Bikepacking with a Dropper Post, The Complete Guide

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Bikepacking with a dropper post can be revolutionary, especially when the ride involves singletrack and technical descents. But, there are a few factors to consider before jumping in. Which seat packs will work? How do I select the right dropper post? And which ones are durable, reliable, and powerful enough to hoist a load? Here’s part one of our full guide, almost two years in the making…

With additional photos by TJ Kearns, Ryan Sigsbey, and Greg Hardy

The dropper seatpost is arguably the single most significant innovation in the mountain bike industry within the last two decades. In just a few years, it’s grown from an eclectic downhill-specific gizmo to a ubiquitous component outfitted on nearly every modern mountain bike. And, for good reason: dropper posts changed the way people ride mountain bikes more than anything that’s come along since suspension. Most mountain bikers will attest to the benefits of riding with a dropper, especially when it comes to steep and technical terrain. You might even hear some converts refer to the time period before droppers as the dark ages. Back then—just a few years ago, really—folks either stopped to lower their saddle before a big descent, or hung over the back as best they could (and simply didn’t have quite as much fun). Dark times, indeed. In all seriousness, if you like techy trails, once you try riding with a dropper post, it’s hard to go back to the ways of old. Moving your weight low and to the rear allows you to ride technical trails with a new level of grace and confidence, and it’s quite addictive.

  • Bikepacking With a Dropper Post
  • Bikepacking With a Dropper Post

All that said, until just last year, it was challenging to realize these benefits while bikepacking. When running a seat bag, it was usually necessary to swap the dropper for a rigid post to avoid the beefy seatpost strap damaging the dropper stanchion. And, unless you have the inseam of a giraffe, large seat packs often limit the ability to use a dropper post at all. Additionally, dropper posts haven’t historically been reliable, and taking one deep into the backcountry was a risky proposition. Fortunately, droppers are improving, and a few bag makers have started to produce streamlined, dropper-specific seat packs. Finally, we can confirm that the same grin-inducing benefits can indeed carry over to bikepacking. “Never had I moved so efficiently and enjoyed challenging riding on a loaded bike to that degree. Having experienced it, I can’t imagine riding something like the Colorado Trail without one,” said Skyler Des Roches of Porcelain Rocket, referring to riding with their dropper-specific Albert seat pack. With reliable dropper posts and dropper-friendly seat packs coming to market, bikepacking with your trail bike is possible without going back to the dark ages.

In this guide, we’ll explore some particulars, including what to look for when buying a dropper and the bags designed to use with them. We’re not trying to make converts out of people who’ve yet to try bikepacking with a dropper post. Instead, we want to point out to mountain bikers who’ve already grown accustomed to using a dropper post, that it is doable, and all those great trail rides don’t have to be limited to a single day.

Bikepacking With a Dropper Post

Is there a “best” dropper seatpost for bikepacking?

The first somewhat mainstream dropper post, the Gravity Dropper, came along in the early 2000s. But, it wouldn’t be until later in the decade when the idea truly took hold, with RockShox and Fox both entering the dropper market, each vying for mass adoption within the mountain bike scene. Even so, it didn’t take long for the dropper seatpost to develop a stigma based on a few early models that were prone to failure. These days, there are a ton of different models, most of which are far more advanced and reliable than their predecessors, and each a bit different in design and function.

While most dropper seatposts depend on an air spring to move the post into the up position, several brands have engineered various different systems for controlling the post’s travel. Some are fully hydraulic, some are purely mechanical, and others rely on a fully sealed hydraulic cartridge that’s actuated by a cable. Some of these systems are better than others, and while some have found success, there are other posts that we simply can’t recommend for bikepacking. Namely, some fully hydraulic actuated posts, such as the KS Lev Integra and Rock Shox Reverb, as the internal floating piston system that each uses for operation relies on a seal between the hydraulic piston and air spring. When the bike is lifted by the saddle, or there is some upward force on the saddle—say, by a bouncing seat pack—air can be sucked past the seal from the spring into the hydraulic piston, resulting in travel loss and a squishy post. As such, we hand picked several posts that we felt would be reliable based on rider reports. We then put each of them to use throughout the last year and a half (and then some). All of these are cable actuated, but each is a little different and has its own set of strengths. Read on to find out the details. But, before we dig in, here are a few other factors to consider:

Length of travel

When choosing a dropper seatpost, length of travel is certainly the most important variable. Droppers come in all shapes and sizes, and are trending toward longer travel due to riders’ desire to slam them as far down as possible for maximum effect. In our opinion, it’s pretty important to have as much travel as possible. But, at the same time, folks with shorter legs can only have so much usable travel.

