Originally Posted by danagrams
I just picked this up on a whim because it was on a super sale at my LBS. There was only one. I tied the bottom part to my rack with two zip ties, I understand your concern about the hooks. I'm not really sure what the buckles in the back are for, other than maybe the backpack attachment. There's also a bungee cord that hooks onto something but I'm not sure what it's for?
I totally forgot I started this thread! Thanks for dredging it up, I should post a bit of a review.
First of all did yours not come with a backboard and some straps? These plug into the buckles on the back turning it into a backpack. If yours didn't come with these, I think I've seen them for sale seperately online, it might take a little work to track them down though. I'd check with the shop you bought them at, the person that sold it to you might not have realized they went with it and these parts are probably sitting around their shop somewhere.
I don't find the backpack to be very comfortable, perhaps a smaller statured person would, but I'm a barrel chested 6'2" tall person and so it rides funny on my back. It's small, and it sits up quite high on my back.
As a pannier goes, on the rare occasions when I actually use it as one I've taken to using a leather strap to secure the top of it to my rack as it has a nasty tendency to "jump ship". I've had it bounce off of my rack a number of times, the system it uses to affix itself to the rack just isn't secure enough for the very rough roads we have in Seattle.
Another issue with these kind of convertible panniers is the fact that the backboard and straps take up a decent chunk of the carrying capacity of the bag itself if you are wanting to use it as a backpack when you get to where you are going. This isn't unique to the Fortress, there are a few other similar designs out there, but the Fortress is a little on the small side, which means the backboard and straps take up comparatively more of the available space compared to some similar designs.
Most of the time I use my Ortliebs or my Basil pannier*, but every now and then I'll chose the Fortress (usually because of the color!). If a person were fairly small statured so the backpack fit them okay and didn't mind using some sort of additional strap to make sure it didn't jump ship while they were riding, then I could recommend the Sunlite Fortress. It's certainly waterproof, appears well made, and is attractive. My quest for the ideal convertible pannier (backpack or sling bag style) continues though.
There's good reason these were on sale everywhere for a while and don't appear to be being made any longer. They're not horrible, but they're not great either.
* Actually the way my commuter is set-up, most days I use a saddlebag (Zimbale 17L) and a trunkbag (on the front rack). Sometimes I need to portage more though and usually use my Ortliebs for this. On my touring rig the Ortliebs are my go-to bags, but it is still mid-overhaul so I haven't had occasion to use it as my back up bike in a while.