How to Choose Bikepacking Bags

How you pack for bikepacking is the biggest difference between bikepacking and touring… that and you’re not restricted to roads!

These simple bags allow you to carry essential gear for your trip while putting an emphasis on keeping your bike light and nimble so it will handle well on off-pavement terrain.

When you’re loading up for a bikepacking trip, it’s perfectly fine to pack your stuff into a backpack, and if you have a rack and panniers at home, you can use those, too.

However, after a few trips, you may see the value in using lighter, more-streamlined bikepacking bags. But at the end of the day, it depends on the type of terrain you’re going to be riding, and how light and nimble you care to be.

There are really three main types of bags you’ll want to use (assuming you’re not using racks).

They are Seat bags, Frame Bags, and Handlebar bags.

Each has its place and function. And you can add more if you like, but keeping your bike as light as possible is something you always want to keep in mind.

Seat Bags

If you only get one, get a seat pack.

It’s a key piece of equipment and offers the best place for stowing bulky, lightweight items, like a sleeping bag and puffy coat.

A seat pack is way more streamlined than a rack and panniers, which makes riding narrow, technical trails possible.

When choosing a seat bag for bikepacking, keep in mind:

Storage: You can get ‘em in a range of 5-15 liters, so you what you store needs to be thought out.


Water resistance: Awesome for most of the time, but sometimes you need waterproof. This may change what you store in the seat bag.


Movement: Seat bags can sway a bit from side to side if not secured and packed properly, which you may feel while riding. Before going whole hog into a 15L bag, take a look to how it attaches, and how much it’s movement will impact your riding.

 

Handlebar Bags

A handlebar bag is a good place for stowing clothing in a dry sack or attaching cylindrical items, like a tent.

There are two main styles of handlebar packs for bikepacking, you can get one piece or two piece.

One piece are the cleanest looking and easiest to attach.
Two piece are more versatile, and can hold larger items.

Whichever style you choose, make sure the fit is right.

Make sure you’ve got tire clearance and enough space for your hands if you’re using a drop bar bike.

Keep in mind, there are some packs designed specifically for use with drop bars.

Frame Packs

A frame pack is designed to fit in the triangle formed by the top tube, seat tube and down tube of your bike. This keeps your bike’s center of gravity low, and is ideal of heavy items like food, water, and tools

Keep in mind there are two things you want to think about when picking your frame bag.

First is Fit. You want to find a frame pack that fits your bike well. You may be able to find one made specifically for your bike, or there are universal ones that will likely work

Pay attention to where the attachment straps are and how they align with your bike’s cables.

A pack that fits well will be nice and secure with minimal movement while you’re pedaling.

Size/volume: There are frame packs that take up nearly the entire triangle, or you can get one that only partially fills it. Larger packs can hold more, but they often don’t work well with rear suspension, and they will likely prevent you from mounting bottle cages inside the triangle. Choose the size that best fits your bike and provides enough space for packing.
Organization pockets: Some frame bags have multiple pockets, which can make stowing and finding items easier.

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