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The Pocket Encyclopedia - Everything You Need to Know About Bikepacking Bags
Are you interested in bikepacking and have no idea where to put all your luggage? Or are you looking for a light, slim option to store your things for the Commute? We'll give you a complete overview of everything you need to know about bikepacking bags and tell you which ones you need.
Table of Contents
- Which bikepacking bags are there?
- Cheap alternatives
- Water resistance, lightweight construction, durability - a brief material science
- Which bags do i need?
- The best complete set
- Packing tips - what goes where?
No matter which bike, the concept is the same: less weight + better load distribution = more driving pleasure.
Gone are the days when bicycle luggage transport meant heavy luggage racks and huge panniers. While they still have their place, the classic bags are just too big and heavy for most purposes. With the growing popularity of bikepacking, the range of alternative transport options has skyrocketed and even if you are not interested in bikepacking, there are also many exciting options for everyday life or alternatives to the classic backpack.
You don't necessarily have to plan a tour - bikepacking bags are also great for everyday use.
We got a lot of the knowledge you will find here from our big bikepacking comparison test. There we sometimes found the best gravel bike for bikepacking - you shouldn't miss it! Do you want to know everything about bikepacking and bikes, equipment, tour planning and accommodation? Then click here for our detailed bikepacking crash course.
1. Which bikepacking bags are there?
The basic concept of bikepacking bags is simple: only stow the most essential luggage on the bike in such a way that the handling and performance of the bike - regardless of whether it is a gravel bike or MTB - are restricted as little as possible and the space is used as effectively as possible becomes. That means: You do without the classic, large panniers, which put all the weight on the rear wheel and protrude far to the side. Instead, the luggage is divided into at least three smaller bags on the bike. Thus, the center of gravity and the handling of the bike hardly change and nothing protrudes sideways over the bike.
The three main bags are always the same in principle, the design and details of course vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. There are also a number of smaller bags for a wide variety of places on the bike, e.g. B. on the handlebars or on the top tube. In the following we explain in detail what is available and what you should pay attention to when buying and using it.
1.1 frame bag
The centerpiece of bikepacking is the frame bag. It is stretched in the main frame and either fills it completely or only halfway, which leaves some space for the bottle holder. The full-frame option allows the maximum payload, but is a little more prone to cross winds and also requires that the water bottles can be stored elsewhere (e.g. on the fork). Depending on the size of the frame triangle and the width of the bag, there is often a surprising amount of storage space. Large manufacturers such as Revelate Designs, Apidura or ORTLIEB offer their models in at least two fixed sizes, with which the multitude of frame sizes and shapes is well covered. With some bike manufacturers such as B. Salsa or Surly you can also buy bags tailored directly to the frame. The prices for high-quality prefabricated frame bags are on average around € 100 for half bags and around € 150 for frame-filling bags.
If none of the prefabricated models should fit into your frame - which is the case with many full-suspension bikes - the only option is to have them made to measure. This is almost twice as expensive in comparison and can mean longer waiting times and customs fees depending on the popularity and headquarters of the manufacturer. In addition to the perfect fit and the maximum possible volume, you also have many options for customization. For example, in terms of the number of compartments, colors and often materials or special features such as a screw connection on the bottle cage mounts. There are super high quality custom bags, for example. B. from Rockgeist, Bedrock Bags, Rogue Panda, DITW or Gramm Tourpacking. For such a custom frame bag you should estimate around 250–300 €. If you have a reasonably robust sewing machine and some manual skills, you can of course also work yourself. You can find all the materials for this conveniently online, e.g. B. in extreme textiles.
Most frame bags have one or more zippers. Make sure to use the most robust models possible. The main compartment in particular is opened and closed all the time, the bag is often hopelessly overcrowded and if you like to go off-road on a voyage of discovery, dust, dirt or mud ensure that this zipper is usually the first thing to do. If off-road adventures are planned, it is worth looking for frame bags with roll closures such as B. to keep an eye out for the Porcelain Rocket 52Hz or to have a similar model made for you. Alternatively, most Revelate Designs Frame Bags have stretchable material around the zipper, which takes the strain off it and makes it much more durable.
