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Swift Industries Zeitgeist Pack Review: Bigger on the Inside, Keeps Water Out

Swift Industries Zeitgeist Saddle Bag review on handbars of loaded bike(Photo/Aubrey Byron)
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The Swift Industries Zeitgeist Pack was the missing piece of the puzzle in my bikepacking setup, giving me the flexibility to safely carry the extras I would’ve left behind.

The Mary Poppins-like quality of Swift Industries’ Zeitgeist Pack made it so I could pick up whatever odds and ends my heart desired without rearranging my frame or saddle bags again and again.

This was the last piece of gear I bought before taking off on a week-long bikepacking trip on a section of the Great Divide Trail. It was also the one I didn’t technically need. Between my frame, saddle, and fork bags, I had everything covered.

And the Big Agnes Copper Spur bikepacking tent I was bringing could squeeze between the handlebars — if a little awkwardly.

The problem was, if I’d wanted at any point to carry a single extra item, I wouldn’t have been able to fit it. There was no room for error or anything else for that matter.

So I decided to try a handlebar bag. I bought the Zeitgeist Pack from Swift Industries, and the game totally changed. Suddenly, I had more room than I knew what to do with. And the gear I was storing was safe from the elements.

In short: Over the 250-mile section of the Great Divide Trail where I tested the Zeitgeist Pack, it repeatedly out-performed my expectations. It isn’t technically waterproof, but it kept my things dry through many rainy miles. I didn’t necessarily need it, but it made accessing necessary items far easier in the saddle. It’s rugged, it’s useful, and it’s got style.

And while it might be too big for smaller bikes, or certain handlebar configurations, for most setups, you couldn’t find a better bikepacking handlebar pack.

Swift Industries’ Zeitgeist Pack Review

Room for Extras

bikepacking loaded bikes on trail near lake
(Photo/Aubrey Byron)

I had an ever-so-precise science to effectively load and fit gear into my other bags. But the Zeitgeist Pack was where my most eclectic items could be shoved. And, somehow, there always seemed to be room for more.

A tallboy and a candy bar? Put it in. Half a sandwich? Sure. A gifted pack of wet wipes? Please. Easy access to the rain jacket? It’ll fit. On and on. If I wanted to pick up litter from the trail, have handy access to something that would otherwise be tucked away, or haul things like extra MREs, this bag is where it all went.

It also carried the things I couldn’t quite find a place for. With a giant saddle bag holding my clothes, sleeping bag, pillow, and Tevas, a typical toolkit pouch didn’t fit as it normally would under the seat.

The side pockets of the Zeitgeist Pack were there to carry all the tools I needed. It even made it so I could pack extra CO2 canisters and a second tube in preparation for the worst.

It’s got a telescoping neck that holds things in place when the bag is opened up. There is a foam spacer kit that allows for space between your fingers and the bag when it’s mounted on your bars. And a compression strap made it easy to pack down unused space.

It’s worth noting that Swift Industries advertises this pack as a capable front (handlebar) or saddle pack. I only tested it on my handlebars.

Product Specs

  • Capacity: 12 L
  • Dimensions: 19 x 7.5 x 7 in.
  • Weight: 1.3 lbs
  • Material: ECOPAK EPLX400

Wet Outside, Dry Inside

Wow, do I wish I had rain-tested this pack less. But storms managed to find us on almost every day of our week-long trip. As rain poured down on us over and over, not everything stayed dry. But everything in my Zeitgeist Pack did.

And oddly, “waterproof” isn’t one of the specs advertised on Swift’s webpage for the Zeitgeist Pack. Maybe it’s an “underpromise, overdeliver” strategy.

But the flap lining has TPU-coated waterproof ripstop nylon for extra protection not just from the rain but also the flying wet mud many of us who ride gravel are so familiar with.

After discovering that my supposedly waterproof bag wasn’t, I moved my sleeping pants and puffer jacket into the Zeitgeist Pack, where I could trust them to stay dry.

Style

Zeitgeist Pack
(Photo/Aubrey Byron)

All that functionality comes in a cute package, which does make a difference, even if it doesn’t improve performance.

Gear is expensive. If you spend hundreds of dollars on it, you deserve to enjoy looking at it every day. And that’s another assignment that the Swift team understands. It put safety features and daisy webbing in an attractive, hipster-friendly, and trail-ready package.

I even paid a little extra for the limited-edition coral version, mostly for the adorable camping fox patch. I have no regrets. (Though I’m sorry that it’s no longer available!)

But everything Swift makes is good-looking. And the merit-driven former girl scout in me loves that it’s bringing patches back for your commemorative-worthy adult adventures.

A Saddle Bag Too!

As seen in the above video, Swift Industries even figured out how to make the Zeitgeist Pack double as a saddle bag.

With any bike saddle that has saddle-bag-tabs on the back, simply loop your rubber straps through the tabs, lock them snugly in place and thread the ends back through the tabs and under the saddle.

Then use the p-cord and toggle (that normally attaches to the head tube) to cinch the back of the bag against your seat post. It will ride under your butt as easily as it rides under your handlebars. If you’re having issues with the bag slipping low on the front of your bike toward your wheel, this is a handy alternative.

Some Drawbacks

swift zeitgeist pack mounted under handlebars on loaded bike
(Photo/Aubrey Byron)

If there’s one thing that is a bummer about this bag, it’s that it hangs a little too low.

I measured for clearance before picking it up, and each day started with plenty of room between the bag and the tire. But that doesn’t account for the 40-mile stints of washboards from hell you find on Colorado gravel roads. Without fail, each day, the bag would migrate down to flirt with my René Herses again.

To be fair, this only became an issue after I put H-bars on the bike and then had to tilt them upwards to stop my pinky fingers from going numb on each hand. But once I did, I had to be extra diligent about keeping the straps held tight (not exactly convenient for gear access).

And even then, sometimes the more rough sections of the road would still knock it loose enough to rub the tire again.

As with any gravel adventure, bumps abound, and your belongings — and the bags they’re in — may migrate. This pack’s generous volume means clearances could be tight, depending on your setup and the bike you’re riding.

This particular drawback, like so many others in life, will be completely null for taller riders. It was only an issue on my medium frame when the H-bar pushed it lower.

So anyone riding a small or extra-small frame may need to be wary of their setup. Anyone riding a large setup should be just fine.

On a similar note, the bag works great with flat bars and drop bars 42mm or wider. I could barely shove it on my 40mm bars if I were to ignore the side pockets. But if you’re riding on 38mm or narrower drops, this monster isn’t going to fit.

The Catalyst Pack is Swift’s narrow alternative solution. But with only half the storage capacity of the Swift Zeitgeist Pack, I’m not quite sure if I would be singing its praises as much.

Conclusion

Swift industries zeitgeist pack on bike being ridden by author on gravel road
Swift Industries Zeitgeist pack; (photo/Aubrey Byron)

I was blown away by how much I could fit into the Zeitgeist Pack and by how well it protected my belongings inside of it. In the saddle, it gave me easy access to the items I needed on hand. Over the 250-mile trip along the Great Divide Trail, I was grateful for it more than a few times.

The utility of this bag hasn’t stopped since arriving home from my latest adventure. Instead of hauling all my stuff over mountainous gravel trails, it has adventures like hauling a frozen pizza, towel, and bottle of wine over to my friend’s pool. It’s a ready-for-anything piece of gear.

The pack I almost didn’t buy became my favorite piece of gear I own. Despite its minor downsides and the $200 price, I would buy it again in a heartbeat.

Check Price at REICheck Price at Swift Industries

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