My dirt-camping compadres gave me some heat last fall for thinking outside the box before our dual-sport tour of Nevada. I’d outfitted my BMW F 800 GS with the Giant Loop Great Basin saddlebags instead of hard panniers and they didn’t believe that the big hollow horseshoe would hold enough gear for an eight-night backcountry tour.
I knew that traveling the Giant Loop way meant leaving the kitchen sink—and other nonessentials—at home, and after making some tough decisions I fit nearly all of my gear into the 50-liter bag. The overflow went into a small duffel strapped just behind. My reward for paring down was a bag that weighed only 40 pounds, including two liters of water and two spare innertubes. Less than 7 pounds of that load was the Great Basin itself. I was completely self-sufficient and still had room for my air mattress pump and camp shoes.
Designed for big dual-sport bikes like KTM Adventures, BMW GS models and Kawasaki KLRs, the Great Basin also fits V-Stroms, Tigers, Multistradas and most other bikes with passenger pegs. Three no-nonsense metal buckles tethered to an aluminum ring grip straps thread through your bike’s rack or grab bars to secure the middle of the bag. The pannier ends cinch tightly to passenger peg mounts, with metal buckles holding the ends of a heavy strap sewn through the entire base of the bag. Designer Dave Wachs told me this strap is key to keeping the bag in place. It works like a charm—I rode more than 700 miles of unpaved roads with a Great Basin strapped to my pillion and it barely budged. Removing the bag, which I did at our two motel stops, took about a minute—less if I wasn’t gabbing about the day’s ride. Off the bike, the Basin slings over your shoulder for easy toting.
Giant Loop sews the Great Basin from thick, vinyl-coated polyester, covering the ends with rugged 1,050-denier Ballistic Cordura nylon and the bottom with tough, nonslip material. Heavily taped seams and mil-grade thread make it nearly bulletproof, while a waterproof two-way zipper provides access. There’s a compression strap on each end, and two reinforced daisy chains of webbing provide purchase for a bungee net. My only criticism is that it’s not easy to get into the bag while on the road because the tie-down straps cross the zipper, but smart packing can fix that. Giant Loop suggests sealing the seams for complete waterproofing, and my hose-down test proved them right. There’s no heat-proofing, so keep this bag away from hot exhausts.
Sturdy, form-fit bags for the pannier ends and an integral zippered compartment in the center simplify packing, and their bright-yellow linings make it easier to find things inside. Flanking the box-shaped center compartment (recommended for a sleeping bag, but home to my camp kitchen) are twin water bottle sleeves. Two drawstring stuff bags complete the system. By stowing heavy gear in the pannier ends and lighter things in the thick neck, you get a low, narrow load that conforms to your bike. Improvisation rules when packing a Loop: I stuffed my tent and fly down one side and two bags of clothes down the other. The ends carried water, tools and spares.
The made-in-USA Great Basin comes in black, orange, bright yellow and white and retails for $399. My hard-bag toting friends were skeptical, but this 7-pound horseshoe proved them wrong—and saved me carrying the extra weight of racks and panniers in the bargain.
For more information: Visit giantloopmoto.com