I mentioned last month (“CityBike Project Bike: The Return Of Triple Black Beauty” – February 2017) that I’ll be testing serious soft luggage by Mosko Moto along with the Bumot sidecases that replaced the OEM BMW luggage, and that my initial impressions of the Mosko were very good. I’ll share more on the Backcountry Pannier kit—a soft sidebag / hard mount setup—in a future installment of the GS project story, but since the duffel works on just about any bike, I’m reviewing it separately as something of a preview.
I became aware of Mosko Moto, a newish company based up north in White Salmon, Washington, during conversations with Gwynne about luggage for one of her Baja expeditions. They seem to be best known for their all-in-one Reckless luggage system. I was immediately impressed not just by their designs but also by the methodologies behind the designs. Mosko seems to approach bag design very methodically, with concern for systems not just standalone components, and a serious, no-compromise consideration of actual, knobblies-in-the-dirt use cases. As a guy who alternates between boredom and disgust at the fashion-centric nature of so much moto-gear, I’m refreshed and engaged by this approach.
Photos: Angelica Rubalcaba
The Backcountry 30L duffel (also available in a 40L version) is clearly borne of this approach, with thoughtful features throughout that make it much more capable and usable than a typical drybag.
The 30L measures 18” wide, 13” deep and 10” tall. It’s about the size of a backpack (a real backpack, not one of those bitchass little ones) or about 2/3 the size of a typical carry-on. Construction is tuff—misspelled for emphasis and cool factor, got it?—with beefy buckles, sturdy straps, and the bag is actually constructed of two layers: a nearly firehose-heavy, water-resistant nylon outer bag, and an internal, waterproof 22oz PVC bag with welded seams. There’s a third bag, too—a 20-ouncer included for the purpose of keeping your dirty unmentionables separated from your maybe-less-dirty other stuff. The top panel and the inside of the beavertails are also 22oz PVC.
Yep, one of the Backcountry’s tricks is the beavertails, featuring adjustable straps which let them expand to hold a riding jacket, a tent, or maybe even a beaver if you get really… lucky? There’s also a little wet / dry mesh pocket and removable map pocket inside the beavertails, and Mosko says that the PVC surfaces also serve as great work surfaces for prepping food and other tasks.
The other thing about the beavertails—yes, we’re still talking about those, and I haven’t made a joke about beavers, or… tail—is they’re set up with cool li’l pass-through ports on each side so you can strap on (another missed comedic opportunity, dammit) the bag and still have access to some tail. The tail, I mean. Tails. Stuff inside the tails.
Let’s move on, shall we? The outside of the bag offers an extensive array of additional attachment points for another small bag, or the miscellaneous crap that always seems to need somewhere to be bungeed on. There are three carry handles: one on each end, and another one on the side. The bag opens at either end, so you can access the contents from either side while its attached to the bike—a nice touch, even if this style of access isn’t as easy as a wide-opening flap. This is a common compromise, though, gladly made in exchange for actually keeping the contents of the bag dry.
There are even hidden backpack straps, so you can walk out when your expensive European dual-sport gives up the ghost halfway between nowhere and nothingness because you didn’t change the oil every ten minutes or whatever the required maintenance interval is on those things.
Everything about the bag says overbuilt, except maybe for Mosko’s cute little lizard logo.
All this manliness in construction does make the bag a bit of a handful. It’s true that any adventure rider worth their ADV sticker and rambling road reports will prefer a bit more complexity and toughness if it’ll prevent a failure in the desolation wilderness between coffee shops, and the bag will presumably get a little easier to work with as it continues to break in. I’ll personally take the repetitive burden of rolling up the slightly bulky ends of the bag over an unplanned side trip to replace a waterlogged camera or laptop every time… but that doesn’t stop me from grumbling a little each time I close the bag, partly because my brain wants me to get the roll just right, and the stiff-n-sturdy nature of the bag makes that tricky.
This is clearly an “it’s not you, it’s me” kind of problem.
There’s a lot more good stuff going on with the Backcountry 30L than I can possibly explore in these pages and still have room for our review of the Africa Twin, but if you’re sitting there all, “Yeehaw, Surj! This sounds pretty utili-harcore, and I have been thirsting for some adventure…” I urge you to go to MoskoMoto.com and watch the 23-minute product video for the Backcountry duffels. Sounds crazy in this age of millisecond attention spans, but I watched the entire fucking thing, and I guarantee if you do too, you’ll be asking yourself how you’ve managed to muddle through life without a beavertail on your goddamn pathetic normy dry bag. Seriously… the pace of the video isn’t exactly John Wick 3: Death of a Bagman, but there’s not a lot of wasted tape. Or pixels, or whatever videos are made of these days.
Mosko is an Aerostich model company, meaning you buy right from them. They emphasize this on their website and in the included brochure, saying it allows them to deliver premium products at a lower price. While Mosko’s gear is mostly outside the casual purchase, just cuz range, at $199.99, the feature-packed, seriously stout Backcountry 30L feels like a hell of a deal, considering that good moto-specific dry bags—minus beavertails!—already run between $100 and $150.
One caveat—Mosko’s website says they’re out of the current Backcountry 30L, with a “new and improved” version currently in production, which will use “the same closure system as the Backcountry 40L Duffle, with the roll-top clipping to the side of the bag rather than clipping back to itself, which reduces the length of the bag by several inches without reducing capacity.” Mosko says the new version will arrive this spring. Since the relative bulkiness at the ends of the current 30L is my one niggling complaint, a similarly burly bag with less bulk sounds downright bitchin’.