Road Tested: The ultra-compact Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag

Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag review
I have a love-hate relationship with tank bags. Having storage space right in front of you on a long ride is undeniably useful—but if a tank bag is too big, or stuffed too full, it can quickly become ungainly. And then there are the myriad ways in which tank bags attach to bikes; some easy and some painfully complex.

For my needs, a small tank bag that keeps my pockets uncluttered and doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb on the tank of my Triumph Bonneville fits the bill. So when our friends at Biltwell Inc. offered to send a little care package my way, I politely requested one of their Exfil-2 mini tank bags.

Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag review
Biltwell’s Exfil series is a range of moto luggage that includes saddlebags, sissy bar bags, and smaller pouches aimed at organizing accessories. Common traits include heavy-duty nylon materials, smart packing concepts, molle webbing on most of the bags, and subdued colors with subtle orange highlights.

The range also has the best naming convention in the entire motorcycling industry. ‘Exfil’ refers to the military practice of getting outta Dodge quickly, while the number in each bag’s name references how many 12-ounce beer cans you can fit in it.

Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag review
That makes the Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag good for two cans. Or, in practice, a smartphone, thick woolen beanie, sunglasses, power bank, charging cable, wallet, and snacks, with space to cram in a few more odds and ends. That might be too small for some riders—but for me, it’s everything I need and nothing I don’t.

Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Biltwell’s motorcycle gear. I habitually use their grips on my bikes, and I usually have a Biltwell helmet or two in circulation at any given time. They make no-nonsense stuff that’s simple, good-looking, and, at the risk of being corny, built well.

Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag review
The Exfil-2 tank bag sports a basic layout with very few frills. Its UV-treated 1680D denier ballistic nylon shell is 8 inches long, measuring 5.5 inches wide and 4 inches tall at the front, and tapering to 4.5 inches wide and 2 inches tall at the back. It’s well put together and looks like it’ll sustain years of abuse.

Popping the Exfil-2 onto the bike is a cinch—provided your fuel tank is made out of metal. The tank bag uses three potent magnets that are stitched into its bottom panel to hold it in place. They work, too; even at highway speeds, there’s no noticeable movement.

Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag review
Biltwell does warn that the heavyweight nylon on the bag’s underside can leave light scuffs on your fuel tank over time, so that’s something to watch out for. A softer fabric would mitigate this issue—but it would also be far less robust. A generous handle at the front of the bag makes it easy to grab it and go, particularly if your bike is parked and you don’t want to leave your valuables unattended.

There’s one main compartment, accessed via a two-way, U-shaped zipper, with long zipper pulls that are easy to grip with gloves on. The inside is lined with a hi-viz orange nylon fabric, designed to make it easy to spot whatever you’re looking for. And the lid includes a fleece-lined sleeve with a clear panel up top, designed to hold a smartphone.

Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag review
It’s a handy feature if you don’t have a dedicated phone mount on your bike, and need to use your phone for navigation. (It’s also a place to stick a map or handwritten directions, if that’s more your vibe.)

There are caveats though. The clear plastic tends to pick up reflections in harsh light, so a high-contrast phone display works best. And although touch-enabled cover works for the most part, it does sometimes struggle to register taps (particularly on my older iPhone SE’s home button).

Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag review
Arguably the Exfil-2’s cleverest feature is the way it accommodates device charging. There’s a way to pass a cable through a seam at the front of the bag, and there are small elasticated loops inside the lid to help direct a cable to where your phone is stored.

These small details facilitate several use-case scenarios. They let you direct a cable from a charging point on the bike to a device inside the bag, but they also let you run power from a power bank inside the bag to a device mounted on your bike.

Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag review
The only downside is that the Exfil-2 isn’t waterproof (nor does it come with a waterproof cover). Some weather-proofing would make it a perfect product—but at $39.95, it’s hard to complain.

It’s also worth noting that many products that claim a measure of waterproofing, or boast ‘waterproof zippers,’ seldom hold up in a downpour. Biltwell makes zero claims of weather resistance; as per the Californian company’s standard operating procedure, what you see is what you get.

Like everything else I’ve used from Biltwell, the Exfil-2 is an honest (and useful) product that does exactly what it says on the tin—nothing more, nothing less.

Biltwell Inc. Exfil-2 | Images by Wes Reyneke

Biltwell Exfil-2 tank bag review

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