1.2 saddle bag
Two different concepts have proven themselves for the saddlebags: light, compact, elongated models with roll-top closure and wide, robust models with a large flap for greater ease of access.
Bikepacking saddlebags with roll closure provide at least 5 l volume and are therefore significantly larger than the normal emergency bags for the tool and the hose. Some pack monsters even offer a volume of more than 15 liters! The classic structure consists of a kind of wedge-shaped pack sack with a roll closure, which is attached to the seat post and the seat stays. This has the pleasant side effect that it also functions as a mudguard. However, depending on the size of the bag, the orientation of the bag, the quality of the fastening and the amount / weight of the bag, saddlebags tend to swing sideways. Bikepacking saddlebags that tend to point upwards and do not protrude far to the rear are less susceptible to sideways movement when they are cleverly loaded. Many models can also be easily adjusted in the incline thanks to their flexible lashing.
In order to counteract the swinging of saddlebags and improve usability, there are also two-part systems that consist of a reinforced holder into which an associated or any pack sack can be inserted, as with the Revelate Designs Terrapin. For maximum stability, there are systems with additional metal struts on the floor, which are then attached to the seat post with a clamp, such as B. the Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion. Other systems have a stiffened holding system on the seat stays, e.g. B. the Revelate Designs Spinelock. In general, you should also make sure that the content is compressed as well as possible. This additionally stiffens the bag and reduces rocking or swaying movements.
Saddlebags for the dropper post are specially designed roll top models with more compact fastening and reinforcements, which are supposed to help prevent the bag from swinging and rocking in rough terrain. In order not to collide with the rear wheel even when the support is lowered, they have a smaller volume - more than 7 l are not possible here. The necessary fastening also reduces the lowering of the support by approx. 2-3 cm. The saddlebags are usually fastened with a separate clamp (e.g. Wolftooth Valais), which is simply screwed to the upper part of the support and over which the strap of the bag then runs. It is stable and the seals are also protected when the support is lowered. Because of the bag you still can't get behind the saddle as usual, but even a few centimeters of vertical space give you noticeably more control and safety on technical descents.
Examples are the Bedrock Bags Black Dragon, the Revelate Designs Vole and the Apidura Dropper Saddle Pack. The clamp can also be bought separately from Wolf Tooth and so many saddlebags that are not specially designed for this can be used on a dropper post. Just keep in mind that there is enough space between the bag and the rear wheel when the post is lowered - and if you ride a fully, make sure that you can also fully compress the rear end. For minimalists, the Rockgeist Gondola could be an interesting option. It is simply attached to the seat stays and the full stroke of the support can be used.
Wide saddlebags with flaps has been around almost as long as there have been bicycles. However, they are now less common in the wild. Traditionally they are made of thick, super robust Cotton Duck fabric, but there are now also modern versions made of high-tech fibers. Due to their wide construction and the large flap, they are much more comfortable, especially when used frequently, as they offer a better overview and more targeted access. On the other hand, they restrict the performance of the bike a little more due to their expansive construction and are more suitable for forest road or gravel trips and only for easy trails. They are attached to the saddle or the bottom of the seat post. However, depending on the seating position and driving style, you may come into contact with your thighs. However, in case there are special holders that keep the bag away from the thighs. Alternatively, you can use a small, compact luggage rack on which the bag rests.
Most models with a flap can be used both as a saddle bag and as a handlebar bag. Those who like it classic reach for the models from Carradice, for the modern interpretation you stop by Swift Industries. If you are using larger models, it is worth supporting the bags with a small, minimalist luggage rack, as is the case, for example, with B. in very good quality from Nitto.
