double-ended dry bag, a stiffened harness, and a plastic mounting bracket that attaches to the bars.
Starting with the dry bag first, this has an 11L nominal capacity which, given the size of the bag, must account for quite a lot of folds at each end! This thing is huge. The Backburn is at the heavier end of the spectrum when it comes to fabric weight, which bodes well for longevity. The bag comes with a velcro strip that interfaces with a similar strip on the harness to prevent lateral movement - a neat touch that distinguishes it from an off-the-shelf dry bag. That said, you can also use the harness with any dry bag, making for a very flexible system. For example, those with narrow/non-flared drop bars might want to use a smaller bag to reduce the number of folds required to fit between the hoods.
The ‘robust’ theme continues with the harness, which is highly stiffened to help distribute any unevenly packed loads and provide a solid support for the mounting plate on the back of the hardness. A multitude of webbing loops are sewn to the front for mounting additional items - perhaps an accessory pouch or similar. At the bottom are a couple of plastic D ring buckles to which the red stabilising strap attaches (more on that later).
The final piece of the puzzle is the handlebar mount itself. This is attached to the bars by a couple of plastic rings (spacers are included to adapt between 25.4, 31.8 and 35mm bar diameters) which are tightened by 2 screws. A steel cable threads underneath the stem and is secured with a grub screw to prevent the whole mount from rotating forwards. If you are at all familiar with the KLICKfix system, then this mount is nearly identical. Unfortunately, it is not recommended for those with carbon handlebars.
Installing the harness is extremely easy: simply locate the top of the harness plate onto the mount, then rotate down into position. A dial on the top of the mount is then used to lock the harness in place. Lastly, an additional red strap can be used to further stabilise the harness. This clips onto those aforementioned D-rings on the bottom of the harness and threads underneath the stem to further counteract the downward rotation of the harness.
Blackburn Outpost HB Roll & Dry Bag Performance
When unpacking the HB Roll, the first thing you notice is that this thing is hefty - weight weenies should look away now. The harness is impressively stiff, meaning that tight packing of the dry bag is less critical. It will handily carry additional items (tent poles, paddles, etc.), making it significantly more flexible than an ‘all-in-one’ bag strapped to the bars.
Once you’ve got the mount attached to your bars (which is, admittedly, a *bit* fiddly), attaching and removing the harness and dry bag couldn’t be easier. It is literally the case of a few seconds. Anyone who’s spent minutes (it feels like hours) agonisingly trying to feed straps under, over and around cables, with hands frozen numb from having just packed up a wet tent will appreciate this. The 3-part design makes it even easier than traditional harness systems, letting you attach the dry bag to the harness off the bike first, then simply clipping and locking the assembly to your handlebars. While less quantifiable than a simple metric like weight, the ease with which the HB Roll can be attached and removed is, in my opinion, one of its key selling points.
As well as making installation a breeze and preventing any cable pinching issues, for those on drop bars, the mount gives enough space to comfortably use the tops, another improvement over bags that strap to the bars directly. The downside of the design is that it positions the dry bag a little further forwards, which increases the chances of clashing with STI shift levers as they swing inwards. To get around this, I found that I had to rotate the mount so it was pointing up at around 30 degrees from horizontal, which meant that I couldn’t mount any lights on my handlebars. To some extent, these types of bags are always a bit compromised when used with drop bars, but at least the mounting system of the HB Roll gives you some flexibility to play around with its position. For example, smaller riders will appreciate the additional tyre clearance gained by rotating the mount upwards.
So far, so good then, but where’s the catch? Unfortunately, the low faff mounting system is also the HB Roll’s downfall in rougher terrain. The tolerances between the mounting plate and the mount itself are very loose. While making installation very easy, it results in significant play and subsequent rattling when riding over anything rougher than tarmac. To combat this, Blackburn included a red strap used to take out the tolerances at the mounting interface and stabilise the load. It does this pretty well (at the expense of increased faff), but still not well enough to make me feel truly comfortable using it on mountain bike terrain.
The way the weight is positioned forwards of the bars also has a detrimental effect on handling, noticeably worse than bags that strap directly to the bars. On road and gravel, this wasn’t a problem, but on steep and tight trails, it felt significant. Furthermore, while the bag generally feels like it could stand up to a whole lot of abuse, the plastic mount doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence when the going gets rough. If this is primarily the sort of terrain you’re planning to use the bag on, then I think there are better options out there.
Value & verdict
The £100 RRP positions the HB Roll in a similar ballpark to the other established names in the bikepacking bags game, although it can often be found for much less. At a discount, it offers good value, especially if you can consider that the mounting system means it can easily be used across different bikes. In contrast, other designs can have issues with certain handlebars, brakes, etc.
The Blackburn Output HB Roll & Dry Bag is a good value option that will appeal to anyone prioritising ease of use and build quality over weight for road and light off-road use. The 11L volume is about as much as you would want to carry with this type of bag, while the separate dry bag design means that it is fully waterproof. Its key selling point is how easy attaching and removing the bag is out in the field (literally), but this does come at the expense of stability, so is not best suited to those primarily using it for mountain biking.