Most dropper-specific seat packs require between 5-8” (13-23cm) of clearance between the rear tire and the saddle. So, if you only have that much space, this article might not be for you. But, if you have a foot of space (~30cm), you should be able to get away with using most of the travel in a 150mm dropper on a hardtail with a smaller seat pack. Or, on a full-suspension bike, with the same amount of space, you could consider setting your rear shock to the firm setting (if it has one) to limit its travel, and use half of your dropper post’s travel. In addition, with a bikepacking load, it’s appropriate to add 10-20 psi of air pressure to your rear shock to compensate for added weight.

Internally vs. Externally Routed

Whether a post is routed internally through the seat tube, or externally, doesn’t make much of a performance difference. Deciding between the two simply depends on your bike’s potential. Most modern mountain bikes are outfitted with channels for internally routed posts, while older hardtails and rigid bikes are not. Also, if you wish to be able to easily switch from a rigid post to a dropper, externally routed is far easier and won’t require cable cutting for some models. We checked out a couple external posts in the classic 27.2mm diameter below.

Stepped Travel vs. Continuous

On unloaded day rides, it’s realistic to use just three positions on a dropper: fully extended, about 50mm below full height in rolling terrain, and all the way down for descending. However, depending on your saddle to tire clearance, many will find it impossible to slam their post all the way down when using a seat pack. A fourth setting, at half height, could make a stepped dropper still very functional with a seat pack. But, since there is so much variation in step height and bag clearance, the safest way to get the most out of your dropper – with or without a seat pack – is to choose one with infinite height adjustability.

Seven Dropper Posts Loaded and Tested

We tested several dropper posts over the past two years, handpicking each one with bikepacking in mind. After trying out all of the posts in a variety of riding conditions, here are the results.

Bedrock Black Dragon Dropper Seat Bag Review, bikepacking dropper seat post
Crankbrothers Highline 160, Bikepacking With a Dropper Post
Crankbrothers Highline 160, Bikepacking With a Dropper Post
Crankbrothers Highline 160, Bikepacking With a Dropper Post
Crankbrothers Highline 160, Bikepacking With a Dropper Post
Crankbrothers Highline 160, Bikepacking With a Dropper Post
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Crankbrothers Highline 160, Bikepacking With a Dropper Post
Crankbrothers Highline 160, Bikepacking With a Dropper Post
Crankbrothers Highline 160, Bikepacking With a Dropper Post
Crankbrothers Highline 160, Bikepacking With a Dropper Post

Crankbrothers Highline

Out of all the posts we tried, this one probably got the most attention. We tested two of them, actually. When Crankbrothers debuted the Highline, it was a crowning achievement and a major move for the company. After all, Crankbrothers had previously released a couple dropper posts that weren’t necessarily known for their staying power. The Highline was different, and durability was the number one driver behind it, as evidenced by an easily replaceable, sealed cartridge backed by a three-year warranty. At the very worst, the removable cartridge ensures that customers don’t have to send it off to be serviced by the factory, which was commonplace for many early dropper posts. Should it fail, the cartridge can simply be replaced, the likelihood of which is rare based on our experience and other reviews we’ve read. In addition, if it fails while you’re out riding, the post can manually be set to any height, allowing you to keep using it.

The way the cartridge works is key. While other hydraulically powered posts rely on a piston or plunger to regulate fluid, the Highline uses a cable actuated spiral driver that turns its cartridge’s rotary valve. To illustrate this concept in relation to a piston/plunger system, picture stopping water from exiting a spigot by closing it with a 90 degree valve, versus plugging it with a cork, the way many of the other floating piston designs function. The result is a smart system that seems pretty solid when it comes to using it with a seat bag. Remember, theoretically, part of the problem with floating piston designs is that air can be drawn into the cartridge from the upward force of the seat bag.