1.3 Handlebar bag
The bikepacking handlebar bag is your third large and mostly completely waterproof storage space. Here you have the choice between several options that you can attach directly to the handlebars without a luggage rack. The simplest option is a special pack sack that can be opened at both ends and has a firmly integrated holder for the handlebar. Their disadvantages are the fixed size or the diameter of the pack sack, even if there are usually two versions to choose from. They are also a bit awkward to fill, as the entire bag usually has to be removed from the handlebars. Good examples of handlebar bags would be the Revelate Designs Sweetroll, the ORTLIEB Handlebar-Pack, the Apidura Backcountry Handlebar Pack or - super minimalist - the Rapha Waterproof Bar Pack or the Roswheel Road Handlebar Bag. The Bedrock Bags Moab was specially designed for MTBs. Unlike normal handlebar bags, it bends around the stem and has two additional attachments for the handlebars on the outside. This ensures extremely high stability. Their diameter is also smaller in order to work with the short head tubes or long-stroke suspension forks of modern MTBs.
Instead of the one-piece pack sack system, you can also use a harness on the handlebars. It works in a similar way, but the carrying system and the pack sack are separate from each other. This not only enables the use of a pack sack with your desired dimensions and properties, but also makes packing much easier. Compared to bags with an integrated holder, however, the system is usually heavier and somewhat more voluminous. Harness systems without a pack sack are available, for example. B. from Revelate Designs or - with a special bracket separate from the handlebar - from Rockgeist.
An additional front pocket can often be attached to both types of handlebar bags. Most of the time, all parts have to be purchased individually, but some manufacturers also offer a complete package of harness, pack sack and additional bag, such as B. Restrap. Alternatively, there are also front pockets with integrated straps to hold a pack sack. They're a little less stable than a harness, but the lightest option. Examples are the Revelate Design Egress, the Rockgeist Apogee or the Wanderlust Piñon.
The third option in addition to the one-piece pack sack and harness are the above-mentioned saddlebags in landscape format, which in the vast majority of cases can also be used on any type of handlebar. They are ideal for everyone who does not need a pack sack and would prefer a little more and more universally usable space. However, you have to accept the highest weight in comparison. There are good models from Swift Industries or BXB. If you like it a bit more classic, you can turn to Carradice.
In general, make sure that the dimensions of the bag also fit your handlebars and that the bag does not collide with the brake levers on the outside or with the handlebar itself in the case of dropbars. On bikes with a suspension fork, you should also keep an eye on the diameter or the height of the bag so that it does not get caught on the tire during compression. Definitely attach any kind of bag to the head tube somehow (don't forget the protective film) so that it doesn't bounce up and down. Finally, make sure that your brake lines and shift cables run cleanly behind or above the bag and that they neither create too tight radii nor rub against the frame. If necessary, you can replace them with longer ones.
1.4 Additional pockets
In order to increase your space and to be able to divide up your equipment better, it is advisable to use a few more small pockets. So-called stem bags are perfect universal bags for the cockpit. They are attached to the left and / or right of the stem and offer quick access to snacks, additional water bottles or other items such as cell phones, gloves and the like.
Another recommended bag is the Top Tube Bag. As the name suggests, it is strapped or screwed onto the top tube directly behind the stem, if the frame has mounting points there. In contrast to the three large bags, the options for brands, models, shapes, colors and sizes are almost limitless with both Stem Bags and Top Tube Bags. Good examples of top tube bags from larger manufacturers are e.g. B. the Apidura Racing Top Tube Bag or - for maximum space - the Revelate Designs Mag-Tank 2000. B. the Bedrock Bags Tapeats, the Apidura Backcountry Food Pouch or the Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag.
If you need even more space, have screw points on the fork or under the down tube and do not use them for bottle cages, you should look at so-called cargo holders, e.g. B. the Salsa Anything Cage HD, King Cage Many Things Cage, Blackburn Outpost Cargo Cage or the Topeak Versacage. In principle, you can attach anything here: the sleeping bag, the tent, large water bottles, any pack sack or whatever else you can think of. For a little more stability and compactness, there are also specially constructed bags such as the Salsa Anything Bag, the Revelate Polecat or the Apidura Expedition Fork Pack. You are a little more flexible with pockets that you can attach freely, e.g. B. the Apidura Expedition Down Tube Pack.
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