Newborn v Veteran - battle of the saddlebags

Carradice Camper long flap 2017  (£75) versus  Carradice Camper long flap 1961 (1953 price was 53 shillings and 9 pence).

Its rare to test two nigh on identical products with a 50+ age gap between them: a review and a true ‘lifetime’ long-term test in one.

Carradice have been producing hard-wearing cotton-duck Camper long-flap saddle bags (there’s a short flap version but it’s not really the business) since the fifties and their collective mileage probably reaches from London to the moon.  For thousands of cycle tourists it used to be a matter of pride to pack everything into a Camper regardless of distance to be travelled. With the strap attachments you could add a rolled up sleeping gear or even a tent. The saddlebag is experiencing a new lease of life thanks to retro fashion and some new, and clever, quick release devices which provide the convenience of a large bag without the need for a rack.

The brand new version Camper differs very little from our 56 year old and is still hand-made in Lancashire (by Sue says the signature). The Bakelite Carradice badge is gone, replaced by an embossed (with a Lancashire rose) leather patch. The leather reinforcement at the bottom has been replaced by cotton duck, reducing weight, and the trim on the pockets is nylon rather than leather (it had to be replaced on the vintage  bag) .

There are some minor improvements: rings for a carry strap, reinforcement on all seams, a draw-string cover for the inside, a rear loop for an LED light, plus a reflective patch.

What’s unchanged is the capacious 24 litre interior and the nifty folding extension flap. Two external side pockets take odds and ends and extra strap attachments allow more kit to be piled on top. 

Several decades of use and thousands of happy customers can hardly be wrong. Carradice have made useful modifications and the choice of new attachment methods is excellent. We used the SQR quick release attachment with both old and new bags and found it very convenient: on and off in seconds. Carrying weight (for the SQR) is specified at up to 10 Kg but in our experience it can take more. The bags themselves weigh just over 900 gms (old and new).

Aside from having bags of style the most impressive thing about the Camper is its totally weatherproof durability. We put both bags for 30 minutes in the shower and the new Camper ( freshly waxed) emerged with its interior bone dry. The vintage bag had a dry inner top flap but the newspaper inside was wet which was either down to the moth holes or the absence of a draw string top – not to mention no re-waxing for 50 years.

In terms of durability 56 years of regular use says it all. Yes, the pocket trim had to be replaced and the corners reinforced (moth attack) but otherwise it’s none the worse for wear. There is little doubt that both the old and new bags will last a lifetime, or two.

PS We’ve spotted the clever, and swift toe-strap closure on the Carradice rucksack – why not put them on the Camper side-pockets – or will traditionalists cry foul? 

Camper long flap

Weight (grams): 983

Capacity: 24 Litres


Dimensions: 36cm (48cm including pockets) wide x 28cm high x 23cm deep