Everything else with the Highline is equally impressive. It is packed with small details that all add up to a really good product. The remote itself is quite clever. It uses a ball and socket to allow it to rotate on multiple axes, making it easy to find the perfect position. Another small detail worth noting is in the seat clamp. Crankbrothers eliminated the need to completely remove the seat clamp bolts (and the ensuing explosion of washers and nuts) by adding a slot on the rear of the clamp. This is a nice touch for riders who often swap saddles. In addition, Crankbrothers uses high quality Jagwire Elite Ultra-Slick cable and housing.

The Highline is pretty easy to install as well. It requires a little measuring and marking for the housing, but the cable tightening bolt in the lever is fairly simple to use. One issue we had when removing the post and then reinstalling is that the cable got a little frayed from the lever clamp bolt. Perhaps it was over tightened, but this required the housing and cable to be shortened during the next install, which was slightly annoying.

On the trail, the Highline is solid and firm. We never had any issues with wobble, although the 125mm post developed a tiny bit of rotational play after a year and a half of use. Not much, though, and it’s not really noticeable while riding. The only other issue we had is that the 160mm version is a little slow when pushing a heavier bag back to the upper position.

  • Travel (tested) 125mm and 160mm
  • Travel (available) 100mm/125mm/160mm
  • Diameters 30.9, 31.6mm
  • Weight (w/o lever and cable) 536g (18.9oz)
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Warranty 3-Year
  • Price $350

Buy from your LBS or check prices on JensonUSA

Pros

  • Very well built and reliable
  • Removable and serviceable cartridge
  • Cable actuated rotary valve acts as a safeguard for upward bounce from seat bag
  • Ball/socket rotation in lever is a nice feature
  • Slotted seat clamp bolt

Cons

  • The 160mm version can be a little slow to lift once it has a loaded seat bag attached
  • Lever bolt can affect the cable, making it difficult to reinstall without shortening
e*Thirteen TRS+ dropper post, bikepacking
e*Thirteen TRS+ dropper post, bikepacking
e*Thirteen TRS+ dropper post, bikepacking
e*Thirteen TRS+ dropper post, bikepacking
e*Thirteen TRS+ dropper post, bikepacking
e*Thirteen TRS+ dropper post, bikepacking
e*Thirteen TRS+ dropper post, bikepacking
e*Thirteen TRS+ dropper post, bikepacking

e*thirteen TRS+ Seatpost

The e*thirteen TRS+ dropper excited us the most out of this batch of posts. With simplicity at its heart, it features a spring-driven, completely mechanical design that’s field serviceable and seemingly bombproof, at least on paper. The TRS+ Seatpost works by way of a cable actuated cam that locks the post into one of four positions—all the way up or down, 95mm, or 65mm. It’s coil sprung, which means there’s a lot less going on under the hood than there is with all the air sprung seatposts listed here. That also means less maintenance, and, hopefully, fewer points of failure.

In use, the e*thirteen TRS+ Seatpost works differently than any of the other seatposts we reviewed. As mentioned, it uses a mechanical, stepped travel design. This feels a little odd at first, but it’s easy to get used to. Since it relies on a coil spring, it has zero damper, which means it pops up pretty fast and can feel a little violent at first. This isn’t a deal breaker, but there are a couple of other issues worth mentioning. The most notable is that it’s the least powerful of all the droppers listed here. Unless you pack extremely light, it has a problem popping all the way back up. The solution? Grab the saddle and lift it upward to give the post a helping hand, locking it into the top position.

Those points aside, given that the TRS+ is both the least expensive dropper we’ve tried and the only one that’s fully mechanical, it might be the best fit for some people. Those two points should make it one of the most attractive options for those looking at bikepacking on extended trips where reliability is essential and sourcing new parts could be a problem.

  • Travel (tested) 125mm
  • Travel (available) 100mm/125mm/160mm
  • Diameters 30.9, 31.6mm
  • Weight (w/o lever and cable) 572g (20.2oz)
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Warranty 5-Year
  • Price $279

Buy from your LBS or check prices at JensonUSA

Pros

  • Easy rebuild and five-year warranty
  • All mechanical design means it’s simple and reliable
  • Fairly easy to install
  • Not affected by extreme heat or cold
  • Inexpensive relative to other posts listed here

