To me the frame bag is the essence of a bikepacking kit. I’ve said this before, but I rarely ride without one, even on day rides. It’s the best place to hold weight and the best way to utilize the empty space on your bike. Many frame bags I have tested have been relatively the same. A standard X-pac makeup, maybe a few compartments or dividers inside the bag, and zippers to access the main and side pocket.

When Nick from Rogue Panda told me he was coming out with a rolltop design, I was intrigued about trying something a little different. Stepping out of a comfort zone takes some getting used to, and it was no different with the Rouge Panda Rolltop Frame Bag. Nick is a meticulous builder, and when he sees a need to change something, he does. It has happened on his Oracle Down tube bag, his new dropper post seatbags, and again on the Rolltop Frame Bag.

After I received the bag, he told me he wanted it back. He decided to get rid of the plastic buckles and replace them with metal buckles. Even if it was a hassle for me to put it back in the mail, I appreciated his dedication toward his products. It’s clear that functionality and durability are important to him , and that is something I really look for in a bikepacking brand.
Older plastic buckles on the frame bag.

Measurement and Fit
For most bag manufactures you need to send in a template for your custom frame bags. Maybe they already have your template from someone else, but in most cases, they will need to be sent template. I could talk about how to do this, but there is no need, because Nick asks you to do something different. 

I was a bit taken aback when he said all I needed to do was take a ruler or tape measure and place it along the top tube of the bike, stand back 10 feet or more, and snap a photo straight on. I sent him the photo in an email and we were good to go. It was that simple. He then figures out the size of the rest of the triangle with a preset equation, and he has everything he needs to build a custom frame bag for your bike. Pretty neat!


Obviously I was intrigued to see how the bag fit. When it came in the mail, I instantly threw it on the bike. It fit like a glove, with the bag reaching each corner and making use of nearly all of the frame space on my Chumba Stella Ti

Materials
Like I mentioned above, many frame bags are made out of X-Pac, and so is the Rogue Panda Rolltop Framebag. The bag came with sleek forest green side panels, and all frame interfaces are spec’d with ballistic nylon and a bit of padding to prevent any rubbing or damaging to the frame or items inside your bag. The bag came with 11 very strong velcro straps for securing it to your frame. Inside the right upper portion of the frame bags is a plastic stiffener which is installed to help support the rolltop closure, and it really gives the bag a great shape. 
Function and Features
After a proper fit, I think the second most important characteristic of a frame bags is the ability to use it, and to be honest, a lack of features. I like specific features, but there comes a time when there are too many. I would say the Rogue Panda Rolltop Framebag has just enough, three. 
  • Hydration Port – The bag comes with a hydration port at the nose for running your bladder hose through. Rolltop closures are not very friendly for feeding your hose through, so this feature is particularly important in this case. I did need to cut out the hydration port hole in order to get my MSR bit valve through. An extra bit of fabric secures the hose to ensure minimal water leakage into the port entry.
  • Seam Sealed – This is an optional feature, but one that seems like a no brainer. If you opt in for seam sealing, all seams will be waterproofed. Of course I felt the need to test it out. I added water to fill the bag roughly 3/4ths of the way full. The bag held all the water near the seams, with a few spots that seeped water. When I flipped the bag, water poured out of the rolltop and hydration port, but this was to be expected. The key here is keeping water out, and the roll top essentially does that, and so does the storm flap on the hydration port. That said, I would say this is a VERY water resistant frame bag, but not waterproof.
  • Side Pocket – The side pocket is a nice feature, however if you are purchasing a frame bag in the ethos of going without a zipper, then I would opt out of the side pocket and the additional $10. I found it useful for small parts, my phone and a map. It is an easy compartment to access while riding, and comes with a bright yellow interior for a nice contrast. 

Here’s the thing with the rolltop closure as far as function is concerned, it’s not as easy to access or see your items compared to a zippered compartment, that said, it’s really only a few extra seconds. The rolltop consists of two metal buckles and two hooks where the buckles connect, with a closure similar to what you would see on a dry bag. This is an expedition bag, one that is meant to see some rugged day-in and day-out use for an extended period. At that point, saving seconds is not necessarily on your mind. I used this frame bag while racing the Comstock Epic last year, and had no real gripes about the system when I needed to access my belongings on the fly.



The buckles are heavy, but very easy to put through the loops, and once they are installed, a simple tug on the extra webbing strap secures the rolltop closure to the body of the frame. I never ran into leg rub issues, even with the largest of loads. I should mention, at times it was difficult to tug on the extra webbing because there was not much to pull on when the pack was packed full, but this is simply fixed with longer webbing straps, especially the front one. 

Durability
I didn’t use this bag on a huge expedition, but a handful of small ones. The bag endured over 1000+ miles of desert and high-alpine riding. While I did not endure all that much rain, I was confident in looking at the construction of the bag to store my electronics without worry.

The biggest sign of wear and tear is the inside of the bag, were the lighter colored X-Pac shows how dirty it is, but there is no structural deficiencies on the inside. The outside of the bag basically looks new in big part to the dark color, with a slight sun bleach. It also shows no serious signs of wear, no chain rub issues and no high-stress areas along the seams. In order to maintain proper wear of your gear, bags do need to be installed properly, loosening some straps and tightening others with varying loads. 
The switch over from plastic buckles to metal bucks was a huge difference maker if you are hoping this bag lasts for the long haul. I have broken plastic buckles before, it’s not a fun time. I can’t see these metal buckles ever breaking, the webbing hook would before the buckles, and those still look like new. I love how the rolltop completely eliminates issues of too much grit and grim getting on a zipper to actually close the bag. This is a big selling point for me as I have had a few zippers fail me because I was impatient.

In general the bag is narrow, but this is done on purpose to ensure the rider doesn’t experience issues with leg rub. After packing this bag so many times, with so many awkward shaped items, its has continue to hold its shape.


Final Thoughts
Overall, I put this bag through a good test, and it came out in pretty good condition. No, I didn’t do a two month tour in South America, but I feel like my testing and thoughts will translate to what most of you are looking to do and are looking for in a bikepacking frame bag. I also believe Nick has a great thing going. H is employing folks in Flagstaff, thinking outside of the box, making quality gear and all with a rather quick turnaround. Could the bag be lighter? Sure, but I think for its intended purposes, not to mention the ease in sharing your measurements, Nick hit the nail on the head.

Head over to Rogue Panda’s website for more information. The bag starts at $140 with additional upgrades available. While this bag is great for hardtails, it’s certainly more difficult on full suspension bikes. Be sure to contact Nick for questions. Bag weight: 453 grams or 0.999lbs

If you missed our site visit with Nick last year, check it out here: Rogue Panda Designs – A Garage Visit

2 Comments

  1. Thanks for posting this! I’d just like to add one thing: we have improved the side pocket quite a bit since your frame bag. We use a beefier zipper, reduced stress on it and also changed the design so it won’t compromise the water resistance of the main compartment if the zipper fails.

  2. Chris Estrem

    Great review of a similarly great product. A month of the Arizona trail put this bag to the test which it aced. More than once I had to overstuff this with water, something I would never attempt with a zippered bag. Sure I had a short time of some leg rub until I was able to drink down some water, but hey, better than going thirsty later. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy another one when needed. And yes the customer service with Nick is first class all the way.

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