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REVIEW

Stealth Bike Bags - Hightop Hip Pack Reviewed

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Nov 29, 2019

Made In New Zealand

New Zealand has been in the news a lot this year and whether it's climate change or gun control, their display of comparatively rational pragmatism on the national level is impressive. Rather than allowing the absence of flawless solutions to grind crushed glass into their national dialogue until they have agonizing bowel-cramps, they're engaging with problems in real-time and tweaking the designs as needed.

How's that for a segue. Stealth Bike Bags is approaching design in the same way. Michael Trudgen, wearer of all hats at Stealth, manufacturers all his products in New Zealand with a plethora of stock options and accessories, semi-custom upgrades, and a full-bespoke program that answers the question "can you make me...?" with "most likely, yes. Send me an email and we can discuss your ideas."

The Hightop Bum Bag I've been testing can hold up to 4 litres of gear. Michael stocks it in black and produces it in fourteen other colours, including this grey, as a semi-custom upcharge with a brief waiting period. The packs start at a very reasonable, 75 USD*.

*Prices based on approximate NZD to USD exchange without 13% VAT taxes.

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Being able to roll up a wet jacket and securely store it externally when the rain cuts out, even briefly, is now a must for me.

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Swapping out saturated gloves? I keep the rest of my gear dry by stashing the wet ones between the waterproof liner and the outer wall.

The Hightop is highly weather-resistant but the unsealed seams mean it's not waterproof like the Shower Pass RainSlinger or my Porcelain Rocket Dumpling. Stealth ships bags all over the world and folks are using Hightops for all sorts of adventures so for the wet-weather riders there is a 26 USD option for a waterproof insert that velcros into place.

I've been out in some torrential days and I'm in love with the insert. All my crap stays dry and I can cycle my soaked gear into the hip pack between the waterproof insert and the pack itself. I appreciate being able to strap my wet jacket securely to the outside of the pack when the sun comes out. I despise having to mix my dry gear and tools with soaked stuff.

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The buckles are easy to adjust, even with frozen hands and wearing gloves, and the 38mm hip strap is nicely wide and never came inadvertently loose.

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As noted in my first look, the aluminum reinforced EVA-foam and plastic back panel keeps the packs shape even when my shape is all over the map.

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Even loaded up with my 4/3 camera, all my tools, spare gloves, and a snack I had no problem with the Hightop moving around when descending.

The Stealth is available with the aforementioned welded waterproof insert, a bottle holder, an external zippered pocket, and a few different strap options for external carrying but my favourite removable accessory is the EVA-foam and plastic, and aluminum strut reinforced back panel.

It's slightly contoured in a way that I never notice, except to say that all my loads feel perfectly packed no matter what order I've thrown my camera, EDC, pump, tool, and etc into the bag whilst charging out the door. It's so lovely that I'm thinking of ways to add a similar piece to other hip packs.

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The waterproof insert is a must if purchasing a Hightop Bum Bag for use in a rain forest. There's that aluminum-strut reinforced foam and plastic back panel.

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Now fully accepted among mountain bikers, I'm not cool enough to wear a fanny pack 'ironically' in public so I get this look all the time off the trail.

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The cinch strap is easy to adjust and never comes loose. In a word, it's excellent. I do have a long time preference towards roll-top packs.

I've ridden home a few times with a six-pack and a bike lock stuffed in the Hightop but that kind of weight is absolutely better distributed in a backpack. Still, my collection of tools, gloves, camera, and etc is fairly voluminous and decently heavy and this bum bag handles it comfortably and, thanks to the cinch system, silently for hours.

The manufacturing quality is tops and while cat-camo isn't currently an option there are a number of much brighter colours available. I love custom stuff, Michael is interested in making custom stuff, and that sounds like a match made in heaven. The problem is I can't think of any changes I'd make.

Check out the 75 USD Stealth Bike Bags roll-top bum bag the Hightop. An excellent piece of kit, made in New Zealand, by a guy named Michael.

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Comments

fartymarty
+1 Andrew Major
fartymarty  - Nov. 29, 2019, 12:54 a.m.

Andrew, 

Have you tried it with a bladder - not a full one as it would be too heavy.  I half fill my 2 litre badder for sub 2 hour rides and run that in my hip pack.  I use a Macpac Module (another Kiwi brand) which is 5L which is good but not designed for riding.  As such I am tempted to try one of these.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 29, 2019, 6:47 a.m.

No, bladders in hip packs are my kryptonite. But I’ve comfortably carried more weight in this bum bag than any other I’ve tried so if I was going to do it this would be the one.

Reply

Vikb
+1 Andy Eunson
Vik Banerjee  - Nov. 29, 2019, 6:32 a.m.

Not to pick on this product, but I'm over having to have a second waterproof bag for a bag. If waterproofness is important I'll just buy a bag that's waterproof or close enough to waterproof from the start.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Nov. 29, 2019, 6:54 a.m.

I’ve been in that camp for years. Cycle commuting / city life with a Mission pack, mountain biking / day hikes with a Mission-Acre roll-top pack, first hip pack I came across that worked for me is the Rainslinger, and I bought myself a Porcelain Rocket Dumpling - which is a fantastic piece with lighter loads.

To each their own, but testing the Hightop has certainly been a revelation in how I manage gear in the wet. And I’ve used it in some epic rain events and some days where the tap turns on/off every five minutes. I have bags-in-bags going for all my setups now.

Reply

jitenshakun
+1 Andrew Major
Jitensha Kun  - Nov. 29, 2019, 10:34 a.m.

I run a Cox Fanny from Alpine Threadworks (Canadian outfit) but am interested in other fannys.  Something that I could pop a bladder in, while still having different compartments would be nice.

Reply

DemonMike
+2 Jitensha Kun Andrew Major
mike  - Nov. 30, 2019, 1:31 p.m.

Started watching the video on the Cox pack. Stopped when he mentioned the buckle layout. I have never had a issue and I wear a belt when riding. The side mount buckle seems awkward, and the long hip pads seem unnecessary. My current pack and a big buckle in the middle and short waist pads , and I truly forget I,m wearing it at times. That being said , I,m growing tired of playing with zippers. These roll up bags are more to my desires now. Just gotta decide on what model and what company.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 2, 2019, 7:25 a.m.

My default is roll top for sure. The size adjust ability is key with the variety of loads I’m hauling and it’s the simplest way to keep water out.

Tools, emergency shell, wallet, phone, etc then I don’t know that you can beat the size/quality/waterproofing (so key locally) of the Dumpling for Porcelain Rocket and last I checked they had inventory. It’s the nicest I’ve used for the smart packing minimalist.

As soon as I’m adding my camera, or just tossing the kitchen sink in, the extra structure of the Stealth makes it the winner.

Curious what other roll top options you’re looking at?

Reply

DemonMike
0
mike  - Dec. 2, 2019, 5:11 p.m.

https://www.reloadbags.com/product-p/acc-braaap-black.htm

Considering one of these , just not sure what size. Was thinking one might be great for light build days . Today would have been perfect , out raking trail. Smaller bag on my hips instead of a big bag on my back. #northsidetrailbuilders

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 mike
Andrew Major  - Dec. 2, 2019, 6:09 p.m.

That's a cool product I've never heard of... made in Philly! Thanks for sharing.

Reply

jitenshakun
0
Jitensha Kun  - Dec. 3, 2019, 2:19 p.m.

One bit that works very well for is is the straps on top.  I can fit a jacket and elbow pads in those straps without worrying about anything inside.  Weather where I ride is very unpredictable and it's always a very risky thing to go without a jacket.

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