Cons

  • Not powerful enough to raise a loaded seat bag over 2 lbs.
  • Not infinitely adjustable, only four positions (including up and all the way down)
  • Very fast extension which can be dangerous on the undercarriage
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PNW Bachelor 150 Dropper Post Bikepacking
PNW Bachelor 150 Dropper Post Bikepacking
PNW Bachelor 150 Dropper Post Bikepacking
PNW Bachelor 150 Dropper Post Bikepacking
PNW Bachelor 150 Dropper Post Bikepacking
PNW Bachelor 150 Dropper Post Bikepacking

PNW Bachelor 150

Out of all the seatpost manufacturers featured here, PNW Components is probably the least recognizable. PNW is a relatively small company based out of Seattle, WA, with a mission to offer high quality, reliable dropper posts at a lower price than much of the competition. Reliable is the key word here, and why we chose to test this post. We’d heard that it was one of the most durable posts on the market.

We ran the PNW Bachelor through thick and thin over the last couple of years, and it didn’t disappoint. While the PNW Bachelor 150 doesn’t have a fancy lever or an innovative saddle rail clamp, its no-nonsense design features a cable actuated, sealed air cartridge, a keyed slider system to prevent twisting and play, and an adjustable air spring to change the post’s rate of return, a great feature when factoring in the additional weight of a bikepacking seat bag.

Like the Highline and Turbine, the Bachelor 150 also has a fail-safe design—if the cartridge fails, it will leak air but that only affects the post’s pressure and ability to be controlled by the remote. The Bachelor will lock in place wherever you put it, so it essentially becomes a manually operated post at that point. PNW provides replacement cartridges if there’s a problem, and the swap takes around 10 minutes with normal tools. They also include a three-year warranty, so the likelihood of a customer being left high and dry is very low. Even after the warranty period, PNW offers replacement cartridges for $75.

  • Travel (tested) 150mm
  • Travel (available) 150/170mm
  • Diameters 30.9, 31.6mm
  • Weight (w/o lever and cable) 562g (19.8oz)
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Warranty 3-Year
  • Price $319 (check at jensonUSA)

Buy from your LBS or check prices at JensonUSA

Pros

  • The metal noodle cord routing is great to accompany a handlebar bag
  • Simple to install
  • Thumb lever can be mounted on the right or left side of the handlebar
  • Air spring can be tuned to adjust the rate of return

Cons

  • The lever is a push-down model and requires a little force
Thomson Elite Covert Dropper Post Bikepacking
Thomson Elite Covert Dropper Post Bikepacking
Thomson Elite Covert Dropper Post Bikepacking
Thomson Elite Covert Dropper Post Bikepacking
Thomson Elite Covert Dropper Post Bikepacking
Thomson Elite Covert Dropper Post Bikepacking
Thomson Elite Covert Dropper Post Bikepacking

Thomson Elite Covert Dropper

Thomson’s reputation for quality components certainly translates well to the Elite Covert Dropper. Its lineage is apparent in its machined detail, as well as in the internals that house its best parts, such as Trelleborg O-rings, Norglide bearing bushings and seals, and Motul oil. This also speaks to the fact that this is the only post in our test to show absolutely no unwanted wobble or play after a whole lot of use.

The Thomson post also has a few other bests in the group. Not only does it seem to be the most powerful, it’s also the easiest to install and uninstall. The post comes with a housing and barrel adjuster that sits near the handlebars. This allows cable tension to be loosened and the cable ferrule to be eased out of its housing at the post base, so the post can be easily removed and swapped to a different bike if need be.

Our main complaint about the operation of the Thomson is in the lever. The Elite Covert comes with a small black anodized remote that’s oriented vertically and is honestly quite difficult to engage.

  • Travel (tested) 125mm
  • Travel (available) 100/125/150mm
  • Diameters 30.9, 31.6mm
  • Weight (post + lever/cable) 532g (18.8oz)
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Warranty 2-Year
  • Price $480

Buy from your LBS or check prices at JensonUSA

Pros

  • Very high quality machining and internals
  • Powerful (unphased by a loaded seat bag)
  • Dependable
  • Zero play after a year of use
  • Barrel adjuster in housing makes it easy to swap between bikes or uninstall

Cons

  • Very expensive (priciest post here)
  • Slow to extend
  • Heavier than most other dropper posts
  • Remote is difficult to press
Race Face Turbine Dropper Post, Bikepacking
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Race Face Turbine Dropper Post, Bikepacking

Race Face Turbine

For Race Face’s first dropper post, they licensed the fully mechanical design from a small Canadian company called 9point8. After a year of using this post in all conditions, with zero real maintenance, we’d recommend the Turbine for its excellent performance and impressive reliability. That said, it’s not without its quirks.

