Bikepacking Bags & Packs
The most significant gear innovation that has helped popularize bikepacking is the commercial availability of bike-specific soft bags. Replacing traditional racks and panniers, these consist of a framebag, a handlebar bag or harness, a seat pack, and peripheral bags. Light, rattle free and tailored to modern mountain bikes, they’ll optimize your bike’s carrying capacity without significantly adding to its weight or affecting the way it handles. Most are made by small-scale cottage industries – some are custom made on a piece by piece basis, and others are available pre-designed to fit certain frame brands and sizes. Consider investing in a seat pack and roll bag first, then a framebag when you’ve settled on a bike you’re happy with. Alternatively, check out our ideas below on how to get by with what you might already have.
If you don’t want to buy bags, you can use a few simple pieces of gear you probably own to do a quick overnighter. For starters, a comfortable daypack, along with dry bags lashed to your handlebars and seatpost, makes a good barebones approach. Small panniers will probably work if you’re pedaling forest service roads and plan to be out for several days. But if you’re exploring technical singletrack on a one- or two-night trip, it might be best to leave the panniers at home. Remember, bikepacking is about having fun on the trail, and not being overloaded with gear.
Seat Pack Dry Bag
For a seat pack, use a 5-7 liter dry bag clipped around the seatpost and cinched to the saddle rails with a webbing strap. Store a change of clothes and a few other odds and ends in it. To help stabilize the load, add something stiff within the bag, such as tightly rolled clothes.
On The Handlebars
On the handlebars, use a larger 14-20 liter dry bag cinched to the handlebars with two webbing or Voile straps. Include a small tent (the poles will help keep a straight shape to the bag) and a lightweight down sleeping bag. Long and slender bags work better than short fat ones. Sea to Summit Big River bags work well.
Although we generally aspire to riding without a backpack, they can be useful for more technical rides—especially those that require their fair share of hike-a-biking—or for carrying a camera, or if you don't yet have bikepacking bags. For such purposes, a 14+ liter hydration pack will do. Or, just use a day pack you have lying around. This can carry extras like sleeping gear, rain gear, or food and cooking supplies. Here are a few.
Find out a little more about how that kit works in An Impromptu Overnighter.
If you’re interested in investing in purpose-built bikepacking bags, here are a few pointers and resources. Or, if you have access to a sewing machine, make your own! In addition, make sure to check out our Complete Guide to Bikepacking Bags.
Grab a basic seat pack. They essentially strap onto your seat rails and around your seatpost. There are several readily available options for under $100. One easy and available offering worth noting is the Revelate Designs Viscacha Seat Pack.
On the Frame
There are also frame packs designed to work within the bike’s frame triangle, available in variations for both full-suspension and hardtail frames. The most obvious and universal type is a half frame pack. These are especially usable on a hardtail or rigid bike.
As mentioned, it’s pretty easy to strap a dry bag to you handlebars, but you can also get a purpose-built bag or harness. Additionally, there are various accessory bags that can add peripheral packing space to your kit.
If you need advice for camping and cooking equipment, apparel, and other such gear, start at our Bikepacking Hacks and then take a peek at our list of long-distance tested stuff, Bikepacking Gear That Lasts.