There’s a saying in German, “good things take time”. As for me, I purchased my Basil Katharina shoulder bag months ago, just after I’d looked at it in Amsterdam.* I’d been coveting it for a while, but there was one thing I wasn’t sure about: I carry a bike basket on BB that’s firmly attached and I wasn’t sure whether I would be able to attach a bike bag as well. So I wanted to take a look at it first to see whether I could actually attach it to the bike basket itself rather than to the rear rack. The good news is: this is perfectly possible, and so I went for it.
I’ve since been using the bag almost every day for commuting to work. This was one of the reasons I started coveting it in the first place: the Katharina is elegant enough to be taken into the office and camouflages as a canvas handbag. It’s not overly formal, but formal enough, making it perfect for my purposes. To up the “smart” factor, I purchased it in black. There’s also a very cute version with flowers on it, and then there’s also the Basil Elements bag, which – as far as I can tell – is pretty much the same bag, but comes in a bluish-grey shade and brown. You can check them all out here.
The bag comes with a mounting system of two plastic hooks that attach to your rear rack and a velcro strip for added security. If you’re attaching it to a tightly mashed bike basket like me, you won’t be able to use the velcro strap, but I’m happy to report that it still stays snugly in place. I would only be concerned about the velcro strap if you live somewhere where the bag might be snatched from your rear rack while you stop. The mounting system can be hidden behind a flap that zips up, which is very handy when you’re using the bag as an actual handbag, as shown in the picture below.
The Basil Katharina has one large pocket and two side pockets, which are equipped with reflecting print to increase visibility. That’s one of the things I really like about the bag, because the reflecting print doesn’t look flashy like reflectors often do. In fact, when I first saw it I wasn’t convinced it would actually reflect – it does though. The main part of the bag closes with a zip and a press stud, the side pockets close with press studs. There are two quips I have with the bag. The more important one is the size of the main pocket: if only it were a bit bigger. It’s just about too small to comfortably fit an A4 sized folder or note pad. You can fit it in, but you have to bend it a little or put it in diagonally if it’s rigid. I’ve never tried this, but I imagine it would also be a bit annoying trying to transport a 13-inch or similar sized laptop. My second and quite minor issue is with the press studs. If the bag is full – even if you’re not transporting heavy items – the one on the main pocket opens easily due to the bag sagging a bit. This isn’t too bad though, because the zip still stays closed. The buttons on the side pockets, on the other hand, are a bit difficult to close.
The Katharina is made from recycled canvas, which though not waterproof, is water repellent. I tested this involuntarily during a huge thunderstorm this summer and on a few other occasions and even though I got soaked, thankfully my stuff stayed dry. The shoulder straps, the bottom of the bag, and the rims of the side pockets are faux leather. If you look carefully at the full picture above, you’ll notice the canvas material has frayed a bit around the edges where the shoulder straps are attached.
Overall, I’m very happy with the Katharina. It’s not as sturdy as other panniers such as e.g. Ortlieb or similar ones and probably also other Basil models, but at under 40 Euros, it’s also a lot cheaper and much more elegant. For this price, you get a very good quality deal indeed. I’m more than happy to recommend it to other bike commuters who need a bike bag that will work as an everyday office bag as well.
*I bought this bag with my own money and haven’t received anything from Basil for this review.