This dropper functions more like a brake than a hydraulic damper, as with other posts. There is a cylindrical brake mechanism inside the post that locks the upper stanchion in place. The brake is on by default, and when you press the lever it releases the brake, allowing the post to move up and down, letting you position it anywhere within the dropper’s travel. The return mechanism is a simple air spring that can be adjusted with a shock pump via a valve under the seat clamp. At 20-40 psi, the operating spring pressure is low, allowing the use of low-friction seals and providing for a smooth operation.

The beauty of this design is that if the air spring fails, the only aspect of the post that ceases to function is its automatic return to full height – you’ll have to lift it by hand. If the post actuation fails, the post simply becomes a rigid seat post and will continue to support the rider’s weight. Only when the cable tension is too high will the Turbine sag under a rider’s weight, and this can be adjusted. Since the cable effectively operates a mechanical brake, cable tension is very important. It’s crucial to follow the installation instructions very carefully to get a properly functioning post. Over the course of the last year, we’ve had to fine-tune the barrel adjuster in the lever many times to keep things operating normally.

In the last several months, we’ve also had a couple occasions when the return speed of the post steadily decreased until it wouldn’t return from full drop at all, and we eventually had to lift the saddle manually with the lever depressed. Each time, we put a shock pump to the valve only to find that there was no pressure in the air spring. It takes a few minutes to top up the air pressure and return everything to normal, but this indicates that my post is very slowly losing pressure. We’re almost certain that it’s simply in need of a basic service after a year of abuse, and the main seal on the air spring needs to be replaced or at least lubricated so that it will hold air.

Overall, the design of the Turbine makes it one of the most trustworthy dropper options for long rides in far-flung places. In the hands of anyone willing to learn how it operates enough to keep the cable tension and air pressure where they should be, it is extremely reliable. The Turbine is certainly not the cheapest option out there, but from what we’ve observed, it makes up for it with dependability, all while performing as well as the best.

  • Travel (tested) 150mm
  • Travel (available) 100/125/150/175mm
  • Diameters 30.9, 31.6mm
  • Weight (150mm) 520g (18.3oz)
  • Place of Manufacture China
  • Warranty 3-Year
  • Price $399

Buy from your LBS or check prices at JensonUSA

Pros

  • Trustworthy and reliable
  • Adjustable with hand pump
  • If it fails, it simply becomes a rigid post

Cons

  • Requires detailed adjustment

27.2mm

We also factored in droppers that might be interesting to some folks hoping to stretch the abilities of their older steel hardtail. Seatposts with a 27.2mm diameter are somewhat standard on older steel bikes, as well as classics such as the Jones Plus or the first generation Surly Krampus. But, since most modern trail bikes are designed to run either 30.9mm or 31.6mm seatposts, there aren’t many droppers available for 27.2mm. In addition, most older bikes aren’t riddled with ports to support internal cable routing, which most dropper posts are designed for these days. Appropriately, the handful of the 27.2 droppers that are available utilize external cable routing. Here are two that caught our eye:

Thomson Elite External Dropper Post Bikepacking
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Thomson Elite External Dropper Post Bikepacking
Thomson Elite External Dropper Post Bikepacking

Thomson Elite External

We’ve been running the Thomson Elite on Cass’ Jones Plus for over a year, and it’s performed almost flawlessly during that time. There’s the smallest amount of side to side play, but it hasn’t increased noticeably over the many months we’ve used it. We chose the Elite primarily as it’s one of the few quality options out there that fits the 27.2mm diameter. In this regard, it’s fulfilled its duties. The drop and return speeds are spot on (apparently, they’re .3m/second). Although it’s not as neat as an internal dropper post, we like the fact that it has external routing; it can quickly removed to fit a rigid post for longer tours where a dropper seatpost isn’t necessary. Over time, we’ve noticed the post does have a tendency to squeak a little, though wiping off the stanchion and dropping it all the way down to the bottom of its 5” (125mm) travel generally sorts this out.

