So the question is, what are your options for that area? Well, it certainly depends on your bike, whether or not there is much space due to a suspension fork or small frame, and if there are cage mounts or not. Regardless, there are options for you to carry some more gear down there, and that area happens to carry extra weight really well.
1. Standard Bottle Cages
The obvious and easiest choice is using your downtube for a water bottle. This will be your cheapest option but your bike must have down tube bottle bolts, which is pretty standard on many bikes these days. However, it’s not uncommon to see no bolts on more aggressive bikes, as tire clearance can be an issue. Bottles also don’t necessarily have to be filled with, well, you know, water. cycling bottles are a great place to store your trail mix, or even a repair kit. You could even use the cage to carry a small hand made bag held together with velcro if you need extra space for small parts or a repair kit. One other thing we found useful was the DOM Monkii Cage, which happens to carry water bottles really well, but also MSR white gas fuel containers.
2. Enclosed Self-Reliant Bags
The Bedrock Bags Honaker Nalgene Pack has seen many desert days, where resupply of water is basically non-existent. We always carry extra water, just incase the source is empty or questionable. This specific bag is great because you don’t need bottle cage mounts on your down tube but rather it uses industrial velcro and two webbing straps to secure it to your bike. The Honaker is made to fit a regular Nalgene bottle, but we have also used a larger 48oz Nalgene. This bag has also been redesigned recently to fit on your handlebars for a small, super minimalist handlebar bag. We used it during the CTR last year and it worked wonderfully. If you are looking to carry your Vargo BOT stove system, Bedrock also makes the Honaker Bot Bag, which is essentially the same thing, but is designed specifically to carry your stove.
3. Cargo Cages
Many brands have come out with cargo cages, or beefy cages to carry additional gear. Salsa Cycles, Blackburn Designs, Cleveland Mountaineering, King Cage, Gorilla Cage, and more. This is certainly a more bulky option, and you will need to be cognizant of packing these cages too wide. But if you can make it work, they serve as a great extra storage space. While you can use standard dry bags with these cages, many come with bags specific to the cage, and there are also great aftermarket accessory bag options.
4. Tool Bags
There is something to be said about having tools easily accessible. I go back and forth from packing my tools at the bottom of my frame bag, in hopes that I won’t need them. But then when something does happen, I end up unpacking everything and digging deep for my repair kit. This is why I have really taken a liking to the Rogue Panda Design Oracle downtube bag. It’s pretty small which helps with stability. The design has changed significantly since the version you see in the photos, and now has a roll top design which looks equally as functional. We have had the Oracle for quite some time now, and have yet to have any problems outside of mud covering the bag. This is the ticket if you are looking for a tool kit that is easy to access. I have also seen the Oracle used inside a frame for day rides which would also work. The Oracle is small but mighty. It fits nearly our entire Bikepacking Repair Kit!
5. Downtube Bags for Beer
What’s a trip without a beer or two? I know it’s difficult to carry, but I seriously love a beer, even if just one warm can, when I make it to camp. Broad Fork Bags and Becker Gear are making some neat down tube bags that are specifically made to fit your beers. You could certainly also use these for other purposes, such as carrying part of your tent system.
6. Bare Naked
What I mean by this is actually let your down tube get dirty, don’t use that extra space for storage. Sometimes, this may be your only option. Back in 2015 when I rode the Tour Divide, I ended up putting a water bottle on my down tube. I was already warned about doing so because of the cow crap and contaminated water that would inherently touch the bottle, but I had no other choice as I needed to utilize the space. When in doubt, let it breathe!
We know there are endless options, so share with us your method of using your downtube in the comments section.