Review: Enduristan Blizzard side bags and Base Pack XS

Enduristan Blizzard Saddle Bags

We give the Blizzards a beating in the wilds of Morocco

Given the bags' apparent indestructability, they're well worth splashing out on, and will likely see you through many years of adventuring...
Tough, Utilitarian, No-nonsense, Adaptable, Capacious
Long straps, Faff to fit first time around, Not cheap

WHILE THE SOFT LUGGAGE/HARD LUGGAGE debate rages on amongst adventure riders, for those of us with smaller capacity machines the choice is simple.

Lightweight, compact and rugged, soft luggage provides everything we need to get our gear from A to B. And arguably the most indestructible option on the market is Enduristan, a Swiss company with more than a decade of manufacturing knowledge.

I was introduced to the no-nonsense brand by Mossy, an old hand in the game. He sung the praises of the Hurricane backpack, and suggested we look at the brand’s soft luggage solutions for touring on our two-fiddys. Constructed of Enduristan’s own durable TPU-laminated, 1000D 3-layer fabric, the bags not only look the part, but if Lyndon Poskitt’s escapades are anything to go be, more than live up to tough off-road riding.

So when our last minute Moroccan epic came about, I dropped a hopeful call to the UK distributor, TwistMoto.co.uk.

Just two days later, and less than 24 hours before we were due to drive aboard a ferry to France, we found ourselves in the garage, working out which KTM wore the Blizzard Saddle Bags best – the 2009 EXC or 2013 EXC-F (we had a similar Kriega set-up for the second bike).

Ultimately, the panniers sat best on the chewed up rear fender of the two-stroke, and once set up they joined the rest of our gear unceremoniously chucked in the back of our old T4.

Two weeks later and several degrees further south, we pulled off the N12 halfway between Foum Zguid and Zagora, and began the by now finetuned (ahem) task of unloading the bikes...

This wasn’t the first ride of our trip by far, but it was the first time that we needed to carry more than a backpack of supplies. We were planning a single-day expedition to the dunes of El Gouera, an 80km return trip as the crow flies. The trouble was, two huge ridges and a valley of baby head boulders lay between us and the Saharan sands.

For peace of mind, and to quench the two-stroke’s insatiable thirst, we decided to take 10-litres of extra fuel, carrying half each.

A 5-litre Jerry can fitted nicely into the rectangular 12-litre Enduristan Base Pack XS, although didn’t leave much room for anything else. The heavy duty external mesh pocket was perfect for the map and compass, while the zig zagging elastic ties were handy for stuffing lose items and rubbish underneath.

Into the two 6-litre Blizzard side bags went tinned soup, bread, a jetboil, jacket and of course, a strong supply of sweets. Despite being the smallest of the three sizes Enduristan offers (there’s also a 17-litre medium and 24-litre large) the slanted Blizzards had ample room for all the essentials. In fact, they seemed far more capacious that the Kriega alternative (the OS-6 panniers), and the elongated roll top and adjustable buckles meant that if you did overfill them, they could still be securely closed.

The straps crisscrossed over the tail section, holding the three bags together, while metal clips hooked on to the tail and reached forward to the frame. The benefit of this modular system was that it could be fitted without having to drill any holes in to the fender – Kriega’s system requires two screws to be installed. However, one slight irk was the sheer length of the straps, but that made for a breadth of adaptability to suit different bikes, and once fitted it was no bother to cut them down. Enduristan claims to have tested its family buckles to the nth degree, but if one was to break, then you’d easily be able to find a suitable replacement anywhere around the world – you’d struggle to do so with Kriega’s unique button buckle system.

In total, there was probably about 10 extra kgs sat on the tail of the 2t, which meant some quick suspension adjustments before we set off. The bags felt tight and secure, and while at first the weight was strange, we soon got used to it. While the bags are designed to be as inobtrusive as possible, they slightly impeded movement when it came to harder riding. It was most noticeable on sand, when you have to get your weight back as far as possible and on a couple of occasions, I ended up perched on top of the Base Pack XS, which wasn’t actually all that uncomfortable…

My biggest concern was that a tip over on rock would tear the bags from the bike, or worst, burst the tin cans. As it turned out, a dozen drops weren’t enough to damage the set-up, but instead clumsy fitting meant that one of the straps crossing the exhaust melted through. Thanks to the Blizzards’ plethora of webbing, one snap wasn’t enough to compromise the kit.

Three hours later and we were descending down the second ridge. Despite Leo’s insistence that ‘if a camel can make it across the mountains, we’d be fine’, we had really struggled up the steep, technical track. Both bikes had taken a beating, but the panniers had worked well as impromptu buffers, protecting them from the worse of the impact. The Enduristan’s tough material had but a few scuffs, and still remained firmly in position.

By the time we arrived at the dunes the sun sat low in the sky, and we were grateful for the coats and snacks stuffed into the panniers. The crossing had taken much longer than expected, leaving us with low fuel and even less daylight. To even attempt to return via the ridge would be, at best, stupid and at worse incredibly dangerous. Bivvying for the night was out of the question too – we had just lightweight motocross gear on, and Saharan temperatures drop well below zero at night.

We decided to follow a faint piste to the south-east which, according to our antiquated maps, led to the town of Mhamid, where we would be able to refuel and take a long road route back to the van. The trouble was, Mhamid was 50km away, and fuel was scarce…

We rode as fast as we dared on the deceivingly rough piste, which featured washboard ruts and hidden dips aplenty. With just a couple of scares, we eventually made it back to the van cold, tired and hungry. Despite the 100-odd kilometres of fast, rough riding, the Enduristan panniers hadn’t shaken loose and were as solid as when we set off.

The next time we packed our panniers we were more prepared. In went the bivi bags, roll mats and sleeping bags, while cooking equipment and supplies went into the Hurricane 15L back pack.

Arriving at our chosen bivi at dusk, the bag’s red interiors made unpacking just that little bit easier. In total, the Blizzard panniers and Base Pack XS offered 24-litres of capacity, which was more than enough for the essentials of an overnight tour. The bags’ breadth of adjustability – up/down and forwards/backwards allows the rider to find the perfect, non-compromising position, even on compact dirt bikes. And while Enduristan claims the double-stitched straps and the family buckles can cope with up to 225kg of weight, I wouldn’t advise testing it. In fact, when your whole bike weighs little more than 100kg, minimalizing and distributing weight well will mean the difference between a comfortable ride and not being able to pick the bike up when it tips over down a dune…

The Blizzard Saddle Bags cost £187.72 in a size small, while the Base Pack XS 12 Large is £62.57. These are the best sizes for compact dirt bikes, while the bigger bags suit mid-sized and travel enduros better. Given the bags' apparent indestructability, they're well worth splashing out on, and will likely see you through many years of adventuring. 

Tough, Utilitarian, No-nonsense, Adaptable, Capacious
Long straps, Faff to fit first time around, Not cheap