There are lots of options to choose from, including seatpost lengths of 375mm, 400mm, and 430mm, as well as clamp diameters of 27.2mm (great for older steel frames), 30.9mm, and 31.6mm. Setback is 5mm. It’s worth noting that the release lever is a little sharp around the edges; it could probably be more ergonomic. And we’d also point out that you need three allen key sizes to set it up: a 2mm to tighten the cable set screw, a 2.5mm to install the lever, and a 4mm to adjust the saddle. This is a quality post, but it’s not cheap. It’s warrantied for two years and an official Thomson service will set you back $165 to $215.

  • Travel (tested) 125mm
  • Travel (available 100mm,125mm
  • Weight 590g (20.8oz)
  • Place of Manufacture Taiwan
  • Price $450-475

Buy from your LBS or check prices at JensonUSA

Pros

  • One of the few 27.2mm options out there
  • Great build quality and machining
  • Proved itself reliable

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Release lever a bit sharp
Thomson Elite External Dropper Post Bikepacking
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Thomson Elite External Dropper Post Bikepacking
Bikepacking With a Dropper Post

PNW Components Pine

Another option that’s slightly more affordable is the PNW Pine. We haven’t directly tested this post, but apparently it’s an improvement over their Rainier post and is getting good reviews. Generally speaking, the Pine features 105mm of travel with an externally routed cable and is built specifically for 27.2mm. Unlike the Thompson, it has a fixed cable entry at the mid cap on the post, instead of at the top.

The Pine has 105mm of travel and can be purchased with a standard vertical lever or a CX lever kit, designed to work with drop bars for gravel grinder bikes. The Pine retails for $275 and has a three-year warranty.

What if it drops dead?

There is some notion that the added weight of a seat pack could damage a dropper post. But, beyond the few exceptions noted below, that’s hogwash. The force exerted by a seat pack on a dropper post will be less than 5% of the force exerted on the seatpost by a 180-pound rider sitting on the saddle and bobbing up a bumpy trail.

If you actually want to quantify this, or even estimate these forces, recall high school physics: Force = Mass x Acceleration. But remember, the relevant acceleration is not gravity (9.8m/s^2), as you might be tempted to assume. Rather, it is the deceleration of your body or the seat pack as it goes from moving downward toward the saddle to becoming stopped (and perhaps rebounding). The nylon straps on a seat pack should stretch to reduce its deceleration, just as a saddle will flex a bit when you sit down hard.

Now, if the direction of the force of a bouncing seat pack is different than that of a pedaling human, there could be cases where a seat pack could harm the post. However, we’re not convinced seat pack sway causes more rotational force than pedaling. But, the upward force of a bouncing seat pack does not occur from regular pedaling, which is why we recommend against using IFP-based seatposts for bikepacking. Any upward force, especially by lifting the bike by the saddle when the post is below full height, can draw air past the seal into the hydraulic piston, leaving you with reduced travel and a squishy post.

Trans-WNC (Western North Carolina) Bikepacking Route

Repairs, temporary fixes, and common issues

The most common issue riders might face in the backcountry is complete seatpost failure. Some posts lock in place when when the cartridge or air spring fails (such as the PNW Bachelor, Crankbrothers Highline, and Race Face Turbine), others default to slammed down (internal floating piston designs). And, the e*Thirteen TRS simply fixes into one of the stepped positions. For other posts that don’t have a fail-safe, the Wolf Tooth Valais can serve as an emergency clamp, which is required and included with many dropper-specific seat bags (we’ll discuss them in part two of this guide). In the off chance that your post’s locking mechanism fails, the Valais can be used to keep the post extended so you can comfortably pedal out of the backcountry.

Generally speaking, although these are more important to consider with IFP (internal floating piston) droppers, there are a few best practices for keeping your dropper running smoothly. First off, don’t store it upside down. Also, it’s best not to clamp a dropper in a bike stand. And, try not to lift up on the seat when portaging your bike over obstacles, especially when the post is dropped.

  • Pivot Mach 429 Trail Review, Full-suspension Bikepacking Bike
  • Bikepacking With a Dropper Post

The Results

For reference, all of the posts above were used with a load of about 3-6 lbs (1.4-2.7kg), bag included—which we’ll explore in more depth in part two of this guide. Aside from the e*Thirteen, most didn’t have an issue lifting the added weight. The 160mm Highline did get a bit slow moving the bag into the full upward position with a heavier load, but it worked. That brings us to a point to consider: it seems like shorter dropper posts have more power. While we can’t exactly verify this, having tested both the 125mm and 160mm Crankbrothers Highline, the smaller of the two definitely seemed to have more power. Theoretically, this makes sense, as they both use the same cartridge and there is less volume in the smaller post.

