The idea of strapping bags to a bike is hardly a new invention. However, the technology and innovation behind these bags has been a topic to discuss in recent years. Bikepacking bag manufactures in general have grown from a handful of names to more then we can keep up with. Not only have we seen the growth in bag manufactures, but we have also seen bike manufactures working directly with these manufactures as well as designing backcountry specific bikes. Bikepacking as a sport is growing and if you have yet to try it, starting with a short overnighter with a simple backpack carrying your gear is all you need. Some of you are experienced cycling tourists that are looking to get off the beaten path, or maybe you are a mountain biker looking to explore your local backcountry. Whatever the case may be, there are many bag choices to suit you specific needs. All bikepacking bags have a few things in common. They are minimalist compared to a rack and pannier setup. They are made out of lightweight, durable and water resistant fabrics such as Cordura or X-Pac. They come with internal padding to protect your frame and bike parts where needed. Finally, they are made to hug your bike for a stable fit, giving the bike and rider the ability to weave in tight corners and fast speeds without significant sway in weight. These bags make for a more efficient overall ride whether you are on singletrack, dirt roads, or pavement.

Bikepacking Bags Index Page

(Beginners Guide to Bikepacking Bags, Example Rigs – Click To Enlarge)

Saddle Bags

The saddle bag has evolved a lot over the last few years. They grew bigger, then smaller, and now there are some unique systems out there that are making packing your bag a more streamlined process. All seat bags act as a means to carry your overnight gear. They hold much more than a below the seat tool bag, yet less then rear racks and panniers. DSC03285 Saddle bags typically connect to your saddle rails and seat post and act as a compression bag. They typically include two compression straps that pull the seat bag tight to the saddle, and two more that pull the bag in towards the seat post. A final compression strap is added to compress the goods to the tip of the bag. The bag rolls up like a dry bag and is ready to take a beating. One thing to note is clearance between the bag and your rear tire, it is best to ask the bag manufacture for their recommendation. There has recently been some neat innovations to further the reduction of sway. An element of saddle bags that has also evolved is the functionality of packing the bag while on your bike. Many companies have implemented a detachable solution such as a dry bag holster to allow you to remove the contents without dismounting the bag from your seat. With the invention of easy to detach systems, the process of packing and unpacking your seat bags has improved. Expect to pay anywhere from $108 to $190 depending on size and style. The volume also depends on the bag, but you can expect to fit 6-14 liters in many bags available. 

Frame Bags 

Frame bags are exactly what you would imagine they would be, a bag that fits in the front triangle of your frame. While some frames bags for hardtails will hold everything but the kitchen sink, it is not uncommon to see frame bags on full suspension rigs. A hand full of bike companies have partnered with bag manufactures to make and sell custom fit frame bags for their bikes as well.IMG_8528 Frame bags connect to the seat, down and top tubes with Velcro that is attached to the frame bag itself. There are a few bag manufactures that have incorporated water bottle cage mounts to their frame bags for a more fixed connection. Most frame bags come with a zipper (or zippers) to access the bag, and some bags have detachable Velcro dividers to create two separate compartments within the bag. Most bags also come with smaller side compartments for maps, electronics, or other small items. Half frame bags are also an option, these bags attach to the top tube and give you the ability to still use water bottle cages. Frame bags are a great place to hold items that you need to easily access throughout the day such as layers, food, and hydration packs. Tools, first aid, kitchen wear, and other daily pieces of gear are great to stash at the bottom of the pack for when you decide to rest for the night. Custom frame bags have a large price range as each one is different, count on spending at least $75 but no more then $260.

Handlebar Bags

Handlebar bags may be the most difficult to work with. Conversely, they can hold a great deal of items while keeping the load stable on your bike. Often times it is difficult to negotiate threading your bag in between the housing and all of your cockpit accessories such as GPS, stem bag, and whatever else you may mount on your bars. While the mountain bike industry certainly did not think about going to wider bars because of bikepacking circumstances, it has helped spread things out by giving riders a few more options. DSC03230 Handlebar bags typically come with 3 mounting positions, two connection points on the bars and one on the head tube or fork crown. Some manufactures will provide spacers to accommodate the brake and shifter housing, others have created their own spacers to fit specific bags best.  While some bags are intended to carry a -20 degree sleeping bag, others are smaller for warmer weather trips. One thing to think about is the weight you put in the bag. The more weight you have up front, the more difficult it will be to steer your bike around. There are a couple types of handlebar bags currently on the market. The original bag that connects as one piece and the harness system that accommodates dry bags. These two systems may be personal preference, but having a harness does give you the ability to pack the dry bag off of the bike. Many brands are also making handlebar bag pockets to sit on the front of the handle bar bag. These bags are great for carrying extra food for those times when you need extra space. Companies are also thinking of innovative ways to double up handlebar and stem bag straps for less clutter on your bars. Harnesses range from $40 to $80 and handlebar bags typically range from $100 to $150

Stem Bags

Stem bags are a multi functional bag that attach to your stem, handle bar, and fork crown. These attachment points keep the bag upright and stable in rough conditions. Many of these bags have a similar circular shape to them, some have a bunch of bells and whistles while others are more simple. DSC00995 These bags are used for food, water bottles, tools, or electronics. The bag is easy to access, typically coming with a elastic cord to open and close the top of the bag. Some of the stem bags are short and work better for snacks, while others are deeper and made to hold water bottles. Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks Silo  Stem Bags usually will cost you $35 to $45.

Top Tube Bags

Top tube bags come in all shapes and sizes, some are made to load thousands of calories for a multi day trip with zero resupply points, while others are made for day rides – carrying your essentials including food, tools, etc. The beauty of the top tube bag is its convenience. All it takes is an easy one handed swipe of the zipper and all of your food is in front of your eyes. Like the stem bags, some of these bags have more bells and whistles than others including duel zippers and internal pockets. Some top tube bags are made to attach to your top tube and seat post, these bags are great, if your bike can accommodate them. IMG_2866 (1)Not all top tube bags are compatible with frame bag straps. If you buy a frame bag from a different company, you should mention measurements to them. Top Tube Bag Expect many top tube bags to cost $30 to $60.

Accessory Bags

There are a number of other unique bag options that are designed to fit specific bike equipment. A few companies have created bag solutions for cages which would be mounted in various areas where proper bolts are present. These bags/cages are convenient for carrying extra water and clothing during longer trips or trips where there are fewer resupply points. DSC_0747 The Jones Loop Bars are becoming a popular handlebar for bikepacking as they provide extra comfort and space while on route. There are a few companies who have created bags that fit within the open space of the bars where you can store your most commonly accessed items. While it may take away from hand positions, it is a perfect option for when you do need that extra space. IMG_8844 There is likely a bag out there for your intended purpose, but that still leaves the option to do it yourself. This whole sport started with people making their own bags because there was a lack of options on the market. After learning by doing, a unique bag was born. This is why bikepacking is so special, there is no right or wrong way of doing it. As long as you get out on a trip with your bikes and bags and reel in the stars off the side of the trail, you will soon realize the beauty and happiness that comes with bikepacking.

5 Comments

  1. Neil, what is the cage you are using on the down tube? I have a fargo and tried the new Anything HD cage but it wouldn’t clear the chainrings. Any recommendations?

    Thanks in Advance,

    Sean

  2. What’s the seat bag displayed with the skinny rack underneath? (would be generally super useful if you tagged the products displayed in your pictures…)
    Cheers!

  3. Pingback: Bikepacking Bags - Bikepackers Magazine

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