Bikepacking Bags & Packs
The most significant gear innovation that has helped popularise 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 adding significantly to its weight, or affecting the way it handles. Consider investing in a seat pack and roll bag first, then a framebag when you’ve settled on a bike you’re happy with.
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, teamed with dry bags lashed to your handlebars and seatpost, makes a good barebones approach. Traditional 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.
On your back any larger 14+ Liter hydration pack will do. Or, just use a day pack you have lying around. This can carry extras such as sleeping gear, rain gear, or food and cooking supplies.
If you’re interested in investing in purpose built bikepacking bags here are a few pointers and how you can learn more. 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 for under $100. One easy and available option 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… variations for both full-suspension and hardtail. 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 the handlebars, but you can also get a purpose built bag or harness. There are also 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 our list with our list of long distance tested stuff, Bikepacking Gear that Lasts.