So, which dropper post is best? Out of the choices outlined above, the Race face Turbine and PNW Bachelor 150 seem to tick a lot of boxes in the bikepacking-friendly column. They both have proven to be reliable and have adjustable air pressure, which is a perk when it comes to having to hoist extra bag weight. Plus, each has a fail-safe design with a lock-in-place mechanism should the internal air spring or cartridge fail. The Crankbrothers Highline also seems like a very reliable choice and can be manually set at any height in the event of a cartridge failute. And, at $350, the Highline seems well-priced considering the attention to detail in its lever and saddle clamp, and it has the most adjustable and ergonomic levers of the bunch. We also really like the Thomson for its build quality. At this point it has over 1,000 miles on it with no play or issues to speak of. It held up well to the Trans-WNC bikepacking route as well as a few others, but it’s also the priciest.

Part Two

Now check out part two, The Low Down on Dropper Post Seat Bags, featuring a full list of bags, packing tips, and our bikepacking with a dropper post wrap up. Also, if you have any other suggestions for reliable dropper posts, or if you’ve tried bikepacking with a dropper and have something to share, leave your thoughts in the comments below.

19 Comments
  • Leonard Gouy

    I recently did a bikepacking trip on the alta via dei Monti liguri (there is a great article about this trail on this site) and decided to keep my dropper for this trip. It was definitely a game changer. Even if I wasn’ t able to lower it to it’s max, the descents were so much easier.

  • Yeah, that route looks dropper mandantory :)

  • I recently picked up one of Race Face’s budget Aeffect droppers, released in 2017 I believe? So far so good, and a few aspects that aren’t as budget as you might think. Maybe once I ride on it a bit more we can add it to the list. https://nsmb.com/articles/race-face-aeffect-dropper-post-teardown/

  • mikeetheviking

    And now for more dropper post anxiety…

    The new dropper from One Up
    Just released at Sea Otter 2018

    Allows for more travel than you could typically get from most droppers on the market.

    Priced well too at $199 without a lever

    https://www.oneupcomponents.com/products/dropper-post

  • Yeah, we tried to get our greasy fingers on one for this, but haven’t gotten it yet.

  • Ben Ripley

    Not yet been bikepacking but I do ride an MTB with a dropper and have done for about 5 years now. I’ve used Specialized Command posts, KS Lev and RockShox Reverbs over the years. These posts are counted out of this comparison by design but I obviously won’t buy a new dropper just to go bikepacking, unless I were doing a lengthy tour. Some may be in a similar position; just dipping their toes into bikepacking with the bike and dropper they already have. Of my experience I’d steer clear of the Reverb. The one that came fitted to my bike needed a full bleed, only some 30 hours in to its alleged 200 hour service interval…. And the procedure is, in my opinion, needlessly difficult. I just don’t trust it (even on a regular trail ride) and wouldn’t have had it at all had I been able to spec another post on the bike.

    I’m therefore replacing the Reverb, and due to my height and frame size a Crank Bros Highline was just outside a viable size range (sadly – I would have gone for it if I could). I’ve therefore ordered a Fox Transfer so, should I ever get round to actual bikepacking instead of just reading about, it I’ll let you know how it gets on.

  • Thanks Ben! I’ll be curious how the Transfer holds up.

  • Skyler

    I’ve got doso experience bikepacking with a Transfer, and they’ve proved very reliable. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

  • Great article, as always!
    I had a great expectations about TRS+ droppper with all-mechanical design but it was completely unreliable and started to stuck in the lowest position after two weeks of moderate use. I got a larger replacement spring with new seal from E*Thirteen distributor but after another two weeks dropper stopped extending to highest position. Also, it requires maintenance and greasing after every muddy ride otherwise it will stop working properly. I need to mention, I had a earlier version of the dropper. E*Thirteen claims they have fixed spring issues in new versions (v15+). What I liked about TRS+ dropper was only a trigger lever – very nicely built.

    Recently, I switched to Marzocchi Transfer Elite (basically, rebranded Fox Transfer Performance) and it works like a charm. Very smooth and so far haven’t any issues with Bedrocks’ Black Dragon seatbag 3lbs+ loaded. I only replaced the stock lever for Cane Creek Dropt.

