Tug it, pull it, pry it, but Watershed’s unique pack closure won’t pop open. And it’s the key to the brand’s latest waterproof option: The McKenzie bikepacking bag.
“It’s a Ziploc bag on steroids.” The team at Watershed didn’t mince words, the description was apt. I was on the Outdoor Retailer show floor, furiously tugging at a thick plastic band that (tightly) held shut a model handlebar bag.
When I gave up, one of the designers took it from me, smiled, and casually peeled open the pack. That trick is the secret behind all of Watershed’s gear. And it’s what sets its debut product in the cycling category apart from the competition.
I took the McKenzie pack, launching this fall, over a couple hundred miles of road and gravel and a few nights camping. It took some getting used to, but once I mastered Watershed’s “ZipDry” closure, I was sold.
In short: The McKenzie pack is a durable and fully waterproof handlebar bag. Its non-zipper closure and lack of outside mounting hardware provide alternatives to traditional bar packs. It’s a little bulky, but its ease-of-use and performance made it a winner for me.
Watershed McKenzie Handlebar Pack Review
Everything you need for this pack is self-contained. Other packs often have a mounting shell that secures the pack to the frame. The benefit there is security and stability.
With the McKenzie, there are two bungee-cord clamps affixed to the back of the pack. To mount the pack, adjust the cord length, pull the clasp around the bars, and hook it to the clasp.
This will result in some play, especially if the bag is not fully loaded. To combat this, there are side buckles to secure the roll top. And there are compression buckles that run the length of the bag. A Velcro loop on the back allows you to secure the pack to your stem and reduce play.
The McKenzie offers 15L of storage, which is middle of the road for handlebar packs. Mine fit a towel, a change of clothes, and some nutrition. Plus, there was room left over to stuff shed layers.
There are D-rings on either side of the pack as well, handy to clip extra tools. Mounted and stuffed, the pack bulged a little more than 16 inches long, just fitting inside my bars.
A reflective strip on the front of the pack rounds out the features and adds a measure of safety.
ZipDry Waterproof Pack
The single-piece mounting aside, the real selling point for any Watershed product is the closure. The “ZipDry” seal proved submersion proof and less clunky than waterproof zippers.
All zippers have the potential to snag and fail. Watershed’s ZipDry doesn’t appear to run that risk. During the bikepacking test and the two months since, this closure has functioned perfectly. But there is a learning curve.
You won’t be able to pull the bag open; the seal is too tight. There are two tabs on either side of the closure. Pull these together along its length—think of forming an “S” with the ZipDry. With this, the bag will pop open.
While there wasn’t rain during the 200 miles of riding, I did submerge the bag in a lake. After 30 seconds, there were no bubbles, and more importantly, no water inside. I also left the bag outside overnight in a light drizzle. The clothes inside stayed dry.
Last but not least, the McKenzie has a top strap so you can carry it like suitcase. It’s not a big deal, but it is a thoughtful add-on.
Watershed McKenzie Specs and Impressions
Here are the McKenzie’s technical details.
Watershed McKenzie Handlebar Bag
- Weight: 15.2 oz
- Capacity: 900 cu. in. (15 L)
- Dimensions: 9″H x 16″L x 8″W
- Opening Size: 13″
- 420 denier ripstop Cordura fabric with abrasion-resistant coating
- Two 1″ D-ring lash points
- Compatible with Watershed Ocoee padded liner / divider sets for cameras and sensitive gear
- 100 percent Waterproof, RF welded
This is a great and innovative bikepacking option. It is a little bulky and feels more like a waterproof bag that works for bikes than a bike bag that’s waterproof.
But at $123, it’s not overly expensive for the category. Its durable construction and non-zipper closure combine for a bag that’s likely to last a while. I recommend this bag for anyone that’s looking for a bike-friendly pack that’s reliably waterproof. Look for it to launch this fall on Watershed’s site.