  • Thanks! Yeah, we tested an early model and broke it (it wouldn’t catch in the upper position. That said, that was almost two years ago, so this review was based on the current iteration which we haven’t had any issues with. With that said, it seems they have fixed the catch issues that plagued some of the early ones.

  • An excellent guide! It’s worth mentioning a dropper that gets rave reviews on the trail, especially for the price (US $199) – the X-Fusion Manic (30.9 & 31.6mm). Not only is it 25-60% cheaper than the options you were able to test, but it’s well known to be reliable too. Check it out! 👍

  • Richard Wolf

    I joined the dropper revolution on my Trek Stache. I bikepacked the Colorado Trail and Bones to Blues Route with it. Bottom line is I am short and with a 29 plus bike there is no way I could run much more than a super small old school tool seatbag on my bike. This forced me into using a large to medium backpack to carry some of my gear. I hate riding without a backpack as it causes sweating on my back and with long days in the saddle it hurts my shoulders.
    I solved the problem by retrofitting the Trek 1120 rear rack to my Stache and it allows me to carry lots of gear, getting rid of a backpack and to either use a dropper post or thudbuster.
    I have since ditched the dropper post in favor of using a thudbuster suspension seatpost. I find the thudbuster much more useful to me than a dropper post. The thudbuster takes up the butt shock 100 percent of the time when seated but the dropper post was used only a small percentage of the time. I will take comfort any day of the week over dropping my post. If the descent is gnarly and there risk is an endo (dropper or not) then I will get off my bike and walk the section. I am a competent descender but I don’t like helicopter rides out of remote areas.
    I have adapted to riding without a dropper and my Trail bike (also a Stache) is run with a thudbuster as well. I don’t think a dropper makes you any safer and in fact I think it might encourage riders to take more chances. I had a friend with a new style trail bike with a dropper auger in, go over the bars and can now barely walk. No more biking for him. I guess that is the chances we all take.

  • Christian Alshus

    Have used a dropper post since 2013 while backpacking. I use a Salsa Minimalist rack or a Surly Rear rack and a drybag om top. Works great.

  • Tom

    I have a Fox Transfer (but haven’t used it with a seat pack – don’t have one that’s compatible) – will report more when I’ve had more use from it. My better half has a Thomson 27.2 (for the reasons outlined)- all well so far (a year or two)

  • Bevan Corry

    What seat pack is that pictured on the Green/Yellow bike (Pony Rustler?). I have a Santa Cruz Tallboy LTC that has very little tire clearance with a dropper. That thin flat rectangular pack is intriguing. Just the sort of thing I have been looking for. Don’t see it in the dropper pack review.

  • Check out the link above (part two) http://www.bikepacking.com/gear/dropper-post-seat-bags/

  • Charly Aurelia

    I am very interested in this dropper. I know it is a user replaceable cartridge design. Love to hear others thoughts as people start to use it.

  • affe

    I’m replacing the Reverb that came with my bike so i can sell it before it stops working.

    I was set on the Highline but then read about the slow return speed and then came the Oneup.

    I live in a place where i might be riding in -20*C during the winter. -10*C is very normal. This is when most droppers fail if they haven’t already. Highline is one of the very few that has reportedly survived the winter. My friend has it. Since Uneup just came out there is no evidence about it surviving the cold and that makes me think to be safe I’d buy the Highline. Oneup has 1 cm more travel.

    Could you be little more specific about the return speed problem on the Highline? Did it only occur when you loaded the seatbag? How much weight did you put in the seatbag? I read anoter review where they mentioned the same thing but it was not bikepacking related at all, speaking only general performance on the trail. So it is there.

    Any thoughts/expectations on the Oneup dropper from what you can read so far? The tachnique/internals they use and so on?

    A great article, thank you very much! Keep up the good work!

  • When I had the slow return with the Hichline, it was a pretty heavily packed seat bag. Probably upwards of 6lbs (2.7kg). I wouldn’t really say it was a problem; the highland is already one of the slower returning posts of the bunch, but that doesn’t bother me. I know that’s not the detailed response you were looking for, but I hope it helps.

    We hope to try the OneUp, but until we do, I can’t really speak to its performance…

    Thanks!